It was inevitable that, one day very soon, a GOC Chairman would sidle up to me at some event and ask the dreaded question :– “Are you up for it?”. So it was that I decided to face my fear head-on and offer, unprompted, to host the 2018 GOC Annual Outdoor Gathering. So began the AOG to be held in …….. Stoke on Trent! Yes, there were many changes over the following 3 years. Our first venue proved wanting. We were left looking for an alternative, with good transport links, affordable accommodation for up to 200 people, catering facilities, availability over the summer, and, critically, within an easy drive to a minimum of 10 varied walks. It was a chance comment on one of our regular walks - “did you know that Telford has a University Campus?”, that finally gave us a venue.
The Western Midlands group is fortunate to have so many enthusiastic, helpful and talented members. An organising group was set up and in no time had created an action plan and decided on a list of potential walks. By the summer of 2017 our invitation was ready for the Lancaster AOG, where we were allowed 3 minutes, in a very tight agenda, to extol the virtues of Shropshire.
It’s amazing how fast a year can pass, especially as “life” has a habit of requiring attention at the least convenient moment. The planning group went into action. Recee’s were organised and walked. Al was called in from Wales to reconnoitre the Women Only Walk. Logistics for the weekend were finalised and the social event confirmed. In the background Peter Blackburn liaised with the University, did all the tedious administration and kept us all on track.
The weekend started well with people finding the venue without too much difficulty thanks, in part, to the strategically located GOC Signs posted close to the University. Getting around campus couldn’t have been easier. The Friday evening meal of a barbeque was different, and the bar well stocked.
Then the weekend events, walks and cycle rides began, and the heatwave we had been enduring for the past 6 weeks ended. Warnings of “make sure you have plenty of water and sun cream” changed to “make sure you have your waterproof gear”.
Saturday saw 8 walks, including a Women’s only walk, and 2 cycle rides leave the campus (reports elsewhere). Most people managed to get back in time for the AMG which passed without any major incident. The evening meal was followed by a disco DJ’ed by Paul Robbins, a local GOC member, and an appearance of the Club Archive.
Sunday dawned wet and windy. Many walkers and cyclists decided not to “venture out”. Those that did joined 7 walks planned for the day, and had a really enjoyable outing, many having a warm and sunny afternoon out and about in Shropshire (reports elsewhere). We all got back in time for dinner followed by a Quiz which seemed to go down very well.
Monday mornings saw the last event, a rather pleasant and informative walk around Telford Town Centre, which was surprisingly rural.
The end of the AOG left me feeling many emotions. Glad that it went reasonably well and that no-one died of heatstroke. Sad that the weather had put people off from going on some excellent walks. Grateful for the help and assistance of my organising group, all of the walk leaders and Peter Blackburn. Happy that so many enjoyed a lovely weekend in Shropshire. Glad that it was all over. Anticipation of next year’s event in Swansea – good luck Al.