News from the Branch – September 2020

Returning to Ringing – Advice and Guidance from the Guild Secretary

The current round of Harvest Festivals has triggered the resumption of services at more churches and we have heard of more towers that have rung again. This will remind people that the church is there and remind them that the silence was only temporary! Some have rung handbells where the tower bells cannot be used.

The year is moving on, and the Ringing World shop at has seasonal items in stock, hopefully including diaries by the time you read this. The Central Council guidance is updated every Friday at The key metrics haven’t changed this week, but the Central Council has recently got extra skilled resource looking at the detail of the ringing environment in the hope of identifying and justifying further relaxations that the CofE will accept.  We must be grateful for CCCBR’s efforts on our behalf. You can play your part in this effort by keeping in touch with your local clergy and spreading the word about the benefits of ringing and the importance of restoring ringing to both ringers and the church as a whole.

Some are uncertain as to what can be rung that is safe, musical and hopefully enjoyable. This depends on the individual tower as well as the ringers. For instance 2, 4, 6 of a six sounds nice and bright whereas 1, 3, 5 of a six is mournful and may be suitable if you have an All Souls Service around 1st or 2nd November. If you are lucky to have a family group of three, you could try 1, 3, 4, 5 of an eight (think of Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto) or 2, 4, 5, 6 of a six. The mournful equivalent for an All Souls or Remembrance service is 1, 3, 4, 5 of a six. Any towers looking for advice on safe chiming, musical combinations or refresher sessions for safe ringing may contact

The three overriding requirements remain, namely:

  1. The local church wardens and clergy must have agreed
  2. Ringing in Church of England churches is on the condition that it is in accordance with the guidance at, and
  3. The tower must be well ventilated and must be inspected and risk assessed if the bells haven’t rung for a considerable time). Email   for more details

It would be good to hear back from towers with their experiences and how they are returning to ringing. Please send any stories to

Katie, Ken, Stuart & Tony – Guild Officers

News from the Branch – August 2020

Here’s a summary of what’s been going on in the Bicester Branch in August.

Ringing Events

Saturday, 15 August 2020 Islip (St Nicholas), Oxfordshire Tolling
Saturday, 15 August 2020 Kirtlington (St Mary the Virgin), Oxfordshire 75 Tolling
Saturday, 15 August 2020 Weston on the Green (Blessed Virgin Mary), Oxfordshire Tolling


The improvement works at Weston on the Green are nearly complete; the new ropes are in and the new carpet is down.

In Stratton Audley they are hoping to ring three bells at each of two weddings coming up in September.

Ringing Room

Several groups of local ringers have been making good use of the online platform for virtual change ringing called Ringing Room, which is the ‘go-to’ application used by a huge number of ringing teams in the UK and across the world. It’s very enjoyable, is free to use and can be accessed at

Jon Mills of the Oxford Guild has written an interesting account of his journey to find and use Ringing Room – click here to read it.

Kirtlington, Bletchingdon and Weston-on-the-Green Ringing Room practices

Shortly after lockdown began, the ringers from Kirtlington, Bletchingdon and Weston towers transferred their practices to the Ringing Room website, creating a shared virtual tower for weekly practices and for virtual quarter peal attempts.

Our virtual practices are been well attended and we have seen great progress in the learning of methods by all regular attendees, many of whom have only started ringing in the past 2 – 3 years, with all having rung inside to plain courses of Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles, and a number ringing observation to touches of Bob Doubles. The team has also been able to practice variations on Plain Hunt including Treble Bob Hunt.

With the temporary removal of the challenge of handling together with learning the  methods, our ringers have achieved a number of successful virtual quarter peals including first on covering tenor and first on treble. More virtual QPAs are planned.

Bicester Recruits gather at Abingdon

The first group handling session of the year was held on 4th January at St Helen’s Abingdon, attended by five learners from Weston, Wendlebury and Kirtlington plus Andrew gaining experience in teaching handling. Susan Read and her Abingdon team have most kindly offered to host training sessions at St Helens every Saturday morning until end March, so that we can offer training to a large number of recent recruits from Kirtlington, Weston and nearby. This was a really good session, with one or more teachers per student and five learning at the same time. I think the future of teaching handling looks quite like this. 

