After Covid thwarted their first attempt, Twynham Masonic Lodge members Robert Ings and John Hawkins have completed a five-day, whirlwind drive from Christchurch to Monte Carlo to raise money for two local charities. Robert and John, along with their wives Serena and Rhona, took part in the European Monte Carlo or Bust challenge, in which fundraisers buy a car for under £500 and drive to Monte Carlo via six countries – Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy – in just five days.
The foursome named themselves The Bedrock Masons and decorated their car – a 22-year-old XJS Jaguar –Flintstones-style, before hopping across six borders, stopping only for food and to sleep and to don a different fancy dress costume. The epic challenge raised £3200 through sponsorship which has been divided between Macmillan Caring Locally which helps fund the Macmillan Unit in Christchurch, and Parent Support Link, which offers support to anyone who has been affected by a loved one’s substance misuse.
Rob, who owns his own car garage, said:
“My wife Serena’s aunty passed away at the Macmillan Unit in Christchurch in 2019 and she received such wonderful care, we have been fundraising for the Unit ever since”.
“We love cars and doing the Monte Carlo or Bust was something which really appealed to us all – so we thought why not?”
John, an engineer from Southampton, said: “Macmillan Caring Locally and Parent Support Link support people in all walks of life and stay strong when people feel like they can’t be.
“We all have to endure heartaches in life, so we were determined to do something to keep the places that support us all going.”
Rhona works for Parent Link. She said: “When the boys first suggested doing the run, they were going to do it alone. But we were quick to say: “We’ll come too!
“I wasn’t really relishing being in a car for five days. But we had so much fun together and there were many laughs along the way.”
Serena said some of the highlights included the spectacular drive down through the Gotthard Pass to Lake Como in Italy and a hilarious water pistol fight with another car at one of the tolls they passed through.
“The only real low point was when one of our tyres went out of shape near Nice on the Sunday and we had to hunt for a replacement for three hours,” she added.
Rhona said: “We had no air con and only our phones and some printed map sheets to find the route. But it was amazing.”
The foursome also found a worthy new home for their faithful car:
“A bell boy at our hotel in Nice fell in love with the Jag and told us he was learning to drive and dreamed of having his own car. When we said we were happy for him to have it for free as he were flying back to England, he couldn’t believe it and just couldn’t stop beaming,” said Serena.
John, added: “We were gutted when Covid stopped us from doing the event last time around, but we were determined to complete the challenge and having to wait so long just made it extra special.”
The Macmillan Unit is situated in the grounds of Christchurch Hospital and provides specialist palliative care for around 1600 people each year. Neal Williams is Trust Secretary of Macmillan Caring Locally, the charity which supports the unit. He said: “Twynham Lodge is a long term and much valued supporter of Macmillan Caring Locally. We really enjoyed following their adventure online and the fantastic pictures they posted. We are deeply grateful for their continuing support.”