Recent Mid-Week Monthly Tours
THE JULY TOUR (the 297th)
It didn't bode very well as on the morning of Wednesday 16th July I received an email from Isobel saying that at least 7 regular attenders at the Midweek monthly meeting would be absent the following day. However I am very pleased to report that, although there were only 14 ringers, we had a most enjoyable and satisfying day! Obviously it was a day for quality and not quantity!
We were particularly delighted to be able to ring the following at Shrivenham (10): rise and fall on all 10(!); Plain Bob, Grandsire and Erin Caters – a new experience for a couple of the band; Lt Bob Royal; and 3 leads of Kent Royal.
At the other three towers of the day, Buckland, Faringdon and Longcot, several pleasing touches of Stedman Triples were scored, including a ladies' band at Longcot with Joy calling a lot of bobs – John rang the tenor for us! - and various S Major including 3 spliced (which was not very successful) and Double Norwich! It was a delight to be joined by Jill Roberts at Longcot, although she didn't ring.
A relaxed and friendly lunchtime was enjoyed by all at The Prince of Wales in Shrivenham.
Definitely a successful and happy day, on which the sun shone. It was tempered by a pleasant breeze and enhanced by the delightful Summerly scenery.
Hilary Aslett (tour organiser)
("Only" 14 attenders? Under normal circumstances that would be seen as "very good indeed" and an indication of a very successful and well-managed event! Ed)
THE AUGUST TOUR (the 298th)
Like many regular monthly tours, I believe this was arranged to accommodate the outstanding "ticks" of the organiser - I'm not sure why else he would be prepared to leave Leicestershire at such an early hour. Getting to the first tower entailed a route through the less salubrious parts of Gloucester, a far cry from the Trollope-like Cathedral Close familiar to many ringers and a reminder of what a diverse city it is.
Upton St Leonards proved an easy going 8 which enabled ringing from call changes to surprise major. The churchyard also included an interesting bellringing grave whose occupant was mentioned in numerous peal boards in the ringing chamber.
St Peter Haresfield was memorable more for its surroundings than its challenging bells – a serene, moated site some distance from the main village and the earliest settlement in the parish. After a difficult attempt at minor the remainder of the ringing was confined to doubles.
Apart from furnishing us with an astoundingly good value carvery lunch, Fromebridge Mill at Whitminster also provided interest from an industrial archaeology perspective. The mill had been in continual use from the Doomsday Book to the 1990s, when it was converted to a pub. Apart from the mechanics of the mill still being visible, the names of all its owners were also recorded.
A recurring problem of locating the correct vehicles beset some people after lunch but everyone made it to Eastington on time apart from the local who was meant to open up. The presence of flower arrangers saved the day.
The journey to the final tower, the co-denominational church of St John Bapt in Randwick, illustrated the diverse geography of Gloucestershire. We travelled up narrow steep winding roads to the northwest of Stroud that were more suitable for goats than motor cars and were faced with some interesting parking along a narrow road.
Thank you Colin for organising a tour that provided good ringing, interesting bells and an opportunity to visit parts of Gloucestershire that we would not otherwise see.
THE SEPTEMBER TOUR (the 299th)
The City of dreaming spires beckoned, with a rare opportunity to ring in a few of them. Around 33 ringers gathered outside New College, many familiar faces, and some new from as far afield as Brighton, Bury St Edmunds & Lincolnshire to experience the delights of Oxford.
David Barrington, from The Oxford Society, who was our guide for the day as we were not to be let loose around the colleges without a guide, met us at the New College gates. On route to the tower we passed the original city wall and Chapel.
The New College 10, the ringing chamber a bit dusty round the edges, were a little slow to get going, like an old lady woken from an afternoon slumber. The striking was patchy, some of the members not experienced on rings of 10, although a very creditable half course of Cambridge Royal restored our reputation.
David advised a visit to the New College chapel, and we were not disappointed, despite some renovations & ongoing work. The atmosphere fairly crackled with the layers of history, like the patina on a piece of furniture. The astonishing painted windows with their unusual colours by Joshua Reynolds greeted you on the way in, and the 14th Century misericords had to be seen to be believed.
Onwards next to Lincoln College, greeted by David on his bicycle (really the only way to travel in Oxford) where the original church now houses the college library. The small garden, a tranquil oasis of calm amongst the bustle of the city was a lovely place to sit in the sunshine awaiting a turn to ring. The 8 bells crisp and sharp full of anticipation just like the dew in the morning of a spring day. Some excellent Grandsire & Stedman, with Double Norwich were enjoyed.
Lunch at "spoons" (as my daughter calls it) located in the Oxford Castle enclave converted from the old Oxford Prison, but alas no time for a tour today. It was good to find reasonably priced food in Oxford and a place that could cater for a large number with aplomb.
Suitably refreshed we ventured out once more this time to Magdalen College, met once again by David on his bicycle to sign us in at the gate. You need to be a mountain goat to get up the stairs to Magdalen, as they are narrow and very steep. One of us quipped that they must have run out of space near the top and made the steps steeper to fit them in! The 1 & 2 were out of action so we rang the back 8. A lovely melodious ring, stately, and I thought the best ringing of the day, some excellent Grandsire and Yorkshire. The 8-spliced was going well until they hit a problem with Pudsey, well it was good while it lasted. David offered those of the mountain goat variety an opportunity to go up onto the roof, the one where the choristers sing on May 1st. Isobel had just one word to describe the experience "Divine".
Finally to Christchurch Cathedral where David gathered us together in the quad, describing the history of the tower and how the bells were supported in the small squat tower. This was amply demonstrated as we climbed over various beams to get to the ringing chamber. We were greeted by Martin the pig mascot on the table, and David advised us that air con had been installed as a result of the recent 12 bell competition to keep the ringers cool. After a quick burst of plain hunting, John Nichols proposed a vote of thanks to Isobel & Keith for arranging such a memorable day (not an easy task) and congratulated Isobel on her success in being accepted by the University to study a D.Phil. We then had to dash to pick up on the school run, but I am sure the remainder of the ringers did these majestic bells justice.
I would just like to add my thanks to Isobel & Keith for a day not to be forgotten, to all the ringers from far and wide who made the effort to make the day special, and who knows with Isobel a member of the University we might get to ring in some of the other dreaming spires sometime soon.
Isobel received the following text from David Barrington afterwards:-
"Thank you Isobel and all of your delightful people for making my first opening-up such an easy and pleasurable job. Please come again to grab the other umpteen Oxford towers"