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We all love a good reason to reminisce, and what better reason than an anniversary……..
14yrs ago today, I started working for Escape, I say started, what I actually mean is I started as a paid employee, I had been doing the job voluntarily for a good couple of years beforehand.
My biggest challenges during my time with ESCAPE have been our Annual Specials. These have been many and varied, and hold some of my fondest memories, so why not take this opportunity to look back at all we have been up to.
In 2001 the first seed was sown. Chris Ker was our chairperson at the time, and Chris had such wonderful vision. ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could take ESCAPE to Alton Towers’ she said, so off we trot, Chris with 2 of her children, me with 2 of mine (Owen was 6 weeks old at the time) up the M5 to check out all that we could find in Stoke on Trent, god we worked hard those couple of days, but we came home full of enthusiasm and ready to organise what we knew would be such an exciting opportunity for our families.
So our first ‘Special’ was in 2002. 200 of us set off early on Sunday morning in what was atrocious weather but all very excited for what the day would bring……….2 hrs into the journey I receive a phone call from Bev Clarke (Bev travelled to Alton Towers the day before us) Alton Towers was CLOSED!!!!! For the first time in 17 years bad weather forced its closure, and we had 4 coach loads of people only a couple of hours away. To say we were flummoxed would be an understatement, a quick think led to an emergency stop in the next service station. A few phone calls were made and Cadbury World agreed that they would be happy for 200 of us to turn up on their doorstep in 30 minutes time!! Phew the day was saved and everyone very happy with chocolate give aways!!!
Thankfully the 2nd day went exactly according to plan and we finally managed to enjoy all that Alton Towers had to offer.
BUT we learnt that they were building a new Hotel, and a massive indoor Waterpark, opening the following year, so what were we to do……….Get fundraising and go back in 2003. My goodness what an absolute treat, to be amongst the first guests staying at the Splashdown Hotel, and to have unlimited use of what I think has to be the best waterpark, is definitely something for the memory store. And we visited during Halloween and Guy Fawkes, so we were treated to the most spectacular fireworks show.
We love it at Alton Towers so much that we have visited again in 2006, 2010 and 2013. Anybody fed up with it yet??
In 2004, 2009 and again in 2011 we visited London. During these breaks we have seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Shrek The Musical. We have travelled on the River Thames, twice, had a ride on The London Eye, had a Duck Tour, visited Chessington and Thorpe Park, visited Windsor Castle and London Zoo. Is there anything in London we haven’t done!! Yeah loads, so no doubt we will visit again. But if we do we will make sure we don’t lose any coach drivers this time. Only we could lose a Coach Driver, our final day in our 2011 London trip, a coach driver failed to show up for breakfast, when he also failed to arrive with his coach when it was time for us to set off, we did panic slightly!!! We still haven’t got to the bottom of exactly what happened to that driver, but he was found safe and well, but only after the coach company sent another driver from Taunton!.
My absolute favourite, favourites:……..
As a 5 year anniversary treat ESCAPE took 300 of its members to a Holiday Village on the Isle of Wight, we took the village over and had the place to ourselves. What a wonderful bonding experience this was, we all took park in numerous team sports inside and out, we scuba dived in their pool, we had table tennis competitions. But my fondest memories of this holiday had to be our evening activities. One evening we held a fancy Dress competition, well I have never seen a venue with so many people dressed up in so many different outfits, everyone had put in a brilliant effort and looked amazing. Another evening we held a Talent Show, and what a lot of Talent we have! One of our young men, Ryan who was about 8 at the time, sang a beautiful song, and made most of us wipe a tear away, also just as memorable but perhaps for different reasons, Scott’s version of Amerillo and Joys rendition of Summer Holiday, will remain in my memory forever and will make me smile every time of think of them.
My most challenging task to date and ESCAPE’s biggest venture ever. We found this wonderful, fully inclusive outdoor adventure holiday centre. In Ireland!!! Over and over again members had asked to go in an aeroplane, we couldn’t be bogged down with foreign travel so maybe Ireland was the answer. And that’s exactly what we did, 130 of us for a whole week. They didn’t do a plane big enough to fit us all in so half of us flew from Exeter to Belfast and half from Bristol to Dublin and we embarked on our biggest adventure yet. Windsurfing, Banana Boating, Canoeing, Speed Boating, Sailing, Climbing, Mini Olympics, Modroc Sculpture, Tee Shirt Painting, plus much much more. Our daytime activities challenged us all beyond our limits and I would dearly love to visit again, would you??
And finally, another wonderful opportunity to challenge ourselves but this time more on land, High Ropes, Giant Swing, Sensory Trail, Aeroball, Archery, Rifle Shooting, plus tons more. It was fabulous to see whole families challenging themselves, and enjoying the whole bonding experience. Ricky, 16 at the time impressed me the most. Doing the High Ropes Course, Blindfolded, this is a youngster with no memory, AMAZING!!
We will never be able to replicate these memories but we can make lots more new ones, so here’s looking forward to the next 14 years!
What’s your favourite ESCAPE memory? We would love for you to tell everyone in the comments below. I look forward to reading them. Cathy xx