On Friday 10th May a group of five ringers from St Leonards in Seaford and two from Staffordshire made their way to Winchester to walk the South Downs Way. Thanks to Mary Burr for contributing this article!
As the train rattled along towards Winchester we began to realise that it was a very long walk back! Eventually we arrived to find other ringers from Seaford and nearby towers having tea in the cathedral tearooms. Just before 4.00pm we nervously made our way up the 100 steps and along the precipitous edge of the nave roof to the ringing chamber where our trepidation in my case turned to fear! Luckily for us Jonathan Franklin from Ringmer was on hand to organise us. He did such a good job that although eight out of twelve of us had never rung on 12 bells before we could be very proud of our performance. It felt like such a privilege to have had that opportunity and what a way to start our walk!
Saturday morning found us beside the King Alfred statue for our first photo. The weather was fine and Winchester was looking incredibly beautiful in the sun as we set off for our first hill. Wearily we arrived in Meonstoke in time for a hot bath before ringing at West Meon followed by dinner and a glass of wine and so the pattern of our days was set. Each day we would walk between 12 and 15 miles before ri
There are so many fantastic memories; incredible views, rescuing a black sheep which was inextricably tangled in brambles, disturbing a hare when looking for a convenient bush, the startling colour of a flock of yellowhammers which took to the air as we approached and the wildflowers which seemed far more plentiful and colourful than usual due to the late spring. One of the things that made our journey really special was the opportunity to ring at so many churches and meet the people who ring in them; Christine at Washington who thoughtfully made us a cup of tea and unlocked the toilet for us, the lady at Meonstoke who thanked us for chiming their two bells on Sunday morning so expertly, the people who were rightly so proud of their towers and the ones who warned us that it might not be the best ring! The welcome was always warm and helped to keep us going. We really valued the support of local bellringers who turned up, often after a very early start, to walk with us and encourage us on our way. We quickly developed a real sense of companionship and camaraderie which will stay with us and be a lasting legacy of our journey.
Our last day was a fitting end to the walk. Several ringers from Seaford, Eastbourne and Ringmer joined us at Southease for the walk to Alfriston where we had a pub lunch before ringing at the church. We then climbed back up to the top of the downs, finally finishing our walk at the foot of Beachy Head in the early evening. A welcoming party was waiting for us and they whisked us off (thankfully in cars) to All Saints church in Eastbourne for our final ring.
In all we walked a hundred miles and rang at a cathedral and thirteen churches, eleven with peals of six or eight bells and two where we chimed the two bells. We all made new friends and had a holiday that we will remember for ever.
Many congratulations to the Seaford Seven and their many friends who joined them along the route of the South Downs Way! Walking and ringing their way from Winchester Cathedral to All Saint's Eastbourne was a superb achievement. What on earth will they get up to next?!