Christine and Andrew working together

Special Practice at Bicester 20th November

Seven ringers from four towers came to tonight’s practice at Bicester, including our Branch Secretary and Web Master. Our numbers were depleted by  Helen who had broken an arm, Steve and Jeremy who are both unwell. Get well soon, all!

After ringing up in peal, we rang call changes for Chris, Jane and Sue, called by Ian. From there we moved to Plain Hunt on 5 for Sue and Jane and then to a number of Plain Courses of Plain Bob Doubles with Jane, Kathryn and Sally inside. We then rang some plain courses of Grandsire Doubles, with Ian, Sally and Jane inside, followed by more Plain Hunt, this time with Chris on treble, definitely improving as we went on.

More plain courses of Plain Bob Doubles followed, with Jane trebling and Chris on tenor, where we got nearly to the end of the second course. Feeling more emboldened, we tried a touch of Plain Bob Doubles, Sally ringing observation on 3, which just about got to the second bob call before firing out and finally we rang down in peal.

Branch Practice is at Charlton on Otmoor on the 6th December. Hope to see lots of you there!

Branch Christmas Practice and Social 18th December

There was a great turnout to Monday’s Branch Christmas special Practice. So good to see our regulars plus Ian and Helen from Bicester, Kathryn Grant and Sue from Islip, Roy, our latest group member and U.S. correspondent as well as Richard, Jan, Jeremy, Ron, Jane, Derek, Tim and Brenda. Some 20 ringers all told.

We rang call changes on 8 for Derek, Sue, Caroline, Judith and Louise, Plain Hunt on 5, 7 (for Roy, Caroline, Louise, Judith and Brenda) and 8 for Helen.
There was a nicely struck touch of Plain Bob Minor, Ian on 2 observation, called by Richard, Grandsire Triples and a touch of Grandsire Doubles, with Sue Macready on 5 observation bell.
Finally a short burst alternating between rounds and Queens, before we rang down sort of in Peal, at which point Gareth Miller, Kirtlington rector, joined us as we took some photos and headed back to Caroline‘s for a wonderful apres bell Social (big thank you to Caroline and Louise for hosting, organising and providing mulled wine, and to everyone who contributed food), later featuring hand bell ringing. Definitely improved over last year.

See the  Kirtlington and Bletchingdon Facebook group for some video clips  uploaded by our remote location editing team!

Hope to see  lots of you at Islip on 3rd January for the first Branch Practice of 2018.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Branch practice 6th December 2017 Charlton on Otmoor

Despite (or perhaps because) it being St Nicholas Day, 11 ringers from six towers turned out for the last Branch Practice (excepting the final Xmas practice) of 2017 at Charlton on Otmoor last night. Amongst us were “el Presidente” Willie  Haynes – recovering from a recent cataract operation, Jeremy and Kathryn as well as Roy, visting Bicester from Washington DC for a few weeks.

After ringing up we had a few courses of Plain Hunt, followed by plain courses of Grandsire Doubles, striking improving as courses progressed, with Ally and Gareth inside, Roy trebling with guidance from Jeremy.

Our numbers and capability were increased by the arrival of Richard and Jan from Ludgershall, which meant we could ring some more challenging things.

We rang a touch of Plain Bob Doubles, Gareth on 4 unaffected, and Stephen on 5, affected, followed by a touch of Plain Bob Minor, Ann trebling, Steve on 5, called by Richard.

At Kathryn’s request, we next turned to plain courses of Stedman doubles, including the correspondent’s first attempt at ringing it on 4, helped by Willie. Not a disaster.

We then range a few plain courses of Grandsire again, before ringing a reasonably struck touch of Grandsire, featuring three bobs and six singles, called by Richard.

Finally, after ringing down in peal a number of the team retired to the Crown opposite.

Hope to see lots of you at the final Branch event of the year at Kirtlington on the 18th, where we will ring in a shortened practice, followed by apres-bell (but in which handbells may feature) at Caroline’s house nearby.

If not, have a very merry Christmans and a happy New Year.

Branch Practice Mon 2nd October

Eleven ringers from seven towers came to tonight’s branch practice at Kirtlington, including Willie  our president, Jeremy Adams, ringing master and Kathryn Grant​ secretary,  the band further strengthened by the arrival of Richard Hazeldine.

Ron Burgess​ also came with Derek, who started ringing only 7 weeks ago and is now ringing rounds and call changes with teams of six and eight. We also included Derek in a reducing rounds exercise, which practices standing at hand stroke as well as pulling off ahead of heavier bells when building back up to full rounds.

