On Saturday, 7th May, fifteen ringers from Bournemouth towers, escaped into the Dorset countryside for their annual ringing outing. The itinerary was based on towers in & around Bridport and, apart from a heavy downpour on the way to our first stop, the day was gloriously sunny.
Our first tower was St. Mary’s at Litton Cheney which was a ring of eight, the tenor weighing a little over 13 cwt. The path up to the church had wooden turnstiles at either end which added a pleasant rustic touch to the place. There was a large house and grounds at the entrance to the lane where there is a beautiful, about 20 foot high, espalier fruit tree which was in full blossom. We were told that the gardens will be open, to the public on 3rd July.
The lady who let us in & showed us the ropes went off to wind the clock. This has to be done every day and, interestingly, there is no clock face. The clock chimes every hour so that the workers in the surrounding fields will know the time. There was a steep spiral staircase of about 70 steps up to the ringing chamber and access to the bells was a ladder down into the ringing chamber. Our group was of mixed ringing abilities, from learners needing practical help to very competent ringers.
We rang rounds, called changes and Grandsire Triples before ringing down in peal.
Our second tower, Askerswell, was found ‘nestling in an hollow’ surrounded by farmland. It is one of several village churches that form a United Benefice presided over by just one priest. It boasts embroidered kneelers, an 850 year old font and one of a pair of sepulchre stones originally from Abbotsbury. It took us several attempts to find it, although we could see it as we approached the village, once we got into the village, we couldn’t see it at all.
The 6 bells are rung from ground level (which was welcome after the climb at the previous tower) and Dorothea (whose birthday it was) had her first ring of the day.
Rounds, Grandsire doubles, Stedman doubles and Bob minor were rung.
The third church we visited was St Mary Magdalene at Loders. This is a Grade 1 listed historic building in a most beautiful setting in the village. The Church was built on the site of a Saxon one and some Saxon work remains, notably the bowl of the font which is made of Purbeck marble. There were also some amazing gargoyles high up on the outside of the building. The Church has a set of six bells, the tenor being 19 cwt. The bells were removed, repaired and rehung in 2003 and another bell, which was cast in 1647, is on display in the church. It hung in the tower for 300 years but was placed in the Church in 1927 to save it from being melted down for the War Effort.
We rang Bob Doubles, Bob Minor, Rounds and Call Changes before leaving to go on for a much needed refreshment at a local hostelry.
After 3 lovely country village churches, St.Mary’s in Bridport is a substantial town centre church, parts of which date to over 800 years old.
To get to the ringing chamber is a good climb up a narrow spiral staircase with 34 uneven steps. The 8 bells are the heaviest of the day, but rang well with a very mellow sound.
Our fifth tower of the day was at Symondsbury, a small, pretty village near Bridport. We arrived at 16.00, in lovely sunshine. The church was next door to a rather impressive house which is apparently rented out as a holiday let, and a party was in full swing there. I hope they appreciated the ringing – at least we did not get any catcalls as we left.
There is a large hall about a tennis court’s distance from the church. The upper storey has been converted into apartments and we were told that, in the contracts it states that anyone buying an apartment is not allowed to complain about the bells. Perhaps that is something we should consider!
The tower was accessed via a stone staircase on the outside of the church.
It was a medium-ish six, pleasant to ring. We rang a variety of doubles, including a nice touch of Steadman, and plenty of rounds and call changes. All the newer learners did very well, and made great progress at this tower, as they did throughout the day.
The last tower of the day was at St Martin’s at Shipton Gorge. There was a very nice notice informing us the gate had been restored in the year 2000 to commemorate 2000 years of Christianity.
After a dismal start to the day, the weather by this time was very summery and the view from the front of this lovely little church was absolutely beautiful.
The key holder had forgotten we were coming, but the phone reception was excellent & we were soon let in. We were able to ring an extra few minutes to compensate.
Rounds & call changes were rung at the beginning and interspersed throughout the session. We also rang Grandsire Doubles, Bob Doubles and, appropriately, a touch of St. Martin’s.
Some of the more stalwart members of the band repaired to Dorchester for liquid fortification and I think all of us attended our various towers for service ringing the following morning.