Bourton Bell Ringing Rally

Bourton on the Water, Glos.

26th - 31st May 2009


At a New Year rally a few years ago, we took along a set of hand bells and taught a few ralliers to ring a few Christmas tunes. One thing led to another and before long we had agreed to run a tower bell ringing rally together with Rob and Sue Kilbey. Like Lyn and me, Rob is also a tower bell ringer. What we needed was a very amenable country church who’d allow us the use of their bells for a day and Rob found the perfect venue in St Michael’s at Guiting Power in the Cotswolds. A lovely light ring of 6 bells with the heaviest bell being 6.5 cwt, or about 325kg in the key of B flat. The ropes were accessible on the ground floor, so no spiral staircases involved unless you wanted to see the bells, and there was a very handy pub for lunch across the road.

While planning the rally last year, we decided to extend the ringing rally to 5 days and run it as a “follow-on” to that at Castle Combe, giving people the chance to have a 10 day UK break in school holiday time. The idea was well received with 19 caravans making the 45 mile trip from Castle Combe, and another 21 units joining us at various times during the week making 40 caravans in total on the rally field in Bourton on the Water.

The weather was generally kind and the “bell ringing Saturday” was a real summer’s day treat. We had no idea how many people would be interested and were completely overwhelmed when 46 ralliers came along to the church to see what was involved and about half of them actually took part. The explanation of the art of campanology was made much easier by using a superb model of a bell, wheel and frame supplied by Val Rowe from her local tower. At least 6 of those who had a go, said they were going to pursue it further, so quite a success as a recruitment campaign. Both caravanning and ringing tend to involve sociable meetings in the local hostelry to discuss your hobby – so they should feel quite at home!

The rally was deliberately designed to be free and easy since there are so many places to go to in the area. However, there were several other highlights on the rally.

We were treated to a chance to see the formation and early activities of the SOC. Geoff and Anne Rowe are founder members of the club, luckily for us they were (and still are) active photographers. They have spent many hours putting together a superb DVD of video and photographs of the early years of the SOC including amongst other things the first ever rally at Alton Towers in August 1971, the first ever flag, the first continental rally and the first factory tour. Again, the interest of the ralliers was amazing with many (of the older hands!) staying the full 2 hours in the party tent to take it all in and recognise old friends. If you cross paths on a rally with Geoff and Anne it’s well worth asking if you can see it.

We also had 2 celebrations over the weekend. Firstly a presentation was made by our president John Rowe to Rose and John Arthur in recognition of 50 rallies. This was followed by a presentation from Chairman Terry Milsom to Beryl and Tom Chamberlain in recognition of their 400th rally. Well done to both couples and thanks for supplying the wine that helped the evening slip by so well.

We moved flag to Saturday evening for 2 reasons. Having got everyone together for the celebrations and a light hearted quiz, we took the opportunity to give people a free day on Sunday to enjoy the weather and the area. Also Rob was keen to see if we could get another “SOC first”. Could we get 8 bell ringers together to ring for the Whitsunday service at Rob’s own tower in Bourton? I’m pleased to say that we did really well. The band involved was Rob Kilbey, Alan Harrin, Val Rowe, Terry Milsom, Barbara Lovatt, Amy Page, Lyn Phillips and Paul Phillips. Bonnie and Richard Flitney (along with a few other ralliers) came along to listen and took the photo of the very proud band outside the church after the event.

Those who rang bells made a donation to thank the Parish of Guiting Power, (and to pay for the broken stay and the snapped rope) but on behalf of the SOC we extend a sincere thank you to the Parish of Guiting Power for being so brave and so kind as to allow us the use of their tower for the day. Also, thanks to the local residents for not complaining about the ringing learners. We hope that a few more people now understand the ancient art of campanology.

Paul Phillips

Pics courtesy Paul Phillips , Techtel & Martin Roberts
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