Bicester Branch Outing, Saturday 27th April 2024

On 27 April our branch outing was to five towers around the Lambourn area of Berkshire – some outings are memorable for their ringing achievements, others for a variety of others.

The 2024 Bicester outing was memorable for high level access to ringing chambers (see photo of Great Shefford), an anti-clockwise ring, great lunch, one of the longest draughts ever, and ringing with a broken stay (not caused by anyone on the outing).

We rang call changes, plain hunt, touches of Grandsire Doubles and Plain Bob Doubles as well as Plain Bob Minor. Our thanks go to Jeremy Adams, who organised the outing, and to those who opened the towers for us – and particularly Stefan in Lambourn who provided us all with coffee too!  

Here’s the survivors’ photo!

This is the spiral staircase at St Mary, Great Shefford:

Bicester Branch Outing 23rd April 2022

On Saturday we had a great day out to the towers south of Carterton: Langford, Broadwell, Black Bourton, Clanfield and Aston. This was our first outing since 2019 and a welcome opportunity to ring at some new towers. We enjoyed a fine variety of bells, from the slightly challenging Langford ring, through the twitchy Clanfield eight, the hefty but musical Aston bells to the easy-going rings at Black Bourton and Broadwell. All the churches are distinctly beautiful and well worth a visit in their own right. We were also well cared for at the Plough, Alvescot.

Langford, our first tower, has a Saxon tower with distinctive architecture and a ring of six accessed up a broad spiral staircase. These were until recently very odd-struck and consequently were very difficult to ring well in peal, but go better now. The treble is close to a metal ladder, so our less-experienced ringers kept away. For the morning session, we were joined by Hugh Deam and Judy, helping us ring rounds, call changes and a touch of Grandsire doubles, which we almost completed.

Langford tower
Langford chancel

The church at Broadwell is a beautiful example of a Knights Templar Church, with several distinctive features. The bells were until last year unringable due to a poor installation at the end of the 19th Century, but are now a delightfully easy-going ring of eight after a re-hang and augmentation, including two bells from the Keltek Trust and a newly-founded treble. We managed Plain Hunt on Seven with those ringing the tenor finding it incredibly light-set.

Ringing at Broadwell

We stopped for lunch at the Plough, Alvescot, where we enjoyed wonderful service and good food. According to Julie, it used to be Gary Barlow’s local, so he obviously has good taste. At lunch we were joined by Dinah and by Sue Paine’s daughter, Alice and grandson Kit, who showed boundless enthusiasm at all the afternoon towers.

Our first of the afternoon was Black Bourton, a light ring of six, which were rehung in 2017; the ringing chamber is in a small room adjoining the back of the church, with the door needing to be closed before starting ringing, rather like a doctor’s consulting room. This tower was definitely the favourite of our newer members, and where a number of “prime rings” were achieved, including Sue Carter ringing inside to Grandsire Doubles, Julie trebling to it and also ringing down in peal very nicely. We also rang a nice touch of Bob Minor, called by Richard.

Black Bourton and tower

Onto Clanfield, another pretty church and a nice ring of eight, however, several of our group found the twitchy ropes quite challenging, but we did manage a couple of courses of Little Bob Minor, a first for Jeremy. Another highlight was Sue ringing alongside her grandson, keeping the tradition going!

I have subsequently found out from Tony Crabtree that the rope guide at Clanfield is rather low and is one of two towers in the Witney & Woodstock branch that are candidates for raising the rope guide to a more practical height.

Clanfield tower
Kit leading down

Our final tower was Aston, the most recent of the towers, dating to 1836. The ring is a heavier six, and posed some challenges to our group, but the back bells make a wonderful resonating sound, which we exploited with a nicely-struck touch of Grandsire Doubles. Ian who welcomed us, also joined in the ringing and took the group photo at the end.

