Fifteen ringers set out from Bournemouth to North East Dorset for their annual ringing outing. Our group represented five local towers who all share practices and ringing commitments throughout the year. We were a band of mixed abilities and we rang accordingly as we are aware that every time we ring it is a public performance and it is not our intention to annoy residents in the villages we visit. As usual, the responsibilities of the day were divided up and a different person ran the ringing at each tower and a different person wrote about each tower.
Our day started at St Mary the Virgin,, Motcombe, a church rebuilt in 1846 in the perpendicular style by the first Marquis of Westminster. The light ring of 6 bells were a delight to ring and Dorothea had her first ring away from her home towers – well done!
We rang Stedman, a touch of Grandsire and call changes in the gallery at the back of the church overlooking the nave – so the bells are very much part of the proceedings in church.
From there it was a short drive to the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in the village of East Knoyle This Norman Church dates back to the 16th Century and has been much altered. It is notable for a beautiful chancel decorated with superb encaustic tile mosaics, and a fine stained glass East window, dedicated to a local Dignitary, George Wyndham. The bells are unusual because they are hung anti-clockwise, which can be confusing. They certainly confused some – but not all – of our ringers and, having rung up, they rang called changes, Plain Bob Doubles and rang down in peal.
We then progressed to Mere where the bells provided a new challenge, being more in number and heavier. The 23 cwt. tenor by Cockey ( a descendant of this bell-caster is the husband of one of the band at St. John’s) required two of our burlier ringers to ring it up. However, once raised, the ringing went well, with everyone able to join in rounds and call changes on eight. We did not attempt a triples method, but rang Grandsire Doubles with 7, 6 and 8 covering. The church is a sizeable landmark with a long history. Some of the stained glass is 660 years old, while in the west wall are two very fine Victorian windows. The central panel of one depicts the woman washing Jesus’ feet, while he leans rather nonchalantly on the table chatting with a disciple.
The inspired choice for lunch stop was the White Lion Inn at Bourton, where we were allocated tables away from the madding crowd . We were looked after very well by the staff, both in the bar and restaurant area of this attractive and characterful old pub. The lamb casserole was said to be exceptional, as were the various fish options chosen from the menu, and were accompanied by delicious Otter Ales. The chef was summoned at the end so she could be thanked personally.
Refreshed and energised we headed back across the county border for the nearby village of Zeals, South Wiltshire, and the Church of St Martin. Designed by the famous George Gilbert Scott, it is a spacious, well proportioned building, with a fine hammer-beam roof, impressive arches, and some particularly good stained glass windows. The upstairs ring of six was refurbished and re-hung in 2010, ending 48 years of silence in the tower. The bells sounded tuneful and were not difficult to handle, so Rounds, Call Changes, Bob Doubles and Bob Minor presented us with no problems here.
And so we progressed to Silton to the church of St. Nicholas. This fifteenth century church was restored in the 19th century . The walls & ceiling are decorated with colourful stencilled patterns and the wood beam ceiling is embellished with rosettes and the whole place is very beautiful. There is a large monument on one wall to Sir Hugh Wyndham by John Nost, a Dutch sculptor who died in 1729. It shows two ladies representing Grief holding Time & Death We rang called changes, a couple of touches of Grandsire Doubles and St. Simon’s Doubles and left the bells down as instructed.
Our final visit was to Gillingham to the church of St. Mary the Virgin. (I know – three of these in one day). This was a heavy ring of eight, the tenor weighing 24cwt. Even our strongest ringer had great difficulty getting this bell raised and eventually got there with help. How they do this every Sunday & practice night, I don’t know. We rang our usual repertoire but augmented it by finishing with Plain Hunt on seven. We were pleased that, apart from the treble, the bells were left up.
After this and a group photo , we dispersed to our homes and to the comfort of our respective towers for service ringing the next day. These outings, as well as giving ringers experience on different bells, are a much appreciated social event which we look forward to each year.