ASTLEY HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY: As we welcomed in the New Year on January 18 it was heartwarming to see so many members who had braved the bitterly cold winds to attend the first meeting of our horticultural programme. Mike Hughes, treasurer was kept busy renewing memberships and members were eagerly scanning the exciting schedule for 2017. Last year at the AGM it was voted that yearly membership would now be raised to £5 each. This is great value as the committee always book well known speakers and plan an exciting full programme with spring, annual and autumn shows, summer social and harvest supper including entertainment with reasonable ticket prices. The American supper was also well supported. Members help us by providing extra Raffle Prizes and that helps us to raise money for the Society.

Vic Powell, president, opened the evening and it was proposed and agreed that Derek Walker continue as chairman. Vic handed over to Derek for his review of 2016 .He said that it had been a strange year for gardeners with plants growing out of season. However the shows had been very successful gaining high marks however and he thanked Robin for organising the schedule, shows and all the entries. Robin will continue to liaise with the staff and children at Astley CE School. Derek thanked Chris Russell for organizing the following trips to Lower Hope Farm, Hidcote and Kiftsgate, Waddeston Manor and Waterperry Gardens and arranging the Johnson's holiday to the Isle of Wight. It had been brilliant especially the visit to Queen Victoria's Osbourne House. Treasurer Mike Hughes was pleased that he had been busy renewing memberships at the AGM. He had copies of the audited accounts but explained that the cost of speakers and entertainers had risen and that he is monitoring this carefully However the extra cost of membership will help funds. Derek said that we lucky to have dedicated officers and members on the committee and he proposed that they be returned en bloc if willing. This was agreed and passed.

Roger Russell and Chris informed us that Astley Open Gardens will take place again on June 24 and 25. There will be 8 gardens open Longmore Hill Farmhouse, Little Larford, The White House AstleyBurf The White House Dunley, Astley Towne House and Little Yarhampton and two new gardens St Peter's Church in Astley and Woods Farm Shrawley. Chris said interesting speakers have been booked ranging from Wyre to Fiji and Samoa.The main holiday is to Cornwall July 13-17, a day trip to Highclere home of Downton Abbey is planned for August 31. Full details/bookings available from Chris.

Later in the evening Chris and Roger showed us the photographs they had captured on their camera on the Isle of Wight.We remembered those lovely gardens, houses and those wonderful exploits especially that paddle in the sea. On the last evening we dressed up for the Victorian Music Hall.Vic Powell also showed us some of the shots he had taken. Many thanks to all three of for all their time and effort

We were all sorry to hear that Tom Hall had passed away recently. He was a well loved member of the society. Condolences to Dot, her three daughters and their families at this sad time.We will miss his sense of humour and that ready smile.He loved his garden and the challenge of producing first class vegetables, fruit and plants. Numerous friends and neighbours supported his family by attending the service at Kidderminster Crematorium on January 30.

There will be a Tommy Hall Shield awarded to the best fuchsia grown on for the Annual Show 2017. Derek Walker will provide the plants for members and this competition will be ongoing each year.

Donations raised for Macmillan and Acorns already amounts to £1150.28.

The speaker on March 15 is Rosemary Winnall The Nature Of Wyre.