We (the advance party of 10) set out from Suffolk on Monday, the rest of the group joining us on either Thursday or Friday. Alan McBurnie had organised 7 days of ringing quarters at a variety of towers in Somerset. Our accommodation was at Oldford, near Frome, The Iron Mill (Harper Heights) and Mill Cottage, both with excellent views, but the running water outside the Mill did cause a problem for some during the night!
Having all arrived safely by 4pm, got our rooms allocated, it was then time for something to eat. This task had been divided between everyone for different nights. Monday to Thursday the menu varied, Chilli, Chicken Pie, Pork and apple casserole, shepherds pie, Friday Fish pie and Maggie and Phil’s puddings! If they ever invite you to a pudding party don’t miss it. Alan had found out which local practices could cope with us, so off we went. Everywhere we went we were welcomed, and encouraged to join them at the pub afterwards for some of that ‘carrot juice!’
Tuesday – Off to Wells for a bit of site seeing. Within an hour we had witnessed 2 car accidents making us wonder if it was safe to leave your car, or what shape it might be in when you returned! West Cranmore was our first quarter attempt of the week, we waited patiently, during which time a KEY incident, Micky was locked in the car by Alan, she couldn’t move, would set the car alarm off, so tried to phone him to get her out, as he returned to tell of this tale, she drove off, stealing his car! She had to move to let the school bus through. The key holder turned up, so we were able to complete our quarter of Cambridge Surprise Minor. Off to Doulting, no problems here although we were slightly late, and rang Norwich Surprise Minor.
Wednesday – Glastonbury this morning, visiting a Museum showing life in Somerset in times gone by. Alan and Mike enjoyed dressing up, Alan at one point looking as scary as the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the 3 pigs, sorry Alan, Paul and a model pig, difficult to tell them apart. Our quarter peal attempts were at Butleigh, where we rang Cambridge Surprise Major and Batcombe where we had considered ringing surprise minor, but changed our minds once we had rung the bells. We settled for a quarter of doubles.
Thursday – We took the chance this morning to venture out to Cheddar Gorge. This was where Paul Norris had arranged to meet Mitch, so we did a bit of hill climbing; making friends with the animals and Mike Whitby found a comfy cave to rest in. As we wandered down to the cave entrance we discovered that as we had a senior citizen with us, Chris Garner, we could all visit the largest cave and get a cream tea in the deal. The deal was done, and with a bit of cheese tasting and buying it was off to Street for the first quarter of the day. We attempted Cambridge Surprise Major here, but it didn’t go, even with swapping ringers of bells, so onto the excellent bells at Ditcheat, Yorkshire Surprise Major, and a good end to our day. Back to Harper Heights after attending various practises, as Jane had said “Are you lot coming to mine for entertainment tonight”. Don’t think she thought we would be throwing a Haggis around the room, rugby style, just to make sure it was dead ready for tomorrow’s breakfast!
Friday – Joined by Don, Helen, Philip, Maggie and eventually Ruth and Richy . Which county is Westbury in? I know Alan had said an outing to Somerset, but you have to check these things, put there to check you are awake. Westbury was the first tower for today, Lincolnshire Surprise Major the choice of method. Mitch was the chosen Ruth substitute, and how well he carried it off, Paul standing in for Richy , next off to Marston Bigot, a quarter of Grandsire Triples duly completed. The final tower of the day was Mells, and as we had the band that usually attempts half lead spliced at the moment, we felt brave enough to attempt 8 spliced Surprise Major. Several of us had already rung at Mells on their practice night, so knew how well the bells went, and the quarter was successful.
Saturday – A full day of ringing, 5 quarter attempts. We started off at Barrow Gurney, with a successful quarter of Yorkshire Surprise Major; onto Long Ashton for London Major to ring for the 101st birthday of Norman Yeo on 12th March, fingers crossed he’d make those next 3 days and more. Nailsea was the next destination to ring our quarter of Doubles after the wedding of Delyth Boxhall and Matthew Darbon, it was also where we meet Pauline, thanks to Alan! Maggie was standing next to the gentleman who had let us in and Alan presumed that it was his wife, Pauline. Naughty Maggie for wearing that cunning disguise of hoody and glasses! Chew Magna was our next tower, a treat for Ruth, her favourite Stedman Triples, and finally the last tower of the day Yatton, where we rang Pudsey Surprise Major. Chris Garner joined the Naval Guild on their visit to the engine sheds of one of the local railways, spending a good deal of time chatting to the men working on the engines in places the public usually don’t get to see. Most of us ventured back to Mells for a meal this evening, leaving behind Ruth, Richy , Mitch and Paul to enjoy an evening of Pizza, nibbles, football and a little beer!
Sunday – Breakfast needed to be prompt or have it after you returned from your Sunday service ringing, unless like Jane and Peter “We don’t indulge in the mornings!”, so we had been divided into groups to go along to various Churches to help make up the numbers, again meeting up with now familiar local ringers. Chewton Mendip was the first tower of the day, and when comparing them with bells of similar weight in Suffolk, what a joy to ring, shame like many others before us that we couldn’t smuggle them off home with us, so with Cambridge Surprise Major duly rung, we headed off to Midsomer Norton. Here we met up with Molly Waterson, David Huxford and Dave (Silly) Hammonds who had said they would help us in the attempt at Grandsire Cinques. The quarter was successful, and after a head count no murders had taken place, funny how the Funeral Directors is just round the corner from the Church! Then for our last tower of the day, Chilcompton, Dave Hammonds had stayed to help us at this tower, and Mike was down on the list to conduct, but didn’t feel at his best, so asked Richy to call it. Now if you look in the diary the callings for Grandsire Triples and caters are not quite the same, so it was a bit worrying that we were still ringing after 65 minutes, and the local ringers who had turned up to ring for service probably thought we would carry on until 6.30pm or beyond! With a very puzzled look, after he had called what he thought would be a quarter, and we had rung for over 70 minutes, Richy called a halt to the proceedings. Much banter followed at the pub in Beckington, over the last group meal.
Monday – Time to pack up, before venturing into Bath to ring at St Michael's and then Bathwick. The weather was at it worst, pouring with rain and high winds. Jane had to leave her beloved ducks behind, who were more interested in each other than the bread she insisted on feeding them. The indoor ducks provided a much easier option for her, as they just held the door open and didn’t move. Grandsire Triples, called by Ruth, who had checked with Philip on the calling for the quarter, was successful at St Michaels, with some of us taking the chance to dodge downpours and do some final shopping, then onto Bathwick to finish with Richy calling Cambridge Royal, no mention of how long we might ring, or that it was quite a long way home and some wanted to get there before midnight! The quarter duly rung we made our way back to Suffolk having had a wonderful time ringing lots of glorious bells and meeting with the very friendly and welcoming people of Somerset. Thanks to Alan McBurnie from all the group and hope you are thinking about next year.