We rang for our first method Plain Bob doubles plain courses, Sue on 3, Judith on tenor, both nicely rung.

Richard called a number of mini- touches of Plain Bob Minor (3 consecutive bobs), in which the lightest 3 just rang Plain Hunt on 6, while the heaviest rang alternate 5/6 down, 5/6 up and made bob. Judith and Sue alternated on treble, Ellie ringing 3.

As Ellie ​ will be ringing her first quarter this weekend, we rang a touch of Bob Doubles, Ellie on 3, Judith on tenor.

We were then encouraged to ring Plain hunt on 7, then on 8, albeit a bit crunchy, then for Stu ​ we rang Little Bob Minor, Judith trebling.

Finally, a ‘boy-band’ of Willie, Jeremy, Ron, Richard, Steve and Stu rang a plain course of Bob Minor on the back 6 before we rang all 8 down in Peal.

All in all a great practice with something for everyone. Best of luck to Ellie in her Quarter on Sunday.

Well done and thanks to all for attending. Hopefully see lots of you at this month’s special practice on 17th October at Islip.

“Learning the Ropes” at Kirtlington

In September 2015, there had been no local band to ring Kirtlington’s very fine peal of eight bells for 10 years, after the previous tower captain and his wife moved away to Derbyshire.

After efforts by villagers to raise interest, Ron Burgess and Willie Haynes with other local regular ringers started Monday evening bellringing practices, with 15 recruits attending the first sessions in late September 2015.

As so often with such initiatives, several recruits dropped out through injury, illness or pressure of work or family life. However, a core of five or six remained. Two, myself included, got the bellringing “bug” and started ringing two or more nights a week, joined the Bicester branch of bellringers and went on the Radley ringing course in April 2016.

When Ron was unable to commit to leading all the practices it occurred to me that unless our new team members gained the skills and confidence to be able to teach handling to others, that ringing at Kirtlington could not continue for much longer.

I had only learned to ring for a year or so as a teenager some 40 years before, and felt very unqualified to lead practices or train novices. I therefore badly needed the help of an organisation that could provide a structured programme of teaching, based on consultation with professionals in sports and music coaching and psychological development, along with a system of accreditation and mentoring. The Association of Ringing Teachers, or ART, is that organisation, and I was most fortunate to be able to attend the Module 1 course at Abingdon in June 2016, and even more fortunate that Ron Burgess was willing and able to accompany me and be my mentor.

I was most impressed with the scheme that ART has devised through its “Learning the Ropes” scheme for learners, which takes the absolute beginner through five progressive stages up to ringing quarter peals in Plain Bob Minor and other minor methods. The set of tools and resources they provide for teachers through the “SmART Ringer” scheme is considerable and growing and certainly gave me the confidence to start working with novices and more experienced ringers to teach and improve handling.

I started by teaching my son to ring in July (amazing how young people learn so rapidly!) before his change of career made him stop (hopefully only a temporary pause). Then in November 2016, I was contacted by someone whose family had Kirtlington connections and wanted to learn to ring. As a very quick learner, she was ringing rounds and call changes proficiently by Christmas 2016, was inspired to go on the Radley ringing course last April and has enrolled on a residential ringing course this summer. I am now teaching another, older learner, who is also making excellent progress.

The ART teaching scheme requires new teachers to be accredited within 2 years of attending the course. With the support of Ron and Alison Merryweather-Clarke, I have recently passed an assessed teaching lesson and am now accredited in Module 1. I have also enrolled on a course in June for the next module: 2F, which covers teaching from Rounds to Plain Hunt. A further module, 2C, covers the teaching of methods to minor.

So that is my story. A lapsed ringer with a bit of basic handling experience from their youth, started again in later life and, as so often with bellringing, has had to take on a teaching role (not to mention understanding of bell maintenance, recruitment, public relations and more) to help keep this unique and rewarding skill and pastime alive, and am very grateful for the support that ART and local experienced ringers have given me.  Over the past 18 months I have hugely enjoyed the teamwork, satisfaction of learning, working with and helping others as well as gaining a whole new community of friends connected with bellringing.

If you are interested in ART, check out the website: or give me a ring on 07710-487223.

Steve Vickars