Friday 23rd March 2018

Richy's Blog

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Wednesday 21st March 2018

What a difference a few days make! In a month and indeed a week beset by freezing temperatures and snow, today was almost spring-like as we popped to the vets to give Charlie the cat a check-up and Alfie played in the back garden, taking full advantage of our slide, trampoline and the warmer temperatures.

Ringing featured too, at least for Ruthie who spent the evening at Pettistree, ringing in the pre-practice QP of the ‘Cambridge Twelve’ Surprise Minor methods – Berwick, Beverley, Bourne, Cambridge, Durham, Hexham, Hull, Ipswich, Norfolk, Primrose, Surfleet and York – and the session that followed, topped off by a drink in The Greyhound next to the churchyard.

And elsewhere others were busy ringing too, with quarter-peals of four Surprise Major methods spliced and Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung at Horringer and on The Millbeck Ring in Shelland respectively, whilst a peal of the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major methods was rung on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower, with an impressive bit of conducting by Louis Suggett. Happy Birthday to Barry Dixon, Lesley Steed and Rowan Wilson and get well soon Adrian Knights. Hopefully he will have been buoyed by this busy day of ringing in the county he so loves.

Here’s to his recovery, more spring and more ringing in the coming weeks!

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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Collegiate Church of the Holy Trinity, Blessed Virgin Mary, St Peter and St John, Tatershall.Jo Brand, Dr Helen Czerski, Timmy Mallett and Alan Titchmarsh. All well known people at various points of the ‘celebrity’ scale who have rung or still do. You can now add Prince Charles, the next in line to the throne to that list. Well, not strictly speaking of course (I don’t expect he’d have the time!), but kudos to Rambling Ringers’ Ringing Master, participant of the peal we recently lost at Grundisburgh for Mason’s birthday, friend and reader of this blog Chris Woodcock who yesterday managed to get HRH on backstrokes at Tattershall in Lincolnshire for a magnificent bit of PR for the exercise, surely cementing his knighthood in the process. Photographs of the momentous occasion can be found on Getty Images and attached to the entries on BellBoard of Call Changes on Six and the quarter-peal of Plain Bob Doubles at the 12cwt six.

Of course it would be hard to top that and there was nothing quite as exciting happening to us or indeed anywhere on Suffolk’s bells today.

We can’t all match the excitement of Sir Christopher Woodcock and his celebrity friends!

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Monday 19th March 2018

Typical, blinking typical. With the children put to bed quicker than normal (Alfie playing up and therefore getting no stories helped in that regard!) and Woods Lane open for the first time since I last went to St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly practice and therefore not needing to travel miles out of my way, I was actually on course to make the aforementioned session for the 7.30pm start.

Cue the type of joined-up thinking that those who close routes for roadworks are famed for, as a closure at Great Bealings on my usual way into Ipswich diverted me along the other practical and most direct journey in, via Woodbridge Road, only to find that shut too and taking me right into the centre of traffic gridlock. Having eventually driven round the houses, meeting the back of queue after queue, I then had to find somewhere to park and by the time I had managed that and walked halfway across town I didn’t make it to SMLT that much earlier than I usually do!

Still, it was all worthwhile. Pleasingly, David Potts was back again as he continues his recovery (he apparently returned last week in my absence), but as prearranged, Laura Davies ran proceedings and as with Amanda Richmond, Louis Suggett and Jonathan Williamson who have also covered David as he necessarily put his feet up she did a super job. Not that we helped her. Erin Cinques – remarkably simple, especially for those who can ring Surprise and the like – unexplainably struggled, but it was at least part of a productive repertoire that was useful particularly to those feeling their way into twelve-bell ringing.

However, it is the last session for a fortnight, with next week being Holy Week, although it was agreed that we will plan to run one the week after on Easter Monday. It is worth checking with any towers you are planning to go to – and indeed any that you’re not planning to go to – next week and on the Bank Holiday whether they are ringing as normal. Two weeks later on 16th April, we will be holding the Tower AGM following a practice that will run half-an-hour earlier from 7-8.30pm – please note that if you are planning on joining us for the ringing, which of course you will be more than welcome to do!

Talking of AGMs, Rowan Wilson revealed that there only 15-20 people have thus far put their name down for tea at the Guild’s in Bury St Edmunds on Saturday 7th April. This is an incredibly easy location to get to by road and public transport and so there is really little excuse for us not getting at least a hundred there, but I suspect that ringers are doing what ringers always do – not just in Suffolk – and not getting round to sending their names in until the last moment. That is not an option on this occasion though, as with external caterers they have to have names in by 5pm next Monday 26th March – no exceptions I’m afraid, so please get your name to Rowan ASAP please!

On a more positive and proactive note, congratulations to Helen Bridgman who today rang her first quarter-peal in the 1260 of Doubles at Polstead. At least her ringing went to plan, even if mine didn’t.

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Sunday 18th March 2018

Past, present and future featured strongly today.

One of the old photos on show at St Mary-le-Tower today. Chris Munnings (on tenor) & Owen Claxton (on treble) ringing at SMLT some time in the mid/late 1990s. Old photos of ringing at St Mary-le-Tower from mid/late 1990s on show at SMLT today.The past with the table at St Mary-le-Tower that has been sitting in the middle of the ringing chamber for some time now moved back to its once usual spot behind the ninth and tenth ropes and which was topped with photos from SMLT's recent history. Most specifically they were from what appears to be the mid-to-late-1990s and a few years later with the replacing of the fifth, ninth, tenth and eleventh in 1999, featuring younger versions of Owen Claxton, Peter Davies, Ralph Earey, Diana Pipe, Mike Whitby and my brother Chris, as well as Matthew Ball, an Australian ringer who was based here for a while back then and is now back living and ringing in his native country.

Later in the day, when Ruthie and I collected the boys from my Mum and Dad's (thank you guys!), we found them watching old videos of me ringing at the same tower when I was twelve years old, including what was apparently my first go at Maximus, all filmed by her late, non-ringing father Cyril. I can't say I looked quite the ambassador of satirical elegance that I am now, but it was fascinating viewing of film that I recall last watching many years ago.

Mason, Alfie and Joshua were at their grandparents this afternoon whilst myself and my wife went to aforementioned twelve to partake in what could be classed under the present and future, inasmuch as of course it happened today but will hopefully give us a foundation what lies ahead. Namely the 1320 of Little Bob Maximus which was Peter Davies and Richard Weeks' first on this number. Well done to SMLT stalwart Peter and Richard, whose arrival in recent months has been a real bonus to our developing band in the centre of Ipswich. Indeed, well done to the entire band who produced at times some really good ringing which succeeded despite the worrying tale beforehand of Laura Davies having been on bells where the stay has broken six times!

No such worries today in what is now a much safer venue for ringing for the future with the hatch in the centre of the ringing chamber's floor now made more accessible in case of emergencies where someone can't get down the stairs due to medical reasons, hence the moving of the table. It isn't something that has ever been needed and God willing it never will, but its right that such measures are carried out to ensure this is a safe place to come for many generations to come.

Earlier, having rung there, the trio of brothers and myself joined others in Costa Coffee for refreshment before we made our way to Grundisburgh where the present is much the same as the immediate past and I imagine probably the immediate future too with a handful of ringers manning the back six and then back seven of Suffolk's lightest twelve. Such can be the way for many rural rings, even in the little wobbly red-brick tower.

New Annual Report.On a more positive note, I took delivery of my copy of the brand new Guild Annual Report. Much like the AGM (reminder, get you name in for tea by the 26th March!), there is no way of sexing this up as it is a largely functional publication, but I look forward to receiving it each year and reading through it to see in more detail what has been occurring in the county over the previous year. Even in this day and age when what is happening in ringing can be - and usually is - instantly imparted through social media, BellBoard and even this blog, there is still much new that I learnt. It has been interesting to read of the North-East District's convening of relevant parties to set out a programme of focused events, the North-West's account of how the QPs before practices have been helping these occasions, the South-East's rejuvenation with focus on set methods at their practices and the South-West District's plans for a quarter-peal month under the new leadership of Paul Ebsworth as their Ringing Master. Disappointing though to note that there were no peals rung for the SGR on twelve in 2017. That is something that I am trying to rectify in 2018 however, even if my first attempt to break the duck failed a few weeks ago! Well done to Michelle Rolph and her helpers for getting another super edition out.

And on an even more positive note, the superb coverage of the project to restore and rehang the bells of St Margaret’s in Ipswich continued yesterday with an article on the EADT’s website covering Friday’s test ring, complete with pictures and a video that will be most people’s – including my – first chance to hear them after the work. Compare with this video on YouTube! Again, well done to all concerned on a job well done.

It has been a wonderful mixture of the past, present and future.

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Saturday 17th March 2018

Keep Calm and Ring On!At home we have a pair of mugs that demand that we ‘Keep Calm and Ring On’ and as I drunk a cup of tea from it whilst looking out over the dusting of snow that the ‘Mini Beast from the East’ had sent us, I was pleased to see that by and large ringers did, with peals and quarters rung in great numbers across the land. Yet even though there was much activity in these mediums in neighbouring counties – particularly in the Cambridge area where the University Guild there were celebrating their Annual Dinner Day, and in Norfolk where the Cumberland Youths were ringing a brace of peals on the north coast in Cromer and Holt – there wasn’t anything recorded here in Suffolk.

St Margaret's Try Out.Still, we didn’t help on that side of things as we had a quiet day mainly at home, bar a brief trip into Woodbridge to get some essentials and free books for Alfie, but as anticipated there were pictures from Mike Whitby of yesterday’s try-out on the restored eight of St Margaret’s in Ipswich for those of you who are friends with him on Facebook, which made for fascinating viewing for those of us so used to them being rung from a different location.

Hopefully tomorrow will be busier though as we aim to keep calm and ring on.

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Friday 16th March 2018

The subject of sharing photos of the unwitting was a hot topic on one of the bellringing Facebook pages today and caught my attention as I do tend to put a number of photos up on this blog featuring folk, most of which I take without any warning. I always try and avoid putting up photos of other people’s children or vulnerable adults, which in this age of safeguarding is vital, but otherwise I haven’t really thought about putting photos featuring ringing’s characters for all the world to see. However, unlike social media where those who view photos can be controlled (although often not as much as some people believe), my blog is accessible to all to view and if anyone would like any photos removed then I will of course get them taken down and if you see me indiscriminately aiming a camera in your general direction at ringing events and you’d rather I didn’t then please do tell me.

Winchester Peal BandIt would be a pity though. Apart from brightening up the blog (many may argue it needs more than a few photos!), my main purpose of taking pictures and putting them up is as a means of recording the history of our fascinating art. I like to try and capture the venues we ring in and ideally with them being used for ringing and I hope one day in many years they will offer an insight to the art in our time, including the people who carry it out. Even now, with a few years under its belt, the first photos I ever put up make interesting viewing. For example the band photo of the Guild’s first – and thus far only – peal on fourteen, at Winchester almost a decade ago, shows how some have remained almost the same, others have changed and sadly – in the case of Roger Bailey – some have passed away.

Besides, bar family photos, almost all of the photos are photos of a crowd and/or focus on the surroundings and it is worth noting that due to the spread of online news reporting and the way that the exercise has embraced it, many – if not most – of those who feature can also be found in various news articles (sometimes complete with their age and other details), not to mention in photos on BellBoard, all of which can be easily found by far more people than are likely to come across my little old blog.

Meanwhile, no matter what you thought the best eight in Ipswich to be, it appears you may need to reconsider, at least according to those fortunate enough to ring the restored octave - featuring a new treble, second and fourth – at St Margaret’s from their newly installed gallery for the first time today. Excitement is now mounting on my part even further to try these bells out at a location very special to us Munnings’, with a service of celebration planned for 3pm on Sunday 29th April. Well done to all concerned!

And as Mike Whitby was present, there are sure to be photos of the occasion!

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Thursday 15th March 2018

On a relatively mundane day for us, our personal highlight was a positive parent’s evening at nursery for Joshua who is precisely where he should be thus far, although at this stage it is all very informal of course.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, other ringers were more active, most particularly at Tostock where a 2160 of seventeen Surprise Minor methods spliced was rung, whilst nearby a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles was rung at Horringer. Happy Birthday Jonathan! I hope your day was less mundane than ours!

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Wednesday 14th March 2018

Yesterday I urged anyone who reads this to attend the Guild AGM in Bury St Edmunds on 7th April, so today I urge you to begin thinking about the SGR Striking Competitions, which this year are being held by the South-East District at the lovely easy-going 9cwt gallery-ring six of Earl Stonham in the morning and the fine eight of Debenham in the afternoon. As ever, this comes with my annual plea for old misconceptions to be put aside and for as many teams as possible to enter and give as many ringers as possible - especially learners - the invaluable experience of ringing in such events. As joint-holders Pakenham will testify, it won't just be a matter of St Mary-le-Tower turning up and winning, with teams like Pettistree and The Norman Tower also likely to compete and of course the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy offers up a big opportunity to others for silverware. Nor is it the case that it will be the same handful of ringers ringing for several teams. Maybe that was once the case, but it isn't now. Some ring for a couple of teams, including Ruthie and me as we are regular ringers at both towers and our presence in both gives others who would have no other opportunity to ring in the competitions a fair crack at it, but I'm not aware of anyone who rings for more than a pair of teams in any of the competitions - there is a chance for far more people to not just participate but to win, so please do.

Meanwhile, on a day when people gave a rye smile that one of the cleverest men on Earth may be greeted in the afterlife with a pair of Bullies, a wedge of fivers and some darts following the deaths of Stephen Hawking and Jim Bowen, we were at least busier today than yesterday on the ringing front. Or Ruthie was as she went to Pettistree practice where the pre-practice quarter-peal was successful - although the Hull didn't go as well here tonight as it did at Portman Road last night - and an eclectic repertoire was generally rung well before a deserved drink in The Greyhound. And with me unable to ring in the peal attempt at The Wolery this evening as I had originally been, I was pleased to see a 5040 scored in the little blue shed in my absence.

The reason I couldn't make it was that since I had agreed to ring, it had transpired that tonight was Alfie's parents' evening at nursery and of course that had to take precedence,. Despite the frustration of its timing (not that they can be expected to work around my peal diary!), it was an upbeat meeting, with AJM ahead of the curve on many things, which is reassuring as we consider the more formal education that is due to come his way later in the year.

And our journey there was made a lot simpler too, as the reopening this morning of Woods Lane in Melton immediately freed the surrounding streets of traffic gridlock. It may have been completed a month early and a very first world problem insignificant in the scheme of things, but it brings to an end a particularly weary few months to be a resident here. Those wanting to get to the octaves of Hollesley and Orford will now be able to a lot more easily, whilst we will be able to get to Bury St Edmunds, Earl Stonham and Debenham a lot more easily too!

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Tuesday 13th March 2018

Understandably the main focus has been on the Guild Dinner in Elmswell, especially since its postponement to 24th March, but there is another SGR event planned for the next few weeks – the AGM on Saturday 7th April!

Instantly I can hear the sound of jaws creaking with yawning and see eyes rolling at the thought of it and I’m not going to patronise everyone by suggesting that it will be very exciting. However, although last year’s in Beccles was unusually bogged down and dragged out, these days much of what would once have added considerable length to proceedings can be easily sorted through debate, consultations and discussions through emails and social media. There will still be things to deal with that should have as much of the membership as can get along, such as voting in a new Chairman to replace Alan Stanley as his five-year term draws to a close. Rumour has it that his replacement will be an historic one for the organisation...

For me though, it is important to get as many members together as possible for social reasons, to show a thriving Guild and encourage those who are learning. When there is a big crowd the atmosphere is wonderful, particularly as the day is such a relaxed affair from the lunchtime ringing at towers going into the ultimate venue of the Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds to the post-ringing drinks in the pub that in my experience is well attended! Usually a benchmark for attendance is over a hundred and we ought to get at least that in this most central of locations, easily accessible by car, bus and train and with plenty on hand for those with non-ringing partners, family and/or friends to do. And so much time, effort and even money goes into organising it by volunteers just like you and me – please make it worth their while and make sure you book your tea by 5pm on Monday 26th March as the tea is being provided by external caterers and even if you aren’t there for the food make sure you can get to what you can to support the North-West District’s efforts.

There is much pencilled in before then too, like the Helmingham Monthly Practice this Friday evening. Next week sees plenty of opportunities to progress in the North-East District, with Plain Bob Doubles and Minor and Plain Hunt the focus at Reydon on Monday, the following night at Worlingham where they plan to concentrate on methods beyond Plain Bob like St Clement’s College Bob, Treble Bob and Surprise methods, and Call-Changes upwards at Blythburgh on Thursday, all from 7.30-9pm and all of which are due to be repeated on the third Mondays and Tuesdays and fourth Thursdays and Fridays of each month. If all goes to plan, you could warm up for the Guild Dinner by attending the South-West District Practice at Glemsford earlier in the day from 3 - 4.30pm and then follow that up with another SW Practice a week later from 7.30 - 9pm at St Peter in Sudbury. As we head into next month, the first week sees more NE District focus, with a Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles on the Wednesday and a Six-Bell Practice at Chediston twenty-four hours later.

Today though, was a very quiet one on the ringing front, both personally and across the county, even if the night wasn’t quite so quiet with Joshua still a bit unwell. God willing we’ll be able to get out and do some ringing with so much on over the next month!

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Monday 12th March 2018

As the now late Sir Ken Dodd might say, what a beautiful day for ringing. Except we managed none. In fact with Joshua suffering from one of his regular high temperatures that seem to result from even the slightest ailment which meant him being sent home from nursery and a disturbed evening, we didn’t get much done at all.

Though I managed to get to work, which was needed with catching up still being done following the disruption caused by the recent ‘Beast from the East’ and computer trouble on Friday morning, that meant Ruthie had to leave her employment and with me being on a late shift there was the usual failure to get to St Mary-le-Tower practice on such occasions.

And there doesn’t seem to have been any quarter-peal or peal activity in Suffolk either, according to BellBoard at least.

