Category Archives: United Kingdom

Arthur’s Stone

Hidden away in the Herefordshire countryside is Arthur’s Stone, a magnificent ancient burial chamber. I cannot better the information provided by the sign within its enclosure by English Heritage so here it is:

You can get up to the Stone by car from the village of Dorstone but we did it the hard way. Starting from the bridge at Bredwardine we crossed the road, with the Red Lion pub on our left. The narrow lane quickly becomes a steep hill. We passed some local houses whose gardens contained some attractive (and ferocious!) residents

Got any liquorice allsorts?

These aren’t actually that uncommon now around these parts

After wending our way up through some undeniably stunning countryside, we turned left down a smaller track which eventually comes out at a couple of houses and a stile into a field which is impossible steep!



Onward and upward ! We crossed another few fields and negotiated stiles and gates, saying hello to a lone horse and myriad sheep – to eventually reach our goal

Arthur’s Stone

There is something undeniably pleasing about the placement of the stones. Apparently this burial chamber has never been excavated so the many legends that surround it are pure conjecture. Whatever you may believe it is worth a visit – but take my advice – go by car!!

Oh! There’s King Arthur!

Holmer & Bodicote Winter Outing 2019 to Cheltenham

As a relative newbie to the bewildering world of bell ringing I was asked to write something about our winter outing to 4 churches in the Cheltenham area – all in urban settings and, for me, each one a challenge! Our itinerary listed the weights of the bells in each tower – just one more thing to get to grips with – but even I thought the second lot of weights looked odd – (0 – 2 – 7). But no, it was right.

Anyway, let’s start at the beginning. First stop – Cheltenham Minster Church of St. Mary in the middle of town with 12 bells. The technique it seems would involve holding your bell up, pausing and then pulling on that rope to keep in time with the rest – in other words, ring slower. I’ve got the theory – I just can’t put it into practice at will – yet! Hearing those who can is a great experience – there were a lot of ringers present – 30 or thereabouts, some from Holmer, Hereford, and some from Bodicote, Banbury, all at different stages of their development – so all levels of ability.

Of course it makes a lot more sense to video bell ringing as someone here is doing

Good to see the guard around the ladder leading up to the bell chamber – and those ear defenders – eh? what?

So on to Stop 2 – St. Christopher’s at Warden Hill, a little church masquerading as a house, built in the 1960s in the middle of a 1950s housing estate. So, as I mention above, our itinerary told us that the weight of these bells is (0-2-7) – in layman’s terms zero hundredweight, 2 quarters (that’s 56 lbs or 4 stone) and 7 lbs. The metric system is so much easier!! Anyway, given that the weights for the third tower were (16-1-2), you can see that this second ring of 6 bells were going to be tiny – and so they proved! The look of bemusement, bewilderment and general puzzlement is evident on the faces of the ringers in the next couple of photos.

To ring these bells successfully meant using only one hand on each stroke to avoid using too much force and break the stays – the action of the ringers, with alternate arms swinging rhythmically to gingerly grab the rope, reminded me of sailors climbing the rigging of a ship.

I decided I would be better off going downstairs to admire the stained glass. There were 10 triptych panels altogether along both sides of the nave, created by artist Tom Denny, who is also responsible for the beautiful Traherne window in Hereford Cathedral. Here at Warden Hill, the panels depict Jesus’s parables from the Bible with a reference to the book and chapter they are taken from.

Plain glass panel next to entrance

We stopped for lunch, which was a welcome break, and then resumed our ringing at St.Mark’s. Unfortunately, the church itself was closed. The set up in this tower was more like Withington, where the Holmer ringers regularly ring: so 8 bells with a longer draught – the rope is (and feels!) a lot longer. What they had here, which Withington doesn’t have, is a metal frame to guide the ropes. It was a bit of a squeeze with so many people but Dave and Karen made sure that everyone had a ring and personally I think I rang better in the afternoon than the morning – although both towers had 8 bells, 2 more than I have been used to, that is still closer to 6 than 12, so I felt on more familiar ground.

