To avoid confusion, it had been decided that the tour formerly known as the “Freshers’ Tour II” would henceforth be called the Winter Tour. Helen Saddleton volunteered to organise the inaugural Winter Tour and it was a great success, as described below.
Everyone met up bright and early at St Mary, Shenfield – well, everyone except the local who had forgotten to come and let us in! After Richard had dragged the poor bloke out of his house we finally made it up the narrow ladder-cum-staircase to the church roof and the ringing ‘room’. Quotation marks are necessary because a room traditionally has things like walls, floor etc. This was just a gap in the roof structure with beams crisscrossing at shin-height, waist-height etc; more like a Go-Ape course than a ringing chamber! Eventually people managed to find places to put feet while having arms within reach of ropes (or were they just having an impromptu game of twister??) and somehow we managed some creditable 6-bell ringing. This was led by Nick J, the first of 4 presidents to be running the ringing today. At this point, we were joined by a newcomer to UL tours – Tobias Sawle and his mummy.
Writtle were a fine ring of 10, unusual for having two extra trebles to make a light 8. Mike ran the ringing here but was banned from attempting to ring on all 12! Meanwhile Harry tried to make it 13 by ringing the model bell in the ringing room.
A country lane brought us to the White Hart in Margaretting Tye for a satisfying pub lunch, and a chance for the babies (Tobias, and Mike Trimm!) to play with their toys. The pub’s back yard contained quite a menagerie, including birds, guinea pigs and a seriously obese goat who could barely waddle over to be fed some grass. Bright sunshine inspired several of us to walk to Margaretting church via the fields, where ‘Brich the Hamster’ had fun with a human-size exercise wheel.
I have always wanted to ring at Margaretting* as the church is unique in being connected to its car park (and the outside world!) via a level crossing over the main London-Norwich rail line. James took charge of ringing at this ground floor ring but the church was cold and the heating controls couldn’t be found so we didn’t linger too long. After stopping for one more train to go over the crossing, we were reunited with the cars (and Mort the Land Rover) for the short journey to Ingatestone.
Here we were joined by yet another past-president – Mark Bennett – along with Caroline, Daniel and William. Richard ran the ringing here (after all, he is the tower captain) but this was just the preamble; the real Ingatestone attraction was going back to the Saddletons’ house for tea. Helen had provided a massive feast of sandwiches, cake and biscuits – more than even the UL could demolish. Harry Saddleton showed us his mini-ring and all of his various train sets in the house, followed by the pièce de résistance on the patio: a garden railway with real-steam loco. Sadly, like many rail managers these days, Harry has difficulty recruiting good staff and he couldn’t disguise his frustration when the chief engineer kept derailing the loco! With failing light we returned indoors where Lucy enjoyed getting hammered then drilled by the boys.
A final ride in Mort, a train ride back to London and a pint in the Hamilton Hall rounded off a very enjoyable day. A big thank you to Helen for organising the tour and hospitality, and of course to Harry for providing the entertainment.
By Nick Jones
* The UL visited in 2001 but I missed that tour, contrary to what the 2000-01 UL Report implies!