The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville

A Luckett’s Double Decker bus left the Trossant School, Havant, on the morning of Wednesday 5th August, filled with thirteen families and four helpers. A few of the mums and children had joined us from the SDAS [Women’s Refuge] . We were heading for the lovely sandy beach at Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Boarding five buggies, two of which were double ones, on-and-off bus and Hovercraft was quite an ordeal as two of the mums each had three small children. For most of the party travel by Hovercraft was a new experience.

On arrival at the beach we found a previously erected gazebo, where soft drinks were provided. A large area of grass under a huge Holme oak tree was covered with ground sheets, rugs and garden chairs. This preparation had been achieved by Colvin Leslie and two invaluable young helpers. They had left Bishops Waltham early, in a large van, in order to provide a warm welcome.

Families were free to do whatever they chose in Ryde but almost all of them stayed with us for the entire day. Packed lunches were provided at 12:15 and were greatly enjoyed by all of us. The fresh sandwiches had been prepared by the Ryde Baptist Church Café and delivered to us by Sylvia, the newly elected MU coordinator for the Island. She was accompanied by her small son and they stayed with us for the rest of the day.

A beach scavenger hunt was organised before lunch and later a sand castle competition. Most families took part in the latter. Canon David Isaac and his wife, who is assistant priest at All Saints Church, Ryde, came to judge the completion. Needless to say each sand castle builder received a prize of some kind- sticks of rock proving very popular. It was interesting to see that some of the children had no idea how to make sand castles until shown, never having spent time at the seaside before. We provided a large box of buckets and spades plus paper flags for each castle, if desired. One little boy was thrilled to discover that he could take home his collection of sea shells. I provided a plastic bag as we could not spare a bucket.

The weather held out until we were packing up the gazebo, ground sheets etc. These were packed into the van which had brought them from Bishops Waltham. One of the young helpers is training to become a parish youth worker. Without her help and that of a strong and tireless young man the day would not have been such a success.

It drizzled whilst we walked the length of the prom to our previously ordered hot suppers at the Long John Silver Fish and Chips cafe, but this did not seem to dampen the spirit of the party.

The upper floor of the restaurant had been reserved for us, including loos. The food was good and the children had ice cream for dessert.

The Hovercraft staff was prepared for our return and soon whipped away the buggies and produced them promptly at Southsea. Our bus driver was also very helpful.

On our return to Havant at 6:45pm approx., a beautiful Thank You card was presented to Margaret Leslie (the MU Action and Outreach Coordinator). It had been signed by every family with messages of appreciation.

The following morning Margaret received an e-mail from the Refuge Organiser thanking us and saying ‘What you have done has given our lovely families quality time together and help mend fractured emotions’.

Sylvia who collected the sandwiches also wrote

‘ Dear Margaret[Leslie] and colleagues

It was a great privilege to be able to share Wednesday with you and see the real Mothers’ Union at work. It was my first experience apart from services and meetings and made so much sense of what we stand for.’

Such a simple day out took an enormous amount of planning including three visits to Ryde to investigate a good ‘wet weather refuge’ ie All Saints Church Hall, (fortunately not needed), the best fish and chips restaurant, do the risk assessment and locate loos near to our venue. Most of this was undertaken by Margaret Leslie and her husband to whom we are all deeply indebted. It was worth the effort to see the families together relaxing and enjoying a day of simple activities in the fresh air.

We thank all whose contributions to Action and Outreach make such activities possible.

Margaret Symonds

Autumn 2015

A Memorable Day at the Seaside