It comes around once a year and now for the ninth time, the annual event organised by the Wigan Group and by the group vice-chairman David Ogden in particular. It’s a winter break for the Wigan and surrounding groups, designed to get people together in an informal atmosphere to enjoy each other’s’ company and in the process, raise a bit of money for various charities. Initially started to raise money for the 2010 Festival and to have an enjoyable but relaxing break after the usually hectic Christmas period, the tour has previously visited Bournemouth, Bideford twice, Street, Torquay, Scotland, Eastbourne and Paignton. This year 90 brethren, partners and friends travelled to Tenby for a wonderful time by the sea. These trips have always been fun, but as an additional bonus have raised a substantial amount of money for various charities and Masonic halls.
The philosophy is simple. The event is run like any other coach holiday, but any Masonic groups that book ten passengers are included in the share out of the monies raised. Money is raised by the organiser, David, negotiating all kinds of deals and discounts that find their way back into the charity pot. In addition, during each stay, with the assistance of fellow travellers, raffles, bingo, heads and tails and anything which increases the fun, helps to add a bit more money to the pot. Then, of course, is the trek. There is always a sponsored walk, not too taxing, but always long enough to leave the participants with a nice sense of achievement.
This year, as in the past few years, the beneficiaries have been Bootle, South East, Warrington, and Wigan Groups and the amounts divided proportionally, according to the numbers attending from each group. All groups got a share of £2,646 raised by the event, which will be donated to Masonic as well as external charities. Year nine, therefore, will bring the running total raised to over £33,000. An amazing effort.
As the holiday started early, on a very chilly morning at Bryn Masonic Hall, it seemed all was running perfectly; everyone loaded up and on their way without a hitch. On the motorway, however, passengers on one coach thought that someone had been digging up the motorway overnight. It seemed that they were hitting pothole after pothole. Fortunately, the motorway was fine, but unfortunately a sensor on the suspension was faulty. After a quick pit stop at Lymm services, met by mechanics and a replacement coach, all was quickly back to normal.
The group were staying at the Belgrave Hotel, and the friendly and humorous owner Malcolm, who with the help of his staff made everyone very welcome. The dining at the hotel was most enjoyable, followed by evening entertainment which was excellent. Guests were treated to a variety of acts, from Trevor and Joe’s bingo to singers and guitarists. There was also shopping in Carmarthen, and a visit to St David’s Cathedral in St David’s, the exterior of which was generally considered to be magnificent, only to be surpassed by its beautiful interior.
Wednesday arrived with the sun shining on a fresh morning in preparation for the sponsored walk. The anticipated coastal walk was abandoned (for safety reasons) in favour of a good trek from Saundersfoot to the north beach at Tenby by footpath. Clad in warm hats, coats and gloves, thirty plus people embarked on a safe, scenic walk of about three miles. Hot drinks with a tot of ‘what you fancy’ were provided, just when the intrepid trekkers needed it, near the end. To top that, the sight of young Sarah Brogan, in the face of adversity, completing the walk and therefore winning a prize for the most sponsorship, was a happy and heart-warming conclusion for everyone. Congratulations to Sarah! A four course gala dinner after the walk was very welcome. David Ogden had the pleasant duty of presenting the group representatives with their share of the charitable proceeds.
All had a lovely, friendly and very enjoyable break. The ethos of the trip is, of course to raise money, but most importantly to have fun doing it. Everyone enjoys one another’s’ company, and make many new and long lasting friendships. Long may it continue? It truly is all part of enjoying Freemasonry. Next year’s trip is to Scotland, and the Winnock Hotel, Drymen, near the beautiful Loch Lomond and will be for four nights from 29 January to 2 February. Anyone interested will need to book early as the event is very, very popular. Contact David Ogden Holidays on 01744 606176.