Recent Mid-Week Monthly Tours
There is a further change to the format of this article this time: a photo, and Isobel has instituted a system of 'guest reporters' for these tours. This makes the whole feature a good read.
The October tour
Twenty four ringers made their way to the picturesque villages south of Brize Norton airfield in Oxfordshire for the October mid-week outing. The journey was a little longer than usual for those travelling from the north but all were outdone by Pat Halls' dedication in returning from Australia for the day's ringing. St Luke's little summer arrived a day early after torrential rain earlier in the week and we were treated to fine warm weather for the whole of our day out.
The first tower, Clanfield, is a ground floor ring where fund raising is in progress for a substantial overhaul to the bells and fittings untouched since augmentation to eight in 1905. The bells went better than we have expected and, after touches of Stedman and Plain Bob Major, half a course of Cambridge was rung. This was followed by Double Norwich and Grandsire before the lower.
Next to another eight at Buckland where a door in the outside wall leads up a spiral stairway and across the top of a nave screen to the central tower. A board records that these bells were retuned by Whitechapel and rehung by Whites in 2010. Grandsire was rung first, followed by Yorkshire and Plain Bob Major. The conductor's call of 'Go Plain Bob Triples' at the start of the next touch was immediately contradicted by the rest of the band, who had all caught hold for Single Oxford. Once that method had been rung successfully, eight-spliced was attempted by the next band. Starting from London, the touch was safely completed under the watchful eye of Geoff Pratt. Some of the party then couldn't resist trying out the handbells on display and ringing the Saxilby simulator before we left the tower for lunch.
The 'Chequers' in Charney Bassett provided excellent 'pub grub' matched by a choice of ales including Pedigree and Hobgoblin although, judging by the glasses on the table, the local Brakspear was the most popular. A tempting choice of sweets delayed some from setting out for the next church.
A light ground floor six at Hinton Waldrist proved ideal for the start of the afternoon's ringing and we began with Stedman. This was followed by Cambridge, London, Cambridge again and then a very rapid course of Norwich before finishing with Plain Bob. An interesting feature of the church is a window of old French glass in a side chapel commemorating Airey Neave, a former resident of the village.
Northmoor was the final tower of the day where, due to uncertainty over whether we should be met, for a minute or two we could only look up at the gallery inscribed in 1701 by its builder, Richard Lydall, with a request that ringers should pray for him. Fortunately, a lady flower arranger had a key and we were soon ringing Stedman and then Cambridge. There had been some muttering among the enthusiasts about 'crankshafts' and 'Carlisle over Beverley' and they duly rang their course of Chester. Those who didn't aim so high variously took hold for Plain Bob Minor, London and Grandsire to complete a good day's ringing. Many thanks to Isobel and Keith for all the arrangements.
The November tour
The 289th mid week outing of the Four Shires Guild on 21 November was arranged by Sandra Parker and our thanks go to her for a well organized day.
Our first tower was Holy Trinity, Stratford upon Avon, (19cwt 10). I counted 25 ringers there; I think a couple more joined a bit later. The narrow spiral staircase with some narrow treads meant access to the tower was not easy. The second bell was not easy to handle, but apart from that they are a fine ring of bells, which sounded excellent outside.
A party of Japanese tourists arrived in the church just as were about to go up the tower. If they were listening they heard Grandsire Caters, Bob Caters, Cambridge Royal and rounds & call changes to finish.
The second tower was Aston Cantlow (14cwt 6). One or two people found the open wrought iron spiral staircase to the ringing chamber not to their liking. Not an easy 6 to ring well, the 5th was difficult to get to strike when ringing it up and also to chime when nearly down. I was told it was cast in 1410 and is a slightly different shape to a more modern bell. We rang Bob Minor, Norwich, Cambridge, Stedman and Double Court.
Then to lunch at the Twisted Boot at Kings Coughton. I entered the postcode into my sat-nav and in the middle of Alcester it informed me "You have reached your destination"! No sign of a twisted boot, perhaps it had untwisted and walked off! I was able to find a map for the pub on my phone, which indicated it was about a mile further on. I think one or two others experienced a similar problem. An excellent value (and quality), "all you can eat" buffet lunch was available, which some hungry ringers made the most of.
After lunch we rang at Coughton (11cwt 6). The church is in the splendid grounds of Coughton Court, a National Trust property. It has been occupied by the Throckmorton family since 1409. I read that it holds a unique place in English history with its close connections to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Gaining access through the security gates provided a challenge. We rang Bob Minor, Cambridge, Stedman, London, Double Oxford and Original.
Our last tower was Studley (11cwt 8). The ringing chamber had a very low ceiling and the sallies tended to muffle the sound at back stroke, otherwise they were a good ring and tapped along quite well. We rang Plain Bob Major, Grandsire, Cambridge, call changes, Stedman and 8-Spliced.
The weather obliged with a sunny day, if a little chilly.
The December tour
The 290th outing was held in towers between Coventry and Leamington. The ringing began at the 8 at Ryton-on-Dunsmore followed by the 6 at Bubbenhall before lunch. An excellent lunch was held at the Three Horseshoe Inn in Bubbenhall where about 20 people enjoyed the food, drink and company.
In the afternoon our first tower was at the newly restored church at Radford Semele; where ringing its 6 bells was interspersed with looking and marvelling at the restoration. A high, uninterrupted wooden roof, 3 beautiful new stained glass windows and excellent toilet facilities required some time to enjoy.
We finished ringing at the 8 at Lillington, which even people without a Sat Nav managed to find. During the day a variety of methods were rung including London, Norwich, Double Dunkirk, Westminster Minor, Bristol and London Surprise Major. An attempt at 8 Spliced Major came to grief. There was plenty of Plain Bob, Grandsire and Stedman.
The weather was reasonable and quite mild for the time of year. Thanks are due to Barbara Howes and Ruth Border for organising the day.