Step it up - A group of Universities Scheme lodges walked 2021 miles for charity in 2021

Wednesday, 01 September 2021

Have you ever woken up in the morning and had some strange but wonderful ideas? Well, a few short months ago, a Freemason in Staffordshire did exactly that. His idea? Organise a challenge to walk 2021 miles in 2021

The Freemason in question is David Thomas, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Staffordshire, who could not get the thought out of his mind. So, along with Andrew Mapperson and Peter Hughes – colleagues from Universities Lodge of Staffordshire – he decided to put a plan into action.

The idea was to involve all of the 85 or so Universities Scheme lodges. With the resources of the Universities Scheme under the chairmanship of James Hilditch, the plan started to take shape.

David’s concept was to welcome Freemasonry back to some sort of normality and enjoy fun and fellowship on the way. Approval for the challenge was given by Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, Universities Scheme President, and Chairman James Hilditch.

The objectives of the challenge were:

  • To promote Freemasonry

  • To promote engagement and fraternity between Universities Scheme lodges

  • To raise charitable donations through sponsorship during the journey – all donations going to the Duke of Edinburgh Memorial Fund.

The challenge relay was to start and finish at Freemasons’ Hall, London, and to be completed between the planned Quarterly Communication meetings in June and September.

Teams from each Scheme lodge carried a replica of the David Kenneth Williamson (DKW) Cup – a trophy normally claimed by one Scheme lodge visiting another – from the centre where it meets to the next nearest Scheme lodge. The superb replica cup was made by Warwickshire Freemason David Leask and passed in turn until the centres of all Scheme lodges in England and Wales had been visited – a distance of 2021 miles.

The biggest challenge was how to organise an event of this magnitude in a short space of time under COVID-19 restrictions.

It has often been said that if you want a job done well then give it to a busy man. In this case it was not just one busy man but several. So, while the efforts of the three-man organising committee were important, the contribution of all the Universities Scheme coordinators was invaluable.

Just after 1pm on 9 June, the first group of walkers left UGLE, led by Universities Scheme past chairman Julian Soper and his two faithful dogs. Since that time, the cup has traversed Provinces along the South Coast to Cornwall and back to Bristol. It has been through Wales, the North West and onwards clockwise around the country. To date, several hundred Freemasons and about 80 different lodges have taken part. Members of both female Grand Lodges also joined in to ensure all Freemasonry is represented. We have even seen a challenge to an inter-Province cricket match.

There has been a wonderful mixture of new and young Freemasons as well as more senior members involved, including many Provincial Grand Masters and Provincial officers. The general mood of the event is reflected by the comments of one Entered Apprentice Freemason, Matt Thomas from Cheshire, who said, ‘I was initiated three weeks before the first lockdown, but the challenge has kept me in touch and I have made new friends and learned more about Freemasonry despite no formal meetings in that time. I can’t wait to resume official meetings again.’

Lead walker from Liverpool University, Liam Hayward, said, ‘It was a lot of fun, a good laugh and excellent to catch up with so many people we hadn’t seen in a while.’

Head of West Wales Freemasons James Ross, who took part in the leg from Aberystwyth, said, ‘Saint Padarn Lodge has gone from strength to strength since joining the Universities Scheme in 2018, and I am delighted to be here in Aberystwyth to raise money for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Memorial Fund. All three of my children have been involved in the DofE Scheme and have benefited from taking part in the education, challenges and volunteering. 

‘I would like to thank Steve Fearn and the team at Saint Padarn Lodge for making the Universities Scheme such a success at Aberystwyth University.’

Tobias Morgan, a Master Mason from Universities Lodge of Staffordshire, took part in the walk from Bristol to Chepstow and captured the challenge perfectly. ‘After nearly a year in lockdowns it was great to get out and have some normality and meet new friends. We have organised other events on the back of the challenge.’

The relay continued on its course, ending on 8 September, and the cup was presented back to the Scheme Chairman at the September Quarterly Communication meeting of Grand Lodge at Freemasons’ Hall, London.

Overall, the event has been a great example of Freemasons working together and the results show it to be an outstanding success.

If you wish to support the 2021 Challenge and contribute to this worthwhile cause, then please use the QR code below or visit the JustGiving page, which can be found on Facebook on the Universities Scheme page.

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