A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Climb every mountain or 49 Steps – I wish!

I had a spare moment the other day so I started doing some calculating – and the result surprised me.
Last year the virgers decided to promote tours inside the roof of the Minster as a way of raising funds, as well as letting visitors go ‘behind the scenes’.
It’s fascinating up there – we’ve got the largest surviving mediaeval tread wheel crane in England (which we still use) and you can see the raw structure of the church, how it was built and maintained over the centuries.
There are some good human stories to tell up there as well so, when you combine that with the views to north and south we reckon it’s a grand way to spend a fiver.
That’s not just my opinion – it’s a rare tour that doesn’t end with almost everyone beaming happily after an entertaining 60 minutes or so.
It also provides the virger with the perfect excuse to get away from routine cleaning duties in the nave:
“Sorry, John.  I am currently escorting a party of visitors in the roof and I shall be unable to operate our dust-sucking Henry for another 35 minutes, minimum, Please pass my apologies to the dust.”
Of course this statement is made in the sure knowledge that dust, like the poor, will always be with us.
The downside to the roof tours, of course, (or should that be the upside?) is the steps –113 of them to be precise, which my unfit 16 stone bulk has to ascend every time I take a group aloft – and last bank holiday I did that climb seven times in total.
The steps themselves aren’t too bad, even for someone like me who also has a touch of vertigo, because they’re in a spiral with no handrail to look over, they are nice and regular and the staircase itself is well lit.
By the end of the climb you’re 70 foot about the ground (or 20 metres for those of you born after Led Zeppelin broke up) and the view alone is normally well worth the effort.
On a good day you see the north Humber coastline and both towers of the Humber Bridge quite clearly from the South Transept Window so I always let people have a good long look – it gives the spots in front of my eyes time to go away.
One day, as I waited for the last member of the party to emerge from the passageway at the top I started to wonder how high I’d have climbed if I added all my trips together.
Back on terra firma I eventually found a piece of paper and a pencil (it’s what we used to do sums in the olde days before calculators – I was quite good at it.)
For once I wasn’t interrupted and, after a long period of scribbling and crossing out I came with an answer. Then I did it again and got a different answer. Then I did it again, this time with a pocket calculator.
Anyway, taking some reasonable guesses at the average size of each party (six adults, a bit less than the 25 we could take each trip) and assuming that my boss John and I have done roughly the same number of trips each, then it would appear that we’ve both climbed 15,000 feet this year – over half the height of Mount Everest. 
No wonder we’re tired. 
But despite this we’re still willing to do the tours, twice a day (other church commitments permitting) and more often on special occasions. So if you’ve got nothing better to do for an hour or so at 11.15am or 2.15pm, Monday to Saturday and you fancy joining the virgers in some indoor mountaineering why not pop in and see if we’re doing one.
I’ll be honest, I need the exercise.

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