I was not tickled by today.

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Sunday 11th March 2018

Women have been getting much deserved recognition in recent months with the one hundredth anniversary of them getting the vote in the UK last month and International Women’s Day a few days ago. Today, the mothers amongst them in particular were celebrated with Mothering Sunday.

Having seen mine yesterday, Alfie and Joshua’s was treated this morning to bacon sandwiches and a cuppa in bed, gifts and a card, before we attended the service at St Mary’s in Woodbridge – with me fitting in a couple of pieces of call-changes on the front six of the half-muffled eight beforehand – where she and other mums were given flowers and cards and then headed to Ruthie’s mother Kate as we and the sister-in-law and nieces were treated.

Whilst the quarter-peal rung at NDA Suffolk tower Lowestoft was rung for Mothering Sunday, conducted by a mother, the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh was an all-male affair but I imagine still top-notch as Phippen Surprise Major was rung for the first time for the Guild and by the band. Well done to all concerned.

And well done to former Reydon ringer Philip Moyse on ringing his first peal of Glasgow Surprise Major in Bristol on Friday.

Today was all about the mums though.

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Saturday 10th March 2018

When Ruthie works a Saturday and I am left looking after the trio of brothers on my own, I usually like to find some ringing to go along to, partly for my own delight and to meet up with friends, but also to get the boys out of the house and share the load of parenting!

With the only organised ringing nearby being the North-West Practice at Elveden on the far side of the county and being just slightly too far to take three young boys for an hour’s ringing, it was instead a walk into town and visits to Aunty Marian and my parents in Ipswich. The former was in anticipation of the birthday of my father’s sister and former ringer. She still takes an avid interest in the art and attends occasional events and so ringing came up in conversation before we left her in peace and popped around the corner to see Mum and Dad ahead of Mothering Sunday tomorrow.

Picture of SS Andrew and Patrick, Elveden Meanwhile, back at the fine 17cwt eight in its grand detached tower, the NW session was preceded by a quarter-peal with the wonderful notion of it being rung to a composition composed in the trenches of the First World War, almost exactly a century after Norman Tower ringer William Ely was tragically killed in action. Well done to young Jimmy Yeoman on ringing his first of Grandsire with the 1260.

It’s just a shame I couldn’t join them.

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Friday 9th March 2018

I missed a quarter-peal rung in the county yesterday at Tostock, a first of Fawley Surprise Minor for the entire band – well done to all. Today meanwhile, the FNQPC were in action with a 1320 at Earl Stonham being the first of Primrose Surprise Minor for Jenny Scase, Robert Scase, Mervyn Scase and Stephen Christian. For all that this is a far simpler method than many people make it out to be as the only difference from Cambridge is that bells plain hunt at the leadend rather than dodge above whoever is making seconds to the treble, very well done to the fab four ringing it to a QP for the first time.

It all beat our quiet day as another week of early shifts finished, allowing me to pick Mason up from school where a bric-a-brac saw us attempt to get some last minute alcohol for Ruthie’s Mothering Sunday present from the tombola but come away with a bath bar and bodywash. It’s the thought that counts.

With that in mind, Mothering Sunday may be just as quiet from a ringing perspective personally as we look to make up for it!

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Thursday 8th March 2018

International Women’s Day saw what will hopefully one day be an entirely unnecessary twenty-four hours dedicated to the fairer sex. Ringing did its bit to mark it with quarter-peals rung in its honour at Kineton in Warwickshire, Pebworth in Worcestershire and Winscombe in Somerset and on Facebook ringers were asked about inspirational women in ringing. I nominated Amanda Richmond and Ruth Suggett for their enthusiastic recruitment and teaching in Suffolk, but of course there are so many more who could be mentioned. Katharine Salter, Jenny Scase and three women close to me – Ruthie, her mother Kate and my mother – also spring to mind and I’m sure others have further suggestions!

I did nothing deserving of my own day following another early shift, but my wife contributed to wider society by attending choir practice – Happy International Women’s Day to her and our other female ringers!

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Wednesday 7th March 2018

I don’t make any secret of my preference for brisker ringing. It depends on circumstances of course. You wouldn’t go to Liverpool Cathedral and try and zip them round, although I enjoyed a peal Ruthie and I rang in at St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol back in 2007 that didn’t suffer from Andrew Mills pulling in the 51cwt tenor in just 3hrs38mins rather than the usual 3hrs50mins-4hrs. With a top controlled band, perfect striking is not only possible but probable at any speed. However, with ringing being moved along, I find it easier when ringing a tenor as I haven’t got to be heaving it up to the balance and back again 2,520 times and can go along with the flow more easily, with hesitations more easily spotted, although of course you have to be quicker in rectifying them! The narrowed gap between bells also means there is less indecision about where one should be placing one’s bell and generally it gives a piece a more lively feel.

That said though, it wasn’t my intention to ring this afternoon’s peal at Sproughton in quite such a short time, coming in several minutes faster than any other lengths on this gallery-ring six that I can find. With most of the band due to be at ringing engagements elsewhere afterwards there was a sense of urgency as we pulled off and this continued on straight into the first extent and stayed consistently at that pace until it came round 2hrs25mins later, the rope bloodied by ravaged hands and my poor handling. My hands were sore and I was embarrassed to have to leave my mother to clean the mess up at the practice later having failing in my efforts to find something to do it with myself, but ultimately we succeeded with the main aim of the peal. After the hassle of getting a peal for Mason’s birthday a few weeks ago, safety was the name of the game here. Methods that the band were all familiar with, wrong-home-wrong and in-out-in all the way with the aim of getting the most out of this good band and producing a well-rung peal for the recent significant birthday of mine and Chris’ mother, a woman who has done so much for ringing in this area and beyond, but especially at this 8cwt six where my brother and I learnt to ring. And although there were occasional points where things got a little ragged, generally the ringing was of a very high quality and the final pair of extents brought about some excellent ringing. Thank you to all the band for indulging us Munnings boys and to Ralph Earey for arranging the bells and key.

Congratulations as well to Ian Culham on ringing his 350th peal, which he immediately followed with his 351st in a 5040 at Inworth down in Essex, whilst others in the band were heading to Pettistree to attempt a quarter-peal of Durham Surprise Minor before a practice that Ruthie attended with her mother and elsewhere a 1260 of four spliced Triples methods was rung at Elveden.

My wife’s deserved night out to SS Peter and Paul and The Greyhound left me at home snoozing at the end of a long day that started with being accosted by the police on my way to this morning’s very early start at work, understandably wondering what I was doing trudging the streets at that hour, as I often do.

They seemed unconcerned for my preference for speeding on the end of a rope though...

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Tuesday 6th March 2018

Bellringing has set itself a daunting task in recruiting 1400 new ringers to ring for the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War on 11th November, a figure symbolic of the number of ringers lost in that dreadful, tragic four-year conflict. To my mind it is a wonderful idea, but has been set too late and perhaps should have been started on the anniversary of the beginning of the war on 4th August 2014.

Ringing Remembers.Nonetheless, ringing within our borders is responding and thus far there has never been more evidence than today as I looked through the promotional posters and leaflets that I collected from Ruth Suggett last night and plan on passing to Mary Garner tomorrow ahead of an open day at Pettistree later this month, happened upon an excellent article in the Ufford Punch appealing for locals to take up the art and listened to BBC Radio Suffolk’s superb report that I only caught the end of on Sunday morning about the return of the eight bells of St Margaret’s in Ipswich – it starts 2hrs23mins37secs in with mention of the project at Little Cornard.

Meanwhile, with so much focus on the future health of ringing, it was interesting to read the Facebook thread which revealed – thanks to Pealbase of course – that amongst the heavy snowfall, last Thursday was the first day since Christmas Day 2007 that not one single peal anywhere was rung, thus bringing to an end the longest period of consecutive days where at least one peal has been rung, most probably in the history of the exercise. Quite extraordinary.

Those who knew one-time Long Melford ringer Arthur Finch will have been sorry to hear of his recent passing – as was I – and will be interested to know that his funeral will be held at midday on Monday 19th March at Burwell in Cambridgeshire where he had moved last year.

His passing is a reminder that we need to do all that we can to continue the pastime that Albert partook in to thrive and hopefully Ringing Remembers, Armistice 100 will help us to do that. To that end, it is worth noting that there is a page on the Central Council’s website to register new learners, as well as a form on this very website to help track recruits from our county. Let’s try and meet ringing’s daunting target!

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Monday 5th March 2018

This evening wasn’t a vintage St Mary-le-Tower practice, granted. However, with the permanently energetic Amanda Richmond running things in David Potts’ absence, this was an upbeat session, with lots of opportunities particularly for those feeling their way into higher number ringing, methods ranging from Little Bob Maximus and Grandsire Cinques to pieces of Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and a touch of their Royal counterparts spliced. We were also delighted to welcome visits from Ruth Suggett and Cathy and Julian Colman and despite too many bits of ringing coming to a premature end and the striking being far from great due to the learners being hampered by those who should know better, this was a productive hour-and-a-bit.

Whilst others retired to The Cricketers after ringing and despite working a normal 9-5 at John Catt Educational today (following yesterday’s exploits, but also to give me some respite with still another couple of months of extreme shifts to go), I have a very early start tomorrow and so I returned home to get to bed. It was far from a vintage evening generally.

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Sunday 4th March 2018

It’s almost as if someone flicked a switch. After several days restricted by various depths of snow, today was so normal as to make one think none of that ever happened. With the only remnants of the white stuff being where it had been piled up at the sides of the roads and where snowmen once stood, the boys and I made it out to the usual first-Sunday morning circuit of St Mary-le-Tower where the ringing was run by Amanda Richmond as regular Ringing Master David Potts recovers from his planned operations of a couple of weeks ago, St Lawrence saw a huge crowd who appeared to have attended by accident instead of going for refreshments at Costa Coffee and Grundisburgh where absences included poor young Yasmin who has broken her leg.

Ruthie collected from singing duties in Woodbridge, our family then made it from Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds to The Wilford Bridge round the corner from our abode to celebrate mother’s recent sixty-fifth birthday as she, father, my brother Chris and his wife Becky enjoyed good food, good drink and good company before moving on to ours.

Earlier my parents had been to St Margaret’s in the county town for much of the morning service where the returned octave there were blessed on the church floor. It is so pleasing to see the latest landmark of this special project reaching this stage and I am keen to see and hear the results!

Elsewhere the first ringing in Suffolk recorded on BellBoard since last Sunday occurred with quarter-peals of Doubles at Great Finborough and Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree as things really do seem to have returned to normal.

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Saturday 3rd March 2018

Today was not the day we planned. We had been due to have a lazy morning, a trip to Barking and Coddenham for the South-East District Practice and then of course the Suffolk Guild Dinner in Elmswell.

Sadly though, as has been well documented this week, the ‘Beast from the East’ put paid to that and although the great thaw began on this warmer Saturday, there was still a lot of ice, snow and slush in our part of the world and no doubt worse in other more isolated communities and so it was entirely the correct decision to cancel both events, but it was still a pity not to be able to occupy ourselves traversing this beautiful county of ours with the hobby we are so very fortunate to partake in.

Nonetheless, we substituted our night out by bringing forward a night in with local ringers Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth and it was amusing to read about the way that some ringers – including St Mary-le-Tower regular George Vant – got around the advice to stay indoors as they ‘rang’ some Original Major from ‘All Over the Place’ via Facebook Video Chat yesterday.

Meanwhile, others went to take a look at the restored – and in some cases replaced – bells of St Margaret’s in Ipswich as they sat on view in the church. God willing the weather conditions will allow us to ring them in the next few weeks!

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Friday 2nd March 2018

Ipswich, St Margaret of Scotland.Amongst news of ‘The Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma, I missed some more superb PR from the ringers of St Margaret’s in Ipswich as yesterday the East Anglian Daily Times reported on the return of the repaired and restored eight in readiness for their rehanging and ringing from a new gallery further down the tower. They will be available for viewing on Saturday 10am to 3pm and blessed at Sunday morning’s service by the vicar Canon David Cutts and there will be a service to celebrate the completion of the project – including work done in the church generally – at 3pm on Sunday 29th April.

Such activity seems a distant notion currently as snow brings the country to a standstill. Nursery was shut again today meaning that Ruthie had to take a day off work, whilst my late shift at John Catt was curtailed by the need to collect Mason for the weekend before too much more snow fell, bringing to an end an extremely frustrating working and ringing week. God willing we’ll be seeing the back of ‘The Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma very soon!

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Thursday 1st March 2018

On the meteorological first day of spring the conditions brought over by the ‘Beast from the East’ improved, but the accumulative effect of the last couple of days meant that even though there was only the lightest of occasional flurries of the white stuff today, closures and cancellations came through thicker and faster than any of the snowfall we’ve had this week. More schools were closed, more businesses were closed, Ipswich Town’s match at home to Hull City on Saturday is under threat of postponement (although that was being met with an almost overwhelming reaction of apathy and even glee!) and having commented on how little ringing was recorded on BellBoard yesterday, today saw but a handful of quarter-peals and no peals at all recorded across the entire country and none at all within our borders. Particularly unusual on a day when many would be looking to celebrate St David’s Day and/or get their monthly totals underway.

Here in Suffolk Grundisburgh’s weekly practice tonight was cancelled, as is Rushmere St Andrew’s practice tomorrow night and Saturday afternoon’s South-East District’s Practice at Barking and Coddenham has also been called off, with conditions still uncertain for then, especially taking into consideration the off-the-beaten-track nature of the approach to the former, ground-floor six.

Alfie with his snowman!Closer to home, the boys’ nursery shut today and so I found myself at home from work making snowmen and entertaining Ufford ringers Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis, with the latter relieved from teaching duties with her school one of the many shut.

Woodbridge town centre unsurprisingly quiet, Ruthie was sent home early, but with choir also cancelled it was another night in from the cold.

Not very active I’m afraid to say, but one ringer being much more active is one-time Clopton (and still occasionally when he returns to the area!) ringer Tim Stanford, who is planning on running the Paddock Wood Half Marathon down in Kent next month. It is for the extremely worthy cause of Parkinson’s UK and as is the norm for such things he has a JustGiving page to fundraise. Please do contribute if you can.

Good luck Tim – I hope the snow is gone by then!

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Wednesday 28th February 2018

One of the views out of our window today!With the ‘Beast from the East’ striking fear into people across the county, my mind wandered to what is considered the worst winter in the UK’s modern history, 1962-63. Temperatures actually plummeted, not just by a few degrees centigrade for a few days but on average to -2 for a whole month and as low -20 on one occasion. The sea (the sea!) froze up to a mile out, as did famously the River Thames, huge snowdrifts cut off isolated communities and it was so cold that snow carpeted the land for weeks on end. Notoriously it effected sport badly, with Bolton Wanderers apparently playing no competitive matches for more than two months. Having rung my coldest peal at St Peter’s in the northern town I can’t say I’m surprised.

1963 Annual Report front cover.I wondered how ringing in Suffolk coped though, so I had a look at the 1963 Annual Report, possible due to the superb work of Neal Dodge in scanning the original copies so they could be stored on the SGR website. A scan of the reports from the likes of Ringing Master Leslie Brett and General Secretary John Blythe make no mention of ringing being disrupted. Did planned events go ahead as getting on with things was just what they did back then? Or were winters so regularly harsh that having to cancel practices and the like were just something they had to put up with? It certainly seems to have hit peal-ringing in the county, with just one in the medium rung by this time of the year and that not until 23rd February, although it is worth noting that the total of fifty-five for the entire year still compared relatively favourably to fifty-six in 1962 and seventy in 1964.

Did they deal with snow better back then compared to now? It’s hard to tell. Obviously what they had to put up with in that winter dwarves our current snowfall, but they didn’t have blogs and Facebook pages announcing and recording cancellations as we do these days and so it is difficult to place the cancellation of practices at Beccles, Pettistree and Sproughton on the overkill scale. In an age of health ‘n’ safety and easy litigation and in a week when people have been killed on the roads linked to the conditions, it is understandable that such decisions are reached.

Nonetheless, it has all meant a disappointing change of plans. Ruthie’s usual night out at the aforementioned ground-floor six and The Greyhound next door (which was also closed!) was scuppered and as feared our planned babysitters for the Guild Dinner can’t carry out the same task on the 24th March which means that one of us will now not be able to enjoy this five-yearly showpiece occasion.

Still, even the most snow-laden clouds have a silver lining and whilst there will also be others who will be unable to make the new date, some who may not have been able to come on the 3rd may be able to make it three weeks later. Therefore, SGR Chairman Alan Stanley has reopened the invitation to purchase tickets and I shall reiterate just what a super event this is – please do come along for a night of food, drink, entertainment and good company!

At the offices of John Catt Educational we were invited to close early again, most particularly for those who had impressively made long car journeys in, with the business park we are located in eerily quiet in a scene more reminiscent of the days leading up to Christmas than the cusp of spring. And again it all looked very pretty.

That said, the conditions were having an effect on ringing across the country. Aside from cancelled practices, there were no entries on BellBoard from within our borders and indeed things were quiet on that front all over the UK, with only two peals rung anywhere in the nation and those both featuring record-breaking peal-ringer Colin Turner. I imagine not even the winter of 1962-63 would’ve stopped him though!

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Tuesday 27th February 2018

Alfie with his snowman!The much-vaunted ‘Beast from the East’ is now having an effect. It doesn't actually seem that bad. There was a thick carpet of snow across everything that hadn't been gritted - enough for Alfie to build a snowman - but it all looked rather pretty and with no wind and plenty of winter sunshine it was actually very pleasant.

Still, trains were cancelled (though later reinstated once the folly of this premature decision was realised), one or two schools were closed and we were released early at work, although that was more for those who had driven in from places like Capel St Mary, Little Glemham and Nacton rather than the likes of me who just had to walk a few minutes down the road to get home (plus I discovered quite early on that the schools in India and Qatar that I was calling appeared not to have been overly affected by snow).

