Tuesday 17th July 2018

Richy's Blog

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Friday 13th July 2018

Mason partaking in his last school sports day. Mason partaking in his last school sports day. Mason partaking in his last school sports day. Mason partaking in his last school sports day. Mason partaking in his last school sports day.

Today’s theme was pretty much a continuation of yesterday’s theme, as Mason took part in his last sports day at his primary school. As has become the norm, I followed him around the playing field as along with his peers he carried out a series of activities, including for the first time a long-distance run, all the while collecting points for their team, the blues. Unlike the norm though, Mason came out on the winning team for the first time, prompting scenes not seen since England went 1-0 up in their World Cup semi-final earlier in the week, minus the beer being flung up in the air!

Elsewhere Suffolk’s ringers were ringing, with a peal rung at Henley to welcome the Rev. Canon Joe Hawes ahead of him being installed as the new Dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral tomorrow, whilst the FNQPC were successful with a 1260 of Doubles at Tannington.

All reassuringly usual as times a change.

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Thursday 12th July 2018

There has been a sense of time marching on this week.

All bar a handful of those in England’s football squad in Russia currently weren’t even born when this country last reached the semi-finals of the biggest single-sport competition on the planet, a tournament I remember vividly from my youth.

Yesterday marked two years since the birth of our youngest son Joshua, a landmark that seems incredible when the image of his arrival into the world as a fragile, helpless new human being is still so fresh in my mind.

Today perhaps topped them all though as I sat with Alfie whilst he sat patiently in the reception area of the primary school he is due to begin attending in September, his legs dangling from the sofa we were sat on as he waited to go into an introductory afternoon in the classroom that is pencilled in for him to start his schooling from. His birth too is one that is imprinted in my memory and yet here he was ready to experience school, albeit in the form of a gentle taster session. Mercifully he enjoyed it immensely, even calling it fun, giving us heart for what may lay ahead.

Time marched on too fast to include any ringing for us today, but there was ringing being carried out by others in Suffolk, with quarter-peals of Combermere Delight Minor and Superlative Surprise Major rung at Tostock and Horringer respectively, the latter of which saw young Jimmy Yeoman ring his first blows in the method. Well done Jimmy!

Another young ringer epitomising the sense of time marching on.

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Wednesday 11th July 2018

Football isn’t coming home after all. Much like as Christmas draws to a close and one reluctantly packs away the festive favourites, Three Lions, Vindaloo and World in Motion cease to blare out as another World Cup is done and dusted for England. Not entirely, as they have to play out the absurd third and fourth-place match on Saturday that absolutely no one wants to bother with, but essentially this evening’s 2-1 defeat to Croatia in the semi-final signalled an end to some pretty outrageous dreaming.

Boy has it been fun though. For a few weeks a nation of football fans from Cornwall to Northumberland, here in Suffolk to Herefordshire, supporters of rival clubs most of the time joined together in joyous abandon (although admittedly some with a little too much abandon on Saturday) as the likeable band of young footballers progressed in amongst a tournament that has generally been immensely entertaining. I often like to highlight the parallels between my love of football and my love of ringing, but it is difficult to find anything even in our wonderful hobby to compare to holding your breath with tens of millions of others as the matches unfolded. Indeed, there are times when ringing has been missed to watch the English take on the rest of the world and so it was tonight as Ruthie passed on ringing at Pettistree for watching events unfold in Moscow.

Disappointing as the outcome was, there were still celebrations in our household as we marked Joshua’s second birthday. In fact, those celebrations – with his cousins, aunt, Granny and Granddad joining us at home – were still in full flow as the big game kicked-off and England took their early hope-inducing lead, with a rendition of Happy Birthday and the blowing out of candles delayed briefly so as not to clash with the national anthems!

Earlier I had taken the afternoon off to allow us to take him and Alfie to the beach at Felixstowe for a birthday treat, with sandcastles built, pebbles thrown into the North Sea and the pier explored before we topped it off with tea at McDonald’s.

Alfie & Joshua enjoying a ride at Felixstowe Pier. Joshua & Ruthie on Felixstowe beach. Joshua unwrapping presents. Joshua blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.

It was a lovely way to spend the special day for our youngest son who has grown up with a cheeky, confident personality and who – like his brothers – has been a joy to watch growing up. Happy Birthday Joshie!

This work-beach-footy combo left no time for ringing, but other Suffolk ringers did manage some, even if the most notable was beyond our borders as young Exning ringer Jimmy Yeoman rang his first handbell peal in Reach in Cambridgeshire. Impressive in itself, but even more so when one considers it is only his second peal altogether. Jimmy has been extremely determined, setting himself targets which he has been meeting and it is to his credit that he is achieving so much. Keep it up Jimmy!

God willing there is much more to come from him. And from the England football team.

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Tuesday 10th July 2018

John Catt Educational was gradually getting settled into its new offices today, with a mixture of moving stuff from the old space and settling into our new premises. I found myself at Deben Mill Business Centre, the warehouse and at my newly constructed desk at various points throughout the day, all within a few minutes walk of home where again Ruthie and Joshua were occupying themselves as Alfie went on an exciting trip to Africa Alive, his second visit there in the last few couple of months.

We ended our day watching Belgium and France battle it out for the opportunity to face what we hope is England in Sunday’s World Cup final, whilst other ringers were more active today with a quarter-peal of Doubles at Old Newton.

It is nice to see such consistency in the art that so happily fills my spare time at a time when things are very much changing at my place of employment.

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Monday 9th July 2018

If Friday was an odd day in the office, today was like no other. Instead of my usual sedentary existence behind a desk phoning people, my day consisted almost entirely of packing boxes, moving them, shifting large cabinets and shelves, building desks and even sharing a ride with the guy delivering them after he had got lost! For this was John Catt Educational’s first day in their new bigger offices and although the directors had worked hard over the weekend to get as much done as possible, we had all been primed that today would be all about clearing the old office and setting things up in the new place.

Indeed I spent much of the day at Deben Mill Business Park where I had been based for ten years and it was extremely hard work, but there was still a sense of excitement as the new space began taking shape. And it was wonderful to take advantage of the extra time at home that my much shorter walk gave me, especially as Ruthie had been at home all day with a poorly Joshua. That was mainly a precaution after a rough evening and night with the one-year-and-three-hundred-and-sixty-three-day-old and so that extra time was much appreciated!

Still, I had a lot of aching limbs as I arrived at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening, which was a better attended session than last week and very productive too, with Yorkshire Surprise of the Royal and Maximus varieties and Stedman Cinques the zenith of the ringing, followed by another drink in the beer garden of The Cricketers during this thus-far glorious summer.

I needed a drink after my day at work!

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Sunday 8th July 2018

I was slightly distracted at the time, so today was my opportunity to catch-up with yesterday’s Ringing World National Youth Contest in London through social media, the contest’s website and Simon Edward’s live broadcast which can be found on YouTube. Well done to Sussex Young Ringers on winning the Whitechapel Trophy, but also to all who partook and the organisers. It is wonderful to see so many youngsters enjoying our art and even better for the fact that Blue Peter were there covering the event, to be aired in the (hopefully) near future.

The only sad aspect was the absence of a Suffolk team, but God willing circumstances and drive will change that as there are still talented youth around.

At the other end of the spectrum though, this Wednesday sees the other end of the age-spectrum celebrated as the annual Veterans’ Day is held at Debenham. We are quite rightly keen to attract youngsters to the exercise as if we get it right with them then they have the potential to take it through the coming decades, but we also have to recognise those who have brought it to this point over the last few decades with their dedication and skill. Please do support it if you can, young or old!

I was enjoying the hobby that they have grown at Woodbridge this morning for ringing ahead of the service that we then attended with the doors wide open on another blistering hot day, but that was it for today as the afternoon was given over to my Mum and Dad coming over to give felicitations to their youngest grandson Joshua ahead of his birthday on Wednesday.

Other ringers were more active in the ringing stakes though, with the second-Sunday Aldeburgh peal rung at Orford of Market Harborough Surprise Major not unusually a first in the method for the entire band and the Guild. Most notable today however, was young Jimmy Yeoman’s first quarter-peal of Surprise Minor rung at Exning in Cambridge and Ipswich. Well done Jimmy, with more like you the future will be as bright here as for those participating in the RWNYC yesterday.

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Saturday 7th July 2018

There was a South-East District Practice at Orford this afternoon, something that we would usually be present at without hesitation. By the coast on a beautiful hot summers day in a wonderful location next door to a lovely pub full of rural character. What’s not to like? Apparently around twenty members took advantage of something that we are extremely fortunate to have on our doorstep. Impressive at this time of the year anyway, especially with many on holiday or prised away to the beach or some other attraction in the heatwave, although it has been going on long enough for people to have had plenty of opportunity to do such things. However, it was all the more impressive as it clashed directly with the biggest hour-and-half for English football for over a decade as they took on Sweden in the quarter-final of the World Cup in Russia. Over twenty-four million watched England’s last match against Colombia and with the usual favourites falling round-by-round meaning that there is a genuine opportunity for us to win the whole tournament, there is probable to have been even more tuning in for the 3pm kick-off on this sunny Saturday.

That included us. Frankly, I don’t want to miss any of what is turning into an historic time for a team that I have followed for as long as I have followed football and we felt fully justified in that decision as the Three Lions won 2-0 to book their first semi-final in the game’s biggest competition since 1990.

We enjoy watching the games communally. If it were practical with the children we would pop along to the nearest pub showing the match to watch it with the company of a large excitable crowd and had been briefly tempted by the notion of heading down to Portman Road with them to watch on the big screen there, though we had been warned off by others who had said that with increasing, more excitable attendances that it probably wasn’t the place for very little children now, even if it had started out as such. Instead, where possible we are bringing others to us and this afternoon saw good friends Toby and Amy and their children Maddie and Oscar come over for an occasion that also doubled up as a playdate for the kids and opportunity for them to bring presents and best wishes to Joshua ahead of his second birthday on Wednesday. The BBQ was charged up again and sunbathed garden utilised once more, at least once the footy had finished!

Meanwhile, others had managed to fit in their ringing before the big game as a peal was rung at the lovely ground-floor six of Tannington to celebrate the sixtieth birthday of Robert Beavis’ mother Linda and remembering local organist and husband of Suffolk ringing stalwart Muriel Page, Alan.

It was a lovely day for bells to be floating across the fields, woodlands, streams and lanes of our magnificent landscape, but whilst we were sorry to miss out on doing any ourselves, there’s very little I would’ve missed today’s match for. Even Orford on a sunny day.

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Friday 6th July 2018

As end of eras go, today was a big one. For after nearly ten years in our little office in the Deben Mill Business Centre, today was John Catt Educational’s last day of trading from there. After five house moves over that time, I imagine that there is no building that I have spent more time in collectively since we moved into what were then brand new premises in August 2008. It feels all the more poignant for the fact that I remember the very day we moved in, probably because it is documented in this blog, having begun life as an employee of JCEL three months earlier in the old school house at Great Glemham, but these are exciting times as we move to our new spot just round the corner from Chez Munnings.

It was an odd day though, as I worked whilst furniture disappeared from around me, in between packing up stuff myself, as the once familiar office became less and less familiar.

Other things remain reassuringly consistent though, especially in ringing and particularly this evening as the FNQPC did what they have done for many years, this time with a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Earl Stonham. Meanwhile, there was also a quarter-peal of Doubles rung at Woolpit to mark the seventieth anniversary of the birth of the NHS, another reassuring consistent.

Less so at the World Cup which with a night in was where our gaze was directed, as Brazil became the latest big team to get knocked out of an extraordinary tournament. There seem to be quite a few eras ending at the moment...

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Thursday 5th July 2018

A spot of apparent time-bending occurred this evening, as within the mere hour-and-a-half between dropping Ruthie off at choir practice and picking her up, I managed to get the boys round Tesco, gave them a decent session out in the sunbaked garden, bathed them and readied them for bed.

That this was a highlight of the day personally says how exciting today was on a personal level, without even any World Cup action to tide me over, but there was activity on Suffolk's bells with their ringers - well done to Jimmy Yeoman on ringing his first blows of Yorkshire Surprise Major in the 1260 of that and Cambridge spliced at Horringer. Although no apparent time-bending occurring.

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Wednesday 4th July 2018

A couple of months ago marked the tenth anniversary of when I started working at John Catt Educational. It was literally a life-changing moment, as at the time (as many will recall and others will have read on the early days of this blog) I had spent months either unemployed or moving from lowly-paid temp job to lowly-paid temp job. Not only has it given me - and therefore Ruthie and our growing family - vital stability that has enabled us to buy a house and make what plans one can make in uncertain times, but it suits me absolutely perfectly. At this small company there is nowhere to go upwards in position, but that is no problem with me as I have no great ambitions to climb the career ladder and get into stressful life-consuming management roles. The professional but relaxed atmosphere is great to work in and they are generous with allowing flexibility to do things like attend school assemblies, take in nativity plays or look after poorly children, as well as with the meals out, especially the Christmas one! They are reassuringly supportive too, vital in sales where there are inevitably tough times as well as good. That this is a enjoyable place to work is borne out by the fact that even after all this time there are still two others who have worked here longer than me.

One other thing that has made my decade here work so well for me is that apart from the first year when we were based at the delightfully quaint but professionally impractical old schoolhouse at Great Glemham and I lived at Hollesley, the office has been close enough to get home at short notice for all those little dramas that naturally occur, especially when kids are involved. No lengthy commute in traffic jams or unpredictable public transport for me as I once had. No tearing my hair out every time the Orwell Bridge closes, which is frequently nowadays. Indeed, currently I can walk to work!

New offices.Things are about to change though and this morning my colleagues and I got a glimpse of the future. For next week, we move into newly built offices and today for the first time most of us got given our first tour of the new premises. And very nice they are too. They are bigger and brighter and best of all they are even closer to home then the current place!


Meanwhile at Ruthie's place of employment John Ives, she was called in on her day off to help undertake a stocktake that began mid-afternoon and eventually ended well after darkness, which is no mean feat at this time of year! We were grateful therefore to Mum and Dad for taking Alfie and Joshua out for the day on an itinerary that Alfred had pushed for from as soon as he knew he was going, wth Christchurch Park and the cafe at top of his list! Thank you to my parents.

All of which left no time for ringing for either of us, though other ringers in Suffolk were doing more. A quarter-peal of Cambridge, Superlative, Turramurra and Yorkshire Surprise Major spliced was rung at Hopton and I was particularly pleased that after having to withdraw due to my wife's work commitments and a lack of babysitters that a peal was scored at The Wolery. The latter not only saw Neal Dodge circle the tower, but it was also the four hundredth peal on the bells. Some mock the contribution this mini-ring makes and granted it is easier to ring vast numbers on them where they don't disturb the neighbours than a traditional church tower where they disturb a wide area, but this little eight has been an invaluable tool for the progress of many ringers, Ruthie and myself included, so congratulations to the Salters on this landmark!

Exciting times for two places I have spent a lot of time at!

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Tuesday 3rd July 2018

This morning we caught our first glimpse of the 2018 Rambling Ringers tour list, something that God willing will be very familiar to us soon. It may seem sad to even my fellow ringers, but I look forward to the arrival of the schedule of the fortnight-long tour to new and different places. After all, like everybody else I look forward to our holiday and it is a sign that it isn’t far away.

Not that the list is exciting in itself, made up as it is of predominantly five and six bell towers, but I don’t mind this as there is much fun to be had on lower numbers, with no doubt a list of various unfamiliar methods for us to learn arriving shortly. And in between there should be pubs to eat in, wonderful countryside to take in and hopefully all done in the kind of gorgeous weather conditions we have been enjoying over the last few weeks.

As usual, the list arrived with instructions not to share with anyone and everyone without consultation first. One reason for that is to deter ad hoc tower grabbers who turn up, grab and disappear against the spirit of the tour, but it is also that we value the privilege of being allowed to ring on the bells of others and try to maintain a certain standard of ringing. However, we are very welcoming and like just about every organisation we are keen for newcomers and whilst finding time to join us in Devon for a few days at this short notice might be unlikely for most readers of this, we would be delighted to see more Suffolk ringers join us on tour in the future.

It is a holiday I am excited about, but it will have to wait. I could do with a holiday right now though after this evening’s mentally draining events played out on our TV and those of over 24 million others across the UK as England’s footballers made history at the World Cup. Not only in winning a knockout match in the World Cup for twelve years, but winning their first penalty shootout at any tournament for twenty-two years and the first in this competition ever. It followed on from a match that saw them winning 1-0 until an entirely undeserved equaliser from our opponents Colombia, who could most graciously be described as unsporting. It was on a knife-edge throughout, tense from start to finish and gripping, with the only downside being that to watch Saturday afternoon’s quarter-final with Sweden will mean missing the South-East District’s Practice at Orford at the same time. The flip side being that if you want to avoid the football, then you know where to go! Alternatively, if that is too far east for you, the North-West District’s Outing to Norfolk will also offer you escape if that is what you seek.

This evening though, ringers had to choose between ringing and football and not all made the same decision as us, not that there was any ringing for us to attend. A rare peal at Parham was rung, being David Salter’s two hundredth Suffolk tower rung to a peal – congratulations David and Happy Birthday Winston Girling! And well done as well to the entire band who rang their first blows of Hasfield Bob Minor in the 1260 at Buxhall.

Meanwhile, following the quarter-peal of Turramurra Surprise Major at Offton, the practice was apparently accompanied by radio coverage of the big match, the climax of which was witnessed by them in The Limeburners post-ringing.

The communal watching of big England games is not something we can really do currently, which is a pity as it is the best way to enjoy such occasions, but Ruthie and I were still absorbed by every kick, whether that be of the ball or an English shin. We could do with that holiday though.

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Monday 2nd July 2018

If the result had gone pretty much any other way in England’s World Cup game on Thursday, they would have been playing this evening and I would’ve missed St Mary-le-Tower practice. As it was, they play tomorrow and I made it to SMLT.

I’m glad I did too, as we were very short on this occasion. Indeed, there were only eleven, including Sproughton learner Katy who did extremely well as she rang on ten for the very first time and yet even in Ringing Master David Potts’ absence, Jonathan Williamson was able to fashion a very decent session of method ringing alongside our visitor’s well-rung call-changes that included some Stedman Triples and Double Norwich Court Bob Major on the back eight and some very decent Yorkshire Surprise Royal, something that I think a lot of provincial twelve-bell practices would be delighted with in the same circumstances.

It was hot work mind and so we were in need of refreshment afterwards and were glad of the opportunity to sit down in The Cricketers’ beer garden with a drink for an eclectic range of conversation from tonight’s exciting Belgium-Japan match in Russia to piers.

Thank goodness that England lost on Thursday so that I could enjoy it all!

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Sunday 1st July 2018

We were a little short at St Mary-le-Tower this morning for service ringing, but in Ringing Master David Potts' absence Jonathan Williamson guided us through a decent session that mainly featured ringing on the back ten before we continued on to first-Sunday ringing at St Lawrence and then Costa Coffee for some much needed refreshment. In the end, it didn't leave enough time to get to Grundisburgh and so instead we meandered leisurely back to Woodbridge to collect Ruthie from church - listening to St Margaret's bells ringing in the background as BBC Radio Suffolk reported from Ipswich Music Day at the adjacent Christchurch Park (just under two hours in to the show) - and a quiet afternoon alternating between the garden and a brace of penalty-shootouts on the TV as the World Cup continues to entertain, with Spain the latest big team knocked out.

Ruth actually missed the end of that as she went to Pettistree to ring her fifth quarter-peal in less than a fortnight, a bit of a burst of ringing activity by the standards of either us, although not that of the Spillers and Peter Waterfield, who rang two handbell peals today alone, both in Bacton, both of Surprise Minor, with one being of seven methods, the other an impressive - though for them routine, I imagine - twenty-three methods.

Still, for us it was a very laid-back day in the heat, whether at ringing, in front of the footy or out in the garden.

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Saturday 30th June 2018

The last time we hosted a BBQ was way back when we lived at Sun Lane in Woodbridge, a house we left in 2011, with our barbecue so underused that it became the victim of one of the many culls during numerous subsequent housemoves. With my parents very kindly passing on one to use in recent weeks and the scorching heatwave continuing, it felt remiss not to get it out and try it. At the same time, ourselves and Louis Suggett and Laura Davies have been saying that they ought to come and visit us, especially with their impending and exciting travels fast approaching. It made sense to combine the two and invite them round for a barbie!

Louis Suggett being entertained by Mason at our house. Laura Davies being entertained by Mason at our house.Thus this afternoon it came to occur as Mason and I met them off the train and we set about an entertaining few hours of computer gaming, football and BBQing, injected by eating, drinking and conversation and as much relaxation as one can get whilst our boys are about. They were lovely guests to have and although it may have to wait until their return now, we should do it again!


Meanwhile, other ringers were ringing in notable performances, both here in Suffolk and beyond our borders. Very well done to Ipswich-lad-done-good George Salter on not only ringing his first peal of Orion Surprise Maximus, but calling it too in the 5088 rung at Shoreditch, whilst back in his homeland it was nice to see a 5090 rung at Sproughton for former ringer Dick Pegg on the occasion of his forthcoming ninetieth birthday. There was also a 1260 of Grandsire Triples rung on the back eight at The Norman Tower, but the real headliner today was Rachel Tunbridge who rang her first quarter-peal at the first attempt by trebling to the success at Buxhall - congratulations Rachel!

Perhaps a good excuse to get the BBQ out to celebrate!

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Friday 29th June 2018

The FNQPC did what they do with a 1344 of Plain Bob Major at Henley, but otherwise it was a quiet day for us from a ringing perspective. There wasn’t even any football on to tide me over on the first day off for this World Cup!

God willing it’ll be more exciting on other days, but well done to the FNQPC nonetheless.

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Thursday 28th June 2018

I've rung in peals before where for whatever reason you feel it might be best to lose it. Perhaps the ringing is dreadful. Maybe it is really hard work due to the go of the bells and/or the weather conditions. Or from a purely selfish point of view you realise a peal is going to finish later than you thought due to a false start or slower pace than anticipated and that you aren't going to make whatever you had planned to go to afterwards if you score. Sometimes losing is best, although you would never intentionally make it happen or voice it.

So it felt with England’s last group match in the World Cup against Belgium this evening. Both teams had already qualified, with identical records right down to goals scored and conceded and so the only jeopardy was who was to finish first and who would finish second. This is where the above analogy comes in. Draw (so long as we didn’t get more yellow cards than our opponents) or win and we would come top and we would play Japan in the next round, in theory the easier of the two teams we could face next week. However, if we had come out of that victorious we would probably have met Brazil in the quarter-finals, by far and away the clear favourites to win the whole tournament, especially since yesterday’s departure of Germany. If we lost, we would be runners-up in our group and although we would meet Colombia – the harder of the two possible opposition teams – in the second round, if we could get through that we might meet either Sweden or Switzerland. Still difficult, but not as difficult as having to beat the country who have won this trophy more than anyone else.

It’s all nonsense of course, with this World Cup incredibly unpredictable, many twists and turns ahead and the Three Lions generally appalling when it comes to the knockout stages of these competitions, but I could see why many English fans were unfussed and even pleased by the 1-0 defeat to our friends across the North Sea in Russia tonight. However, combined with the circumstances meaning both sides played a lot of their reserves thus providing a pretty dull fixture, it meant it was all a bit of an anti-climax.

Still, we were determined to enjoy the occasion as local ringers Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis came round to join us to watch and to partake in drink and takeaway.

Whilst there were enough for Major on handbells (if we were capable and if there were handbells present) in our household, there was no ringing today, although Pete did ring for a wedding at Ufford this afternoon. Other ringers in Suffolk were busier though, with a quarter-peal of Vale Royal Delight Minor rung at Tostock. Well done to the entire band for ringing their first in the method and congratulations to Pam Ebsworth and Andrea Alderton on ringing their one hundredth QP together.

I’m glad they didn’t feel it was better to lose it!

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Wednesday 27th June 2018

Unusual happenings occurred today.

Not just Germany's shock elimination from the World Cup at the group stage for the first time since 1938 which prompted much schadenfreude, but at Pettistree too where Ruthie went to ring in the pre-practice quarter-peal and ended up ringing in two! It was due to an unusually threadbare attendance at this usually popular session, as having completed the 1320 of Surfleet Surprise Minor - well done to Hilary Stearn on ringing her first in the method - the only person to arrive was Sam Shannon. With Mike Cowling needing to get away, Sam got the unexpected bonus of some lengthy focus on trebling to Doubles!

And although a peal of it was rung at Gislingham earlier in the month and a quarter at The Norman Tower yesterday, Turramurra Surprise Major is still an unusual method to see rung in these and most parts, so well done to the band who rang a 5088 of it on the front eight of St Mary-le-Tower this evening.

