In September we had a Welsh ring on Angelsey and went on our own tour across three counties. October brought the Joint Branch Outing, organised by Paul. In November Alan Birney from Whalley arranged an outing around Tadcaster and Knaresborough, and we had another trip to north Lancashire spanning four LACR branches. December started with a journey south to Staffordshire and finished with a hectic day's grabbing in Cheshire. Check our outings from earlier in the year here.

7th September Circling Anglesey!
2 towers: Beaumaris (8); Llangefni (3)

With a short late summer break to North Wales looming, a perfect opportunity to ring at the only two full circle towers on Angelsey presented itself. Arriving on a showery Saturday, we made the final arrangements to ring at St Cyngar, Llangefni (only a couple of miles from our holiday cottage) at 12.45pm the next day, with the Sunday service at Beaumaris pencilled in beforehand.

Sunday dawned bright and clear, so Paul and Chris headed off to the fortified coastal town of Beaumaris for service ringing. We drew up in the church parking area, as advised by the tower captain, and headed up to the ringing room with members of the local band. We rang some strangely called changes for a quarter of an hour then went back down to the car. Big problem. We were well and truly blocked in and had to wait until the service finished before we could get out! We occupied ourselves with a stroll around the castle, the largest of Edward I's Welsh empire.

The Beaumaris service finally petered out at 12.15pm, leaving us half an hour to cover the 11 miles back to cottage, pick up Joanne, and drive down to the tower at Llangefni! Thanks to some quiet roads we just about managed to make it and met our Llangefni contact in the car park by the church. The anti-clockwise rope circle had quite a long draught despite the ringing chamber being above ground floor, though the bells were deafening through the creaking floorboards high above. Nevertheless, we had rung on and circled our first island in a single day!

click for larger image Beaumaris
click for larger image Paul and Joanne
at St Cyngar
click for larger image Llangefni

27th September Colne's Three Counties Tour
9 towers: Clapham (3); Leck (5); Barbon (4); Kirkby Lonsdale (6); Whittington (6); Tunstall (3); Melling (6); Tatham (3); Hornby (8)

Late September heralded the first open invitation tour organised by Colne for over twelve months, though it started where our previous outings had finished, in the Yorkshire Dales. Once again we were blessed with great weather at the outset though we had less luck on the roads. We set off late to start with and were held up en route to the first tower by roadworkds in Barnoldswick and traffic around Long Preston and Settle. Arriving at Clapham a quarter of an hour late, the ringers waiting for us there had almost given up hope. Ringing was underway after hasty greetings and apologies. Besides a handful of Blackburn Branch ringers, people had ventured from as far afield as Bath, Derbyshire and Worcestershire!

click for larger image Starting at
Clapham, North
click for larger image Leck, St Peter,
our first stop
in Lancashire
click for larger image Barbon's bell
fund indicator
rising steadily
click for larger image Ringing down
on the six at
We were soon on our way to Leck where we were joined by Graham and Sue of nabbers acclaim, accompanying us for part of the tour whilst on their way to ring a peal at Carlisle Cathedral. After ringing some Grandsire and Bob Doubles we drove north to Barbon, a four-bell tower soon to be augmented to six. Here the clock hammer jammed, the pin holding it fell out of the wall, and Adam rang the tenor up wrong! Despite these mishaps, some of us just about managed to ring Double Bob Minimus. The attractive six-bell tower of Kirkby Lonsdale beckoned though parking nearby proved tricky, and here our repertoire extended to Cambridge, Durham and Norwich Surprise Minor. Jim from Gisburn met us at the church, so now we were up to 13. Rather famished we left the tower for some much needed lunch.
click for larger image The four bells at Barbon,
soon to be augmented
click for larger image A group photo as we all
left for Kirkby Lonsdale
click for larger image The splendid church at
Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria
The King's Arms was directly opposite the churchyard but seemed a bit small for our burgeoning group. Paul dashed off to scout out some other hostelries, though the consensus was to head for Whoop Hall just out of town. Unfortunately, we arrived in the throngs of a wedding reception and, although food was still being served, it would have taken a ages to be served. Instead, most of us drove to Whittington and ate at the Dragon's Head so we were closer to our next tower. With our bellies full of fine food and beer, we were ready to set forth on our afternoon's grabbing.
click for larger image Melling, St Wilfred where
the bells were unruly
click for larger image Tatham's 3-bell tower
a rare grab for some!
click for larger image Adam, Paul, Chris and
Kevin outside Hornby
Dave Kelly of the Keltek Trust took charge at Whittington, a ground floor six that didn't handle phenomenally well. Next came Tunstall where we made a hash of ringing up. On the way to the next tower, Chris decided he prefered driving straight on at speed rather than cornering, so we briefly led the Gisburn ringers the wrong way! At Melling, John Cater of the 3 and 4 Bell Society ran the session, though the bells were once again quite difficult to tame. Onwards to Tatham, quite a nice ground floor three, where we met Stella, who had come all the way from London by train just to grab this tower! After a nervous few minutes under the threat of being locked out, we found an open door. The final stop of the day at Hornby's unusual octagonal tower proved very sucessful as we rang a touch of Bob Major, Oxford Treble Bob and a buzzing plain course of Cambridge Surprise Major.

