Friday, 9 September 2016

Brecon Cathedral Tower

"Feel the fear and do it anyway."
I'm mildly afraid of heights, enough that looking down on a steep drop is a fairly traumatic experience - but this was a chance to see parts of Brecon Cathedral that are not normally open to the public.
When we got up there, we could understand why!
There's quite an extensive warning in the Brecknock History Week brochure about the dangers. The taller of us were given hard hats, which we needed! The passages are narrow, the roof is low, and there are low door frames as well. The spiral staircases are also very narrow.
But we were climbing up inside the walls of the cathedral, and there are points along the passage ways with magnificent views down into the body of the cathedral from really quite high up. Originally, a lot of the climb would have been in darkness, but modern technology means there is an LED strip all the way along, which was most useful.
The cathedral bell ringers are obviously made of stern stuff, because this is the only route to the ringing chamber. Two of the guides were also bell ringers - one of them has been a ringer for 50 years - and the woman bell ringer said that they have two girls on the team now from the Guides.
There are ten bells in the tower, three from the original peal of five bells, which were cast in Gloucester in 1745, and seven which were cast in Holland about twenty years ago, when the original bells were upgraded. There were six bells at one time, but one of them disappeared when building work was being done in the tower many years ago. The other two bells which were not re-used in the present peal are in the cathedral museum.
They have a little monitor in the corner of the ringing chamber where they can see the bells above them, which is quite fun. And then we were given earmuffs and taken up to the bell chamber to see the bells at close hand, and hear them ringing!
Finally we got up onto the roof - and the views were worth the climb!
It took us about an hour, and it was fascinating, and well worth the £5 charge. We were surprised that there weren't more people on the tours, but we three from Hay practically had a private viewing. There was another chap at the beginning, who bypassed the bells because he was short of time, but they only had three people booked for each of the three tours. As we came out, the next three people were waiting, festooned with camera equipment.

This afternoon, St Mary's Church in Brecon had the tower open as well, so those who felt inclined could inspect both peals of bells in Brecon - and that tour was free!

After the tour, we went over to the cafe for a coffee - and if you hand in your car park ticket, you get £1 back.

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