Monday 4th July 2022

Richy's Blog

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Friday 1st July 2022

Striking competitions. They are much maligned by a proportion of ringers, but in my opinion they are one of the most invaluable aspects of our art. The entries of St Mary-le-Tower and The Norman Tower into the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest have accompanied a rise in standards at both towers, whilst also attracting media attention and Ipswich's qualification for the Final and the Guild's victory in the Ridgman Trophy in King's Lynn have attracted significant and genuinely engrossed interest from our non-ringing friends and those of other bandmates that I have never witnessed to the same extent before. Competition is something that they can relate to more than method structure or peals and if I'm honest, if I were to take non-ringers to any ringing event, I would choose the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final. Indeed, if it weren't for the rail strikes last week, some non-ringing friends of one of our band had intended on coming along.

Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - - 136670 Not only are they great from a PR and therefore potentially recruitment perspective though, but also a retention angle. Like peal-ringing, they give learners and young ringers something to aspire to and that ringing doesn't have to be limited to whatever your tower, District or even Guild can manage. A noticeable aspect of the attendance at Guildford Cathedral and previous Finals is the huge numbers a youngsters, some ringing, but many not. Rather than nitpicking at who is ringing for more than one team, what the rules say and that a particular team will always win, perhaps we ought to be making more of these as social occasions.

However, one striking competition where there are due to be even more youngsters and which has prompted my defence of the medium today, is tomorrow's planned Ringing World National Youth Contest in Exeter. I'm delighted to report that my Facebook feed was filled today with young ringers, parents and supporters beginning often long journeys (one was at a railway station in Cumbria at the start of theirs!) down to the South-West of England and on Simon Rudd's weekly Friday night virtual pub we were even joined by one Mum and her son from a practice in Bournemouth on their way to him representing a Norfolk team. Good luck to them!

Tostock.Meanwhile, within our borders, there were already achievements to note today. Well done to North-West District Ringing Master Maureen Gardiner, SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge and conductor David Howe on ringing their first quarter-peal of Durham Surprise Minor in the 1260 at Tostock.

Sadly there won't be any Suffolk success in Exeter tomorrow (apart from former Exning learner and now Twelve-Bell champion Jimmy Yeoman, who is due to be an assistant judge), as there isn't a band, but perhaps if we encourage more support of striking competitions locally we might see some more youngsters coming through and we might have a team at forthcoming RWNYCs?

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Thursday 30th June 2022

Me trying my eBells out. My usual Thursday evening solo session on my eBells on Ringing Room with Wheatley was a brief one, necessarily fitted in around peal arranging and party arranging, both for the same cause. Form filling, emails, Facebook messages and phone calls all left me with less time than I typically get at this time of the week. Therefore, I chose to give something short but new to me a go, the result being a couple of courses of Little Bob Royal. Pretty reasonable it was too, which reassures me that I'm getting the basics right and that the feel is more natural as I even got the speed right.

Meanwhile, Diana Pipe has sent out further details on the George Pipe Thanksgiving Event due to take place on Saturday 23rd July via the Guild email through Chris Garner and the College Youths email through Secretary Simon Meyer. If you haven't received the email then please let Chris know, although I imagine the details will be on What's On shortly. There should be a huge turnout from across the country and around the world for this and I hope there will be, as George was deprived of a proper send-off because of the events of March 2020 when he died.

It is part of what is planned to be a busy July. Some of which I need to get back to organising...

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Wednesday 29th June 2022

This year's Rambling Ringers Tour sheet was emailed to us today, a few weeks before it is due to start. Usually it is a source of excitement and anticipation as it signals that our holiday isn't far away, but three years after we were last able to go, that excitement and anticipation is multiplied.

The plan for the 2022 Tour is to go to Leicestershire, but rather than for the fortnight it typically lasts for (it did briefly last for three weeks many years ago), it is lasting 'just' a week. Primarily this is in response to the uncertainties surrounding its return. How many members would come back? How many towers would be happy to welcome a group of visitors from across the country and indeed the world? How much accommodation might be available? In his email with the Tour sheet attached, Secretary Geoff Pick suggests there will be a healthy turnout, but it seems eminently sensible to break things back in gently after the last couple of years.

