Mid Devon Branch Tower Talk- May 2019


Thanks to the Ideford ringers for allowing us to have a surprise practice at their tower. The two methods of the month – Cambridge and York were practiced extensively but as a relief to the brain we rang Plain hunt and bob Doubles as Geoff from Buckfast / Highweek told us he had been getting withdrawal symptoms following Lent at Buckfast!! A very useful practice

Kingskerswell progress
Last time we reported that the last ringing had taken place at Kingskerswell. We can now report that, following some very intense activity, the bells and frame are out of the tower. The bells are at Nicholson engineering in Bridport and the frame is looking for buyers of "interesting" Oak timbers. Much work has already been carried out on Phase 1 of the church re-ordering. A doorway has been re-opened from the tower steps and this will allow entry into the new Ringing room / gallery which will be at the back of the church. This room will be considerably larger than the old one and will easily accommodate the eight ropes of the "new" octave.

During the summer the bells will be prepared for their new frame which will be assembled in the works at Bridport. Once complete it will be taken to pieces and the complex job of re-assembling it in the tower will begin. It is hoped that the bells will return in September. To get to this stage has required a massive amount of dedicated work by the team at Kingskerswell and we look forward to seeing the culmination of this in the Autumn. Photos at https://photos.app.goo.gl/ow6jP99HRabQSCcf6

For Sale
Kingskerswell ringers have their bell wheels for sale as the bells have been removed for a complete restoration. A suggested donation of £200 each will given to the bell fund. For further information please contact the tower captain, Philip Stevens, on 01808 873562 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

May branch practice – Bishopsteignton
Another warm welcome at "Bishop". Thanks to Roger for meeting us. You are probably aware that these bells are a delight to ring and we made good use of them. It was a particular pleasure to see Anne and Jill from Lustleigh. Anne was able to "knock some rust" from Cambridge Minor as well as joining in with a wide range of other ringing. Roger reported that he plans to ring the tenor to a quarter peal attempt for his 80th birthday in June, along with his daughter, Rachel. We gave him some practice with Grandsire Doubles and we wish him well for the attempt.

May Eight Bell practice – Newton Abbot Clock tower.
Erin Triples and Cambridge Surprise Major were the advertised methods and we managed to ring them along with Cloister Triples, Stedman Triples and Double Norwich Major. The touch of Erin came to grief but we had already rung a well-struck plain course. The touch was going well but some of us managed to "fall off" the line!!

The touch of Stedman contained several Singles which were negotiated with ease. We often notice that Singles in Stedman seem to strike terror into the hearts of many ringers but that evening our ringers were up to the challenge!!

Julia Brett was the mastermind behind this year's spring outing and it focussed on her love of Jane Austin and her novels. All the towers had some connection to her heroine and Julia had produced a page of background notes with historical reasoning for each of her choices. First tower was Chawton which are a light-ish six. This was the church where her mother and sister are buried. Cambridge Minor was probably the highlight here. We had time to look round this attractive village which also houses a Jane Austin Museum. Alton (St Lawrence) were our next stop and there was some doubt if we were going to be able to ring but eventually a key was found and we were delighted that we did not miss these fine bells. The eight at Deane were rather more difficult and probles with the tower / frame limited the length of any ringing to 10 minutes. Next was a rare tower – a chime of three but with very many Jane Austin associations – Steventon.

The rather "interesting" ring at Overton were next with several people wondering if the bells were wooden!!! We finally rang the touch of Grandsire Triples that had proved elusive elsewhere. By far the highlight of the day was a visit to Winchester Cathedral. Once we had recovered from the 217 steps to the ringing room we were treated to the only ring of 14 bells and what a treat they were! With a tenor weighing 35cwt the back bells were for experienced ringers only but Philip Stevens was able to place bands to the best advantage following a few re-enforcements. Eventually, with the local tower captain on the treble we managed some very creditable rounds on all 14 – a first for most of us. The captain allowed us to leave the bells up ready for ringing the following day and invited anyone interested to visit the bells whilst he padlocked them in a safe position to be left – another unexpected treat! Perhaps the excitement of ringing at Winchester had finished everyone off as the ringing at our last tower, the 23cwt 8 at Mere was definitely a little tired and when an early finish was suggested there was no dissention! A meal at the Walnut Tree in Mere brought the proceedings to an end and all that was required was the long journey home with several of us not getting home until the early hours. Many thanks to Julia for all the organisation and to her husband, John for all the driving. Altogether a day to remember.

