First SRCY Tour of Australia (and Hawaii)
The tour begins ..... in Perth
Who in their right mind would take on sorting out the following logistical nightmare?.....
39 Cumberlands respond to the opportunity of a 3-week tour to Australia (Perth, Adelaide & Sydney). 16 wish to travel 'directly'; 19 wish to stopover in Singapore; 10 wish to extend the tour to Hawaii; 1 wants the Perth week only; 1 wants to travel via New Zealand; X wish to ring lots of peals; Y wish to ring only 1 or 2; Z want to stay in a hotel and the remainder in the YHA.
Whether in his right mind or not, Graham (Ben) Duke bravely took on the task, assisted with travel arrangements by Alan Regin. Deposits had been paid in February 2006, and for ages the trip seemed only a 'virtual' arrangement with e-mails arriving periodically from Ben/Alan to ask for more money! However, as 20 April 2007 got nearer the excitement began to mount. Then we were dealt the dreadful blow of Ann Bethell's sudden death, leaving those who knew her shocked and saddened. She was in our thoughts throughout the tour. Another member had to drop out at the last minute due to injury, so the final party numbered 37.
Jo Dorling had already left for New Zealand, and Alan Regin was flying via Sydney (don't ask!), so on 20 April 35 Cumberlands left Heathrow on 3 flights for Singapore. Most of those travelling in the evening were stopping over in Singapore, apart from the 3 poor souls who had drawn the short straws and were due to arrive in Perth at 0030 on Sunday. Alan did a noble job of meeting everyone at Perth, not much fun when you have arrivals after midnight two nights running. Thank you, Alan.
Perth was a place of contrasts as far as our ringing went. The Swan Bells (16 – the back 12 are the old Rudhall bells from St Martin in the Fields) weigh in at 29 cwt. The 'suburb rings' at Claremont (6) and Mosman Park (8), and the rings at Mandurah (8 – 1½ hours drive south), Rockingham (8 – 1 hr south) and York (8 – 2 hrs drive east) are all no heavier than 7½ cwt. Unfortunately, St George's Cathedral (8, 11 cwt) was not available due to restoration work on the building. The Swan Bells tower is a unique installation situated on the Swan River in the centre of Perth. Open to the paying public, it is designed to allow the bells and the ringing room to be on show (the latter through one-way windows). Timely warnings were given to those peal ringers who usually change shirts/trousers in the ringing room! The secure ringing room 'suite' also includes an administration office, a kitchen, and fitted ringing library bookcases which Guild Librarians would kill for.
On Sunday, early risers went to Claremont (6½ cwt) for service ringing. We were then provided with the first opportunity for the Society's reunion with the St Martin's bells, with an extended general practice followed by a peal for those who had arrived at a civilised hour the previous day. A quarter peal and general ringing on Monday gave the stopover group (arr 0030 Mon morning) their first visit. Tuesday's 'heavy 12' peal was followed by a reception and official welcome by the Lord Mayor of Perth, and then another general practice. No such thing as heading for the pub after Swan peals this week, but then you can't make cups of tea in most towers!
With a heavy schedule of ringing, the week became very busy as people tried to ring at all the towers and see something of Perth and surrounding area. 5 hired Toyota people-carriers were put to good use. Some drivers relied on Sat-Nav, which mostly worked well. Other drivers used the old-fashioned map method - unintentional detours were counted as 'sightseeing'!
Daytime ringing at Mandurah and York gave opportunity to see these pleasant towns. General ringing followed Monday's peal at Mandurah (7½ cwt), with the hordes then returning via the practice at Rockingham Civic Centre. These tiny bells (3¼ cwt) are located at the top of a tall concrete tower and were a real test of our bell-handling – especially the fiendishly light-set 2nd. The morning peal at St Hilda's, Mosman Park (4¼ cwt) was unfortunately lost, but two other attempts there, one hastily organised for the morning of our leaving, were successful
Wednesday 25 April was ANZAC Day – similar to our Remembrance Day – and had been left free apart from an evening practice at Claremont. Alan & Jo sampled the complete ANZAC Day experience – heading up to Kings Park at 4.30 am for the dawn service. Others less hardy opted for the city centre parade at 9.30! We gathered at Claremont in the evening for their practice, followed by a very enjoyable meal with the local ringers at Hans Café (excellent Asian food at very reasonable prices). The Guildford Guild members were particularly pleased to be joined here by Michael Bryant, back in Perth during time off-duty from work.