That said, we always welcome new members and so if you would like to join us and you can at least ring Cambridge Surprise Minor, then please do drop me a line and I'll let Geoff and Ringing Master Chris Woodcock know. The number of Ramblers or former Ramblers present at Guildford Cathedral on Saturday accurately indicates the high standard of ringing we normally get on Tour, but this isn't an elite Society. It is merely that when we are ringing on lots of other people's bells over a week or two, we have to ensure that we are making a pleasant noise, but so long as you can do that, I'm sure we'd be happy you joining us. You don't have to ring all week either. It can be for a day to dip your toe in or various days across the week. Our family usually have at least a day or two where we do something different for the boys. And at £5 a day, you only pay for the days you ring.

Pettistree.Our ringing was more everyday today though, as usual fitting in around work and Alfie's football practice, but Ruthie was able to join her mother Kate in going to Pettistree after Mrs Eagle had rung in the pre-practice quarter-peal and before they had a drink in The Greyhound. Ringing followed by a drink. Hopefully a pattern we'll get used to on Rambling Ringers again in a few weeks.

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Tuesday 28th June 2022

Dennington. Wickham Skeith. Nayland. Reydon. Bures. Little Cornard. Debenham. St Mary-le-Tower.

An email from South-East District Secretary Liz Christian to members via Webmaster Chris Garner today, reminded me that with June due to finish in a couple of days, there is much ringing planned for July, beginning with the SE District Practice that Liz was reminding everyone about. All being well, that will be at Dennington on Saturday evening between 6.30 and 8, a week before the North-West District Practice at Wickham Skeith and three weeks ahead of the South-West District Practice at Nayland between 7.30 and 9pm. In between, various other ringing occasions are penciled into the What's On. Such as the Ringing World National Youth Contest in Exeter, albeit sadly with no Suffolk representation this year. And back within our borders, it is planned for Don Price's Memorial Service to take place at Reydon at 11am on Friday 8th, Midweek Ringing at Bures and the newly pealed Little Cornard on Tuesday 12th, the day before Veterans' Afternoon at Debenham from 2pm, whilst a Thanksgiving Event for the life of George Pipe is due to happen at St Mary-le-Tower from 10.30am to 5.30pm. on Saturday 23rd.

Hopton.There was ringing in the county already occurring today though, as a 1280 of Cambridge Surprise Major was rung at Hopton by Thetford, which was not only Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge's first in the method, but also his 350th quarter-peal. Well done and congratulations Neal!

Nothing quite so exciting for us though, with no ringing on a quiet night in.
God willing July's days will be more interesting.

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Monday 27th June 2022

The Hawkear readings from Saturday's ringing were sent to us today and I have to admit to being disappointed with my showing. Not that it would've made any difference to the result, but it reflected the issue of the sound that the ringers, judges and those outside were hearing seemingly being quite different. What Hawkear has showed is certainly different to what I thought I was producing, whilst it was notable that whilst we and those listening outside thought we'd started well and tailed off, the judges thought the opposite, which having listened back to our ringing on the broadcast, is backed up by the live feed. Overall though, there can be no disputing that collectively we rang very well, with Hawkear also highlighting some real stars, in the literal and metaphorical sense!. Ruthie was certainly pleased with hers, and rightly so!

Official team photo.

Also sent to us today was the official band photo which will become the pictorial record on the website and in The Ringing World for future generations to hopefully look back at and nod approvingly and was shared on St Mary-le-Tower's Facebook page and Twitter feed.

It all contributed to a very upbeat atmosphere on my first return since Saturday's exploits to the ringing chamber that got us there. An atmosphere that was further enhanced by the visit of a Ukrainian couple who were met with applause on entering the ringing chamber and the arrival of the newly engraved Ridgman Trophy, and even more so by a repertoire that included well rung Stedman Cinques (with a different, more musical touch now we are released from getting to know that one!), Cambridge Surprise Maximus and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus.

