2004 Tour

Saturday October 9th - this is my first such tour. We met up at the Village Hall with a view to set off at 9:00am. Mike and Judith went in their own car, after blowing up the rear tyre, since Judith wanted the freedom to be able to leave early due to her health. The bus was only a twelve seater as opposed to the fifteen we expected so Beryl also took her car with Christine and Neville as passengers. That left 10 of us in the minibus. We set off, only a little behind schedule.

  1. Areley Kings, St Bartholomew was the first tower we visited, the sun was shining and there was a beautifully clear blue sky. It is a sandstone church set on the top of a hill with lovely views to the north over the river towards Stourport and west towards Wales. The climb up to the ringing chamber was a very narrow spiral staircase which led into quite a small but cosy room. The length of the pull was similar to our own, so I didn't find it too daunting. The sally on the Tenor was a different colour to the others, this is the bell that I rang. It weighed in at "8-2-17" [969lb or 440kg]. There was a lady practicing on the organ and another couple of ladies kindly gave us a cup of tea and biscuits. There was even a toilet.
  2. Astley, St Peter was our second tower, again built from the local sandstone, which we found after driving around some windy lanes.. It was another climb up a narrow spiral staircase to the ringing chamber. When we got there, it was quite different to any tower I've been in before, the pull was long due to the high ceiling and complicated framework. I was a little apprehensive but had a ring on #5, it was a little odd but after finding out where to stand my feet it went ok. Unusually, the weight of the bells were shown in metric, #5 weighed in at 482kg [1062lb or "9-1-26"].
  3. Shrawley, St Mary was another church that involved some "exploring" and circuitous driving to locate. The tower was again built of the now familiar local sandstone. It was a nice little church with no staircase since we rang from ground level though it was still quite a long pull. I started to take more notice of the details of the bells and decided to record what I could for my own future reference. I rang two bells here, both cast by Thomas Rudhall in 1772, first I rang #4 and then #5 which weighed in at "5-1-9" [597lb or 271kg].
  4. Shelsley Beauchamp, All Saints was where we planned to stop for lunch. We took an even longer round about route to get to our destination but it was worth it. It is a lovely church, beautifully proportioned inside, with nice views. We sat on the churchyard wall and ate our various lunches, I'm not bothered about eating twice in a day so settled for a cereal bar and a flask of coffee. People seemed happy to sit and relax in the nice weather but I was keen to get going again! Since I was born and brought up not far away I suppose I wasn't as impressed by the area as my fellow ringers! The area we rang from was once again on ground level and was another long pull. I found ringing here a little trickier, the ropes were a little "spongy" and the pull on hand stroke/backstroke seemed somewhat asymmetric. The bells were cast by Thomas Redhall in 1790 and I rang #5 which weighed "8-2-0" [952lb or 432kg] and the Tenor which weighed "10-1-20" [1168lb or 530kg]. Judith was getting tired and this stage and Mike took them off home after we finished here.
  5. Clifton on Teme, St Kenelm was not far away but a bit awkward parking on the side of the road. It is another sandstone church but with a tower/spire reminiscent of our own though clad in shingles which are in need of repair on the south side. We rang from the ground again but the length of the pull was not as long as the previous few. I rang two bells again, these were cast by "John Martin, Worcester" in 1668. I rang #5 first which weighed "8-0-15" [911lb or 413kg], we did some call changes and plain hunting. I then rang #4 which weighed "5-3-3" [647lb or 293kg], and we rang them down in Queens, which went quite well for most of the time! I really enjoyed ringing these bells and didn't encounter any particular difficulties. However, while others were ringing I took a walk outside with Sheila to listen and we were surprised that the treble sounded odd. We walked around the church and found that it was most noticeable at the front of the church near the tower. Perhaps the treble is just behind the shutters above the clock. It was also the first time since Areley that there was a toilet, a convenience enjoyed by many of us!
  6. Martley, St Peter was another short drive that led us to the church which had parking right next to a field with a number of different varieties of pear tree which we spent a while trying to identify. The main body of the church was quite unexceptional but the stained glass window by the ringing area was magnificent. The Tower Captain explained that the window was installed to celebrate the millennium and that a choice had been necessary between a traditional window that would have been retrospective in mature or to choose a forward looking design. They opted for the modern window, an excellent decision in my opinion. We were also told that this was the oldest complete set of 6 bells in the country and were cast in 1673. I found ringing here somewhat tricky. It was another long pull and I started by ringing up the tenor which weighed "12-0-22" [1366lb or 620kg]. I found it tricky, not so much because of the weight, but because the sally was so low. I found myself catching the rope above the sally! I was then finding it hard to keep in as we rang rounds and changes. Sheila rang the tenor next and was also having some difficulty though she is a foot shorter than I am! It was decided that the bell was probably "upside" down which could explain a lot, including why I'd found it hard to stand. Stephen rang it down and up again and we carried on. I wanted to understand what I had done wrong to cause this and it seems the most likely cause is if the rope becomes slack, I'm sure it did as I was trying to figure out why I was catching above the sally. Let's hope I've learnt something from the experience. I rang down #5 which weighed "8-3-16" [996lb or 452kg], this seemed to go ok.
  7. Worcester, St John in Bedwardine was our last tower. I am very familiar with the church as I lived in St. Johns for seven years as a teenager though I had never been in the bell tower. This is a big church and we had to take another spiral staircase up to the ringing area. This tower was the only one we visited today with 8 bells and the room was big, spacious and comfortably furnished. Until 1930 the tower had only 6 bells but two more were added in 1930. I started by ringing up #6 which was on the original bells cast by T. Mears in 1816 and weighed "9-0-20" [1028lb or 466kg] followed by some call changes. Most of us have little experience of ringing 8 bells so we stuck to call changes. The next bell I rang was #7, this was one of the newer bells cast by John Taylor in 1930 and weighed "10-3-23" [1227lb or 557kg]. we rang some call changes and spent a long time trying to get Queens but it never sounded right. Perhaps the different speed of 8 bells had an effect, perhaps it was the end of a long days ringing. I ended up ringing down #4, one of the original bells cast in 1816, that weighed "6-3-16" [772lb or 350kg]. This went ok.

We ended up the evening going for a meal at a pub/restaurant in Lower Wick. We'd booked a table in advance and a had a pleasant meal accompanied by drinks and conversation. Sophie called me at about 8:15pm to say she was going to visit her grandparents and would I like to join her. Since they only live about half a mile from the restaurant I bade farewell to my fellow ringers as they drove off and walked to my parents.

All in all a really good day. Good experience for me as a novice, good company from ringers with varied experience though none as inexperienced as I am. I look forward to doing it again.

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