New Branch ringers’ ringing experiences

Here is the latest update from Kirtlington and Bletchingdon ringers in Kirlington Village News, which includes experiences of ringing from the viewpoints of two members who have joined the Kirtlington and Bletchingdon band in the past 10 months:


“Many times in my life I have enjoyed the sound of church bells, and always thought, ‘I’d like to do that some day’. Finally in May I responded to an advertisement for new ringers in the Bletchingdon News and was very quickly inducted into the friendly team of ringers in the Bletchingdon and Kirtlington bell towers, with expert tuition from the Kirtlington Tower Captain.

English bellringing is an intriguing blend of art and science, involving both physical and mental exercise and, for me, a great sense of history. I’m excited to think that I’m learning an ancient skill, standing in a room in which our forebears stood ringing these same bells, some of which were cast three centuries ago in the early 1700s… Although a relative beginner I feel I’ve made good progress and joined a really friendly, supportive and encouraging group of people. I’m very much enjoying learning a stimulating and valuable new skill!”

Gus Bridges (joined May 2017)


“My motivation to take up bell ringing doesn’t sound as riveting as Gus’, however, I am so thankful that the ‘I need a hobby – why not?’ moment came to me. Over the last 10 months I have been exposed to a whole new side of British life which I have quickly become addicted to; I now regularly find myself humming tunes, guessing how many bells a church has as I drive past, downloading various bell ringing apps or competing with myself about when I can cross off another bell tower! This new found obsession is not least because of brilliant fellow ringers who generously give their time to help me learn, who share their stories, and have taken me under their wings to become part of their proud history.

My ringing experiences so far have been wonderfully varied. As well as my regular weekly practices, I have rung for 1 baptism, 5 weddings, a few evensongs and the village summer fair! I have also attended two courses: a day course in Radley, and the intense Bradfield 4 day residential – I never knew that hand bells at 1am could be such fun! All of these opportunities have allowed me to quickly progress, and also to experience some of the quirkier Church belfries, like the swaying tower of Little Milton, and the really tall ladder before the “trap door like” entrance of Mortimer, have all contributed to me beginning to feel like a real bell ringer!

My next goal is to attempt a Quarter Peal, to consolidate learning of the most recent method I’ve been learning; Plain Bob Doubles. I have no idea what to expect for my first attempt of ringing solidly for 45 minutes, but I’m tentatively ready to accept the challenge!”

Ellie Seddon (joined November 2016)

Branch Practice 5th September 2017 at Launton

On a dark damp September evening 13 ringers from four towers, including this year’s striking competition champions, Ludgershall, and Branch president William Haynes, attended this month’s branch practice at Launton.

The ringing chamber is an intimate space, accessed by a steep flight of metal steps, made just that little bit more exciting by the rain.
Nevertheless spirits were lifted by some good striking of plain courses of Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles, a set of call changes and a touch of Grandsire Doubles called by Jan.

After some more plain courses of Grandsire the team had a reasonable go at a plain course of Plain Bob Minor, James Carter trebling and to conclude the evening, a few attempts at plain courses of Stedman Doubles, with at least one course successfully negotiated, before ringing down in Peal.

This month’s special practice is at Bletchingdon on 20th September. Hope to see lots of you there.

Steve Vickars

Report – Bicester Branch Striking Competition 2 September 2017

In contrast to last year’s washout, 2nd September was a fine late summer evening.

Three teams from different towers in the Bicester Branch assembled from 5.30 at Islip, who were hosting this year’s event.  Last year’s champions Bicester were unable to field a team, and a new team: Kirtlington/Bletchingdon  had thrown down the challenge to the two other experienced teams: Ludgershall and Islip, who had won the competition several times in the recent past. The hosts had also implemented a cunning plan to change the bell ropes a few days before the competition.

Each of the competing teams was allowed three minutes practice, then stand, followed by ringing the treble. The scored elements consisted of one minute of rounds going straight into a 120 touch of a method or set of call changes, aiming to complete the set within 5 minutes.

First to ring was the band of Ludgershall, with highly experienced and skilful ringers. The shield was theirs to lose as they chose to ring a 120 change touch of Plain Bob Doubles

Next were the newcomers, Kirtlington, three of whom had never been in a striking competition. The team rang the set of Ely call changes.

Finally it was Islip’s turn to showcase their skills. After their minute of rounds the team rang four plain courses of Grandsire Doubles.

Hugh Deam, Judy and Paulina made up the judging panel, and while marking fairly and scrupulously, very much entered into the relaxed spirit of the occasion. Our President, Willie Haynes undertook the role of steward.

After completing their striking the teams repaired to Sally Wale’s house, Sally having very kindly opened her house and gardens for the ringers and associated parties. There was a barbecue expertly managed by Peter (a specially imported Australian for the occasion), a plentiful selection of fine desserts and a well-stocked drinks table.

When everyone was suitably refreshed, the judges announced their deliberations. The winning team was Ludgershall, achieving scores of 90% and 80% for rounds and method sections, respectively. The team won a bottle of champagne, the promise of receiving the competition shield from the outgoing champions, and the opportunity to represent the branch at the Guild Striking competition.

Islip were a close second, achieving the highest score (82%) for the method section, but a lower score (84%) for rounds.

The new team, Kirtlington in the words of Branch President “did not disgrace themselves by any means” and achieved 88% in rounds, however it incurred additional penalties late on in the call changes section.