Aston tower
Ringing a touch
the team at Aston

Steve Vickars

24 April 2022

Branch Outing Saturday 27th April 2019

Saturday’s Bicester Branch April outing to Gloucestershire as well as Oxfordshire coincided with this year’s warm Easter weather and churches decorated with lovely Easter flowers. The morning’s three of Northleach, Sherbourne and Windrush were all challenging whilst the afternoon’s group of Taynton (what a great ringing chamber!), Fulbrook and Asthall were much easier for the wearier group of 20 ringers in total from 5 branches officially!

All of us had opportunities to extend our ringing range with rounds, call changes, plain hunt, St Clements, Stedman Triples and Kent amongst the repertoire. A very enjoyable day out – and many thanks to Richard Haseldine, joint Ringing Master with Jeremy Adams, for organising it so well. Our supporting team – only 3 this year – gave it (and the extended lunch) full marks too!

Bicester Branch Outing 27th April 2019

Richard has kindly organised this year’s outing to a number of towers starting at Northleach, Gloucestershire on 27th April. Please see the attached itinerary.

Bicester Branch Outing
April 27th. 2019

09.30 – 10.15 Northleach Glos. SS Peter & Paul
Bells 8 18½ cwt in E
OS grid ref. SP111145 Post Code GL54 3EA

10.45 – 11.30 Sherborne Glos. St. Mary Magd.
Bells 6 9cwt 3qtr 23lb in G#
OS grid ref. SP168147 Post Code GL54 3DZ

12.00 – 12.45 Windrush Glos. St. Peter
Bells 6 7cwt 1qtr 13lb in Ab
OS grid ref. SP193130 Post Code OX18 4TS

Lunch own arrangements. There are two pubs fairly close.
The Fox Inn Barrington 01451 844385
The Lamb Inn Rissington 01451 820385
Numerous places in Burford

14.15- 15.00 Taynton Oxon. St. John Evangelist
Bells 6 6cwt 0qtr 27lb in Bb
OS grid ref. SP234135 Post Code OX18 4UB

15.30-16.15 Fulbrook Oxon. St. James Great
Bells 6 4cwt 0qtr 13lb in C
OS grid ref. SP258130 Post Code OX18 4BN

16.45- 17.30 Asthall Oxon St. Nicholas
Bells 6 6cwt 0qtr 10lb in B
OS grid ref. SP287114 Post Code OX18 4HW

There will be ringing for all standards but we do ask that you are able to handle a bell.
In addition to rounds and call changes we will hopefully be able to at least attempt the methods listed for the special practices.
If you are able to come it would be helpful if you could let me know


Word attachment below:

bicester branch outing 20190427

Bicester branch outing 21st April 2018

This year’s spring outing was to 5 towers in the Old North Berks branch, where I grew up (although I only had rung at two of these before the outing).

On a fine spring morning 11 Ringers from Bicester, Oxford City and Witney & Woodstock branches gathered at St Peters, Drayton near Abingdon, a light ring of 8 bells with strong sound control, where the walls of the Ringing chamber are covered with many Peal boards, several commemorating peals rung by clergymen, as well as peal conductor John Pladdy’s 1000th Peal.
First up, we had a plain course of Grandsire Triples , followed by Andy calling changes on 8. We then rang a plain course of Plain Bob Triples, before ambitiously attempting a plain course of Plain Bob Major for Elizabeth.
We rang Plain Hunt on 7 for Sue, then attempted a touch of Grandsire Triples before ringing down.

Next tower was St Blaise, Milton, another light ring of 8, but preferred by most as we could clearly hear all the bells.
More Grandsire Triples here, including a successful touch, Ellie trebling, called by Hugh, plus Bob Triples, Plain Hunt on 7 and a touch of Plain Bob Minor for Ellie and Andy.

