The Ancient
Society of
Est. 1637

Cardiff Country Meeting 2018
By Pat Moore

When Stephanie Warboys and, later, Simon Meyer were Master of the Society, they each chose South Wales as the location for their peal weekends. Their generous feedback acknowledged the warm welcome and detailed organization that resulted in successful gatherings. So, when Henry Coggill asked if we would be willing to host and arrange the 2018 Country Meeting, we had high standards to live up to.

Cardiff is a small capital city with a population of under 400,000, yet manages to provide a wonderful, green, parkland setting for the civic buildings, university and castle, all within a few hundred yards of the pedestrianised shopping centre which blends Victorian arcades with a large modern shopping mall. Only a mile away is the former dockland area, now regenerated as Cardiff Bay, with the Senedd, Millennium Arts Centre, international sports facilities, restaurants and apartments set around a 500 acre freshwater lake which was formed behind the barrage in 1999.

South Wales is noted for having a number of fine rings of bells, some of which date from what many consider to be Taylor':s finest period of casting. Others have a notable history of significant ringing achievements such as Bridgend (many of Pitman':s performances), Pentre (the heaviest peal in Wales) and Llanfeugan (multiple long lengths). With this in mind, there was plenty of choice for the locations of peal attempts.

In accordance with the usual custom the Junior Steward, Swaz Apter, was responsible for arranging the peal bands; the Secretary, Simon Meyer, arranged the sale of dinner tickets and the seating plan; and two local members, David Moore supported by Matthew Turner, shortlisted, recommended and booked the four venues and the 13 towers for peals and general ringing.

The meeting began with two days of peal attempts, 11 of which were successful - at Abergavenny, Blaenavon, Caerphilly, Chepstow, Ebbw Vale, Llandaff, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport, Pentre, Pontypridd and Usk - and losing just the one attempt, at Bassaleg. It was a pleasure to remember Tudor Edwards with the ringing at Pentre. (Details of the peals rung on the trip are linked from this BellBoard event).

Saturday lunchtime at the Brewhouse and Kitchen

3 excellent pubs had been selected for Thursday and Friday evenings, and the Saturday lunchtime, each having a quite different character, menu and a wide selection of real ales. On Thursday we gathered at The Yard in the Brewery Quarter on the original site of Brains Brewery. Here about 30 members met in a private, airy, upstairs room which was once the company boardroom and now displays photographs of the former owners and directors.

Zero Degrees was our meeting place on Friday evening, a micro brewery located in the former garage of a large hotel with a Grade 2 listed Art Deco facade. On offer were some interesting and unusual beers and lagers, a range of pizzas and pasta dishes and this time about 50 people were seated on a gallery from which we could watch the bartenders, the chefs and the other customers. On both evenings there was a real buzz of lively talking and excitement as old and new friends met.

Saturday offered an opportunity for exploring the sights of Cardiff and/or of further ringing. After an hour of open ringing in the morning at Llandaff Cathedral (this year celebrating the 25th anniversary of the installation of its 25 cwt 12), quite a few people enjoyed walking through the park from Llandaff to the pub for lunch in the Brewhouse and Kitchenwhich offers food and a very wide range of beers, some of whose names relate to local interests - Mochyn Ddu (Black Pig, the former name of this pub), Haka'd Off and Eisteddfod Star.

Matthew Turner welcomes the Society to Cardiff

Another walk through parkland, beside the River Taff, led to St John's church where there was more general ringing, followed by a short business meeting in the nave which 70 members attended. The Master of the Llandaff and Monmouth Association, Matthew Turner, formally welcomed the College Youths to the area in Welsh and in English. Two new members were elected: Harriet Moncrieff from Penmark and Matthew Thewsey of Shiplake).

In the evening the dinner took place in the comfortable and spacious members' hospitality suite at Glamorgan County Cricket Ground in Sophia Gardens, which is now a 16,000 seat stadium and an established venue for international cricket with Ashes matches in 2009 and 2015. The ground is named after the wife of the second Marquis of Bute, whose business success in the development of Cardiff docks and railways for the export of coal contributed significantly to the growth of the city and who was also a major benefactor in the area.

The room has a superb view of the ground itself and then towards the city centre; it also has sliding doors so that on any other day we might have been pleased to step out onto the terrace but on that evening we were only too happy to keep the doors closed and remain within the pleasantly cool air conditioning.

The Master arrives at the Swalec.

Several excellent real ales were available (the stadium is used to serving 20,000 pints a day to cricket fans, so there wasn't much chance of running out). Promptly at 7pm 94 people were seated for a very tasty three course dinner, consisting of home dried tomato and mozzarella tart, chargrilled chicken breast in roast garlic and lemon marinade, followed by chocolate and orange cheesecake. The service was excellent and unobtrusive. Only one speech was made, in which the Master thanked all those who had contributed to the success of this country meeting. Long after the meal was over people continued to move about the room, chatting with old friends, catching up on news and, no doubt, planning future peal attempts.

The following morning Llandaff and St Woolos' Cathedrals and St. John's, Cardiff, were all pleased to welcome the support of some ASCY members for their morning service ringing.

No one could have foreseen a year ago that we would be able to lay on a period of exceptional weather with wall to wall sunshine in this land remembered all too often for its rain. The heat was less welcome for the peal ringers but the warmth of the welcome from the local ringers was generously acknowledged by all.

So ended a very successful and enjoyable country meeting. Thank you all for visiting us again in South Wales and thank you most especially to those who worked so hard throughout the year to make all the arrangements.

  • Eleanor Linford, Ben and Andrew Meyer, The Master, Phill Ridley, Jemma Mills and Saskia Coggill.

  • Stef and John Warboys.

  • Newlyweds Colin and Jill Parker.

  • Nigel Herriott and Helen Maynard.

  • Ann and John White with the Junior Steward, Swaz Apter.

  • The Master with his Stewards.

  • The last members standing, getting daggers from the barman.

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