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Group Break 2018


September 2018

This year’s Masonic group break has once more been a huge success and below is a complete blog of the week’s experience kindly compiled by one of the guests, David Warden.


Thanks for all your hard work David!


Saturday 1st September 2018 – Day 1


As in previous years – alarm clocks were going off all over the Province of Durham. Bags had been packed, toothbrushes etc., stowed away, pills and other medication taken.


In other words, it was time for the Masonic Break again.


Arriving at the Masonic Hall at Shiney Row – it was a pleasant sight to see the party conveyance gleaming in the morning sunshine. The last vestiges of early morning mist disappearing as those people lucky enough to be off to the Isle of Wight arrived. Bags were loaded into the coach. John Watts looking resplendent in his running gear came on board to wish us Bon Voyage, then we were off at 08:00 sharp.


Stopping briefly at Scotch Corner to pick up the last of the party we hit the A1(M) and headed South. We had two pit stops on the way down and caught the 16:00 ferry from Southampton for the Isle of Wight. A quiet and smooth crossing – passing a number of huge cruise liners – then we arrived at East Cowes. Journey time was an hour. A short while later we arrived at the Sands Hotel in Sandown to a most warm welcome. Rooms were allocated, bags unpacked, then down for a delicious and well served evening meal. After dinner, Tony Clark provided his usual Bingo followed by a local artiste who provided the evening’s entertainment. 22:00 time for a well-deserved sleep. Goodnight.


Sunday 2nd September 2018 – Day 2


As if being a part of the Masonic Break wasn’t enough – visitors to Sundown were witnesses to a pillar of back smoke rising from the vicinity of the Sands Hotel. Getting closer to the hotel it became obvious that there was a major fire underway.


Our Masonic Group members heading towards the Sands Hotel were redirected along the beach and the back streets of Sundown.


The hotel we were staying in were quick off the mark, looking after the emergency services. It was a free day for the Group and most of us just spent part of the morning walking into Sundown to see what shops were open and decide which cafe to have a coffee in. The weather was like a travel brochure photograph – blue sky, dark blue sea rippling with silver and the white sails of yachts meandering through it all. A glorious day. Afternoon was quieter as people rested after lunch. Dinner was served at 6:30 followed by bingo and entertainment. You haven’t lived until you watch Tony Clark trying to line dance. Tomorrow we are off to Shanklin and Godshill.


Monday 3rd September 2018 – Day 3


On this day in 1939 – War was declared on Germany. Just thought that should be mentioned. No signs of war in the Masonic Group – that’s for sure.


The excitement of yesterday had lessened, but now people were asking if anyone knew how the fire started. There are three hotels that were inundated and at least two will have to be demolished.


One of the hotels was expecting the return of a coach load of guests. What a way to end your day!


At the Sands – everyone collected together for breakfast before heading off to Shanklin and Godshill. Shanklin seemed to have a lot of closed shops and looking a bit tired and run down. Discovered what seems to be a Masonic Temple looking like it has been turned into a house. As members of the group returned, one of the scooterists had an accident and was being tended by the side of the coach. The Red Cross ladies arrived and took charge. With everybody back on the coach we headed off to Godshill. It is like stepping into a chocolate box cover with it’s beautiful thatched cottages and many pubs. The Griffin where a pint of local ale was sampled has a really nice family garden to enjoy a meal and a drink. Several Masons were seen hiding under the trees enjoying a beer.


By this time the heat was rising (more continental than British). All too quickly it was time to head back to Sundown to enjoy the rest of the afternoon and get ready for dinner.


Settling down after our meal it became apparent that the anonymous scooter driver whose name was Jim wasn’t well and a paramedic called for. As it was an ambulance wasn’t needed and Jim has spent a reasonably comfortable night.


Tuesday 4th September 2018 – Day 4


Another glorious morning. Our scooter driver from yesterday had avoided going to hospital and the ambulance was cancelled – it was going to take 4 – 5 hours to arrive. Once again, the Red Cross nurses came to the rescue. After a nice breakfast we boarded the coach for our Tuesday adventure. Our first stop was the Pearl factory. As in previous visits – the men had their wallets sewn up and their credit cards well hidden. The visit was very pleasant as there is a nice cafe and a spectacular view across the English Channel. A group shot was taken of those lucky ladies who managed to purchase some pearls of jewelry.


