Gale force warnings were in place, the rain was torrential. Smart hats and outfits were covered with raincoats and anoraks, shoes had to be changed at the last minute. This was the start of a memorable day for the East Sussex Federation, celebrating 100 years of the W.I. with a garden party at Buckingham Palace, hosted by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
By the time our coach from Hailsham had arrived in London, however, the rain had cleared, even though the strong winds persisted all day. Our group was booked in for lunch at a nearby hotel, which was most enjoyable and a fitting start to our visit.
With 8,000 visitors to the Palace, and security in place, it soon became evident that a long queue had formed around the perimeter. Having decided to enter by the Grand Entrance, it was so entertaining to be photographed by passing tourists , one American lady thought we looked “AWESOME” !
Having passed through the Grand Entrance and foyer, we proceeded to the west terrace overlooking the huge garden with its marquees and bandstands. The Royal party arrived at exactly 3.00 p.m.. The Duchess of Cornwall was joined by Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Princess Alexandra and the Duchess of Gloucester. They all circulated, speaking to several ladies, including the ‘Calendar Girls’. Our own Federation Chair, Kathryn Hutson chatted to the Countess of Wessex in the Royal Tent. After tea, we listened to the band playing music from the shows, followed by the National Anthem.
Our departure was accompanied by strong winds eddying around the forecourt. Hats and buttonholes were flying everywhere but this did not dampen the jolly atmosphere. In fact it produced hoots of laughter and great hilarity both from the W.I. ladies and the attendant police officers !
Coaches started to line up from all over the country, from Northumberland to Devon -including our own from East Sussex.
After an amazing day we were all ready to return home for a quiet and relaxing cup of tea.
It was such a privilege to have been there and to listen to the band of the Grenadier Guards playing the National Anthem in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. It was an experience I will never forget and the same was felt by many others, I am sure. Report by Margaret Dove – Cross in Hand Press Officer.