The ringers at Milton


We repaired for lunch at the Cherry Tree, Steventon, before our 3rd tower, St Michael Steventon (11 cwt), at the far end of the village, reached via a level crossing. We were joined by Jan and Richard Haseldine, Bicester deputy Ringing Master and by Malcolm and Clare Fairbairn.
Many of the group found the 6 bells the most challenging, due to the long draught and “flighty “ ropes. However, we rang plain courses of Cambridge and Stedman, a plain course and a touch of Bob Minor and attempted another plain course of Cambridge as well as several courses of Plain Hunt on 5.

Onto St James the Great, West Hanney, my very first tower and a “stately” ring of 6, tenor 18 cwt. We were welcomed by Michael, a local ringer, who joined us in an attempted plain course of Cambridge. Further touches of Plain Bob Minor and one of Grandsire Doubles successfully completed, we rang more Plain Hunt on 5 then my first touch of Stedman, assisted by Hugh.

Our final tower was All Saints Marcham, a fairly light ring of 6, but anti-clockwise, which caught a few out, including myself. This was compensated by the very clear ringing circle.

A successful touch of St Clements Minor, more touches of Bob Minor and Grandsire Doubles plus a plain course of Stedman and our day was complete.

group photo at West Hanney
the team at West Hanney







Steve Vickars

Bicester Branch Ringing Outing April 21st 2018

This year’s ringing outing on 21st April 2018 is to 5 towers in the Old North Berks Branch between Abingdon and Wantage.
The itinerary is as follows:
10 am Drayton (near Abingdon)    – 8  bells, 9 cwt,  post code: OX14 4JW
11 for 11.15  am Milton                   – 8  bells, 6 cwt,   post code: OX14 4EJ
Lunch is proposed at the Cherry Tree, Steventon
For details of their lunchtime menu see:
1.30 pm Steventon,  6 bells,  11 cwt, post code: OX13 6SN. Note this is reached via a level crossing
2.45 pm West Hanney, 6 bells,  18 cwt, post code: OX12 0LP
3.45 to 4 pm Marcham, 6 bells, 8 cwt, anticlockwise ring. Post code: OX13 6NW
As these towers are within 20 miles, own transport is advised, sharing where possible.
Tower fees per participant will depend on numbers coming on the outing.
Please confirm if you would like to come, how many and lunch menu choice, to give an idea of numbers for lunch.
Further details to be provided in the near future.
Hope to see lots of you there!
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

Ring along a mini ding dong October 2016

On Saturday 15th October a small band of ringers 8 branch members (plus 1 new recruit) met at Finmere for the branch “mini tour” – mini in various ways.

Finmere bells (only 3 of them) are rung from the back of the church (ground floor) and the ropes fall in a straight line, fairly close to the wall so to ring them you have to face the wall! We rang plain hunt on 3 and Shipping Forecast Singles.

We had planned to visit Mixbury (another 3 nearby) but having inspected them about a month ago we considered them not safe (due to a large crack in the tenor’s headstock). So we headed next to Fritwell (4 bells). The ringing room is accessed from the back of the church, walking under the impressive pipe organ and up a narrow staircase. The one light wasn’t working (!) but that didn’t stop us ringing plain hunt, plain bob minimus and call changes for our newest branch recruit Grace. The bells were fairly loud, but went well.

Next was Stoke Lyne (3) where the bells are rung from a ringing room accessed from a very narrow staircase. The bells are VERY loud and the frame (whilst ok, especially following maintenance performed by Jeremy and I about 6 months ago) does move. That said, we managed plain hunt and Shipping Forecast Singles, but headed off to the next tower after not that long (or to ringing for a wedding for 2 of our members).

Chesterton (3) was our pre-lunch stop and we were given a warm welcome by Linda and Hilary. This tower is accessed from a staircase outside of the church. We rang plain hunt on 3, and Shipping Forecast Singles here. Well done Samuel for managing the treble (the bells are not light so even the treble was heavier than he is used to).

