The Summer Meeting of the Guild of Medical Ringers was held in and around Blackburn, Lancashire over the weekend of the 19th –21st May. We took over the Avenue Hotel, Old Langho, a modern hotel which formed part of a converted psychiatric hospital so we felt very at home there!
This is an area that has some old rustic rings and many fine modern rings of bell with Taylor bells predominating. Lancashire is traditionally associated with the cotton industry, but there is some beautiful unspoilt countryside and unlike the south with its hosepipe ban and drought warnings, there was plenty of flowing water! An action packed weekend was planned and for accompanying non-ringing partners there was the opportunity to visit the nearby Zoo Garden with its contemporary figurative sculptures or to take a ride on one of the four steam railways within 30 miles of Blackburn.
Ringing began late morning on the Friday at the six of St James, Moss Side, Leyland.
Leyland is an industrial centre once famous for its bus and truck manufacturing and now home of the British Commercial Vehicle Museum. This was followed by lunch at the Cavendish Arms in Brindle. The afternoon began with ringing on the 6 of St. James, Brindle, two of the six bells here being pre-Reformation. This was followed by the 8 of St. John Whittle-le-Woods, a fine Taylor eight, the 8 of Holy Trinity, Hoghton and the 8 of All Saints, Higher Walton. There was then a break to book in at the hotel and to grab some refreshment before evening ringing at St Silas, Blackburn. Fortunately a few reserves had arrived by then.
We had a few problems with an early start to breakfast on the Saturday morning but we all made it in the end, which conveniently made for a staggered arrival at the pleasant 8 of St Leonard the Less, Samlesbury. There were many spring lambs to be seen on route but unfortunately we did not have the weather to go with it as it was teeming with rain. Our next tower of the day was the six of St Wilfred, Ribchester. Ribchester was the Roman Fort of Bremetennacum, dating from 78AD. Next to the church is a small but interesting museum with some local Roman artefacts; this cultural visit filled in a short time before lunch. The Waddington Arms was expecting us for lunch and had a good range of filling food to provide us with energy for the afternoon’s ringing. The first tower of the afternoon was the 6 of St Helen, Waddington. This was followed swiftly by the 8 of St. Mary Magdalene, Clitheroe – an excellent Gillett eight. We were relieved that parking had been negotiated in the nearby NFU Mutual Insurance parking area, which was very fortunate, as parking was at a premium with the nearby beer festival in full swing. Inevitably it was necessary for some members to go and inspect the facilities at the beer festival! Next stop was the picture book village of Downham with its ring of 5 bells, nestling under Pendle Hill. This is the site of a number of films, with no TV aerials, overhead cables or yellow lines being allowed here. We managed to keep the tearoom in the nearby post office in good business that afternoon. Last tower of the day was the fine 8 of St. Mary the Virgin and All Saints, Whalley.
Although it rained on and off through much of the day, this did not dampen our spirits. Ringing was generally of a good standard with a range of methods. Most of the towers that we rang at during the weekend had methods named after them but Yorkshire was the main method of the weekend. We did however successfully complete a course of Higher Walton Surprise Major at Higher Walton and touches of Ribchester Bob Minor at Ribchester.
We returned to the Avenue for dinner. Thirty five of us sat to an enjoyable dinner with a very regional theme with delights such as Bury black pudding, roast bone marrow, mushrooms and Lancashire cheese and pea and pig’s ear soup, followed by Lancashire hot pot, ox tail stew and grilled pork chop with sage mash and Lancashire cheese and rounded off with Blackburn fig pie, bread and butter pudding or local ice-cream. This was an enjoyable evening but tinged with great sadness at the news that a former President and stalwart supporter of the Guild, Nick Davies, had sadly died that afternoon after a long battle with cancer and our thoughts were with all his family. We were able to share many happy memories of our time with Nick who will be greatly missed. The evening then closed with the customary hand bell ringing.
Sunday dawned with a touch of sunshine but it did not take long for the rain to appear again. We had a leisurely breakfast before heading to Blackburn Cathedral to ring for the civic service there. This was followed by ringing after the morning service on the 12 at St James, Accrington. This ring, with Yorkshire tail ends, was once the lightest 12 in the world at 11-1-14 and although described as a bit of ‘fun’ was also quite a challenge. A number of members left the meeting at this point to head home, but others retraced their steps to Blackburn Cathedral to ring an excellent quarter of Grandsire Caters to celebrate Nick Davies’ life.
This was a very enjoyable weekend’s ringing and we are very grateful to the enormous amount of work Ken Lee, ably supported by Tony Freemont, put into organising this for us all. This is a venue that I would certainly recommend to others and who knows – Ken might even let you have a copy of his excellent directions and instructions for food and beverage stops and cultural visits!