Bell Ringing and Castle Treks in Wild Wales

It's not all chutney making and mustachio'd horses here at Llwynaumawr (don't ask me how to pronounce it), our first volunteering farm in Wales.
Mustache. Didn't I tell you?
This lady so does not have time for me.
Hangin' out atop the hills around our hosts' house
There is also the song of bells in the air. I don't mean the simple sound of bells chiming the hour. I mean the actual song of bellsan art that most people know very little of these days. But there are a few people trying to keep it alivea difficult thing, considering most people have to start training in their teenage years in order to become any good at some point within the decade.
Know what I'm sayin? This bell is almost at the point of a full turn, and the ropes hanging below must be pulled just right to get the bell to chime at the right moment. Momentum isn't an easy medium to make music with.
Guys, I hate to tell you, but bell ringing as a musical form is endangeredquite nearly extinct. That we had the chance to experience it at a chapel whose bells were about 1,000 pounds and at least 500 years old is amazing; that we had the chance to actually operate the bells ourselves is nearly unbelievable.

So working for free in isolated towns in tiny countries has it's payoffs, am I right? (that is, if you consider ringing old bells a pay off...which I do.)
Our new friend shows us the ROPES! PUN!

Apparently, if you don't let go of the rope in time it will carry you up to the ceiling and "turn you into spaghetti"
Our current host happens to have the hook-up when it comes to the bell scene in Wales, and we were lucky to be taken to a Tuesday night rehersal at the local Cwmdu Church of The Archangel Michael, where one of the ringers took us to the belltower and explained how the bells worked.
The quaint interior of Cwmdu's local chapel
According to the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers (where can I sign up!?), "Bell ringing is a team activity that stimulates the brain and helps keep you fit ... Many consider ringing to be their contribution to church life, others do it for the pure pleasure and the company it brings."

Fitness? Brain Stimulation! Pure Pleasure!? What are you waiting for? What have we all been waiting for? Let's go out and find some bells!
Up in the belltower Master Bellman explains to us the way the bell swings using an axle and pulley rotation method (see some on the video below). You can see that the bats are also interested in the bell tower.
At any rate, here's a blip of very rural Welsh life for you, a bit of bell-ringing from a man who has been doing it for decades, and a video of five pros at an intimate performance of the bell method "Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place".

In other news, there are even more fun things to do in Wales!
Jumping in old castle courtyards, everybody's idea of good fun.
Recently I embarked with John, a fellow volunteer, and our hosts' daughter to accomplish the three-castle walk to the nearby Skenfirth, Grosmont, and White Castle.
Skenfirth Castle, just doing its best.
We managed the first two castles only (because sometimes footpaths can get crazy and/or we are out of shape), but an amazing picnic and game of hide and seek amongst the ruins of Grosmont Castle made up for any missed castleage.
Hide and seek: guess how many people ended up hiding in the tower? The tower, by the way, is called a "keep tower" and served as the castle's main stronghold and residence (most of their budget went into the walls, apparently)
And if the historic bells and lush countryside of Wales isn't enough, you can always bring it back home with a few s'mores around a bonfire.
John sits with fellow volutneer Chel, Imgoen (the hosts' daughter), and our hosts as we discuss why the marshmallows in Wales do not light on fire.

Next up: A 30-room manor house in South Wales. This is the closest to Downton Abbey I'll ever getstay tuned!


  1. cool, meggz! i wants to plays in castles

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