The fourth and last church (I was flagging by now!) at Charlton Kings was open and whilst we waited to be let into the tower we were treated to a brief impromptu concert – a male singer plus pianist were rehearsing for a performance. And this church boasted all the traditional features I like to see – wall hangings, statues, stained glass and the like.

The bell tower was also traditional – through the little hobbit door and up the winding stone spiral staircase till you’re dizzy!

But do you know what? There was another welcome sight – a pub directly opposite the church !!

Remembrance Sunday 2018

Remembrance Sunday 2018 – the centenary of Armistice Day – the end of the First World War, and for some of us a day to remember for different reasons. I had always wanted to learn the skill of bell ringing, so with that aim in mind, in May of this year I made my way to Hereford Cathedral where local bell ringers had set up a mini – ring to demonstrate what actually happens when you pull on that rope and the bell, which is usually hidden in a chamber above your head, turns through 360 + degrees and chimes out.  I was invited by the tower captain, Karen Powell,  of St. Bartholomew’s, Holmer,  to start my apprenticeship under the watchful eye of her husband, Dave,  whose career in bell ringing spans some 30 + years. I practised every Tuesday, from June to October, and eventually joined the regular ringers for their practice on a Thursday evening. I learned to ring handstroke and backstroke unaided and was just getting the hang of learning to ring rounds with the others when disaster struck – I was forced to take a break due to a car accident.

The regular ringers continued with their preparations. Experienced ringer, Hayley Clarke, had been given the task of ensuring that all the local churches which had ringable bells also had a full complement of ringers on Remembrance Sunday – no mean feat as it turned out ! But she succeeded and on Sunday November 11th church bells across the county rang out from 12.30  onwards.

Before this the team had already rung the bells muffled for the service at Holmer, before ringing open at 12.30. Then, after a photo call, 

we three apprentices,  Jayne Morgan, Laura Simpson, and myself joined the regular Holmer bellringers on a ride round the lanes of Herefordshire to call in on four other churches. starting at  Vowchurch, in the west of the county, which has a ring of 3 bells.

Next stop was just down the road at Peterchurch. First impressions? it was so warm and cosy ! With the aid of Heritage funding, the church has become an important social space for local residents,  with a café, comfy sofas to sit on, a library cum bell tower on the first floor,  as well as some lovely traditional stained glass windows.

      

We then visited Tyberton, a small village about 3 miles west of Madley. Tyberton has an unusual red brick built church with plain windows. See if you can spot the other unusual feature in the next few photos!

Yes, that’s him – the dummy vicar who resides in the bell tower! Anyway, here we are, apprentices and old hands alike, marking the day. After Tyberton we called at Holme Lacy, a beautiful, but sadly, redundant church. When you decide to learn to ring church bells one thing you realise is that there are ladders or spiral staircases to be negotiated to get up to the ringing chambers in some churches – in Holmer we are spoilt because it is a ground tower – and I am told Herefordshire has a disproportionate number of ground towers, but eventually you face a scary ladder. Luckily, Holme Lacy’s looked scary -but wasn’t !

Holme Lacy, a beautiful church, set in the lovely Herefordshire countryside near the River Wye,  boasts some unusual stained glass windows.

 

Our last stop was Wellington, a village, just north of Hereford, off the A49. This time it did mean wending our way up a stone spiral staircase but quite an amenable one.

This day was special –  It was special to be part of it and special when you realise that this anniversary will never be  repeated -the Centenary of the end of a war which happened at the beginning of the last century. My grandfather would remember it as he was one of those boy soldiers who ran away to fight, to serve his country.  But with each passing generation it becomes harder to recall the sacrifice and suffering that those men endured to guarantee peace for ensuing generations. But remember we must! 

It was special for me too because I am starting to achieve something I had wanted to do – to acquire a skill and help maintain a tradition which is so quintessentially English – when you hear bells ring out on a Sunday morning you think of everything that is good about England.

And …………. bell ringing is fun! Try it!

CLICK HERE TO SEE A VIDEO of The Holmer Band at Tyberton