Once a week in an Ashburton car park 10 ladies gather, they line up, with backs straight, the music begins and off they march.
They are the Ashburton Leisure Marching team and this weekend they will gather with teams from around New Zealand for the National League Marching weekend at the TSB Arena in Wellington.
The Ashburton team was formed twenty years ago by coach Heather Lamb.
Marching for Leisure teams are not about competing but are about fun, fitness and friendship.
Teams vary in size from four to thirty members, most of those marching have been in competitive teams previously. The Ashburton team ranges in age from mid-30s to those in their 70s.
The majority of the team are from Ashburton, with one woman travelling from Timaru for practices and another from the West Coast joining when she can.
Leisure marching is more relaxed than the competition teams; there are few rules and regulations. One rule is a routine must not be longer than five minutes.
Heather said when the team began ‘‘they wore shoes, tee shirts and trousers’’, today they turn out in full marching uniforms.
Their black jackets and trousers, white boots, hats and turquoise sashes receive many compliments and ‘‘we are told how striking we look,’’ Heather said.
Wendy Suttie, co-founder of the team, said, ‘‘being able to get out with others who enjoy marching, put on a routine but with no pressure is what it is all about.’’
Marching is good for the mind as the local team march by counting their steps not the command of a whistle as others do.
In July each year, Ashburton hosts a causal and fun day. They are usually joined by 12 other teams from around the South Island.
The day includes two marches from each team and ends with a mass march past.
Marching is a family activity for some of the team. Wendy’s sister marches for a Christchurch team and her late mum marched. Heather has marched in the past and her step daughter is a member of the current team.
Several members of the team have been part of it for many years with Wendy and Heather being original members.
The team are looking forward to a fun weekend and catching up with friends, face to face for the first time in three years at their gathering in Wellington.