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

Quarter Peal at Kirtlington 1st March 2020

This afternoon at Kirtlington, a band completed a very nicely struck Quarter Peal of Grandsire Doubles, rung to celebrate the 32 years of service given by Jean Sambrook to Kirtlington Village Shop. The quarter, conducted expertly by Hugh Deam, was also Charlie Bates’ first inside to the method, supported by Teresa, Kathryn, Paul and Steve.

This was also Charlie’s final practical target for his ART Learning the Ropes Level 5, achieved in less than eighteen months after starting to learn to ring. Very many congratulations, Charlie!

The Bellboard record is at:

The team for Charlie’s quarter inside to Grandsire Doubles

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 2017

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.

“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

In memory 3 December 2016

Today a quarter peal was rung in Islip – details below:

Oxford Diocesan Guild
Islip, Oxon
St Nicholas
Saturday 3 December 2016 in 47mins
1260 Grandsire Doubles

1   Sally Wale
2   Kathryn Grant
3   Ron Burgess
4   Keith Thomas
5   Anthony Cole (C)
6   Teresa Carter

In celebration of the life of Eileen Mary Grant 30/1121-03/12/2015, her beloved dog Lucy 24/01/2002-23/11/2016 and the marriage of her granddaughter Alexandra Durnford to Tim Johnson on 03/12/2016

Dishpan hands at Kirtlington 13th June 2016

On Monday 13th June 15 ringers from across the branch and just outside headed for Kirtlington and the special practice to help the new band.

The new band (which give such a warm welcome to us all and are very keen) consists of a mixture of complete beginners (who are on plain hunt already so they’re learning quickly) and ringers returning after many years of not ringing having learnt in their youth. They are being ably taught by Ron (Kidlington), Willy (our President) with regular visits from Sue (Bletchingdon) and Kathryn (Islip).

After ringing up all 8 in peal (we got rounds occasionally) we had a couple of goes at call changes. I then offered Steve the chance for plain hunt on 7 and he chose Grandsire Triples instead.. the man has no fear.. and with Willy stood behind we managed a shaky course (shaky mainly due to the rest of the band!)… certainly cleared a few cobwebs!

Next was plain hunt on 5 for the (not so) beginners .. Caroline and Judith first then Louise and Stuart.. all managing very well. Call changes followed and then another go at Grandsire Triples (slight swap around of the band resulting in two fairly confident courses). More plain hunt on 5 and then Steve rewarded the helpers by suggesting we ring something more advanced. Sadly we didn’t have a band for Plain Bob Triples or Major so we opted for a touch of Plain Bob Minor on the back six… I think I made a few people jump when I called the first “bob” 😀

We rang down all 8 in peal and then headed for the pub for a well earned drink (and in my case to look at the state of my hands.. heaving around the tenor resulted in a number of blisters.. too much washing up methinks!). A fabulous and encouraging evening – and for those who’ve been struggling in their own towers to find ringers in recent years it is lovely to see a resurgence of interest and enthusiasm for ringing in the branch which is surely going to help us all (and give us many new friends to ring with).

Next on the schedule is the branch practice at Caversfield on Fri 1st July – they’re lovely light bells so do come along if you can.

Anthony Cole

2016 Guild AGM details

Here is a reminder about the Guild AGM from our Guild Rep:
Reminder that names for the Whites visit are to be sent by 9th May, and for the Ploughman’s lunch by 16th May, to the contacts on the poster below
Link to papers for the meeting
Hilarie Rogers (Master, Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers) says ‘I would like to invite you to the AGM of the Guild, which is on Saturday 21st May 2016 at 2pm at Faringdon Church, Barber Rooms.
This is so that we can be sure we have a quorum. If you are unable to do so in advance, you will still be welcome to attend.
Saturday 21 st May in the Vale of White Horse
Your ready-made Tower Outing. All welcome!
(local ringers at all towers to assist)
1000 – 1130 Visit to White’s Bellhangers’ works (timed trips)
1000 – 1130 Ring the works bells – The Balscote Ring (12 bells 13⁄4cwt)
1030 – 1130 Ring Appleton parish church (10 bells 13cwt)
1100 – 1200 Ring Hinton Waldrist (6 bells 63⁄4cwt)
1130 – 1200 Try the Buckland church Saxilby Simulator & dumb bell
1200 – 1300 Ring Buckland (8 bells 14cwt)
1230 – 1400 Lunch and activities at Faringdon Church: Barber Rooms
With book stall, Guild Committee exhibitions, Stallpits mini-ring
(6 bells 5lb) and have-a-go handbell method and tune ringing
(see Faringdon map for car parks)
1400 Guild AGM Faringdon Church: Barber Rooms
(around the lunch tables in tower groups if people wish)
Followed by service ringing at Faringdon
Songs of Praise approx 1530 accompanied by choir and impressive
new 1969 All Saints Church organ, including a short rendition by the
Vale of White Horse Handbell Ringers
Followed by ringing at Faringdon (8 bells 17cwt). Finish approx 1700.
Other ringing during the day on prior request (plenty of notice, please) to Tony Crabtree
Selected from other VOWH Branch towers: Lyford (3), Buscot (4), Ashbury (6), Coleshill (6),
Shellingford (6), Uffington (6), Longcot simulator, Longcot (8), Stanford in the Vale (8) &
Shrivenham (10)
Names for lunch (ploughman’s & pud) by Monday 16 th May to Lucy Laird
Names for White’s visit by Monday 9 th May to Tony Crabtree
(Note strong shoes required – no sandals or flip flops).
Note – AGM papers will follow nearer the time.