11th October Joint Blackburn & Preston Branch Outing: East Manchester
7 towers: Norbury (8); Marple (8); Bredbury (8); Hyde (8); Mottram in Longendale (8); Ashton-under-Lyne, St Peter (8); Newhey (8)

Paul had volunteered to organise this year's joint branch outing back in January, and the target area was north Cheshire and east Manchester following excursions over the Yorkshire border for the past couple of years. The 180 year old St Thomas' at Norbury (modern day Hazel Grove) was our first port of call. The 14 cwt tenor there rang up like a 24 cwt bell, and the rope on the sixth disintegrated towards the end of our session! A short drive brought us to Marple, where the early 19th century belltower and former church stands apart from the more recent Victorian place of worship. The last stop before lunch was Bredbury. An area around the entrance of the tower was being renovated, and inside two sets of stairs led to the ringing chamber immediately behind the intricate pipework of the church organ. Most of the towers on this tour lay directly under the flight path for planes landing at Manchester airport.
click for larger image St Thomas's
at Norbury
(Hazel Grove)
click for larger image Marple's old
click for larger image Quasimodo
busy ringing at
Bredbury :)
click for larger image St George's in
Hyde with its
strange stairs
We had lunch at the Hare & Hounds, Werneth Low, from which (on a clear day) there are extensive views across the city of Manchester. The food was good as was the beer even Adam sampled some real ale! St George's at Hyde was only two miles down the road from the pub. When we arrived the large group of 40 or so ringers who had come along for the day were waiting outside. Paul found the tower contact amongst the people attending afternoon tea in the church and everyone ventured up the awkward, steep stairs to the small ringing room. Some traffic had to be negotiated on the way to Mottram in Longendale, but it was more than worth the effort once we arrived at the sooted-up church on the hill and were awarded with a splendid panorama of the nearby Peak District. After ringing, Colin Tester of Preston Branch gave a brief vote of thanks and Paul received a much appreciated round of applause for organising the tour.
click for larger image Chris, Adam and Kevin
outside Mottram's tower
click for larger image The impressive church of
Ashton-u-Lyne, St Peter
click for larger image Paul and Kev in the
churchyard of Newhey
Parking at the lofty tower of St Peter's at Ashton-under-Lyne proved tricky. The church is built within a large and busy roundabout near the town centre we missed the car park and had to pull up alongside a bowling green! This impressive church was the last stop of the joint outing, but we hadn't quite finished. Heading north past Oldham, we met up with Rochdale ringers at Newhey for their branch meeting. The eight bells here are extremely light, trebles almost verging on mini-ring weights, but we managed some Plain Bob, Stedman, Cambridge Major and Little Bob, and Adam handled the treble like a pro!

