Herefordshire People: Llanfrynach and Cantref Women's Institute Has Produced a 2009 Calendar
PUBLISHED: 17:26 09 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:33 20 February 2013
Llanfrynach and Cantref Women's Institute has produced a 2009 calendar to mark its 60th anniversary, with photographs celebrating a year in the life of the Brecon Beacons. Sue Brook, president of the branch, explains how it came about..
Llanfrynach and Cantref are neighbouring communities in the heart of the Brecon Beacons. Llanfrynach is a traditional village with a church, pub, and parish hall. Cantref is a scattered collection of hill farms, most still lived in by families who have been there for centuries.
The first meeting of Llanfrynach and Cantref WI was in the parish hall in Llanfrynach on June 29 1949. It was decided then that meetings would be held on the first Wednesday of every month. Sixty years later this still happens, except in April when the meeting is delayed to the second Wednesday; farming is still the dominant work of the community and the exhausting round-the-clock job of lambing reaches its peak then.
Life for women on rural farms often meant isolation and lack of opportunity. The WI was founded in Canada in 1897 with the object of educating and supporting such women. In 1912 the movement crossed the Atlantic and the first Institute in Great Britain was founded on Anglesey.
In 2000, to mark the new millennium, Llanfrynach and Cantref WI compiled a book called Where We Belong - Life in the Beacons - Then and Now. It started out as a small project, a reminiscence evening, and the gathering of a few old photographs. It was an opportunity to talk first-hand to people, some of whom are sadly no longer with us, who had a way of life that has now all but vanished.
The project grew rapidly. Our history was much more interesting than we first thought! A Heritage Lottery grant enabled us to print 1500 copies. Each local home was given one, and the rest flew off the shelves. People seemed hungry for this kind of history on a human scale. We made a small profit which has enabled us to produce this Where we Belong Calendar to celebrate our 60th anniversary in 2009.
Our much-loved and respected local artist, Meg Stevens, allowed us to use one of her paintings for the cover of the book; and we are thrilled that she has given us permission to use another of her paintings for the calendar.
Farming in the Brecon Beacons has always been tough. But though farmers now have tractors with the radio on in the cab and homes have running water, electricity and washing machines, life still seems as tough as ever. Foot and Mouth in 2001 devastated the community. Its aftermath saw great resilience in the local people, who adapted or changed direction, or just got up and going all over again.
These days thousands of people visit the Beacons every year and we welcome them into our farms, homes and hotels. Newcomers have moved into the area and joined Llanfrynach and Cantref WI, which continues to develop and flourish.
For an Institute such as ours, it is good to know that though we have fewer than 25 members, we are part of the largest women's organisation in the UK, whose voice (and hand-clapping) are heard throughout the land.
The week of a farmer's wife sixty years ago
Several members of the WI arrived in the area aged about 15 to work as maids on the farms. They then went on to marry local boys and this is how, as farmer's wives, daughters and maids of 60 years ago, they remember their working week.
Washing, scrubbing and hanging clothes out to dry. There was rarely any running water. It was pumped up from wells or came from springs or streams.
A day spent ironing with flat irons heated on the stove while the men went to the livestock market in Brecon.
More cleaning. Making butter and kneading dough for bread.
The bread oven was lit and enough bread baked to last for the whole week.
Market day in Brecon. Women were not usually given housekeeping money by their husbands. Before they could buy anything they first had to sell their produce - vegetables, butter, dressed chickens, rabbits, flowers, herbs from the garden. One of the founder members of Llanfrynach and Cantref WI, Mrs Jean Phillips, remembers picking mint and other herbs to sell in order to buy newspapers.
Catching up on farm and housework, and in the evening preparing all the vegetables and other food for the following day.
Strictly observed as a day of rest.
One chore that did not burden country women 60 years ago was the carrying home of shopping. WI members have fond memories of dropping off their orders in town on market day and waiting for things to be delivered to the door. Groceries, hardware, even a van selling work clothes, all arrived on the doorstep. These days the internet does the same job - except that most residents of Cantref are off the delivery map!
We appreciate the invaluable support we have had in preparing the calendar from the National Trust, Brecknock Wildlife Trust and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority.
The calendar can be ordered from: Sue Brook, Old Crofftau, Cantref, Brecon LD3 8LL, 01874 610010 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The price is 9.99, including postage. Please make out cheques to Llanfrynach and District WI Book Account.