It has also put paid to holding the much-anticipated Suffolk Guild Dinner on Saturday evening, with conditions forecast to get worse later in the week. If I'm honest, my eyes rolled as they always do when the towel is thrown in on something just because the weather isn't dry with a gentle breeze and temperatures between 10-20 degrees centigrade and this is a big, big disappointment as having only got babysitting arrangements sorted last week so that both Ruthie and I could accompany Mason to his second SGR Dinner, there is doubt as to whether both of us can make the rescheduled date of 24th March. However, even I can understand the thinking, even though I expect the decision was taken with much reluctance considering the logistics of rearranging of an event that had taken months to put in place. If the predictions come to fruition we were faced with a huge crowd, some of them not overly mobile negotiating icy conditions on arrival, if they were able to get there at all from the many far-flung isolated rural corners that our membership live in. Please spread the word and let Guild Treasurer 01473 785780, know that you have received the message if you have bought tickets.

Ultimately it is the right course of action in the circumstances, but God willing the ‘Beast from the East’ won't get so bad as to justify it.

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Monday 26th February 2018

As beasts go, this meteorological one from the east appears quite tame. Snow settled a little and flurries caused great excitement, but life went on, although the late shift at work again scuppered any notions of getting to St Mary-le-Tower practice, regardless of the weather conditions.

Perhaps the threat of snowdrifts and impossible journeys were enough to put off any quarter-peal or peal ringers in the county today, but there is an additional QP to report from yesterday with the 1260 of Upper Brow Top Bob Minor rung upon the back six at Henley.

Meanwhile, my absence from SMLT meant I was unable to wish my mother birthday felicitations on the sixty-fifth anniversary of her birth, but of course we had the opportunity to do that yesterday and it is worth reiterating on here how grateful Chris and I are for her parental guidance and how grateful ringers at many towers – as well as at South-East District and Guild events – should be – and indeed are I believe – for the help that she and Dad give to the exercise locally.

Happy Birthday Mum – I hope the ‘Beast from the East’ didn’t spoil it for you!

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Sunday 25th February 2018

Tomorrow is the sixty-fifth anniversary of mother’s birth, but with a combination of the anticipated ‘Beast from the East’ and late shifts at work meaning I am unlikely to get to St Mary-le-Tower practice to wish her birthday felicitations in person, we popped round to see her this afternoon to drop off cards and a present. An enjoyable couple of hours were passed, albeit broken up by accompanying Mum to attend to Aunty Marian’s needs as this former ringer hopes to be well enough for next week’s Guild Dinner.

Whilst we were doing that, other ringers in Suffolk were ringing, with quarter-peals of Stedman Caters and Lincolnshire Surprise Major rung at The Norman Tower and Palgrave, but I did manage some ringing at Woodbridge where the bells are half-muffled for Lent.

However, Ruthie is feeling under the weather with a sore throat and a general malaise, which meant she did minimal singing in the choir at the service afterwards and felt too unwell to join myself and the boys to wish her mother-in-law a Happy Birthday.

Hopefully my wife will have a better day tomorrow and my mother will have a super birthday!

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Saturday 24th February 2018

There was a smattering of activity from ringers once of Suffolk now plying their ringing elsewhere today. Barrie Hendry was partaking in a 5056 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Milborne Port in Somerset, Sam Maynard and Maggie Ross rang in a quarter-peal of Superlative Surprise Major at Bray in Berkshire and Lucy Williamson took part in a 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at St Lawrence in York.

Peal Band.All worthy of mention, but with all respect the biggest achievement of ringers formerly of our county today was from the Salter brothers Colin and George, who rang in a peal of Holt’s original one-part composition of Grandsire Triples, entirely silent and non-conducted. It is an impressive achievement as one-part compositions are generally very difficult as opposed to two-part compositions that are broken down into two shorter identical parts, three-part compositions broken down into three even shorter identical parts and so on and so forth, with a one-part by its a nature as long a chunk of composition as one can possibly remember in a standard-length peal and this composition is notoriously difficult. So to ring it without anyone able to put any calls in, put other’s mistakes right or even give a knowing nod or wink is a magnificent achievement. Well done to all concerned, but especially the Ipswich lads!

Our day was far less laden with ringing accomplishment. In fact it featured no ringing at all as rather we carried out as much mundane necessity as we could before scampering back in from the increasing chill, although our outing was broken up by an impromptu gathering of Ruthie’s family in the street.

It was quiet from most ringers from within our borders generally with no quarters or peals recorded on BellBoard, although Clare ringer Alan Mayle conducted the 5040 of thirty-eight Surprise Minor methods spliced south of the River Stour at Inworth, whilst congratulations are due to Norman Tower regular Phillip Wilding on his marriage to Vicky today.

At least other ringers were making up for our inactivity!

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Friday 23rd February 2018

Ruthie had a day off, the boys were at their various places of education and with me ending a week of early shifts at work with a lunchtime finish that meant only one thing. No, not ringing and/or going to the pub as we once would have, but tidying, something that is hard to do effectively with the younger sons in particular!

Still, others were ringing and unsurprisingly for a Friday it was the FNQPC, on this occasion at Ashbocking where a 1260 of Doubles was rung at this isolated ground-floor six.

Meanwhile, you only have until Sunday to get your tickets for the Guild Dinner on Saturday 3rd March! Which we did earlier this week.

It has been a productive week, especially today!

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Thursday 22nd February 2018

Those who read this blog (both of you) and/or know me well may be aware that I have zero sympathy for anyone who moves in near to a tower where bells are rung regularly and then complains about the sound of them. I have some degree of empathy with people who live next to a tower where the bells haven’t been rung or a new set of bells are installed and then object, although I still feel that there should be certain expectations when deciding to set up home in the shadow of a building clearly meant for holding bells.

Christopher Whitehead College performing arts centre.Even I could appreciate the objections of the residents who live next to Christopher Whitehead College in Worcester though, where as part of a new performing arts centre given the go-ahead today, a tower holding a ring of twelve will be built in an apparent reverse of the normal order of things where new houses are built around an ancient tower and its centuries old bells.

However, only by reading today’s article on the Worcester News website and from what I have picked up previously on this intriguing project, I’m not sure that it is going to be what they fear. For a start sound control appears to be included, as it should be with all new bell jobs and arguably with all rings of bells, although to what extent this will dull the sound of the bells I can’t tell you. Any “unmuffled” (by which I assume they mean with sound control off) would be limited to a total of twelve hours across the year, although that seems unclear. In addition, the objectors seem to be basing their complaints around a noise level of 112 decibels which “will disrupt their lives significantly” but would only be that loud right next to the bells. Especially with any sound control in place, it seems unlikely they will be subjected to such levels in their gardens, homes and local pub The Brunswick Arms. And as scientific experiments go, their demonstration of what they would have to put up with by playing a recording of the 48cwt twelve at the Cathedral across the city has got holes in it large enough for those more knowledgeable on such matters to blow apart.

Still, I share some of the concerns (not least that with all the financial pressures the country’s education system is under I’m surprised something like this has got funding) and hope that this is handled carefully and the views of local residents are taken into consideration. This could be a PR disaster for ringing, but if the Cathedral ringers are behind it I am confident that this won’t be the case and I look forward to seeing how it all pans out.

Three towers in Suffolk where the residents will be aware of and used to the bells are Horringer, Thornham Magna and Tostock and this trio were ringing out to quarter-peals of Plain Bob Major, spliced Doubles and Foti Place Minor respectively, with the latter being the first in the method for the entire band. Well done to them and congratulations to Sylvie Fawcett on gaining her British citizenship!

I hope the neighbours appreciated it!

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Wednesday 21st February 2018

I’ll be honest. Out of the pair of us, I’m more enthusiastic at going out ringing – or indeed anywhere – on a cold, damp, dark February night and so after she had been in work filling in for absentees all day having had another disturbed evening with a poorly Joshua, Ruthie sent me out to tonight’s Pettistree practice.

Also being honest, it seemed others were understandably reluctant to come to this ground-floor ring where the ability to roam the church and even the churchyard at the sessions held on the warm, light evenings in the spring and summer months is utterly reversed in chilly temperatures that mean most attendees huddle together in the relatively small but heated ringing chamber.

There was still more than you would get at most rural six-bell practices and as ever a wide repertoire with it, with spliced Doubles and spliced Minor rung alongside Stedman, Double Oxford Bob, Cambridge Surprise, Norwich Surprise and – as I left just before the end – Kent Treble Bob.

Amongst the absentees was my mother-in-law Kate with good reason as she helps Ron in his recovery from his recent knee replacement which also meant she was at home today and able to look after Alfie and Joshua this morning, whilst their mother went to John Ives on a day she hadn’t planned to, before I returned from my early shift to collect them for an afternoon of present shopping for the significant forthcoming anniversary of my mother’s birth.

Another missing with good reason was Mark Ogden as he rang in a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at Grundisburgh, the fourth in the medium there this month. For all that they are much-maligned bells, they do give people opportunity to ring on all numbers at practices (they hold an extra one on Mondays specifically for their learners), quarter-peals and peals.

Somewhere else that are easy enough to manage and are relatively available to help aid progress are the light eight at Henley, where last week’s peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major was followed up today with a QP of Rutland Surprise Major before the Compline service.

They were clearly keener than my wife tonight!

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Tuesday 20th February 2018

Tickets for the Guild Dinner – purchased!

There was never doubting our intention to go along to Elmswell on the evening of Saturday 3rd March. Rather our delay in parting with money for entry to the biggest event in town had more to do with childcare arrangements and many of us were coming, but with that sorted it was full steam ahead for payment and a quick email to SGR Treasurer Owen Claxton to confirm our intention to attend.

I hope that more will do the same for the tickets that are still available. We’re not exactly swimming in cash, but even we recognise that £26 for three courses, entertainment and fellowship in circumstances that only occur twice a decade is jolly good value, so please do not delay in getting your ticket. For all that some were worried about what they perceived to be late advertising of the event, a lot of work has gone into arranging this and so I hope as many people as possible reward their efforts.

We certainly intend to!

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Monday 20th February 2018

It was a short night out at St Mary-le-Tower tonight. Having only got there at 8pm, there was no pub afterwards with a very early start at work in the morning and I had to regrettably pass on the final touch to get home to help Ruthie with a poorly Joshua. Nonetheless, quite a lot was packed into that time, with two pieces of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, Stedman Cinques and Grandsire Cinques (now we don’t have to ring the test piece for the Essex and Suffolk Twelve-Bell Striking Competition for a quarter of the practice!) rung over a session that was particularly productive for Peter Davies, Richard Weeks, Sue Williamson and the visiting Tim Stanford.

However, from now on we shall have to make do without Ringing Master David Potts who due to a planned operation will be unringable for the next few weeks. Masterial duties are due to be carried out by others such as Louis Suggett and Jonathan Williamson, but any additional support would be appreciated. As I’ve shown, it doesn’t have to be a long night!

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Sunday 19th February 2018

Newspaper reviews on the twenty-four hour news channels are a pet peeve of mine as Ruthie will tell you, her eyes rolling I imagine. Announced with much fanfare, it is suggested that we should set everything aside to tune in to listen to various journalists who enjoy the sound of their voice more than I do pontificate with their take on someone else’s journalism, as if we were incapable of reading the papers and making our own minds up the following morning. It is lazy scheduling, especially as along with the endless incredibly dull interviews with ‘experts’ done on video phone from their bedroom it is essentially a consequence of cost-cutting that means they are incapable of sending out actual journalists to report on the wide variety of interesting events happening around the country and the world at any given time. There has to be very little on TV for me to contemplate sitting through these borefests.

Mercifully, BBC Radio Suffolk’s version is much shorter and not quite so grating, but I still normally tend to glaze over when they start discussing what’s in the tabloids and broadsheets. Not today though, as one of the Suffolk Guild’s members was helping friend-of-ringing Jon Wright to read them as South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson joined him in studio. Jonathan is always worth listening to regardless of the subject, but especially wine and of course ringing, with his entertaining, informative and engaging style, so his slot from about 1hr22mins into the show is well worth catching on iPlayer.

Considering he wasn’t on specifically to discuss ringing, he did remarkably well to get some wonderful PR in for the exercise as well as highlighting ringing’s perspective on the subject of the Church of England agreeing to install mobile phone masts in church towers. This is an issue that concerns many ringers, partly because they fear the radiation being emitted would be harmful from such proximity and regular exposure. I’m no expert on such matters, but the general consensus seems to suggest that the harmful radiation is minimal.

Of far more realistic concern is the installing and maintenance of the masts. As Jonathan pointed out, there have been tales of wires being put through wheels, fittings attached to parts that are supposed to move and the like and the apparent need for access whenever they need it doesn’t sit comfortably with the activities of ringers, especially with quarter-peals and peals. One wonders if ringers were consulted on this arrangement – perhaps the Central Council can tell us? Well done Jonathan on raising the issue to a wider audience that would otherwise have been oblivious to it.

Later in the day I was listening to the same station to the disappointing yet exciting and diplomatic ending to the latest fixture between Ipswich Town and their fiercest rivals – and today hosts – Norwich City as I made my way to Grundisburgh for my meagre contribution to what has been a phenomenal Suffolk Guild Peal Week crammed full of many peals, many achievements and many firsts, especially debutants in the medium. There were some more firsts in our 5040, with Ruth Suggett ringing her first of Cambridge Surprise Royal and Mike Cowling his first of Surprise Royal altogether, whilst Mike Whitby was ringing his one hundredth peal on the bells. Well done Ruth and Mike C and ‘congratulations’ to Mike W. And well done to Guild Ringing Master on masterminding such a successful event.

Earlier in the day I went morning ringing at the same venue, which in turn followed on from ringing at St Mary-le-Tower (where the ringing seemed a lot quicker than yesterday!) and refreshments in Costa Coffee.

That wasn’t the end of ringing in Ipswich today though, with a brace of quarter-peals rung of Wells Surprise Minor and twenty-three Surprise Minor methods spliced at St Clement and St Matthew respectively. I may even tune in for the review of the Ringing World when they appear in there.

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Saturday 17th February 2018

There is a new highlight of the ringing calendar!

When Ian Culham first announced his intentions to set up a new twelve-bell striking competition for the twelves of Essex and Suffolk, I welcomed it and was keen to support it in any way that I could, but I wasn’t convinced if it would get off the ground. The principal was sound. Buoyed by the success of the North-West Twelve-Bell Striking Competition which began last year and the longer-running London Twelve-Bell Competition, it was a super idea I thought, a chance to give twelve-bell bands north and south of the River Stour experience at competition ringing on this number with an eye on potential entry into the national contest for the Taylor Trophy.

However, I wasn’t sure what response he would get to the invite. Of the six towers it was opened to – The Norman Tower, Grundisburgh and St Mary-le-Tower from this county, Chelmsford Cathedral, Saffron Walden and Waltham Abbey on the other side of the border – I knew that our friends from Bury St Edmunds and ourselves at SMLT would embrace it, but I also knew that there weren’t enough from the little wobbly red-brick tower to form an entry for something like this and it was suggested that the situation at WA may be similar, whilst Chelmsford had been struggling with numbers and I have to admit that I didn’t know what the circumstances at SW were. Whether it would’ve been worthwhile getting people to travel out for a competition between just two teams is open to debate.

Gathered in the ringing chamber at The Norman Tower for the draw.Mr Culham masterfully organised things from the start though, introducing flexible rules and a manageable test piece of Grandsire Cinques and in a sure-fire move to get folk on board named the trophy after George Pipe. He – and all of us who attended – were rewarded with a wonderful day out in Bury St Edmunds as four teams turned out for some great ringing, superb fellowship and a rare outing for George himself, looking extremely frail but clearly in his element.

With the draw made in the packed ringing chamber and us drawn to ringing second after Chelmsford, Ruthie, the boys and I joined home tower band-members Jed Flatters, Rowan Wilson and my brother Chris – who had been drawn to ring last – in The Lounge, a coffee shop round the corner from the cathedral. They then very kindly looked after the trio of young brothers whilst we rang, with me trebling and my wife ringing the sixth as a steady but tidy piece was produced. Although I hadn’t appreciated just how steady...

George Pipe meets the SMLT band after their piece.  Paul Bray, George Vant, David Potts and Mason enjoy refreshments in The Masons Arms’ beer garden. George Pipe addresses the crowd with the trophy beside him. Judges Richard Carter and Faith Pearce give the results. George Pipe presents the George W Pipe Trophy to The Norman Tower Ringing Master Julian Colman. The Norman Tower band. SMLT band. Chelmsford Cathedral band. Saffron Walden band.

Reunited with the children, Saffron Walden got underway and some of us retired to The Masons Arms for some lunch before returning to the Cathedral for the results in St Edmund's Chapel, where GWP spoke, as always claiming he wouldn’t speak for long before speaking at length! Despite having to sit down to address the room and a pair of sticks at his side, he still captivated his audience, before the judges Richard Carter and Faith Pearce from Norwich – who those present at last year’s Guild Striking Competitions will recall were the judges for that too – commented on the ringing, revealed the peal speeds of each band (with our 3hrs53mins drawing audible gasps!) and gave the results with Saffron Walden in fourth, Chelmsford Cathedral in third, SMLT in second and our hosts in first as their Ringing Master Julian Colman collected the trophy from Mr Pipe. Congratulations to the Norman Tower on being inaugural winners!

As with any good Twelve-Bell Striking Competition that wasn’t the end, although a soft drink with brother Chris and Alex Tatlow in the Dog and Partridge isn’t quite on the same level as what was enjoyed in Southwark at the final of the national contest!

Being the inaugural contest, there were things to learn – it could do with starting an hour later and now that an appetite has been proven amongst contestants perhaps more can be put on to encourage spectators – but the overwhelming sense was that this should be the first of many, with perhaps the invitation being extended to our neighbours in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.

From an Ipswich point of view, it has stoked our enthusiasm further to enter the National Twelve-Bell Contest as soon as possible, but also highlighted that we will need to be much more prepared and not be quite so stately in our speed!

