Summer 1999 North Devon Tour
Account by Jon Collett
On the 19th August 1999, a group of intrepid adventurers left Sheffield heading towards the unknown, an area located in the Southwest of England, the rural area known as North Devon. The area is shut off from the rest of civilisation by Exmoor, Dartmoor, Bodmin moor and the Bristol Channel. As a result of this isolation, North Devon tends to be about twenty years behind the rest of the country and as a result has developed funny ideas about ringing. These ideas are usually along the lines of striking, particularly on the raise and lower and in ‘Devon Call Changes’, which are just the same as normal call changes but struck better and rung faster. The other funny idea about ringing that has developed in this strange area is the habit of ringing with coils, which means long ropes - a problem that was complained about often. The reason behind the long ropes is to do with not being able to alter the length of ropes in competitions, but it is also suspected that Devon call changers have a perverse sense of humour, particularly when they disallow knots in the ropes.
The adventurers arrived in a village called Swimbridge near midnight on the same night and promptly went to sleep in the accommodation - and old school room with a single bathroom, to which there was some consternation from some of the group. However, the night went well, and fairly early the next morning (about 9am) they left to go to Tawstock. After walking over a balcony and squeezing through a small tunnel, ringing started. After the raise the ropes suddenly evolved large knots to take away the extra foot of rope in everyone’s hands. After surviving this tower, the adventurers quickly descended on the next tower in Barnstaple, feeling right prats as the ringing chamber was actually situated in the middle of the church. The feeling wasn’t helped by the fact they were service ringing and an organ recital was providing an accompaniment to the sound of the bells. After a quick lunch, everyone dived into the minibus to go to Braunton, the only set of bells in North Devon to be regularly rung by a method team. After a pleasant ring with normal length ropes, the adventurers decided that it was time to go to the beach. After contemplating a trip through a lot of sand dunes, they eventually found a car park right next to the beach. During the fun that followed, the trip organiser managed to sprain his ankle in dubious circumstances, which won’t be explored in this story. After everyone was very tired, they all went to the award winning Fish and Chip restaurant in Braunton, then to the ‘Jack Russell’ (a pub for those who don’t know) to finish off the day.
Off to Lundy Island on Saturday. After everyone got up very early for this trip and had travelled to Ilfracombe to get on the SS Oldenburg, the trip was fairly uneventful except for the various bits of wildlife spotting. A bit of ringing, then off for a quick look around the Island before jumping back on the boat to head back to a take away supper and party games in the hall. During this, the Ringing Master managed to sneak away to have a shower at one of his friends houses, a privilege which annoyed everyone else who didn’t even know anyone in the village and so remained dirty for the whole weekend.
After breaking the clock hammer in Swimbridge church while ringing for Sunday service, the adventurers headed off for a pub lunch and then different activities in the afternoon before heading to the Ringing Master’s three home towers of Little Torrington, Great Torrington and Monkleigh. After this, more drinking in the pub was required before everyone went to sleep.
The final day dawned with three towers to ring at before heading back to Sheffield. Another early start was required so that cleaning could take place and with everything packed up, they all headed off to St. Giles in the Wood, then on to Chittlehampton and finally ringing at the heaviest tower on the tour at South Molton. And then homewards, back to the sorry old Sheffield.
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