50th Anniversary of first Peal
I really don't feel that old, but my records clearly show that this year marks 50 years since I rang my first peal. I lived then in Lancashire and the Lancashire Association had a proficiency certificate. This required a variety of accomplishments including ringing inside to the standard methods of Plain bob, Grandsire, Stedman and Treble Bob (presumably Kent). Calling a touch and (the big one!) ringing a full peal. Looking back it seems impossible that I took so long to get to the point of ringing a peal as I had been ringing six or seven years by then. I had only rung my first Quarter Peal a few months earlier and was still only happy to ring the treble. Our tower was in the middle of a fairly built up area in a Lancashire Mill Village where the mill chimney (Tyre Fabric Co) was taller than the church spire. For this reason a Sunday afternoon was chosen for the attempt. Plain Bob Minor was the method and my ringing style changed part way through! In those days I held the tail with two fingers whilst the other two held the Sally. By the end all my fingers were going round the sally but it was many years before I finally managed to hold the tail / sally correctly. I would never allow pupils to do that now!!

Mike Mears kindly agreed to arrange the anniversary peal and suggested Lancastria Alliance Major as a method having connections to my birth county. If you look at this method you will find that it is quite unusual, having the treble dodging 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 but plain hunting in 7-8. There are quite a few "wrong" places as well. However, Mike assembled a strong band and a very creditable peal was scored. Many thanks to Mike and all the rest of the band for their efforts. Don't somehow think I will be ringing another in fifty years time!!  https://bb.ringingworld.co.uk/view.php?id=1285570

Devon County Show
This seems to come round more quickly each year! Once again the Frank Mack Ring was used throughout the show. The pattern seems to have become fairly well fixed now – an early start allowing parking in the Yellow field and on to the Show itself in good time. Un cover the bells, get out the chairs and then a bacon roll before the rest of the band arrive for the service ringing. This usually gets under way about 8.45 as the service is at 9.00. It consists of a few prayers, a short reading and address with two or three hymns. Once this is over there tends to be a lull so it is time for a brew and/ or a quick trip round the rest of the showground. The rest of the day is spent meeting visitors and explaining our art along with demonstrations and teaching the basics of mini-bell ringing. Finishing time often depends on the weather – on a good day it can stay busy until 5.30 0r later but late afternoon rain can mean that the cover is put on the bells early.

Once again it is difficult to gauge our impact but in these time of struggling bands and reduced church attendance it seems more important than ever that we keep on with the vital work of public relations – the show is an ideal opportunity for furthering the cause. Very many thanks to all the willing volunteers who so readily give of their time. The photos include one of the three Wendys who rang together on the Saturday.
Photos at https://photos.app.goo.gl/ow6jP99HRabQSCcf6

Congratulations to Nicola Jones who scored her first quarter Peal in her home tower of Stokeinteignhead. Nicola is becoming well known across the branch so it is very pleasing to congratulate her on gaining her first quarter peal in fine style on Saturday 1stJune. It had been planned as an all local attempt but unfortunately the accident sustained by Sheila Horder prevented her taking part and Martin Mansley was roped in as a regular visitor. Reverse Canterbury, Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles were the chosen methods and a very good quarter was completed in 45minutes. It is hoped that other Stokeinteignhead ringers will be following her example very soon – watch this space! https://bb.ringingworld.co.uk/view.php?id=1288191

June branch practice – Moretonhampstead
All the best laid plans ..... You will probably recall that we decided to change the venue for this practice as we had heard reports that the ropes at our chosen tower made the bells difficult to handle. Moretonhampstead are a good eight that we have not visited for some time so they should be a good substitute! Once we had gained access we started to raise the bells and both the 2nd and 3rd gave trouble and eventually refused to move. The tower captain had been a member of the band trying to raise the bells so led a party up to see what the problem was. A clock hammer was preventing the third moving and was cleared – try again. This time the second refused to move but it was now found to be a more serious problem with the clock hammer jammed through the wheel and trapped under the bell. It would appear that the bell hangers had been working on the clock recently and when the clock was pulled off it did not work correctly. This problem was going to need more involved work so only the back six could be rung. We proceeded to get them up and were able to ring minor and Doubles but were very concerned about the condition of the sixth rope which was shedding parts of the tail end alarmingly. Eventually the inevitable happened and the tail came apart. It was still possible to ring the bell, so it was decided that enough was enough and we got the bells down and beat a hasty retreat to the pub. As Rodney Horder remarked – it gave us something a little different to report in Tower Talk!

Future events

Branch Surprise Practice, June – Bickington Thursday 20th June 7.30pm

Bickington are a good ring of six so ideal for practicing the more challenging methods – try and get there if you can!

Branch mini-outing Saturday 6th July
Plans are well advanced for this and a notice has gone round – Rodney Horder has organised an ambitious afternoon of activity followed by a pub meal. Please try and support this if you can.

We think that is all for now – many thanks to all who have sent information – please keep it coming and let me know if I have got anything wrong or missed something that should have been included!!