Further peals at York, Claremont and Swan on Thursday and Friday were again followed by general ringing at the latter, and then a farewell social in the Swan Bells entrance foyer. This was attended by many of the Perth area ringers as well as the touring party and we appreciated the refreshments and pizza provided by the locals. Thanks to all the towers visited during the week were given by Derek Sibson, and a presentation made to each. We had been made so welcome and would leave Perth with warm memories of our time there. The UK Cumberlands were eventually shepherded into place for a group photo (bravely taken by Jocelyn balancing precariously on the foyer counter), and the Perth ringers had the compliment returned. After this there had to be a 'last night' gathering in the local pub/bar, so off went the diehards to The Lucky Shag (yes, I'm afraid so).
In addition to all the ringing we managed to fit in many tourist activities, including river cruises; visits to Kings Park & Botanic Gardens (spectacular views of the city and river), The Perth Mint, The Art Gallery of WA, Perth Zoo and Freemantle; and trips further afield to Penguin Island (where Ben and Rosemary were soaked from head to foot, and his camera rendered useless by an unexpected wave), Hillarys Boat Harbour, Caversham Wildlife Park and the Aquarium. A very hectic but enjoyable week.
After a week of mostly glorious weather in Perth we flew to a cool damp Adelaide, a process greatly eased by Roger Lubbock who turned up at the hotel with his truck and trailer to transport luggage to the airport. Only three days in Adelaide, with one peal each day, but Sunday gave plenty of opportunities to grab towers for service ringing and quarters, and there was a practice at the Town Hall on the Monday. The magnificent bells at St Peter's were, perhaps, everyone's favourite and eight lucky people rang a peal of Cambridge Major there. Twelve less lucky rang a peal of Yorkshire Max (surely someone's favourite method) at St. Francis Xavier and Matthew Sorrell joined the tourists for a good peal of Yorkshire Major in the detached tower at St. Cuthbert's Prospect, despite his wife's threat of going into labour if the striking was not good enough (we were pleased to hear she gave birth safely a couple of weeks later). On Sunday evening the tram proved a popular way of getting to Glenelg where Stuart Talbot had booked "Sammy's" restaurant overlooking the sea to celebrate his 60th birthday – a splendid evening with local wines, fine sea–food, and other Aussie tucker. Many of us got drenched in a torrential down–pour on the journey and were thanked by the locals for bringing some much needed rain.
When not ringing peals, there was plenty of time for sight–seeing, including a wine tasting tour to the Barrosa valley arranged by Fiona Wheeler. This proved to be particularly therapeutic for Richard Hobbs, who showed how nimble he could be on his crutches when the need arose. We found that bellringing is not unknown at Jacob's Creek where the tasting room has a peal board commemorating the peal of Jacob's Creek Surprise Royal rung at Thorverton in 2003. Another group sampled a river boat trip on the Murray River which afforded many opportunities to spot and photograph the large variety of native birds.
For our last evening in Adelaide, David and Elizabeth Bleby invited us all to their house to meet again many of the local ringers and to sample David's impressive stock of Australian wines – we thank them for a splendid and memorable conclusion to our short stay in South Australia. Sadly, even the local wine could not cure Richard's bad leg and he decided to return home early when the rest of us flew on to Sydney.
Back to the warm weather for our arrival in Sydney, a city with plenty to offer both ringers and sightseers. Many in city attractions and some wonderful countryside only an hour or two drive away. Almost everyone took advantage of the weekly travel passes which seemed like a bargain to us and gave unlimited travel on the buses, trains and ferries. For those used to sparrows and blackbirds the surprise is that you didn't have to look far to see all sorts of multicoloured birds in the trees. The dawn chorus here makes a really different sound and takes a bit of getting used to.
Who holds the record for the most pictures of Sydney Opera House from all angles on land and sea is a mystery but between us we must have amassed a large collection, although no–one admits to taking any underwater shots.
This is not a place for people who aren't too keen on heights. The wide staircase on the approach to the Opera House is a bit daunting, the Sky Tower offers spectacular views of the city but anyone managing less than 5 minutes before getting back in the lift to terra firma didn't get the full value out of their entry ticket. Some of the braver members of the party took the Harbour Bridge climb which is certainly not for the faint–hearted. The glass bottomed cable car at Katoomba in the blue mountains was definitely off the menu for some. The stairs at St Mary's wear you down with a monumental climb before launching you into a trip across the roof and an open metal stairway into the ringing chamber. Some of us hadn't got the hang of it even after the fifth visit.