Meanwhile, it was encouraging to see a mini-ring in the Diocese of Norwich's tent at the Royal Norfolk Show today, with particular mention made of it on the Diocese's website. Having had a very successful couple of days with the mini-ring at the Suffolk Show back in 2011, we have been unable to exhibit since, with a sudden lack of space the main reason given, so perhaps we and the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich could speak with our counterparts north of the border on how they managed it. To have the Vestey Ring at the Suffolk Show would be tremendous PR boost!

Back here, a shortened practice was managed at the aforementioned ground-floor six that my wife was present at with some more arrivals, before they topped their evening off with a drink in The Greyhound. Not everything about today was unusual!

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Tuesday 26th June 2018

Heatwave, long warm evenings, an exciting World Cup (Argentina only just snuck through on this occasion) and a Project Pickled Egg production on some of Suffolk’s bells as a quarter-peal of Turramurra Surprise Major was rung on the back eight at The Norman Tower. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I suggest you have a read of at least some of Simon Linford’s excellent articles in the Ringing World and/or join the Project Pickled Egg discussion group on Facebook.

Otherwise it was a quiet day though, at least apart from Alfie playing up as four-year-olds do!

There is still much due to happen in the forthcoming weeks as June comes to an end and July begins. Before this month is out, those wanting to escape England’s next World Cup match may find a hiding place at the North-East District Practice at Blythburgh on Thursday evening, whilst forty-eight hours later there is a South-West District Practice pencilled in at the 20cwt ten of St Peter’s in Sudbury, where I’m sure all support would be welcomed.

Next month there is much more planned, with the North-East District again busy with practices at Beccles on the 4th, Chediston on the 5th, Bungay on the 9th, Reydon on the 16th, Worlingham on the 17th, Halesworth on the 24th, Blythburgh again on the 26th and Southwold on the 27th, with a Booster Session booked in for the morning of Saturday 14th. Meanwhile, all being well the North-West District and South-West District will be holding outings to South Norfolk and North Suffolk on the 7th and to Buxhall, Thurston and Horringer on the 28th respectively, whilst the South-East District Practice should be held at Orford from 3.30-5pm on Saturday 7th. On top of that, the 2nd Tuesday Ringing plans to go to Great Barton, Pakenham and Tostock on the 10th and the Helmingham Monthly Practice is due to happen on the evening of Friday 20th. The highlight of the month – and one of the highlights of the year – is the Annual Veterans’ Day at Debenham on Wednesday 11th, an event that it is worth reminding folk is not purely for veterans! All are welcome, whatever your age, as is the case for all the events above.

God willing the nice weather continues for it all!

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Monday 25th June 2018

As is often the case, photos, clips and tales continued to come out online from the National Twelve-Bell Final, but I was also able to catch-up with some of the gossip from those who were there and came along to St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening.

I don’t think I’m being harsh in saying that our ringing on this occasion didn’t come quite up to the same standard as that exhibited in Cambridge on Saturday, as that is likely to be the case with the majority of twelve-bell bands around the country and the world. However, in between individual errors that disrupted two half-courses of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, there were signs that we could be capable of making an entry into the 2019 competition as we hope with some decent ringing. We will need to persevere though, think about our striking (really think about it), ring with our strongest band as often as possible and above all else concentrate!

It was nice to congratulate Sue Williamson on ringing her first (and according to the star herself, her last!) and to see Alex Tatlow as he visited on a hot evening that was topped off with most of us retiring to the beer garden of The Cricketers.

Earlier, Ruthie and I had taken Alfie along to where he is pencilled in to begin school in September for an introduction to some of the teachers, what he can expect in his first few weeks and even some of the school dinners!

It wasn’t the place for Twelve-Bell gossip though.

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Sunday 24th June 2018

This has been a hugely enjoyable weekend, but when I turn my mind back to the many during the year where the diary has been blank, it has also been quite frustrating. Like yesterday, we were faced with a choice that wasn’t really a choice, which on this occasion was between sitting at home watching England’s latest World Cup fixture with a beer or two in hand or celebrating Ruthie’s grandparents’ Diamond Wedding Anniversary. Again it was a no-brainer.

And again we had immense fun doing what we did, with the weather absolutely wonderful allowing the children to play in the park adjacent to Hasketon Victory Hall where the celebration was happening, food and drink plentiful and it was lovely for the family – and particularly the copious number of Grandchildren and great-Grandchildren of the happy couple – to get together. Ron played the bagpipes and my mother-in-law Kate, my wife and myself rang an excellent 1260 of Plain Bob and Cambridge Surprise Minor on the 9cwt ground-floor six across the road, with the much appreciated help of Mary Garner, Pippa Moss and Mark Ogden – thank you guys!

With us having to leave home for the quarter-peal attempt at half-time of England’s game in Russia against Panama, my biggest fear was leaving it and setting off conducting the effort at St Andrew’s church with the result of the footy still in the balance, but even then such worry was washed away with a tidal flow of goals in Nizhniy Novgorod as the Three Lions raced away to an incredible record-breaking 5-0 lead by the end of the first-half. A sixth was scored as we listened on the radio in the car on the way over to this afternoon’s proceedings, with the only action we were unaware of being the Central American’s consolation goal on a glorious day for football fans from our green and pleasant land.

Our QP wasn’t the only performance in Suffolk recorded on BellBoard though. Indeed, it was an extremely busy day within our borders, especially if you count the NDA quarter at Lowestoft, with quarter-peals of Doubles at Buxhall and Hunslet Bob Triples at Henley also rung, which was a first in the method for all bar two of the band – well done to Carl Melville, Pam Ebsworth, Andrea Alderton, Maureen Gardiner and Stephen Dawson. Meanwhile, a 5152 of Gainsborough Surprise Major at Horringer in a success impressive for some of the band not being too hung over following their day in Cambridge at the Twelve-Bell Final twenty-four hours earlier!

Not as impressive as the main headline in the county’s ringing though, which was Sue Williamson’s first peal, rung at St Matthew’s in Ipswich where she learnt to ring (and met her husband Jonathan!) in a 5040 that also celebrated the one hundredth birthday of Freda Smith, once a ringer here and the oldest current member of the Guild. Happy Birthday Freda, but many congratulations Sue, who since their children Lucy – who was also ringing in this 2hrs40mins of Plain Bob Minor – and Ben have grown up has progressed immensely and along with her other half they have been a real bonus to ringing in Ipswich, the South-East District and the SGR.

I would’ve liked to have taken up the kind invitation to ring, but although I couldn’t partake or watch all of the football, I enjoyed my day, from helping the Woodbridge ringers man all eight bells for the morning service that I attended with the boys to our quarter-peal to the Wedding Anniversary celebrations. It beats those boring weekends with nothing to do!

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Saturday 23rd June 2018

It is unfortunate timing that the birthday of our niece Katelynn falls around the time of the National Twelve-Bell Final. We would like to both celebrate the anniversary of her birth and go meet friends with a pint or three listening to some of the best twelve-bell ringing you will ever hear, but this year and last it just hasn't been possible and when it comes down to it, taking her cousins Alfie and Joshua to the zoo to celebrate her sixth birthday is up against taking them to a strange place to wait whilst Mummy and Daddy drink beer all day.

Enjoying the animals at Colchester Zoo. Enjoying the animals at Colchester Zoo.Therefore, as proceedings got underway just over the border in one neighbouring county, we were just over the border in another neighbouring county at Colchester Zoo. And it was a lovely day. Gorgeous sunshine again blessed our outdoor activities as it has done on pretty much every occasion over the last couple of months. We say all sorts of extraordinary animals, getting up close to lions and walking under sea lions as they swam, all in good company and topped off with a BBQ at the birthday girl’s abode. The children loved it all, from animals to trampoline and I can honestly say there was nothing I didn’t enjoy about today.

Scene on Senate House Yard at the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final at Cambridge, beneath the tower of Great St Mary.However, I was gutted to miss proceedings in Cambridge, especially as the general perception seems to have been that this was the best Twelve-Bell for years. Hundreds of friends, most of whom we rarely get to meet up with these days, an abundance of great beer and superb ringing in the wonderful setting of Senate House Yard in the shadow of Great St Mary's tower from where ten teams were competing and the famous King's College and of course in that same roasting summer sunshine that we benefitted from. I tortured myself on our return home by looking on Facebook which was full of pictures of people with pint glasses and flicking through some of the eight-hour coverage from Matthew Tosh that was yet again tremendous and can be viewed through the Contest's YouTube channel. As usual it included interviews with participants, judges and other important personalities connected with the day, as well as complete uninterrupted coverage all the test pieces. Apart from the on-air conversations with familiar characters, from an Ipswich perspective it was interesting to listen to Rob Childs of the Leeds band (about 3hrs56mins in) talking about the years of struggling in eliminators before they finally reached a final. It can take years of dedication and it is important to learn from each attempt and not get dispirited.

Although George Salter's Bristol and Colin Salter's Guildford finished seventh and tenth respectively, it is still a magnificent achievement for two brothers to partake in the same final for different teams. Indeed, if one listens to the ringing from today you will hear that the quality from top to bottom was incredible, the very best in twelve-bell ringing.

And the best of the best? Unsurprisingly it was Birmingham for the twenty-fourth time ever and third year in a row, but the hosts Cambridge ran them close as they aimed to win it for the first time in twenty-three years, with just two percentage points in it - to get 90% and not win can be considered unfortunate and the Brummies' Ringing Master Michael Wilby graciously recognised as much when he collected the Taylor Trophy. And with many no doubt rolling their eyes and going “Birmingham again”, he also pointed out how difficult it is to win when everyone expects you to. I remember the pressure when I rang for them quite early on in what has become an unprecedented period of domination, everyone stopping to listen - the pressure must be multiplied several-fold now and presumably increases with each victory.

Whilst many Suffolk ringers were in Cambridgeshire (and there were an encouraging number) and we were in Essex, others were still in the homeland, with a quarter-peal rung at Rushmere St Andrew and the South-West District Striking Competition taking place at Cavendish, although word on who won that has been slightly less forthcoming on the social media - or indeed any - grapevine that I'm aware of. Congratulations to whoever won and I hope they all had as a great a day out as those in Cambridge had - and that we had at Colchester Zoo!

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Friday 22nd June 2018

The day of the competition is always the most fun part of the National Twelve-Bell Final, but I have fond memories of the night before some of the contests. Like booking into a B&B in York ahead of the following day's main event at The Minster in 1999, a spot of ringing at St Wilfrid and then a boozy evening in a nearby bar with others up for the weekend from across the country. Having been told by then Birmingham Ringing Master David Pipe to take it easy ahead of the first final I ever partook in at South Petherton in 2001, I was amused to be reminded by him recently that he greeted me already half-cut on an evening that had begun with me briefly being entrusted with the Taylor Trophy in my accommodation before Steph Warboys very sensibly removed it to a safer place and ended with Cecilia Pipe and I almost doing karaoke together!

Tonight I imagine more tales of the night before were being created with the hosts of tomorrow's 2018 Final Cambridge directing early-comers to The Castle, but of course this is something we can't take advantage at this point in our lives, even if we were able to attend the big day. Still, seeing reports of many gathering in the university city has increased the anticipation of what might happen tomorrow. Will the home team - or anyone else for the matter - be able to beat the Brummies? Who will come out on top between the College Youths and Cumberlands? And will either Colin or George Salter become the first Suffolk-born ringer to win it since the late, great Rod Pipe last did in 2008?

Whatever happens, I hope everyone already there had a great night!

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Thursday 21st June 2018

Great St Mary.God willing Saturday will see hundreds of ringers - including many of the very best in the world - gather together just over ten miles from our borders as the National Twelve-Bell Final in Cambridge is due to take place. I'm hoping as many from Suffolk as can make it will travel in to savour what is to my mind the biggest and best ringing event in the world. The ringing will be great, the company plentiful, beer overflowing and much, much else on offer. With the Salter brothers Colin and George in action for Guildford and Bristol respectively and plenty of College Youths and Cumberlands amongst the SGR membership, there is plenty that should draw in ringers from this county and the weather looks like its going to be brilliant for it too!

If you can't make it though, there will the now normal, but absolutely splendid live coverage from Matthew Tosh on the Contest's YouTube channel throughout the day (barring any technical difficulties so far haven't befallen them), with a trailer released today to whet the appetite!

I shan't be able to enjoy either, as again our presence is prevented by celebrating our niece's birthday, on this occasion also taking me away from anywhere I can watch online, although unlike last year I hopefully shouldn't be looking after a poorly son. And that beautiful weather should benefit us too!

However, if you aren't going to Cambridge, you don't want to spend the whole day watching coverage of the big day and you aren't otherwise engaged at a six-year-old's birthday party, you may consider popping along to Cavendish on what looks like being a glorious afternoon to take in the South-West District Striking Competition. There won't be as many as at the Twelve-Bell present I imagine, but I hope the atmosphere is similar, much enjoyment is had and I'm sure there will be lots of good ringing to listen to!

Of course St Mary the Virgin church which houses the 11cwt six is a view synonymous with chocolate-box Suffolk, a symbol of the lovely villages and fantastic rural scenery that the county offers and that was being celebrated today with the second annual Suffolk Day. There was an impressive amount going on for a term-time Thursday and ringing played a big part, with Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge doing superb work at getting publicity for what ringers were doing today, both on the radio but also with bells getting a mention in at least a couple of articles that I have read on the East Anglian Daily Times website this week, as well as featuring on the Suffolk Day website.

The ringing manifested itself most obviously through the quarter-peals and peals rung and recorded on BellBoard. A 5024 of St Edmund Surprise Major was rung at Elveden, complete with selfie, whilst quarter-peals were rung of Plain Bob Doubles at Bardwell, Plain Bob Major at Halesworth, three Doubles methods at Palgrave, Cambridge Surprise Minor at Woolpit and St Clement's College Bob Minor at Exning, which was Jimmy Yeoman's first in the method - well done Jimmy! Congratulations meanwhile to Hilary Stearn and Julia Brown on ringing their first QP for the Ladies Guild in another 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles for Suffolk Day, this time rung at Theberton. Meanwhile down in Dorset, a Suffolk band were ringing a quarter for the occasion of the homeland's big day at Shroton as part of a quarter-peal tour down that way.

Let's hope all this positivity continues on into Saturday, wherever you may be enjoying it!

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Wednesday 20th June 2018

The World Cup was made for evenings like this.

Whilst Ruthie was out, I got the boys to bed and settled down to watch Spain beat Iran 1-0 in the sort of fixture you really only get at this tournament and which to the fanatic like me was an intriguing and fascinating clash that nonetheless I couldn’t really expect my wife to sit through if she was in.

Mrs Munnings was also enjoying herself though, having dropped her off at Pettistree for an ultimately successful quarter-peal – once they’d got through a seemingly impenetrable marquee outside the church and following a couple of aborted attempts – of Suffolk Delight Minor on the eve of Suffolk Day, a typically eclectic and jovial practice and then a couple of pints of ale in The Greyhound’s beer garden, daylight stretched out pretty much as late as its going to get all year.

I enjoyed myself too though, thanks to the World Cup!

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Tuesday 19th June 2018

A video shared on the Bellringers Facebook page today opened up a debate on the quality of ringing at weddings. The footage is of ringing for a wedding beyond our borders and there was comment on why the band were struggling through method ringing instead of just ringing call-changes. Indeed, in a further video readily available on YouTube they can be heard ringing call-changes and making a much better job of it, although this also disintegrates inexplicably later. I have no idea if the band were local and I have no interest in naming or shaming or passing any judgement. They will have been trying their best.

However, it does highlight some points that I’ve been banging on about in regards to ringing for weddings for years.

One is that even in this day and age, it is the one time your ringing is most likely to be caught on film for posterity, especially by non-ringers for whom their perception of our art may be shaped by what they hear.

Another is that we ought to be getting the best ringers possible for what is a paid service on what is most couple’s biggest day of their lives. I recall having to get to a certain standard of ringing before I was allowed to get paid people’s hard-earned money to ring and I’ve always felt that ought to be the case. Surely someone should be able to ring well-struck call-changes before being let loose on someone’s special occasion? The original post was related to ringing for the wedding of a relation of Princess Diana and so there was a lot of focus on the presence of the couple of the moment Harry and Meghan and it was suggested in the thread that followed that it was snobbery to say these ringers couldn’t ring for it. Whether a royal is present or not should not make any difference though - when being paid to ring for someone's special day, we ought to be striving to produce the best possible ringing we can, as we should be doing for any service. A lot depends on local circumstances of course, but through the years I have seen ringers selected for weddings just because they’re available, rather than reaching out to a wider pool beyond that would make a better job of it.

Sometimes of course, you have no choice but to ring with a more inexperienced band than you would've preferred, but in those cases - and indeed whatever the abilities of the band - ring to your strengths. Well-struck call-changes will always be better than badly-rung method ringing.

There was a more impressive array of ringing on show across Suffolk today, at least on paper and I imagine - looking at the bands and the complexity of what was being rung - in practice too. Ten Surprise Major methods spliced were rung over 1312 changes at Bardwell, the most Surprise Major methods that North-East District Chairman Mike Cowling has rung spliced - well done Mike. On top of that the band then rang a 1280 of Superlative Surprise Major at Hopton and a 1280 of the less familiar Berkshire Surprise Major at Gislingham.

Meanwhile, Essex's David 'Sparky' Sparling's sixtieth birthday was marked here with a quarter-peal of Rutland Surprise Major at Offton and a peal at Rendham of Sparky Delight Major, one of three 5060s rung in the method across the country, with another at Danbury south of the border and all the way up on Tyne and Wear at Whickham. David has long been involved in ringing on this side of the Stour, having once been a regular at St Mary-le-Tower and many within our borders count this tremendous ringer as a good friend - Happy Birthday David!

Alfie & Joshua in their new playhouse. Mini-mini-ring not installed yet.To continue the positivity, I take you back a week to Mark Murphy's BBC Radio Suffolk show last Tuesday as just under a couple of hours into the programme the SGR PR Officer Neal Dodge gave ringing another superb plug across the airwaves, on this occasion in regards to ringing for Suffolk Day in two days time. It may have happened a week ago, but it is only this evening that I got the chance to listen to the interview and even then that was whilst Ruthie - being the more practical in our relationship - put up a new chest of draws on a day that also saw her and her sister Clare put up a playhouse for the boys - courtesy of Granny Kate - that was already getting plenty of use by the time I returned home from work and looks big enough to fit a mini-mini-ring in! If anyone has a mini-mini-ring to hand that is.

Fun as that was, it was also a day when the car was taken away for its service and MOT, a typically expensive affair. We are going to have to sharpen up our skills if we are going to ring for enough weddings to cover this bill!

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Monday 18th June 2018

Talking with Tom Scase in the beer garden following Saturday’s valiant but unsuccessful attempt to win the Ridgman Trophy, it became apparent for those ringers who are also football fans, catching as much of the World Cup as we would like is difficult. For example, I was fortunate to be able to watch all of Friday night’s 3-3 draw between Portugal and Spain that has probably been the best match of the tournament thus far, but Tom – who as Guild Ringing Master is busier than most – had been ringing at Helmingham at the time and hadn’t actually seen much WC footy at all since it kicked-off on Thursday.

Personally I typically watch what I can and whilst I occasionally plan my ringing around the fixtures, I try not to let anyone down at ringing I have committed to or that I usually attend. However, England games are different. I want to take it all in, keep up, enjoy the matchday experience as much as one can from thousands of miles away and then talk about it the next day! Our opener this evening gave me a tricky choice as watching it meant missing St Mary-le-Tower practice, but with an unusual confidence in our particularly young team and being unable to watch all of the next match on Sunday due to a family event and quarter-peal attempt for it, I decided that unusually football came first on this occasion with apologies to those at SMLT.

Ultimately I’m glad I tuned in. Ufford ringer Pete Faircloth came round for a few beers and a Chinese takeaway and although it was harder work than a match against Tunisia should really be, the last minute winner from Harry Kane was worth the wait!

Others ignored the lure of World Cup football for ringing though, including at Thornham Magna where a 1320 of Plain Bob Doubles was rung.

A day of good results then and I’m glad I witnessed England’s!

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Sunday 17th June 2018

I may occasionally give the impression that our children are a nuisance and from a practical perspective there is much we can’t do that we once could. Simply committing to ringing with a quick ‘yes’ is something we can rarely do now, going to events such as yesterday’s Ridgman Trophy is no longer a straightforward matter and even just going out for an evening’s ringing, meal or anything else is a logistical feat.

However, I – and indeed we – wouldn’t change it for anything as they give us so much joy and impress us every day with what they achieve. And of course, it means I get treated on Father’s Day!

This year I enjoyed a bit of the main things I love – bells, football, beer and of course time with the family.

Bells came courtesy of morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh. The former saw a welcome visit from generous business man and ringer Laith Reynolds who was behind many projects, most notably the Swan Bells in Perth in his native Australia, whilst the latter saw Gill Twissell’s family taking in the ringing as we peaked at eight, despite worryingly arriving to the sound of only four being rung!

Alfie at Woodbridge Regatta. Mason at Woodbridge Regatta. Alfie on the bouncy castle. A beer for Daddy at the Woodbridge Regatta.

With the World Cup now in full flow, the football came from sporadically dipping into the TV coverage of the games being played in Russia, but the real highlight was taking in the annual Woodbridge Regatta. Quality time spent with the family which allowed them to play on bouncy castles and various stalls and – as we had walked alongside the Deben – a couple of ales for us adults!

Elsewhere in Suffolk, further up the coast, the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh had been moved on a week to this afternoon due to last Sunday’s GMC meeting, with a 5152 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung in 2hrs49mins during the town’s Festival of Music and the Arts.

Meanwhile, our attempts to find somewhere to eat on the way home were not unexpectedly fruitless, but that didn’t detract from what was a lovely Father’s Day spent with the sons I am very lucky to have.

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Saturday 16th June 2018

It's not always the case, but the third Saturday of June usually means it is time for the Ridgman Trophy, the ten-bell striking competition for the territorial ringing organisations who border onto the Ely Diocesan Association, including ourselves. Essentially an East Anglian contest.

Therefore today, the youngest boys dropped off at their Granny Kate's, Ruthie and I this morning found ourselves making the lengthy journey to St Peter's in St Albans for the 2018 edition, Mason accompanying us so that he could meet up with his contemporary and pal Henry Salter as both of his parents also rang for the Suffolk Guild. This is a competition I always feel privileged to ring in, representing our countywide organisation which has many, many ringers who could ring in this and do very well and it is one that I am keen to win, having had the extremely good fortune to win striking competitions on six, eight and twelve. Indeed, this is a competition that we are very capable of winning, but a glance at those present today in this Hertfordshire city highlights why it isn't a shock that we haven't. As we mingled before and after ringing, we had the chance to catch up with some of the best ringers in the exercise, such as David and Cecilia Pipe and their boys Henry and Alfie, Philip Wilding, Chris Woodcock, Alban Forster and John Loveless. There is stiff competition.

This year though, I had high hopes. We'd enjoyed a couple of decent practices and unusually for Ruthie and me, we had arrived at our venue well in time. In fact, so early were we that we had the opportunity to get some lunch and wander down to the grounds of the Cathedral to eat it, surrounded by hundreds of Morris dancers and the like on the city's Day of Dance. Despite that cautious confidence - or perhaps because of it - the butterflies were fluttering slightly as we waited on the stairs leading to this 24cwt ten. With very strict guidelines about how early one can start, we had the opportunity to chat with our friends from the Essex Association who rang before us which helped relax me a bit, but once the practice piece had been rung, words of advice imparted from some of us and Nigel Gale on the treble had made the signal to the judges Dickon Love and Emma Cundiff that we were about to begin, it was hard not to tense up slightly. That is no bad thing though, prompting a heightened awareness of what we were ringing and my striking, but it meant that the test piece seemed to go on forever. There was a slight method mistake, but even without that, though we had produced a very nice piece of Stedman Caters that would've delighted us on almost any other occasion, one could sense that we hadn't rung well enough to win, a sense that seemed exaggerated when we finished and the next team Ely - featuring the aforementioned Pipes, Philip Wilding and many others - entered the vast ringing chamber here.

Ultimately that was borne out by the results as we finished 4th, but with almost twice as many faults as Bedfordshire in third. We felt thankful not to be in the Lincoln Diocesan Guild's shoes though, as they travelled an awful long way to ring last and fire out their test piece. Hopefully they'll have better luck next time as it is always nice to see our friends from Lincolnshire at this event.

