Summer Tour 2012 Part A – Manchester, Liverpool & Bolton

31st August 2012

After much hype and advertising, over the months since the previous tour, the day of the UL summer tour had finally arrived. Described as the UL event of the year this was not one to be missed! The UL descended upon Bolton from around the country, some having to leave at horrifically early times which are usually only seen when getting home from the BEM. The drinking started early with one organised group from Southampton bringing champagne for the train ride at 5.30am. By some miracle everyone caught the right train and arrived in Bolton in time for local ringing at St Peter’s and St Mary the Virgin. There was great excitement as we found one of the gold Olympic phone boxes. As is now tour tradition it was time for the ‘eating is cheating’ pub crawl.

Some people were sensible and managed to get some food as we started to find the pubs. Out of the 8 pubs which we were supposed to visit, we were only able to drink in one as the others had all been closed. We did get some funny looks from the locals as we desperately looked for pubs which had been closed months ago, however we did enjoy a scenic tour of Bolton. At last we stumbled into the ‘Ye Olde Man and Scythe’, a pub which was open and serving real ale, over the week we would become very well acquainted with this pub, and their delicious yet very dangerous passion fruit cider.

In classic UL fashion there was much drinking late into the night when the pub closed trips to the fish and chip shop and a curry house occurred. The drunken antics continued when we returned back to the halls, somehow things got a little out of hand, with lots of spilled drinks, UL singing, drinking games galore, some spilt blood and obligatory hand bell ringing which the other people staying did not appear to impressed by despite the excellent striking. There was concern that the Master, Hills’, ringing career would be cut short when he managed to trap his hand under a snooker table, however I am pleased to report he was fine following some more gin.

Saturday, 1st September

We were woken early, the majority with severe hangovers and a couple of new captains to catch an early train to Salford, where some excellent ringing on the very nice 8 bells occurred. We then caught a bus to Eccles, where we rang at St Mary the Virgin, there was then a hunt to find the delicious Eccles cakes, luckily the town was full of them and once everyone had had enough, there was a mad dash to the station to get a train to Manchester, again by some miracle everyone arrived on time.

We had a make shift picnic near the town hall and some retail therapy may have occurred. A group of Olympic fans went to the central town square and caught up on all the sporting action on the big screens. There was then some excellent ringing at Sacred Trinity Church before we moved to Manchester Cathedral, the first Cathedral of tour. Luckily the UL did not disgrace themselves too badly and the ringing went well. Drinking of course ensued before the UL went to Lucy B’s recommended curry house, after some arguing with the waiter as to where we would all sit and the unavailability of water the UL tucked into some delicious curry before cutting it slightly fine and getting the last train back to Bolton, where of course we continued drinking in the halls.

Sunday, 2nd September

Sunday morning began early, with a trip to Liverpool. We were kindly driven by Mike Trimm and Robert ‘The Dust’ Sworder. Due to some impressive driving by Robert including stalling 12 times on a motorway, it was decided Mike may be the best choice to get us to Liverpool alive. There were many renditions from the UL song book and I believe Gilbert and Sullivan.

We arrived at Penny Lane where of course the classic Beatles song was blasted out very loudly, much to the joy of the residents on the street. The bus shelter in the middle of the roundabout was still there and we were lucky enough to ring on the new set of Bells in St Barnabas Church. Following this service ringing we headed to the Liverpool city centre to ring at our next tower, Pier head, a lovely tower in the middle of the Liverpool Maritime UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site contains the ‘Three Graces’ of Liverpool; the Port of Liverpool, Cunard and, of course Royal Liver Buildings, the latter adorned with the city’s symbol, the Liver Birds.

Following a pub lunch for some and fish and chips for the others, the now very nervous UL made their way through Liverpool to the Cathedral which have the World’s heaviest ring of bells in the world. The cathedral is the second largest in the world, however luckily for all there was a lift to the ringing chamber. It took us a long time to reach the ringing chamber which only helped in increasing the fear and adrenaline. There was some good ringing helped out by the Liverpool ringers, thank you to them for letting us ring and for their assistance, several of the UL grabbed the tenor including our youngest tourist Emma Ridley!

We were able to go and watch the bells as they were being rung, the belfry is so large a double decker bus could be driven around the bells. The view from the roof of the Cathedral was also spectacular and following some more ringing we headed back down to get a well-earned ice cream. We then went to ring at our final tower, the home of Liverpool University Society, St Francis Xavier, luckily however there was a problem with the lock and we experienced our first and only tower lock out of tour.

With the extra time available some of the UL went to the Tate Liverpool and to explore the docks, the others decided to find a pub which was not filled with Liverpool FC supporters. We all went to the pub to have a farewell pint with those who were only able to come for the weekend before making our way back to Bolton where we picked up lots of pizzas and more alcohol.

Hellen had organised a bell ringing themed murder mystery! This was really enjoyed by all involved; there were many suspicious characters and arguments over proposed peal boards and augmenting of the bells. We eventually solved the case; I believe Roxy was pronounced the murderer and celebrations continued quietly into the night due to warnings from the halls wardens.

Thank you to Peter for organising tour; it was very fun and an eventful week which was thoroughly enjoyed by all who were there!

Jenny Willis