Westonbirt School, Westonbirt, Wiltshire
The countdown on the Young Bellringers Cycle Tour website had been ticking for 364 days and as dawn broke on Sunday 23 rd July 2017 it had reached 12 hours. For the 24 tourists, all roads now led to the Westonbirt School close to Tetbury, Gloucestershire.
Having stayed in Cirencester for the weekend, Pauline and I were the first to arrive at around 2pm but were told to return at 4pm when we could then check-in. We returned just before the appointed hour and sheltered in the car as one of many heavy showers that day descended upon us. Beforelong the other tourists began to arrive led by Tom, Sarah and Ben.
Very soon we were being shown our accommodation in a quadrangle that in the pre-school days was the stable yard. Now the rooms on the first floor are used as the rooms for the students of this all-girls school. We were informed that we could choose any rooms other than those with signs warning that they were undergoing renovation. Meanwhile, Tom as leader of the tour was making a beeline for the Head Girl?s room which was slightly larger than the others. Much to Sarah?s relief the Head Girl was not still in residence.
In addition to our rooms we had a common room to ourselves. Here the beer and cider was awaiting along with other essentials of tea, coffee, soft drinks, crisps and bread for toasting. Following a rather disorganized evening meal provided by the school we were all ready for the week ahead and praying for better weather than we had experienced during the day.
This year there were 24 resident members of the tour throughout the week and around 10 day members who joined us for one or more days. Notable among these was Geoff who came back from darkest Wales and stayed with us on Monday night. The father of the of the tour returned to the home of the tour in style having swapped pedal power for petrol power on his motorbike. It was great to have him with us and long may he be able to join the tour in future years.
Throughout the week we shared Westonbirt School with a large number of youngsters from across the globe who were taking part in an activity week. We did have our own dining room separate from the general canteen but this did pose one or two problems. The staff seemed very confused and tended to forget to bring parts of the meal or not tell us what was in sealed containers. Quite a shock for the first tourist getting their pudding to find soup instead of custard in a jug he picked up. Also on the first morning, at the end of breakfast, we were told the bread provided was for toast but they had forgotten to provide the toaster. Hey-ho! They did get better as the week went on but we never did get any custard!
The BBC were also present at the school filming the next series of Royal Recipes presented by Michael Buerk. Interesting to see the set complete with MDF versions of the antique kitchen dresser, cupboards etc. Several members of the tour found the script, containing Michael?s ?off-the cuff? comments and enjoyed themselves acting out scenes. If anyone has filmed this please upload to the website.
The tour was based on the south-east edge of the Cotswolds and so the routes were varied in their terrain. The first 2 days ventured into the north-west and hence encountered some challenging climbs and descents. The remaining days were much less challenging. The main climb on the first day was up onto Amberley Common and left Tom kicking himself for stopping short of the summit of a Strava climb. Most others were just glad to get to the top. The ride to the first tower on the second day threw up a whole range of alternative route choices as people sought to cross the undulating terrain. Some routes involved a series of short steep climbs and descents whereas the direct route involved a long gradual climb and a long steep descent.
I don?t intend to go through the details of the towers visited each day as this can be seen from the tower list. To my knowledge the tour was notable in that there were no lock-outs all week. The only problem occurred on Friday at the first tower when ringing was stopped by the vicar and the police climbing the tower. This was because there was an ongoing incident being dealt with by the emergency services to persuade a lady to come down from an adjacent house roof. Thankfully the lady was brought down safely at around 4pm. At the request of the vicar we were able to return to ring on our way back to Westonbirt.
We got permission from the school to play the organ in the main hall and so the annual performance by the YBRCT Choir took place on Thursday evening excellently accompanied by Peter. He also provided some recital pieces as did Tom. The main hall has a balcony and we were surprised to hear applause coming from there as we had attracted a small audience.
The week came to a close far too soon and it was time for the end of tour party and the all-important crowning of the Wally of the Week. Although there were other nominations, from my point of view, it was a foregone conclusion and I was duly elected Wally of the Week with a large majority. It was not only that I tried to leave my bike on the slow lane of the M18 but also had a double puncture carrying only one spare tube, got to the cycle shop too late to buy a replacement tube and gas cartridge then got another puncture the next day and found I had brought the mountain bike hand pump by mistake.
As we prepared to leave on Saturday it dawned on me that throughout the week we had had two tourists called Sarah (Green and Quintin) which I understand to be not allowed. So, your homework before next year?s tour is to think of a new name for Sarah Quintin. Get your thinking caps on to come up with the most imaginative link to a new name.
On behalf of all the tourists, I would like to thank Tom and all those who helped him to organize another fantastic week of bells, bikes and beer.