Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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Recent Mid-Week Monthly Tours

THE April TOUR: THURSDAY 16th (the 306rd)

The April tour was centred on the historic Roman Cotswold town of Corinium, better known to us today as Cirencester. Twenty five or so ringers joined for this tour ably arranged this month by Chris Seers.

Our first stop was the parish church of St. John the Baptist in the bustling Market Square. If you haven't visited recently please do, as you can now see a thoroughly renovated spectacular south porch that positively gleamed in the early morning sunshine we experienced on our visit. The interior of this opulent wool church is no less impressive; and with an opening onto the roof from the ringing chamber, the brave can view the town from on high.

We gave the Thursday morning shoppers our renditions of Plain Hunt, Plain and Little Bob, Grandsire Cinques and Call Changes. On descending the 90 steps, we were greeted by the magnificent sounds of the organist practising Widor's Toccata from the rebuilt Father Willis organ; a fitting ending to our visit to this grand 12 bell tower. (It didn't used to be! It had a dingy, grotty, univiting ringing chamber — very similar to that of a church up here - and a rough old ring before the rehang that occurred in 1984. Peter Holden, the post-rehang tower captain, put much effort into tidying the place up, which, with the rehung ring and its recast tenor, plus a bit of retuning throughout, made a huge difference to the 'oldest ring of 12 in the world'. Ed)

Across the town we found ourselves in the smaller Church of Holy Trinity, Watermoor. The church was designed by that well-known Victorian

architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott, famous for the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras Station, the Albert Memorial and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. What Sir George would have been unable to design was the fabulous blossom on the trees in the churchyard shown in our photograph. The ground floor eight rang out to Grandsire and Cambridge, plus Grandsire and Stedman spliced.

The party continued from Watermoor to waterside and onto our lunch venue, The Old Boathouse at the Cotswold Waterpark. Despite its name, The Old Boathouse was quite new and an interesting contrast to the Gilbert Scott design at Watermoor.

Our tower after lunch was Meysey Hampton some six miles from Cirencester. The ringing chamber, like Cirencester, has what looks like a door onto the roof. However, ringer beware, the door when opened leads straight out into the roof space of the nave and some 25 foot drop onto the pews. This brings new meaning to the old joke; when is a door not a door.

Before leaving, our attention was grabbed by a single military gravestone in the churchyard. Gunner W H Bulpit of The Royal Field Artillery is buried here. What makes this so poignant is the date. Gunner Bulpit died on 9th November 1918 aged 37, just two days before the Armistice. Whilst it's possible W H Bulpit made it home and died of wounds local to Meysey Hampton, it's sobering nevertheless. (There's a similar grave in the Old Church at Broadway. Private E E Emms — wonderful initials - of the Royal Berkshire Regt was killed on 6th November 1918, aged 34. Very bad luck to be killed so near to the end. But apparently the guns kept firing on both sides right up to 11am on the 11th. Ed)

At this point my small party of two others and I had to leave the tour, so I admit to completing this account using information supplied. The last tower was Fairford, chiefly known for its stained glass windows and is by all accounts the only complete set of late medieval glass in a parish church in the country. As for the ringing, the draught was very long since it is a Chancel Crossing ring; and you certainly didn't want to look up, as that would put you off. If you have rung in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, these were similar. We rang some very creditable Stedman, Double Norwich, Grandsire and finished with Superlative.

The kneelers in the church were absolutely brilliant, very fine work and in the same way the ringing mats had been handmade. Someone had been busy, as they had the same mats at Watermoor.

Keith Murphy (plus Chris Seers and Sandra Parker)

THE MAY TOUR: THURSDAY 21st (the 307th)

We stayed close to home for our May tour organised by Sandra Parker on one of the first warm and sunny days of summer. Being on familiar territory meant that we didn't uncover quite so many interesting nuggets that we are used to reporting back on a monthly basis from less familiar towers and districts.

A good day's ringing was enjoyed, starting at Ilmington with Grandsire and Stedman Triples and leads of Bristol. At Mickleton, those standing out were able to enjoy the sunshine to listen to more Grandsire, Plain Bob Major and Double Norwich. Lunch was at The Thatched Tavern in Honeybourne before we moved onto Pebworth.

There we appreciated the recruitment poster and learned about John Wesley's connection with the church before climbing to the ringing chamber where after some Plain Hunt successful touches of Grandsire and Stedman Caters and Cambridge Royal were scored.

Our last tower was Middle Littleton where we indulged in some less often rung minor methods: Chester, St Clements and Single Oxford.

If anyone would like to organise a tour, please get in touch.

Isobel Murphy

THE JUNE TOUR: THURSDAY 18th MAR (the 308th)



Some ringing Friends
A pub for lunch
Four towers


1   Find a pub.  The pub is usually the most difficult ingredient.  Good bellringers’ fayre, rather than a "gastro" pub, being the order of the day.  Two course set menus are popular.  Road testing the pub first is a good excuse for a trip out, to check the quality of the food & the pub can cope with around 25 hungry bellringers and turn them around in 1 1/2 hours.

2.  Choose some towers, near the pub.  It is a good excuse to arrange a tour where you may want a "grab" or two.  A couple of 8s are good, include some interesting towers where possible, augmentations, a 10 or 12, or unusual features are popular.

3.  Book towers.  A few days before the tour, check bookings and access arrangements, lock-outs are not fun.

4.  At the first tower, complete with menus, collect food orders and phone through to pub.

5.  Mix together with friends and enjoy!

Well, Brenda Dixon and Alan Marks took the challenge and organised a three counties tour.  The first at Yardley Hastings welcomed the ringers with a message on the blackboard, and we signed the register to dedicate the ringing to the 200th anniversary of Battle of Waterloo day. With some respectable ringing, although the Original failed due to yours truly not knowing about the singles - although a good attempt!  Woodbine Delight was tempting on the peal boards.

The Desiderata poem was on the church notice board, annotated to St Paul's Church Baltimore dated 1692, reproduced here for those who may not be familiar -


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the  stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Outside the village cake(?) shop we spotted the following sign "skinny people are easy to kidnap, save yourself, eat cake", which kept us amused all day.

Lavendon welcomed us with an open iron spiral staircase, to which your correspondent has an aversion; so instead spent some time admiring the 12th century piscina in the church, and reading the newsletter, discovering, among others, details about the Lavendon narrow gauge railway.

They must have known we were coming!

On to the excellent pub, The Green Man, Lavendon, which greeted us with the following sign

Next on to Bedfordshire, Turvey, the only 8 of the day, where it was helpfully pointed out that the other exit should we need it was up a wooden ladder out onto the roof and shout for help! Ian Thompson complimented us on the raise, praise indeed. These were not the best struck bells in the world, slow turning and not to be rushed. The best ringing was some Stedman and three leads of Bristol.

At the last tower, Carlton, it snowed feathers on the raise, and for me the best bells of the day.  A vote of thanks for Brenda & Alan before we had to dash left us with the perfect execution of the Recipe for the day. Well done!

Chris Seers