Onto the Needles and Alum Bay. This is a thriving tourist centre with a chair lift down to the beach and the chance to kale up your own container of coloured sands. Then onto the beautiful town of Yarmouth – probably one of the most beautiful ports in Britain with a ferry terminal and large marina. It is almost like a movie set of an English seaside town. We all had the chance of a lunch break then wander around the shops before rejoining the coach for our trip back to the hotel.


Back at the Sands Hotel we got ready for another pleasant meal and evening entertainment.


Wednesday 5th September 2018 – Day 5


Today is our turn to visit the capital Newport and then Ryde (one of the main ferry terminals for the Isle of Wight). Our drive this morning took us through some amazingly beautiful countryside, with one thatched cottage vying with another for best thatch. Newport is a vibrant town full of colour and lots of different styles of architecture. Some really nice churches, shops and pubs. Your correspondent and his wife found a nice little bookshop that served coffee along with a chance to browse Dickens and others. Charity shops abound and lots of bargains were brought back to the coach.


On the way back to the coach we discovered one church that was open for visitors. It was built in Victorian times and had the equivalent of a charity shop and cafe on the floor of the church itself. Some stunning stained-glass windows and an area of calm in a busy town.


Coach loaded we were then off to the town of Ryde. It must be one of the hilliest towns in Britain. Our main reason to visit Ryde was to visit the Masonic Hall at the top end of the town. We were invited by members of the Lodges based there and must say that the hall is amazing. The building was in a state of disruption in as much as some renovation and redecoration is going on. We were invited into the Temple and allowed to take some photographs.


Tonight, we have the promise of some entertainment and the chance to win a few bob at bingo.


Thursday 6th September 2018 – Day 6


Today was a little bit of a do-it-yourself day with Tony having a day off – so some of the guests went for an optional boat trip from Cowes around various parts of the island then over the Solent for Portsmouth and Southampton to sail around the harbours and see some of the ships of the Royal Navy and cruise liners.

Others split up to do their own thing. Your correspondent and his lady wife chose to go off on the local bus to see if we could find the Busy Bee Garden Centre and an outlet called Oasis. We didn’t find it so stayed on the bus to see the bits of Ryde we missed yesterday. It is a pretty town and meanders over several hills – or so it seemed like.There is a great variety of cafes and other watering holes to choose from. One couple decide that they would visit the local Bus and Coach Museum. – others buddied up to visit the Botanic Gardens.


We are gathering early for dinner tonight as most of the group are going to the theatre in Shanklin to see a show based on the hit musicals. If music be the food of love play on.


Friday 7th September 2018 – Day 6


Today was another free day, although Tony offered ride into Cowes for a couple of hours. Some of the holiday makers were dropped off in Newport so that they could make their own way to Osbourne House a favourite holiday spot for Queen Victoria.


The weather was gorgeous again, blue skies, fluffy white clouds and a light breeze. We haven’t yet figured out where Tony kept them on the bus. Cowes is two things posh and pricey. If you were going to build your own holiday destination it probably look like Cowes. As people got off the cachet became that there were two things needed tea and coffee! There is a large choice to choose from. Antique shops, ships chandlers, trendy bars and boutiques something for everybody (with deep pockets). After getting back to the hotel we spent time relaxing before preparing ourselves for dinner and packing our suitcase. Dinner was special. Harry and Sheila Watts quietly celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary yesterday, tonight, there was a banner adorning the dining room. Wine was provided for the guests and a toast made. Loads of applause for this very pleasant couple. Congratulations.


The Manager of the Sands Lee is a Mason and as a surprise for his wife Shona – the ladies’ song was performed admirably by Alan a member of the group. All in all, a day to remember.


Saturday 8th September 2018 – Day 7


All bags were to be outside our rooms by 06:00, breakfast was at 06:45, departure at 07:15. We left the Sands Hotel with much handwaving. We caught the 08:30 ferry and an hour or so later were heading back North and home. We had a couple of short stops on the way home and landed at the Masonic Hall at Shiney Row just after 17:15.


This week has been a cracker of a break, superb weather, great hotel and food etc., and once again proves the value of these companionship breaks. We would all like to thank the Red Cross nurses – Audrey and Joan for their patience and skill when they were needed.


A massive thank you to Durham Benevolence and all of its officers for this opportunity to cement friendships already made and to start some new ones. Most of all we thank the superlative Tony Clark for his patience, professionalism and his sense of humour – he held the whole thing together.



From David Warden, Bernard Gilpin Lodge 3076


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