WDCRA Mini-Outing

The tour took place on Saturday 17th May 2008, the weather forecast for the day made depressing reading suggesting that all we had to look forward to was an overcast day with showers.

The 90 minute drive to the start point was uneventful and though overcast and cool it did not rain.

All the towers we would be visiting are in Gwent (previously Monmouthshire) and belong to Llandaff & Monmouth DACBR. Given that the places visited are all in Wales then the road signs also indicate the name in the Welsh language. They have been messing around with county borders and names for decades and while it seems that I was in the Preserved county of Gwent I do not recall ever seeing that name. I did see road signs with Monmouthshire and its equivalent in Welsh: Sir Fynwy.

Abergavenny (Y Fenni)
From Churches

St Mary's, Abergavenny
OS: SO301141 map icon

13:30 - 14:30 St Mary's Priory Church

The area outside the front of the Church was literally a building site so. I was a little early and decided to sit in the side garden for a while before entering. Luckily, I saw a couple of other ringers arrive and noticed that they were entering the North side tower from the outside. There is a small door tucked away in the Northeast corner of the tower which opens on to a wooden spiral staircase that is not in the best of condition. At the top of the spiral staircase there is a short crosswalk that leads to a steep staircase and then into a large square ringing room with a high ceiling of heavy timbers.

There were not many of us there at the beginning and we started with a plain course of Plain Bob Doubles with me on bell #3. Next was Grandsire Caters. Then I rang again, Plain Hunt on 9 with me on Bell #5. I have only ever rung on 10 once before and while I feel I should have been able to deal with Plain Hunt I found it hard to keep track of so many bells! The rest of the time I spent watching my much more expert colleagues ringing Stedman Caters, Bob Royal and finally Bristol Major on the back 8 bells. While sitting watching and listening I became aware of the movement of the tower.

The bells did sound good. I found that the long pull and unfamiliarity with 10 bells a bit disconcerting but nonetheless enjoyed the experience.

Blaenavon (Blaenafon)
From Churches

St Peter's, Blaenavon
OS: SO251087 map icon

15:00 - 15:45 The Church of St Peter

The drive from Abergavenny to Blaenavon took about 15 minutes. On the way I missed a right hand turn which was on a bend and had no warning that it was coming up. I drove on a short distance and turned rather than brake suddenly and have someone change the shape of my backend. I managed to park close to the Church which, appropriately enough, is on the South side of Church Street.

Blaenavon grew during the Industrial Revolution and as part of the wealth generated at that time two local ironmasters, Samuel Hopkins and Thomas Hill, built the Church of St Peter and donated it to the parish in 1804. The ringing room in reached by climbing two flight of stairs and is situated behind the organ. The room is not particularly large but provides plenty of room to ring the 8 bells as well as proving a few seats.

I only rang once in this tower, but it was certainly memorable. I thought I was asked to join in Plain Bob Doubles and so agreed. However, it turned out that they said Plain Bob Triples and I had to explain that I do not know how to ring that method. They encouraged me anyway with the offer of help, and explaining how it differs from Plain Bob Doubles. I figured that if the others were prepared to put up with my inexperience I might as well give it a try! I rang of bell #3 and was amazed how it built on Plain Bob Doubles, you have to hunt out to 7th place rather than just 5th place and add in two extra dodges but with some helpful comments I managed to get through to the end. After having felt somewhat overwhelmed by not doing very well with 10 bells at Abergavenny, I now felt elated. I certainly had not completed the course without error but I had managed to get to the end without losing myself.

In December 2000 UNESCO inscribed the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape as a World Heritage Site.

Llanover (Llanofer Fawr)
photo of St Bartholomew's Church, Llanover
From Churches

St Bartholomew's, Llanover
OS: SO318094 map icon

16:15 - 17:00 The Church of St Bartholomew

I almost paid the price for a lack of planning with this tower. The Church is not in, or even particularly close to, Llanover village which is astride the A4042. It lies it what I now know is a small hamlet, Old Llanover, near the River Usk (Afon Wysg) North West of Llanover.

The ringing room is accessed by climbing a narrow stone spiral staircase from inside the Church. No sooner did I arrive, late, than I was invited to ring Plain Bob Doubles. Once again, I was stretched as they intended to ring a Touch, something I have been trying to learn. The band of ringers rang quickly and with only five bells it seemed to fly. I was concentrating so much to keep up with the pace that when we ended I was unable to decide if I had actually completed it without an error. It certainly was not perfect but this may have been my second achievement in a day, i.e. a Touch of Plain Bob Doubles as Observation Bell!

Llanarth (Llan-arth)
From Churches

St Teilo's, Llanarth
OS: SO375109 map icon

17:30 - 18:15 The Church of St Teilo

While getting to Llanarth is not straightforward as there is no turn off the A40, I did get to Llanarth on time and without incident. This tower was our only ground floor ring of the day. The bells were quite quiet when listened to from within the tower but they were loud enough when in the churchyard.

This was another tower with 8 bells and I had three more attempts at a plain course of Plain Bob Triples. I did manage to get to the end each time and on the last attempt I had only a couple of prompts including one at the end to tell me I had finished! I'm sure it will take a while to get this right, I need to get my dodging better, particularly the additional 5-6 dodges but I am still amazed at how well I had done in a couple of attempts when a couple of hours earlier I had not even known what work was involved.

All I had to do now was to get home in time to go to a friends 50th birthday party! Just as I was approaching the M50 it finally started to rain and the weather forecast had come to pass. However, it did not put a damper on a day that I thoroughly enjoyed.

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