15th November Alan Birney's Yorkshire Tour
9 towers: Farnham (3); Knaresborough (8); Whixley (6); Rufforth (3); Bilbrough (5); Tadcaster (8); Newton Kyme (3); Wighill (3); Thorp Arch (3)

We arrived at Farnham after an hour's drive on the increasingly familiar Blubberhouses road. Golden sunlight washed over the small tower as we walked through the churchyard, Adam not-so-eagerly anticipating his 200th tower grab. Alan was already inside trying out the three bells, which were missing stays and sliders. We tried ringing them all up but the tenor just wouldn't stay there, in fact they were three of the trickiest bells we have ever rung! We gratefully left Farnham and headed to the nice eight at Knaresborough, where we hoped more ringers would arrive. We climbed the stairs to the ringing room after a brief delay waiting for some keys, but still there were only four of us. The bells were half-muffled from Remembrance Sunday but, whilst ringing up, Adam's bell sounded at the wrong stroke! Chris surprised us all when signing the visitor's book; apparently Colne is now in Lancashirer. :)

click for larger image At Farnham,
Adam's 200th
tower grab...
click for larger image ...but the bells
were pretty
awful to ring
click for larger image We were nearly
locked out
at Rufforth!
click for larger image The very nice
5-bell tower
at Bilbrough
Crossing the A1 we reached Whixley, a fine six-bell tower in a picturesque rural setting. The bells here went very well, it's just a pity that we only mustered a selection of Minimus methods, though one good thing about the shortage of ringers was that we could progress at a leisurely pace, with no pressure to ring at the towers. We continued onwards to Rufforth where we were afraid a lock out might be on the cards. Fortunately, a notice in the church porch proclaimed the keys to be with a family across the road from the tower. Hastily we rang a few rounds on the three amongst the junk cluttered in the ringing chamber, though they wouldn't stay up and dropped like stones when ringing down. The last tower before lunch was at Bilbrough, where metal rungs built into the wall provided an unusual ingress and Alan briefly double-handed so we could ring all five.
click for larger image Whixley's fine rural church
with its lovely ring of six
click for larger image Tadcaster's ringing room
with our local helper
click for larger image Lock out at Kirk Deighton
and then at Birstwith too!
Satisfied from lunch in Tadcaster, we made our way to the grand tower next to the River Nidd. Its weighty ring of eight bells proved to be the best of the day, and the local ringer who opened up for us stayed so we could ring a few Doubles methods - heady heights for this outing! Next came Newton Kyme, an isolated church near a private estate. Wandering through the magnificent mansions and past driveways that could double as Mercedes showrooms, we were slightly perplexed as to how to reach the church until a suspicious local resident pointed us in the right direction. The ground floor three here were reasonable, but the ropes of the treble and second fell within inches of the fixtures and fittings making ringing uncomfortable to say the least.
click for larger image Adam climbing
the rungs at
click for larger image Conditions are
cramped at
Newton Kyme
click for larger image The rare find
at Wighill: a
pom-pom rope
click for larger image Thorp Arch is
the last grab
of the day
Wighill, the next stop and another three, were unfit for full circle ringing so we were content to chime them. The ropes were rather old, that of the treble being a very rare pom-pom Yorkshire tail, something the verger was amazed to learn. On we went to Thorp Arch, the last three of the trip, which went well and sounded quite pleasant even though they are hardly ever rung. Kirk Deighton should have been the next tower and we arrived at dusk. Standing in the chilling autumn air we waited for a while then tried to collect the keys to no avail. Not too disheartened, we drove for half an hour through Harrogate to Birstwith where the church should have been open for us, but we suffered another lock out. Despite this and the fact that there were only four of us on the day - a disappointing turnout - we certainly had a memorable outing!

29th November Colne's Four Branches Tour
8 towers: Burton-in-Kendal (6); Morecambe (8); Lancaster Priory (8); Cockerham (6); Pilling (6); Scorton (8); Garstang (Churchtown) (6); Goosnargh (6)

This was an unprecidented fourth trip of the year organised by Paul taking in all the ringable towers scattered around the M6 from Burton-in-Kendal to Goosnargh. For the first time in ages the weather was rather inclement to say the least with driving rain and high winds causing chaos on the roads. Fortunately, we all made it to Burton in one piece where we enjoyed some minor methods. Next came Morecambe where the weather hadn't improved but we did manage courses of Double Norwich and Bristol Surprise Major despite the very quiet bells. By this stage there were 15 people in all, though the cramped ringing chamber only had room for eight.