Our view for lunch today – St Albans Cathedral Suffolk Guild band gathering for the team photo at the Ridgman Trophy. St Peter’s from the beer garden of the Blacksmiths Arms. Some of the Suffolk Guild band (+ friends) in the beer garden of the Blacksmiths Arms after ringing. Some of the Suffolk Guild band (+ friends) in the beer garden of the Blacksmiths Arms after ringing. Some of the Suffolk Guild band (+ friends) in the beer garden of the Blacksmiths Arms after ringing. Some of the Suffolk Guild band (+ friends) in the beer garden of the Blacksmiths Arms after ringing. Reunited with Alfie who was having fun in Granny’s garden!

We didn't stick around for the results though. Having grabbed a pint with some of our bandmates - leaving Mason in the care of David and Katherine at the church, for which we were most grateful - in the Blacksmiths Arms almost next door to St Peter's and soaked up a lively atmosphere indoors and out as patrons watched Iceland's valiant 1-1 draw at the World Cup with the mighty Argentina on the many screens dotted around, we returned to Woodbridge where we were very kindly treated to a BBQ by the mother-in-law and Ron before taking the exhausted boys back home for sleep.

Next year the contest is pencilled in for Saturday 15th June and we are hosting! I believe the hope is that we shall welcome competitors to The Norman Tower. It is a difficult event to host. Doing the draw ahead of the day is useful when one is travelling a long distance, both for teams and any supporters, but it also means that many come, ring and go, unlike when the draw is done on the day and participants stay because they have kept their entire day clear.

With that in mind, the following isn’t meant to be a criticism or to offend, but today seemed a bit low key. As far as I could tell, there was nothing on the Ridgman Trophy site bar the small message indicating where and when it was going to be held, which had been up since almost immediately after the 2017 competition. There wasn’t anything I could find about it on The Hertford County Association’s website (nor even as I write this that their Association have won!), nor on the church’s website or even on the local ringer’s part of the site, bar a brief mention on the calendar. Contrast that with last year’s in Cambridge where a dedicated page was set-up with information for the day from parking to refreshment to activities (a sort of mini-version of what they currently have in anticipation for the National Twelve-Bell in a week’s time), beer was laid on (although of course they did have the benefit of lots of thirsty local students to make it worth their while!) and generally made a big deal of it all. We were certainly appreciative of the local ringers’ warm welcome (and especially the cake!), but I’m hoping we can be closer to the Cambridge model in twelve months. I imagine it’ll be promoted by this website, whoever replaces Neal Dodge as the Guild PR Officer, even Radio Suffolk, big fans of bells who I’m sure will be delighted to hear of a regionwide competition being held within our borders. They may not be able to put a beer tent up, but I’m sure Bury St Edmunds’ beer-savvy ringers will be able to recommend a nearby pub for ringers to gather together for refreshments.

I imagine at least one of the town’s taverns benefitted from thirsty ringers after this morning’s peal of Grandsire Cinques on the 27cwt  twelve, which was Nicholas Haggett’s first in the method at this level and Nathan Colman’s first on twelve – well done Nicholas and Nathan!

Meanwhile a quarter-peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major was rung at Hopton, but for us it was all about the Ridgman Trophy. We’re disappointed not to have won it, but it was a lovely day out and a privilege to ring for the Guild in the competition – here’s to the third Saturday of next June in Suffolk!

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Friday 15th June 2018

World Cup fever has well and truly set in! A Friday evening, beer in hand, watching the superb 3-3 draw between Portugal and Spain, Cristiano Ronaldo at his very best, was about as good as it gets in such matters. A bit like ringing an exhilarating peal, it flew by.

Unfortunately I didn’t also have an exhilarating peal to ring, but I’m sure the quarter-peal of Glasgow Surprise Major on the lovely ground-floor eight of Gislingham was equally enjoyable. I shan’t comment on which of the band could be considered their Cristiano Ronaldo though!

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Thursday 14th June 2018

And so we're off!

About 1,500 miles away a month of football kicked-off with a bizarre opening ceremony involving a naughty Robbie Williams and the hosts Russia thrashing their opponents Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the first of sixty-four planned fixtures between now and the final at the same stadium planned for Sunday 15th July, including hopefully seven involving England. My usually bi-annual apologies at this time of year both for the incursion into your TV viewing and possibly this blog, as well as to Ruthie, although to an extent she too seems to be getting into the spirit of things. The wallchart is up on the living room wall and I find myself suddenly interested in what would normally be less than noteworthy match-ups pencilled in for the coming days, such as Morocco vs Iran, Costa Rica vs Serbia, Colombia vs Japan and other belters.

My bellringing commitments in the coming weeks have been - as much as possible - worked around games involving and potentially involving the English, although there may be some ringing missed, but for today I couldn't blame the World Cup for not partaking in the exercise. As usual, Ruthie's choir practice made it impractical to get out to Grundisburgh's or indeed anybody else's practice, including the monthly Surprise Major one at Ufford, but there wasn't any ringing in the county recorded on BellBoard either.

God willing there will be more to speak of soon, even if I have to fit it in around the footy!

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Wednesday 13th June 2018

As I stood in the church at Pettistree during this evening's practice, a piece of ringing going on in the background, I took the opportunity to flick through the parish newsletter and was delighted to read the positive article about Richard, one of the learners on the 12cwt six in the neighbouring village of Wickham Market. Not only has he begun ringing on Sunday mornings, but it seems he has also encouraged his family to join in! Well done Richard and tower captain Ray Lewis.

The session I was at on the ground-floor six where a quarter-peal of Double Oxford Bob Minor was rung beforehand remains one of the best six-bell practices in Suffolk, but it could do with a little bit of the recruitment success they have had a mile or so across the fields. Circumstances haven't been kind to us here. Even just within our family, since the birth of our children it isn't possible for both Ruthie and me to come out to support the ringing together, whilst her mother Kate often looks after her granddaughters overnight when their parents are both working simultaneous nightshifts and if that falls on a Wednesday she is also unable to come out. Meanwhile, we are no longer with the much-missed Gill Waterson in her illness and of course last year we suddenly lost enthusiastic regular Derek Martin, who is also much-missed. If someone is away on holiday or otherwise engaged as some regulars were this evening, then things are sparse in comparison to the peak that this tower has become used to attracting, especially in the summer.

Yet there were still ten or eleven present on this occasion and between us we had some regular practice at Suffolk Delight Minor in anticipation of a quarter-peal attempt of it in a week's time on the eve of Suffolk Day, in amongst much else such as Stedman Doubles and Beverley Surprise Minor. And although The Greyhound was closed tonight with Stewart and Louise taking a well-earned break, it was still a very enjoyable evening out, with my wife absolutely exhausted following a day with the children that saw them watch the Women's Cycle Race come through Melton, although the TV coverage bypassed the race’s progress through our local community, thus depriving the trio of their moment of stardom.

There doesn’t appear to have been any ringing along the route or at least none that I could hear on the highlights on ITV4 or that was recorded on BellBoard, but there was at least other ringing within the county as an impressive 1280 of Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Rutland, Superlative and Yorkshire Surprise Major spliced was rung at Horringer.

Back at Pettistree, I also had the chance to read the latest copy of The Ringing World which features on its front page the project at St Margaret’s in Ipswich, a fitting platform for a wonderful job.

Richard from Wickham Market has entered a wonderful world of ringing!

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Tuesday 12th June 2018

Mentally deranged dotard and little rocket man met in an historic expected, yet unexpected meeting on the other side of the world.

Meanwhile, back here, there was a 720 of Plain Bob Triples rung at Bures for the ninetieth birthday of local churchgoer June Underwood, Charlie our cat brought in his first dead mouse for us and Alfie had his 'graduation' photos taken at nursery.

Nothing to Trump events in Singapore though.

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Monday 11th June 2018

The second Stedman Night at St Mary-le-Tower of the last few weeks was a largely positive affair today. As we approach midsummer - and therefore Suffolk Day - the walls of the ringing chamber basked in late evening sunshine throughout, George Pipe had made it up the stairs to be present up here for the first time for many, many months, four-fifths of the band due to ring for the Guild in Saturday's Ridgman Trophy in St Albans were in attendance for a final practice (only David Salter and Ruthie weren't there as they undertook child-sitting duties at home) of the touch and I was able to buy my father a birthday pint at The Cricketers where we sat outside with a large crowd. Happy Birthday Dad!

In fact, the only thing that spoilt it was the ringing. I just can't comprehend why we have so much trouble with Stedman. Yes, it is deceptively simple as I have outlined on here before and yes, it is problematic for many not just here or indeed in this county, but across the country and anywhere else in the world where change-ringing is undertaken. However, we seem to struggle consistently with it and the only thing it can come down to is concentration. Apart from those feeling their way into this principle with all its quirks, there is no excuse for this extremely talented squad of ringers, capable of pulling off very well-struck ringing in methods that many provincial tens and twelves across the land could only dream of, turning to jelly when faced with a piece of ringing where we simply have to go in quick or slow, double-dodge in every place 4-5 and upwards and deal with the occasional call at the back.

That said, even within the ringing there were bright spots. Those learning how to ring this on higher numbers here did well, especially with others losing their way around them, there were some nice call-changes on Twelve for Sonia - whose confidence seems to be growing - and the run-through of the touch of Stedman Caters we are meant to ring in the weekend's contest in Hertfordshire was a reasonably well-paced, well-struck bit of ringing, albeit with a couple of mistakes that we shall have to iron out on the day of course!

God willing the ringing tonight won't put us off, but rather galvanise us in concentrating even harder next time we ring Stedman. And lest we forget that otherwise it was a very positive Stedman Night at the Tower.

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Sunday 10th June 2018

The sound of nearby Melton St Andrew's three bells tolling sonorously across the village signified that for once we were off to somewhere on time. On this occasion St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge where Ruthie was singing in the choir and I helped man the front six of the 25cwt eight, before the boys got their just reward for their patience with biscuits, although an art exhibition in the Church Centre meant that the refreshments had been moved down to the church itself.

Not that we had much time to enjoy them as Mason needed dropping off at Fynn Valley Golf Club for some foot golf to celebrate the birthday of one of his contemporaries. Having continued our amazing day of good time-keeping and left him there early, we set about a whirlwind of productive, but largely dull tasks before collecting him and travelling on to my parents' abode to drop cards off for my father's forthcoming birthday tomorrow.

Tostock.It was busy, productive and exhausting, but not as worthy of comment as the Suffolk Guild peal of the forty-one 'standard' Surprise Minor methods rung at Tostock this afternoon, which was Lesley & David Steed and Stephen Dawson's first peal of spliced and the most methods rung to a peal for Ruth Suggett and Nigel Gale, who was also calling a peal of spliced for the first time. Very well done to them all, especially Nigel who also managed to fit in calling a quarter-peal of Stedman Triples at The Norman Tower. Brilliant stuff!

And it all beats listening to the three at Melton, regardless of whether we are on time or not!

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Saturday 9th June 2018

Once upon a time, going to a beer festival was the ultimate in relaxing affairs. The diary would be emptied (after all, what good would we be for anything in the state we would end up in?!) and so we’d rock up whenever we were ready, drink at our leisure (not necessarily as much as we could ram in) and leave when we’d had enough or the event was wrapped up, along the way enjoying mingling with various friends and acquaintances with decreasing lucidity. And our only responsibility was not losing the house key.

That has now changed now of course and quite rightly, with the children to think of, if we get to go to beer festivals at all. They’re not typically child-friendly occasions, but with one being held at our local pub the Coach & Horses in Melton, complete with bouncy castles, face-painting and other activities to keep the youngsters happy, we felt we had to go along.

Beer festival at the Coach & Horses. Alfie after getting his face painted at the beer festival.It wasn’t as previous beer festivals have been for us, as expected. For a start, Ruthie was working today and the notion of attending a beer festival on my own with three boys in tow was impractical and unappealing, so it had to wait until my wife’s return and obviously we couldn’t stick around until the bitter end getting drunker and drunker, with our responsibilities of parenthood at the forefront of our mind, so it was a relatively brief session compared to past ones we’ve enjoyed. In between we did fit in some beer and caught up with one or two familiar faces, but largely we were keeping an eye on the boys (especially the two youngest) as they dashed, jumped, bumped and even got squashed under sumo wrestlers. And with their thirst also in need of quenching it was the first time I’ve been to a beer festival and ordered glasses of water and orange juice! Still, we were impressed with the numbers there, the atmosphere and range of ales and had a really good time.

In the process it felt only right to raise a glass to the first Suffolk-born ringer to ring the tenor at Exeter Cathedral – the second heaviest bell hung for change-ringing in the world – as George Salter rang it behind to 5004 changes of Stedman Cinques. This isn’t simply a matter of turning up to bong behind. At 72cwt it is more than twice the weight of any bell hung for change-ringing within our borders and a beast that many ringers couldn’t contemplate handling, let alone strike well for 4hrs16mins on what was another hot summers day, with some of the ringing available to listen to via his Facebook page and he has prepared properly, with a quarter-peal on the great bell a few weeks ago. On top of everything else he has achieved – especially since he moved to Bristol at the start of last year – he has been a credit to Suffolk, his proud parents David and Katharine, but most of all himself. Although his mother and father have given him a superb grounding and the opportunities to get going, he has made so much of his own opportunities to take himself to the level he is at now, with today being an impressive highlight.

Talking of heavy bells, yesterday saw the last of famous 62cwt twelve of St Paul’s Cathedral in London removed from their tower for the first time in their 140 year history ahead of their rehanging on modern fittings and strengthening of the wooden frame, whilst the ringing chamber is undergoing extensive renovation.

The boys enjoying Rendlesham Forest. The boys enjoying Rendlesham Forest. The boys enjoying Rendlesham Forest.

Nothing quite as exciting in my day, although it was lovely to spend quality time with Mason, Alfie and Joshua in lovely weather, as we took a long walk into Woodbridge for some bits and pieces and visited the marvellous Rendlesham Forest where they took advantage of many playgrounds and the miles of walks through the thick, lush woodland we are so fortunate to have on our doorstep. Lovely but exhausting and I certainly felt I had earned some ale at that beer festival. Although probably not as much as George Salter!

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Friday 8th June 2018

Gislingham.I was delighted to see that Alan Stanley’s five years as Suffolk Guild Chairman – which came to its natural end at the AGM in Bury St Edmunds two months ago – was suitably recognised today, with a peal of Turramurra Surprise Major rung by a band that was drawn from all four districts of the SGR, including his successor Rowan Wilson and rung at his home tower of Gislingham. Good effort!


It wasn’t the only performance recorded on BellBoard today from within our borders either, with a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor rung at Monewden in anticipation of Liz Christian’s forthcoming sixtieth birthday, with the gal herself ringing the treble. Happy Birthday for Sunday Liz!

No such ringing activity for us, although that is typical for a Friday as the whole family is gradually gathered together for the weekend from their various places of work and education, thus giving us little practical opportunity to get out anywhere.

I’m glad a good band could get out for Alan though.

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Thursday 7th June 2018

Next Wednesday sees 2018's UK Women's Cycle Race come through the county, starting in Framlingham and ending in Southwold. There are signs warning there will be no parking where hundreds of cars affiliated with local residents and our business park usually park and traffic disruption up Melton Hill. Thank goodness Woods Lane is open again.

It will be interesting to see if any ringing is done at any of the many towers along the route. It was nice to do some at Grundisburgh when the men's version passed through last year and it seemed well received by the villagers keen to make an event out of some of the world's best cyclists passing through, but from a wider PR perspective it was noticeable that none of the ringing was captured on the TV coverage. In fact they seemed to actively avoided it! Still, if anyone is doing any ringing, it is sure to be good PR at some level!

For today though, all was normal, as we had a quiet night in. Still, after watching England's final warm-up game ahead of the forthcoming World Cup, it allowed me to read about the shares issue that has been launched to raise money for the rebuilding of The George pub which was burnt almost to obliteration five years ago, thus depriving this sizeable village of its only tavern. Just enough was saved to make rebuilding it worthwhile, with the only battle being raising enough money to stop the inevitable property developing vultures getting their way. Unsurprisingly local ringer Ray Lewis is on the committee and it would be nice for them to get their post-ringing drinking hole back for Monday nights in the future.

Perhaps they could hold out buckets for the cyclists as they race pass there next week!

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Wednesday 6th June 2018

I've never hidden my dislike of methods that do four blows lead here, three blows seconds there and similar. They're fiddly little things, easy to go wrong in and genuinely feeling very unnatural. That's not to say I won't ring them though, but I was pleased to bag the treble for this evening's peal at The Wolery of St John the Baptist Bob Triples, St Clement's College Bob Triples with the three-pull dodge on the front mangled up into something similar to that which I described at the start. Still, it was useful for Neal Dodge and it produced a decent 1hr58mins of ringing that wasn't to be sniffed at.

Afterwards we returned back down the garden to David and Katharine's abode for biscuits, cakes and tea in a room we shared with various bits and pieces from St Clement's in Ipswich, such as sliders and a trapdoor, as the project led wonderfully by Mrs Salter to clean up and repaint the fittings on the 15cwt six in this redundant church continues. I'm glad someone has picked this up as these are the best of the redundant rings in the town to my mind.

Elsewhere in Suffolk they were also busy ringing, with quarter-peals at Pettistree where they rang Ipswich Surprise Minor, Ixworth where they got into the spirit of Project Pickled Egg with Turramurra Surprise Major and at Elveden, where they rang six Triples methods spliced. None of them St John the Baptist Bob.

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Tuesday 5th June 2018

Great St Mary.This evening we discovered that we won’t be able to go to the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final in Cambridge on Saturday 23rd June, as we have been invited to celebrate our niece’s birthday on that day. It’s not unexpected of course, especially as it is the actual sixth anniversary of her birth, but I had hoped we might avoid a clash, or at least one that meant that we couldn’t go to both.

It is an unfortunate clash, as the Twelve-Bell Final is the biggest event in ringing, a real highlight of the year. From a personal point of view it is a rare opportunity to catch up with many of my ringing friends from across the country and the world, but even if you don’t know anyone there (though the chances are you’ll bump into someone familiar) and regardless of your ability, this is a superb day out. Some of the best ringers in the world will be exhibiting their skills on a lovely ring of bells and although spending the day in the beer tent is highly enjoyable, if that isn’t your cup of tea, there will be cups of tea, activities for children in Great St Mary church and of course there is plenty in this university city to explore. Being so close to us, I would encourage as many members to take advantage of its proximity this year and soak in the atmosphere.

When it comes down to it though, we wouldn’t want to miss the birthday celebrations. God willing lots of Suffolk Guild members will make up for our absence!

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Monday 4th June 2018

Stedman Night at the Tower returns to St Mary-le-Tower next Monday and on the basis of this evening it is needed as two lots of Stedman Cinques came to a premature halt. Even taking into account the pitfalls of this principle it was an odd anomaly in an otherwise useful session that also saw Sonia ringing the eighth very well to Call-Changes on Twelve as she gets used to the bell in readiness to practice knocking behind to Triples on the front eight, along with some decent Grandsire Cinques, Little Bob Maximus and London (No.3) Surprise Royal, the latter finishing the ringing off and blowing away some cobwebs!

It was nice to see George Vant, eight days after finally ringing his first peal on twelve in the 5040 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus at St Sepulchre in London and a couple of months ahead of him moving to Southampton. Hopefully this won’t be the last we see him at SMLT before then, but his enthusiasm will certainly be missed!

It was all carried out in a professional but jovial atmosphere which included a drink in The Cricketers, but plans were being made for a wine tasting post-ringing in a few weeks instead of our usual pint in the pub.

For tonight though, we enjoyed the tavern, as well as the ringing. Hopefully Stedman night will go as well next week.

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Sunday 3rd June 2018

My ringing highlight of the day was a piece that I wasn't in. Which is probably the main criteria for most people's ringing highlight of the day! The 120 of Stedman Doubles following straight on from an impressive raise at this morning's ringing on the ancient 13cwt gallery-ring five of St Lawrence in Ipswich was a real treat to listen to and prompted a couple of us to muse over the possibility of a five-bell striking competition!

It followed on from some decent ringing at St Mary-le-Tower beforehand and although having had my arm twisted by the boys to go to Costa Coffee with some of my fellow ringers there wasn't enough time to join those ringing the bells of St Margaret's as we got to the car, or those at Grundisburgh nearly seven miles away, I still departed feeling like it had been a productive and enjoyable morning of ringing.

Hopefully those ringing in the 1320 of Primrose Surprise Minor at Great Finborough had the same sensation following their efforts, which appear to have brought to a close a very successful North-West District Quarter-Peal Week featuring thirteen successes across the nine days. Well done to all concerned.

Our day meanwhile saw us nip to Felixstowe for new shoes for Alfie and Joshua, Ufford ringers Pete and Susanne pop round to check our TV was still hanging on the wall and Ruthie returning to St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge to help the choir sing for the Songs of Praise there.

All quite ordinary, but lit up by that lovely touch of Stedman Doubles this morning!

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Saturday 2nd June 2018

We were in Ed Sheeran country this afternoon, as the South-East District Practice visited Dennington and then Framlingham, the town made famous by the most well-known ginger in the world, especially with a best-selling song about the castle, which even features in the video.

Ringing at Dennington for the SE District Practice – Alan Munnings at the front on the 4th, Mark Ogden on 5th & Jonathan Williamson on the tenor. Ringing at Dennington for the SE District Practice – l to r; 3rd Diana Pipe, 4th Robert Scase, 5th Stephen Cheek & tenor Ruth Munnings Outside at Dennington during the SE District Practice. Ringing at Framlingham for the SE District Practice – l to r; treble Sue Williamson (back to camera), 4th Tracey Scase, 5th Abby Antrobus, 6th Mervyn Scase, 7th Rowan Wilson & tenor Mike Cowling. Refreshments in Framlingham church during SE District Practice. Joshua attempting ringing at the bottom of the stairs to Framlingham ringing chamber. Accompanied by a meerkat of course.

There was no sign of the county’s biggest export since the Pipe family, meaning no photo opportunity of him on the end of a rope or chance for a particular Suffolk Guild member to ask him in person if he fancied donating a sum of money towards doing up local bells, but this was an extremely enjoyable and particularly useful afternoon. Although with almost three hundred members in the District we should get far more attending our events, this was a decent turnout that allowed something for everyone, from stuff for learners to seven Surprise Minor methods spliced on the 19cwt ground-floor six and a superbly-rung three leads of Bristol Surprise Major on the 16cwt eight, all carried out in a jovial atmosphere aided by the good weather and then the refreshments in the church at the latter. Thank you to SE Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson on running it all so brilliantly.

Earlier I had rung for a wedding at Woodbridge where I was pleased that we rang all eight, whilst elsewhere within our borders 1260s of East Worldham Bob Minor and Plain Bob Doubles were rung at Buxhall and Yoxford respectively.

We finished our day’s activity in Sheeranland with a pint outside The Station Hotel in his home town, a pub often frequented by him. He wasn’t present, but in the words of one of his many hits, this afternoon was Perfect.

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Friday 1st June 2018

Once upon a time, not in the too distant past, Friday nights used to be about going out with fellow young ‘uns for a few drinks in Woodbridge, sometimes even to the bright lights of Ipswich.

This evening, I was at home, reading about the current dramatic proposals from the Central Council. I had tried to keep up with proceedings in Lancaster on Monday when the CCCBR held their annual meeting, through YouTube, but looking after the boys on my own meant that my attention to it was sporadic at best. Since last year’s meeting when the Council agreed to drastic changes, radical proposals have been drafted, discussed and reviewed by a selected workgroup of ringers of varying views on what needs to change in ringing, including some of the best and most well known names of the exercise, like Graham John, Philip Earis, Don Morrison and Philip Saddleton.

Broadly speaking, they were reviewing the Central Council’s long-standing – albeit continuously amended – Decisions. These are the rules that shape the way that ringing is done by so many of us, such as how methods are classified (Delight, Surprise, Bob, Little Bob, etc), how they are rung (bells moving no more than one place at the time, one bell knocking behind, etc) and what is classed as a peal. Of course they aren’t laws and nobody will ever get in trouble for deviating from them, its just that any deviation wouldn’t be recognised as a ‘valid’ performance. Not really an issue in everyday ringing, but in peals, where the progression that prevents the art stagnating and dying derives from, it can be restrictive, especially for those leading the way at the far extreme of what is possible. Considered to be holding the most talented ringers back and too confusing for those learning, it was felt something needed to be done to change this. What they would be changed to was the issue.

What they have come up with is a draft ‘Framework for Method Ringing’ and they are keen for the views of ringers, of all abilities, from everywhere. To get an idea of the background and the proposals, they are laid out on the CCCBR’s website, with the articles written on the subject in the Ringing World a good place to go in order to get an overview, but perhaps the kind of things suggested that will grab the attention of most is that jump changes (where bells would be allowed to move more than one place) would be permitted in peals, as would multiple bells covering and even that may ‘cover’ in the middle of the row, if this framework were approved.