At the Pettistree Dinner in The Greyhound.From a brand new highlight of the ringing calendar, this evening saw us attend a well-established highlight of the ringing calendar in the form of the Pettistree Dinner. In years past this has been slightly nomadic, being held at The Dog in Grundisburgh, The Coach and Horses in Melton, The Froize in Chillesford and The Crown at Snape. Pleasingly though, it now appears to be the norm for it to be held at The Greyhound which backs onto St Peter and St Paul where the ground-floor six that bonded tonight’s attendance, suitable not just geographically but also because landlords Stewart and Louise are such big supporters of the ringers.

There was reflection on those absent, especially Derek Martin whose passing just a couple of months after last year’s dinner shocked us so much and also Gill Waterson at a difficult time for her, but there was also much merriment as Mike Whitby received Mary Garner’s ‘Monthly’ Plate and the boys’ Grandad Ron came out a few days after getting a new knee. Good food and good beer enjoyed in good company.

Good as well to hear that common sense prevailed at this afternoon’s GMC over the issue of a non-resident member who does their ringing in Essex, but happens to live just this side of the border, whose non-residency status was challenged and could have seen all sorts of repercussions for the sake of getting tied up with rules.

Suffice to say the GMC won’t ever be a highlight in anyone’s ringing calendar!

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Friday 16th February 2018

Day seven of Suffolk Guild Peal Week and another four peals and two pealers – numbers eleven, twelve, thirteen and fourteen and eight and nine respectively of a phenomenal ‘week’ that still has two days to run. Congratulations to Jimmy Yeoman and Kate Gill on making their debuts in the medium in the successes at Great Barton and Rumburgh, the latter of which was also Mike Cowling’s fiftieth. Congratulations to Mike too.

Meanwhile, a 5056 of Double Dublin Surprise Major was rung at Elveden and 5040 of Grandsire Doubles at Monk Soham, but our day was a lot quieter from a ringing perspective with another late shift at work and the usual gathering together of children for the weekend. Hopefully a weekend of more success in SGRPW18.

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Thursday 15th February 2018

In a few weeks time we are due to celebrate ninety-five years of the Suffolk Guild's existence with the SGR Dinner in Elmswell and then the actual anniversary itself on 2nd April. There is much to celebrate, but there could have been few days - if any - in its history where so much has been achieved to such an extent as today. Day six of Peal Week saw three peals rung, complete with three first-pealers, a first on handbells and a new thousand-pealer and the organisation winning an award!

Where to start is difficult, but I shall begin with the well-known character who has done more than most for the county's ringing and who rang his one thousandth peal today, Brian Whiting. Always willing to help where he can with quarter-peals, peals and other ringing, he is a composer and conductor of note and a reassuring presence in any band, who I owe much to. As Ringing Master at Offton, he was responsible for many of my early opportunities with Surprise Major and conducting when my brother Chris and I regularly attended their Tuesday evening practices and the annual BBQ that he and his wife Peta host at their picturesque home is a real highlight of the year for Ruthie, the boys and myself. Appropriately Project1000 was completed at the tower where he learnt to ring, Horringer and it is a sign of his willingness to help other progress that he shared his big occasion with someone at the other end of the peal-ringing scale, Joshua Watkins, who along with Carmen and Zoe Wright in the 5040 of Plain Bob Minor at Thornham Magna was one of a trio making their debut in the medium. Congratulations Joshua, Carmen, Zoe and of course Brian!

Well done also to David Stanford, who rang his first in hand in the success at Barrack Lane in Ipswich, another dedicated stalwart of ringing in the county, especially in the Woodbridge area where the ringers of Burgh and Clopton in particular owe much to his hard work and time in the exercise.

High Sheriff's Awards. High Sheriff's Awards. High Sheriff's Awards. High Sheriff's Awards. High Sheriff's Awards.

David and Brian are but two of the many members of the Guild who have helped contribute to the SGR winning the High Sheriff's Award for Suffolk Heritage at the HS' annual ceremony tonight and is essentially for all that our membership does to look after, maintain and publicise the heritage and history of the county, which in our case of course is mainly in regards to the ancient bells we ring and cherish and the towers they sit in. Chairman Alan Stanley and PR Officer Neal Dodge represented us superbly, but there are some that put in countless hours to this aim and this is award is more for them than the likes of me who do little towards any actual maintenance!

I wasn't even able to enjoy the work of others today though, partly because I was on another late shift that cut across the hours of my ringing usefulness, but also because I was needed for an involved plan to get our nieces from their parents to Granny Kate via our house whilst allowing Ruthie to get to choir and involving lots of noise and tea-making!

Still, it doesn't disguise what must be one of the best days in the Suffolk Guild's history!

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Wednesday 14th February 2018

After an hiatus yesterday, Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2018 returned with yet another first-pealer today. Congratulations to Yasmin-Elise Haddock on making her debut in the medium at the age of thirteen by ringing inside to a 5040 of Plain Bob Minor on the back six at Grundisburgh, where she has done most of her learning. It has been a pleasure watching first-hand her progress and I am delighted she has managed this latest landmark.

No ringing activity for either of us though, partly because it is Ash Wednesday, which meant that Ruthie was carrying out her choral duties at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge this evening. The occasion will have meant some changes from the norm for a few towers who usually practice on a Wednesday and of course come the end of Lent and particularly Holy Week - which this year will run from Sunday 25th to Saturday 31st March - it will mean the same for most other towers too. Typically St Mary-le-Tower and The Norman Tower don't practice that week as the traditional but much-debated silencing of bells occurs for that period, whilst other towers like Pettistree and Sproughton will plan to continue as normal. Closer to the the time it will be worth checking who is and isn't ringing to avoid any embarrassing lock-outs or shortcomings in attendance!

As members should be aware, it also means that we aren't that far off the SGR AGM pencilled in - as almost without fail it always is - on the Saturday after Easter, which on this occasion is Saturday 7th April at The Norman Tower in Bury St Edmunds. There will hopefully be a huge turnout, with towers again available to ring at on the way into the venue, which is easily accessible by road and rail and is surrounded by much to entice members and non-ringers along with the business of the day. Last year's meeting was admittedly a bit of a grind, but hopefully we've got that out of our system and we shall return to the more slimline proceedings we have become accustomed to at this event.

Back in the now, another reason for our lack of ringing today was that it is the annual celebration of St Valentine, where us couples feel obliged to notice each other and make a fuss. To be honest, we've never made a big play of this, aware that it is primarily another opportunity to part us from our money and so we didn't bother with flowers (which make my wife sneeze anyway) or gifts (it's hard enough to find something for birthdays and Christmas!), but we did produce a card for each other and once Mrs Munnings had returned from church we set about producing a three-course meal of pate, steak and Eton Mess. As I always try to do, it was an opportunity to show my appreciation of my better half - if nothing else we felt quite accomplished!

Meanwhile, South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson announced that he is booked in to review the newspapers on BBC Radio Suffolk on Sunday morning, which should be well worth a listen. Perhaps there will be news of more peals for SGRPW18 to report!

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Tuesday 13th February 2018

Ruthie was poorly today and so I had to take the day off work. Not to look after her, although there was an element of that, willingly given of course. Primarily though, I was tasked with looking after the boys whilst their mother lay stricken on the sofa. Frustrating as it was to have to unexpectedly take time out of the office – and daunting considering the catching up that will need to be undertaken on my return – it is at least a quieter week than usual with many of the schools that I am paid to contact being on half-term and the happy silver lining was that I got to spend the day with my family.

It also gave me the opportunity to read up a little more on Project Pickled Egg. Apparently it is born from discussions amongst some of the cleverer composers and conductors of the art who are essential to the growth and regeneration of the exercise to ensure it survives and thrives and aims to offer alternatives to the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major methods, especially ones such as the much maligned Pudsey and Rutland. The thinking is that they have become restrictive to the progress of many ringers, offer less in the way of music and have essentially grown out of circumstance and habit. Importantly, they aren’t looking to replace these methods in some kind of snobby mutiny, but rather are keen to find out how those learning Surprise Major methods currently are learning them in an effort to find a group of more musical, more interesting methods that are easy enough to learn and can be seamlessly weaved into most ringers’ repertoires. I really hope that Suffolk’s ringers can embrace this – anything that can liven up what we do and prevent stagnation without alienating learners has to be applauded.

There was an element of that going on within our borders as Janet Garnett, Alison Daniels and Adrian Malton were ringing their first of All Fools Delight Minor in the 1320 at Exning on the same day as they also rang a 1296 of Netherseale Surprise Minor down the road at St Mary the Virgin in Newmarket. Well done to them.

Meanwhile, the last quarter-peal was rung on the soon-to-be-replaced sixth at Offton before tonight’s practice.

With my wife feeling better by that point, we were cooking up and eating pancakes on this Shrove Tuesday though, God willing a sign that I can get back to work tomorrow and catch-up!

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Monday 12th February 2018

Another day of Suffolk Guild Peal Week and another pair of successes in the medium, with another first peal at the first attempt as Tig Sweet made her debut in the 5056 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Henley. Congratulations to Tig and to Chris McArthur who rang his first since 1999 in the 5040 of Doubles at Monewden. It was also nice to see a footnote to Don Price for his 88th birthday in the former. Due to family circumstances, it is a some time since we’ve had the pleasure of Don’s company and considerable ringing abilities at Grundisburgh and St Mary-le-Tower where he was travelling to on a weekly basis from his home in Reydon. Happy Birthday Don. Nice also that Ed Winkworth could remembered in the latter peal at the tower where he once rang.

However, although it is Guild Peal Week, it doesn’t mean that other ringing in the county stops and so it was great to see Tim Forsey ring his first quarter-peal in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Bardwell – congratulations Tim!

With all this endeavour and enthusiasm around, it is worth noting the creation of a new Facebook page to help those at the early stages of learning Surprise Major and is open to both those learning and looking to pick up tips, and those experienced at this level who might be able to impart any advice or guidance. For those on FB, the page is called Project Pickled Egg discussion group. No, I don’t know either. Hopefully it will help to encourage those currently achieving so magnificently within our borders.

Sadly, in a spectacular spot of bad planning on my part, I am on late shifts at work this week, which means that not only am I unable to partake in SGPW18, but also – despite my best efforts – that practicality defeated ambition again and I failed to make it out in time for St Mary-le-Tower, which was especially disappointing as this was the last opportunity to practice the touch for Saturday’s George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition – which incidentally also has a Facebook page – at The Norman Tower.

Still, there seems to be enough going on elsewhere to more than compensate for my absence.

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Sunday 11th February 2018

Suffolk Guild Peal Week continued apace with another brace of successes and more achievement. The 5040 of Minimus at Ringsfield could be - and will be - dismissed by some as a bit of nonsense, but contributes to the variety of ringing generally, whilst the 5021 of Grandsire Caters at Beccles was more notable with it being Mike Cowling's first in the method - well done Mike!

The county's quarter-peal ringers aren't to be forgotten though (though it is worth noting they aren't an exclusive entity!) and the 1260 of Hetherslade Bob Minor rung at Buxhall was the first in the method for the entire band - well to them all!

Meanwhile, we were continuing our weekend in Lincolnshire, starting in our room at the far end of a myriad of corridors at the illustrious Premier Inn in Canwick at the south of Lincoln with a vista out to the flat landscape of this area. Even if Aunty Janet wasn't ill and they didn't have more important things to be getting on with than putting up our lively and growing mob, we probably wouldn't have stayed at their lovely but small cottage as there simply wouldn't be room, but that didn't detract from the adventure of it all for the boys, especially at the breakfast table! As is the norm with such places, the Beefeater next door to our accommodation served up as much as you could eat and our trio took full advantage!

Full to the brim of full English, cereal, croissants, crumpets and whatever else our seemingly famished family could lay their hands on to consume, we made the short journey into one of my favourite city centres in the UK to one of my favourite buildings in the UK. Much like it’s neighbour Norfolk, this county is the flattest of the flat, a landscape devoid of contours. Except here, where a huge hill rises from nowhere, ancient structures clinging to it, crowned by the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a magnificent place of worship that dominates the area for miles. As long as I can remember visiting Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick, it has been an uplifting experience spotting it in the distance and gradually getting closer and closer and yesterday it was an almost magical sight to see it lit up in the darkness of a cold February evening as we made our way back to our beds for the night, almost a beacon guiding us back. And as bellringers, we are privileged to have the opportunity to enter a hidden part of this famous landmark and ring the bells and when in this part of the world visiting my mother’s sister and her partner, we love to have a ring here.

Gathered in the Ringers’ Chapel in Lincoln Cathedral before ringing.This morning was no different, but like most cathedrals it isn’t a simple matter of just turning up and entering the ringing chamber. Here the ringing is done 127 steps up, going past various corridors and entrances to other rooms, roof space and the bells themselves, with the ringing chamber at the end of an easily missed turn-off and so everyone making the considerable climb needs to be accounted for. Therefore, although the ringing runs from 10.30-11.15am, if you want to join them you have to meet by 10.15 in the Ringers’ Chapel at the bottom of the tower - once that has been opened - before the doors are locked and the climbing begins. It is worth it though, as this is a lovely twelve with phenomenal views and in the shadow of the massive central tower looming behind the treble rope. We always enjoy a super welcome too, with some such as Les Townsend having known me since I was little when Mum and Dad used to bring my brother Chris and I up here on visits to the family.

When up here it is always interesting to compare the situation to that of St Mary-le-Tower. We are in similar positions, geographically out on a limb with other active twelve-bell towers nearby and so not unsurprisingly the fare offered up is also similar. On this occasion we only rang the back ten – although there appeared enough to ring all twelve – but to good effect with some call-changes, Grandsire Caters, Yorkshire Surprise Royal and Stedman Caters, before we were very kindly invited to join them for a cuppa on their reserved table at the delightful Pimento, a TARDIS-like venue crammed full of character down one of the narrow winding streets making its way down the hill at the heart of the old city. As ever, the ringing family did what it does best as old friends were caught up with and new ones made.

Mason and Alfie in the grounds of Lincoln Castle with the Cathedral behind. Mason, Joshua and Alfie enjoying lunch at Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick’s.On a bracing day to be on top of an exposed hill in the middle of miles and miles of flatlands, we found time to explore the grounds of the Castle ahead of returning to my aunt and uncle’s for lunch and another few hours of time spent together, before eventually returning to Woodbridge.

It has been an enjoyable but difficult weekend, so I’m hoping for more good news from Suffolk Guild Peal Week!

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Saturday 10th February 2018

Suffolk Guild Peal Week begins today. SGR Ringing Master Tom Scase has worked incredibly hard at arranging a good number of peals, complete with the same organisational and logistical challenges that I remember well from my days in the role! In my time we reached a peak of sixteen peals in 2009 and 2010 before things tailed off and I would be delighted to see that total beaten in 2018, but more importantly that we see plenty of firsts and achievements which will help progress the standard of ringing for individuals, bands and the membership generally, directly and indirectly. And in both respects we're off to a flier!

A brace of peals saw a brace of debuts in the medium, both at the first attempt, with Joseph Findlay knocking behind to Doubles at Clopton and Matthew Newson trebling to Plain Bob Minor at Otley. Congratulations Joseph and Matthew!

My meagre contribution to proceedings isn't planned until next Sunday, primarily because in a twist of bad planning I am on late shifts at work over the forthcoming week, but also because this weekend we were travelling beyond the county's borders to Lincolnshire for a visit to my mother's sister Janet and her partner Mick. Normally this would be a lovely mini-adventure with the children and of course in most respects it is. The journey in the car, booking into the Premier Inn at Canwick at the southern tip of Lincoln, being fed at their delightful cottage on the border with Nottinghamshire. Sadly though, our Aunt was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease a couple of months ago and as anyone who knows about this dreadful condition will testify, it doesn't hang around afflicting its terrible symptoms. Indeed, having been able to have a phone conversation with her just three weeks ago, it is now difficult to understand what she is trying to say and she is reduced to shuffling slowly around the house with the aid of a frame and Uncle Mick who is doing an incredible job of caring for her. It is terribly sad for a woman who loves chatting, travelling and walking.

And yet, although this was a difficult visit, it was still an enjoyable one. My aunt and uncle appear to be facing this with a remarkable cheerfulness that belies the bleak circumstances they are faced with. There was much laughter and - with the help of Uncle Mick - still much conversation with a woman who for all the physical debilitation remains as sharp and intelligent as ever, with the three boys providing much light relief and we still had a pleasant few hours catching up and partaking in some food from the fish 'n' chip shop a couple of villages over, before we retired to our hotel room a few miles away.

Back in the homeland meanwhile, a quarter-peal was rung before the North-West District Practice at Tostock, with the 1260 of Zylverne Bob Minor being the first in the method for all the band. Well done to them all and congratulations again to Joseph and Matthew. God willing the first of many achievements over Suffolk Guild Peal Week!

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Friday 9th February 2018


Following yesterday’s searching out of videos of the bells of St Mary-le-Tower on YouTube, I thought I might scan the site for some clips of a couple of other venues that are regular haunts, Grundisburgh and Pettistree. From the former there is a clip provided by Louis Suggett of 4mins13secs of the 2009 New Year’s Eve peal of Grandsire Cinques, the BellBoard report of which allows you to put names to the legs! There is also some Plain Hunt on Eleven featuring some youngsters of the time from six years ago, one of a number that feature on the Great Barton bellringers’ website, a superb mine of ringing info, photos and videos that also features some Maximus and London Surprise Major in the little wobbly red-brick tower, as well as a brief twenty-four seconds of ringing at the aforementioned ground-floor six.

With all of this ringing available online there is of course some pretty dreadful striking laid bare for all to see, but generally I think this is a wonderful way to open up the mysteries of ringing to those who wouldn’t usually enter a ringing chamber in a way that I imagine our forebears would find simply staggering.

Offton is another set of bells that feature on YouTube, with some ringing down from 2014 on the back six and just under ten minutes of the peal of Stedman Triples rung on the 8cwt ground-floor eight the year before. However, no video appears to have been shot of today’s peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major which was the last on the current sixth before it is replaced – those clips will be a record of how the octave sound in their present form though.