click for larger image Starting the
day at Burton-
click for larger image The imposing
tower of
Lancaster Priory
click for larger image Adam & Andrew
at Cockerham
with a brush!
click for larger image We reached
Scorton just as
dusk fell
On we pressed to Lancaster Priory in the gloomy conditions. The one-way system around the city centre was a nightmare to negotiate and delayed us for a few minutes, but we eventually all reached the impressive church opposite the castle where the infamous Pendle Witches from our own locale were tried and hung in the early 17th century. The bells of the Priory were weighty and tricky to tame being quite odd struck - Paul elegantly managed to fluff a course of Yorkshire. We'd parked in a very impressive high security multi-storey near the Priory, and the guards within obviously had a sense of humour as when Andrew was posing for a photo, a thin voice over the speaker system said "Say cheese!" After once more picking our way through the city streets, we found The Stork Inn at Conder Green, an ideal venue for lunch.
click for larger image The Pendle Witches were
hung at Lancaster Castle
click for larger image Andrew locked out of the
high security car park!
click for larger image The hardy group of us still
standing at Goosnargh
The weather improved for the first post-lunch tower at Cockerham - a rare grab for many - which only recommenced ringing earlier in the year. Several others turned up just for this, including Helen Rigby from Todmorden for whom this was the final grab in Lancashire! As the newcomers gave their donations to Paul, horror dawned as he realised the kitty tub was missing - it was still in the pub! A few miles of nervous rallying brought us back to the Stork to be reunited with the takings. Phew! We continued to Pilling, a heavy six-bell tower exhibiting substantial movement, where Paul fluffed a touch of Grandsire. Next came Scorton at sunset - great leading down Chris! - followed by Garstang where, amongst other things, we rang a lovely course of Norwich Surprise Minor. The last stop was Goosnargh, though we nearly suffered a lock out as the contact failed to meet us there, but fortunately one of the church wardens did the honours after a hasty phone call.

6th December Rod's Staffordshire Outing
14 towers: Wistaston (8); Wybunbury (6); Keele Woodlands (8); Whitmore (5); Barlaston (6); Sandon (6); Colton (6); Armitage (6); Mavesyn Ridware (8); Longdon (6); Whittington (6); Middleton (3); Wishaw (3); Curdworth (3)

Rod Bickerton is one of the country's leading tower grabbers and organised this tour of largely augmented towers mainly in Staffordshire. Another early start and seventy-plus miles of motorway brought us to south Cheshire where our first two grabs of the day were to be found. Wistaston were a very light and flighty eight, whereas the second stop at Wybunbury was a complete contrast. A 130-foot tower is all that remains of the former church of St Chad, and over the years it has been leaning and successively straightened, akin to the famous Tower of Pisa. Next came a mini-ring at Keele Woodlands - not our usual fare - housed at the back of a junk-filled garage (though Paul thought it was good to be back near his ex-university home of four years). We continued past Keele Services to Whitmore, an unusual church recently augmented to five hung in a completely wooden tower. The final stop before a much needed lunch break was Barlaston, a modern building constructed as a replacement for the subsiding old church, where the bells were very pleasant indeed.

click for larger image Adam outside the garage
at Keele Woodlands
click for larger image Inside the quaint church
of St Mary, Whitmore
click for larger image Chris pointing out the
Barlaston's unusual tower
We had a slight delay at Sandon as we waited for a wedding to conclude. At Colton, a very nice ground floor six, we rang a superb course of Norwich. The next tower should have been Mavesyn Ridware, but when we arrived the church was open yet the tower key was nowhere to be found! In danger of a lock out, Rod phoned Armitage just down the road and arranged for us to go there first, which we did and rang a pretty awful course of Cambridge. Returning to Mavesyn in the hope someone had arrived with a key, we were thankfully not disappointed.
click for larger image The once
leaning tower
of St Chad
click for larger image A wooden
tower houses
Whitmore's bells
click for larger image Nearly locked
out at Mavesyn
click for larger image It's pitch black
by the time we
reach Middleton
By this time the sun had well and truly set, though the day had been a bit murky all along. We had a bit of trouble finding Longdon church in the dark and rang some London when we did - the rope circle here was draped around a wide central staircase. A quick ring at Whittington ensued, where the tower contact informed us of trouble reaching Wishaw due to the new M6 Toll motorway, before we drove to Middleton on the outskirts of Birmingham. Paul developed a Brummie accent at this point, much to the chagrin of Chris! The final three towers of the day all had three bells, so nothing fancy was attempted. At Curdworth, Rod had to change the tenor rope as it was roped-up for swing chiming only. We had another meal at a nearby pub before heading back home via Spaghetti Junction!
click for larger image St Mary, Colton, a very
nice ground floor six
click for larger image Adam and Chris with their
cameras at the ready!
click for larger image The lads ringing up
on three at Middleton

