Come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination… or, as it is sometimes known, Birmingham. This year’s ULSCR Summer Tour took place in that magical ringing factory of the Midlands; kindly arranged by Harry, Jenny and Sophie, who we’ll call our resident “Wonkas”.
Arrival on Friday afternoon meant ringing at Perry Barr (notable for its dog track!) before getting together in the centre of Birmingham for dinner at the ‘spoons, and then on to the Wellington – which, due to the high ale turnover has LCD screens telling you what beer is currently on! What happened after this is a bit hazy but I remember going past the ‘Floozy in the Jacuzzi’ to the Post Office Vaults. Further drinking must have happened…
The day of the city towers led us to ringing in central Birmingham. We were joined at the cathedral by Eleanor and Charlie Linford – Charlie was a big hit with the girls, who decided it was best to collectively adopt her as a pet.
Lunch was in the pub with a vibrating floor where the whole UL got ID-ed, and Charlie learnt how to play top trumps.
St Paul’s in the Jewellery quarter, the cathedral, and ending the day at the bull ring… Amazingly despite having twice the number of bells we were used to, some surprisingly good ringing was achieved with Katie at the Helm. We retired to the ‘Welly’…
Ringing in the city centre for the keen, or brave, then a walk along the canal to ring at Edgbaston (Edmund finally managed to join us here, after visiting every other church in Edgbaston, where he was assumed to be seeking eternal salvation!)
At last, it was on to the chocolate factory! This involved eating copious amounts of chocolate and a psychedelic visit to the world of Chocolate beans! We then stocked-up on supplies at the gift-shop, where we gained our new band member: Little Bob!
After we were made thoroughly sick by our collective over-indulgence, the only cure was beer. So, after some dithering, waiting, watching a drug swap, a bus finally arrived to take us back into Birmingham and to the ‘Welly’. Here we met some local ringers, and guest of the UL: Lady Hannah Wilby. An opportunity for silly games arose, with a particular hit being the rhyming couplet game, which inevitable descended into smut.
Whilst having this monster pub ‘sesh’ it started to become apparent that food would be required. Unfortunately the pub itself did not sell food, but was very happy for us to order an enormous take-away curry and eat it upstairs!
Gin! Gin! Spoons! Gin! And more Gin followed this as a guest dinner speaker tried to get some embarrassing material to use in her speech at the UL Dinner. Clearly Lady Wilby was so keen to record the fun that she was discovered past-out in her desk chair!
The day-out to Worcester! Travelling by combination of train and rail replacement bus services had some excitement; we had to explain the rules of UL top-trumps and top-trump dominoes to the train conductor who was tempted to stop collecting tickets and join in!
Signs of the night before were apparent – most silently suffered until Miss Meredith found that she was unable to ring anything close to matching Stedman Cinques clearly offending the City of Worcester.
The revenge came at the second tower, were the clock hammer cord snapped and emergency bodging required. After this we had the delights of jointly conducted Grandsire Triples by Rosemary and AVB.
After the morning’s ringing a lunch of fish and chips in the sun by the river was very welcoming. We were entertained by a busking beat-boxer before the afternoon ring at the redundant church of St Swithun.
The delight for the day came just before the final tower, in the Swan with Two Nicks, a pint was about half that in London! Then to Old St Martin’s in the Cornmarket, a delightful 6 cwt 10 that had sallies in all the colours of the rainbow! Chris Rimmer found this confusing especially the call change – “normal green to bottle green”.
Neither Lucy or I can comment on any activities until eating the roast dinner at the Halls. Lucy was cooking this with sous chefs Luke Camden and Sherry, and I had a nice nap on the train!
After the Monday roast, and more card games Edmund, Ed, Roxy et al. stayed up all night, and (though she denies it) Roxy fell asleep in the shower!
