Recent Mid-Week Monthly Tours
THE OCTOBER TOUR (the 300th)
The weather for the October outing started off in a rather gloomy way, but by mid-morning the sun was shining and the Worcestershire country lanes were looking at their autumnal best, with leaves resplendent in many hues varying from gold to green, to red, orange and russet.
This outing was a very special one: it was the 300th mid-week outing since they were first started as the brainchild of Tony Brazier 25 years ago. Paul Evans recreated the four six bell towers of the original tour for the occasion. Frank Spiers MBE who had been on the very first outing, came along to see everyone. Frank has not been too well recently and it was a great pleasure to see him again.
The first tower was Belbroughton; ringing here was ably run by Robin Green. Very short ropes made it hard for the more vertically challenged ringers to do the bells justice, but they did their best. The next challenge for everyone was to find a route to Stone: a lorry had shed its load along the most obvious route and the road was closed, so Satnavs and maps came into their own. The longer ropes at Stone meant the bells were easier to ring and Geoff Pratt kept the ringing going here with a variety of methods. The ringing chamber was quite small,, so ringers overflowed into the church. Here there were some interesting stained glass windows: one very colourful modern one was there to mark the closing of the village school in 2007. Another one was in memory of Peter Collins a racing driver who had died at the young age of 27. There was also a banner, which had a lot of bells on it and the word 'Kidderminster' and the number 900, but we could not find out what it commemorated.
Lunch was taken at the Brinton Arms. It was a very popular venue. So popular that the car park was full and the food, which was very good value, took a very long time to arrive. This caused several ringers to miss their puddings and meant we were very late starting at the next tower, Areley Kings. Here Brenda Dixon ran the ringing and Alnwick was safely brought round in fine style. Brenda ensured that all had a ring in spite of the lack of time. The last tower of the day was the ground floor ring at Shrawley. Here several group photos were taken by local ringer John Westwood, so this special outing could be well recorded. The place of honour was given to Frank Spiers, who had a chair to sit on at the front of the group. In honour of the special occasion, Isobel Murphy, Sandra Parker and Margaret Pratt had made some delicious cakes, including one which had been iced by Keith Murphy to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first outing. Franks Spiers MBE cut the iced cake and John Nichols thanked Paul Evans for making the day's arrangements. As well as the cakes, there were cups of tea made by Margaret and Ruth Border. Paul ran the ringing, but had some difficulty in tearing the ringers away from the cakes to ring. It really was an excellent day out, much enjoyed by all who went. Lastly, many thanks to John Westwood and Don Barton (churchwarden at Shrawley) who gave up their afternoon to accommodate us.
THE NOVEMBER TOUR: 20th NOV (the 301st)
On a relatively mild day for November the group met first at Hinton on the Green (8) in the Vale of Evesham. The Ringing Chamber was accessed by a long ladder and overlooked the Church. The first priority for everyone at the first tower is to order lunch so the start was a bit sluggish! However the pace soon picked up and well-struck Grandsire, Yorkshire, Stedman and Cambridge were rung. Isobel decided, inadvertently, to see if stuffed owls really could fly but Keith came to her rescue, returning the said owl in its rightful place on the edge of the balcony!
Great Hampton (8) is not the place to ring if you wish to 'escape' and not stay for the Service — sneaking out without being noticed would be extremely difficult. The spiral staircase rises from the centre of the Church and the resultant peal is worth the climb. Claimed by some to be 'the best ring of 8 in Worcestershire' their ease of handling and their glorious sound made the ringing an absolute pleasure. (Hampton has, of course, serious competition in this respect from Hanbury and Dodderhill, two other magnificent 8s within Worcestershire. How lucky that county is to have such rings! Ed) Starting with Grandsire, the assembled company progressed through Double Norwich, Stedman, 8 spliced, and finally Stedman and Grandsire spliced. The standard of ringing hopefully did justice to this beautiful ring.
We were well looked after at the pub at Charlton and treated to 'After 8s' with our coffee in celebration of Margaret's birthday — don't think the 8 was significant in her birthday number!!
