View from the heavens at St Michael’s
I’m terrified of heights. So the thought of climbing to the top of St Michael’s church tower wasn’t top of my list of things to do on a sunny Saturday in early September.
But that’s exactly what people could do today at the Stone church as St Michael’s offered visitors a glimpse behind the scenes as part of the Heritage Open Days weekend.
I’d seen the amazing photographs taken by A Little Bit of Stone photographer Josh Cope at the Diamond Jubilee weekend in June from the top of the tower so, against my better judgement, I thought I’d give it a go.
The things I do for this site!
There’s 108 steps up the tower, many of them fairly crumbly, with not a great deal of room to manouvre. Oh, and no handrail either. And plenty of cobwebs and spiders too.
Groups of between six and eight had been making the journey up the tower all day and all had received the health and safety instructions – sensible, flat shoes; no-one allowed up with heart or breathing conditions; no pregnant women allowed. And no-one who was scared of heights. I kept quiet.
First stop on the journey into the heavens was the bell-ringing room, where the St Michael’s bellringers come regularly to fill the town with the amazing sounds of the St Michael’s church bells. You’re probably aware (well I hope you are if you’re a Little Bit of Stone regular!) that the bells are past their best and have to be recast. But more of that later.
Next, after 50 or so of those crumbly stone steps, was the clock room. It was here that I got a sense of how high we’d climbed as you could see the clock faces in the tower (only on three sides – I’d never noticed from the outside). The beautifully intricate mechanism of the clock could be seen in a glass case, tick-tocking rather quietly for such a huge piece of mechanical equipment.
Frustratingly, you could only get a glimpse of the church bells themselves through a gap in a great wooden door in the final descent to the top of the tower. The picture below was taken by pressing my camera right up to a small hole at the top of the door.
As I mentioned earlier, St Michael’s Church needs to recast its bells, and a fundraising drive has been under way for a few months now. There’s been lots of information about this on A Little Bit of Stone. Please donate and help if you can. There’s an autumn ball in October to raise money and lots more details about the Stone Bells Appeal here.
We were nearly at the top now and the sunlight could be seen flooding into the shadowy stairway.
I have to admit, I was getting pretty nervous by this stage. I was remembering those warnings down on ground level about breathing problems and heart conditions and wondering whether I was developing one or both.
But the views from the top were more than worth the fear and the thumping heart. Have a look for yourself…
To be honest I didn’t manage many more pictures than this. I was ready to come down! If you went up the tower today and want to share your photographs, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
I did manage to get a video, though. See if you can spot your house!