Nothing that is currently permittable is going to ‘banned’, but rather, the rules will be relaxed and essentially become guidelines, even in peals and so most ringers will be pretty much unaffected by any of these proposals in a direct manner. However, anything that broadens what is possible in ringing can only be good for the exercise and may encourage more variety in everyday ringing, so please do take part in the consultation.

Ringing will almost certainly carry on in much the same way, regardless of any changes made and it was carrying on as normal today, at least here in Suffolk. The FNQPC was successful with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Earl Stonham. North-West District Quarter-Peal Week QPs of Plain Bob Minor, Sutton Scotney Bob Minor and four Doubles methods at Barking, Buxhall and Elmsett respectively and a peal of an appropriate length was rung for the birthday of Adrian Knights at Offton.

Well done to Joe Findlay on ringing his first away from cover in the success at the 9cwt gallery-ring of six that recently hosted the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions and to the entire band on ringing their first in the method in the quarter rung at Buxhall in memory of former local ringer David Johnstone.

Meanwhile, it was poignant that Arnie wasn’t in the band that rang the 5071 of Bristol Surprise Major for his 71st birthday. He is sadly in a sorry state now and moved into a new residential home today and if anyone would like to visit him then Brian Whiting will no doubt give the details of where he is, but by all accounts he has very little memory of most people. I hope he will still have appreciated today’s effort in his name.

He is a star of the art, especially within our borders, one of many who have helped maintain and evolve this ancient exercise into the modern age and I hope that the proposals I was reading tonight will take it even further into the future.

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Thursday 31st May 2018

May ended fairly mundanely today.Alfie's return from a night at his Granny's was welcome as was her putting him up as he had been very keen to have a sleepover there! However, other than that, there wasn't much to report from our day personally, although the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week kept ticking over with a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the back six at Horringer.

As we conclude this month therefore, it is worth noting that plenty is planned for the June waiting patiently in the wings, starting with the South-East District Practice on Saturday afternoon at the heavy but ground-floor six of Dennington and then the nearby eight of Framlingham. Next week then sees the North-East District Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles pencilled in on Wednesday, the first of a number of hoped for NE Practices that sees them go to Chediston the following evening, Bungay on Monday 11th, Reydon a week later, Worlingham on Tuesday 19th, Leiston on Friday 22nd, Halesworth on Tuesday 26th and then Blythburgh two days after.

Dotted in between are the North-West District's Training Morning at The Norman Tower on Saturday 9th, the Second Tuesday Ringing at Fressingfield and Wingfeld on the 12th, the Helmingham Monthly Practice on the Friday of that week before the South-West District see out the final brace of Saturdays of the month with their Striking Competition at Cavendish on the 23rd and Practice at St Gregory's in Sudbury on the evening of the 30th.

Please do support these events where you can, as well as the second annual Suffolk Day on the 21st, whilst some cheerleaders in St Albans for the Ridgman Trophy would be appreciated on Saturday 16th!

God willing June will be a little more exciting than today, in a good way!

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Wednesday 30th May 2018

There was something of relative significance happening in three of the core elements that tend to make up my inane ramblings on this blog today, all with various levels of excitement attributed to them.

Paul Hurst's appointment as Ipswich Town manager this morning was far from surprising, but has reinvigorated the club's apathetic support - myself included - after the latter unpleasant and frankly dull couple of seasons of Mick McCarthy's tenure, although after nearly two decades of standing still most of us are not overly expectant, though welcoming to the man who has made the not insignificant move from Shrewsbury Town.

Far more exciting (especially for the boy himself!) was Alfie going for a sleepover at Granny Kate's house along with his cousins tonight. This was by invitation of my mother-in-law who often has my wife's sister's children overnight to allow their parents to work, but with Joshua a little too young for such things I was still at home as I more often am than not on a Wednesday evening.

With football and children ticked off on the list of mentions in today's entry, ringing - the primary subject of this blog believe it or not - does make an appearance as having dropped AJM off at her mother's, Ruthie continued on to Pettistree where she partook in the pre-practice QP and then the session which followed and included a repertoire of spliced, Grandsire Doubles and a collection of Surprise Minor methods as usual, although she passed on a visit to The Greyhound on this occasion.

Meanwhile, the thus-far very successful North-West District Quarter-Peal Week continued with a 1260 of Grandsire, Plain Bob and St Simon's Bob Doubles at Suffolk's most westerly tower of all, Exning, which was Jimmy Yeoman's first as conductor and Geoff Grayton's 800th in the medium. Well done Jimmy and congratulations Geoff!

A pretty significant day in most aspects of the blog's usual elements then.

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Tuesday 29th May 2018

Very little of note to report personally, bar passing a poor unfortunate woman having to deal with the aftermath of the back windscreen of her car being smashed in. That even on Melton Hill, a constantly busy main road nonetheless in the centre of a largely rural area, a car could be broken into so obviously in broad daylight was a stark reminder that one has to be careful not to leave valuables on show when one leaves their vehicle. Especially when ringing, which usually means a ringer’s car can be left unattended for lengthy periods.

Hopefully no such trouble for those who took part in the quarter-peals in Suffolk today, one of which saw the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week continue with a 1250 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at The Norman Tower and the other saw Julia Brown ring her first QP inside in the 1320 of Plain Bob Doubles at Theberton. Well done Julia!

A much nicer note to finish on than I started!

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Monday 28th May 2018

Practice nights at St Mary-le-Tower that fall on a Bank Holiday Monday can be difficult to judge. We always like to have one, especially at this time of the year when they seem to come thick and fast and like to ensure that there are a least a core of regulars able to come in order to make it worthwhile holding a session, even if nobody else came in addition. Sometimes though, we have been greeted with just that faithful handful, other times with a busload of visitors, particularly if Chelmsford Cathedral have decided not to run their Monday night practice!

This evening was neither one nor the other though. We were understandably missing Laura Davies and Louis Suggett who had been at Lichfield Cathedral today, ringing a rare Suffolk Guild peal so far beyond our borders. I wouldn't have minded taking up Louis' offer of a place in the band, but with Ruthie at work today I was on child-watching duties. This isn't far off my old stomping ground and I have fond memories of occasional visits here and I - and many others - think they are a glorious ring. Surprisingly, not all from the band thought so, but I'm not sure that I would've been overly enamoured with them after 3hrs20mins of Grandsire Caters on this 31cwt ten in such stiflingly hot conditions! Fair play to them!

The absence of the ringers of the treble and eighth in that 5075 was offset by the visit of father and son Julian and Nathan Colman and although there were one or two other regulars missing, we managed pretty well, with a decent night's ringing that included half-courses of Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Royal and a touch of them spliced on ten and Call-Changes and Grandsire Cinques on the twelve.

Meanwhile, congratulations to one-half of the judging team from the recent Guild Striking Competitions, Cherril Spiller, who rang her 250th peal with Peter Waterfield in the 5040 of Surprise Minor rung for the Society of Stowmarket Youths, an effort that was accompanied by a similar effort appropriately rung for the NDA in memory of David Cubitt, who I'm sure many here will be sorry to have heard passed away yesterday.

It was all topped off with a welcome refreshing pint, tonight drunk under the stars in The Cricketers' beer garden, although we thought we might be witnesses to something less refreshing as a customer and member of staff had a heated 'discussion' over the former's order! Nothing quite as lively as what greeted the band who lost a peal at SMLT last Wednesday when they came for their post-ringing drinks (ask the Chairman, she tells the story amusingly!), but still we were glad to get outside and away from it all!

And we were glad we had a practice tonight.

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Sunday 27th May 2018

When I turned up at Woodbridge for morning ringing today to be greeted by just two others I don’t mind admitting to being slightly concerned at what lay ahead for the following half-an-hour. I’m not overly keen on three-bell ringing.

Alfie easing salad in preparation for the church BBQ. St Mary's Woodbridge BBQ being enjoyed in glorious sunshine!Mercifully the masses gradually filtered in and we at least rang the front six, but I wouldn’t usually be here having been the previous Sunday morning in my loosely regulated routine of ringing at the 25cwt eight and at St Mary-le-Tower (St Lawrence) and Grundisburgh on alternate Sabbaths. On this occasion though, the boys had been invited – with their junior church peers – to help prepare the salad for the annual church BBQ being held after the service.

Pete Faircloth - man of action.The actual event was an extremely pleasant occasion as the children enjoyed the food and play they had earned from their efforts in the kitchen, before we returned home to greet local ringers Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis. Pete had very kindly volunteered to put our TV on the wall, which we were more than happy to let him do, but it was largely a good excuse to have them round for a drink or three with a mini-keg of Ghost Ship on the go.


Other ringers were busying themselves ringing though, especially the North-West District whose Quarter-Peal Week continued with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Bardwell and a 1260 of Double Fairlie Bob Minor at Buxhall, the latter of which was a first in the method for the entire band, whilst the 1282 of Lincolnshire Surprise Royal rung at The Norman Tower was a first in the method for Clare Veal and Colmans Nathan and Julian. Well done to Clare, Nathan and Julian and to all the band at Buxhall!

Meanwhile, a brace of quarters were rung in the North-West District by mainly South-East District ringers, with a 1344 of Plain Bob Triples rung at Elveden in memory of Sidney Charles Carter, the Great Great Uncle of today’s tenor ringer Alastair McArthur and whilst out that way they also rang a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor.

Beyond our borders there was also ringing of note, with former Ipswich ringer George Salter ringing the tenor at Exeter Cathedral - at 72cwt the second heaviest bell hung for change-ringing in the world - behind to a 1313 of Stedman Cinques, whilst at Stepney in Greater London, a peal of 420 Plain Minor methods was rung. Sounds impressive and indeed it is, but closer inspection shows that they are a slight variation on each other - as someone commented, anyone who can ring Double Oxford should be able to ring this! Not sure that is entirely the case and this band has to be congratulated for doing something 'outside the box'.

It's a good job more than three of them turned up!

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Saturday 26th May 2018

When preparing for a striking competition that you are taking seriously (and when one is taking the day out to travel some distance to represent one’s Guild you have to take it very seriously), there are three important things that you ought to do.

One is to practice the touch, over and over again, with the band ringing the bell that they are to ring on the day if possible. This is especially the case if the test piece is something that requires a touch, as is usually the case with Grandsire or particularly Stedman, but even if it is something more familiar like a course or half-course of Surprise.

The second is to ring as often together as you can with the whole band, more so than ever if they are drawn from far and wide.

Thirdly, you want to be able to practice on the bells that you will be ringing on in the competition itself. That is when you pick out all the intricacies of the ring, like bells being slow or quick or particularly difficult to ring and get yourself used to the surroundings rather than when you are there on contest day, when you should be concentrating on the ringing itself.

Well two out of three ain’t bad, as Meatloaf once commented about preparing for a striking competition.

This morning’s practice for the Suffolk Guild entry into the Ridgman Trophy on Saturday 16th June saw us practice the touch of Stedman Caters several times and once I’d learnt how to count it was starting to show by the end of our hour’s session.

Even more impressive was that for the first time that I can remember whilst being involved with the SGR in this contest, we managed to get the entire band pencilled in for three weeks time together for a practice. Credit to Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase, who achieved something that I never managed to do and hopefully it will stand us in good stead.

It was only the third element that we failed on, but that is understandable. As alluded to, it is hard enough to gather all ten ringers (plus at least a spare as is ideal) at the same time in the same place within our borders, but doing the same at the host tower is even harder and especially so this year as the competition is due to take place at St Peter’s in St Albans about a hundred miles and two hours away. Instead, we found ourselves at one of the closest matches in weight on home soil to the 24cwt ten, 20cwt ten Stradbroke.

We didn’t particularly learn anything from a striking perspective as of course the two rings will have completely different intricacies, but having rung this difficult ring to a pretty high standard it gives us confidence that we should be capable of a potentially winning piece on their easier going counterparts in Hertfordshire, although I don’t envy those planning on ringing a peal here next Saturday if the weather is as hot as today’s!

How many ringers does it take to close Stradbroke ringing chamber’s window? David Stanford & Brian Whiting endeavour to find out.Once Brian Whiting and David Stanford had managed to work out how to shut the ringing chamber window, some of us plus groupie Jed Flatters departed for home via a drink in The Queen’s Head in Eye as we practiced for the recovery from ringing in a striking competition!


Even with a drizzle of rain starting, we could’ve happily sat out in the beer garden all day, but my Mum and Dad had very kindly been looking after and feeding lunch to the boys and we felt we ought to return and collect them for a lovely afternoon with the trio of brothers.

Other ringers were busy in the county too. Guild Secretary Carl Melville was on BBC Radio Suffolk this afternoon in his capacity as vicar at Great Blakenham as he promoted the wedding festival there this weekend in a report that can be heard from about 2hrs7mins into Sarah Lilley’s show, whilst a band predominantly visiting from Devon were being active in a more traditional manner for ringers as they rang a peal of Swindon Surprise Royal at St Peter’s in Sudbury.

However, the main ringing headline in Suffolk was the start of the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week, albeit in the South-East District with quarters of twelve Doubles methods at St Lawrence in Ipswich and Ipswich Surprise Minor at Sproughton.

God willing all good preparation for a brilliant QP Week!

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Friday 25th May 2018

Mason returned from his school’s residential trip to Mersea Island today, bringing to an end a week of various activities with his peers.

Our week has been far less exciting and it continued in that vein, bar a trip to mother-in-law Kate’s place to feed her animals and water her plants, even if due to caravan troubles she hadn’t got anywhere near as far as she’d hoped!

Still, other ringers were having more luck than Ruthie’s Mum and having a more interesting evening than we were as the FNQPC scored again, this time with a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Ashbocking.

We were busier taking in tales of the eldest’s adventures in Essex though!

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Thursday 24th May 2018

All quiet on the Munnings front today, mundane and normal in every sense, although that’s not always a bad thing!

As usual that meant that going to Grundisburgh practice wasn’t possible, although hopefully the lighter evenings will help in regards to the numbers attending this rural tower’s weekly sessions, as I hope they do for our towers. We don’t want all ringers to be quiet!

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Wednesday 23rd May 2018

With Ruthie learning a particularly difficult piece of music for choir, it was up to me to support the practice night at Pettistree this evening.

I’m glad I did too, as with regulars away either at a play, losing a peal at St Mary-le-Tower, battling a cold or prevented from ringing by a back injury they were a little short on numbers. Even then though, they managed an impressive repertoire, as having preceded the session with a quarter-peal of Annable’s London Surprise Minor, the night then saw us ring more Surprise Minor of the Cambridge, London and Norwich variety, as well as some spliced Plain and Little Bob Minor.

It was all carried out in a very positive atmosphere too. Mary ‘Shrinking’ Garner – much to our amusement – felt she had got much shorter, but with Chris they were full of tales of Venice which included unwittingly striking up a conversation with a couple of bellringers from Devon!

Nice as well to have a pint in The Greyhound afterwards where it was good to hear from Chris McArthur how well work at Cretingham has been going as the ambition to augment them to six in time for the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War in November appears to be coming to realisation.

I’m very glad that my wife was learning music and enabled me to join the Pettistree ringers for an enjoyable evening.

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Tuesday 22nd May 2018

The two youngest boys had professional photos taken at nursery and extremely adorable they are too.

However, it was just about the only interesting aspect of our day personally.

Thank goodness for other ringers therefore, especially at Gislingham where the 1280 of Birchington-On-Sea Surprise Major was the first quarter-peal in the method for the entire band. Well done to them and well done to Mike Cowling on ringing his first blows of Glasgow Surprise Major in the QP at Hopton.

It was certainly more noteworthy than our day, those adorable photographs aside.

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Monday 21st May 2018

Apparently 23rd June is Wrestling Night at The Tower. Blackpool Tower that is. Tonight was Stedman Night at The Tower though. St Mary-le-Tower that is.

I shan't be booking my tickets for an evening of choreographed fighting up north just yet, but there was no hesitation in going along to SMLT this evening, even if Ruthie was wrestling me to get out of the door and go herself. Sarcasm intended.

Some might say that a night devoted to ringing Stedman is pointless (slow frontwork apart). After all, as a line, it is one of the simplest around. Forgetting the novelty that is the Singles version, from Doubles to infinity you double-dodge in every adjacent pair of places from 4-5 upwards. Granted fatigue will have set in by 410-411 up, but mercifully Stedman Deuxcentcinques is rarely rung and in all seriousness it means that in terms of purely line, all you have to worry about is which way you enter the front - quick, where you simply go in and lead right and come out again or slow which is longer but symmetrical and fairly straightforward.

However, it is an exception amongst a sea of methods where you have a treble traversing a fixed path and a line that is rarely disrupted compared to the potential of a call every six changes as you get in Stedman (on any number). And there is much to remember that one doesn’t really get until you ring it regularly. Dodging the right way round, where your course bell is as you approach the front, the number of dodges when calls are made and then what way you go in. If someone gets lost in Yorkshire or Bristol, it is fairly straightforward to put them back in place. Stedman is a different beast though. Seemingly endless numbers of calls change the coursing order rapidly and the alternate quick and slow sixes suck in and spit out bells in what can seem to the uninitiated an entirely unpredictable order. If one person goes wrong, they usually take someone else who suddenly becomes less confident of what they were doing, especially without a treble there to work around. Within moments, another two bells get unnerved, the next person on the front is unsure if they should be going in quick or slow and before the initial culprit has even completed the thought "where am I?" the whole piece has collapsed.

There are signposts however and ways of avoiding getting to this point though, but because they only appear in the odd occasion that one may ring Stedman (even at SMLT we only typically ring it once or maybe twice a week), they are unfamiliar. This evening was all about making them familiar, even spotting them, complete with a question and answer session partway through.

It seemed to be useful for everyone there. At one end of the spectrum Laura Davies gave conducting it a go, whilst at the other extreme Sonia watched people drumming behind – we did ring some Call-Changes on Twelve for her in the only non-Stedman piece of the session – and in between it seemed to help Peter Davies, Melvyn Potts, Richard Weeks and Sue Williamson in particular. I think it was well worth this focus for all of us though, not least because the one thing more than anything that will kill a touch of Stedman is concentration and we need to get more used to concentrating for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest, regardless of what we’re ringing, so an hour-and-a-half of concerted concentration won’t do us any harm!

My Stedman-loving mother (more sarcasm intended) managed to avoid the whole thing by attending a PCC meeting in Sproughton, but she joined us in The Cricketers afterwards where a sizeable crowd had retired after our efforts. I’m not sure how many of us will be at Blackpool Tower for the wrestling in June though.

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Sunday 20th May 2018

I don’t mind admitting to feeling a pang of guilt when missing ringing I have been asked to help with, but occasionally life clashes with ringing commitments. So it was this afternoon. It is the third Sunday, the time when ideally we need to be getting together as a twelve-bell squad at St Mary-le-Tower to help towards an entry into the National Twelve-Bell Contest in 2019, which currently is taking the form of quarter-peal attempts.

On this occasion though, we had been invited to the Felixstowe home of our close friends Kala and Nick – Godparents of Mason and Alfie respectively – and parents of one of Alfred’s closest friends Robyn for a BBQ, along with another of his special peers Maddie – my Goddaughter – and her parents Toby and Amy, also Godparents to two of our children, Mason and Joshua respectively. This is the closest to a family gathering without involving actual blood relatives that we get and like us they are busy folk, so actually finding a mutual date to meet – especially as with children we are restricted when we can all come out – is a process that many ringing organisers will be familiar with! Besides, having spent the whole day ringing yesterday, it would’ve been harsh to deny the boys meeting up with their friends and playing games in the sunshine as they did today.

And at least the QP at SMLT was successful, with a 1320 of Grandsire Cinques that will hopefully have been useful for all concerned, whilst there were also 1440 changes of the twelve Norwich-based Surprise Minor methods spliced rung at Clopton and 1296 changes of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung in an early start at Pettistree.

Meanwhile, it was nice to see a Suffolk Guild peal rung for the recent Royal Wedding, as a 5040 of Minor was rung at Wissett, with Sal Jenkinson ringing her first inside and Matthew Rolph his most methods. Well done Sal and Matthew!

I did get some ringing in though, partaking in the pre-service ringing at Woodbridge before attending said service and then making a mad dash afterwards to get the car off the streets ahead of the town's annual 10k race!

For all that and that I enjoyed this afternoon immensely, I still felt a little guilty though...

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Saturday 19th May 2018

The crowds gathered in eager expectation, awaiting the main event. Cameras were clicking away and all eyes were on a red-haired chap who was about to speak...

Earl Stonham.Apparently there was a wedding happening in a little town in Berkshire where the crowds had gathered in eager expectation, awaiting the main event, with cameras clicking away and where all eyes were on a red-haired chap who was about to speak, but there was nowhere that I’d rather have been this morning than Earl Stonham, where Suffolk Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge was about to introduce the SGR’s Patron and the county’s new High Sherriff George Vestey Esq, who was poised to make a brief but very entertaining speech before drawing the order of ringing for the six-bell competitions for the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy being held before lunch today on this lovely 9cwt gallery-ring of six.

And so it began, as an impressive entry of thirteen teams (especially considering what else was going on!) each made the short climb to the ringing chamber, practiced for two minutes, as requested by the judges Jeremy and Cherril Spiller rang the front three for two whole pulls to signify they were about to start competing and then did their 120 changes or four minutes of call-changes depending on which competition they were partaking in.

Enjoying the ringing in Earl Stonham churchyard in the sunshine! Enjoying the ringing in Earl Stonham churchyard in the sunshine! Enjoying the ringing outside Earl Stonham church hall in the sunshine! The ringing order for the 2018 Suffolk Guild 6-Bell Striking Competitions. Lunch in Earl Stonham Church Hall. Lunch in Earl Stonham Church Hall. My son Mason, brother Chris and father Alan watching the Royal Wedding after lunch. Awaiting the results of the Six-Bell Competitions at Earl Stonham Church Hall. Judges Jeremy & Cherril Spiller give the Six-Bell results at Earl Stonham Church Hall. Listening to the results for the Six-Bell Competitions in Earl Stonham Church Hall. Neal Dodge collects the Lester Brett Call Change Trophy on behalf the winners Great Barton.

Overall the quality was tremendous, a lovely backdrop to chatting in the sun-drenched churchyard or over a cuppa inside or outside the church hall next door and those listening - myself and Ruthie included - were struggling to pick a winner from amongst the superb striking on show.

As it happened, St Mary-le-Tower's 'A' team won and whilst I can imagine lots of rolling of eyes and cries "oh yeah", this was one of the most open contests for the Mitson Shield for years, with representation from all four Districts (including last week's winners of the North-East District Striking Competition Halesworth), with last year's joint winners Pakenham again in the running and Woolpit/Drinkstone very close in the runners-up spot. And it was great to see an entry from Thurston, presumably their first having only been augmented from five in the last few years. Ultimately I was even more chuffed than I usually am to win as this was by no means a certainty.

Very well done as well to Great Barton's Call-Change team on winning the Lester Brett Trophy in a Call-Change Competition which was also keenly contested and included some of the best ringing of the day. Great Barton’s method entry wasn’t bad either!

The results were delivered in the cosy, quaint hall with empathy and in an extremely constructive manner by our experienced judges following a wonderful lunch put on by the Debenham ringers.

Debenham.It was to the fine 21cwt ground-floor eight that we headed to next for the competition for the Rose Trophy. This could feel like 'after the Lord Mayor's Show' following the vast entry for the six-bell. After all, each team requires more ringers from a smaller pool and indeed there were fewer ringers about this afternoon, although some grapes had continued on to soak in what was a fantastic atmosphere with the local residents celebrating the earlier aforementioned wedding in style around us in the churchyard.


Gathered for the draw for the Rose Trophy at Debenham. Enjoying the ringing at Debenham. SGR PRO Neal Dodge speaking with Guild Patron & High Sherriff of Suffolk George Vestey Esq. Ruthie and a pint listening to the final team in the Eight-Bell at Debenham from the beer garden at The Woolpack. Awaiting the results for the Eight-Bell in Debenham church. South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson collects the Rose Trophy on behalf of the winners the SE District.

Obvious as it sounds, this is a harder competition to create good ringing in. The additional bells, about twice the time spent ringing and with many having already competed once today, but again Suffolk's ringers didn't disappoint as a superb contest between the hosts, SMLT, the North-West District and the South-East District transpired and the latter came out on top in the results given out by the Spillers in the church. That Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase got judges of this quality on a busy day for ringing is to credit, as it is to Cherill and Jeremy's for coming out for a long day's judging.

