Freshers’ Tour 2014

I appologise in advance if this report appears rather confused and inaccurate. Although I was indeed present on that historic date of Saturday 18th October 2014 for the ULSCR Freshers’ Tour to the Chilterns, the first anniversary of that event is now nearly upon us.

Ryan Noble very kindly organised and masterminded the day, which took place in his native area (I won’t say Buckinghamshire as the tour actually spanned three counties. See if you can work out which counties we went to). At a very early hour I strolled from my Kensington residence to Paddington Underground Station, and got the tube to Marylebone where a group of equally unalive looking UL members were congregating. An uneventful train journey with Lukeo puzzling over crosswords, and the grey London buildings gradually turning in to green meadows and fields – my first sight of the countryside for a month.

The first tower was Amersham. The station here is in the new part of Amersham, and we had to walk down the hill to Old Amersham. Once up the tower, Ryan suddenly told me to run the ringing here. I nearly had a heart attack. Apparently each Fresher had to run a tower, but this was only revealed to the Freshers at the last moment as – er – a surprise. We had a nice ring on this pleasant, light ring of twelve, and all abilities were (I hope) catered for, despite the fact that I was still trying to learn people’s names, let alone their ringing capabilities.

Afterwards we trudged up a picturesque hill next to the church. In the woods I saw a boy with his father, instantly reminding me of Danny and his Dad in Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. This book is, of course, set in the folds and fields of the Buckinghamshire countryside (as are, incidentally, an excellent group of Dahl’s short stories known collectively as Claud’s Dog, which make for entertaining reading and a yearning for Chiltern country).

On the walk back we had to avoid a truly lethal patch of sopping wet mud – we more or less managed to.

Then the train to Rickmansworth, where a nice, old worldly pub was just waiting for us. Ben Meyer bought a gallon of beer for four of us – that’s two pints each, I think. With a pint in each hand, four of us sipped a course of Bob Major. Rather a lot of beer was drunk that afternoon. Lukeo and myself, who had been left behind in the pub, walked down the pleasant high street, with a paper coffee-cup of beer in each hand, to join our colleagues ahead of us at the church. There was a perilously high ladder-type staircase from the church floor to the ringing chamber. With the beer rapidly seeping down towards my waste outlets, I had to climb up and down this ladder numerous times during the ringing, so that I could get to the churchyard. Ben Clive ran the ringing here on this old fashioned one ton ring of ten. The local ringers had mistakenly marked on their notice board that the ‘UCL’ ringers would be visiting. Ho ho ho.

In the original schedule we were going to ring at Harrow-on-the-Hill, but these were unavailable so we caught the train straight to Pinner. If I remember correctly, this was where the late James George was from (and/or learnt to ring). A notable heavy bell ringer of his day, who continued turning in big tenors to peals as an elderly man. Alex Rolph ran the ringing here. Touches of Stedman, Surprise Major, etc, were rung to good credit on this 18 cwt octave. Perhaps we were secretly relieved that this was the final tower. We had a pint or two in one of the charming high street pubs, before more drinks in the Marylebone Station Wetherspoons. Some of us then went

for an evening meal at the Hare and Tortoise near Blackfriars. The sight of the floodlit St Paul’s Cathedral was magical. Those rolling hills and fields were certainly nice, but there is nowhere quite like London.

By Richard Pullin