For us it was an altogether quieter day at the end of another week of early shifts at work. That did at least give me the chance to watch some ringing online!

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Thursday 8th February 2018

Quiet as it was from a ringing perspective personally, it was another busy day of ringing elsewhere in Suffolk. Well done to the entire band who rang in the 1296 of Walsh’s Delight Minor at Tostock on ringing their first in the method and to Joshua Watkins on ringing his first of Minor inside as he rang the second to a 1260 of Plain Bob at Horringer, with Sally Crouch circling the tower in the same performance on the back six of this year-old eight. Congratulations Sally.  Meanwhile, the first quarter-peal was rung on the repaired fourth at Brandeston.

St Mary-le-Tower.For me though, it was an afternoon of sporadic dozing after another pre-dawn start at work. In between though, I thought I’d have a little exploration of the vast amount of ringing clips on YouTube and most particularly those from St Mary-le-Tower. There are an interesting array of pieces. Some were familiar and indeed have been shared on here, such as the first twenty minutes of a peal of Stedman Cinques rung almost exactly four years ago, a half-muffled touch of Grandsire Caters and some call-changes on the back six rung on Christmas Day 2015. But there is some videos I haven’t seen before. From inside the ringing chamber there is three leads of Kent Treble Bob Maximus rung on a visit from the Railway Guild a few years ago and the lowering of all twelve whilst half-muffled featuring Ruthie on the fifth, David Stanford on the sixth, Stephen Cheek on the seventh, Rowan Wilson on the eight, my father on the ninth and Jed Flatters on the tenth. And there is some taken from outside, with an attempt at a peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus and a couple from practice nights, one from 2013, the other from 2014. Especially when one considers some of the ringing that can be found online, what struck me was that although it wasn’t perfect – we aren’t Birmingham after all - pretty much all of it was of a very good quality, which is mainly what we have become accustomed to at SMLT I’m glad to say and impressive for our circumstances.

Such viewing certainly whetted my appetite and after a quiet day like today, I’m chomping at the bit to get joining in with the currently active ringing scene in the county!

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Wednesday 7th February 2018

There is a pleasingly long list of congratulations due on a busy day for ringing in the county.

Congratulations first – and again – to those involved in the project coming to fruition to augment the five of Little Cornard to six, who following their piece on the BBC website, yesterday got an article on the East Anglian Daily Times site.

Congratulations also to those just starting out on a project to augment the bells at Stowmarket from eight to ten in a new frame and replace the current treble, in getting themselves and ringing in the news today on the same website.

These are exciting times for bell projects in Suffolk. These two jobs, a new sixth for Offton, the augmentation at Cretingham and the restoration and rehanging of the octave at St Margaret’s in Ipswich, with the bells on view from 10am-2pm on Saturday 3rd March and available to ring on from their new gallery ringing chamber at a Service of Celebration at 3pm on Sunday 29th April.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Gordon Slack and Janet Sheldrake on their recent marriage, which was celebrated with the 1260 of Grandsire Triples at Ixworth. Gordon served until three years ago as the Guild’s Treasurer and together they are always tremendous hosts when we have visited to ring upon their mini-ring, both when they and it were in Claydon and now in Shelland. Above all else they are a lovely couple. Congratulations again!

There were many congratulations in the peal of St Barnabas Bob Triples that I had the pleasure of ringing in at The Wolery this evening too. Not to me for circling the tower for the second time (having rung every bell in the tower to a peal at least twice to those not aware), but rather to Neal Dodge on ringing his 75th for the SGR, Essex resident George Thoday on ringing his 300th for the Guild and Mary Dunbavin on not only ringing her 1000th for the organisation, but her 1600th in total in an impressive array of footnotes. I’m pleased for Neal who is doing a superb job as Guild PR Officer and George who is very supportive of ringing in the county, but especially Mary, who will always come out and help if she can, not just in peals but in so many other aspects of local ringing, in common with so many regular peal-ringers.

Whilst not so laden with achievements, there were also quarter-peals rung at Elveden and Pettistree, with a 1260 of College Bob Triples and 1272 of Norfolk Surprise Minor respectively - congratulations to them too.

Indeed, congratulations to all who made today such a positive one for Suffolk ringing.

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Tuesday 6th February 2018

Along with everyone else, I’m a little older than I was and find that I increasingly need at least a brief nap in the afternoon following an early shift at work. As much as I enjoyed the opportunity that yesterday offered me to partake in the hobby I love with friends at picturesque locations, it gave me no chance for sleep between leaving the office and arriving back from St Mary-le-Tower and getting to bed, especially with it taking longer than anticipated to score our peal! Therefore, in a complete contrast to twenty-four hours earlier, it was a very quiet day on the personal ringing front, with time instead whiled away dozing in an armchair.

Exeter Cathedral band.For all its insignificance personally, it was of course significant nationally as the one hundredth anniversary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act becoming law and thus allowing women the vote. Ringing did its bit to mark the occasion, most particularly at Exeter Cathedral where the 72cwt twelve – the second heaviest ring of bells hung for change-ringing in the world – were rung to a 1251 of Stedman Cinques by an all-female band. There was nothing rung within our borders – not that has been recorded on BellBoard anyway – and whilst I don’t believe in focusing in on anyone’s achievements because of their gender, today was a welcome reminder of how much the female species has done and continues to do for the Suffolk Guild. Such as Amanda Richmond, thus far our only woman Ringing Master, Muriel Page who founded Veterans’ Day and arranged it for over two decades until it was taken on by another female star Jenny Scase, Ruth Suggett who has been a figurehead for ringing at Bardwell and Ixworth, leading quarter-peal ringer Lesley Steed and other women currently holding roles at District and Guild level, as well as those such as Pat Bailey and Sylvia Pipe who are sadly no longer with us. I could list so many more of course. Most of whom show me up in the stamina stakes!

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Monday 5th February 2018

Perseverance finally triumphed today.
Burgh tower in the snow today.To the casual observer, the peal rung at Burgh to celebrate the recent eleventh anniversary of Mason’s birthday would appear to be a fairly straightforward affair in an appropriate number of methods consisting of lines familiar to most ringers and minimal variations of them.

The view out of Burgh ringing chamber today, with the 5th rope in the foreground.However, as many of you will know, that belies the background to this 5040. More than a fortnight after the original attempt for the occasion that was months in the planning, a week-and-a-half on from the hastily arranged loss at this afternoon’s venue and nine days after the birthday itself, even this success isn’t the full story as our 2hrs37mins of ringing followed a collapsed effort of about three-quarters of an hour, mainly started by me briefly and inexplicably losing control of the rope on the difficult fifth. I’m not usually one to contemplate even starting a quarter-peal after that length of time, let alone a restart of a peal, but as I stood there sharing in the communal sense of feeling a little silly that such an experienced band had just lost a peal in Double Oxford Bob Minor, Mike Cowling made the suggestion. There was some non-committal murmuring and faced with the choice of doing that with no immediate time constraints or coming back to try again on some future date even further away from 27th January, I’d decided that I would prefer the former, providing that no one else objected. No body else did and ultimately I’m glad as we started again with renewed determination and actually produced some pretty decent ringing in the circumstances, although we were aching a bit by the end. As Mr Whiting leant over and said to me as we entered the sixth extent “we’re on overtime now” and it felt like it! I was also glad that with snow making for a picturesque but chilly scene around this church on a hill, I was glad we had the door closed for this attempt!

Still, I was relieved that we finally scored this. Primarily because I have another peal to add to the Mason Birthday Collection that is not only numerically appropriate but also for the first time includes a method named after him! Although I can imagine it will join Munnings Little Delight Major in the file marked “Probably Won’t Get Rung Again”! And it was also nice to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Stephen Pettman’s first handling lesson at the same tower, as well as to edge Brian to within three of completing Project1000!

After our considerable efforts, we felt we’d earned a drink and so we renewed our residency in The Turks Head in the neighbouring village of Hasketon, where the conversation ranged from unconventional vicars to Guild Peal Week to the story of how Bernard Fairhead and Chris Lamb attending Grundisburgh practice ended with Ernie Pearce waking up in Colchester the following day.

That wasn’t the end of my ringing for the day though, as come the end of a long, active day I made it to St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly session where numbers were slightly low, but which allowed Richard Weeks and Sue Williamson a concerted go at Stedman Cinques and others a couple of run-throughs of the touch of Grandsire Cinques for the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Contest. Sadly the pub was out of the question as my week of early starts at work that allowed me the opportunity to ring in today’s peal continues in the morning, but I went to bed satisfied with my day’s ringing and that the perseverance needed finally triumphed.

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Sunday 4th February 2018

Alfie in his giant balloon hat.I shan’t go into unpleasant details, but illness laid me low all of this morning and thus prevented me from getting out to ringing. Quite what was the cause I’m not sure and I was better by this evening, but I dislike missing ringing for morning worship – for me it is the primary purpose of the exercise – and so it was very frustrating, but especially so on this occasion. Alfie had been invited to a peer’s fourth birthday party that began at eleven, before Ruthie normally finishes singing with the choir for the service at Woodbridge and so the plan had been that the boys and I would go to St Mary-le-Tower and maybe either Costa Coffee or the first part of ringing at Grundisburgh before taking Alfred to the festivities, collect his mother from church and then later we’d pick him up. However, with me bedridden until lunchtime, my wife had to forsake her choral duties in order to drop AJM off where he enjoyed himself immensely and returned with a giant balloon hat! At least someone was this morning.

As other ringers hopefully were on Suffolk’s bells today, with a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor rung at Pettistree and the entire band ringing their first of Pontrhydygroes Bob Minor in the 1260 at Great Finborough – well done all! Meanwhile, a band from Chelmsford Cathedral were practicing ahead of the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition at The Norman Tower on the same bells with a 1320 of Grandsire Cinques, the method for the test piece on 17th February.

I’m very sorry that I couldn’t join in with any ringing myself, but it did at least give me time to watch the video on the BBC website about the casting of the new bell for Little Cornard and the video of the climb up to the ringing chamber at Pershore Abbey, where the 25cwt eight are rung from a caged platform suspended high above the church nave in the tower. Those of a nervous disposition are advised not to watch. Although I can’t imagine it would make you feel as ill as I did this morning!

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Saturday 3rd February 2018

One of the reasons I began writing the blog over a decade ago was to attempt to demonstrate that one could be an active bellringer whilst leading a ‘normal’ life. Back in those days, our particular circumstances with Mason meant we were balancing raising him part of the week, working, socialising with ringers and non-ringers alike and ringing sometimes five or six days a week. These days our parenting is a little more involved and therefore we ring less and so the ringing-life ratio has altered somewhat, but we still do a lot of ringing relatively speaking, even if not always together. If anything therefore, highlighting how it is possible to contribute to the exercise as we raise three boys and deal with everyday living has become an even bigger part of my ramblings.

Today was as good an example of any of just that as we had a productive morning of mundane but essential jobs which included getting a birthday present and card for one of Alfie’s peers whose party he is due to attend tomorrow in between getting the children up, fed breakfast and lunch. Yet still we had time to gather them up and journey down to Felixstowe for the South-East District Practice on the lovely 7cwt eight on the coast for what was a busy hour-and-a-half session this afternoon. I know I moan occasionally about attendance at ringing events, especially in the SE where the membership is so high and transport network pretty decent for this part of the world, but I’m not sure how we would’ve accommodated any more than the near forty who joined us in one of the smallest ringing chambers in Suffolk – although if we were expecting it I imagine a way would be found! The crowds included a wide-range of abilities, which meant that there was an eclectic repertoire to cater for all, from Call-Changes and Plain Hunt to the splicing of the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major methods and having experienced trying to please large attendances as Guild Ringing Master I was impressed by SE RM Jonathan Williamson’s efforts that appeared to be appreciated by all present.

Ringing at the South-East District Practice at Felixstowe. Ringing at the South-East District Practice at Felixstowe. Ringing at the South-East District Practice at Felixstowe. Ringing at the South-East District Practice at Felixstowe. South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson clearly enjoying himself! Ringing at South-East District Practice at Felixstowe.

With no space for a buggy and a tight, narrow staircase up to the ropes, this was far from an ideal venue for us in our current circumstances but that is the case with most upstairs rings and at least here the church downstairs is always open and comes with lots of space and a wonderful toy corner, whilst we are also blessed that family and friends willingly offer to keep an eye on them. Thank you to Mum and Dad for allowing Ruthie and me a rare opportunity to ring together on this occasion.

Meanwhile, at the 11cwt ground-floor six of Yoxford, a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Doubles was rung by Jonathan and Suzanne Stevens with their son Richard, showing how parenthood can become a part of one’s ringing and not something to work ringing around!

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Friday 2nd February 2018

Fridays are quiet from a ringing perspective personally anyway, but with late shifts at work eating into morning, afternoon and evening, there really isn’t much scope for anything on the end of a rope, especially once the children are all gathered together for the weekend.

Still, as usual, other ringers within the county filled in for us and also as usual for the final working day of the week it was the FNQPC, on this occasion with a 1308 of Armitage-Is-The-Name Bob Minor on the 9cwt gallery-ring of six at Earl Stonham.

I’m glad to see at least somebody was ringing on this quiet Friday.

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Thursday 1st February 2018

February has begun with a new bell being cast for Little Cornard and ringing success at Grundisburgh and Tostock with a peal and a quarter-peal respectively. God willing it will continue with the South-East District Practice at Felixstowe on Saturday afternoon, the North-West District Practice at the aforementioned 5cwt gallery-ring of six in the morning of the 10th and then the North-East District Quarterly Meeting in the afternoon at Reydon. All being well, the following week will start with the Bungay Eight-Bell Practice on the evening of Monday the 12th, the Second Tuesday Ringing at Bardwell and Rickinghall Superior the next day, the Helmingham Monthly Practice on Friday the 16th, the day before the inaugural Essex & Suffolk Twelve-Bell Striking Contest at The Norman Tower, the Leiston Eight-Bell Practice on the 23rd, South-West District Practice at Haleigh between 3-4.30pm on the 24th and the Halesworth Triples & Major Practice on the 27th rounding off a short but busy month of ringing.

It is also worth noting that the funeral of Great Yarmouth ringer and friend to many here in Suffolk, Ray Rivers, will be held at 1pm on Tuesday 27th February at the Minster he served for so many years. I'm sure there are many from within our borders who would like to pay their respects and support Isabel if they are able.

In amongst all of this, the welcome return of SGR Peal Week is planned for between Saturday 10th and Sunday 18th. I know from experience how much work goes into this and I know that current Guild Ringing Master has put a huge amount of effort into it, with quite a few peals that I know of being attempted. He will need ringers to help out though, by making themselves available when and where they can and also with organising their own peals, whether that be a first or simply for raising standards. If you haven't already, please get in touch with Tom to see if he needs any gaps filling or if you want to make him aware of your own arrangements.

Meanwhile, we are just over a month away from the 95th Anniversary Dinner booked for the evening of Saturday 3rd March in Elmswell. To my mind, these have always been very special occasions, a once-every-five-years event where friends established and not yet made from across the county can dress up smartly and gather together under one warm roof to be fed and watered and enjoy a convivial night. Tickets are available at a very reasonable £26 per person, so snap yours up when you can!

For us, it was a return to the conundrum of what to do with the boys in the time on Thursdays that overlaps from the end of my late shift at work and the start of choir practice beginning for Ruthie, but ultimately it was a very quiet start to February for us. Well done to all who have done better, especially at Little Cornard!

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Wednesday 31st January 2018

Grundisburgh.January finished for another year, I was tempted into just having a quick look back through the blog. After all, whenever I attempt to justify writing it, I often bang on about the hope that it can form some kind of window on the everyday ringing scene in Suffolk and with there now being more than ten years out there for all to read, I thought I'd have a glance at this date in 2008. It happened to have been a Thursday and being pre-Alfie and Joshua and before Ruthie hooked up with the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, we went to a Grundisburgh practice that included Stedman Cinques and Cambridge Surprise Maximus. This was as I remember it when I first returned to live in the county after eight years residence in the West Midlands, with ringing also incorporating something for everyone on all numbers from six to twelve and as such it was one of the best practices within our borders, if not the best.

Yet fast forward just five years - a relative blink of an eye in the scheme of things - and there was no practice at all in the little red-brick tower, with my entry of 31st January 2013 noting that "as with pretty much every Thursday, Grundisburgh practice was cancelled." Even having witnessed it first hand, it still shocked me reading those entries just how far this once superb practice had fallen so quickly.

Thank God things are on the way up again. It's nowhere near the standard it once was and with my wife at choir practice every Thursday and the need to not leave young children home alone now a requirement of my routine (done willingly you'll be pleased to hear!) we can't attend it currently, but there is now a weekly session almost without fail that is apparently a very useful hour-and-a-half for those who can make it.

In the meantime, one constant throughout those years has been a strong Pettistree practice on a Wednesday night. Unusually though, it was a very quiet one tonight as I was offered the chance by Ruthie to go along in her stead. Mainly it was for understandable reasons. Ringing Master Mike Whitby was at work for the busiest day and night of an accountant's year, whilst others were in The Greyhound for the return of landlords Stewart and Louise and for their Burns Night celebrations. So after arriving late - see Monday's blog for an indication of why - I had a couple of rings before those of us who remained joined the crowds next door for a pint.

On the coast meanwhile, the horrific floods of sixty-five years ago were remembered in Felixstowe, with a big part of the commemorations being the ringing of a peal on the 7cwt eight there, a 5040 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung in 2hrs40mins which is a wonderful example of ringing being used by the community.

Who knows where we will all be on Monday 31st January 2028, let alone if I’m still writing this blog, but if I am, this will be a positive snapshot of everyday ringing in the county to look back on and report on.

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Tuesday 30th January 2018

On a typically quiet winter's Tuesday night in, darkness long fallen outside yet noticeably diminishing, we got the opportunity to watch the superb We Love Bury St Edmunds video on YouTube and featuring on the Suffolk Guild Facebook page, starring the ringers of The Norman Tower. Deborah Blumfield was the face of this short but informative piece that skirts over many aspects of the art, such as the mechanics of it all, methods, pealboards and long-lengths, which was brisk but got a sense of the exercise across. She was excellent at fronting it whilst in between there are shots of many other familiar faces ringing, including Ruth Suggest, whose agent is clearly doing good work at the moment!

