The Derby Diocese asked that all churches within the diocese should try to open on this day, which coincided with the National Heritage Day, although the open churches were not specifically part of this national day.
As ringers, we agreed to take part and promote bell ringing - and perhaps attract some new recruits.
Last year we had cleaned and painted the ringing chamber so at least this was in a good condition to open for visits - it just needed another clean along with the stairways and the ‘roof over the bells’.
The Monday before was chosen as the clean up day. Tidying round the ringing chamber was first, followed by a clean down the spiral stairway with the vac, and up the spiral stairway to belfry.
Dead birds had been removed from the ‘roof’ a week or two earlier, but the sticks they had pushed through the grills to try to build nests, had to be removed. A spray with Jays Fluid was deemed necessary also. All this debris and the water for the spray, was brought up and lowered down over the balcony of the tower parapet using two bell ropes. They were just long enough.
On the day, a display board and table was set up in church where we could display information about the bells and our activities, a poster downloaded from the Ringing World, and photos from our ringing trips.
A model bell was used to demonstrate how the bell is rung. This had been modified to balance the bell and make it easier to ring. A real bell rope, some hand bells and ‘Ringing Worlds’ completed the display.
We had assumed we would be talking one or two people, demonstrating the bell in the church, and taking small groups up the tower and out onto the parapet. We thought we should do three tours throughout the day.
Up until 10am, there were one or two people reading the display. Then we suddenly had a group of ten who wanted to go up the tower. Luckily we had enough ringers on hand to have someone down in the church, someone in the ringing chamber to demonstrate ringing, someone in the belfry to explain things and someone up on the ‘roof’ to guide them onto the parapet.
This first group made their way up to the ringing room, then groups of 5 were taken higher - to the bells- before herding them up the iron ladder to the upper reaches and the parapet.
By this time there were others wanting to do the tower tour. Now we got into our stride and managed to take over 50 people up the tower before dinner. It needed a lot of care to make sure people were not passing on the stairs. The ringing chamber made a good holding area.
We called a halt at 12-00, to allow for something to eat, then started again at 1-30pm. We thought the rush might have been over, but not so. A further 69 people went up the tower in the afternoon. By the time 5 o’clock came round, we were just about exhausted, but it was a very successful day.
And we might have a new ringer. At least a lot more people now know what goes on ‘up the tower’.