We headed to a pub for lunch before heading down the motorway for a different type of “mini” tour – before lunch was a mini number of bells (3 or 4), after lunch was 8 mini bells. Sadly we only had (including the owner) 6 ringers, but that didn’t stop us having fun trying to ring all 8 (Mark & myself ringing two bells each), Grandsire Doubles, and plain hunt on 6. Everyone had a go at ringing two bells (those on facebook will find a video of Samuel ringing two!) though we didn’t try everyone ringing two in rounds. We did get a few ropes slipping wheel and/or being let go of only to see the rope disappear upstairs (no sliders on these bells as Mark would be replacing them every time the bells were rung, but with the tenor only weighing around 25kg they’re not needed).

It proved a good fun day out and some villages in the Bicester branch heard their bells being rung (not something they’re used to!)

Next branch event is the special practice at Islip on Tuesday! Hope to see you there soon.

Anthony Cole

2016 Herefordshire outing

On Saturday 23rd April (St George’s day) 12 ringers (plus 4 non-ringers) from across the Bicester branch met at 8am in the new Bicester Park & Ride, boarded a minibus and headed for Herefordshire and our annual branch outing.

As we headed up the M40 a noise started somewhere under the minibus… by the M5 it was louder.. and by Tarrington (our first tower) the noise was disturbing, and the subject of lots of discussion about the cause (most suggestions decidedly not mechanically sound, much like the minibus!)

Tarrington Church








We disembarked and headed up the path to the first tower – 6 bells with some slightly springy ropes. Also waiting for us was tea/coffee/biscuits and Sarah, Ian Smart’s sister, who had booked the towers for us as she was local to the area. The branch’s Deputy Ringing Master also arrived at this point, having snubbed the minibus in favour of his own car (some excuse about needing to get back early). We started with plain courses of Grandsire Doubles and Plain Bob Doubles along with the refreshments.

ringing at Tarrington







After checking everyone had their “seat buddy” we headed onwards (minibus still making noises) to Stoke Edith and another 6 bell tower with a truncated spire (the top having come off in a storm many years ago). An interesting staircase (looked more like shelves) led to the ringing room. The Treble and Tenor were on plain bearings which made them a little harder to ring up, but the bells went well once up. We rang Grandsire Doubles and even a touch of Plain Bob Minor here.

Stoke Edith Church








Lunch was at the Crown and Anchor in Lugwardine, a short walk from the first tower of the afternoon. Having phoned our food order ahead the food arrived within minutes of our arrival and was lovely. A few even indulged in puddings!

Crown and Anchor at Lugwardine







Whilst most of us walked along the road to the 8 bells of Lugwardine Ian had arranged for his brother-in-law to meet us with some gearbox oil, having diagnosed the “diff” as lacking oil. Ian duly re-oiled the gearbox and diff which he hoped would fix the problem. Up the tower we rang plain hunt on 7 and just about managed a plain course of Grandsire Triples.







As we left Lugwardine the minibus sounded better and we headed down the narrow lanes to Weston Beggard. The noise sadly returned so Ian volunteered to have another go at the “diff” whilst we rang the 5 bells next to the farm. Here we rang Grandsire Doubles and Plain Bob Doubles.

Weston Beggard
Ringing at Weston Beggard






Our final tower for the day was Yarkhill – a short (rattly) drive away. Yarkhill is the birthplace of Fabian Stedman, one time president (I think) of the Ancient Society of College Youths, and creator of the “Stedman” principle which is rung to this day. The 8 bells proved rather light but fun and we rang plain hunt on 7 (see video) and another attempt of Grandsire Triples and finished with a course of Stedman Doubles (had to be done really!).







After a quick stop back in Tarrington to use the conveniences we headed home .. via “Greedy’s” Fish and Chip shop in Stow on the Wold.

fish and chips at Stow on the Wold







The minibus sounded slightly better on the way back, and we did get all the way back without further incident, arriving in Bicester at 7:30pm.

My thanks to Sarah Connor for organising the towers, staff at the Crown and Anchor for the superb lunch and all those that came along.

Group photo outside  Yarkhill

Anthony Cole