Many of those will have been back in the same ringing chamber for the weekly practice there this evening, but as alluded to it was a quiet day for ringing personally. Not so elsewhere in the county with three quarter-peals rung within our borders today, although only just - geographically speaking - in the cases of the 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Bures and the 1280 of Superlative Surprise Major at Hopton, where the bells would've rung out as much over Essex and Norfolk respectively as across our soil. Meanwhile, all bar one were ringing their first QP of Buckfastleigh Surprise Major in the success at Gislingham - well done to the super seven!

We await to see if any of it makes it to film for any potentially quiet Tuesday nights in.

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Monday 29th January 2018

I tried, I really did. For the last couple of years, when on my late shifts at work, I have failed to get to St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly practice. Once I have finished in the office at the start of the evening, returned home, grabbed a bite to eat, helped Ruthie put the boys to bed, made the twenty minute drive into Ipswich, found some free parking somewhere vaguely close to the church and walked to the ringing chamber, the session is practically over, especially if I am unfortunate enough in my timing to arrive at the top the stairs just as those already present get stuck into a ten-fifteen minute piece of ringing.

However, as I started on my first week of late shifts at John Catt Educational in this international campaign of phoning schools across the world, I wondered if perhaps my Monday nights on such occasions had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, Joshua is now a few months older than when I was last faced with this conundrum and more willing to go along with the bedtime routine, thus making it a little easier for just one of us to handle. Therefore, I decided I was going to go for it and try and get to SMLT.

Except, little children rarely play ball when you need them to, as anyone who has been a parent will testify! Despite having dashed back, inhaled the delicious tea that Ruthie had very kindly slaved over prior to my return, getting the kids ready didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped and thus I had to sacrifice an evening of Royal, Cinques and Maximus for a nonetheless enjoyable night in. God willing I’ll try again in a fortnight.

Someone who was able to get out ringing as planned was Suffolk Guild Peal Secretary Christine Knight, who today rang her 600th peal in the 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Elveden. If it wasn’t for illness stopping her and reducing her totals considerably for a few years or so just over a decade ago, she would’ve reached this total much earlier, so it has been a delight to see her out and about with her trusty stool regularly ringing peals ever since – this landmark has been much deserved. Congratulations Christine!

And congratulations to everyone who joined her in getting there – I can only hope to be able to follow your example!

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Sunday 28th January 2018

Woodbridge, like many places, struggles to get enough ringers. Not just here in Suffolk, but particularly here in Suffolk and other rural areas, there are simply too many bells for the number of ringers available, especially on a Sunday morning where those who may spread themselves across several towers at their practice nights during the week, are of course unable to be at quite so many venues at the same time.

Those who man the 25cwt eight that is our closest ring of bells do so cheerfully and do well on a weighty ring with a relatively long draft, but it is difficult for them to keep things interesting with advanced change-ringing, particularly on the Sabbath morn when quality is more important than complexity of method and so other ways need to be explored to spice things up and in this case man the heavy back bells without excluding those who are most comfortable on the front bells. This morning, that appeared to extend to some interesting combination of bells, starting with one, three, five, seven and eight bellowing out as Alfie and I climbed the many stairs to the ringing chamber. My entrance saw me slot in onto the sixth and at least saw the back four being rung, before the arrival of Alison saw the complete octave bar the second being rung! It certainly wasn’t boring!

Elsewhere they seemed to have done things more traditionally with the back six manned – and womanned – at Kersey for a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor, whilst all the bells at Buxhall were rung for a quarter-peal of Winchester College Bob Minor, which was the first in the method for Richard Brewster, David Howe and Stephen Dawson. Well done guys!

Good to see the county’s ringers keeping themselves interested in the art, however they do it.

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Saturday 27th January 2018

Lots of things can trigger the sense that time is simply disappearing. Realising something that you remember clearly happened over thirty years ago. The aging of TV presenters who were very young when they were beamed into our living room as I was growing up. And with another Ipswich Town defeat this afternoon leaving them rooted in the oh-so-familiar position of midtable, the reality that it will have been at least seventeen years since the team I support were in any division other than their current one.

However, one thing above all else has the effect of my life flashing before my eyes is when my children have a birthday, especially the eldest, Mason. Today he turned eleven years old. Eleven!? I still vividly recall his birth, his traumas with operations on his feet whilst he tried to get the hang of crawling and then walking, his first venture into schooling. Now here he is, on the cusp of secondary school, a person in his own right, capable of so much, a far cry from the fragile little boy born into this world on 27th January 2007. He is far from perfect of course. Teenage traits have long been creeping in and like any child of his age he is prone to pushing his luck, especially in regards to winding Alfie up, but essentially he is a thoughtful being, someone keen to be helpful and be liked and who obviously loves his little brothers to bits.

Mason opening his presents. Mason blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.His progression through life is something to celebrate and indeed we did today as his Godparents Kala and Toby came round with their respective families, thus filling our house with an abundance of lively children as we adults chatted. Illness prevented my brother Chris and his wife Becky from making it over and Mum and Dad were understandably busy with helping with preparations for this evening’s Burns Night at Sproughton, but Kate and Ron popped in with more presents and whilst I haven’t yet been able to ring a peal for the occasion, it has at least been very kindly recorded in the footnote to Wednesday’s quarter-peal at Pettistree – thanks guys!

We were a little busy to partake in any ringing, but there was ringing going on in Suffolk today, with the South-West District Practice at Lavenham and a 5042 of Bristol Surprise Maximus rung at The Norman Tower by a visiting band featuring three former resident Guild members, Molly Waterson, Maggie Ross and Philip Moyse, the latter of whom was ringing his first of the method on this many bells – well done Philip!

I can imagine how they followed their performance, but our evening was slightly quieter with Ruthie babysitting her nieces whilst their parents worked and grandparents went to the aforementioned Burns Night. However, that allowed me to catch another episode of Channel Four’s Village of the Year, this time featuring East Bergholt and the unique bells there, which are not only the heaviest five hung for change-ringing, but also the only ones rung in this way in the UK. Tonight’s episode was the final for the South-East region and so was more of a recap, although it is the first community visited, but there is a fuller, longer bit from earlier in the week that can be viewed online about fourteen minutes in.

It was a nice way to finish a lovely day, especially for one boy.

Happy Birthday Mason – here’s to you making me feel older each year!

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Friday 26th January 2018

Extraordinarily great news and extremely sad news for ringing within our borders today.

First the good news. The Guild has been nominated for the High Sherriff’s Suffolk Heritage Award, the winner of which will be announced at a ceremony on the evening of Thursday 15th February, an event that SGR Chairman Alan Stanley and PR Officer Neal Dodge plan to attend. Even if we don’t come away from the East of England Co-op HQ at Wherstead Park near Ipswich victorious, this is tremendous recognition of what we do, although it would be super to welcome Geoffrey Probert the High Sheriff himself to the Guild Dinner at Elmswell on Saturday 3rd March with us having won!

Such positive word was sadly offset by the announcement of the death of Alan Foreman, one of thirty or so members of the congregation at St Matthew’s in the county town to volunteer to learn to ring in the early 1990s after the 10cwt six fell silent. Even then, he and his now late wife Audrey were already in their sixties and yet showed what ringing can offer to learners and learners to ringing even if they don’t start until a late stage in life, as they became regulars there and at Sproughton where I was ringing in the early stages of my life on the end of a rope. He had a lovely sense of humour and there was always something very reassuring about his presence and having not seen him for many years I was delighted to catch-up with him at the last couple of teddy bear parachute jumps at the aforementioned All Saints, albeit he cut a very frail figure. His funeral is planned for noon, also on 15th February, at St Matthew’s and Jonathan Williamson has been asked to say a few words, for which he would welcome any memories from those who remember him.

Sobering news for me to consider on the otherwise upbeat occasion of finishing a week of early shifts at work, allowing me to collect Mason from school ahead of what God willing will be a weekend of birthday celebrations for him.

Meanwhile, also on a celebratory note, Elizabeth Christian was ringing her first of St Clement’s College Bob Minor in the 1320 rung on the ground-floor six of Ashbocking.

Well done Elizabeth and good luck to the Suffolk Guild. And RIP Alan Foreman, a real gentleman.

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Thursday 25th January 2018

Sitting in The Turks Head in Hasketon following a failed peal attempt has suddenly become a very familiar experience. Today’s repeat of Saturday’s loss did have some differences. We lost a Grundis for example, with this failure taking place at Burgh and therefore it was also of Minor of course, rather than the Stedman Cinques we attempted at the weekend. The premature end mercifully came much earlier than five days ago at less than an hour in, during the second extent, rather than 2hrs45mins and a handful of courses from the finish line. Opposed to the months of organisation to get the Grundisburgh band set up, by its nature this performance had been hastily arranged in order to celebrate the forthcoming anniversary of Mason’s birth and Stephen Pettman’s first handling lesson. As a result, it didn’t feel quite as dispiriting.

Indeed, despite being on the hard-going fifth of this six rung from the porch, with the door open I had the winter sun on my back on this lovely day and when I afforded myself the occasional glance over my shoulder, I was met with fantastic views through the leafless trees across the rolling countryside surrounding St Botolph’s church. With my biweekly early shifts allowing us the chance to rearrange for a fortnight’s time, it meant I came away with a much more positive outlook on things than I did just under a week ago.

And at least one of my fellow participants had success later in the day, with Brian Whiting going on to call a 1344 of Plain Bob Major at Horringer, the sixteenth on the bells since their rehanging a year ago. That is something that is more happily becoming familiar!

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Wednesday 24th January 2018

Our newly acquired piano.According to Changeringing Wiki, there are numerous tales of people tapping out methods on the piano, from Plain Bob Major to Cambridge Surprise Maximus. Well, perhaps we could practice such things on the piano that was moved from Ruthie’s mother Kate’s to ours this afternoon, thanks to a removal van and an early start at work that allowed me the time to oversee it all. By staying out of the way.

Ruthie was undertaking a more traditional manner of change-ringing as she partook in the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree before attending the session that followed, although with Stewart and Louise at The Greyhound still taking their usual well-deserved break following the busy Christmas and New Year period there was no drinking afterwards.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, Louis Suggett had a 62.5% success rate as his brace of peal attempts turned into a 5040 of twenty-seven spliced Surprise Minor methods on handbells in Bacton and a 1600 of six Surprise Major methods spliced on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower. Still, well done to all concerned on both performances and also to the entire band who rang their first of Zealot Surprise Minor in the QP at Great Finborough.

Meanwhile, there is another report for those interested in such things, this time from the Cathedrals Working Group which – as the names suggests – is about the present and future of our cathedrals. It is an even longer one than yesterday’s on churches, coming in at one hundred pages, but it goes into a lot of important stuff. Not least finance, with apparently the cathedrals of Exeter, Guildford and Peterborough in particular trouble. Once again this effects bells. If for example these three buildings had to close down for whatever reason, it leaves a trio of twelves with an uncertain future. I find it hard to imagine that these huge places of worship would be left empty and uncared for and unlike smaller churches that can be easily sold off and converted into housing, it is hard to imagine a cathedral being turned into a block of flats! Nonetheless, the church – and ringing has to be included – has to change a lot about how these buildings are run, especially financially. After all, I’m not sure I could carry my ringing out entirely on the piano.

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Tuesday 23rd January 2018

Via the footnote of the 1260 of Grandsire Triples at Loddon over the Norfolk border, I was very sorry to hear of the passing of Great Yarmouth ringer Ray Rivers. Along with his wife Isabel, they have done so much for ringing and ringers in that area and like many in that part of the world, their good work extended over the Waveney into Suffolk, willing to help out where they could down here when asked, including quarters and peals. Indeed, eight of his twenty-nine peals were rung for the SGR on Guild bells, including one that I am pleased to have rung with him back in 2006. He was a useful ringer, indeed invaluable, but above all else a jolly nice chap. Our thoughts are with Isabel and their family.

Ringing could do with as many like Ray as possible, for tough times look like they lay ahead according to a report shared online. It can be read here and so I shan’t go into great detail (it is seventy-one pages long!), but the long and the short seems to be that as with so much in British society these days, funding from government is diminishing and more emphasis is being placed on local ingenuity. The result is that action needs to be taken to minimise what is likely to be the increasingly familiar sight of churches closing and that is going to have an obvious impact on ringing. Churches will have to be open to more community events and even become more integral to the cities, towns and villages they sit in. Ringers need to think about how they can help the churches that house their bells and how to prepare for the closure of churches with bells.

St. George's Church, Vernet-les-Bains.On a positive note, whilst the churches and bells of change-ringing’s homeland are under increasing threat, fundraising is underway towards further adding to the growth of the art across the European continent. Following the successes of the well-established eight at Dordrecht in Holland and the new octave of Ypres in Belgium, St George’s church in Vernet-les-Bains in France which apparently serves a largely British Anglican community is looking to install a ring of ten. France and indeed Vernet-les-Bains are no strangers to the exercise, with numerous quarter-peals and peals rung on handbells and mini-rings in the country, but this would be the first permanently-hung ring within their borders and first ten on the continent. Hopefully ringing can rally round to help spread the art through the JustGiving page for the project.

Back here and following yesterday’s uncomfortable airtime for ringing, today saw the art benefit from some positive PR on a national level from a local source, as Bardwell ringers Ruth Suggett and Jan Tomlinson appeared on Channel Four’s Village of the Year giving handling lessons to presenter Alex Langlands. Their moment of stardom comes about halfway through, with Ruth even popping up again later showing off her lovely garden. Although the village failed to make the next stage of the competition, well done to Ruth and Jan on some superbly done publicity for ringing.

Nothing quite as exciting for Ruthie and me, although I got an unexpected call-up to step in for Kate at Ufford practice with her services required at work. There had been fears that no one would turn-up with two or three sending their apologies for absence, but although we failed to get enough for all eight to be rung, there were seven, including Hollesley learner Helen who I met for the first time tonight. She got on very well in a productive session run by Peter Harper and also included Surprise Minor in the form of Ipswich and London.

It seems to have been a successful evening at Offton too, at least judging by the pre-practice QP of Yorkshire Surprise Major. God willing the future of Offton and Ufford churches and bells is as positive as the present.

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Monday 22nd January 2018

Following yesterday’s trip to The Norman Tower, there was more valuable practice for us as we prepare for the George W Pipe Essex and Suffolk Twelve-Bell Striking Competition being held by our friends in Bury St Edmunds on Saturday 17th February, with a concerted, solid go at the test piece, 396 changes of Grandsire Cinques. It is a long touch, taking the best part of twenty minutes even on the lighter, quicker-running bells of the contest’s hosts and so it takes a sizeable chunk out of our weekly Monday session, but in the context of competition ringing it is so important to become as familiar as possible with the touch you’re going to be ringing to enable you to concentrate as much as possible on the striking on the day. And whilst the long length of the piece gives greater opportunity for loss of concentration, conversely it can allow for the ringing to improve to a greater extent to a normal-length touch (the same argument as one could put forward for quarter-peal and peal-ringing) and that was very much the case this evening as an unsettled piece developed into a very decent performance under the reassuring conductorship of Louis Suggett that would likely be competitive if prolonged throughout in just under four weeks time.

Happily it came amongst a much better night of ringing than a week ago, with some good Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and Stedman Cinques, although – much like a couple of days ago at Grundisburgh – some superb ringing in the latter was brought to its knees by hesitation and a lack of concentration. Hopefully more peals on higher numbers and greater focus on striking as part of working towards competition entries will see greater concentration from all, because we have shown that when on top of things that we can produce some brilliant ringing as a band.

Today saw me start another international campaign at John Catt Educational, meaning alternate weeks of early starts and late finishes for the next four months and on this occasion I woke in the middle of the night to get in touch with schools on the other side of the world, as I am due to do tomorrow as well and thus I returned home immediately after ringing, forgoing The Cricketers.

That early start did – as usual – lead to an early finish and allowed me the chance to listen to Jeremy Vine’s BBC Radio Two show this afternoon. Not typical listening for me, but he was featuring the weekend’s story of the poor young learner who was injured ringing at Abingdon, coming thirty minutes into the programme. They say that there is no such thing as bad publicity and that saying was put to the test with this uncomfortable half-an-hour as the host did his best to make the art sound incredibly dangerous, especially for youngsters (perhaps someone should’ve sent him a clip of the magnificent ringing produced by the young band at Melbourne yesterday to knock that one down!) and indeed a number of callers recounted their incidents of rope-burn in dramatic tones, including a chap called Adrian from Sudbury. Yet Central Council President Christopher O’Mahony injected much needed reassurance and perspective for a hobby that statistically must actually be one of the safest around and ultimately this bit of PR passed by largely without too much damage to the exercise’s image. I hope.

God willing we’ll contribute to some more positive PR at The Norman Tower in a few weeks time.

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Sunday 21st January 2018

When I had the good fortune to ring for Birmingham in the National Twelve-Bell, the practice at the competition tower was probably the most important of all the practices. A chance to ring the bell you will be ringing on the day, getting an idea of all its little intricacies and it works with other bells, especially in the test piece. With the Brummies we would also listen back to recordings of our ringing for analysis and have reserves there so they were ready to step in, but also to listen to the ringing from roughly where the judges would be to pick out any discrepancies that we didn’t notice from the ringing chamber.

Our visit to The Norman Tower this afternoon to practice ahead of the St Mary-le-Tower entry in the George W Pipe Essex and Suffolk Twelve-Bell Competition on Saturday 17th February wasn’t exactly like that. After all, due to work commitments and the snowy conditions we were short of the whole band, but thanks to the help of some of our hosts those of us present had the invaluable experience of ringing the 396 of Grandsire Cinques that is to be the test piece on the bells that we are pencilled in to ring on the day. Thank you particularly to Julian Colman who joined us at short notice to aid us.

