It’s not every day that half a dozen Freemasons, including a Deputy Provincial Grand Master, are to be found at 6.30am congregating in a dark supermarket car park...
Well, not unless they’re gathering to start the biannual Walk2Welshpool 25-mile charity walk, that is.
So it came to pass that on Thursday October 9th a small but intrepid group of masons gathered in a rainswept Church Stretton in the masonic Province of Shropshire – the starting point for a challenging day’s hill walking.
The Walk2Welshpool is a sponsored walking event organised and administered by the Salopian Lodge of Charity No. 117, and in particular by the aptly named W Bro Kim March.
On this occasion the aim was to raise enough funds to pay for an Automatic External Defibrillator to be installed at Freemasons’ Hall in Shrewsbury. According to the British Heart Foundation, around 60,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the UK. Sadly, fewer than 10% of the victims survive to return home. If every victim received timely CPR and defibrillation the survival rate would rise to an impressive 75%. Freemasons’ Hall in Shrewsbury lends itself to having an AED: it’s a busy year round meeting place in an area prone to ‘ambulance delaying’ traffic congestion.
This project was very generously sponsored by other lodges and orders in the Province and further boosted by a £200 donation from our welcoming masonic hosts, Powis Lodge No. 7355. The walking group is also supported by its own version of International Rescue or ‘Thunder Brothers 1 & 2’ as they are appreciatively known, namely W Bro Marshall Cale and Bro Dave Woods, both members of the Salopian Lodge of Charity No. 117.
There’s some good news too for The Freemasons' Grand Charity, as the excess funds will go to this very worthy cause via the Province of Shropshire’s 2019 Festival Appeal. Nearly £1,800 has thus far been pledged.
Ranging from master mason to Deputy Provincial Grand Master, the group dutifully started the walk bang on time at 6.30am. The weather was certainly no respecter of rank!
Within minutes the first of four climbs was under way in the foulest of weather conditions. Clearing Rectory Woods (so dark it evoked fond memories of Mole and Ratty’s Wild Wood adventures in Wind in the Willows) the group forged their way through a near 1,000 feet of ascent to the top of the Long Mynd. In a style that would have made the grand old Duke of York terribly proud, an immediate descent ensued only to rise up again to the Stiperstones ridge – the second sustained climb of the day.
Up until that point the group had been facing directly into stinging westerly winds for several hours in very open countryside. Mercifully the weather thereafter moderated, so a good speed across a rain sodden field section could be maintained. Up onto scenic Rorrington Hill and down into the village of the same name, then a two-mile tour on quiet country lanes to Marton and the welcome sight of the village shop. ‘Sorry, all the hot pies have been sold,’ was the shopkeeper’s lament. Never mind! Only one last long climb and we’ll be home, but not so dry!
Long Mountain seemed to take forever to surmount – it just goes on and on. Towards the summit the ‘Four Crosses’ road junction with its leaning milepost has been a traditional photo stop for previous walks. Walkers gathered round the milepost in a state of abject shock. Not only was the milepost no longer on the lean, but the remainder distance to Welshpool had apparently diminished – someone with a collection of Working Tools had clearly been at work!
The Welsh market town of Welshpool soon came into view and an hour later all had safely arrived, weary but happy, at the Masonic Hall. Another customary photograph and then off to a nearby hostelry-cum-B&B to revive, shower and change for the Installation Meeting of Powis Lodge No. 7355.
The warmest of masonic welcomes, a very good Installation Meeting and a hearty festive board later and the walkers were well and truly ready for their beds. Two of the group stayed overnight in Welshpool for the pleasure of walking back again to attend evening meetings. Perhaps they’re from Barking!