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Ringing Trip 2013

Ringing Trip 2013, South Cheshire, North Staffs, and Salop.

Saturday 18th May 2013

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Last year we toured North Lincolnshire. This year we would go west! There are plenty of places to choose, but we wanted somewhere not too far distant to reduce the mileage and make the trip a little more relaxed.

South Cheshire looked a possibility . Some of the possible towers are close to the Cheshire ring canal system so may have been visited during a canal tour organised some years back. Never the less, a short list was drawn up, contact details obtained and permission to ring requests made.

The weather forecast for the day was not very good. A very active front was due to park itself in the wrong place and give some very heavy rain, but in the end, all this weather stayed a little further north. We were left with cloud, but we stayed dry.

We were off to a good start. The coach was loaded with eager trippers and heading towards Matlock, up Slack Hill , through Matlock and Matlock Bath, along the valley to Cromford, up the hill to Wirksworth. Passing the top end of Carsington Reservoir, Hopton and Hopton Hall, famous for its snow drop displays earlier in the year, and into Ashbourne.

We were running just a little late, and needed as much time as possible to get to our first tower on schedule. The narrow winding roads from Ashbourne, through Mayfield, Ellastone, Alton (of Alton Tower fame) and Cheadle do not help.

It is only a short distance from Cheadle to Blythe Bridge and the start of the Foxfield Steam Railway, but there was to be no rail journey for us.. We were heading , by road, to Barlaston, if a little late.


It was at Barlaston that we met up with the remaining ringers in our party who had opted to travel by car. They were there ahead of us and were ringing the bells with one or two of the local young ringers as we pulled into the church grounds.

St John the Baptist Church is situated just off the main road through the village. On a good open site with plenty of room for parking. The modern church is quite splendid. Well equipped for all occasions. .A light ring of 6 bells ( tenor 5cwt) rung from a ringing chamber up a short flight of steps.

The local ringers had kindly agreed to supply our party with tea, coffee and cakes, all home made and delicious. Although we were a little late in arriving, we had allowed enough time to make the most of our visit, ringing, eating and exploring the church. Particularly interesting was the Wedgwood chapel with memorial plaques relating to the Wedgwood family. There was also a very fine stained glass window over the alter and a three manual organ.

The second leg of our journey took us to the A34, heading south for a couple of miles to join the A51, then heading north west towards Nantwich. Through Stapleford, Blackbrook, past the Dorothy Clive Garden at Willoughbridge before turning south down the B road to Knighton then branching right on the narrow road toNorton in Hales - our next church, St Chad’s, and the only eight bell tower of the day, and our only visit to a church in Shropshire.

We arrived just before 12 noon and delayed silencing the clock bells to allow us to hear the carillon. It played ‘Home Sweet Home’ for us.

In view of the size of our party (almost 50 people) the PCC had decided to supply us with tea and cakes. We may have had a good supply at our last church, but another opportunity to sample homemade food was not going to be missed. We were off to a really good start.

Access to the ringing chamber is up a spiral stairway with a rather awkward step and doorway to enter the room itself. Two wires were secured to pull the clock hammers from the bells. A further wire in the centre of the room had to be secured to a hook on the floor to disengage the hammers for the carillon.

Investigation further up the stairway revealed a door leading to the carillon mechanism - a large drum fitted with ‘pins’ which lifted cams to pull the wires attached to the hammers. Also in this room was the clock mechanism.

The bell ropes had to pass through this room on their way to the belfry above, and were ‘spread’ by sloping channels and pulleys to the correct position to enter the belfry under the appropriate bell wheel.

Despite the devious route for the ropes, the bells handled well and we all managed to ring on these fine bells, tenor 11cwt. Time enough here to explore the church, see the ancient glass, and to sit on the Bradling Stone on the green outside the church.

The local hostelry had been recommended as a good place to eat, but not really big enough for our group without some notice. However the independent travellers did dine there and were well pleased.

The coach party left Norton by the same road used to bring us there, squeezing past not only the house at the end of the road, but also a work party digging the road near the church. Heading north now through Woore up the A51, past Bridgemere Garden World, claimed to be the largest garden centre in Europe and well worth a visit in it’s own right.