On the Saturday evening Pam Brock had organised a superb dinner for the visiting party and Sydney ringers. We were also joined by ringers from Melbourne. The ABC canteen proved to be a great venue and the catering excellent providing several courses and portions that overloaded the plates. Short speeches preceded the dinner and a presentation was made to the Sydney ringers. Some impromptu handbell ringing followed. There was an opportunity for a photo of the touring party and one of the whole group present.
Tom Goodyer, Basil Potts, Stephen Wheeler, Michael Marshall, John Barnes, Peter Blight, Ian Smith, Paul Cammiade, Nicholas Haggett, Ian Mills, John Fryer, Alan Regin, Elaine Lee, Andrew Preston, Maggie Fisher, Tony Wyatt , Michael O'callaghan, Stuart Talbott, Ben Duke, John Ford, Derek Sibson, Pam Brock, Jenny Davies, Helen Pettit, Jim Woolford.
Second Row seated:
Bill Perrins, Angela Franklin, Graham Harman, Rosemary Duke, Richard Thomas, Samantha George, Natalie Shea, Kath Hardy, Paul Doyle (crouching), Beryl Norris, Jane Sibson, Clarissa Caroe, Louise Hamilton–Glover, Fiona Wheeler, Sue Page, Hiliary Davies (behind Sue), Josephine Horton, Vicki Talbott, Andrew Davies.
Thomas Perrins, David Bath, Esther Perrins, Catherine Merlane, Miranda Buck, Christine Carter, Ann Cook, Ann Smith, Janet Menhinick, Yvonne Towler, Joanne Dorling, Deborah Talbott, Annette Harman, Lexi Prabhaker.
On the last night we all joined a get together in the Edinburgh Castle pub and a presentation with all our thanks was given to Ben for all his organising, Rosemary for her assistance, Alan for sorting out the flights and Derek for the difficult task of allocating people to peals.
Of course no–one is going to mention what was wrong with Derek's hire car that necessitated a change of vehicle before it left the Avis car park!!
While most of the group returned to England from Sydney, nine of us (it should have been 10 with Richard) continued eastwards to Honolulu. The flight crossed both the Equator and International Date Line en–route, thus arriving over 10 hours before we took off and allowing us to join the Sunday morning service ringing at St Andrews Cathedral almost 24 hours after doing the same in Sydney. While we rang two peals and attended two practices with the local ringers (one devoted to polishing their Cambridge Major) during our six days in Hawaii, we also found plenty of time to enjoy the many wonderful sights of these tropical islands.
The highlights included the rainforest within Honolulu's city limits; the many surfing beaches, although the surf was very subdued as we were there in the early summer; and two visits to the flooded volcanic crater of Hanauma where access to the beach is only allowed after paying $5 and watching a short film on conservation of the coral. However this is well worthwhile as one can then paddle amongst the brightly coloured fish, while the snorkelling is even better; All in all, Hawaii provided a very welcome relaxation, especially for the organisers and was rounded off by an invitation to the home of Bob and Martha Aldinger, on the hill overlooking Pearl Harbour, where the CC President's wife showed off her grass skirt and we were able to swim in our hosts' pool, although this did presage the first rain of our Hawaiian visit. Our thanks to Bob and Martha for a fitting finale to our tour.
Our return to England was the most tiring journey of all as it involved two consecutive overnight flights. In between, we had to endure nearly 12 daylight hours in L.A. where some of us relieved the boredom with a visit to the J. Paul Getty Museum. This was a bit of a misnomer for a purpose–built art gallery housing a vast collection in five interlinked buildings on a hill overlooking the city.
As well as the peals and quarters detailed below, we also joined 16 practices and helped out with 20 Sunday service ringing sessions. Thanks are due to all the tower correspondents and tower captains who helped us, but I would particularly like to thank Richard Offen, Matthew Sorrell, Pam Brock and Jim Woolford who were a massive help in sorting out the Australian ringing arrangements, and Pam Verrey and Bob Aldinger who did a similar job in Hawaii for us. Personally I would like thank the whole group for the 100–year old prints of the Sydney Cathedrals presented to me which will serve as a permanent reminder of a wonderful holiday.