The weekend of Friday 15th to Sunday 17th September saw a contingent of Durham Freemasons get on their bikes for the Coast & Castles Bike Ride. This would be a mammoth ride from Edinburgh to Chester-le-Street along the North East Coast and visiting numerous castles along the way.
There were 24 cyclists and 4 support team members who set off in the early hours of Friday to arrive at Craigmillar Castle outside of Edinburgh for the start. Ahead lay a daunting 170 mile route south to the Masonic Hall at Chester-le-Street.
After a good breakfast to pack in the energy, they set off for the first leg of the Coast & Castles journey. Lunch break was hosted at Dunbar Masonic Hall and provided by the local Freemasons. Also in attendance was the Provincial Grand Master for East Lothian, Douglas Fergie who presented them with a donation of £250 to the cause.
Southwards they rode and crossing the border to Berwick for the overnight halt. After a long and wet day, the team enjoyed an Italian meal followed by a chance to top up their liquid levels before camping down at the local Youth Hostel.
Saturday started as Friday left off, wet and dreich but undeterred, they set off along the scenic coastal route. On their way, they passed Holy Island and Bamburgh Castles before arriving at Seahouses Masonic Hall for lunch, again provided by the local Freemasons. During lunch they were serenaded by the inimitable Kenneth Howe who was on holiday nearby at Beadnell.
Another surprise was in store when some of the team caught up with another cyclist. The conversation soon progressed to the subject of Freemasonry and Paul Ridley, the cyclist mentioned he was related to a Mason from Durham. It turned out that Paul was the nephew of the late Peter Usher, a well known Mason in Durham.
More castles were ticked off the list on the way to the Alnwick halt and a much-earned meal at a local pub. Of course, a few drinks were required for their anaesthetic qualities and the great camaraderie which had built up.
Sunday dawned brighter and drier! The final leg saw them take in a much-needed lunch at Blyth Masonic Hall again provided by the local Freemasons. The route took them under the River Tyne, using the pedestrian tunnel which runs along side the vehicular tunnels. Not far now to the final destination where there was a small crowd of family, friends and Masons waiting for them outside Chester-le-Street Masonic Centre to clap them home.
At the finish, to help the fatigued riders, a hot meal was waiting along with a well-stocked bar! A short presentation was arranged where a commemorative cheque was delivered to David Hanson PGM for Durham Mark and Second Principal of Durham Chapter. A magnificent sum amounting to a minimum of £25,000 was declared which will be split equally between the Craft Durham Benevolence and Durham Mark 2029 Festival charities.
In receiving the cheque, David said “It is wonderful to see two brilliant charities benefitting from Coast & Castles Bike Ride. Congratulations to all the support staff, cyclists and all who donated. Remember it’s not just about making a donation, it’s about making a difference and you have certainly done that. Inspirational!”
The event demonstrated the positive collaboration of Companion Orders and Craft Masons. Many of the riders who despite not being in the Mark (yet!!) purchased Mark Festival Jewels. There was a tremendous sense of camaraderie amongst the team and magnificent kindness shown by all the Masons along the way. Not to mention the enormous generosity of all the sponsors in helping achieve the magnificent sum towards two fine charities which helps benefit the local communities. Well done to everyone and for promoting Freemasonry.
To find out more about the Durham 2029 Festival go HERE