Well done to Tom, the SE District and especially the Debenham ringers for making sure the day went so well. For us it was a highly enjoyable day in gorgeous sunshine and not just because we were in both winning bands. I've always said that the winning comes after not just the opportunity to focus on striking and therefore hopefully progressing one's ringing, but also the social aspect and today was the perfect example. In between topping the children up on suncream, watching over them and attending to their various needs as they dashed around playfully in the open space afforded them by the wonderful weather, there was barely a moment when we weren't catching up with someone. And with mother-in-law Kate very kindly taking our two youngest sons to hers following the morning's proceedings, their parents were able to enjoy a quick half in the beer garden of The Woolpack that backs onto the churchyard of Debenham's imposing church whilst listening to the final band, before then enjoying the other half afterwards! Make sure you 'like' the winning performance in the Eight-Bell on BellBoard!

Despite the flippancy with which I dismissed the marriage today of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, it was a shame that the two events clashed, meaning that SGR members' response to the big occasion in Windsor wasn't quite as it might have been. For example, an attempt to get a band for a peal at Grundisburgh this morning understandably failed with almost everyone who might have rung in Earl Stonham, but there was special ringing on Suffolk's bells for the wedding, as ringing was carried out at Horringer and Wingfield and a quarter-peal of Bourne Surprise Minor was rung at Buxhall.

And of course across the country ringing was celebrating the royal union, most notably at the Castle itself where Suffolk native Vernon Bedford was amongst the band who rang a quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples rung as the great and the good gathered for the ceremony around them as ringing got some more great worldwide PR.

I don’t expect I would’ve turned down the opportunity to be in their shoes, but I was extremely happy to be in Earl Stonham and Debenham today.

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Friday 18th May 2018

Our glamping staycation odyssey drew to its conclusion this morning as we packed the boys off to nursery and packed our belongings up from the tent that has been our home since Monday and returned to our house of doors, windows and walls that don’t move in the breeze.

We left slightly unsure as to whether glamping was really for us. Judging by the awards and our own experience of meeting Ross – who with his wife Charlotte runs it – we’d say that Secret Meadows is one of the best in the industry and I reckon that if one went with a group of mates with a few drinks, with older children or during peak season when it was busier then it would be perfect and in such circumstances we couldn’t recommend it more highly. I don’t think we experienced it at its best though.

That said, we can’t really complain. We’ve got accommodation that would’ve cost hundreds of pounds for free and we have generally enjoyed being tourists in our local area this week and having popped back to Boulge church to collect the hat that I left there yesterday we were able to take in another hot day off work, although mainly it was getting more odd jobs done around our abode.

Grand Plant Sale.There wasn’t much ringing related to report, so I shall mention the Grand Plant Sale being held in aid of the Stowmarket Bells Project on the Bank Holiday Monday in ten days time at the town’s Community Centre. Please do support, especially if you are staycationing in the area!


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Thursday 17th May 2018

I've pointed it out before that we love the children to bits and miss them when they're not with us, but from a practical perspective it is lovely to do stuff without them, to feel like proper adults again, taking our time to do stuff, eating food whilst its still hot, being able to complete conversations and generally relaxing. Today was one such rare opportunity to do just that, as with the boys sent to nursery, we continued our holiday.

St Michael, Boulge.On this hot day with a stiff cold breeze, that mainly took the form of sitting out the front of our tent at Secret Meadows having a cup of tea, briefly rescuing a chicken for the only other people on the site (one of the activities you can do here is look after the chickens for the day), wandering along the nature trails and then an invigorating walk to another rarity - a church in Suffolk we had never been to! As part of the vast, spread out Carlford Churches Benefice with the six-bell towers of Ashbocking, Burgh, Clopton, Hasketon and Otley, as well as the county's lightest twelve at Grundisburgh, we were aware of Boulge church, but without bells hung for change-ringing in the tiny red-brick tower of this compact place of worship hidden away in the woods at the end of a track next to Boulge Hall and serving a hamlet of just thirteen dwellings, we had never had cause to come here or even happen upon it.

The board in Boulge church celebrating the transferring of the bell from Mickfield in 1984. The board in Boulge church celebrating the transferring of the bell from Mickfield in 1984. The board in Boulge church celebrating the transferring of the bell from Mickfield in 1984.

There are bells, as we were fascinated to learn as we took our time exploring the dark interior, with information prominently hung on the wall celebrating the moving of a 1626 Miles Graye I bell from the then abandoned Mickfield church in 1984, with the old bell moved aside having been cracked. It was something of interest that we weren't expecting from somewhere that was only really meant as a reason for taking a walk, but there was more as we happened across copies of the latest edition of The Grundisburgh and District News. Not so much for the features about our award-winning accommodation, although that was nice. Nor for any ringing news, as there was none, which was a pity as with my old PR hat on I always feel it is important that local ringers try to reach out to local publications like this (as the Pettistree ringers do, for example), even if it is just with updates of what they're doing. However, there were ringers in there, on page 6 where an article on Grundisburgh ringers and residents Gill Twissell and Joanna Crowe doing their degrees with The Open University jumped out at us!

It set us up nicely for the walk back to Secret Meadows, but our walking didn't stop there as we carried on through the other side of the site and onto The Turks Head in Hasketon. This is a location very familiar to us, usually the tavern of choice once peals have been scored or lost (the latter more often than not this year!) in the local area, but in keeping with the theme of the week, it took on a different perspective as we became ramblers coming in for refreshments from our efforts.

We returned to base for the rest of the day to put our feet up, bar collecting the children from nursery and Ruthie popping out to choir practice. God willing there are many more days of fun to be spent with the children, but I am happy to spend some days like this too!

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Wednesday 16th May 2018

Happy 70th Birthday for yesterday to Jane Harper. She has of course – along with her husband Peter - been a dedicated supporter of South-East District and Suffolk Guild events ever since their arrival from Hertfordshire eleven years ago, even serving as District Secretary. However, she – again along with Peter – has been a huge help to local towers beyond just her local tower of Hollesley, such as Ufford and Pettistree, the latter of which was the appropriate location for a quarter-peal rung in her honour this evening and which I was delighted to partake in.

Despite two or three false starts as we attempted to figure out what exactly the start was (turned out it was from after the treble had done its first dodge and at handstroke!) it was a worthy effort for the occasion.

However, that was the extent of my involvement in ringing this evening as we are still in the middle of our impromptu glamping holiday in Hasketon and in keeping with the strange mix of being away and not away we were hosting Ruthie’s best friend Fergie who joined us for fish ‘n’ chips and a jolly good catch-up and needed the return of our car from ringing in order to get back to her parents’ abode nearby.

Perhaps ironically, whilst we were holidaying within our borders, the SGR were ringing beyond our borders for a rare performance on ‘foreign’ soil with a peal of Superlative Surprise Major rung at Ardleigh in Essex.

Our evening was spent very much on this side of the River Stour though, even on holiday, with a good book and a drink to toast Jane Harpers’ birthday!

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Tuesday 15th May 2018

Our view from the front of our tent at breakfast this morning. Sutton Hoo is about a mile from us as the crow flies. The woodland on the site is just about visible from our Melton home. A hugely significant historical site brilliantly showcased, all on our doorstep. I used to travel past it at least twice a day most days whilst I lived on the peninsula. And yet I can’t remember the last time I came here. Certainly not since I returned to Suffolk thirteen years ago and therefore not in the children’s lifetime. Seeing as we’re being tourists in our local area this week and with Alfie and Joshua in our care, we decided that today was the day to finally take advantage of this gem of the county, especially as since either of us last came much had changed.

Woodbridge from Sutton Hoo. Alfie dressed up at Sutton Hoo.We picked the right day for the weather too, as in roasting sunshine we enjoyed the coolness of the exhibition centre (although with two excitable young boys in tow there was much skimming of the fascinating information provided!) and Tranmer House and were able to visit the burial mounds themselves in pleasant conditions, even finding time to take in the stunning views of Woodbridge – with the tower of St Mary-the-Virgin church that houses the 25cwt eight – across the River Deben as we continued this week’s theme of seeing the familiar from an unfamiliar perspective.

That theme was carried on into the evening, as the usual abstaining from ringing on a Tuesday night was continued meaning an evening in, only without the usual accompaniment of television and/or DVDs or electric light.

Other ringers not too far away were being more productive however, most particularly at Offton where the practice was preceded with a quarter-peal of Doubles. We haven’t been there for a while though. Hopefully we won’t leave it as long as we did Sutton Hoo.

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Monday 14th May 2018

Full English breakfast cooking, the stiff breeze gusting grey clouds across the bright spring sunshine and riverside activity building, I observed this morning three elderly gentleman at the Woodbridge boating pool sailing their model boats. It was slightly chilly and I wondered what enjoyment they could be getting from it. Just sailing a small boat round in circles on a rather dull concrete-lined pond didn’t seem particularly stimulating, but then it occurred to me that there is probably more to it than that.  After all, how many people think that ringing is a simple act of pulling on a rope and will wonder where the stimulation is in that? They won’t realise the lifetime of stimulation that can be enjoyed by learning new methods, new compositions, ringing at new towers, quarters, peals and much more. Perhaps the real enjoyment in model boat-sailing is the mechanical side of things or sailing them in different places or in different conditions. Or a combination thereof. Or perhaps, like with ringing it is the friendships that attract and retain participants.

Such deep thinking was possible – as was having and enjoying a cooked breakfast at The Tea Hut at all – because we were without the boys for most of the day as they were packed off to their places of education and we enjoyed the first day of quite an unusual week away that actually isn’t really away at all. Some may recall that at the boys’ nursery’s Christmas Fair that we were the winners of the first prize in the raffle – four days of glamping. With the understandable restrictions that it couldn’t be taken over their peak times like weekends and school holidays, we decided that this was the best week to take up the very generous offer of a free holiday, although sadly it prevented Mason from joining us, especially as this week he is taking his SATS at school.

However, with Secret Meadows – the award-winning venue which was offering our prize – only being in Hasketon, it was the shortest distance either of us has ever travelled for a holiday and with check-in not until 4pm, we had pretty much all day to not only prepare but to potter around with a mixture of odd jobs about the house and that breakfast following a walk along the River Deben.

The short distance to our accommodation also allowed us to collect Alfie and Joshua from nursery and for me to travel from the glorious rural isolation of our tent to the bustling centre of Ipswich and its pubs and clubs where my primary destination was St Mary-le-Tower for the weekly practice. Sadly we were very short on numbers present with quite a few away, including Ringing Master David Potts and even though Amanda Richmond’s typically energetic leadership kept us energised, not much went well. Hopefully we’ll get the numbers back again soon as we seemed to have suffered on that front in recent weeks.

Being on holiday I took the opportunity to join others in The Cricketers afterwards, a welcome climax to a largely disappointing evening, but it was a better day on the ringing-front in Buxhall where two quarter-peals were successfully rung, one in memory of another villager killed in the First World War a century ago, the other to welcome the Revd Canon Pauline Higham and Rod Higham to the village as Associate Priest and Reader respectively.

Outside our accommodation for this week. Inside our accommodation for this week. Story time in our tent with Ruthie, Alfie & Joshua.

I meanwhile returned to the depths of the Suffolk countryside where we learnt to spend our darkening evening by oil-lamp, where in the pleasant absence of a television and indeed any electricity at all, we read and chatted in the dim light. It was a very different and nice way to end a very different and nice day.

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Sunday 13th May 2018

There was a generally positive theme running through the day’s ringing, including mine this morning. I called some well-rung call-changes on twelve and participated in some decent Stedman Cinques at St Mary-le-Tower and later at Grundisburgh, following a hiatus from the exercise whilst living in London, Alistair returned with some impressively-rung Grandsire Doubles, although sadly he was one of only six ringers here today.

In between, it was good to see George Pipe at the usual post-ringing tea and coffee in Ipswich’s Costa Coffee, in good form and able to see the funny side of a certain young ringing couple having to be reminded they were due round his and Diana’s for lunch yesterday...

Elsewhere in Suffolk things appear to have gone well, with three peals and three quarters. Admittedly one of the peals saw the usual second-Sunday Surprise Major peal at Aldeburgh reduced to Minor after meeting short and the other brace were on handbells in Bacton for the Society of Stowmarket Youths in 1hr 40mins and 1hr 42mins, whilst one of the QPs was rung at NDA tower Lowestoft, but it was good to see the ringing endeavour being undertaken across the county, which also took in a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Theberton and 1279 of Grandsire Caters at The Norman Tower. Well done to David Everett on ringing his first on ten in the latter!

We meanwhile popped round to mother-in-law Kate’s, where she had taken delivery of something she got having been inspired by our exploits last weekend. And it isn’t a lion...

Beyond our borders though, there is one last ringing performance worthy of mention as Colin Salter – of Ipswich but currently studying at the University of Surrey – pulled in the 30cwt tenor at Guildford Cathedral to a peal of four Surprise Maximus methods spliced this afternoon.

It has been a very positive day of ringing!

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Saturday 12th May 2018

Having enjoyed some absolutely scorching weather in recent weeks, it was perhaps entirely predictable that our first barbecue of the year this afternoon was cut-short and taken indoors due to rain.

Still, that didn’t spoil the occasion of catching-up with some of Ruthie’s school-friends at the Bramford home of one of them, Vicky and her husband, in sight of the top of the spire of St Mary-the-Virgin church where the 10cwt six are housed.

It involved no ringing, but it was a busy day for others, especially in the North-East District where their striking competition was held at Yoxford, although no word yet on the results. Also in the North-West District though, where special mention is necessary for Joshua Watkins on ringing his first of Surprise Minor in the quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at Brandon. Well done Joshua!

At least the ringing today was better than the weather!

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Friday 11th May 2018

Great St Mary.Saturday 23rd June is when some of the world’s best bellringers are due to descend upon our doorstep as the Final of the globe’s premier ringing competition, the National Twelve-Bell Contest is planned to be held just fifteen minutes beyond the Suffolk Guild’s most westerly tower Exning at Great St Mary’s in Cambridge, as they gather to battle it out for second spot behind Birmingham.

That remark is quite flippant, as although the Brummies are undoubtedly favourites to win the Taylor Trophy for the fifteenth time in nineteen years, there is as usual stiff competition. The hosts are realistic potential winners in their own right on any bells, but will be looking to make the most of home advantage, whilst the College Youths are the only other team this decade to have triumphed and will be looking to replicate the performance they produced the last time the competition came to East Anglia when they won at Norwich in 2015. Their friendly rivals from London the Cumberlands and St Paul’s Cathedral are also strong contenders and past winners and although Bristol have never been victorious at this stage, they have some superb ringers in their band including ‘our’ very own George Salter, buoyed by their victory in last weekend’s Tewkesbury Shield. If my former ringing peers from the West Midlands are anywhere below their best, I imagine that any of these bands will be ready to beat them to top spot. Still, don’t discount any of the remaining bands Exeter, Guildford (including George’s younger sibling Colin), Leeds or Melbourne to pull off some kind of Leicester City-style victory.

Within the main contest there will be many mini-contests. There will be keen competition between the teams from the capital, especially the ASCYs and SRCYs, whilst I imagine there may be a bit of rivalry between the South-West teams. However, the main mini-contest of interest to us is the almost unique battle of the brothers Salter. David and Katharine will be very proud I’m sure!

Even besides that, I would implore ringers from within our borders to go along and savour the occasion, whether from tea, coffee and bacon butties at 9.30 in the morning to kicking-out time at whatever pubs the hardened drinkers turn to once the drink in the grounds of Senate House runs out, or simply for part of proceedings, even maybe attending the SW District Striking Competition taking place just thirty miles away in Cavendish.

If nothing else, take a look at the website and Facebook page set up specifically for the event, which compliments the competitions website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. There will be more information added as the big day gets closer I imagine, but even at this early stage there is plenty to get a flavour of the day, with advice on accommodation and travel, biographies of some of the teams with more to come, a schedule for proceedings and a page on what do to do if listening to top-class ringing with a beer in hand all day isn’t your bag. Apart from the city’s usual attractions, there are activities in the church itself for children and a tour of The Lost Rings of Cambridge led by Gareth Davies, who some may recall was one of the judges for the SGR Guild Striking Competitions of 2014 last time the South-East District hosted them.

Almost as if by design, that brings me on to this year’s Mitson Shield, Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy and Rose Trophy being held in eight days time, again by the SE District. We can’t offer punting or King’s College, although I’m sure if enough people cross Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase’s palms with silver then he’ll be more than willing to arrange tractor rides along the A1120 from Earl Stonham or tours of The Guildhall in Debenham. In all seriousness though, much like the National Twelve-Bell Contest, there should be much to hold the interest. The six-bell in the morning will be too early for all but the most dedicated of ale-fans so it doesn’t matter that there are no public houses nearby, but there will be miles of countryside to wander, a large churchyard to sit in and enjoy the ringing and if the weather doesn’t allow any of that I am sure that there will be indoor refreshments available somewhere!

Debenham meanwhile is pretty much perfect for such an event. Shops, places to eat and a pub – The Woolpack - that backs onto the churchyard and will make the ideal venue for many from which to listen to the eight-bell competition. Please come along and take it all in, even if you’re not ringing!

For today though, the main focus was on the quarters of Plain Bob Major at Helmingham and Grandsire Doubles at Woolpit, particularly the latter which was Alistair McArthur’s first as cover. Well done Alistair!

23rd June can wait for now!

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Thursday 10th May 2018

A conversation on the walk home from work with the local homeless busker as he made a mad dash to Rochdale (long story!), as I made a mad dash myself to pick up the boys from mother-in-law Kate before she left for the Surprise Major Practice at Ufford, whilst Ruthie was at choir practice was about the only happening of note for me personally.

Again though, other ringers picked up the slack, not just at the 13cwt eight down the road but at Tostock too where the eleven Carlisle Surprise Minor based methods were rung to a quarter-peal.

Not that my homeless chum from up north would've been interested!

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Wednesday 9th May 2018

Following a few days abstaining from ringing (more due to circumstances than going out of our way to avoid it!), one of us finally managed some ringing again as Ruthie joined her mother Kate in going to the practice at Pettistree this evening. They made it slightly late, yet were still able to partake in some spliced and an apparently impressive lower before going to The Greyhound where my wife helped celebrate Ron's birthday and was engaged in speculation with Mat Bayfield of The Broadside Boys on whom the new Ipswich Town manager is likely to be, which even involved some inside knowledge via text from ITFC legend and former England captain Terry Butcher!

Alfie and Joshua also had an exciting day as they spent it with my Mum and Dad, popping to the park, riding on the bus and going to their favourite cafe, leaving just me from today's household with nothing particularly of interest to report from another hot and sunny day!

Thankfully other ringers joined my family in being interesting, with the session at the aforementioned ground-floor six preceded with a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor, whilst those ringing the quarter-peal at Bardwell were doing their bit for Project Pickled Egg by ringing Turramurra Surprise Major and the 1280 of five Surprise Major methods spliced at Ixworth was the most Major Stephen Dawson has thus far rung. Well done Stephen on that and indeed to all who had a more entertaining day than mine, including my family!

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Tuesday 8th May 2018

Following a weekend of living the life of Riley and spending real quality time with the family, today could've been a depressing day back at work. Thankfully I am fortunate to be in a job I enjoy, with colleagues I like just a few minutes walk from home and with the hot sunshine continuing on well into the evening, the neighbour's children again round to play with the boys and tea eaten outside, there remained an air of holiday about it all with much positivity still abounding.

There still wasn't any ringing for us though and nothing recorded on BellBoard as having been rung upon Suffolk's bells, but there is much planned for the future, including the North-East District Striking Competition and Quarterly Meeting at Yoxford on Saturday, which also brings me neatly on to the Guild Striking Competitions at Earl Stonham and Debenham a week later. A big turnout of teams and ringers in all of these would be marvellous. Such events help ringers of all abilities to focus on striking in a fun and sometimes exciting atmosphere where ultimately the main purpose is that participants progress and all present have fun, rather than on who actually wins. Hangers on and supporters would also be welcome, so even if your aren't ringing then come along and savour the occasion. Each location has shops, pubs and/or beautiful countryside to wander nearby, so there is plenty to do if you don't just want to listen to ringing!

It should all be more interesting than today, even though today wasn't all that bad.

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Monday 7th May 2018

Our home for the last three days.Not many churches sit alongside a tiger enclosure, but that is the situation that St Mary's in Thrigby near Great Yarmouth finds itself in. Indeed it is surrounded on three sides of its churchyard by Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, our final destination of a fun-packed bank holiday weekend to celebrate sister-in-law Clare's significant birthday last week.


Tiger at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, overlooked by the church tower. The church tower pokes out over one of the enclosures at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. Taking in the animals at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. Taking in the animals at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens.

Perhaps mercifully there are no bells hung for change-ringing here (I'm not sure I fancy being approached by an angry snow leopard irate at a peal disturbing its sleep!), but of course we weren't here for that. Rather it was another roasting hot day showing the children zoo animals and it was the perfect venue after the last couple of days of wandering around, being much smaller than Africa Alive down the road or Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure Park on the other side of Norwich.

Having previously considered going to the North Norfolk Railway, it was also ideally placed for the journey home as we leapt upon the A12 all the way back to Melton where we arrived in the middle of a water fight involving the neighbours, which Ufford ringers Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth - who had very kindly been looking after Charlie our cat whilst we were away - inadvertently got caught up with. We enjoyed a beer with them as Mason, Alfie and - when appropriate - Joshua played with the children next door both at theirs and ours and once they had left, the kids had been calmed down, washed and put to bed and we had unpacked, time had run out on the notion of going to St Mary-le-Tower practice and so instead we relaxed in our sunbaked garden.
At the start of the day we had bade farewell to The Farm House At Shelton which had been our home for the last three nights and the base for a wonderful weekend of games, relaxation, exotic animals, dinosaurs and that hot tub (which I could very much get used to!) in gorgeous whether. Thank you to Kate and Ron for looking after things, I can't wait for the next one!

Whilst we were rounding off our weekend away, well done to the band who rang an impressive quarter-peal of the Cambridge Twelve Surprise Minor methods in the 1440 of Tostock. And no reports that I'm aware of that they were met by any angry wild animals afterwards!

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Sunday 6th May 2018

Sunday morning ringing is to my mind the basis of what we do. Even in an age of increasing use of handbells and bells at secular locations, it is primarily the bells of churches up and down the country and beyond that allow us to make the most of this wonderful hobby, whether that be through outings, quarters, peals or a combination thereof. Ringing those bells when called upon on the Sabbath – or indeed any other occasion – seems only reasonable and although Ruthie isn’t usually able to ring for most services as she is singing in the choir, I am pleased to regularly ring for morning worship at one or often two towers.

Not this morning though, as our family weekend continued with only three of the eleven-strong party ringers and with five of those being children we instead found ourselves wandering amongst dinosaurs at RROAR! Dinosaur Adventure Park near Norwich. This could easily have been quite a tacky place, but it is done superbly, especially the woodland walk that took us amongst Tyrannosaurus Rex, Diplodocus and Pterodactyl, as well as the playground and water park which the kids also took full advantage of!

Our last evening at our temporary home was another relaxing one with pool played, toys well and truly played with by the youngsters and of course the hot tub sat in, the roasting hot sunshine still accompanying us as I begin to forget what clouds look like.
 
Back in Suffolk it was a busy day of ringing as a band of Sussex ringers and Nigel Gale rang a 1282 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal on the back ten of The Norman Tower, whilst 1250 changes of the Major version were rung at Debenham and a 1296 was completed for Evensong at Pettistree. Meanwhile, well done to Pam Ebsworth, Andrea Alderton and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first of Hindley Bob Minor in the 1260 at Great Finborough and to Simon Veal on ringing his first quarter-peal of Minor as conductor in the Plain Bob at Great Barton.
 
It more than made up for our lack of ringing!

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Saturday 5th May 2018

Winning Hollesley Band + support!Congratulations to St Mary-le-Tower on winning the Cecil Pipe Memorial Trophy and Hollesley the David Barnard Memorial Shield – the South-East District method and call-change Six-Bell Striking Competitions respectively – at Rushmere St Andrew today. Indeed, well done to all who took part and hopefully benefitted from the experience.


Alfie & Joshua enjoying the garden at the house. Keeping an eye on the lions. Keeping an eye on the lions. Milking plastic cows.

Typically Ruthie and I would be there taking part and on a roasting hot day like today enjoying the excellent ringing from the churchyard whilst mingling with fellow participants, as well as supporters and hangers-on, but an unfortunate and unavoidable clash meant that we were taking in something equally as enjoyable as we travelled along the Norfolk-Suffolk border - the instantly recognisable towers of Bungay and then Beccles viewed from afar – to Africa Alive, the popular zoo just a couple of fields away from the 13cwt six of Kessingland. There may not have been any bells for us today, but what there was included giraffes, rhinos, flamingos, lions, lemurs and so much more as my wife’s sister Clare partook in her birthday surprise of being a zookeeper for the day.

