The excitement for 2016’s easter tour had been building since the ‘preliminary info’ email Chloe sent us in mid-February. Finally, Friday the 8th April arrived, and the UL were heading to Shrewsbury for a fun filled weekend consisting of (not in any particular order): Drinking, Ringing, Movies, Ringing, Sleeping, Ringing, Ringing and Swimming.
Most of us opted to travel by car to our slumber house (Meole Brace church hall), and not train, which enabled some (probably) noisy journeys without annoying any fellow train passengers, singing along to the favourite hits of the UL. (S Club for the win).
The church hall was amazing, and although it didn’t have showers, it had many rooms for sleeping in (including a presidential suite for Rupert), a big hall, a TV with surround sound system, and a large kitchen (for large amounts of bacon). I have to applaud Chloe for finding such a great place for us to stay!
Friday evening started off with random people arriving at random times, having come (mostly) via the McDonalds, and the Sainsbury’s to stock up on booze (and sleeping bags…). Once everyone we were expecting had arrived, we found ‘American Pie -The Wedding’ was being shown on ITV, so we switched on the TV, and the awesome surround sound system, and began an evening of giggles, drinking, and dirty laughs. Shortly after the film ended, and everyone had settled down, most of us retired to our respective bedrooms, and went to sleep.
In the morning, myself and the rest of my poor, unfortunate roommates, were awakened by Ben M’s horrible alarm (twice), which he insisted he had turned off. To apologise, he made us all tea, and then ended up helping with the cooking of millions of bacon sandwiches! The bacon helped settle the nerves of several members who would soon be heading St Chads for a peal, after a quick grab at St Mary.
The ringing at St. Mary was pretty good, and consisted of touches of grandsire, stedman, and some surprise royal… Towards the end the numbers were sparse, as many peal ringers were off to find some pre peal nibbles!
Everyone made their way to St Chads before the peal, some to actual ring a peal, some to have a quick grab, then run away.
With that, 8 of us made our way to Upton Magna (6 bells), in two separate cars. My car was the first to make our way there, although we did get a bit lost on the way, and ended up on a motorway (of which there are non where we were meant to be)!
I made up the lost time by driving at the speed limit on country roads, much to Ben C’s enjoyment, and Luke’s displeasure (he made sure he was in Robert’s car for the rest of the day). We made it first, and awaited the key. I had parked ‘under da tree’, which would be a theme for the rest of the day. (It has to be sung to the ‘Under Da Sea’ song…).
It was here I was to call my very first touch, which was cambridge with a single every lead, which Chloe was nailing (well done!).
After some ringing on some very very well hung, easy going, bells (my dad absolutely did not hang them…) we headed off to the next tower. This tower was to be Atcham (also 6 bells) where the local joined us! A warm ringing gallery awaited our arrival, and we rang some bells! This time we pushed the fabulous tour organiser into half a course of cambridge (which she did really well at!), and we rang some things for the local, then went to the pub.
Unfortunately the pub had no real trees to park under, so a bush had to do. We devoured our lunch, and once it was all gone, we decided we would attempt a quarter of stedman triples at the next tower. We walked out of the pub, discovered it was raining, a lot, and ran back in to decide how to conquer the weather. We decided the drivers would unlock the cars and give a signal, then the race began. I regretted parking ‘under da bush’ as it was long way from the door…
The church of Berrington was not far away, but still, Robert was unsure of the way, stopped in the middle of a rapidly flooding road, while we sat behind tooting our horn and insisting via whatsapp this was indeed the way to the church. Upon our arrival, we doubted our decision to ring a quarter, and queried whether the ropes would actually last that long. Ringing up was hard and the bells were obviously in need of some love, as they didn’t seem to want to move, and were horribly oddstruck. Nonetheless, we began our quarter attempt (Olly in the chair??), but soon lost it, as the bells were hard, as were apparently bobs and singles in stedman. We spent the rest of our time here ringing stedman with calls at every six, so that two ringers in particular could practice! After a rather unsuccessful ring, at another place with a lack of trees, we headed back towards Meole Brace, where we would ring on the little 8, and admire the ‘change o magic’. We had hoped to meet the peal band here, but they had opted to go for a well earned pub sesh, having earned it!
