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South West Group Fitting Out Weekend
February 22 - February 24
It’s frightening how quickly the fitting out weekend comes around each year but always keenly anticipated as a time to catch up with friends old and new as well as stimulating us into planning for the sailing season ahead. We have always enjoyed the weekend and this year was no exception. For a change the venue was inland, staying at the Hatton Court Hotel just outside Gloucester but we were to find that this city still had a significant maritime connection.
As usual the weekend visit was based from Friday to Sunday but a lot of members tagged on an extra night at the beginning or end. We arrived on the Thursday with Liz and Andy Truscott and enjoyed dinner with the other eager beavers who had arrived that day. The next day we were meeting for an afternoon visit at the Waterways Museum so most of us decided to make a day of it and went into town via the park and ride. Quite a crowd of us were at the bus stop and only the few representatives of the “youth section” present had to pay as the remainder presented their bus passes with pride. In town we spread out and went our separate ways with quite a group heading to the Cathedral for a guided tour of the Cathedral archive/ library which I understand was very interesting. Steve decided it was time for some pre-holiday shopping as we were heading off on a cruise straight after the weekend and there is nothing like leaving it till the last minute!
After a quick bite to eat at lunch time we all met at the Gloucester Docks for our tour of the National Waterways Museum. As the numbers had grown to 50 or so by now, we were split into groups and we found that the tour varied depending on the interests of the tour guide! Our young lady focused on the strong female characters represented there and her concerns around how tough life was for the dockers and canal families in days gone by. It was certainly interesting to learn about the development of Gloucester as an important crossing point of the River Severn and later the development of the port and canal.
That evening we had a buffet dinner and the ubiquitous quiz, this year supposedly set by George and Rachel Curnow as the penalty for winning last year, but actually done by Chris Strang as the winners from last year were unable to come. I’m not sure whether the questions were particularly hard or whether everyone was trying hard to avoid winning as our team managed to come first with the lowly score of 11 out of 25.
Saturday morning started cold but cleared into the sort of beautiful day that we all dream of for setting out to sea. Instead we set off on a walk in the Cotswolds, a circular route took us around Painswick Beacon. With sunshine all the way it was so lovely to enjoy the countryside and beautiful Cotswold Stone buildings as for us walks are almost always related to the coast. As we were quite a group we did get well spread out and some did get ahead of themselves and had to turn back when they missed the turnings. The one person we knew we wouldn’t lose was Phil Loynes, who was getting ready for his French cruise, supporting “les gilets Jaunes” in his dayglo yellow jacket.
Lunch had been pre-arranged at the Falcon Pub in Painswick who put on a marvellous spread for us with a never-ending supply of food. We were able to sit outside in the sunshine (arranged by Chris and Marguerite) thus regaining our strength ready for part 2 of the walk. We moved on to the Painswick Rococo Garden where a wonderfully enthusiastic volunteer explained the history of the garden and then left us to explore at our own pace. It was well worth seeing although the snow drops were past their best in most areas and quite soon, we all seemed to converge on the tea rooms (other than those lost in the maze!). After suitable refreshment it was time to complete the walk and Steve and I certainly felt that we had done quite enough exercise just as the car came back into view.
Saturday evening found us all gathering for the formal dinner followed by a talk on 10 characters from Gloucester. Don’t test me on any of this as following a day walking in the fresh air, dinner and alcohol meant that I wasn’t in full listening mode for the duration but it did help pull together some of the history we had learnt at the Waterways Museum and prepared us for the guided tour of the town the next day. I do remember that Gloucester was first settled by the Romans as it was the shallowest crossing point of the River Severn and was used to ship the iron ore from South Wales so it became a prominent settlement.
Sunday morning saw us heading back into Gloucester for a walking tour of the city. The weather wasn’t quite so kind to us with a cold wind blowing but it was interesting to explore a city I didn’t know at all but reminded me of my home town of St Albans which has similar Roman roots. Of course, little remains of the ancient history but there were many interesting buildings from Elizabethan times forward.
The end of the tour meant the end of the formal weekend and for us it was time to say our goodbyes to everyone and thanks to Chris and Marguerite for organising another stunningly successful weekend. Roll on next year but not before we have all had a cracking sailing season (fingers crossed)!
Sue and Steve Jones