Ludgershall:  Richard Haseldine, Jan Haseldine, Anne Martin, Jill Bailey, Andy Windmill, Jeremy Adams

Islip:  Teresa Carter, Kathryn Grant, Sally Wale, Ricky Shaw, James Carter, Mike MacArthur,

Kirtlington: Steve Vickars, Judith Vickars, Caroline Cater, Ernie Cannings, Kathryn Grant, Jeremy Adams


Band A (Ludgershall)  – Rounds 90% Method / Changes 80%                  (1)

Band C (Islip) – Rounds 84% Method  / Changes 82%                             (2)

Band B (Kirtlington/Bletchingdon) – Rounds 88% Method / Changes 70% (3)


–  Band A: rounds 1 min 5 sec, rest 4 min 50 sec;
–  Band B: rounds 1 min 0 sec, rest 7 min 8 sec;
–  Band C: rounds 1 min 2 sec, rest 4 min 36 sec.

The winning team receiving their prize

Ludgershall receiving their prize
Ludgershall receiving their prize
The competition judges
The competition judges

The judging party discussing detailed rules with Kirtlington

Bicester Branch Special Practice 18 July 2017

Seven including Willie Haynes, our Branch President and Jeremy our new Ringing Master, attended Islip Tower for the special practice which originally had Kent Treble Bob Minor and Grandsire Triples on the billed agenda.  As only two or three could ring Kent Treble Bob and we were overall short on numbers we were obliged to change plans.

After ringing up we rang a number of plain courses of Reverse Canterbury Doubles, with James on treble and Sally inside. James later rang confidently inside, for the first time.

Next we rang some plain courses of Plan Bob Doubles, with James inside, well done to James. Feeling encouraged Jeremy called a 120 change touch of Grandsire Doubles with Sally ringing inside, well done Sally.

After a reasonably struck touch of Reverse Canterbury called by the correspondent (after a restart due to the first bob called late L), we wondered what we could do next. Not having quite enough for Stedman Doubles we had a go at Bob Minor but had to abandon after problems around half way.

We then retrenched with a couple of plain courses of Plain Bob Doubles with James inside before ringing down.

Next Branch Practice is on 4th August at Ludgershall, with the Branch 6-bell Striking Competition at from 6pm at Islip with a social event included. Hope to see you there.

Steve Vickars

“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

Bicester Branch outing Sat 22 April 2017

Eleven members of Bicester Branch arrived at the first tower, Freeland, a light ring of 6 (3 cwt tenor) which proved to some of us to have a rather elusive entrance. Freeland is where Anthony Cole was Tower Captain a while ago. A recent refurb of the bells and relocation of the clock has freed up space to the ringing chamber, which, when found, is still a snug space, but with room for four non-ringers to sit.

We rang touches of Bob Doubles, Grandsire Doubles and Bob Minor, plus plain courses of Reverse Canterbury. I tried my first call unaffected of plain bob Doubles, but needed quite a lot of prompting from Anthony. Practice makes perfect…

On to our next church, North Leigh. This is a beautiful small church with some fascinating architecture, including a fan-vaulted ceiling, rarely found in a parish church. In contrast to Freeland, North Leigh’s ringing chamber is very spacious, appearing to have room for two more ropes.
This is where Anthony learned to ring. Needless to say, Anthony’s name is on a number of peal boards on the walls.
Again, we rang touches of plain bob and Grandsire Doubles including a version involving successive calls of singles. Sam trebled to a couple of touches.

Back to Freeland for lunch at the Yeoman pub, then suitably refreshed, we went to Witney our third tower. Witney church is large and bears the hallmarks of historic wool town prosperity, one example being a gallery surrounding the ringing chamber and a fine ring of eight (16 cwt tenor). Conscious that the tower captain may be listening to us from a nearby coffee shop, we limited our ambitions to Plain Hunt on 7, a passable couple of plain courses of Grandsire Triples and call changes on 8.

Onto the fourth tower, Ducklington, which unfolds its historic charm as you progress further into the village, where the church lies next to the village duck pond and old school house. Ducks were in attendance in the churchyard, naturally, and we had to keep the church door shut to keep them out.

We seem to have embarked on a tour of the Cole family ringing roots, as Ducklington was Sarah’s first tower. The ring is light and improvements have been made to the ringing chamber, with a balcony giving space to non-ringers.

Here we rang Grandsire plain courses and touches, Sarah called a touch affected of Bob Doubles and we had some more Reverse Canterbury.

Anthony also gave Penny Wood a back stroke handling lesson.

And then to Yarnton, our final tower of 6 bells, with the heaviest ring of the day, whose tenor weighs in at 21 cwt. The bells met with approval of several of the ringers, including also fond reminiscences of ‘proper ringing’ in the days before this peal was rehung , when the bells were on plain bearings and the ringing chamber was on the ground floor with a long draught without guide holes.

Anyway, the modern day pampered ringers warmed up to Plain Hunt on 5 and 6, some plain courses of Bob Minor (giving Anthony the chance to heave the tenor about), more touches of Grandsire and plain bob doubles, including another attempt by the author to call unaffected, better but just forgot to say ‘that’s all’ at the right point.

Penny also had another back stroke handling lesson, showing commendable technique.

All in all, a very pleasant day’s ringing outing, thanks to Jeremy Adams’ excellent organisation.

At the end, before the team photo, I spoke to two German tourists outside the church. What little they knew about change ringing was that it can often have fatal consequences, based on viewing episodes of Midsomer Murders 😉

Branch outing 2017 team photo


Steve Vickars