BELL RINGING TRIP TO SURREY
On Friday 7th September 2018 eleven bell ringers headed off to Surrey for a weekend. Seven of the group were from St Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick and 4 of us were from Christ Church Taney. Darrell Brislane’s brother, Kieron, had been busy in the previous weeks organising a busy itinerary for us.
On Saturday, we rang in three churches all within a short distance of each other. The first one was St Nicholas, Godstone which is on a narrow county lane about half a mile from the village of Godstone. This beautiful church was restored in the 1870’s by a man called Gilbert Scott and as we parked the cars we were immediately drawn to the beauty of the decorative almshouses in a Tudor style next to the church. There were 8 bells in this tower and the tenor weighed 12cwt which is quite light. Everyone got a chance to ring the bells.
About 3 miles away was the second church, St Mary the Virgin, an Anglican parish church in Oxted, East Surrey. We arrived on a day when they were having a church open day so we got a very warm welcome here and there were church members on duty who were glad to answer our questions about the church or its history. There was a small spiral staircase at the back of the church that led up to the six bells. It was good to experience ringing a variety of bells in the towers we went to over the weekend. Some of us were very keen to get back down those stairs after the bell ringing so we could sample the delicious cakes and goodies on sale to raise funds for the church.
By 12 noon we were at our next church, St Peter, Limpsfield. An Anglican church that dates back to 1180. While we were waiting for someone to come along and let us into the tower we were given the opportunity to wander around the graveyard and see the graves of a number of famous musicians, including Frederick Delius (composer), Sir Thomas Beecham (conductor) and Beatrice Harrison (Cellist). The tower had 6 bells and the heaviest (tenor) weighed 15cwt.
After our morning ringing bells and travelling from church to church through the beautiful countryside with the stunning Tudor style houses we were ready for our lunch at the ‘Grasshopper on the Green’ restaurant. The restaurant is on the green by the Churchill Statue which led very well into our afternoon activity of visiting Chartwell which was Winston Churchill’s home for about 40 years. It is an amazing place. In each room there were volunteers to tell us about Churchill’s paintings (over 380), writings (55 books) and his life with his family. The rooms are decorated with memorabilia, gifts, the original furniture and some of Churchill’s many books (from his collection of 5,000) as well as honours and medals received by him. The views of the countryside from the terraced lawn are stunning. It was easy to imagine Churchill and his family enjoying this beautiful place. We also had some time to explore the Rose Garden, the Vegetable Garden, to see the lakes and the croquet lawn. It was such a peaceful place to visit.
Before we went away on the weekend, Kieron had emailed us the menu for the restaurant we would be eating in on the Saturday evening. Apparently there were originally two restaurants we had the choice of eating in but The Bell Inn was chosen. Sure where else would you eat on a bell ringing weekend. They had a table ready for us and the food was served swifly…pan fried salmon with creamed leeks, thyme roasted chicken, leg of lamb steak, it was all so mouth-watering tasty. Followed by the temptation of Eton Mess or Apple Crumble. This restaurant deserves every good review it gets! We thoroughly enjoyed our evening there.
One Sunday, we rang the bells in Holy Trinity, Coleman’s Hatch in East Sussex. The bell tower has eight bells and these are rung for all services. The metal rungs of the outdoor ladder leading to the tower is not for the faint hearted and would be a bit tricky to negotiate on a frosty winter’s morning. However it is worth making it up the ladder rungs to get to the bell chamber to ring the bells and to see all the history recorded there on the wall plaques detailing peels (specific type of change ringing performance) with over 5000 changes in three hours.
After lunch, our afternoon was spent gong back in time on the vintage steam train at Bluebell Railway in West Sussex. Thankfully our seats had been reserved or it would have been difficult to seat us all together. Each of the stations has been restored to the style of different eras and one of them, Horsted Keynes, will be familiar to those who have watched Downtown Abbey as some of the scenes were filmed here. It was fascinating to go into the steam engine room at the back of the train and to hear about some of the history of the train from one of the volunteers. He was so knowledgeable about the steam engines it was obvious he has a great interest in them.
When our interesting afternoon at the steam trains was over, it was straight to the airport for our flights home. It was a brilliant weekend all round and a great opportunity to ring the bells in different towers. I’m looking forward to the next bell ringing weekend away already!