27th December Chester DG "Bored of the Box" Open Day
21 towers: Barthomley (8); Audlem (6); Wrenbury (6); Marbury (6); Tushingham (6); Malpas (8); Tilston (6); Farndon (8); Pulford (8); Dodleston (6); Chester, St Mary's Centre (8); Shotwick (6); Burton (6); Capenhurst (6); Backford (6); Christleton (8); Chester, Hoole (6); Waverton (6); Handley (6); Tattenhall (6); Tarporley (8)

Quite amazingly for us, we arrived at Barthomley after an 80-mile drive twelve minutes early, though this turned out to be in vain as the tower contact didn't show up for another half an hour! It was a cold day with temperatures hovering above freezing, though Paul's car thermometer read 10C. After some hasty Little Bob and Grandsire rung with numb hands we got underway in earnest, already lagging behind the majority of folk. A slight detour en route to Audlem meant we were one of the last to ring there. The tower at Marbury overlooked a large pond, and here we also spoke with a lady ringer from Rochdale for whom this was a 100th grab. Tushingham was quite possibly the worst tower of the day; the ropes being too long and the bells difficult to keep up.

click for larger image There was a 20 minute
delay at the first tower
click for larger image We were in a rush as we
made our way to Audlem
click for larger image The spire of Pulford was
right on the Welsh border
Our chief navigator was displaying one of his quirky family traits with lefts and rights being liberally muddled as we made a circuitous route to Malpas. By this stage we were definitely bringing up the rear, a situation exacerbated by having to ring down at Farndon. A swift few miles through the Welsh Borders brought us to Pulford - where it was still 10C - before we made our way to Dodleston and a choice had to be made. We decided to skip Eccleston and Handbridge so to ensure we could ring at the St Mary's Centre, a rare grab indeed. This gave us time to ring Cambridge Minor rather than Plain Bob or Grandsire, which had been standard fare during the morning's itinerary, and also for some lunch from a chippy in Chester where the hot curry was just as billed!
click for larger image The bells at
weren't brilliant
click for larger image The grand nave
of Malpas from
the ringing room
click for larger image A creepy marker
in Farndon's
click for larger image Hasty ringing
at Tattenhall as
time grows short
Unfortunately things didn't go entirely as planned. St Mary's Centre is now owned by the council and they were over twenty minutes late in opening up. Despite skipping two towers, we were still near the back of the queue (which by now consisted of over 40 people). Eventually we meandered inside the building where thankfully the heating had been switched on so we could thaw out while waiting. After nearly and hour our turn came. Access to the ringing chamber was via two lofty metal ladders. The ringing itself wasn't worth the wait as Paul managed to fluff a course of Grandsire Triples. The delay here meant we also had to miss ringing at the Cathedral, instead we legged it back to the car and made our way to Shotwick.
click for larger image Chris and Adam in ringing
action at Dodleston
click for larger image Kev, Adam and Chris with
old St Mary's behind
click for larger image Xmas spirit in the lengthy
queue to ring at St Mary's
We were practically the last group once more as we hurried around north Cheshire in the fading twilight. By this stage Kev was finding the way by torchlight and not putting a foot wrong, night-navigation obviously his forte. As the number of ringers began to thin out and night fell (though it was definitely still a balmy 10C in the bitter outdoor air) we finally started catching up a bit, until we reached Tattenhall. Here once again the local contact was late opening up and we were faced with another long queue. This ultimately caused us to miss what would have been the penultimate tower at Bunbury, though we did make it to Tarporley in the nick of time, where Paul scored his 300th tower!
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