Ruthie and I took the opportunity to enjoy a drink in The Corn Exchange before returning to Ipswich where Mum and Dad had very kindly been looking after the boys, although with them having looked after them yesterday whilst I was peal-ringing and Wednesday whilst we both worked, Kate looking after them whilst we went to the theatre that evening and my wife’s grandparents looking after them whilst we went to the cinema a week ago, I think we may have used up all our babysitting privileges for now!

Earlier I went to SMLT for service ringing, where I rang more Stedman Cinques on the treble after 2hrs45mins doing the same yesterday and then joined some of the others at Costa Coffee before returning to the scene of Saturday’s loss where the highlight was Call-Changes on Ten.

The highlight for ringing generally today came from Melbourne in Derbyshire, where the ten who were the youngest band to ring a peal on ten in Birmingham a fortnight ago were joined by two others to form the youngest band to ring a peal on twelve bells with a 5042 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus, coming in at an average age of 15 years and 341 days. It is a marvelous achievement, especially on this chancel ring and bodes well for the future of the art.

Meanwhile within our borders, there were an impressive five quarter-peals. Well done to Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge on ringing his first of Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place Doubles in the 1260 at Great Barton and to the entire band for ringing their first of Spithead Bob Minor in the QP at Pakenham, Xeranthemum Surprise Major in the 1312 at Palgrave and Cors-Goch Glan Teifi Bob Minor in the success at Thurston, whilst Plain Bob Minor was rung at Rougham.
All good practice I’m sure!

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Saturday 20th January 2018

Losing this morning’s attempt of 5011 of Stedman Cinques at Grundisburgh was disappointing and frustrating for so many reasons. Losing any peal is a blow of course, but opportunities to ring peals on this number don’t come my way everyday in my current circumstances. With a good band gathered from Essex to Lincolnshire, Norfolk to Warwickshire, it had taken several months of organising, accompanied with the usual worries about everything falling into place (did everyone actually say yes, were they all aware of the change of time, I did tell them the right place didn’t I?) and I was keen to score for the forthcoming eleventh anniversary of Mason’s birth. With our premature end coming after 2hrs45mins with a just a handful of courses to go, it doesn’t feel an understatement to pronounce it one of the low points of my ringing life.

That is always the risk with peal-ringing and especially Stedman, it wouldn’t be an achievement to score otherwise and there were positives. Our merry dozen included some of Suffolk’s own stars, such as Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase, conductor Stephen Pettman, David Stanford, Brian Whiting, Louis Suggett, Laura Davies and my brother Chris, all with a vast amount of experience on twelve, complemented by past Essex Association Ringing Master Brian Meads, former Mancroft and St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd, Rambling Ringers Ringing Master Chris Woodcock and Tom Griffiths, member of that record-breaking peal in Alderney three months ago and this week announced as one of the judges for the National Twelve-Bell eliminator at Southwell on Saturday 24th March. As a result, although there were some unsettled bits, there was also some fantastic ringing, certainly the best I have partaken in here for many years, not only showing how hard ringing here can be (it is telling that having rung the eleventh at Alderney for 25,056 changes over 16hrs7mins pretty much flawlessly, Tom had to work hard on the fourth!), but also that these much-maligned bells can be rung well.

It was great as well to catch up with ringing friends not often see, as well as Tom’s wife Rosie who I haven’t seen for a few years and his daughter Harriet who I was delighted to meet for the first time as they, my three boys and Mum and Dad – who had very kindly looked after them with Ruthie at work - joined the defeated peal-band in The Turks Head in Hasketon.

Eventually we all went our separate ways, although not in an entirely successful manner. The Griffiths family, having made a weekend of their trip to the county, were looking for somewhere nice with shops and so I pointed them in the direction of Woodbridge, only to discover – unbeknown to me – that as well as the Woods Lane closure, the main road through town was blocked this afternoon by flooding, meaning the whole area was at an unedifying standstill.

Meanwhile, Brian Meads and Chris Woodcock headed off to Hitchin to attempt another peal of Stedman Cinques, but there doesn’t seem to be any record of it on BellBoard – in this case the probability is that no news is bad news. If so, it has been a particularly unlucky day for them.

Still, not as unlucky as the poor teenage learner who injured himself after breaking a stay whilst having handling lessons at the 16cwt ten of St Helen’s in Abingdon. Apparently something distracted him and he got caught up in the hopes, was lifted a few feet up and dropped to the floor, although as with the exaggerated coverage of last year’s similar incident at Worcester Cathedral it wasn’t from anywhere near forty feet as quoted in most reports – rather the ringing chamber itself is forty feet up the tower. The rescue was also reported with gleeful sensationalism as – rather normally in such circumstances – he had to be brought down via the hatch that is in many belfry floors, usually to remove bells for maintenance. For all the eye-rolling though, hopefully the lad is OK and people aren’t put off by what is still an extremely rare occurrence, especially when one compares it to driving a car or even crossing the road.

And if nothing else, it put my own disappointments and frustrations into perspective.

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Friday 19th January 2018

Good news for ringing as it appears that policy is going to be put in place to protect bells against complaints from those moving into new developments placed next door. There is a very good article on the legislation in The Telegraph and it is worth noting this isn’t just for bells but for music venues and pubs, but it is ringing that makes the headlines and is very good news!

Ironically there doesn’t seem to have been anyone in Suffolk giving cause to be a nuisance, with quarter-peals and peals at least.

Not that we helped contribute to the numbers on BellBoard with the usual Friday evening collection of the boys being the main focus, but at least when we return to the art we can hopefully do so without as much risk at getting complaints.

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Thursday 18th January 2018

2017 was by far and away the most expensive year of our lives, predominantly due to the purchases of our home and car. However, if 2018 carries on like this, it will be giving last year a run for its vast amount of outlaid money.

Having only paid today for the pricey work on our boiler that required many hours of a plumber fiddling about, several visits and three new parts over Advent, Christmas and New Year in order to restore hot water to our household, this evening saw our washing machine go into meltdown as it struggled to get through the latest batch of washing that is needed in a house of five that includes two messy very young boys. A banging noise accompanied the already menacing sounding spinning and it became clear that this appliance was finished for good as a pile of clothes came out far wetter than one would hope. With repairs likely to run into the hundreds, it seems prudent to invest in a new, full-functioning machine instead.

Still, it was nothing compared to the damage caused by the latest storm to hit our shores. Having dismissed past complaints about the closing of the Orwell Bridge to everyone (unlike other similar sized bridges where only high-sided vehicles are stopped in the same conditions) by saying such crippling closures were a once-in-blue-moon occurrence, the Highways Agency closed the only viable route for mass traffic past Ipswich for the third time in the last few weeks. Even so, these seemed worse than recent gusts and with our route to take the boys to nursery already hampered by the long-term and well-documented closure of Woods Lane, our journey this morning was further elongated by roads blocked by fallen trees and a significant detour around the local area.

Other ringers were made of stern stuff though and able to get through the gales, with the band ringing the Ladies Guild quarter-peal at Gislingham rightly pleased with their efforts in the face of adversity! Well done as well to those who made it to Horringer and Tostock for a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor and 1296 of Allerton Bob Minor respectively and particularly to Joshua Watkins on his first of Minor and Jimmy Yeoman for his first inside in the former performance and Pam Ebsworth and Stephen Dawson for their first in the method in the latter success.

Meanwhile, although she wisely played it safe and stayed at home to do it, well done to Laura Davies on her first QP as conductor in hand.
God willing we'll be out and about joining everyone ringing soon - thank goodness we enjoy a hobby for such a minimal cost, otherwise we wouldn't be able to afford anymore ringing in 2018!

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Wednesday 17th January 2018

Deep in the depths of Woodbridge School's grounds sits one of my favourite places, the Seckford Theatre and one of the highlights of my year is usually the Eastern Angles Christmas performance, typically a humorous take on a film or famous story of some sort. Therefore tonight ticked all the right boxes, not least because it afforded Ruthie and me our second trip out childless in a few days, much as we love them to bits obviously. The play this year is The Ladykillers of Humber Doucy Lane, a take on the well known film The Ladykillers of course. It isn't the West End, the Royal Shakespeare Company or even The Wolsey, but its not meant to be and this was a hilarious night out following a band of prison escapees planning a heist at the same time as performing The Importance of Being Earnest. All along there were topical jokes, such as Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy stealing cutlery - "That will be the only silverware he'll get this season" - and risqué references to the name of our rivals' manager up the A140 - "that little Farke from Norwich" - amongst much else. And as also seems the norm for this occasion, we bumped into various people we know such as Bredfield ringer Vince Buckman and local ringers Bruce and Gill Wakefield.

We were grateful to my mother-in-law Kate for not only getting the tickets for us, but also looking after the boys as we gallivanted across town before returning home to catch the efforts of those aforementioned Canaries on TV at Chelsea, which left me with begrudging admiration even in their defeat. It was a funny old night in lots of ways, but one that ticked all the right boxes.

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Tuesday 16th January 2018

It was a day of police chases and a visit from a close friend, but no ringing personally, nor in the BellBoard columns for Suffolk.

The sirens were wailing as I stood chatting to a friend on my way home for lunch, seemingly pursuing a car that didn’t seem to want to pull over despite everybody else doing so, passing Ruthie’s bestie, bridesmaid at our wedding and Godmother to Alfie, Fergie as she made her way to ours for a visit, laden with cakes and happily she was still there when I’d finished work, joining us for some fish ‘n’ chips.

Whilst there were no quarters or peals on the county’s bells todays, there is plenty planned for the rest of January, starting with the Halesworth Triples and Major Practice on this 18cwt ground-floor eight on the evening of Tuesday 23rd, the Leiston Fourth Friday Eight-Bell Practice three days later and the South-West District Practice at Lavenham is pencilled in for Saturday 27th. You could follow that up with a night out in Sproughton at the Burns Night, but you won’t be able to precede it with the ART Module 1 Course in Ipswich. However, there will be opportunities to get involved at a later date and if you would like to then please get in touch with Jonathan Williamson.

Please support what is being put on – it will benefit others and you. Just don’t get chased by the police getting there.

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Monday 15th January 2018

It was a very odd night at St Mary-le-Tower. The ringing was unusually dreadful. As Diana Pipe and I stood waiting at the top of the stairs, Little Bob Maximus crashed to a premature halt. Grandsire Cinques struggled. Cambridge Surprise Maximus collapsed twice barely a lead in. Following on from last week’s superb practice and with a big crowd made up of very decent ringers, there seemed every reason to believe that this Monday would be even better. Concentration and focus appear to have been the biggest culprits and a team-talk from Ringing Master David Potts seemed to make a difference to that and thus the standard of ringing improved from that point.

Yet the excellent two courses of Stedman Cinques that climaxed the session still felt like it came out of nowhere and left us scratching our heads as to why the first half was so dire. However, it also showed us what we are capable of with a strong band, fully focused on every blow and meant we all went on to The Cricketers in high spirits at the end of a very odd night of ringing.

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Sunday 14th January 2018

St Peter Mancroft.From the outset, our friends from Norwich have given ringing a masterclass in PR with the Mancroft Appeal 300. From its launch, to the three hundredth anniversary of the first true peal rung – at Mancroft of course – to the National Twelve-Bell Final being held on the bells, to the work being given the go-ahead, they have got things spot on. They have kept the project and ringing itself in the public eye without saturation, always giving the media something new. That has been the case this weekend with the final ringing there before work actually begins to rehang them, raise the ringing chamber and create a ringing centre below. Friday saw ITV Anglia report on this next chapter in an enthralling story and this evening BBC Look East ran another excellent piece, featuring many familiar faces, such as former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd. Well done again to all concerned.

My ringing was very low-key in comparison, but still worthwhile as I helped man the front six at Woodbridge for the morning service, ahead of attending it.

However, that was the extent of my participation in the exercise today as the afternoon was set aside for some rare freedom for Ruthie and me. At Christmas, my wife very kindly bought me the DVD of Life on the Deben, but such was its popularity that it was a difficult thing to get hold off by all accounts and fearing she may not be able to find a physical copy to open on the 25th December, she had bought tickets as an insurance policy for one of the handful of showings at The Riverside Theatre, down by the Deben and this afternoon was our turn to join the masses in a sell-out at this quaint venue. Having already watched the DVD, we knew what to expect in terms of content and who was on it (including local ringer Elaine Townsend’s husband Roger), but watching it on the big screen allowed us to see this wonderfully shot hour-and-a-half film in a different way, picking up on things we didn’t notice the first time round. And of course it was lovely for once for just the two of us to be out, even grabbing a pint in the adjoining bar beforehand.

That we were able to do that was down to the generosity of my wife’s grandparents, who looked after the boys at theirs whilst we were viewing John McCarthy’s production and fed us all afterwards too. With it being my other half’s grandfather’s birthday there were even candles to blow out and a celebratory feel about our visit.

Much as I imagine there will have been at Nayland where the ninetieth anniversary of Rolie Whiting’s birth was again quite rightly celebrated, this time with a quarter-peal of Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles at the tower where he was once tower captain. Meanwhile, a 1260 of Grandsire Caters was rung at The Norman Tower, whilst the second-Sunday peals at Aldeburgh got underway for 2018 with the first of Irwell Surprise Major for the entire band and the Guild. Well done to them all.

And well done again to the ringers of St Peter Mancroft in Norwich on some more typically superb PR!

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Saturday 13th January 2018

Ninety-five years into its existence, there are few members who have served the Suffolk Guild with more distinction than Rolie Whiting. Thirty years of service at the top-table of the South-West District, a reassuring presence in that beautiful corner of our county, a part of the SGR for as long as I can remember and a Vice-President of the organisation. Therefore I was delighted to see a peal rung today at Nayland – where he was once tower captain – to celebrate his ninetieth birthday with a band made up of other dedicated servants of the Guild, including current Ringing Master Tom Scase.

Meanwhile, I was able to watch yesterday’s report on ITV Anglia News about the end of ringing at St Peter Mancroft before the start of an exciting new era for our ringing friends in Norwich. Unfortunately I can only find it on Facebook as ITV Hub doesn’t seem to run it, but if you can search it out then the NDA FB page is your best bet if you are able.

That I have had time today to not only make extensive searches for a shareable video of the report sums up my day. Ruthie very diligently stepped in for a poorly work colleague, whilst I looked after a sleepy, clingy Joshua gradually recovering from his illness, as his elder brothers very patiently occupied themselves on an extremely quiet and slow day for us.

Other Suffolk ringers past and present were busier beyond our borders, with George Salter a part of the band that rang a peal of Norman Smith’s twenty-three Surprise Major methods spliced at Weston-super-Mare, his younger brother Colin partaking in the first peal on tower bells of Euximoor Fen Surprise Maximus at Guildford Cathedral and St Mary-le-Tower ringers Laura Davies and Louis Suggett joining one-time SGR resident member John Loveless in the 5080 of Bristol Surprise Royal at St Thomas the Martyr in Oxford.

Well done to them all and Happy Birthday Rolie Whiting!

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Friday 12th January 2018

Well done to our friends from Norwich. On Monday they held the last practice night in the famous old ringing chamber of St Peter Mancroft with the project to move the ringers further upstairs, strengthen the frame and create the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre getting underway next week. And tonight they appeared on Anglia News on ITV in a report that received rave reviews. Sadly we missed it and it doesn’t appear to be included in the videos available to watch again online, but keep an eye out, I’m sure it will turn up somewhere!

The reason we failed to catch it was the usual hectic Friday post-work routine of collecting children and then feeding them and getting them all to bed, although on this occasion with Joshua still too poorly to go to nursery, Ruthie swapped roles with me from yesterday and took the day off work to look after him.

No such trouble for the FNQPC as they rang a 1260 of Doubles at the ground-floor six of Tannington, but the headline makers were in Norwich today.

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Thursday 11th January 2018

Ill-health is the theme of today’s blog. Most particularly in our household where Ruthie felt part of the land of the living for the first time for about a week, but Joshua was too unwell to go to nursery, with a very runny nose and eyes to match. That meant one of us taking the day off to not only look after him but also take him to the doctor who – as we expected - diagnosed conjunctivitis, sending him away with some eye-drops that are already immense fun to apply. That parent taking time off was me today with my wife making up the finite number needed at John Ives on this occasion whilst John Catt very kindly allowed me the day to carry out my fatherly duties.

More widely, Australian Deadly Flu has been threatened by the tabloids, but whilst the reality is that the flu situation isn’t anything quite as sensational as the tabloids would like you to believe, there is a lot of nasty illness going around at home and work. And of course in the exercise, as was brought up on a ringing Facebook page where it was asked what ringers were doing to prevent germs spreading on the tailends and sallies that we all share. I had never really thought of that element, but it is worth towers thinking about ways of keeping ringers’ hands clean and help stop the spread of infections throughout ringing chambers whilst still enjoying the art.

Whether strict hygiene guidelines were adhered to or not before and after today’s Ladies Guild quarter-peal at Thornham Magna or yesterday’s 1320 of Doubles at Buxhall, I cannot confirm, but I’m glad that they were all continuing their ringing in these disease-ridden times.

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Wednesday 10th January 2018

A frustrating evening. Ruthie was involved in the pre-practice quarter-peal attempt at Pettistree which on this occasion was twelve Surprise Minor methods spliced but was unfortunately lost four leads from the end, before she returned home early, where our night was mainly made up of attending to the needs of a poorly Joshua.

On a happier note, details were today released on tickets for the Guild’s 95th Anniversary Dinner, due to be held at The Blackbourne in Elmswell on Saturday 3rd March, 7 for 7.30pm and which will set you back just £26 per person for a three course meal in great company. This year the Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich The Right Reverend Martin Seeley (who is also our President), the High Sheriff of Suffolk Geoffrey Probert and our patron George Vestey are all planning on being present.

In the past these have been fantastic occasions, something that can’t be missed and don’t see why this shouldn’t be the same. So please get in touch with the SGR Treasurer Owen Claxton on 01473 785 780 or and arrange your tickets as soon as possible.