That evening we were reunited with the exhausted peal band (RIP Becca’s stomach muscles) in the nearby Brooklands hotel, where we had interesting meals, and admired the fact that we seemed to have been put in the same room as a wedding reception. Some people nearly missed dinner due to the entertainment of a pool table, while Tom Wood actually did miss his dinner (3 times) due to being with some old friends (who he then brought to the pub).
After the pub, we wandered back to the hall, where we sat and drank our beverages, while some of us played ‘never have I ever/I have never’ in the main hall area, and some just watched TV. We all eventually (yet again) found ourselves in front of the TV, some with airbeds, to watch a movie. The was accompanied by Luke’s impressive snoring (AMAZING), and Chloe launching herself onto her airbed and ending up accidentally elbowing Ben M (with force) in a painful place.
Many retired early that night after a long day and knowing we had to be out of the hall by 9am, an early end to the day seemed welcome.
After a mad dash to get out of the hall, and a few sore heads, we all congregated in the car park, to organise cars to get to St Chad. we rang (fairly uneventfully) with the locals at St Chad, and then headed back to Meole Brace to join the locals with their local ringing, and apparently ’show them how it’s done…’.
We briefly lost Rupert on the way to Meole Brace, to a man with a nice car, who happened to be a ringer at St Chad and offered him a lift. No one knows what happened during this lift, but he left before us and arrived after, with no sightings on route… We then headed back into Shrewsbury for breakfast in the spoons, where Ryan was apparently getting angry (according to the bar staff saying they had to sort him out first to avoid any complaint), and they didn’t seem to understand substitutes in the traditional breakfast.
Some very keen-beens among us headed (once again) back to Meole Brace for a quarter of 8 spliced, which was very nice and also a success.
While we were ringing, an advanced party headed to the swimming pool, where the flumes were open (briefly) and the ‘fun with floats’ session was about to begin. I didn’t make it to swimming, but I hear it was fun, and eventful. Poor Olly lost a fight with a diving board, and found putting shoes on for the next week a bit painful…
After an amazing weekend, the UL all headed home, in various different ways, but we all made it back to our final destinations.
Massive thank you to Chloe Grimmett for organising this whole trip, and organising around a peal, so everyone could have a great weekend. Huge congrats to the peal band on their success at St Chads, and I hope you were all healed not too long after!
By Jemma Mills
A Pre-emptive Tour Report!
“Hey, can you keep a secret?” whispered Chloe, giggling quietly to herself.
“Of course” I replied immediately, wondering what she was up to.
We hurriedly jumped on the 1801 Enfield service at Liverpool Street and found a pair of empty seats.
“I got Wood!” exclaimed Chloe as a bright orange clad body wandered towards us from the far end of the carriage.
The train pulled off as Tom Wood sat down, causing him to stumble and his bag to rattle.
“Train beer?” he asked, innocently, as if the rattling was a perfectly ordinary occurrence, which, of course, it was.
We were the last party to leave London for the easter tour to Shrewsbury in pursuit of fame, fortune, bells and beer. Our first stop was Enfield to collect both Mr Sworder and our onward transport in the form of a specially booked car.
We wiled away the first half hour with gossip, expectations and a discussion of previous tour reports and whether this year’s would be as good as last year’s.
As the train pulled into the station we located our car and driver and heading out uneventfully enough. The only minor scuffle of who got the much coveted death seat was won by Chloe on account of her long legs and superior fighting technique.
After a few hours of playing “find the traffic jam” we arrived in Shrewsbury and unpacked ourselves into the first church hall we found containing bell ringers and alcohol. The evening passed pleasantly with each person consuming a good proportion of their own weight in beer and falling asleep before the volcano erupted, both orally and aurally.
