Most people throw a big party or perhaps take a luxury holiday when they celebrate a special birthday but not Gary Middlehurst from Stondon Massey. Instead he’s chosen ‘something tougher’ to mark his half century birthday by planning to yomp across Belgium and Holland for 75 miles, carrying a 40lb pack. And he’s persuaded 14 mates from his local, The Bricklayers Arms, to go with him. The group aims to raise £10,000 for The Parachute Regiment Charity and Help for Heroes by retracing the steps of Paratroopers in the Second World War who, 70 years ago this September, glided behind enemy lines tasked with blowing up bridges in Operation Market Garden.
“It all started because I’m 50 this year and I wanted to mark my milestone birthday so I decided I was going to walk to Arnhem. I came down the pub and got chatting. Someone asked what are you doing for your birthday? I mentioned it and it really took off. Now there’s 15 of us,” said Gary Middlehurst.
Inspiration for this charity challenge came from Andy Jones, a former Para, who returned to the village after suffering injuries from an exploding IUD in Afghanistan. Now rehabilitated, Andy works as a PT Instructor in London.
“We’ll be doing 22 miles a day give or take, carrying 40lb field packs. Training is going well. We started in October and we’ve all been getting fitter and fitter. One guy has lost 7 stone. We recently did the Power Ten Challenge and managed to do it in under three hours with eight minutes to spare,” added Gary.
Stephen Cooper of The Parachute Regiment Charity said: “This is a fantastic initiative. It’s independently run by Gary and his team. We’re a very small charity. We couldn’t mount something like this so it’s incredibly good that Gary with all his initiative and energy has taken it on.
“We love the idea. It very much commemorates the brave men who fought, and many who died at Arnhem in 1944, but at the same time he’s chosen to donate funds raised from it to the serving troops and families of soldiers today through our charity. He’s both commemorating but also helping our current, serving soldiers and we’ll support them all the way.”
Seven decades ago in September former Paratrooper, Veteran David Whiteman from Laindon, was taking part in Operation Market Garden. Last week, he was rubbing shoulders with HM The Queen and The Prime Minister at the D-Day anniversary remembrance in Normandy. Yesterday he was an honoured guest at The Bricklayers Arms in Stondon Massey, to test the beer we’ve brewed specially for the OMG group to help boost their charity fund raising efforts. Speaking at the official OMG launch at Brentwood Brewery today David Whiteman said: “I think they’re (OMG) doing a marvellous job. There’s so many of these soldiers who are having bad times. With events like this going on, collecting money, helps them get through it.”
The latest Brentwood Beer seemed to be going down well with all visitors to the brewery, including D-Day Veteran Don Sheppard from Basildon who was also at today’s official OMG beer launch. He said: “The brew’s pretty good. It’s not too strong which is a good thing and the taste is almondy to me. It’s nice. Normal beer has a huge head on it but this is real ale.”
Curry supplied by The Great British Raj takeaway of Ongar Road, Brentwood, also proved popular amongst brewery visitors and it disappeared fast.
With The Bricklayers Arms OMG lads in their uniform of charity T-shirts and camouflage trousers, an East West Trading Company Army Surplus stall and the old Bedford Army truck, which is going on the charity run, parked outside, the brewery looked like it had been commandeered as an Army depot for the day. Adding some unexpected excitement to the atmosphere, The Red Arrows managed an impromptu flypast, right over the brewery, en route to HM The Queen’s Official Birthday Flypast at Buckingham Palace.
As for the beer … here’s the verdict:
“It’s absolutely fantastic. It’s a very, very drinkable beer. It’s keeping it’s head which is great for a real ale. It really tastes lovely,” said Gary Middlehurst.
“It’s fantastic. It’s what you call a quaffing ale. You could drink a lot of this quite easily. I think it’ll go down well,” said Stephen Cooper of the Parachute Regiment Charity.
Veteran David Whiteman said: “I used to be a gin and tonic man and didn’t like beer but since yesterday when I tasted OMG I’ve changed to this.”
To find out more about The OMG group from The Bricklayers Arms and their charity trek in September, visit http://paracharity.org/operation-market-garden-2014/
To find out where you can buy OMG beer contact Brentwood Brewing Company [email protected] or Twitter @BrentwoodBrewCo or phone 01277 200483 or pop into the brewery at Calcott Hall Farm, Ongar Road, Pilgrims Hatch,Brentwood,CM15 9HS.
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