A day of “happy birthday’s” to Sibley and Poodle – starting with a smoked salmon and champagne breakfast for some! This was also the day we picked-up the mini-bus, and had rather under-catered on seating. We all managed to squeeze-in somehow, and played keepy-uppies with balloons all the way to Coventry.
We left the lunch pub several times, leaving various people or cards behind. I think little bob made it though, after being photographed with pints and in other compromising positions.
This day was rather unfortunate for timings – the local would only allow us to ring at the Cathedral in the evening giving the whole afternoon to lunch and being a bit touristy. This is difficult in Coventry! After visiting the transport museum, and Cathedral that is about it, so the inevitable happened – pub! For some this was clearly the highlight so stayed there!
For Tuesday evening’s birthday dinner we went to the Moroccan restaurant for some food. I have no clue what but it went well with my bottle of Maguigan! Dessert was an extremely chocolaty birthday cake provided by Charlotte Ellis. I think this, and the incredible Arabic rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to you’ must have had something to do with the fantastic renditions of all the popular UL songs whilst travelling back to Perry Bar.
Another early start! This time we headed out towards Rugby. On the way we rang on the eight at Brinklow and the on the Plantagenet Ring which are a 2 cwt mini-ring of 12 in someone’s house in Church Lawford. Before being allowed to have a go, the local gave us a lecture about ringing such tiny bells with a warning that the bells did have stays! None were broken, but ringing them was a challenge, so much so that people found it easier to ring tunes – for which the local provided a further lecture and music sheets!
We had lunch in a Rugby ‘Spoon’s before heading to ring at St Andrew’s Rugby. This is quite possibly the most unusual church in Britain with two separate rings of bells! We started in the West Tower which has a nice ring of five, and of course allowed us to practice the special method: Rugby Slow Course Doubles. Then on to the northeast tower, which is home to quite a large, sonorous and unfortunately unforgiving eight.
On the way back we rang at Monks Kirby a nice 24 cwt Gillett eight (for those interested) to give us a good appetite ready for Ryan and Becca’s spaghetti bolognas’ that we were to have for tea! They must have been too much for some with David Phillips having forty winks up the tower! We said good bye to the mini bus and got on with the eating and drinking part of the evening!
This, the final day of tour was the Severn Valley’s ring and ride day. We said good bye, bon voyage and good luck to Rosemary departing for her year abroad. After Wood collected all, and I mean all, our tickets we were off to Kidderminster for our first tower: St Mary and All Saints. These were a lovely easy going new ring of 12 making a good start to the day.
No dithering was allowed from here on as we had to catch trains to take us along the Severn Valley Railway to the towers. Some were thoughtful enough to visit an Off-licence or Supermarket between the station and tower to keep us amused on the train.
The next port-of-call for us was Bewdley. As well as being a nice town, the tower boasted peal boards containing a plethora of historic UL figures.
After this it was high time for lunch, but of course lunch was scheduled for the Arboretum in Ardley and the English weather being what it is, meant we were forced to the pub instead. Here we may have irritated the locals, a bit, what with Jenny throwing sauce sachets in the Master’s beer and Luke’s interest in the fish tank it was probably best that we left!
The final tower of tour was St Leonard, Bridgnorth. After a quick jangle in what has to be the dingiest ringing room in the country it was back to catch the last train to Kidderminster. A quick photo-stop for Little Bob, and the buying of supplies was necessary before we left. That said, train did have a bar and the lady was quite interested in the bell ringing and the UL – at least more interested than I was with her knitting club!
After making it safely back to the halls there was the inevitable last night party… We must have eaten at some point, drunk enough for David Phillip’s to receive the Captain Vom hat for providing an interesting set of features immediately outside the entrance to the halls.
We cleaned, packed, and left with no injuries or damages to the fabric of the Oscott Gardens halls of Birmingham City University.
Thanks should go to Jenny Willis and Sophie Middleton (and assistance from Harry Baulcombe) for organising such an enjoyable tour. Bring on next year!
Andrew Hills and Lucy Bricheno