We arrived at Nantwich, our lunch stop, at about 1-00 pm. Pulling into the tiny bus station near the market. We would board here again in an hour and a half.

We had hoped to ring the bells at St Mary’s Church, but had chosen the day when the local ringers were having their ringing outing - into the Peak District where we had come from.

The church was open so we were able to explore, see the wonderful windows and the misericords in the choir stalls. The tower is octagonal and sits over the crossing. Access to the ringing chamber is via a stairway up to roof level, then along a footway to a door in the side of the tower.

Whilst looking around the exterior of the church we were joined by a market stall holder who pointed out a gargoyle with an extra face. Apparently, when this gargoyle was being carved, the woman who supplied bread to the masons was apt to overcharge so they added her face to the underside of the gargoyle.

All too soon we had to leave for our next church. It is not far from Nantwich to Church Minshull. Along the inevitable country roads. St. Bartholomew's Church is certainly light and open. Temple like, there are pillars supporting the flat roof and what was a musicians balcony at the west end. It is from this balcony that access to the ringing chamber is gained, through what looks like a cupboard door. The six bells are hung anticlockwise, which is not the usual arrangement. Once we had sorted out which bells were which we could ring.

Again, the local ringers supplied us with tea and cakes. Wonderful. We had had lunch an hour earlier, now it was afternoon tea time and here we were able to do that justice.

Once our ringing and eating needs were satisfied, it was off to the next tower, Warmingham, not far as the crow flies, but the small rivers Weaver and Wheelock mean a longer route along the narrow roads - but very pleasant. Coming into Warmingham from the north, we came to St Leonard’s Church nestling beside the latter of the two rivers.

The church contrasts with that at Church Minshull in that the interior is much more ornate and darker, having much more stained glass. The entrance to the stairs to the ringing chamber is tucked away round a corner to the rear of the church, it requires care to avoid hitting your head as you enter. There are 6 bells, tenor 10cwt.

There is a glass covered recess in the floor of the church which houses what looks to be a memorial stone bearing the names of Randolphus and Maria Vernon dated 1760. This stone was found during repair work in the church. The glass cover was lifted to give a better view ..

Continuing on our tour, the coach driver decided to take a southern route from the church rather than retrace the way we had arrived. We were aiming for the A533 to Sandbach, but shortly after a minor junction we were confronted with a low bridge sign indicating a height one foot less than the coach! Luckily it was only a short reversal, but the option was an even narrower road going south. Eventually we reached a more suitable road, near Wheelock, and had an easier run to Sandbach, over the M6 and north to Brereton Green.

St. Oswald’s church is located near Brereton Hall, about half a mile out of the village. Access is via the hall drive, and passes through an archway. This was too small to allow the coach to pass. The half mile walk to the church from the archway is very pleasant and was a welcome leg stretch. Those who were unable to walk were offered a lift in one of the cars.

The 2nd Lord Brereton was a founding member of The Ancient Society of College Youths - one of the oldest ringing societies in the world, founded in 1637. The society rang the first full peal when the five bells were augmented to six in 2003. 

The Muzzled Bear, is the symbol of Brereton; there is the Bear's Head pub; and a Totem Pole with a Muzzled Bear on the top. Its origins lie in the Legend of Sir William Brereton who killed his valet for interrupting his meal and went to plead with the King for mercy. The King would only pardon him if he made a muzzle which would contain a fierce bear. After three days he was put to the test and the muzzle restrained the animal. Sir William was pardoned and adopted the muzzled bear as the crest on the family shield. There are tributes to the story in St Oswald's Church in stained glass and in muzzled bears on display above the Sanctuary.

There are 6 bells at Brereton. They are rung from the ground floor and have relatively long ropes, they are also quite difficult to hear from inside the church. This is another anticlockwise ring, the second of the day - we should be getting used to it now. The bells are hung on plain bearings which require much more effort to ring than bells with more modern bearings.

There was time to look around this historic church and seek out the items relating to the muzzled bear! Then enjoy the walk back down the drive to the waiting coach which would whisk us away via Congleton, and Matlock back to Chesterfield and Dronfield. Just after Congleton, where the road climbs into the Peak District, we ran into low cloud and thick mist which cleared as we reached lower ground near home. Another good day out.

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