My first outing with the UL started at a ridiculous time in the morning on Saturday 14th July, when the first navigational challenge for some of us was actually finding the right car park at King’s Cross Station on time. This proved difficult as distractions such as finding breakfast, finding toilets, getting cash out and excitable tourists taking pictures of Platform 9¾ slowed our progress. Having overcome these diversions we met at the car park bleary eyed and planning a nice long sleep in the car on the way to the first tower.
The nap never happened though as Lian, Clare and I munched hot cross buns whilst tantalising a very hungry Rupert with them through the window. The second navigational challenge of the day was getting to the first tower. The situation went as follows; We had been on the road for at least an hour when Andy glanced through the directions Jen had printed off> Andy: “Why does the AA website think it takes an hour and half to travel a couple of miles?” A light bulb pings on above Andy’s head. Andy on the phone to Rupert: “Err… you’re at the wrong Hadleigh dude”. Rupert: “Yes we know dude”. Andy: “You would have thought the name ‘Day Trip to Suffolk’ would have given some clue to which Hadleigh I meant”.
Anyway, we were greeted at Hadleigh, Suffolk by the rest of our party (minus Rupert’s car) and the delicious smell of coffee from the coffee morning being held in the church. The fact that we were allowed to help ourselves probably contributed to the great ringing that followed – maybe even living up to the name of ‘professional ringers’ given to us by the ringer who let us in (that was, however, before she had heard us, not after). Peter, Clara, Jen and Rupert were only 20 minutes late in the end, which I think was quite impressive.
Ten minutes down the road (or 53 miles depending on which directions you look at) was the second tower; Kersey. The church was at the top of the hill overlooking the beautiful village with a ford flowing over the road. Clare, Lucy and Lian immediately took off their shoes and started paddling, whilst Rupert and Andy played Pooh sticks but soon gave this up as their sticks floated back the way they came. Nick H then suggested that they take the name of the game more literally and take a dump off one side of the bridge and see what happened. We’re still waiting on that one…
The ringing was wonderfully organised by Peter, and for those waiting their turn in the belfry, there was a church sale of old records and books. Lucy was particularly interested in a book in which women with dodgy 80s hairdos taught you how to sew. Now that she has bought it, I expect her to turn up to all future UL events wearing clothes made in the same era.
Lunch was at The Cock in Lavenham, most of us had sandwiches or soup. Clare however, ordered Pate followed by an 8oz steak and Nick Jones managed to devour a three course meal. The church at Lavenham is magnificent; a grand building that can be seen for miles around, with a tall tower that houses a nice ring of eight and has picturesque views from all of the belfry windows. The ringing, on the other hand, was slightly less impressive than the surroundings – ringing is not pretty when UL has just had lunch. Mike is even less pretty when he is annoyed at the terrible ringing. Even so, Nick Hartley managed to put his leadership skills into practice by turning it around to some first-class ringing by the end.
The experience of Andy’s driving to St Mary Le Tower, Ipswich was somewhat traumatic but when we got there Andy was in his element; in charge of some great 12 bell ringing.
Having said goodbye to the sensible (ahem) Mike and Nick Jones who weren’t coming to the pub, we came across the third navigational challenge of the day – how do we find our way out of the car park? Three laps round the multi-storey later and we were on the open road.
The fourth navigational challenge of the day was getting into London without sitting in traffic for hours on end. We failed this challenge. After sitting in traffic queues in a very dodgy part of East London for longer than was probably safe, we arrived at The Market Porter to the smug-looking Rupert, Jenny, Peter and Clara who had all gone an alternative route in Rupert’s car, had been there for at least 30 minutes and were on their third pint already. A lot of beer and banter flowed and I got disgusted looks from every corner as I ordered lager instead of one of the many real ales they serve. The Chinese soaked up the alcohol wonderfully, Rupert’s suggestion of clubbing did not go down quite so well, but the photos on Facebook the next day suggested he had a great time without us.
Many thanks to Andy Bradford for organising a successful (and yes, very pretty) tour on the one day in July when it didn’t actually rain.
By Laura Matheson