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Cathedral Camping
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It was during my rebellious months at Hereford Sixth Form College that I heard an old legend. This legend told a brave tale of a valiant knight who scaled the lofty heights of Hereford Cathedral Tower in order to rescue his Princess.

This captured my imagination, and so not two weeks later everything was in place to carry out a daring plan.

Sarah, Tom and myself looked up from the ground at the huge Hereford Cathedral that stood before us. For some months it had been undergoing extensive restoration work as the ancient stone blocks were crumbling under the stress of life in the 20th century.

Because of this, scaffolding rose from the ground to envelope one corner of the tower above: unfortunately the only way to reach it was over a 3 metre wooden fence which has a healthy dose of coiled barbed wire running along the top.

Picturing the fence as the society that was trying to impose its rules upon as young adults, we took great pleasure in throwing our huge rucksacks over and then one by one climbing it with the aid of an adjacent wall and six very sticky shoes. It was quite a painful procedure as the barbs bit deeply, but it was a necessary part of the adventure.

rollover image: please wait for it to load if it doesn't change!  Click here for  photos taken from the Cathedral tower
Joseph, age 16/17, and Niki Sherrat

Next was one of the most stressful parts - getting onto the first roof. The only way up was via the workmen's lift. This consisted of a narrow steel beam up which a small petrol-powered platform would climb. Keeping as quiet as possible, two of us began the slow, painfully stressful climb, which was made all the more difficult as our "ladder" was covered in thick black grease. If we were going to be seen it would be at this point as we were still pretty close to the ground, and there was a perfect view from Church Street below of the section up which we were climbing. By the time we reached the top we were absolutely filthy and pretty tired, but the adrenaline was pumping and so we didn't hesitate in getting phase two underway: pulling the rucksacks up.

Having discreetly lowered a long climbing rope, the rucksacks were attached by Tom who was waiting below and the hauling began. We flinched with every tug as the bags were prone to swaying, and there were several occasions when Tom (who was now following them up) had to try and nudge them free after they'd got stuck under a supporting scaffolding pole.

Still, eventually they made it (as did Tom).

Having reached the first roof we felt a lot safer. The final climb up the tower itself was to be made on the East side which was not as exposed as the North up which we had just come. Here, there was plenty of regular scaffolding and ladders, making it a lot easier! Our main concern of course was being spotted, but once again fortune smiled upon us and not a soul appeared on the streets below.

Jumping down onto the roof of the tower we felt ecstatic, and wasted no time in erecting our tent, cracking open the beer and cooking up a lovely meal of baked beans and fried eggs with our little camp stove. As the night wore on we became significantly louder and more carefree. In fact, at 3am I found myself lowering the St. George's Cross flag, and replacing it with my favourite pair of patchwork jeans. I was very fond of those well-known trousers; to see them fly above Hereford was a proud moment indeed.

Sarah Kennedy and Tom
Cathedral Tower Campsite

As dawn approached, so we packed up our party and descended. It was a lot easier than the climb up as we could now use the scaffolding as fireman's poles. Scrambling over the barbed wire fence we slipped quietly back into society, where we became well-behaved students who would never dream of breaking the law.

Since that night I have been quite fond of Hereford Cathedral.

I'm sure that other teenagers have also scaled it's lofty heights, although I'd be surprised to hear of a similar party taking place. I did actually attempt it once again a few weeks later with my two best friends. Unfortunately we were caught by the police just after we'd begun our climb and, as a result, we ended up having to spend that night camping downwind of a sewage treatment plant.

© Joseph Tame 2000~2009 | Contact Joseph