Published on June 5th, 2015 | by Content Admin0
WI Centenary Garden Party at Buckingham Palace
2nd June 2015
I have no doubt at all that I was not the only WI member attending the garden party who was watching the weather forecast in the run up to the day. The forecast, however, did not change much from cold, rain and winds and on the morning it was depressingly accurate. After checking for the fourth time that I had my ticket and 2 forms of ID, and with a cagoule, umbrella and cardigan, I set off to meet the coach at Towcester and, as I parked my car the rain actually stopped – a good omen I hoped. We made good time and after a stop at the M1 Gateway Services we started the long crawl through London traffic. It took us an hour and a half to reach The Mall where the coach was going to park, but there was plenty to see as the driver detoured through back roads hoping to avoid the worst of the traffic. Most of the coaches had already arrived and I thought we would park at the back and have a long walk but no, the driver kept going and we ended up almost at the front (I can only presume each coach was allocated a parking place – lucky us). It was now 1.30pm and with the gates opening at 2pm we made our way to the palace and joined the very long queue of ladies. It took over half an hour to get to the gates, through the security and into the grounds but the time passed quickly as I chatted with ladies from WIs all over the country. After a second queue, I was finally in the gardens. The sky looked ominously dark, it was cold and the wind was very blustery so I made my way to the tea tent to shelter and warm up. This turned out to be a good move as when they started serving tea I was one of the first in line! There was a variety of sandwiches and cakes and after I had made my choice I wandered out to see if I could find a seat; I had no luck but eating whilst standing up was not a problem. Next I wandered across the lawn and noticed that ladies were beginning to line up ready for the royal party to arrive. I milled around in the middle until an official arrived and said we needed to make a gangway as we were right outside the Royal Tea Tent. After a little shuffling as he sent some ladies one way and some the other, I found myself no longer in the middle but at the front – how lucky was that? The band then played the National Anthem announcing the arrival of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, The Countess of Wessex, The Duchess of Gloucester and Princess Alexandra and amazingly the sun came out! It was a long wait as they made their way along but there was plenty going on some of it created by us as hats and fascinators got blown off and had to be chased across the lawn. The Yeoman of the Guard arrived and chatted answering our many questions about their uniform most of which are apparently about 60 years old and qualifications needed to became a Yeoman. Then the original Calendar Girls arrived, they were easy to spot as they all wore black and had large yellow sunflower brooches. They moved into the middle area and it became apparent that this was where a few special people would be presented. Finally the royal party came in sight, we watched as the Duchess of Cornwall chatted with the Calendar Girls and the press took photos and a film cameraman recorded the moment. Then the party moved on again with the royals taking their time, chatting and shaking hands as they went. The Duchess of Cornwall was on the opposite side and I thought she would pass us by but she then crossed over and carried on along my side shaking hands with as many as she could (me included) and asking questions and chatting before going for a well-deserved cup of tea. Now with only an hour left before the garden party finished I decided to explore the gardens. There were neatly mowed areas but also areas where the grass and wild flowers were left to grow and seed themselves. There were quite a few coots on the lake and one enormous nest with a coot perched on the top. They seemed completely unfazed by us visitors. I then went past the arboretum and on to the rose garden, it all felt quite tranquil despite the noise of the traffic on the other side of the wall. The sun stayed out and parts of the garden that were sheltered from the wind were pleasantly warm. Eventually I made my way back to the main lawn and the band played the National Anthem at 5pm to mark the end of the afternoon. All the coaches were given timed slots for leaving with the ones going furthest leaving first. Northampton’s coaches were not leaving until 6.15pm so for the first time that afternoon I sat down and enjoyed what was left of a very enjoyable and memorable afternoon.