Sunday, 26 August 2012

Old Buckenham Women's Institute


When does a hobby become an obsession? It might be when one has to convert a caravan in the back garden to store and display thousands of shells. The speaker at the Old Buckenham WI August meeting, Daphne Howlett and her husband Derek, have spent 40 years amassing a prize collection of shells. From small beginnings on a Norfolk beach for a school project to a world-wide collection of land, sea and freshwater shells. Between them the Howletts have acquired a vast knowledge of the life cycles of shell creatures and watched the decline in the variety of Norfolk sea-shells, possibly because of climate change and pollution.
Unable to fund extensive world-wide travel to gather more exotic shells, the Howletts advertised for exchange pals and have swopped shells with fellow conchologists on every continent.
Daphne brought to the meeting in Old Buckenham village hall some exquisite examples of shells from large conches and clams to the tiniest shells best seen with a magnifying glass. To present a shell well, it must first be scrubbed with bleach and then have baby oil rubbed into it to make it glow. Like plants, shells are known by their Latin names and Daphne could name every one on display. Shells have been used in a variety of ways, from jewellery to currency, from musical instruments to ornaments.
Beachcombing will never be the same for the WI members.
After a lull in WI activities in August, members were reminded that September would be a busy month. The WI cake stall at the Village Fete, the Produce and Handicraft Show the week after, and two WI meetings.

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