She had a great time, as did we, but we were all very excited to return to our home for the weekend in Shelton Green for a late afternoon and early evening of basking in the sunshine and relaxing in the hot tub whilst the children ran free in the garden that was later to play host to Ron practicing the bagpipes.

We were genuinely sorry to miss the SE Striking Competition, as it is a highlight of the calendar for us personally, but we had a thoroughly fantastic day with the animals.

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Friday 4th May 2018

If you want to know how this evening a Past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild ended up in a hot tub with a former RM of the South-East District as well as a one-time Secretary of the SE in the middle of the Norfolk countryside then read on. If you’d rather not then close your eyes.

Mercifully there was nothing particularly salacious to report as the trio above were myself, my mother-in-law Kate and my wife Ruthie, along with the daughter of the former and sister of the latter Clare for whose recent birthday is the reason that a six-bedroom house with a vast amount of enclosed garden space for the children to run free in and that hot tub is our home for this bank holiday weekend. It is just over the border between ourselves and our northern neighbours – indeed I could imagine that on a clear night that you might even catch the sound of the bells of the SGR’s Mendham or South Elmham St Cross wafting along the breeze – and yet in the glorious isolation of this farmhouse on the outskirts of the sparsely populated Shelton Green it felt a world away from anywhere familiar.

Back in the homeland though, the county’s ringers were keeping busy with quarter-peals of Doubles and Plain Bob Minor at Aldeburgh and Earl Stonham respectively, the latter a timely reminder that we are just a fortnight and a day away from when the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy are due to be held on the easy-going 9cwt gallery-ring six and only ten days to get entries and names in to current Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase. Who unlike this Past Guild Ringing Master, probably won’t be found in a hot tub with the Ringing Master and Secretary of the South-East District.

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Thursday 3rd May 2018

It came to my attention today that Ipswich Town are the seventh most depressing football in the UK to support. There’s six clubs more depressing?

There was nothing depressing about our day otherwise though. Even the early start at work was not unpleasant as I awoke naturally just before my alarm went off, the sun already streaming in round the sides of the curtains and the sound wafting in from the nearby Deben of geese honking about their business.

And an afternoon nap in the sun-drenched garden refreshed me suitably for a trip to Farlingaye High School for Mason’s Intake Evening, which was essentially a fifteen minute interview with him establishing his likes, dislikes, personality and needs. It was all very reassuring as he and we prepare for this daunting step.

I was very grateful to mother-in-law Kate for looking after Alfie and Joshua whilst I went along to the event, especially as Ruthie was out this evening on a much needed night out with her work colleagues in and around Woodbridge.

The only downside was that it involved no ringing, although there was some in Suffolk today as a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Triples was rung at Bures by a Sunday service band as former local ringer Don Mills was remembered here at the church he knew so well. Rest in Peace Don.

Elsewhere there was a practice at Grundisburgh and many other places on a lovely evening for ringing on a day that was generally very positive. Even for us Ipswich Town fans.

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Wednesday 2nd May 2018

Double Ipswich.

Not a new method, but a broad, short-form account of my day as I made two visits to Suffolk’s county town.

One was a very reluctant trip into the centre, primarily to swap a birthday gift for Ruthie’s sister which was as successful as such things can be, but saw us pay £2 for the privilege of not having enough time to carry out what was also ultimately a failed shopping trip in the cold and rain with a brace of unhappy children and their unhappy mother.

The Wollery.The second was to The Wolery for a peal of Little Bob Major. Not very adventurous on the face of it and I can’t say it was the most thrilling of my 604 in the medium thus far, but it was useful striking practice at speed for Abby Antrobus and Neal Dodge. Ringing on mini-rings is maligned by some, but I am convinced it has added something to my ringing having to concentrate and strike at such speed and hopefully Neal and Abby will find this too following 1hr 58mins that included some very decent stuff in the main. It was all topped off as usual by tea, cake and conversation as we took in the Guild PRO’s tales of China and the South-East District Secretary’s tales of the local cat with cleaning issues!

Elsewhere there was an impressive 1260 of five Triples methods spliced rung at Elveden, the most spliced Triples for the entire band – well done to them all! Although also sympathies to the Colman family, especially Julian on the death of his father.

Meanwhile, the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree was successfully rung with a 1272 of Ipswich Surprise Minor. Just the single Ipswich you’ll note...

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Tuesday 1st May 2018

May started slowly on the ringing front personally. Instead, following my very early shift at John Catt Educational this morning, we had lunch at Greggs, carried out a shopping experiment at Aldi and popped round Ruthie's sister's abode for more cake to celebrate her significant birthday on the actual day.

Still, others got their month's ringing account underway, especially the band on their ‘Golden Oldies QP Day’ that rang a 1280 of Turramurra Surprise Major, 1260 of Grandsire Triples and another 1280 of Painswick Surprise Major at Bardwell, Ixworth and Horringer respectively.

And God willing there is much ringing to enjoy across Suffolk before we reach June. There are the local striking competitions of course, starting with the South-East District's at Rushmere St Andrew on Saturday, followed a week on at Yoxford for the North-East District's and then seven days after that the Guild's at Earl Stonham and Debenham. Other events are happening though. This Thursday, as with every first Thursday of the month, the North-East District are planning on holding a Six-Bell Practice at the lovely, easy-going 11cwt ground-floor six of Chediston, whilst in precisely one week the Second Tuesday Ringing is due to see the resumption of normality following the Bank Holiday weekend with visits to Rendham from 11am-noon and Theberton from 2-3pm. On the morning of Saturday 12th before the NE's Striking Competition and Quarterly District Meeting, you might also be able to go to the North-West District's Practice at Brandon, before a couple of NE District Practices at the start of the following week, with the Eight-Bell Practice at Bungay on Monday 14th and then the Six-Bell Practice at Worlingham the following evening, immediately prior to an even busier few days in that corner of the SGR, with the Third Monday Six-Bell Practice at Reydon on the 21st, Fourth Tuesday Triples and Major Practice at Halesworth on the 22nd, Fourth Thursday Six-Bell Practice at Blythburgh on the 24th and the Fourth Friday Eight-Bell Practice on the 25th, this month at Southwold. If you're not exhausted by the North-East District's tour of their picturesque part of the world, you could join the South-West District in their picturesque part of the world at the Practice that is pencilled in for 7.30-9pm at Drinkstone of Saturday 26th, where hopefully no one will get locked in this time... That is also the same day that the NW plan to start their Quarter-Peal Week.

It is shaping up to be a very busy month of ringing, even if it hasn't begun as such today.

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Monday 30th April 2018

David Potts said afterwards it was a blip and he was quite right. By the increasingly high standards we have set ourselves at St Mary-le-Tower in recent months, tonight’s practice was a disappointing one, although it can partly be explained by the absence of a number of regulars even with the presence of Simon Rudd visiting for the second week running. Throughout the evening, too many pieces collapsed in a heap unceremoniously, much to our frustration.

That said, even the ringing that ultimately fell apart generally started well, with a touch of Stedman Cinques in particular setting off at a good pace and well-struck with only occasional minor hesitations to report, before a small mistake caused the domino effect that small mistakes in Stedman so often do and ended in glorious defeat.

And there were highlights, with Sonia ringing Call-Changes on Twelve well on the flightly second that has caught out many far more experienced than her, Sue Williamson negotiating Grandsire Cinques superbly and Richard Weeks making his way through Yorkshire Surprise Maximus whilst others were losing their heads around him, whilst the session was climaxed by another half-a-course of the latter reasonably rung and a brisk but precise lower of the front eight in readiness for another learners’ practice tomorrow night.

Hopefully next week will be better, with the plan being to run a practice on the evening of the Bank Holiday Monday in a week’s time.

I imagine it was all digested in The Cricketers afterwards, although I don’t expect it was mulled over unnecessarily, but I wasn’t there to say for sure as with a very early shift at work tomorrow I needed to get home to bed and hope for better ringing to come.

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Sunday 29th April 2018

St Margaret's.The bells of St Margaret's church in Ipswich hold a special place in the Munnings family. Run and rung by mine and Chris' Grandad Jack for years, this was also a tower that was a familiar and regular haunt for my brother and me as we grew up and then began ringing. Our ability to ring Plain Bob Major was very much honed in the cramped ringing chamber, as indeed to a large extent was our handling style, as this pair of small lads attempted to master the art on tough bells around the clockcase between the second and third, the bench between the treble and tenor, the ladder to the bells behind one and two and the desk that almost seemed to fill the entirety of the floorspace in the middle of a room that was small enough to start with!

We have grown up since and perhaps time has altered my perspective on ringing here, as I had a tinge of sadness when I first heard that the bells would be restored - and some recast - and rung from a newly built gallery. However, such emotions are far outweighed by the positives of what has been achieved in the tower that overlooks Christchurch Mansion at the gateway to the town centre, but this remains a special place to us and so I was desperate to attend this afternoon's celebration of the project's completion, which has also included various features to allow the church to be reopened to the public safely and thus let it do what a church is supposed to do.

Of course we weren't alone. What has been done is so spectacular that not unexpectedly ringers from across Suffolk and beyond were curious to experience the transformation from a hard-going clunky eight that shouted out over their neighbours and rung from a claustrophobic belfry to an easy-going, mellow octave rung in glorious view of an intrigued public, which outside seems to blend in with the neighbourhood, rather than overpower it. It was nice to meet John Barnes from Kent and a member of the Bell Restoration Committee of the Central Council of Church Bellringers (as it still is for now) and chat with him, as well as catch up with personalities not seen for several years, such as Dr Stuart Harrison, once a regular ringer at St Margaret's and in Orford, but now living and ringing in Somerset and the Very Reverend Keith Jones, once the vicar at St Mary-le-Tower before becoming Dean of Exeter and then the immediate predecessor of the now infamous Vivienne Faull as Dean of York and then returning to Ipswich in his retirement and becoming a member of the Project Management Team. It is hard to imagine his successor in York being quite as involved in a ringing project as he has been in this one...

Although the service turned out to be starting at 3.30pm rather than the widely advertised 3pm, a packed church enjoyed proceedings that included Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Right Reverend Martin Seeley (and as he pointed out, member of this parish!) giving a lovely sermon and Ringing Master here John Girt helping to fill in the background to what had been done, all of which was topped off by ringing on the bells to the backdrop of corks popping, bites being nibbled and mingling carried out.

John Girt speaks at St Margaret’s Service of Celebration. The view from under the new ringing gallery at St Margaret’s in Ipswich. The Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich The Right Reverend Martin Seeley speaks at St Margaret’s Service of Celebration. St Margaret's new ringing gallery. Joshua and me at the entrance to St Margaret’s new ringing gallery.

Mason, Alfie and Joshua did well too, especially as it was their second church service of the day having earlier been to morning worship in Woodbridge where beforehand Alfie joined me upstairs as I helped the local band to man the entire 25cwt eight.

Elsewhere, thoughts were with Nigel Gale at the death earlier today of his sister-in-law and one-time ringer at Polstead, Karin Silk as he and his fellow bandmates dedicated the quarter-peal rung at Boxford, which was originally arranged to mark the retirement of Reverend Judith Sweetman from the parish.

We returned home though to host mother-in-law Kate and Ron for a cuppa at the end of a day was special for the special occasion at a special place.

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Saturday 28th April 2018

Last night I happened to catch a bit of Britain’s Great Cathedrals with Tony Robinson, this week focusing on Durham Cathedral. He presented it you understand, he hadn’t popped round for a glass of vino. It was only in passing though and so I took the opportunity to watch it again online, mainly because just after half-an-hour in there is a few minutes where the 28cwt ten are featured, including an interview with fellow Rambling Ringer and Bell Major at this famous location Chris Crabtree. It is well worth a watch, although be prepared to sit through several adverts before it starts and indeed if you try jumping to later in the programme!

It was one of the things I found to do in between attempting to entertain and occupy the boys on a chilly, wet day whilst Ruthie spent the day on what was apparently a very successful open day for the choir of St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge.

We were all reunited come teatime as we gathered on foot at her mother Kate’s abode with Ron, my wife’s sister Clare and her family for the occasion of my sister-in-law’s forthcoming significant birthday, a much appreciated opportunity to be fed and watered after a day of waiting upon my lovely but demanding sons!

Elsewhere in Suffolk, well done to Tim Forsey on ringing his first quarter-peal away from cover in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles, whilst QPs were also rung in Stedman Caters at The Norman Tower, Grandsire Doubles at Buxhall and Glasgow Surprise Major at Horringer.

All very impressive, even if they didn’t get to share their efforts with Baldrick...

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Friday 27th April 2018

Now we know. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have named the new Prince after Louis Suggett. Rather than after Trevor Hughes as I thought they might.

Buxhall.Of course ringing continues to celebrate the birth, especially now there is a name to quote, but curiously nothing from Suffolk, although there have been other more important and personal causes marked this week, including another quarter-peal rung on Wednesday, this time to the memory of Buxhall villager Victor Clarke precisely a century on from his death in the First World War, with the village’s 15cwt gallery-ring six ringing out to 1272 changes of Cambridge Surprise Minor for him.


Meanwhile today, the FNQPC did what they do best by ringing a quarter, on this occasion of Cambridge’s sixth place version Primrose at the isolated ground-floor six of Ashbocking, which was Tracey Scase’s first in the method. Well done Tracey!

Not so much activity for us as following my late shift at work and the gathering together of the family for the weekend there wasn’t much of the day left to enjoy as we raised a glass to Prince Louis Suggett.

 

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Thursday 26th April 2018

Ringing friendships often continue beyond the ringing chamber and not just for the post-ringing refreshments. That is certainly the case with ourselves and Ufford ringers Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth. Indeed, it is rare for us to ring together at all and so our meetings are often devoid of ringing, typically at our house with our childcare duties. This evening though, we met up in a pub as we were invited to The Red Lion in Woodbridge for its pie and pint evening, with Pete's father Maurice - also a ringer - visiting. With Ruthie at choir practice, me on a late shift in the office and therefore a transfer of Alfie and Joshua from her to me to fit in, the pie element wasn't possible, but we did squeeze a pint and plenty of jovial conversation in before the boys - who behaved impeccably for most of the evening - got understandably grouchy, and curtailed our night out. Thus reminding us why our meetings are usually at our abode where the boys can just be put in bed!

As usual with our get-togethers, there was absolutely no actual ringing involved, nor was there any recorded on BellBoard in Suffolk today, but there was a quarter-peal rung at St Mary-le-Tower yesterday with some good Bristol Surprise Major focus had on the front eight of the county's heaviest twelve. I'm sure those ringing friendships continued into the pub afterwards too...

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Wednesday 25th April 2018

For all that there are many quarter-peals rung at Pettistree, they are still an achievement, as borne out by the occasional loss, including this evening's pre-practice attempt of the Cambridge Twelve Surprise Minor methods which my wife and mother-in-law were partaking in. Despite the loss, it served two of its main purposes, namely giving invaluable practice to participants and also ensuring a core of a band was present from the beginning of the 7-9pm session that followed, which was particularly useful on this occasion as due to meetings it was a slow start to proceedings before the masses eventually arrived.

Of course many - including Ruthie and Kate - went to The Greyhound afterwards, but for me it was my turn to stop at home looking after the boys. With them in bed that meant a bit of catching up with what was going on in the world, including how Woolpit Tower Captain Stephen Dawson got on in Sunday's London Marathon and it transpires he did very well. His blog (a wonderful read that puts my own dull efforts into perspective!) gives a fascinating insight into his preparation, the actual run and the after-effects, and records that he finished in 4hrs 52mins 11secs, bringing him in at an impressive 21,131st out of 40,149 runners. Very well done Stephen on an even bigger achievement than a Pettistree quarter-peal!

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Tuesday 24th April 2018

Westminster Abbey bells rang out for yesterday's birth of the still unnamed Prince, providing more positive PR and a backdrop to other news reports, such as those on the unveiling of Millicent Fawcett's statue in Parliament Square, although it was commented that the BBC got a bit confused with a quarter-peal rung on the same ten later in the day which was rung half-muffled for the Internment of Ashes of the Very Reverend Dr Wesley Carr, one time Dean of Westminster who died last year.

Although the 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Royal did feature East Anglian connections through Chris Rogers and David Brown, there were no performances dedicated to the latest child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge rung in Suffolk today. However, some of the county's bells - including its newest one - did feature on BellBoard as a quarter-peal was rung at Offton pre-practice to the memory of past Guild Treasurer Gordon Slack's mother Lena, who sadly passed away last week. I'm sure everyone's thoughts are with Gordon, Janet, Jonathan and the rest of their family.

Meanwhile, ours was a much quieter day from a ringing perspective, but then I think the ringers of Westminster Abbey more than made up for our lack of activity!

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Monday 23rd April 2018

St George’s Day is perhaps an appropriate day for a new Prince to be born to the British monarchy. Expect a flurry of quarter-peals and peals to be rung over the coming days for the event – indeed, despite the fact that he currently has no (known) name, there have already been many performances recorded on BellBoard in his honour, although none in Suffolk as far as I can tell.

St Mary-le-Tower AGM – l-to-r; Peter Davis, Ian Culham & David Stanford St Mary-le-Tower AGM – l-to-r; Stephen Cheek, Owen Claxton, David Potts & Reverend Canon Charles Jenkin. St Mary-le-Tower AGM – l-to-r; Stephen Cheek, Owen Claxton, David Potts, Reverend Canon Charles Jenkin & Richard Weeks.

Good news as all that was, we were more concerned with everyday ringing at St Mary-le-Tower this evening as we held our AGM in the ringing chamber. It was a little longer than hoped, dragged out by discussion on dry but important detail over finances and maintenance. However, there was other more interesting information imparted, such as that the 2019 contest for the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Trophy has been pencilled in for Saturday 16th February at Saffron Walden after its successful inauguration at The Norman Tower a couple of months ago and it was extremely encouraging to hear that Amanda Richmond and Jonathan Williamson are currently teaching four learners at special Tuesday night sessions here – three of whom are at secondary school – with two more on a waiting list! It was also great to elect Richard Weeks, Chris and Jill Birkby to our membership.

The proceedings meant that the ringing beforehand and socialising in The Cricketers afterwards was somewhat truncated, albeit in the case of the ringing it was only severely cut short for me as I just made it in time for touches of Grandsire and Stedman Cinques, but as ever it was – to my mind at least – a vital exercise in ensuring that the ringing that attracts ringers from far and wide is run with transparency and input from all.

Our activity was finished with a pint and although the fridges of Kensington Palace are probably stocked with far more expensive booze, I don’t expect too much of it was being drunk by Kate and Wills!

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Sunday 22nd April 2018

Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club is exposed to all the elements that the North Sea can throw at it. And in the years that we have been holding the St Mary-le-Tower Lunch here, pretty much all those elements have been thrown at us, most particularly the unpleasant ones. Today though we finally got sweltering sunshine and it certainly enhanced an occasion that is always enjoyable, rain or shine.

The St Mary-le-Tower Lunch at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club. The St Mary-le-Tower Lunch at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club. The St Mary-le-Tower Lunch at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club.

All the usual aspects that make this a highlight of the calendar were present - decent food, good beer and superb company. It was nice to share a table with Richard Weeks who has been a positive addition to our band in recent months, great to see George Pipe looking so much better than he has been and lovely to see the return of Helen Carter who once regularly rang with us. Thank you to David Potts and Diana Pipe for organising it!

Earlier most of us had been at SMLT itself for morning ringing where an eminent regular only realised why they had struggled to strike the seventh in rounds leading up to Stedman Cinques when they launched themselves the wrong way into the principle and discovered they were ringing the sixth! Suffice to say it was mentioned at lunch later...

No such trouble at Grundisburgh following a quick trip to the village’s sun-drenched park for the boys to be let loose at the playground, but that was mainly because there weren’t enough ringers for participants to get confused with which bell they were ringing! Still, we fashioned some reasonable ringing from those present and I’m sure that was at the very least the case at Rougham where a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles which marked the centenary of another tragic death of a young ringer in the battlefields of the First World War - in this case Private Charles Alfred Coulton.

Such tragedy seems a long way from being beside the sea in roasting spring sunshine, but it is thanks to him and too many others that such pleasures are to be so easily enjoyed.

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Saturday 21st April 2018

In one aspect of my life, we are entering a new era, as Rowan Wilson begins her time in the important role of Suffolk Guild Chairman.

In another aspect which draws many parallels to ringing, a new era is also getting underway, as Ipswich Town undertake life without Mick McCarthy after his five-and-a-half years stint came to an end recently. His full-time, permanent replacement is yet to be named and in all likelihood won't be for some time, but there was already a fresh feeling to Portman Road this afternoon as Brian Klug - the hitherto rarely mentioned member of the coaching staff thrust into the job of managing the first team for the little of what remains of yet another dead-rubber of a season - took charge for the first time at the home of East Anglia's most successful football club. There was a much bigger crowd than of late as over 20,000 convened in this corner of the county town and unlike the apparently tension-filled matches of recent months, there was an upbeat, supportive feel around the stadium, even as the goals from our opposition flowed, as Aston Villa ran out easy 4-0 winners. Certainly an attempt at playing a more accurate, entailing and positive style of football was made after years of a hit-and-hope, defensive-minded version of the 'beautiful' game and more of the young up and coming players were given a chance, but truth be told it was always unlikely we'd get a good result against this promotion-chasing star-studded team and once we had a player (rightly) sent-off all that we could do was enjoy the sunshine.

Hopefully it was an enjoyable enough occasion to entice Ruthie's cousin Freddie - who is actually a peer of Mason's - back after he joined us three for his first ever experience of going to the footy. There was plenty for him to take in, with the train ride there and back, the huge good-natured crowds taking advantage of another abnormally sweltering day, a trip to McDonald's beforehand and a trip to the Fanzone that is now a fixture on our visits. As has been said many times by many people coming to cheer on the Tractor Boys in recent years though, it was just a shame that the football spoilt it!

As much as it would have been nice to mention some ringing in this ringing blog to compliment a - largely - grand day out watching football, there isn't any to report on, at least from the columns of BellBoard. It was a quiet day in a new era for the Suffolk Guild.

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Friday 20th April 2018

Another abnormally but wonderfully hot day was enjoyed, as after an early shift at work and a bit of clearing up of the brook at the bottom of the garden, I took a rare opportunity to simply sit and relax beneath the clear blue skies and watched the world of nature get on with its business.

Bredfield.Following another trip to Ruthie’s sister’s house on the actual birthday of our niece Annalise and once we’d got the boys to bed after our return home, my wife and I were back out on the patio with a beer, enjoying the faint sound of Bredfield bells floating across the evening air on the practice night on this 11cwt six.


I can get used to this abnormally hot weather!

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Thursday 19th April 2018

Wow! What a scorcher. At 28 degrees centigrade the hottest day of the year thus far by some way and apparently the hottest day in April since 1949. This week the early shifts at work are really paying off with the afternoons off to enjoy the sunshine, albeit I spent much of it giving our car a much overdue spring-clean!

Churches can be lovely places to be in such weather, cooling when outside gets too much (although notably I didn’t hear a single complaint about the heat in person, online or on the TV!) and filled with bright sunlight and although ringing in a stuffy ringing chamber may not be ideal when the conditions are as hot as this, I’m hoping that the band ringing a 1320 of Annable’s London Surprise Minor on the 5cwt gallery-ring six of Tostock should have been relatively OK. Well done to Lucy Dawson on ringing her first in the method!

God willing we can enjoy ringing in this weather for at least a little while longer!

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Wednesday 18th April 2018

If one of the purposes of this blog is to show how relatively active bellringers like Ruthie and me fit our participation in amongst everyday life – particularly in parenthood – then today fulfils that purpose.

My wife was out ringing at Pettistree this evening, her weekly opportunity outside of work to enjoy adult conversation without having to worry about keeping an eye on Alfie and Joshua when I picked up an email from the boys’ nursery saying we’d have to take sun cream and sunhats in with them tomorrow morning. With snowsuits, woolly hats and gloves the order of the day until only very recently, we hadn’t yet considered such things and so we needed to go to a shop to purchase some. Trouble was that although Mrs Munnings had been taken to ringing by her mother and I had the car, I was of course on my own looking after the sleeping Alfred and Josh and therefore unable to leave the house until my other half’s return from The Greyhound. Almost as soon as she stepped into the door I was out of the same door and heading off to Tesco, proof that even in a busy ringing household such challenges can be overcome, although the late-night dodging of shelf-stacking wasn’t ideal with another early start at work in the morning.