On to Cropthorne (6) next and yet another ladder climb with a bit of a twist at the top. For some, getting up was bad enough but the thought of having to go down again dominated their ringing! Grandsire, Stedman, London, Cambridge and Grandsire were well achieved, but the Alnwick succumbed to jitters about the staircase!
Our last port of call was at Fladbury (8) which again was upstairs. As always the last tower suffers from people having to leave early due to other commitments but enough ringers were left to achieve Plain Bob, Stedman, Grandsire, Bristol and Superlative.
Our thanks to Sandra for arranging the outing, and for her choice of towers. The standard of ringing for the day always amazes me when you think that we all only ring together once a month and all come from such diverse backgrounds!
THE DECEMBER TOUR: 11TH DEC (the 302nd)
The last outing of 2014 was on a cold winter's day with frequent squally showers, so not a particularly pleasant drive when I set off from Stow-on-the-Wold around 9-00am for the suburbs of Birmingham. Thank goodness for “sat-nav” to find the towers in the metropolis
The first tower was Yardley. Two of the Moreton-in-Marsh ringers who come from the Birmingham area had already told me that the bells at Yardley were very good. They were quite correct; a very melodious 12cwt ring of 8 recast by Taylors in 1950. The church, built largely of sandstone, is at the end of a cul-de-sac in what was probably a village many years ago. Next to the church was a large, old, half-timbered building, which was originally a Trust School for the Parish council. The entrance to the ringing chamber was through a very low door, which I expect has had several heads bumped on it over the years, probably also by some of the 25 or so ringers on this outing! It is clearly a popular tower for peal ringers judging by the number of small peal notices on the wall. We rang Cambridge, Stedman, Double Norwich, Grandsire, & Superlative.
We then went on to Shirley. This was a light-weight 6cwt ring of 8 in a white-painted rendered tower with a more modern red brick extension to the church. The details on the wall of the small ringing chamber indicated that 5 bells were installed in 1854, which were augmented to 6 in 1929 and then to 8 in 1947. One of the peal boards gave a time of 2hrs 18mins, which seems quick even though the bells are very light. We rang Grandsire, Plain Bob, 8-spliced (which came to grief after 4 leads) Stedman and finished with 3 leads of Bristol.
Lunch was taken at the Woodman's Rest in Union Rd, Shirley, the steak and ale pie proving a popular choice on a cold day. A very busy pub with what looked like an office Christmas lunch going on in a separate room, judging by the long table, seasonal food and Christmas cracker hats.
Suitably fortified by lunch we set off for Moseley for the first of two towers in that area. The first was an 18cwt ground-floor ring of 10, installed in 2012. The front 7 were cast by Taylors in 2012, the back 3 were part of a chime that came from Greenock in Scotland. (The back 3 were cast by Gillett & Johnston in 1950. I believe Taylors cast the other 7 bells to G&J profiles. This ring might therefore be described as genuine G&J. Ed) I understand these replaced a previous ring of steel bells. A musical ring, but not that easy to ring on account of the springy ropes, which had been fitted only two weeks previously. Apparently these had been fitted as the previous ropes were too springy! We rang Grandsire, rounds and call changes (by an all ladies band) and Cambridge. The church was very cold, with several ringers putting coats back on between rings. An optimistic thermometer on the wall read 21C. If the “1” had been omitted if would have been nearer the mark.
On the wall next to the ringing chamber there were two rather threatening looking “Beadles” staves dated 1856—1883. Maybe they were used to encourage attendance at services!
Our last tower was the 12 cwt ring of 6 in Moseley, a few minutes' walk from the previous one. This was a large imposing church with a spire in a busy residential area. It had a bright ringing chamber with white painted walls, on one of which hung a partial wheel, headstock and stay from an earlier installation. The three heaters that were turned on when we arrived were most welcome. The bells are all by different founders, the second dates from 1638 and the third from 1650. They were augmented from 5 to 6 in 2008. We rang Stedman, rounds and call changes, Cambridge, Little Bob and Beverly.
Our thanks go to Ian Thompson for a very well organised day