Monday, August 31, 2009


Yes indeed, and this year's Butler Tour undertook the challenge to ring all 8 of the change ringing towers in this vast and distant land. The tour, organized every year by Bruce and Eileen Butler of Philadelphia to visit and ring in as many of the thousands of bell towers around the world, included 7 other ringers from the US and Ireland for a 2 week adventure.

We gathered August 1 in Cape Town to officially begin our travels in and around the Western Cape. Our first towers were St. Marys (8 bells), Woodstock, and St. Georges Cathedral (10 bells), Cape Town for Sunday Services August 2. After several days of long drives through the wine country and lots of wine tasting, "hand-to-trunk holding" with elephants, petting big cats, and wonderful food at the area's many fine restaurants, we headed east toward Grahamstown. Our journey took us along scenic seacoast roads with a bit of whale watching, and more fine food in the delightful sea side town of Wilderness. In Grahamstown we shared a wonderful practice with the young ringers in their local band and enjoyed the bells of the Cathedral (10 bells) and then the monastery of the Order of the Holy Cross in Hillendale (6 bells). For all of us, these towers provided our first opportunity to ring quarter peals on the African continent.

A highlight of our trip came next, as we turned our attention to the long awaited safari experience. We spent 2 days in the "wilds" of Kariega Game Reserve rumbling over the landscape in a huge open land cruiser in search of giraffe, cape buffalo, rinos, hippos, lions, warthogs, every sort of antelope and bird imaginable, and much more. We learned so much about the wildlife and the environment of South Africa from ranger Shaun's vast knowledge and experience, and even better, no one was eaten alive.

After a day and night in Port Elizabeth and more scenic seascapes, we flew up the coast to Durban. There the ringers of St. Mary's Grayville (10 bells) welcomed us warmly at their evening practice. Sadly the bells of St. Pauls were not available. But we found much to see and enjoy in the city in a whirlwind tour of the Indian Market and the Botanical Gardens and more with our enthusiastic guide Just-Us.

From Durban, we headed north and inland for the last stop on our travels. We drove the long 8 hours through the Drakensburg Mountains and beyond to Johannesburg. After ringing in Fourways Gardens at All Saints (6 bells) and St. Georges (8 bells), Parktown, and facing yet another rental car breakdown, our 3rd car swap and traffic that makes Atlanta seem lightweight, we spent our last day together learning as much as we could about this "city of gold." Yet another outstanding guide, Kaeren, made the most of a morning drive through the downtown areas of the city, into Soweto and the Hector Pieterson museum, the Mandela home and much more.

Finally, it was time to end this "trip of a life-time," get in line for my 16 hour non-stop flight home, and hope for a return visit to grab that Durban tower we missed and once more enjoy the fine food, wine, land and sea scapes, and gracious hospitality of the South African people.

Mary Platt
August 29, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hendersonville Ringing Weekend

St. James church in Hendersonville celebrated their tower's 31st anniversary with a ringing weekend that started Friday, August 14 and ended Sunday when the last of us finally called it quits and adjourned for one final meal at Hannah Flanagan's. Bob Aldinger , who organized the ringing, made sure we all had plenty of rope time by keeping the bells ringing nonstop. He moved us in and out of the ringing room so deftly that it was like passing people while plain hunting. Sally Cook hosted us for a Saturday evening bash and the band provided a most elegant potluck.

It was Jay's first Ringing Road trip and I don't think he was disappointed. The bells in Hendersonville have a longer draft than our home bells and ringing them was something of a challenge for Jay. By Sunday I think he was hoping he could blend into the walls and wouldn't be asked to ring again. No such luck. Ever the perfect host Bob made sure that everyone got to ring on Sunday. Jay was surprised to see that the instruction Derek and Bob had given him on long drafts had paid off and his Sunday ringing was much smoother and controlled. He ended his Hendersonville ringing on an up note.

Jay loved his accommodations at the Waverly, a Bed and Breakfast, across the street from the church. Each morning he would describe his breakfast in loving detail. I was always amazed he could eat lunch. I think everyone who stayed there gave it a thumbs up and would recommend it if you are passing through Hendersonville. And you just cross the street to get to the bell tower - how easy is that.