And Ruthie had a super night out at the ground-floor six’s practice, which was preceded – or started, depending at how you look at it – by the usual quarter-peal, that on this occasion was a 1320 of Durham Surprise Minor and was one of a trio of performances recorded on BellBoard today, the other two being 1250 changes of Superlative Surprise Major rung at Ixworth encouraging Woolpit Tower Captain Stephen Dawson ahead of his participation in Sunday’s London Marathon – his fundraising page is here – and 120 changes of Plain Bob Doubles rung at Exning to wish Anna Graham a quick recovery from cancer. Albeit for two very different reasons, the best of luck to Stephan and Anna.

It all put into perspective the petty squabbling on one Facebook ringers’ page in regards to who should give permission to ringing at towers without a regular band, but ultimately highlighted why one must be careful how one responds to such requests.

That sort of thing is more the purpose of social media than this blog though I’m glad to say!

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Tuesday 17th April 2018

This winter has felt a long one - after all, just a few weeks ago we were trudging through snow and only a couple of weekends ago local events were being cancelled or moved due to waterlogged ground. The hotter, longer days we are getting this week are to be enjoyed therefore and that’s just what we were able to do today, as with a very early shift at work seeing me home by lunchtime we got out into a garden uninhabited by humankind bar the making of snowmen and the occasional foray in search of Charlie our cat.

With our new lawnmower set up, the grass was cut and weeding and general tidying-up carried out, allowing Alfie and Joshua to come out and play, the former even discovering an apparent aptitude for cricket!

Not unusually for a Tuesday it didn’t involve any ringing for us personally, but others were helping to make up for our absence, most notably at Offton where the new sixth was rung to a quarter-peal for the first time, an occasion worthy of celebration in its own right, but even more so for the weekend’s birth of a son for local ringer Caroline Goodchild and her husband Will. Congratulations guys!

At the other end of the age-spectrum, the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Gislingham celebrated the ninetieth birthday of Kay Lucas’ mother, but with no ringing engagements planned, we were happy enough to enjoy the long-awaited spring sunshine!

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Monday 16th April 2018

Congratulations to Rattlesden ringers Dave and Pat Ward on their Diamond Wedding Anniversary. I used to see them quite regularly in my pre-uni days but even though I have only bumped into them on rare occasions since my return to Suffolk thirteen years ago. Each time has been a pleasure though, as they are one of the loveliest couples I know. Entirely appropriate therefore that a peal was rung at their home tower to celebrate as seven Surprise Minor methods were rung upon the ground-floor six that will be familiar to those who attended the 2015 Guild Striking Competitions (tenuous reason to remind you of this year’s competitions at Earl Stonham and Debenham!).

Two of the band – Amanda and Nigel – were present at St Mary-le-Tower later for this evening’s practice which was in some respects an odd affair. We were missing quite a few regulars and so we were stretched in numbers of personnel.  Yet it was a great opportunity for those learning the ropes on twelve such as Peter Davies, Richard Weeks and Sue Williamson and they all grabbed it with both hands (literally and metaphorically!), but we also managed some excellent stuff for the more experienced on these numbers, with a half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus almost faultless – bar a mistake by myself – and well struck at a good pace and a touch of Stedman Cinques a fine climax to a great session.

With a very early start at work in the morning I passed on a visit to The Cricketers, but I hope that Mr and Mrs Ward had a few drinks!

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Sunday 15th April 2018

Hopefully most members will know that the new Guild Chairman is Rowan Wilson of Bury St Edmunds. If you weren't at the AGM last weekend, then it should have been relayed to you by those who were. I have got to know Rowan in recent years since she came to the county and bolstered us countywide as well as at St Mary-le-Tower, but not everyone will and so she is keen to meet as much of the membership as possible and get them involved. To that end, she has released details of where she is planning on being the coming weeks and months, as well as a piece revealing more about herself and what she hopes to achieve in the role.

I know from first-hand experience from my time as SGR Ringing Master how difficult it is to make yourself seem useful to a membership of the best part of a thousand ringers of varying abilities and engagement, partaking in the art from Lakenheath to Felixstowe sixty miles apart and Wrentham to Haverhill seventy miles apart. Getting out and about seemed essential and I found myself at events in all the districts and practice nights in places like Old Newton and Kettleburgh, but even then many of the locals weren't aware of who I was or even that there was such a thing as a Suffolk Guild Ringing Master! Clearly we need to get more members engaged with the Guild and the wider ringing community, for their good and ours. They will benefit from more help and by dipping their toes into a limitless, far-reaching and fascinating art that for too many consists just of the four walls of their cold isolated ringing chamber, whilst we need more people supporting us at district and Guild events. So please do take a read of what Rowan has sent out and take the opportunity to meet her and get involved in our wonderful exercise!

She has certainly hit the ground running in getting around the Guild, at least judging by her busy day today that saw her partake in half of the six quarter-peals rung in Suffolk as she rang in the 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at Stansfield, 1282 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at The Norman Tower and 1280 of Cambridge, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire Surprise Royal at St Mary-le-Tower, in which she was ringing her first of spliced Surprise Royal, along with Jed Flatters, George Vant and Jonathan Williamson. Well done to Rowan, Jed, George and Jonathan and also to Nathan Colman who was ringing his first of Royal altogether in the success in Bury St Edmunds.

Of the other three QPs rung in the county on this particular Sunday, one was Plain Bob Triples at NDA tower Lowestoft, another was St Clement’s College Bob Minor at Great Finborough and the final one was Plain Bob Minor at Hollesley.

Whilst I didn’t take part in any of those, I did manage some ringing as I rejoined the Woodbridge ringers on their home bells, including Jackie Butcher who deserves much credit – remissly forgotten in my blog ramblings – for her organisation of yesterday’s outing.

We were unable to join our colleagues at SMLT later though as we were hosting the final part of Alfie’s fourth birthday celebrations with the visit of another of his peers Robyn with her little brother Jackson and their mother and father Kala and Nick. Another boisterous afternoon was had, but when I later had the opportunity to relax for a short while at least, I enjoyed reading the EADT article on the new sixth at Offton, the latest of much great PR for ringing in Suffolk in recent months.

And as the clock ticked past midnight, we discovered that Alfie has been accepted into our first choice of primary school. It was a big positive to end a positive day for us. And a busy one for new Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson!

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Saturday 14th April 2018

I count myself blessed for many reasons, but three came together today to give me a lovely day on a wonderful sunny day that seems to have heralded that spring has begun.

One is my lovely family. The second is that I live where I do with such beautiful scenery on my doorstep. And thirdly is ringing.

The boys in the toy corner at Holbrook on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing. Tea, coffee and tea at Holbrook on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing. Ringing at Holbrook on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing. Ringing at Harkstead on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing. Ringing at Harkstead on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing. Lunch at The King's Head in Stutton on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing. Ringing at Stutton on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing. Ringing at Tattingstone on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing.

It was ringing – and more specifically the Woodbridge Ringers’ Outing - that took me to the Shotley Peninsula, with my trio of sons, starting with tea, coffee and biscuits at Holbrook and ringing upon the 8cwt six, followed by a trip to the ground-floor ring of Harkstead, lunch at The King’s Head in Stutton leading on to a truncated session at the local church due to an unfortunate misunderstanding over emails and timings, before it was all topped off by a visit to Tattingstone where the treble clearly belongs somewhere else, as can be heard on this video.

I went along not for tower-grabbing as I have rung at all four towers several times and even rung and/or attempted peals at three-quarters of them, nor especially for the ringing as with many learners in attendance we sensibly stuck to what we knew as a collective to keep the ringing respectable on other people’s bells, although we did stretch to some reasonably rung Stedman Doubles. No, I went for the fellowship, an opportunity to get myself and the boys out of the house and into a part of the county that always feels special, not just because of its geography set down a narrow peninsula almost in its own world, but also because this is where the Munnings’ hail from, in recent history at least, with many ancestors buried in the churchyard of the first tower.

That geographical position has an effect on its ringers and I was sorry to learn that they are struggling to man the bells down this way, especially on Sunday mornings, as well as with teaching their learners. Perhaps this is where the network of the Suffolk Guild family can help?

Sadly Ruthie couldn’t join us as she was working again, but we were all reunited after she’d finished as we finished the day with a birthday party for our niece Annalise at my sister-in-law’s rural abode, as we took advantage of the first really nice spring evening of the year.

Meanwhile, Mary Odam rang a quarter-peal at the peaceful and picturesque village of Rushmere St Andrew with her brother James and his wife Claire to celebrate the thirtieth wedding anniversary of her marriage to Ken as she spent the day in the same spirit as I did. We Suffolk ringers are blessed indeed.

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Friday 13th April 2018

Clearly this week is the week for visiting ringers to come to Suffolk. Although as we all know, every week is the week to come to Suffolk. With the Martin Daniels Peal Week having spent the last few days peal-ringing on the bells of the county (although today they were partaking in the medium south of the River Stour at Layer de la Haye and Ridgewell), ringers from Barrow-upon-Humber rounded off their ringing holiday here with a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Stonham Barns, a first in hand as conductor for James Hibbert. Well done James!

The locals were also busy today though and in a significant fashion too as Alan Mayle rang his 900th of Major and 1,900th in total and Brian Whiting his 100th as conductor in the impressive 5024 of six Surprise Major methods spliced rung at Elveden. Congratulations Alan and Brian!

Altogether quieter for us though with a late shift at work putting the whole day out for any ringing activity, but I was nonetheless pleased to see other ringers – visiting and local - taking advantage of all that Suffolk offers.

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Thursday 12th April 2018

AGM behind us for this year, thoughts now turn to striking competitions. We have already had the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminators, but the season is due to get underway in earnest in the next few weeks, kicking-off with the South-East District’s at Rushmere St Andrew on Saturday 5th May, the North-East District’s at Yoxford a week later and the Guild competitions at Earl Stonham and Debenham seven days on from that, before locally they are rounded off with the South-West District’s at Cavendish on Saturday 23rd June. Regionally the Ridgman Trophy on ten bells is pencilled in for St Peter’s in St Albans on Saturday 16th June, whilst nationally the 23rd June is also the planned day of the Final of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest at Cambridge, although on this occasion this and the SW’s competition are being held less than thirty miles apart, so there may be scope for attending both!

Some of these will be very different in terms of numbers attending, quality and how seriously the competitive aspect is taken, but they all have in common one core element at their centre – to help raise standards of striking and ultimately progress the art. And it is done in one of the most fun ways that it can. We are all friends and so who actually wins is immaterial and so there is no aggressive competitiveness and as Pakenham showed with last year’s Mitson Shield, the silverware isn’t the sole preserve of the few, whatever the perception. At a local level, competitions normally allow for call-changes, so there is no need to feel excluded on the basis that you don’t feel confident in method-ringing and usually the ringing is of a much better quality as ringers focus and concentrate more on striking and the atmosphere is convivial. Therefore, please encourage your tower to put an entry into your district and/or Guild striking competition and let’s make the 2018 contests really memorable!

On a more sombre note, the date of Don Mills’ funeral at Colchester Crematorium and then memorial service at Bures is to be on Thursday 3rd May, the former at 11am, the latter at 2.30pm with open ringing upon the anti-clockwise octave of his home tower from 1.30 and a reception at The Eight Bells afterwards.

Meanwhile, although not in the SGR’s boundaries or for the SGR, the peal at Lowestoft was in Suffolk and included in the band past Guild Ringing Master David Salter, but largely my thoughts today were on what fun could be had at striking competitions in the coming weeks!

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Wednesday 11th April 2018

Warkworth Surprise Minor is one of the less familiar of the forty-one 'standard' Surprise Minor methods. Most of the methods in the collection are the exactly the same as one of the regularly rung Surprise Minor methods below or above the treble and/or but for a different place notation at the half-lead. For example, Rossendale sees bells underneath the treble doing the same as in London, whilst above they do the same as in Norwich, whilst Norfolk Surprise Minor is the same as Cambridge except at the half-lead and lead-end when the bells in first and sixth's position make places rather than those in fifth's and sixth's position, and first and second's position respectively.

With the method rung for this evening's pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree though, whilst the work above the treble is pure Norwich, the work below the treble is nearly Surfleet, which can lead to some potentially catastrophic errors when one isn't completely concentrating.

There was no such trouble on this occasion though, with few method mistakes, and although some disappointment was expressed that the striking and speed was perceived to be a little uneven at times, most rural six-bell towers would be ecstatic at ringing even approaching this level, let alone the practice that followed. Despite the absence of quite a few regulars, we still managed a repertoire of Primrose Surprise Minor, Norwich Surprise Minor, more Warkworth and an ad hoc touch splicing those and London, Ipswich, Surfleet and York of the Surprise variety, as well as Double Oxford, St Clement’s College and Little Bob, whilst also fitting in other pieces such as Grandsire and Stedman Doubles. Thank you to my fellow quarter-pealers for ringing it for Alfie’s birthday, as well as offering felicitations to Mike Whitby’s granddaughter Eliza and also Molly Waterson with thoughts still with her and her mother Gill.

Our efforts were accompanied within our borders by another 5040 on the Martin Daniels Peal Tour, this time at Wingfield and whilst I’m sure they topped their efforts with some socialising, I passed on a trip to The Greyhound as the only reason I was out tonight was that Ruthie had had an exhausting day looking after Alfie and a poorly Joshua whilst I escaped to work. After all, Warkworth is not a method to ring in such an exhausted state.

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Tuesday 10th April 2018

From a practical perspective we have always been part-time parents to Mason, although in every other sense we have been fully committed of course.

When Alfie was born at 2.04am precisely four years ago today, we became full-time parents in what became the biggest change to our lifestyles thus far. No longer footloose and fancy-free as were when we didn't have his big brother with us, we have since become accustomed to a life of rarely going out for a relaxing meal, having a few drinks somewhere without worrying about getting back to the babysitter or even going ringing together. Yet of course we don't regret his arrival for a moment.

Alfie opening his presents. Alfie blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.Therefore today was a real celebration, from his awakening and that pile of presents and cards to the post-work visit of his grandparents, aunt and cousins, with party snacks devoured and candles blown-out on the Batman cake he pleaded to have for the occasion, as the obligatory rendition of 'Happy Birthday' was belted out. When I put him to bed, I asked him if he'd had a good birthday and he gave a satisfied smile, nodded his head and within minutes was snoring blissfully. Thank you to all the cards (including one from the Pettistree ringers) and messages that helped him to enjoy his day so much.

Meanwhile, Martin Daniels' Peal Tour of the area continued apace with a pair of 5040s of Minor, one at Campsea Ashe, the other at The Wolery, albeit the latter should've been on eight. Happy Birthday to John Proudfoot anyway!

And whilst Mick McCarthy gave up the full-time job of managing Ipswich Town, we went to bed exhausted but enthused by our job as full-time parents.

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Monday 9th April 2018

Once upon a time on Mondays like this during school holidays and when I was on a late shift in the offices of John Catt Educational, I would enjoy a very lazy but re-energising lay-in ahead of work and then afterwards there would be an adrenaline-filled dash to gobble down my tea prepared by Ruthie - who had got the timing down to a tee - and get to St Mary-le-Tower practice early enough for it to be worthwhile, before enjoying a leisurely drink in the pub, content in the knowledge that I should be getting another lay-in the next morning to revitalise me.

Alfie's joyous arrival precisely four years ago tomorrow changed all of that necessarily from a practical perspective and so this evening we found ourselves at home with a pirate ship being built, presents wrapped and unopened cards and gifts laid out in readiness for the birthday boy's awakening tomorrow.

Elsewhere in Suffolk other ringers were busier and not just our peers at SMLT, as the Martin Daniels Peal Tour continued with a brace of 5040s in the county, with 2hrs47mins of Minor rung at Tannington and 2hrs57mins of Grandsire Triples completed - appropriately in light of Don Mills' recent passing - at Bures.

God willing one day we can be as active as others on such days, maybe even with those much-welcomed children helping out!

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Sunday 8th April 2018

Bardwell.Campsea Ashe.Across Suffolk we have had many very good projects completed in our towers, but some in particular stand out as being especially transformative. Bardwell's rebranding from a six with a bizarre rope 'circle' to the superb eight that is regularly rung by a very active band comes rapidly to mind, as does the stunning augmentation of Campsea Ashe's grotty old four to the smashing six they have now and the moving of the ringing chamber from the pokey old room upstairs to the wide open new gallery that overlooks St John-the-Baptist church.

This morning though, I had the pleasure of my first experience of another project that rivals those, as following ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and a calorific hot chocolate at Costa Coffee with our SMLT ringing colleagues, we walked over to nearby St Margaret's church to see first hand the work that has been carried out in the tower that overlooks Christchurch Mansion. I confess that I quite liked the cramped little ringing chamber that the bells were rung from up until last year, as ringers vied for space with the clock case and table in the centre of the tiny floor space, sitters-out found crammed into the window seats, hanging from the ladder in the corner or squeezed onto the bench between the treble and tenor. It was a place I spent a lot of my childhood in, with strong family connections there and it felt a bit like an escape from the everyday life far below in the town. However, even with that in mind, no one can argue that the move downstairs to a gallery looking out over the church isn't a vast improvement and it was incredible to witness just how much extra space has been created. Even more importantly, having once been hidden from all but the most energetic and athletic members of the public, it was wonderful to behold the gathering congregation of all ages watching the ringers and ringing, hopefully sowing a seed in at least one or two minds.

St Margarets. St Margarets.Beyond the most striking visual change, the replacing of three of the bells and restoration of the ring is much easier on the ear, especially from outside where the lowering of the rehung bells makes them less in-your-face in the immediate neighbourhood than they were before, with that same work also meaning they handle with absolute ease. Blatantly obvious that it is, this is a completely and utterly different experience and at times I really struggled to appreciate that we were ringing from the same building as I have been familiar with all my life. Very well done to all there, especially John Girt who has been the driving force behind this and is being fittingly rewarded wth the new set-up after decades of service at this town centre octave. I cannot encourage you enough to come and join them in celebrating the work done on the afternoon of Sunday 29th April.

It was a positive highlight on a positive morning which also saw Rambling Ringers' President Chris Birkby and his wife Jill join us for the Sunday morning circuit, although this was still just a visit with their move from Nottinghamshire to here is still ongoing, as these things often are!

Mercifully there are no such issues with our own home which is well settled in now and welcomed its latest visitors as our friends Toby and Amy and their children Maddie and Oscar came round to celebrate Alfie's forthcoming birthday, laden with presents.

Meanwhile, other ringers were more active in the ringing stakes on the county's bells. Mary Garner and Alan Mayle rang their 100th together in the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh with Worcestershire Surprise Major being rung by the entire band and the SGR for the first time. Our friends from Norwich came to SMLT as the NDA Quarter-Peal Week again came south of the border for Mark Larner and Stephen Rabong's first on twelve and at Great Finborough David Howe was ringing his first blows of Norfolk Punch Bob Minor and David Steed his 1700th QP in the 1260 rung upon the 12cwt six. Well done and congratulations to all who achieved something in these performances!

And well done and congratulations again to the ringers of St Margaret's in Ipswich on the transformation of the inside of their tower!

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Saturday 7th April 2018

Peal, open towers, lock-ins, food, drink and meeting were the broad outline of today’s happenings, but that belies everything that occurred.

Hollesley Peal Band. left to right – Peter Harper, Mary Garner, Richard Munnings, Mary Dunbavin, Mark Ogden, Christopher Munnings, Simon Rudd & Brian Whiting. The first peal on Hollesley’s bells.For example the peal was an important performance for me, specially arranged for Alfie’s forthcoming fourth birthday on bells very familiar to me in Hollesley, a village I was once resident in and a glorious octave installed and pealed for the first time almost exactly eighty years ago, which we also rang the 5056 for. Those familiar with the general rule of thumb applied to the peals I ring for my sons’ birthdays won’t be surprised to know that we rang four methods and not being a particularly natural conductor it was 2hrs53mins of immense concentration, rewarded with some super ringing – thank you to all who came out to indulge me!

Ringing at Drinkstone on AGM Day. Ringing at Horringer on AGM Day.It also seemed appropriate to dedicate it to the recent 95th anniversary of the Guild’s founding, especially on the morning of its AGM, which brings me neatly to what followed. For having picked up Mason, Alfie and Joshua from my parents after they very kindly looked after them, it was off to Drinkstone and Horringer on one of the open tower routes into the main event, where enough ringers were cobbled together for some Plain Bob Minor at the former and some Cambridge Surprise Minor on the back six of the latter for young Joshua Watkins. Things ran more smoothly for us than it did for one eminent member who found themselves locked in at one church having gone to the toilet only to discover that everyone had left by the time they came out! A frantic phone-call to Mary Garner and then myself set a rescue attempt in motion and mercifully said member was in Bury St Edmunds by the time we had arrived and didn’t seem too traumatised by their experience! See what fun you miss out on when you don’t attend these events...

Peter Davies and Ralph Earey organising everyone together for the Group photograph. AGM Photo - No numbers. AGM Photo - with numbers.

Myself and the boys didn’t quite make it in time for ringing at The Norman Tower and although we took in the start of the choral evensong that doubled up as the ringers’ service and the brothers behaved remarkably well whilst we were there, I thought it wise to take them out before they got too bored and take advantage of the spring-like (finally!) conditions by having a sit outside with the Ebsworth’s amongst others, a snapshot of the range of folk from across the county of all abilities, gathered together in the SGR’s name. This was exhibited further by the group photograph taken on the green outside the tower that houses the 27cwt twelve and although the skies had clouded over and temperatures fallen, those present were smiling and joking as they greeted friends and posed for the camera, all set up by Peter Davies and directed by Ralph Earey.

AGM in Cathedral Refectory. AGM in Cathedral Refectory. New Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson introduces herself.

Tea consumed and mingling undertaken, the business side of things got underway with the main meeting. There was lots to report, with the reform of the Central Council, ringing for Armistice Day, the dwindling funds in the Restoration Fund and the cost of our handbells all discussed amongst the usual approving of reports and re-election of officers. However there were some headlines worth going into.

One is that at next year’s AGM due to be held on Saturday 27th April in the South-East District, we will need to have found a replacement for PR Officer Neal Dodge. I feel an immense pleasure in seeking him out to replace me in the role back in 2016 as he has transpired to be our best PRO for years, something that has been recognised at a national level by the CCCBR and he is to be on the new Public Relations Committee in the reformed organisation, but his paid career is becoming more demanding as this young man progresses and he clearly feels he can’t give his voluntary work with us as much attention as he would like.

Alan Stanley presenting fifty years certificate to Brian Whiting. Alan Stanley presenting fifty years certificate to Brian Whiting.Another was the presenting of a certificate to Brian Whiting for fifty years membership and very well deserved it is too. Currently Trustee of the handbells and The Vestey Ring, he has covered many roles in the South-East District, as well as being Guild Chairman from 1998-2003 and in the year that he reached his 1000th peal, it is worth noting that his presence has been extremely reassuring in many peals, including this morning’s. Thank you Brian and congratulations!

However, the most notable developments from proceedings were Owen Claxton and Alan Stanley departing the roles of Treasurer and Chairman respectively, the former being replaced by Stephen Cheek of St Mary-le-Tower, the latter by Rowan Wilson of our host tower, the first female to fill the position. Before congratulating the incoming officers, it is only right and proper to thank those outgoing. Owen has done sterling work in a job that is beyond many of us, whilst Alan has done tremendously over his five-year term, particularly when one considers he only learnt to ring a few years ago. Both leave with our gratitude and Stephen and Rowan come in with much anticipation and the well-wishes of the membership.

With the two youngest boys fast asleep by the time that Simon Rudd stood after the meeting to further appeal for help and support when the ringing centre in Norwich is up and running, evening ringing and the pub were not an option for me and so the lengthy AOB mainly taken up by discussion on the merits of printing so many Annual Reports and Awl a’huld was the climax of a hectic but extremely enjoyable day. Not everything was perfect as you would expect. It was a pity that more weren’t out ringing at the open towers, the meeting – like last year – dragged and dragged, I could’ve done with more food and it was a shame that Ruthie had to work today. The food issue was my fault though for not sorting any lunch for myself and overall it was a triumph of organisation, with new Chairman Rowan taking the credit but the first to highlight her many helpers. It will be interesting to see where my District takes the Guild in twelve months and after a few years of town locations it may be nice to go to somewhere more rural where the parking would be easier and surroundings more peaceful, especially when dragging the three boys around! However, if God willing I am able to attend I shall do so willingly and cheerfully wherever it is held and hope that as many of my fellow members do so too for another day of bells, a shorter meeting, food, drink and fellowship. Though hopefully not any lock-ins!

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Friday 6th April 2018

Alfie had the most fun in the household today as he was taken to Woodbridge Library by his nursery this afternoon.

For the rest of his family though, it was a fairly ordinary day, with mine made up of another very early start at work and a sleep afterwards.

