Loughborough Parrot's First tour.
Another funtastic tour based at St Columba’s House, Woking, Surrey. Many congratulations to the stalwart, Geoff Stickland on his ability to continue to organise such an activity.
The accommodation, food and hosts were excellent and good value for the quality of what we received. There was one little snag upon arrival. The height restriction bar on the one way system that could catch out unsuspecting travellers with bikes on roof racks! It was also a privilege to bring the Loughborough Parrot who was included in the pictures of towers and tourists.
Monday Last year we had a long ride back from the last tower so Geoff carefully planned a shorter final leg and a longer trip of 10 ‘Geoff’ miles to the first tower. This made getting back more enjoyable. There were at least a couple of occasions of wallyish behaviour. After a little difficulty for a group of us to find the Wetherspoons for lunch, we did manage to find it by pushing our bikes through the indoor shopping centre. After safely locking our bikes to the railings we enjoyed a cheap pint (for Surrey that is) and lunch. However, when Brenda came to unlock her bike from mine and the railings, she had discovered that she had left the key back at base. After weighing up the options, I decided to buy some side cutters and cut the lock cable. Brenda earned a well deserved nomination! After dinner two cars dashed off over the North Downs to Dorking to join the practice. After the practice, a certain group leader forgot that his car was longer at the rear because of the cycle rack. He managed to reverse into something solid and break the number plate holder and perhaps bend some of the carrier metalwork. My interpretation of Geoff’s utterance was ‘Oh dear, I have just made a mistake!’ in a short cross outburst. Another nomination secured!
Tuesday The second day running started with a lovely ride along the canal cycle path avoiding some roads and hectic traffic and seeing the delights of Mother Nature. Some people took advantage of getting packed lunches from bakers etc. and there was a particularly good one called Heaters at St Johns Lye on the way out. Pirbright was an easy first tower to reach. How clever of John and Chris(Ben Carey) to bring some playing cards to chill out before ringing. The trip to Aldershot was eventful. Tourists had two choices of route to get round the firing range. The scenic route on back roads followed by the suburbs of Farnborough and Aldershot or the relatively simple route but on the main road. People left Pirbright in one order but the order in which they arrived was quite different. Whilst one tourist was confused and went straight to Ash, Harriet for some reason needed to alight her bike but couldn’t quite get her leg over and used a solid object to lean on. Unfortunately, this object was a wheelie bin and she came crashing down and made a hole in her knee. What a silly Billy although this phrase should really be reserved for another tourist ;-). Luckily for Harriet, Alan Shepherd was at hand with his touring bike equipped with everything but the kitchen sink. She was soon plastered and I don’t mean drunk; that was later. Nominated! After Worpleston, one group of cyclists had navigational issues and came back to Woking via Jacobs Well, effectively doing two sides of a triangle. The evening tower was Guildford Cathedral.
Wednesday This was a mad day! Venturing out into the Leatherhead District, we rang at Cobham where, as was sometimes the case, the locals put on drinks and biscuits and toilets are a Godsend especially the morning after. Stoke D’Abernon was a light ring of six in a small ringing room. We had to be through Ashtead before a funeral then lunch was at Leatherhead where quite a number of us enjoyed a picnic in the well kept gardens. Sarah Green had missed out on a trip to a baker’s in Ashtead and cycled all the way back just to get herself some lunch. We were awash with packed lunches, quite literally in Geoff’s case. He had gone to Greggs and cycled over clutching one plastic bag containing his and Ruth’s lunches. However, it also included a large cup of coffee. This had emptied most of its contents into the bag and spoiled the lunch. Poor Ruth was quite miffed about this and went and found a bench in solitude. By popular demand, this was a major contribution to the Rev Geoff Stickland being awarded The Wally of the Week.
This wasn’t the end of the day by any means. Anne Parr joined us for a quick ring before cycling with some tourists back to Fetcham. (Hello Mum!) A small party had ventured across Bookham Common as a short cut whilst another had climbed the Ridgeway unnecessarily conquering a rise of 34m in 800m travel resulting in a split party as the group spread out.
Through Tim’s (Simon Percy) tireless efforts, he managed to get Sandhurst RC for 5:15. However, this meant a 16 mile 36 minutes drive in rush hour traffic for three cars resulting in navigational frustrations within Harriet’s car and a 1 ¾ circuit of a roundabout for mine. I wasn’t aware Chandler had any problems. The organiser eventually turned up after the Chandlermobile had left and barring a slipped wheel or two and Kenco (Sarah McTiernan) turning a bell right over as they had no stays or sliders, we grabbed and returned for dinner. But oh, no! Katy Idle had arranged for dinner to be brought forward to 6:00 because folks were going to watch Harry Potter in 3D.
Thursday We arrived in good time at Send where some took the opportunity to play Mavis. This church had a splendid door key. Tourists took two different routes to Stoke next Guildford: The boring road and cycleway or the invigorating ‘short cut’ way. This involved hacking across a footpath to discover that the desired route was closed and had a herd of cows with fresh cowpats in the way. A way through was found to the canal path but only after having to lift all the bikes over a barbed wire fence. There was a marvellous display of chivalry and camaraderie. The lively newcomer, Kenco, decided to cycle over a very dodgy suspended walkway which she had to back track as it took her nowhere. Stoke was nearly a lock-out but a key was found quite quickly. On to Guildford for lunch and a gallon of beer for John and possibly another person which incidentally may have had something to do with pulling St Mary’s off in the wrong order as they are anticlockwise, Tim!
After dinner, we adjourned in the chapel to sing hymns. It was a splendid display of our group’s abilities, very enjoyable and moving. Howard Percy managed to make a recording which was uploaded to YouTube.
Friday At the second tower, Ed rang up the sixth and was carefully trying to set the bell when the forces turned against him and he was lifted skywards. He landed with all the panache and acumen of a stuntman with no apparent injuries. There had been no warning that a slider was misplaced. The pub frequented by a large proportion of our group was opposite Shepperton church. As a result, service was a little slow and frustrating but very tasty when it arrived. I’ve never seen such thick fried bread before on Emma Pym’s all day breakfast. The last tower at Horsell had a wonky rung on the vertical ladder which was best to avoid.
During the week, everyone had their turn at running a tower. It was very refreshing to experience different styles and everyone did very well to ensure each tourist got a go. A wide range of abilities was catered for.
The venue afforded some to take advantage of the Spiritual setting for prayer and contemplation in addition to Geoff taking Mass at 7:30am.
Tom Pelham did an excellent job taking on responsibility previously met by Phil ‘the Pint’ Butler for providing and managing the beer and cider. Perhaps he should be called Tom ‘the barrel’ Pelham?
It was sad to say our goodbyes as we became quite a close family for a week of companionship.
Do come along next year and if you are worried about lasting the tour, it’s not difficult. Start now and get on your bike and pootle around nipping to the corner shop or cycle to ringing etc.
Nicholas Parr, August 2011