Like Jay, I am relatively new to ringing road trips but I can sure see why ringers love them. I went for the ringing but I loved seeing everyone in the Hendersonville band again and seeing ringers I had met in Charleston. Everyone in the band worked together to make it a perfect weekend and Jay and I were impressed by how warm and welcoming everyone was.We had a great time and hope that they will do it again next year.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Perfect Holiday

Marietta ringers and members of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths, Derek Wilsden and Cathy Brown, along with spouses Jan and Chris (also Marietta ringers, though of a less avid variety than Derek and Cathy), set off on July 7 for a trip to England which included some interesting ringing and a big first for Cathy. The destination was Lincolnshire, where the SRCY held one of its two annual Country Meetings. The foursome arrived in Stamford, Lincolnshire, at lunchtime on Thursday July 9th. Instead of resting, Chris and Jan dropped Cathy and Derek off at Market Deeping and then took off for the Fen Country to do some exploring. Cathy and Derek met up with Derek and Jane Sibson, plus Alan Regin, Jo Dorling, Janet Menhinick, and Michael O'Callaghan (the band is pictured above) for an attempt at Cambridge Surprise Major. The bells at Market Deeping were nice, but a bit heavy-going, and the temperature in the ringing room was a bit on the warm side. Despite these (minor) discomforts and their jet-lagged state, the peal was a success and a pleasure to ring.

The next morning, more refreshed, but still very nervous (at least, Cathy was), the same band gathered at Harmston Church to attempt the much-anticipated peal of Bristol Surprise Major. Harmston, a tiny village just south of Lincoln, is a charming place with a charming church and very sweet bells; however, it lacks the convenient pub (with toilet) of Market Deeping, a fact which led to a fresh new way of looking at the church yard--but that is another story. Anyway, thanks to the competence and patience of all the other ringers, Cathy got her much-anticipated peal of Bristol and was very happy. The following day, Derek and Cathy participated in a "tower grab" of several local towers, all of which were 6-bell towers. They rang quite a bit of Cambridge and London Minor. They also met up with Katy Idle, who had rung with the North Georgia ringers in Marietta/Atlanta during the 2007 school year, and her parents, who are also ringers. That Saturday evening, the Wilsdens and the Browns attended the SRCY's "Quiz and Curry" evening at Edensham village hall. The curry was delicious; unfortunately, the quiz was a challenge for the Marietta visitors, who were all on the same team, and who knew very little about local towers and pubs and celebrities and sports teams. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all.

On Sunday morning, the 4 adventurers left Stamford to begin the next phase of their trip, a visit to the Lake District. On the way out, they stopped at the delightful little parish church of Great Casterton, where Derek and Cathy were privileged to ring for services on the very easy-going 6. They then attended the morning worship service, which was followed by a coffee hour right there in the nave, and were treated to the very best of British hospitality. This wonderful, friendly reception was certainly the defining characteristic of the entire trip, and we shall be eternally grateful to all the bell ringers and other friends who made this adventure so enjoyable.

After visiting the Lake District Chris and Cathy traveled to France, while Derek spent the some of the remaining two weeks of his and Jan’s three weeks ringing at 7 more towers. Cathy and Chris ended their second week of the trip in London, where Cathy got the opportunity to ring a bit for Sunday service at the SRCY home tower St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church at Trafalgar Square—a fitting end to her Cumberland ringing odyssey, which had begun with the Country Meeting.

Of Derek’s second seven towers, four were in the Reading area of Berkshire for the “43’ers” annual reunion where he was without doubt the youngest among the 25 or so ringers there who had started ringing in 1943 All four were on the Thames river, in the picturesque (aren’t they all?) villages of Shiplake, Streatley, Pangbourne, and Purley-on-Thames - an 8 and three 6’s. The remaining three were nostalgia towers: St Etheldreda, Hatfield - 10, 23cwt (for practice and service times)and a nearby 4cwt six at Lemsford - both on Hertfordshire, and the 21cwt ten at Ash-next-Sandwich in Kent which had to serve as second choice to Derek’s Alma Mater St Dunstan, Canterbury. The band there decided to have their annual picnic instead of practice that Friday. Making up for the disappointment, Jan and Derek did however meet, dine, and ring with Derek Chatfield, a co-starting ringer in ’43 with Derek. In spite of the availability of 10 bells in two towers, (and Derek really enjoyed doubling on the Sally for raising that 23cwt tenor and then ringing it cover to 10-bell call changes for Sunday service ringing), most of the ringing in these three towers was on six, with lots of very welcome touches of spliced minor of up to 7 methods.

Through being fortunate enough (retired!) to be able to spend a third week, Derek was able to fit in significantly more ringing; and the extra in-between times were filled with visiting relatives and friends and plenty of plain relaxing at the home of the Withers - who, incidentally, are oft times visitors to Marietta - though non-ringers, can you believe!

Written by Cathy Brown and Derek Wilsden