Other ringers were more active though, especially those on Martin Daniels annual peal tour of the area, with 5040s of seven Surprise and seven Treble Dodging Minor methods at Kettleburgh and Thurston respectively, the former seeing Ian Bushell ring his 1750th peal. Ian is one of ringing’s good eggs and a superb ringer to boot and so I am delighted not only that he reached this landmark, but reached it here in Suffolk – congratulations Ian!

Hopefully he had as much fun as Alfie, but I can’t guarantee it!

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Thursday 5th April 2018

Well done to Ed Rolph on ringing his first quarter-peal on eight on a working bell in the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Halesworth, on the day that it appears that the 37th Martin Daniels Peal Tour of the county has begun, with a 5040 rung at Otley.

It was a far more active day than we had on the ringing front though, at the end of another very early start at work.

Sleep rather than ringing was therefore the order of the day, but God willing it’ll be the other way round on Saturday. Of course it is far too late to book a tea, but that doesn’t exclude you from the rest of proceedings, most particularly the AGM itself in the Cathedral Refectory in Bury St Edmunds. Throughout the afternoon and evening there will the chance to ring and socialise as much or as little as you like, so please do come along and take it all in!

Hopefully we’ll also get the chance to congratulate Ed on his achievements today!

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Wednesday 4th April 2018

“What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.”

Alfie at Portman Road.It was only a trip to the club shop to get some tickets for a forthcoming fixture and Alfie and Joshua are probably too young to be falling in love with Ipswich Town Football Club, but there was much gawping being done by the brothers as they got their first glimpse of the pitch at Portman Road this afternoon and so it seemed appropriate that we strolled in under the giant picture of Sir Bobby Robson – whom I have quoted above – on the side of the picture and was a wonderful moment in a positive day.

A positive day for Suffolk ringing too as it emerged this morning that those who attended yesterday evening’s first practice at Offton since the new sixth was put in, appear unanimous in their praise for the results – well done to all concerned there!

Another ringing positive was a successful peal of Xichang Surprise Major at The Wolery, which I was delighted to partake in and which was rung in memory of Don Mills. The ringing was of an appropriately high standard, helped by the choice of method, a Yorkshire-above-the-treble construction familiar enough to be confident with, along with a below-the-treble work that was different enough to focus the mind, all followed as usual by cake, biscuits and tea, on this occasion aided by middle Salter son Colin on his break from university.

Our efforts were accompanied by a trio of QPs rung within our borders today, with a 1280 of four-spliced Surprise Major methods rung at Bardwell, a 1272 of Kent Treble Bob Minor rung before the practice at Pettistree and a 1440 of Bridge’s Pleasure Bob Minor rung at Oakley as part of the NDA’s Quarter-Peal Week and a first in the method for three of the band – well done to Anne Bridge, Maureen Gardiner and Adrian Edwards!

There was one minor negative on this day of positives with Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge revealing that Ingham can now no longer be included on the north-east open tower route into Saturday’s SGR AGM due to preparations being made for a birthday party in the church. Although it is a pity as this would have been a ‘grab’ for most attending (myself included), it has been replaced with Great Livermere in the same 2 - 2.45pm timeslot, so there is still a lot to be positive about today!

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Tuesday 3rd April 2018

Sad to hear of the death of long-time Bures ringer Don Mills after a long illness, although I imagine some comfort will be drawn from his passing occurring peacefully at home yesterday. He will be missed, especially along the Essex border that his life straddled and a private cremation will indeed take place south of the Stour in Colchester on the same day as a memorial service and open ringing on the aforementioned anti-clockwise 20cwt eight (just!) north of the river, although when precisely is not known at the moment.

On a happier note, a brace of QPs were rung in Suffolk, albeit one of them being within the boundaries of our northern neighbours the NDA as their Quarter-Peal Week continued with a 1260 of Doubles at Somerleyton. The handbell quarter of Stedman Doubles at Barrack Lane in Ipswich was very definitely within the county though, with George Vant apparently very nearly not making it out of said county after breaking down on the way home! I’m glad to report that he was rescued though.

Breakdowns aside however, I’d like to think that Don would appreciate the ringing endeavour within our borders.

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Easter Monday 2nd April 2018

Precisely ninety-five years after its founding, the Suffolk Guild seems to be in rude health. Just over a week on from a successful Dinner, peal totals well up from this time last year (and indeed there haven’t been more peals rung for the SGR at this stage of the year since 2013), an apparently very successful Debenham outing to Norfolk was held today, a quarter-peal rung at Wilby (following an unfortunate peal-loss) and a crowd of almost thirty crammed into St Mary-le-Tower’s ringing chamber for the weekly practice.

The latter was the only part I played in today’s ringing following a day stuck indoors sheltering from the rain as spring continues to struggle in getting going. Helped by the presence of Chelmsford Cathedral ringers Cecile Cross, Brian Meads and David Rothera, as well as a visit from Nathan Colman accompanying his parents Cath and Julian, Alex Tatlow and the return from university of Colin Salter and Lucy Williamson for Easter, there was plenty of endeavour and plenty of opportunity for our regulars learning on twelve and it was all topped off by a super touch of Stedman Cinques and a lower of the front six which was mercifully mostly complete when the lights went off leaving them in complete darkness! With a normal 9-5 tomorrow I even had time to join the masses for a drink in The Cricketers where it was staggering to see the amount of paperwork required to work through before one is allowed to ring at York Minster, ahead of Laura Davies and Louis Suggett’s visit and after Alex’s trip there, complete with feedback. For all that it seems overkill for our open and welcoming hobby and that I still feel the sacking of the previous band was handled in a manner shamefully un-Christian, I am pleased and relieved that ringing is in experienced hands and that the ringing community is able to enjoy these fine bells once again.

Not as pleased as I am to see the Suffolk Guild’s birthday celebrated so positively today though!

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Easter Sunday 1st April 2018

Easter Sunday is one of the most important days in the Christian calendar, arguably the most important. Therefore, a high standard of ringing is required, although of course we should be aiming for that every time it is required of us. With that in mind, I was pleased and impressed with the high quality we produced at St Mary-le-Tower this morning, especially as a sizeable proportion weren’t experienced twelve-bell ringers.

Usually on the first Sabbath morn of the month when having been to SMLT, I would follow this up with ringing at St Lawrence and then Grundisburgh, but on this special day myself and the boys made our way to a packed St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge (where apparently it was Bruce Wakefield’s turn to be outnumbered by women in the ringing chamber!) for the service there.

Ruthie was back there later to sing for Evensong, but otherwise the remainder of our day was one spent at home, making a roast dinner, consuming lots of chocolate and wonderfully taking a phone call for George Pipe thanking me for my article on the recent George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition which appeared in this week’s Ringing World, whilst elsewhere in the county a quarter-peal started at 8.15am was rung at Pettistree and a peal was rung on handbells in Bacton. I’m glad Suffolk’s ringers did the occasion justice.

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Holy Saturday 31st March 2018

Yesterday’s day of ringing succumbed to a much quieter day from a ringing perspective for us today, but that’s not to say it was an entirely quiet day, especially for Ruthie. She began her day by taking Alfie for his first visit to a cinema as they accompanied his cousins, their mother, Granny Kate and Granddad Ron to the Riverside Theatre in Woodbridge to watch the new Peter Rabbit film and she then finished it by singing at St Mary the Virgin just up the hill on a busy Easter weekend for her and her choral peers.

In between we were very generously treated to a meal at The Coach and Horses by her mother, but whilst we made no contribution to the exercise today, others were busier. Much busier in some cases, with a staggering twenty-five quarter-peals rung in hand at Redlands Road in Reading and a further QP and five peals rung in hand at Aldenham School. Here in Suffolk, a 1260 of Doubles was rung at Great Finborough.

Meanwhile, great news from Offton, where with the brand new sixth in, ringing is resuming from the forthcoming Tuesday, 3rd April. Well done to all concerned there – I hope I can hear it first-hand myself soon!

The day before, on Easter Monday there will be a practice at St Mary-le-Tower, as advertised. However, having originally set the SMLT AGM for after the session on Monday 16th April, this has now been moved back to the following week to allow the Reverend Canon Charles Jenkin to oversee proceedings, which means that it will now be the 23rd’s practice that will run half-an-hour earlier from 7-8.30pm. As with any time, anyone is more than welcome to join us, but if you do want to come that week then come early in order to avoid disappointment!

This all falls in what is planned to be an active month, with the North-East District Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles on Wednesday evening, the same District holding a Six-Bell Practice at Chediston on Thursday evening, before the Guild AGM in one week’s time. Please do support what you can and make sure not every day is as quiet as today for ringing.

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Good Friday 30th March 2018

We’ve had some cracking Good Fridays in the past when we have gone to the residence of David and Katharine Salter for a day of peal-ringing, food, drink, socialising and in the case of Mason, playing with their youngest son Henry, the sun shining, the sound of lawnmowers whirring into action for the first time and spring well and truly begun.

Today was no different, but for one element – take a wild guess which one! For as the rain fell and fell and the chilly wind made conditions rather unpleasant outside, my eldest son and his peer entertained themselves with computer games whilst us adults entertained ourselves with a brace of peals in The Wolery at the top of the garden either side of a typically fantastic feast laid on by our hosts for lunch. This is peal-ringing at its most civilised, with no pressure but plenty of enjoyment.

The ringing itself went well. I was delighted to ring my 600th peal in the 5056 of Plain Bob Major in the morning which also saw Abby Antrobus having her first concerted go at changes inside on a mini-ring. I have in the past highlighted that ringing on mini-rings really is no different to normal ringing, merely an adjusting of technique, but if we rang at the speed we usually go at it would’ve been a little unfair on Abby and so it was unusually 2hrs+. However, the result was a decent peal scored with little drama and a satisfied band sat down to our lunchtime spread afterwards.

In the afternoon the 5040 of seven Surprise Minor methods was a little brisker and producing some absolutely superb ringing in places, with everyone confident of what they were doing once we’d got over an early handling malfunction that required a restart!

Ruthie wasn’t partaking as is now the norm as she was carrying out her choral duties at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge and also took Alfie and Joshua there earlier for a spot of bread baking.

I think the entire family had a cracking Good Friday!

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Maundy Thursday 29th March 2018

After nearly six years in charge, Mick McCarthy is to step down as Ipswich Town manager when his contract runs out at the end of this season, it was announced today. This was big news for us avid Tractor Boys and indeed for football generally as he is the longest serving boss in our division by some distance, but it does have tenuous relevance to this ringing blog too, as there are parallels with the position that the Suffolk Guild finds itself in.

For at this year’s SGR AGM at Bury St Edmunds on Saturday 7th April, we will need to elect a new Chairman as Alan Stanley’s set five-year term comes to a conclusion. I believe someone has been nominated and it could be a ground-breaking appointment for the organisation, but if you or anyone you know feel they could do the job then please do put yourself or them forward for nomination. And although it is now too late to book a tea for the occasion, it would be a welcome show of confidence and support for the incoming Chairman and deserved send-off for Alan for his dedicated service of just five months and several million pounds less than Mick McCarthy has been in charge at Portman Road, if as many of the membership attend the meeting in particular and as much of the rest of the day that you can. Ringing itself – such as that carried out at Halesworth today for the Maundy Thursday service that saw Philip Gorrod and Jason Busby ring their 150th quarter-peal together, so congratulations to them – is our main objective and there will be many very understandable reasons that take precedence over attending a ringing meeting, like work, holidays, family commitments and the like, but there will be many who will be free to go along but feel reluctant for whatever reason or maybe don’t even know about the day. If you are the former, then please, please do put your preconceptions aside and support those who are organising the day, if you know anyone who falls into the latter then please, please let them know and encourage them to pop along!

With impeccable timing, I received the agenda from Secretary Carl Melville via email and it outlines how short this meeting ought to be compared to ones many years past (and even last year’s unusually lengthy proceedings in Beccles), with reports voted upon on the basis of attendees having already read them in the Annual Report which should have reached most members by now, and for all that we hope for enthusiastic nominations, I expect the election and re-election of officers will be a straightforward and speedy section with nominators and seconders approached and recorded beforehand.

As a reassurance (for SGR members at least, if not ITFC fans), I’m pretty confident that Steve ‘Wally with the Brolly’ McClaren is less likely to be our new Chairman than Ipswich Town manager!

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Wednesday 28th March 2018

Ruth was at Pettistree on a well deserved evening out ringing at SS Peter and Paul and enjoying an ale afterwards at The Greyhound following a trying day with Alfie and Joshua, the boys were in bed and there was nothing of interest on TV, so I did what I usually do in moments of boredom (but not only in moments of boredom!) and popped onto BellBoard to see what ringing friends across the county and beyond were up to on the end of a rope or handbell.

As it happened, not a lot was going on, although that is to be expected in Holy Week when bells are traditionally not rung. Here in Suffolk, the first quarter-peal in the county for three days was rung at the aforementioned ground-floor six, but otherwise much of what was done around the UK was on mini-rings and handbells. However, in the course of my explorations I accidentally stumbled across the most recent submissions on the site and it appears Sue Marsden is adding historical Ely Diocesan Association peals, some of which include ones rung within our borders before the founding of the SGR in 1923 and amongst those were an impressive brace of 5040's of Doubles in Chevington. One was on 18th November 1907 in the School-room on handbells, with each band-member ringing one each and which was a first peal for all except the conductor Elijah Bradfield, whilst the other was the following day on the 12cwt five of All Saints where the same band rang their first tower-bell peal, again bar the conductor Mr Bradfield.

Amazing what you can find out when you are bored!

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Tuesday 27th March 2018

Mason’s place at the local secondary school Farlingaye is booked for this September, an exciting new chapter in his young life, yet daunting too.

However, they are good at engaging and working with the primary schools of the area that God willing will help make that step seem a little more normal for my eldest son, with various events. One such event that they hold annually is a brace of concerts that over the course of two evenings that allow the local primary schools to contribute. Thus tonight I found myself sat in the sports hall at Farlingaye watching the boy partake in over two hours worth of musical performances. It was a long old night and I won’t pretend that amongst the lengthy shifting around of the hundreds of participants and the bits not including Mason that I didn’t take quick glances at what the time was, but the quality was tremendous and the courage to get up in front of so many people is to be admired. The boy did good!

No time was left for ringing of course, even if we usually rang on a Tuesday, but with it being Holy Week it was unsurprisingly quiet on the ringing-front across Suffolk and beyond. All the noise was coming from Mason and his peers!

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Monday 26th March 2018

Holy Week and its traditional silencing of church bells has begun, which meant no practice at St Mary-le-Tower this evening and a silent night at The Norman Tower tomorrow, whilst there will be no session at Grundisburgh on Thursday and expect an increase in performances on BellBoard rung on handbells and mini-rings. Indeed, only three peals were recorded on BB as being rung today throughout the world, none of them on church tower bells.

Not that I would likely have made it to SMLT tonight anyway as I was on a late shift at work and so we were up for the No-Bell Peace Prize, along with most of Suffolk’s ringers it appears, with no quarters or peals rung within our borders. As ever, it seems like it will be a quiet few days on the ringing front during this Holy Week.

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Sunday 25th March 2018

Outnumbered - apart from Alfie - by women for ringing at Woodbridge, I somehow and unexpectedly ended up with the daunting task of running the ringing, with Bruce Wakefield poorly and Peter Mayer not around. That said, there was only really enough for call-changes on six, so it didn't take much guiding, though I was pleased that I didn't get it too wrong and oversaw some decent ringing!

The situation was reversed at Rougham for the quarter-peal of spliced Minor, where Serena Steggles was the only female of the species in the band, although along with Mark it was the first time she had rung as many methods as that. Well done to both Steggles!

No such issue for either gender at The Norman Tower where a 1346 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus was rung in memory of former local ringer Sergeant Major William Arthur Ely just over a century after losing his life in the First World War.

In a sad indication of the sad events of a hundred years ago, the peal rung at Pettistree was also in memory of a ringer who died in the battlefields of 1918 France, this time Private David Leggett.

My ringing was followed by the Palm Sunday service downstairs from the 25cwt eight and then a quiet afternoon of pottering about, with Alfred accompanying me to the bottle bank being the highlight on a slow news day, lovely as that was.

Hopefully in the coming days and weeks I can do more ringing with a greater number of ringers of both sexes!

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Saturday 24th March 2018

Deep within our beautiful countryside, daylight only just disappearing hours before the clocks were to be put forward to British Summer Time, Suffolk’s bellringers converged together from Poslingford to Beccles, Bury St Edmunds to Hollesley, sharing their fellowship with friends from beyond our borders north, south and west and non-ringing guests to celebrate all that is good in Suffolk ringing. The location was The Blackbourne community centre in Elmswell, the occasion was the Guild’s 95th Anniversary Dinner.

Taking our seats for the 95th Anniversary Suffolk Guild Dinner at The Blackbourne Community Centre in Elmswell. Chairman Alan Stanley addresses the 95th Anniversary Suffolk Guild Dinner at The Blackbourne Community Centre in Elmswell. The High Sherriff of Suffolk Geoffrey Probert speaks at the 95th Anniversary Suffolk Guild Dinner at The Blackbourne Community Centre in Elmswell.

And what an occasion! Alan Stanley and his team deserve great credit for arranging this not once, but twice, the second time in the matter of weeks and were rewarded with what was a super turnout in the circumstances. There was food and drink aplenty, whilst friendships new and established were made and/or renewed, speeches made and handbells rung.

Those speeches were interesting and amusing, with outgoing High Sherriff of Suffolk Geoffrey Probert giving a fascinating insight into the history of his role in the presence of the trophy he awarded us just a few weeks ago, whilst former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd sandwiched a detailed explanation into the project at his home tower of St Peter Mancroft in Norwich and a plea for help with the Ringing Discovery Centre when it is up and running, with a laughter-inducing beginning and end most notably involving Maurice and Anita Rose, a thermos flask and some dodgy accents! Meanwhile a card was signed for Adrian Knights as he recovers from his recent illness and fall in hospital – he would have been in his element tonight!

Handbell ringing in the foyer following formal proceedings at for the 95th Anniversary Suffolk Guild Dinner at The Blackbourne Community Centre in Elmswell.Well done to James Smith, David Sparling, Philip Gorrod and Alan Mayle on producing an excellent bit of handbell ringing with three leads of Oxford Treble Bob Major well-struck throughout and receiving deserved applause as well as encouraging others to try after formal proceedings came to an end, as those so inclined to ring did so in the foyer, providing a fitting farewell as attendees gradually and reluctantly departed to return to the various villages and towns of our picturesque county.

Personally it was a pity not to have Ruthie beside me as having very kindly offered to babysit Alfie and Joshua on the original date three weeks ago to allow both of us to attend, my mother-in-law Kate is away this weekend. Still, it was nice to take Mason with me and nicer still that his good friend Henry Salter and his parents David and Katharine joined us on our table. Nice as well to catch up with so many ringing friends, especially those I don’t see regularly such as the Knights, Sparlings, Lees, Nigel Gale and Paul Ebsworth amongst others.

Overwhelmingly the view amongst those I spoke with seemed to be that this was a great night and perfectly pitched. We are a rural, informal ringing organisation, with few airs and graces and so a big, posh, formal event isn’t necessary with the five-yearly nature of the event already making it special. However, there was also excitement for what the 100th Anniversary Dinner in 2023 could be, with hopes of a once-in-a-lifetime occasion on a grander scale and maybe even with the date and venue set a year or two ahead of time, although I know from my minimal involvement in arranging the 2008 Dinner that logistics won’t necessarily allow that. That will be for a new team of officers (even an organising committee as I have heard suggested) to think about, but for tonight, congratulations to the organisers of this year’s Dinner – we and many others really enjoyed it!

Crowds gathered at Pettistree Open Tower Morning. Crowds gathered at Pettistree Open Tower Morning. The exhibition at Pettistree Open Tower Morning. The exhibition at Pettistree Open Tower Morning. Mary Garner and myself chatting at the Pettistree Open Tower Morning. Ringing at Pettistree for the Open Tower Morning; l to r – Mike Whitby (Treble), Mary Garner (2nd), Mark Ogden (3rd), Ray Lewis (4th) & Ruth Munnings (5th).

Earlier in the day we had been ‘helping’ in attempts to secure the future of the art we were celebrating this evening, as we popped along to Pettistree for their Open Tower Morning and although we only made it halfway through to allow Ruthie a long overdue haircut first, we were in time to see first hand the tremendous crowds enjoying cake and tea and the wonderful exhibition which included one of the old wheels taken out when the bells were rehung in 1986. By this point, many of the visitors had had a go at backstrokes with much interest shown in returning to learn for real and although only time will tell how successful this ultimately was, we can be rightly chuffed with how it went, particularly Mary Garner for her efforts in arranging and promoting it.

As should former Suffolk ringers Colin Salter, his brother George, and Ian Mills for getting through with their respective teams Guildford, Bristol and the Cumberland Youths - along with the College Youths, Birmingham, Exeter, Leeds, Melbourne and St Paul’s Cathedral – to join hosts Cambridge in the National Twelve-Bell Final on Saturday 23rd June. Bad luck meanwhile to Margaret Bulleid of Towcester, Maggie Ross of High Wycombe, Simon Christian of Chester and our friends from Norwich – including tonight’s speaker Simon Rudd - on missing out.

Colin and George should therefore join a select group of siblings to ring in the same final in the contest’s forty-three year history -  off the top of my head, I can only think of Hannah (now Taylor) and Michael Wilby and George and Rod Pipe and although I’m sure there will be others, there can’t be many more. We should be chuffed that our humble county has played such a big part in this impressive stat of ringing’s premier striking competition – having spent the evening sat with Colin and George’s parents I know that they are on a great night for celebrating all that is good in Suffolk ringing, deep within its beautiful countryside.

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Friday 23rd March 2018

Anticipation was the buzzword today.

Nationally amongst football fans including me, it is for England’s participation in the World Cup being held in Russia this summer, even if the sporting side of it has been overshadowed somewhat by recent events. Part of the build-up are the friendly matches that begin to give some idea to personnel, style and even our chances of doing well once the tournament starts. Tonight’s 1-0 against our hosts Holland hasn’t dampened our hopes.

Throughout ringing, tomorrow’s National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Eliminators, featuring a number of former Suffolk ringers, including Maggie Ross who it was nice to converse with online as she began her journey to Ossett where she is due to ring for High Wycombe. She is feeling understandably nervous as I imagine most participants are, but a number were sharing on social media that they were already up north having a drink or three to calm the nerves, ahead of the competition which is also taking place in Selby and on the anti-clockwise ring of Southwell where one-time Walsham-le-Willows ringer Claire Roe will be supplying the beer through Welbeck Abbey Brewery. Best of luck to all who are taking part, especially those once of this county!
 
Across the SGR meanwhile, the main focus is on the rearranged Guild Dinner as my thoughts began turning to where my cufflinks were (it may shock you to know that I don’t wear them regularly!) and the location of my ties, although at least my suit is hung up and ready having been dry-cleaned for some weeks ahead of the original 3rd March date for this occasion!
 
Meanwhile, it was the past that was in the thoughts of those ringing the 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Wenhaston as they remembered one-time ringer at this 12cwt ground-floor six Lance Corporal James Henry Farrington, precisely a century after his tragic death at the age of just twenty during the First World War.

It is thanks to the sacrifices that he and so many others made that we have so much to look forward to in our free society today.

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Thursday 22nd March 2018

It tis the season for parents evenings it seems, as following Alfie and Joshua’s last week, tonight’s was Mason’s as he nears the end of his primary school education. Apart from a disagreement with his teacher over the answer to a maths equation, he has apparently continued his improvement with the general perception being he has matured considerably in the last year.

My attendance there meant that his younger brothers joined Ruthie at choir practice which required a lot of toing and froing to drop them off before meeting the eldest’s teacher, pick the boys up afterwards and then return later to collect their mother when she had finished and highlighted why getting to Grundisburgh practices as we used to is impractical for now. However, there are weekly sessions without fail – bar extreme circumstances like when we were visited by the ‘Beast from the East’ earlier in the month – which are apparently run well and with enthusiasm by Joanna Crowe. If you are too daunted to go up St Mary-le-Tower or The Norman Tower to try your hand at ten and twelve-bell ringing (although it is worth emphasising you would be more than welcome at both of those venues), this is a good place to try your hand at it, providing there are enough there and to that end I would implore those who can go and support Jo and co, to do so when you can.

Meanwhile, there were two quarter-peals rung in the county today. One was on handbells in Hasketon, whilst the 1296 of Queen Mary Surprise Minor at Tostock was the first in the method for Andrea Alderton, Maureen Gardiner and Stephen Dawson. Well done Andrea, Maureen and Stephen – I’m sure your teachers will be glowing in their reports!

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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. 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

Grundisburgh.Pettistree.Offton.

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 treasurer@suffolkbells.org.uk 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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