July 16th saw the early summer tour organised by Jenny Willis (and she actually attended this one!) in Oxfordshire.
The day started for me with a very early train from Bristol Temple Meads to Didcot Parkway where Jenny picked me up, taking me on a tour of Oxfordshire before picking up Harry in his iconic cricket hat up from his hometown of Thame.
The first tower, was St Mary’s Haddenham whereby we were met by everyone else and surprisingly also Nick Jones who had apparently travelled down from Scotland to see a signal box (Classic Nick).
The second tower was not St Mary’s Cuddington which Jenny had listed on the itinerary but rather St Nicholas Cuddington. On arrival we were greeted and let Kate with the key holder to be given instructions. These instructions included standing the bells the minute the ringing started the crash – seemed like the UL wouldn’t be doing much ringing at this one then. Nonetheless the ringing was successful including some surprise major ringing. Following the ringing we stopped for a mid-morning pint in the local pub where I treated myself to a Pimms whilst Chris Lewis-Brown had some lemonade and paracetamol, still recovering from celebrating the end of the school term the night before.
The third tower we visited was this time correctly named, St Mary’s Shabbington. Ringing here started with the UL doing what the UL does best and breaking things after incorrectly shutting the hatch to the ringing chamber. Ringing was therefore halted whilst we searched for a screwdriver and between us attempted to fit what we had broken, so we could at least ring the bells. We left the breaking of the news that we had left our mark on the ringing chamber to the locals, Jenny and Harry.
Lunch was spent in the local pub which included lots of catching up and of course talks about trains by Nick Jones. A paddle in the Thame (not Thames) was also enjoyed by many to cool off before the afternoon ringing.
The first tower of the afternoon was the first of the Miltons, Great Milton. The highlight of ringing here came from the position of the tenor rope which caused Roxy to believe she was the treble for a good few minutes. Ringing here seemed to slow as the warm weather started getting to us.
The final tower of the day was Little Milton. With its steep stairs (enough to give anyone vertigo) we clambered our way to the top. Ringing here was even slower than the previous tower as the heat was getting to us even more.
After the final tower, we said goodbye to a few ringers before walking towards the local pub which on arrival was shut. With some quick rethinking, we turned around and headed towards the Willis Residence. Here we were welcomed into the garden, given alcohol and ice cream, and left to our own devices. “our own devices” in proper UL fashion turned in handbell ringing with Jenny and Harry even joining in.
By the time a food plan was sorted we were heading back toward Great Milton where we enjoyed sandwiches and Nachos and blessed the residents with more handbell ringing – Harry was learning fast.
Following food, I departed Oxfordshire to trek back to Bristol with the journey taking a little longer due to signal failure in the Bristol area. No day can ever go perfect for the UL.
Thank you Jenny for organising an amazing day with lovely bells and lovely weather!