Days 24 & 25. Wed & Thurs 1st & 2nd Feb. Sunderland, day off.
It's a great feeling waking up in a hotel room knowing you have a day off, no boots, no pack to carry. I lay in bed and caught up with a load of emails and tried to fix the problem I've been having syncing my photos between my phone and my IPad. Ava would be in school so I would have to try and sort this myself !!!
Just before lunch time I went for a walk to have a look around Sunderland and get some lunch. I found an amazing memorial and veterans path, one of the biggest and best memorials I've seen. I had no idea that Sunderland was the biggest supplier of recruits into the Armed Forces. It was both interesting and moving reading through the list of the fallen in the many campaigns the UK has been involved in over the past 100 years.
So many good men and women over the years that have paid the ultimate price. Very sad indeed... I stayed for a while and paid my respects. 😔
I headed back to the hotel after lunch and enjoyed a nice relaxing afternoon lying on the bed. I hadn't walked many miles in the past 3 days but my feet and legs were aching so 15 minutes of stretching excercises and a grandad nap was just what was needed.
A crafty pint before my taxi arrived to take me to the lodge. It was a good job I had already done a recce of where the lodge was and I was nice and early as the cabby took me to the wrong place !!! He didn't realise there were two Masonic Lodges in Sunderland but ironically, the one I needed to be at was the oldest purpose built Lodge in the UK !!! Some say the world but I'm not sure about that. My driver punched Queen Street into his sat nav and turned the meter off so I was there in plenty of time and only paid half the fair. 👍
The building didn't look much from the outside but wow, it was something special when you got inside. I was given a guided tour around the building and down into the cellar which revieled that the floor of the lodge was supported right down the centre by one very large timber beam. A beam that had once been the main mast from a large sailing ship.
I was privileged to watch an excellent double initiation ceremony, a father and son both becoming Freemasons together. I also enjoyed sitting through the meeting with another Chris Jones, a charming, kind and very good looking chap, I did get to wondering if all Chris Jones's are blessed with the same attributes... 😬😉A lovely meal followed and due to the meating running on, a number of the members had to leave before the festive board had finished. They all kindly deposited their raffle tickets with me and I won 2 bottles in the raffle. 🤗
I did donate them back to the lodge for next months meeting as there was no way I could neck a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of red wine in what was left of the evening and there was no way I was carrying them in my pack !!!
A further £500 was donated to the MCF by the Masters of the Lodges present which I gratefully accepted, these guys just keep in giving....
Because I had already walked the coast line between Sunderland and South Shields, the following morning I decided to get the bus back up there.
I then walked along the river from South Shields to Jarrow which completed the Durham coastline.
I was interested to learn that the first ever purpose built lifeboat came from South Shields. I have read lots of information boards about these incredibly brave individuals that risked their lives to row out into wild seas to save stricken seafarers. I was also surprised to read in one of the bays, I forget which one, that in the early days this was also a business opportunity. Some would row out, in wild seas risking their own life but before they agreed to save the crew, they would negotiate their share in the spoils from the wreck !!! Seems a bit harsh but I suppose the value of your cargo is fairly irrelevant if you drown for it...
I had been booked into a hotel in 'Jarra' for my last night in Durham and was being picked up to go to my last Lodge visit in the Province.
I was in nice and early so time to iron my face, brush my shirt and wash my shoes...