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13th - 28th August, 2011
Report by Quilla Roth (with assistance from others!)

Some of the UK11 tour group outside Hereford Cathedral

(left to right:  Ross Finbow, Ander Holroyd, Rusty Walters, Duncan Large, Tim Barnes, Eddie Martin, Ann Martin, Chris Jarman, Mary Clark, Cecily Rock, Rick DuPuy, Mike Harrison, Eric Trumpler, Quilla Roth, Greg Russell, David Ockwell, Eve Munns, Simon Linford (organiser), Mae Ellis, Alan Ellis, Peter Brown, Justin Read)

The UK11 Tour for overseas members of the Ancient Society of College Youths convened at the Imperial in Exeter Saturday evening, 13 August. Old friends reunited and new friendships began. Organised by Simon Linford as in 2005 and 2008, the tour of more than 30 people included College Youths (plus 6 spouses) from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Jersey, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United States, as well as the United Kingdom. As we compared notes, the informal consensus was that Ross Finbow and Rusty Walters won the competition for greatest amounts of baggage, and further, that the Exeter University accommodations had a far better view than the accommodations anyone remembered from our own university days. As promised, Simon announced two surprise major “methods of the day” for Sunday, a practice continued on subsequent days. The race was on.

Wasting no time, we rang Sunday morning at Exeter St Thomas, and proceeded immediately to Exeter Cathedral, promptly followed by the 12 at Crediton. This was termed an easy warm-up day in the program notes, so we all realised that we should take seriously the notes’ admonitions about certain towers on subsequent days.

Monday was spent ringing at other towers in Exeter, where we were treated to a demonstration of Devon call changes at St Petrock and especially enjoyed the beautiful eight at Heavitree. On Tuesday, we boarded our first coach, for a day on the East Devon Coast. We caught a glimpse of the chalk cliffs near Lyme Regis, had a wonderful lunch in Colyford, found it hard to resist postcards of Beer, and finished with a Society practice at Withycombe.

Stopping to ring at Gloucester and Cheltenham on the way, the tour moved north on Wednesday to spend eight days based in Birmingham, with excursions from there. By now we were becoming accustomed to ringing with each other and with the many UK members who joined and improved the ringing. The generous amounts of time devoted to UK11 by many UK members of the Society allowed us to ring methods impossible or unlikely at home, and while reminding us how they should be struck.

Thursday brought a sprint through the Cotswolds, with ringing at very nice eights. Not only were the bells and the Cotswolds scenery delightful, but Laith and Jan Reynolds hosted our large group for a lavish tea at their home in Burford. For some now living outside the UK, this enjoyable occasion brought back childhood memories of favorite teatime treats such as lardy cake.

Following a day for peals or leisure, the “Evesham Cup” striking competition took place at Aston on Saturday. The international band did not make it to the final round, and York retained the trophy. Great amounts of homemade chilli, sandwiches, sweets, beer, and even tea were consumed as a crowd of more than 100 listened and chatted.

After a Sunday of 12 and 16-bell ringing, we had a Monday of 10s, including some of the more challenging rings of the tour, and finishing with the 139 steps at Ludlow. That evening, bodies and spirits were assuaged by a festive dinner at the home of Heather and Chris Kippin.

The weather turned for our next day in London, but the rain did not dampen our enjoyment of the five towers visited, including the new 12s at St Magnus and Cornhill. Nor did it prevent a brief but very welcome stop at the excellent Market Porter after Southwark Cathedral.

After another day for peals and leisure, the tour moved to its third and final base, Sheffield. An excellent circuit through the Peak District followed on Friday, the seven towers including several of historic or culinary interest, such as Bakewell, where Eleanor Linford, cleverly surprised us with several tarts (or were they puddings?), which quickly disappeared. During lunch, which was the last UK11 gathering, Mike Harrison, on behalf of all the UK11 participants, presented Simon and Eleanor with a Steuben crystal nautilus, symbolizing perfection, which we all thought they had achieved in this year’s tour.

The last day brought more ringing at Sheffield towers, of course, as we joined the Country Meeting of the Society. This provided a rare opportunity for overseas members to attend a meeting of the Society in person. The final event of the tour was the Country Meeting Dinner at Cutlers Hall, with its displays of historic Sheffield silver and cutlery. In keeping with the Sheffield tradition of beer excellence, locally brewed beer was available, and we had the chance to thank the brewer in person for her craft. The dinner was well attended and was joyous, but also sad, combining mingling and leave-taking.

Some things remembered besides ringing and the wonderful churches and countryside were the variety of coach drivers, including a left/right challenged one (not good when being guided by the GPS lady); the day we had to fill the coach’s washroom with luggage in order to fit everyone and their luggage on the coach; the clapper falling out at Leominster (Laura Davies clearly rings too hard!); the impossibility of taking a shower at the University of Exeter without also showering the whole bathroom. We especially remember and thank all the people who so wonderfully organized and joined us on our outings.

The tour had close to 60 hours of general ringing on dozens of greatly varying rings of bells, with six quarter peals and six peals also scored. The ringing stretched our abilities in techniques of learning, in expanding the repertoire, and in handling, listening, seeing, striking, and error reduction while ringing. As we return home and share what we’ve learned, the impact of the Society’s outreach is felt literally around the world.

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