Mr. Spider and I had a quick getaway in Durham a few months ago and we did some careful planning so that we did an interesting practice to go to every evening. This necessitated regular visits to my favourite webpage, the Dove Postcode Search Page:
By keying in the postcode district, and then specifying how far we are prepared to drive, we can get an instant overview of the towers that we might choose to visit. If impatience is getting the better of you and you just want to have a go yourself, click the picture above and you can visit the page yourself.
I will use as an example, the towers we visited on our last mini-ringing-break, which was in County Durham. The postcode of our accommodation was DH3.
A 20-mile radius of DH3 (that’s shown in the little inset box at the top) has found 57 towers, or 6 pages, sorted to show the closest ones first. The easiest way to plan is one evening at a time, so start with Monday and click “Go” again:
Now the criteria that a bellringer will apply to make their choice will be very personal. I would however pass on a comment that was made to me, that as a webmaster I took very seriously indeed:
I will only visit a tower if it has a friendly website and I am confident that I will be able to ring the methods that I am trying to learn. I travel by bus when on holiday, and I simply cannot afford to waste an entire evening….I came to this practice because you advertised it as a Monthly Triples Practice and specifically mentioned Grandsire.
And another, quite surprising, thing I learned in the pub after a recent local special practice, was that 50% of the ringers present never phone ahead when they are visiting a practice night. If they can’t reassure themselves that the practice will be actually taking place, from the website, then they will not bother to visit. The other 50% were happy to phone ahead. But that is only possible if there is a website with the phone number clearly available. (By the way, there were 3 tower captains present at the discussion and all of them were in the “never phone ahead” group).
Of course, there are other ways of finding out the phone numbers and/or more information about the towers – as far as I know, every tower is listed on its own Guild’s website and the majority of Guilds will display a phone number if they are given one to display. Guild vary, the best tower pages hold a wealth of information and/or a further link through to the tower’s own website. Sadly not all the Tower Captains have notified Dove that they have a web page at all – if this includes you then click here!
When we went on this holiday, I was trying my best to get ropesight on ten, so that narrowed the choice down to Sunderland or Gosforth. The website for All Saints Gosforth certainly meets the “friendly” criterion (nothing like a nice photo of the band) and Mr. Spider had rung there when he was a student, and remembered the bells as being very nice ones. This left only the dilemma of “to phone or not to phone”. (Mr. Spider is one of the non-phoning variety of visitors.) I phoned. Ten miles is really too far to drive and find they have cancelled… The tower captain was very helpful and delighted that we were planning to come along that evening, although he couldn’t promise ten bell ringing or the Stedman I said I would love to ring.
We had a lovely evening – several of the band recognised Mr. Spider and they kept us busy at the start ringing to support their very healthy and enthusiastic group of learners. Half an hour in the door opened, another ringer walked in, and Paul said “Oh, now we’ve got a Stedman band!”
At 9 o’clock we all rolled off to the pub and Paul mentioned “If you hadn’t phoned ahead, I wouldn’t have known to plan the Stedman in”.
If you’re still reading at this point and you want to share your thoughts on visiting other practice nights, or on finding out about towers, please do use the reply box below, and I will incorporate your response. If you prefer to remain anonymous then just say so.