The next day dawned bright and early, which is to say it was both too bright and too early for some. Half the group disappeared to ring some bells for a long time while the rest of us had breakfast and rang bells for a shorter time. We headed optimistically to the pub around 12.30 only to discover the table wasnt quite big enough for all of us and a few of the hardy soles had to make do with being closer to the bar. It was at this point where things started to go wrong.
The peal was due to finish around 2pm with the band joining us shortly after. With such a long lunch, several of the UL decided to have more than a reasonable number of pints for lunch. Kate and Asher disappeared briefly “to investigate the town”, LukeO went briefly crazy trying to figure out the crossword and an old man at the bar kept leering at us and trying to buy us drinks.
As the afternoon wore on, the successful peal band appeared including a very red-in-the-face Hills (the speed was either too fast or too slow, I couldn’t grasp which), Ryan, who looked as if he had just gone for a morning stroll and Becca trying her best to be lady-like as she ordered a frankly ridiculous number of drinks (for others, obviously…). Unfortunately, someone had booked a tower for 2.30 so we all headed out optimistically at 2.20 to discover the ring was actually right next door. “Oh bother” said Richard, “whatever shall we do now?”. At this point, there was a moment of indecision: several members felt that 10 minutes was too long to be without either alcohol or church bells whilst the rest made an enthusiastic attempt at sunbathing in the rapidly darkening English afternoon.
As expected of any post-pub tower, the ringing was composed, rhythmical and perfectly struck. This lasted until about 2.32 when the early arrivals started getting the bells up. Some graceful Grandsire, spirited Stedman and bouncy Bristol made an appearance before the locals had had enough. “Let’s try some spliced next!” exclaimed Ben, before being thrown several dirty looks. Another relatively uneventful tower followed, so I heard, but to be honest I never made it that far.
On the way back to the hall we stopped off at a supermarket where Rosemary “wavy hair” Hill and Mr Cansdale stocked up on wine for their early train home. The rest of the party decided to purchase enough beer, gin, cider and port to celebrate new years, peal weekend and the dinner simultaneously.
Before the Church Hall there was the evening pub, much to the delight of the “10 mins from alcohol” group. The supper provided here was well required and was finished surprisingly quickly by all involved.
“Do you think we could stay here for the night?” suggested Hills, “I’m sure the owners won’t mind!”.
“Maybe we should just keep buying beer until we can’t walk out” input David.
“They’ve just run out of beer!” exclaimed Ryan, returning from the bar.
“I’m off then!” shouted Hills on his way out!
Once everyone arrived, the evening festivities could begin. My memory gets a little hazy shortly after this, but there was a definite discussion of going to find the sea (Kate), some rocks (me) and the toilet (the esteemed master).
Next morning, once again, dawned bright and far too early, although Becca seemed to be making the most of it with a cup of coffee in the sunbeams.
With everyone suffering from church related hangovers, a hair of dog cure was attempted in form of the Sunday morning ringing. A reasonable selection of methods was dragged out and the local band were very grateful for our presence, if not our spirit.
After a well earned spoons breakfast, there was time for a tower and a trip to the local swimming pool before heading home.
The pool had a great deal of inflatables out much to the amusement of everyone involved. David Phillips learned to front flip, Richard could never quite stay king of the inflatable hill and Jemma showed off how well she could dive when being encroached upon. Somehow, everyone emerged unscathed and slightly cleaner before heading to the local establishment for some recuperation.
It was in this small, cozy pub next to the fire that stories of the tour were fabricated, friendships strengthened and comradery born. Shortly after this it was time to go home, recover from the exertion and curl up in bed whilst wishing fondly that the tour could go on forever. Then, inevitably, everyone would remember the official guidelines on alcohol consumption and decide that perhaps a break is a good thing, every once in a while.
by Ben Clive