St George’s day marked the return of the annual UL Easter tour, this year in Essex, the home of our librarian, Sam.
The day began at North Ockendon, a six-bell tower just off the M25. Most members took the bus or car from Upminster, although Luke and I took a leisurely stroll across the fields instead. Predictably, the bus was far quicker than Luke’s jog. Therefore, those on board had time to kill, which I understand they did by ‘ringing’ Plain Bob Minor using a tennis ball. They also rang a couple of touches on actual bells before we breezed in and bought the total number of ringers to the lucky number 13. We rang a variety of five and six bell methods before the arrival of a local band for a quarter peal marked the end of this session. We then travelled to South Ockendon, where the 3 cwt six of Holy Cross awaited us. I assumed that Sam had missed a digit somewhere and meant, perhaps, 13 cwt.
It turned out that this was not a typo: the mass of the band within the gallery did indeed exceed that of the bells. After initially treating them like glass, we realised that the bells were well hung and deep set enough that there was no conceivable risk of breaking the wafer-thin stays. Thereafter, everyone relaxed a bit, and we rang Stedman Triples and Cambridge Major at a thoroughly enjoyable tower.
After this quirky tower, we moved onto the glass tower of Basildon (definitely the most eye-catching of the tour) where several of us experienced the ‘greenhouse effect,’ or the rapid deterioration of striking due to the warmth of ringing within a glass tower. Due to transport issues, three members of the band instead kept cool within a pub in Brentwood. Those of us in the tower sweated our way through Little Bob Major and other methods (we might have even tried Surprise), before escaping to the pleasant cool of the outside and then air conditioned cars.
The next hour was spent in the Spread Eagle pub, Brentwood, for some well-earned lunch. Several members of the band also took the opportunity to nourish themselves with liquid refreshments to steady their nerves. Conveniently, the church was located directly opposite the pub, so we were able to maximise the time spent within, before ascending the tower to ring the heaviest (18 cwt) ring of the day where we rang a mixture of eight bell things, including spliced Surprise Major.
Finally, the day ended with perhaps the most interesting tower of the day: Shenfield – an experience not too dissimilar to ringing in an attic. Whilst the clutter of beams ensured we all focussed on good handling, the creaking of the tower as we rang was quite off-putting. The appearance of a wasp bereft us of Josie and I am certain that several members spent more time hiding behind beams than ringing. However, everyone did manage to ring at least once and no major disasters occurred (a minor one included a rope catching on an object, abruptly ending the touch). Thus, leaving the tower very much intact, we concluded a successful day.
Overall, this tour of five varied and interesting towers was certainly the best Easter tour of the ‘20s yet. Well done to Sam for organising and thank you to Rhys, in his Purple car, and Sam, in his non-Purple car, for driving most of us around.