Jill Roberts organised the January Tour, which saw the tour in West Oxfordshire. Unfortunately, due to the icy conditions, Sandra and I didn't attend. The first tower was to be All Saints at Middleton Stoney with its 6 bells (9½cwt), the three middle bells of which are by Henry Bagley III, as a reminder that this church is local to where the Bagley dynasty operated. The next tower Jill arranged, the 8,16½cwt, at St Mary the V, Kirtlington, similarly includes bells by Henry Bagley III, along with those by Rudhall, Mears and John Taylor. I heard later there was some problem with lunch booked at Sturdy's Castle Inn, so this had to be taken elsewhere. The first tower of the afternoon was arranged to be St Nicholas, Tackley, where the bells, 6, 14cwt, have recently been given some restoration work. Again there is a reminder of local bellfounders, as given by the three bells cast by Richard Keene of Woodstock. Our last tower was St Giles, Bletchingdon. The bells, 6, 8cwt, include two by local founders: Matthew Bagley III and Edward Hemins of Bicester. Thank you, Jill. I'm sorry we couldn't to be with you on this occasion.
The February Outing, in North Oxfordshire this time, was organised by Michael Haynes and required our muscle immediately, as our first tower was Our Lady of Bloxham, with its 8 bells, 27cwt. This was a different approach to starting with a light ring! The bells here are quite majestic. The ring includes an ancient and rare bell by Buckingham founder John Appowell, dated about 1570. The tenor is a local bell, too, being cast by James Keene of Woodstock; and it may be his largest. The 8 bells at our next tower, St Mary, Adderbury, were lighter, but only slightly, 24cwt, and were originally a complete ring by John Briant of Hertford, but the 3rd and the 6th have since been recast. Lunch followed, allowing us to ease our muscles in The Joiner's Arms at Bloxham! The first tower of the afternoon, SS Peter & Paul, Deddington, continued the reduction-in-weight theme: 8,16cwt. These bells were an interesting contrast to the local founders, being pure London: back 6 by Thomas Mears and the trebles by Mears & Stainbank. A further reduction in weight occurred at the next tower, SS Peter & Paul, Swalcliffe, where the bells, 6, are a mere 13cwt! These were originally a complete ring by Matthew I & Henry Bagley II, when they operated from Chacombe. Sadly, the 3rd needed recasting a few years later. Perhaps it was a good idea to have the heavy towers first and gradually reduce! Thank you Michael.
March's tour, organised by Geoff Pratt, kept us very local: between Evesham and Stratford-on-Avon. SS Mary & Milburgh, Offenham, 6, 10½cwt, was our first tower on this still-wintry day, but the small Ringing Room and heater warmed us. A locally-cast bell hangs here, being one of the earliest by Evesham founder William Clarke. After this it was a short trip to St Nicholas, Middle Littleton, where we put the 6, 13cwt, to good use. These were originally a complete ring of 5 arising from a unique collaboration between Matthew Bagley I, William Bagley & Henry Bagley II, when all were operating at Chacombe. Lunch followed at the Broom Hall Inn, from where we went to St Lawrence, Bidford-on-Avon, with its 8, 14cwt. The last tower of the day was St Peter, Welford-on-Avon, with its pretty, all-Taylor 8, 9cwt, providing a very tuneful end to another pleasant day's ringing. Thank you for this tour, Geoff, from which I could return quickly to my fireside to beat the unseasonably cold weather!
The number of beautiful churches, towns, villages and counties we have visited! The first tower was Belbroughton nearly 24 years ago, and since then we have rung in 15 different counties.