The Tour has visited Derbyshire Dales before, in 1988, but not from a base way down on the Cheshire plane! The previous tour had been in Youth Hostels in the Dales themselves. Thus the 2015 tour was remarkable for the number and severity of “the ascents”, long, steep hills disappearing into the stratosphere. Even more remarkable was the enthusiasm with which tourists attacked these climbs and the apparent ease with which they conquered them. True, a few less hardy tourists took to the cars in order the edit out the long climbs but the majority stuck it out and triumphed.
The Tour was housed at Whalley Hall on the outskirts of Whalley Bridge, poised between the Cheshire Plane and the Derbyshire Dales. The Hall might charitably be described as “shabby chic” and had obviously seen better days. However, it provided a comfortable home to the tourists and the management were amazingly tolerant of the oddities of touring ringers (these oddities inevitably included countless barrels of real ale). The Hall is owned and run by 'The Community of the King of Love' and the priest who welcomed us was also a ringer. The Tour has enjoyed a range of venues over the years and Whalley Hall ranks highly in the annals of the YBRCT.
You can study the itinerary and tower list on this website, so there is little point in regurgitating a long list of towers here. It describes the usual YBRCT diet of about six towers a day spread over around thirty miles, though the rigours of the terrain do not come across on a casual perusal! High lights would include the evening ringing at Macclesfield Parish- not only lovely bells but an amazing church! The other end of the scale was the tiny ring at Wormhill.
Lovers of literature might recognise the hand of Geoff Stickland here, the originator and organiser of YBRCT for forty odd years. It should be recorded that the 2015 had a new man in the driving seat – Thomas Pelham. I would like to congratulate Tom on his management of the tour and express my pleasure that the tour's future is in safe hands.
This was my first tour. I wanted to combine cycling with bell ringing and found the group using Google. I was not exactly young but the website indicated ‘all ages’. My other concerns were by ringing ability which despite a number of years of practice was not good and my fitness as the he Peak District sounded quite challenging.
On arrival it was apparent I was the first and was greeted by Jamie. The bike could be left in the entrance hall and what a grand hall it was. This soon filled with bikes. Jamie and the staff made us feel at home and Jamie joined us for some of the ringing later in the week. There was a very friendly atmosphere and we were told to make ourselves at home.
On the first day we rang at Tideswell, Ashford and then Bakewell where I had been nominated to run the ringing but could I find the way to the ringing chamber? Wormhill later the same day was a treat with a tenor just over 1 cwt, a ladder to the ringing chamber and a ring of 6 bells rung from slender ropes with little sally a small ringing chamber with just room for six new ringers to come up the ladder and by walking around the outside of the tower for the other six to depart.
On the second day we cycled north from Whaley Bridge past Furnace Vale and rang at New Mills. The industrial past was coming out in the town names. We had an attractive canal to follow for the first part of the ride. We rang at Disley, cycled past Lyme park rang at Poynton and Pott Shrigley with the rain now torrential we were rather wet and cold we cycled into Macclesfield for a very late welcome meal and warm up. Ringing in Macclesfield on the 10 was challenging for me as the extra bell ropes made a lot of difference. The ride back was quite memorable with some long steep hills. A sign at the side of the road said “who needs traffic calming when we have cyclists”.
On the Wednesday we cycled to Castleton for the first ring, this entailed a very steep downhill near what is labelled the Blue John Cavern. The main road had been lost owing to unstable ground and a landslip and we were left with a side road. Hope, Bamford and Hathersage followed. Some of us returned up ‘that hill’ and others explored the remains of the main road and managed to walk the bikes over the missing section.
Thursday’s activities started for some of us in a coffee shop at Hayfield and later ringing at Glossop and Mottran in Londendale. Was it here that the better ringers were ringing Yorkshire Bristol and Spliced Surprise? We then headed back to base along some incredible scenic hills and industrial heritage buildings. In the evening we descended by car to ring at Macclesfield to ring on 12. The church had been fitted with a internal multi story structure and had a lift to the ringing chamber and gallery, ringing on 12 was quite a challenge for some of us with the extra ropes and trying to follow one ringer who kindly told me which were the ‘fore’ and ‘after’ bells as though this would help.
The last the day started with a ride by the reservoir and a ring at Taxal. I remember a church with a complete set of movable pews, good bells and a resident donkey or goat keeping the churchyard trimmed. Ringing at two towers in Buxton seemed to merge as one group started before we had completed the other and some of us were a little late. The final tower was Chapel en le Frith and a bit sad really but all good things have to end somewhere. We had refreshments in the tower as well as below in the church. The current church apparently incorporates the original chapel as in the town name.
We rang in many towers one memorable for the lack of floor support as you could see the slender rafters supporting the ringing chamber from below. I appreciated the ringing, companionship and correction to my poor striking. The home cooking was excellent and one of the great delights was the Whaley Hall chapel and its organ, the hymn “singing”, organ recital and the chimes with their loud ring part way through the various events. Arriving at one tower we were greeted by the organ being played and hymn singing by the group until the tower key could be obtained. The cycling was challenging always interesting and rather wet at times. We used the Monsal trail on more than one occasion and parts of this had not been opened for long and included tunnels and sometimes we just needed that road that crossed the tunnel roof.
My thanks to the organisers, staff at Whaley Hall and others on tour for a great week.