Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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In truth this should have been noted and written at the time of the Guild's Ringing Tour in early July, but I hadn't thought of it then. Fortunately and gratifyingly, but albeit early for that issue, Chris Povey gave us an impressive and detailed account of the churches visited then in the July Newsletter.

Well! to actually book this week to write this piece was a challenge. I had been to a couple of Guild Saturday night practices, but I found it quite daunting. As a relative newcomer to bell ringing, one requires an apprenticeship of 20 years or more! My novice ringing friend and I decided it would be good to go on the Guild's Ringing Tour around Ludlow, so we booked a place for the caravan at the recommended camp-site. At the last minute Wendy couldn't make the weekend, so husband Brian (non-ringer) and I would go it alone.

Friday was sunny and glorious, and we made our way to the camp-site with a new little dog, Brian driving and towing the caravan (we're novices at caravanning, too!). It didn't help that I was sitting in the back seat with the dog trying to navigate…. “Now Brian, we mustn't go over the bridge across the river. We must turn left!!” In a split second we were over the bridge and heading for a narrow arch over the road. The drinkers outside the pub found this amazing, as we had to turn around. The local Council, in its wisdom, had erected bollards at the sides of the road, making the turning operation a nightmare.  It was tempting to unhitch, but this part of Ludlow is on a steep hill. Luckily Brian has had experience towing a horse trailer, so eventually he extricated us from the mess to cross the bridge again and turn right this time up towards the camp-site.

In contrast, the horror of trying get through the gate of the farm into the camping field was greeted with nobody about. A note in the window showed where three FSG caravans were to be placed, so I thought we would put ourselves in the middle and we'll be fully included hopefully. Not long afterwards Richard L-S arrived en famille with a little young dog, and greeted us. Then Peter Kenealy arrived with his large old dog and his dinky caravan, which was half the size of his car. As usually happens when camping, certain things don't work or fit, or are forgotten, so this is the time when you get to know each other. Peter's electrical lead wasn't long enough to reach the electrical hook-up point, but ours was, so he borrowed it. Other things were exchanged or borrowed. I'd forgotten to bring Brian's breakfast cereal, so he had some very fancy cereal from Peter.

We'd been booked to ring at Stanton Lacy that evening (Friday). I remember it as the church with the graveyard of nettles. A little notice said it was for green eco reasons. The tower was full of strange faces! I hadn't realised it was their practice night and we were just joining in. I nearly died when asked what would I like to ring? “Oh”, says I casually masking my nervousness. “Just rounds and call changes, please.” After this I scuttled out and offered to look after Peter's dog, so that he could go and ring. Later in the evening Sue Bacon arrived at the door. She was camping with her husband. Had we a match so she could make a brew? “Oh, I'll boil a kettle for you. Come in.” We chatted and chatted, and chatted even more. It transpired her husband was going fishing (yes, literally): could she have a lift with us? I could now relax. Sue was not only an expert ringer, but an old hand at these events.

Saturday morning was so sunny! I could now see how beautiful it all was, being next to a field of buttercups, red clover mix and horses. There was a most majestic view of Ludlow Castle and the Church, surrounded by the old town. At around 8.30am we all set off for our first tower. I happily sat in the back with the dog and Sue found the first church and all the subsequent locations. We had coffee at Stokesay Castle café and another young lady bell ringer joined us. I was beginning to enjoy myself.

Lunch was a grand affair in the garden of the Sun Inn in Leintwardine. Fish and chips were ordered from the chip shop next door to the pub and were brought round to the garden in waitress-service style. Good beer, too. I really did feel amongst friends now.

After the last tower of the day, Ludlow, the 'day' ringers returned home, but for us 'weekenders' a meal had been booked at the pub in Ludlow by the Arch. As with all the best planning, incidents do occur. No electricity at the pub; nor, in fact, was there in the whole of Ludlow! One family did not stay because of paying by card worries, albeit we all said we would pool our cash. The menu was revised to suit cooking arrangements — and all in good humour. We had great laughs at the table and very good food, too.

We had the option to ring for Sunday Morning at St Laurence, Ludlow. Sue and I said we were going to ring then, even though it meant facing 138 steps to the ringing chamber. These steps are a cardiac exercise. My heart pounded alarmingly half way up. I thought that I was fit, so I guess that the resident ringers are very fit! I anxiously arrived at St Laurence's main door and was dismayed to find that the Vicar was saying goodbye to his parishioners. Then I discovered that the ringing takes place after the service, because the bell ringers are at their own Churches in the surrounding area beforehand.

The point of my article is to encourage any newcomer like myself to join such a weekend or other social ringing events. There is nothing to compare to a weekend away with those sharing the same hobby and interests. It brings together people of all age groups and backgrounds. Friendships and good company are not easily found these days. I went home wishing that there were several more weekends for this summer. But of course it all takes a lot of organising. Thank you Richard.

While I'm here I would like to thank the bell ringing teams at practice nights They have helped me along the way so patiently and cheerfully. They are Badsey, (Monday), Offenham (Tuesday) and Evesham Bell Tower (Wednesday).

Christina Ireland