Also on a positive note, a 1270 of Doubles was rung at Hollesley to celebrate the seventieth birthday of local ringer Micky McBurnie – Happy Birthday Micky! And across the seas the first peal at Ypres in Belgium was rung, a significant landmark for English change-ringing and a massive success for the art.

Clearly not as frustrating an evening as we had!

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Tuesday 9th January 2018

Typically for a Tuesday evening we didn’t do any ringing. However, we watched enough to almost feel like we’d been ringing!

It all started with another viewing of Sunday’s Songs of Praise, which just after ten minutes in features a brief interview with fellow Rambling Ringer and Bell Major of Durham Cathedral Chris Crabtree explaining what they were doing as part of the recent Lumiere Light Festival. Superb PR for the art, but fleeting and having not been able to watch the entire episode during its original broadcast two days ago, I wanted to check if there was anymore from the ringers. Alas no, but interesting viewing nonetheless.

Following this appetiser, we tuned into a repeat of the infamous Midsomer Murders episode featuring ringing. For those who haven’t ever seen this sixteen-year old edition of the long-running programme – and if you are one of the few who haven’t you can do so for the paltry sum of £1.99 on YouTube – it essentially sees members of a village striking competition band being killed-off one-by-one, which eventually sees them competing double-handed. Absurd of course, but for me that is the beauty of the earlier series’ of this favourite in our household. Ridiculous characters and storylines all delivered with lashings of humour. And when watching this as a ringer you have to engage your sense of humour. As with nearly all ringing scenes in popular media, these ones are far from convincing and full of errors, although they did go to a lot of effort on them as an article from John Harrison – who worked with them behind the scenes for this – outlines. Sashes for participants, judges knowing who were ringing, the dreadful ‘practising’ – I could go on, but it isn’t meant to be entirely accurate (as a view of any episode will tell you) and was a great couple of hours entertainment to while a cold January evening away.

I did feel the need to exorcise the surreal light our art was put in afterwards though and so I followed up a tip from my father last night and watched a six-minute YouTube clip of the Birmingham National Twelve-Bell Contest team preparing for the 2011 final at Leeds by running through the test piece at Pier Head in Liverpool, bells presumably chosen to practise on due to the similarity to the bells they would end up competing – and winning – on.

As we in Ipswich endeavour to get an entry into ringing’s premier striking competition in the next year or two and prepare to take part in the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Contest at the Norman Tower next month, those looking to take part would do well to take this superb exhibition of ringing in. They aren’t ringing quickly as such, but keeping the bells tight and close to each other – dragging bells out is where unevenness usually creeps in. Ringing is being done to the tenor’s pace, as after all it is the tenor ringer who normally has the hardest job. Yet ultimately this is teamwork – the team will only be as strong as its weakest member – and so it has to be comfortable for all and consistent. The dedication required is something that also needs noting by our band, with this kind of travel not unusual for the Brummies in their preparation as I can testify and reassuringly those who have committed to our effort seem aware of this and buying into it.

Hopefully all ringers in the county will be encouraged by this video to closely follow this year’s ‘battle’ for the famous Taylor Trophy, especially as the 2018 contest is close to home in more ways than one. Not only is the final on Saturday 23rd June just over the border at Cambridge, but there is strong Suffolk representation in the bands. The hosts typically include Norman Tower regular Philip Wilding, whilst Bristol usually count Molly Waterson – once of this parish – in their numbers and this year also plan to include former St Mary-le-Tower band member George Salter, who will be in direct competition with his brother Colin whose Guildford team are in the same eliminator at Southwell on Saturday 24th March, where they are due to come up against one-time SMLT Ringing Master Simon Rudd with our friends from Norwich. And at the same time across at the Ossett eliminator, former North-East District officer Maggie Ross has been pencilled in to ring for High Wycombe. Good luck to them all!

Sadly the eliminators won’t  be on TV, so we’re unlikely to catch them!

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Monday 8th January 2018

Woods Lane – the vital main route that connects much of Woodbridge and the Sandlings with the rest of the UK - in our community of Melton closed again this morning, this time until April. For those who would usually use the road to get to the eights of Hollesley and Orford to ring, you will have to put a bit more forethought into your journey. For us local residents it will mean weeks of weary frustration, with gridlocked roads leading to more pollution, longer waiting times for emergency vehicles and the simplest of trips being extended considerably. Already the effects have taken hold, with smaller roads being used as dangerous rat-runs and one cut-thru having been restricted to one-way, seemingly without making it clear in which direction! And the morning drop-off of the boys at nursery that usually takes fifteen-twenty minutes took over forty. Indeed pretty much every time we go somewhere in the car during the lengthy closure requires a significant detour of some sort, which included going to St Mary-le-Tower tonight for the first weekly practice there since before Christmas.

As ever, it was completely worth it though with a tremendous return to the normal Monday night routine. An attempt at Stedman Cinques which inexplicably failed twice despite me being out of the way on the tenor bonging behind was more than counteracted by some very well-rung Grandsire Cinques, Little Bob Maximus and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus as a climax.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles was rung at Tostock, adding to yesterday’s 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree in the already decent total for 2018 thus far.

At SMLT, our positive evening continued on to The Cricketers where the conversation veered from vacuum cleaners to owning a percentage of a house. Oh, and that closure of Woods Lane. I can imagine that may come up in conversation a few more times over the next three months.

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Sunday 7th January 2018

This morning's ringing started well with good touches of Stedman Cinques and Doubles at St Mary-le-Tower and St Lawrence respectively, but at Grundisburgh it took a slightly surreal turn. Ringing rounds as we prepared to launch into Grandsire Triples on the back eight, Adrian Craddock decided that he wanted to roll his sleeves up and so attempted just that. Perhaps predictably the rope was dropped as it continued going up and down, but somehow he managed to rescue it and retain control, all the more impressively because conductor Stephen Pettman's instruction to start came about just as this situation began. Despite this and that David Stanford and I couldn't stop laughing for the first few changes, a reasonable piece of ringing was produced, but sadly not many people witnessed it, with this, a truncated attempt at Cambridge Surprise Minor and Plain Bob Doubles with six, seven and eight bonging behind being the limit of our endeavours on the county's lightest twelve.

Whether the ringing was quite as entertaining or not, well done to the band who rang their first quarter-peal of Lee-on-The-Solent Bob Minor in the 1260 rung at Great Finborough today.

The band.And very well done to the youthful ten who rang in the 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Royal at St Paul's in Birmingham this afternoon and in the process became the youngest band to ring a peal on that number at a tender average age of 15 years and 322 days. I have got to know the Riley brothers through their attendance on Rambling Ringers over the last couple of years and wasn't surprised to see that not only did Alex conduct it, but also to his own composition, whilst there was a strong Suffolk connection with George and Diana Pipe's great-nephews Henry and Alfred ringing too. Pleasing as well to see the great ringing names of Hull and Regan also continuing to take the exercise forward. Congratulations to all the youngsters involved!

It is all a bit beyond the young trio in our household and so instead they spent the afternoon playing as Ruthie continues to attempt recovery from an illness so bad it even prevented her from singing in the choir at Woodbridge this morning or joining us boys on the ringing circuit. Although as much as I'm sure she would've enjoyed Mr Craddock's acrobatics, I'm pretty sure she will have been glad to miss the Stedman!

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Saturday 6th January 2018

Super publicity in today’s East Anglian Daily Times with the ringers of Kersey the focus of an article on ringing’s attempts to recruit 1,400 new ringers for the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War on 11th November. Personally I thought it was a pity that some of the otherwise brilliant photos included ones posed with coils, but I don’t expect it will – and nor should it – detract from a great bit of PR.

Regardless of how many recruits Suffolk’s towers have, as the article testifies, the aim is to get as many towers in the county as possible ringing on Armistice Day and to that end Guild Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge would be delighted if you could fill out a straightforward form outlining your plans for 11/11/2018, as it would help arrange for gaps to be filled.

The boys enjoying the Fun Factory. The boys enjoying the Fun Factory.God willing we can help, but there was no ringing for us today, despite this afternoon being the South-East District Practice at Pettistree as in one of those typical diary clashes that happen amongst a sea of empty Saturdays we were otherwise engaged with the boys having been invited to the Fun Factory on the edge of Saxmundham to celebrate the recent birthday of my Goddaughter Maddie. Ruthie was feeling under the weather and keen not to pass her illness to any children – especially the tiny ones expected there – she remained at home and so it was an exhausting couple of hours of keeping tabs on the trio of brothers in the labyrinth of tunnels, slides and padded corridors of the play equipment whilst also catching up with friends like Kala, Toby and Amy.

Earlier my wife was at least able to help us host her best friend Fergie and her chum Rachel for a cuppa or two and a catch-up, but it involved no ringing on a quiet day generally for the art within our borders on BellBoard. 6th January 2018 hasn’t justified any ringing publicity in the county.

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Friday 5th January 2018

There is some debate as to whether it is twelfth night tonight or tomorrow, but in our household it was this evening. Thus the decorations and cards came down, with the tree unceremoniously consigned to the bin, complete with snapped off branches and structurally reinforcing parcel tape after it had suffered dreadfully in the housemove and at the paws of Charlie the cat.

Whilst we were busy deconstructing Christmas, other ringers in Suffolk were ringing out the season with a quarter-peal of Doubles at Earl Stonham. Well more for Muriel Page's birthday. Happy Birthday Muriel.

And for one last time for now, Merry Christmas everyone!

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Thursday 4th January 2018

Notions of fining brides that arrive late to their weddings have long been proposed in ringing circles, not least by my mother who has rung for more than many ringers and as such has often experienced the inconvenience of being holed up in a ringing chamber for longer than expected when she has other things to do afterwards. Well today an article in The Telegraph revealed that the vicar of Bearsted - an 11cwt six - in Kent has done just that, although perhaps in a more encouraging manner by offering couples a £100 refund if their ceremony gets underway within ten minutes of the advertised start time.

Not unexpectedly it generated much debate through ringing's social media platforms from the extreme of those advocating higher penalties and even cancellation of the wedding in such circumstances to those who fear policies like this will discourage even more people from getting married in a church, with numbers long in decline already. "Surprise, surprise" I hear you sigh, but I sit somewhere inbetween. Ringing and the church don't fare too well in the PR stakes where both face an uphill battle to pull people in from a hectic society increasingly tied to the internet and despite our best efforts still largely views what we do as old-fashioned and irrelevant, especially among the younger generations from whom of course the majority of wedding couples will be drawn from. So I am always delighted to help out at weddings where I can, not because of the money - which frankly is a relative pittance in the scheme of things - but because I feel it is one of the few times when us ringers can make a difference to someone's life. On what is for many the biggest day of their life, they request that we ring and even pay for us to do so and it gets noticed. Bells ringing out accompanies just about every reference to weddings in the media and it is what greets the happy couple as they step outside for the first time as a married couple. Knowing from experience how much organisation goes into the occasion, I am happy to bide my time in a ringing chamber if it helps make the day that extra bit special, even if it means occupying three bored young sons. And I usually commit to them knowing that almost certainly the bride will be up to ten-fifteen minutes late and the service anything up to three-quarters of or even a whole hour long and so I factor any other arrangements in accordingly and am pleasantly surprised when if it is over quicker than anticipated.

However, when we're still awaiting the star of the show twenty minutes after the ceremony was due to kick-off and having sometimes already been there for an hour by that point, it starts getting silly. For all that it is the happy couple's big day and for them everything is quite rightly focused on that, for ringers - and choristers, churchwardens and the officiating priest for that matter - it is often just a part of a busy day in its own right. We all have things to be getting on with, sometimes even another wedding to get to and it seems less than considerate for a bride to arrive forty minutes late which isn't entirely uncommon.

Something has to be done therefore just to focus the couple's minds on that and so I applaud Canon John Corbyn's move, especially as - despite the typically sensationalist headline - he has approached it in a sensitive manner and it does appear to be working! Sometimes though, just a polite firmness can work as is the case at many places where the vicar insists that the bride arrives on time, such as at Woodbridge with Kev the Rev where largely it works. Indeed, Ruthie arrived so early for our wedding there that I inadvertently rang for her arrival!

Apart from the usual social norm of getting to work on time, there were no such pressing deadlines for us today, with ringing not possible personally due to the usual Thursday evening combination of children and choir practice preventing us getting out to places like Grundisburgh, but there was ringing in Suffolk today and in quite impressive style as a 1440 of twelve Surprise Minor methods spliced was rung at Tostock. Hopefully no one was late arriving!

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Wednesday 3rd January 2018

My and The Wolery's peal-ringing got underway for 2018 tonight. Already a number of ringers have three peals to their name since fireworks saw out 2017, including one of my fellow participants in this evening's 5152 of Balderstone Surprise Major, Ian Culham, but I was pleased to get going for my twenty-seventh year in the medium, although that is put in the shade by George Thoday's sixty-first. It was a decent start to the year too in this Yorkshire variation and means I am just five shy of my six hundredth 5000+.

Alongside sharing Ian's leaderboard antics and George's longevity in the peal columns, it was also nice to catch-up with Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge following his appearance on Mark Murphy's breakfast show on our local BBC radio station yesterday morning. Primarily it was as part of the launch of Suffolk Day on 21st June and I hope that more towers and ringers can ring for the event than last year, although I appreciate that being on a Thursday that isn't going to be easy. However, it offers tremendous positive publicity and so it would be great come the longest day of the year to report that bells were ringing for the occasion in every corner of the county.

Whilst 21/6/2018 was the main focus of the interview, 11/11/2018 also came up in the form of the national project to recruit 1,400 ringers to symbolically 'replace' the 1,400 ringers lost to fighting in the First World War a century ago. This is a big ask, so towers within our borders will need to be grabbing every opportunity to use this as a tool of recruitment - please do go to the Central Council website to find out more or speak with District and Guild officers about how they or you can help. That it was brought up by the host Mark unprompted was encouraging though - word is clearly getting round!

Elsewhere, it was a significant night at Pettistree, where the 1100th quarter-peal on the bells since their dedication in December 1986 was rung before the weekly practice. These have been and continue to be a useful tool for progression and maintaining high standards here and it is no coincidence I think that this little ground-floor six punches above its weight, continually finishing high in striking competitions, featuring a wide rangeing method repertoire and attracting some very good ringers. Long may it continue - here's to the next 1100!

Like me and The Wolery though, it was a first for this year. God willing much more is to come.

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Tuesday 2nd January 2018

The hot water is fixed! Yay!

My phone screen is cracked after I carelessly dropped it after work. Boo.

You win some and you lose some and such is the return to everyday life as most of the country returned to the drudgery of the office following an enormous amount of family, presents, beer, wine, fizzy, punch, turkey and black forest gateau profiteroles. That last one was perhaps a misjudgment.

As much as I can't claim my job as exciting, I am eternally grateful each year that it is this that I return to with its professional, focused but relaxed atmosphere. Not least because that rather than a delayed and lengthy commute on what must have been a depressing journey this morning for those on public transport, I merely had a short walk to John Catt Educational. I have cherished every moment of the extra time spent with Ruthie and the boys over the last week and a bit, but in the circumstances it was nice to be reunited with workmates and find out how they had spent the festive period.

It still involved no ringing personally, but elsewhere in the county other ringers were ringing, with the pre-practice quarter-peal scored at Offton and pleasingly the first brace of peals in 2018 for the Suffolk Guild were rung as fourteen Surprise Minor methods were successfully negotiated at Rickinghall Superior and seven Treble Dodging Minor methods notched up at Thornham Magna. Congratulations to new South-East District Chairman Mark Ogden on ringing his two hundredth peal in the latter. Only another one hundred and two peals for the SGR to beat its total for 2017...

And at least - unlike me and the appalling Ipswich Town tonight - they had a 100% success-rate today.

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New Year's Day 2018

There is no possible way for us mere mortals to know what lies ahead in 2018. Ipswich Town winning promotion? England winning the World Cup? Unlikely. St Mary-le-Tower considering an entry for next year's National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest? More conceivable and a reasonable aim, especially with the planned Essex & Suffolk Twelve-Bell Contest at The Norman Tower on Saturday 17th February, which is shaping up to be a super day out for all, whether participating or not.

Likewise the other more established striking competitions within our borders, with the District ones being held on 5th May for the South-East, 12th May for the North-East and 23rd June at Cavendish for the South-West, whilst the Guild competitions are being held in the SE on 19th May.

It is not just striking competitions lined up of course. The AGM is due to be held in the NW on 7th April, but the real highlight should be the 95th Anniversary Dinner pencilled in for the evening of 3rd March in Elmswell - please keep the date free and look out for ticket details as these have been wonderful events through the years.

More immediately, in the next few days, if all goes to plan one could join the Beccles Ten-Bell Practice from 7.30pm on Wednesday, the South-East District Practice at Pettistree on Saturday afternoon, the Bungay Eight-Bell Practice in exactly a week and the Second Tuesday Ringing at Henley and Clopton the following day.

Personally though - barring unforessen circumstances - I could come out the other end of 2018 feeling very old! Alfie is due to start primary school in September at the same time as his older brother Mason is supposed to be beginning his education at secondary school, whilst on 15th October it will be precisely forty years since I was born.

From a ringing perspective I am trying to arrange more peal attempts on higher numbers, to reach my 600th peal and generally hope that we can plan our time better and get out to more ringing.

New Year's Day morning in the Melton Munnings household.Who knows how much of this will pan out, but we can at least see how this year has started. And it looks much like many of my blog entries from 2017, as our day was slow, as the morning saw lots of slumping on the sofa and the main 'excitement' being buying a stepladder and a wasted journey to collect a new laptop that wasn't there and as there was no practice at SMLT we failed to start this year with ringing. However, as has so often been the case in recent years, other ringers were active on the end of a bellrope, with quarter-peals of Doubles, Bourne Surprise Minor, Single Oxford Bob Minor and more Doubles rung at Campsea Ashe, Clopton, Earl Soham and Woolpit respectively, whilst a date touch was rung at Offton.

Hopefully it is a sign of a successful 2018 ahead for Suffolk ringing, but who can tell?

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