Afterwards, recollections of a great weekend were shared in the Halberd Inn and plans mooted for more twelve-bell ringing with thoughts already moving towards next year's contest. When God willing I shall get the chance to improve upon my efforts.

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Sunday 26th June 2022

As we get older, there are signs that we may be getting wiser. In the past, both Ruthie and I have been guilty of overdoing it at the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final, although we've certainly not been the only ones! Yesterday, armed with experience, although we drank more alcohol then we would typically drink in a day, we took it relatively easy (especially considering our early draw!) and - crucially - interspersed it with drinks of water, meaning that whilst we awoke in a slightly subdued and tired mood after all the excitement of the previous twenty-four hours, we felt OK. No hangovers or feeling ill every time we moved, vowing to never ever drink again.

It allowed us to face a less packed but still enjoyable day with relatively fresh minds, starting with breakfast in the Holiday Inn with some of our fellow Ipswich bandmates and supporters, as well as a chat with the victorious Birmingham Ringing Master Michael Wilby before we packed up and headed off.

West Horsley Place - 'Button Hall'.Not straight to Suffolk though. For we've become massive fans of the BBC sitcom Ghosts over the last couple of years, good clean family comedy (it stars the group who did the original Horrible Histories TV series) that we would recommend to anyone and which is set at the fictional Button House. In real life, that is West Horsley Place just outside Guildford, directly opposite the quaint little church of St Mary of West Horsley that houses an unringable 10cwt three and so we parked up in a nearby car park and took a little walk to try and get a closer look. It has open days periodically, but it didn't seem to have one today and so we had to view it from afar, but it was still a thrill to see it in the 'flesh'.

Ruthie at Ufford Park Hotel.Even if there was an open day, we hadn't booked and didn't have time, as we needed to be back home in time to wander up to Ufford Park Hotel. For with mother-in-law Kate in Birmingham taking the boys to Cadbury World and a voucher for a sparkling afternoon tea that I had got my wife for her birthday last year waiting to be used, we took the opportunity to use it this afternoon. Very lovely it was too, as has been this whole weekend allowing us to spend time doing something we enjoy and (hopefully) helping the Ipswich team yesterday without boring the children and it was thanks to Mrs Eagle that we could do that. She is one of a number that need thanking for helping us as a team to get to where we got to. Personally that also includes my Mum Sally for childsitting when needed, as well ringing her least favourite principal when called upon to allow us to ring it more often. Furthermore, she and a number of others from those that didn't stop in Surrey overnight, as well as some from St Margaret's very kindly manned the bells at St Mary-le-Tower this morning for service ringing whilst many of the band were still stirring nearly a hundred miles ago. Much gratitude is extended their way.

Having finally settled at home, we took the chance to look through social media from the event (Ruthie features a fair bit on the St Martin's Guild Twitter feed!) and watch some of Matthew Tosh's live broadcast. There is 8hr 19min 35sec of it so obviously not enough time to watch it all, even if we felt so inclined, but key moments from an Ipswich perspective include coverage of our test piece from 2hr 8min in with the band's names featured along the bottom (although an administrative error meant that it said David Sparling rang the treble when it was in fact James Smith) and the excellent interview with Colin & Katharine Salter afterwards at 2hr 24min in. However, the band are centre of the picture just after the draw 37min 28sec in and the cheer when we were drawn third to ring 30min 58sec in can be enjoyed! Beyond that, you can enjoy people spotting at various points throughout right up until the results and presentation of the Taylor Trophy. Well worth a watch, especially Birmingham's winning piece.

Little Cornard peal band.Naturally enough for a Sunday, there was other ringing happening on the county's bells, most notably at Little Cornard where sixty years of Derek Rose ringing was celebrated with the first ever peal on the 8cwt six. Many congratulations to Derek in particular and to all involved in this project on reaching this significant landmark, achieved today with a band of wise ringers! And getting wiser, I'm sure.

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Saturday 25th June 2022

According to the Doves Guide database online, Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire and Stafford in Staffordshire are in the process of becoming the 132nd and 133rd ring of twelve or more bells in the UK. Not all those towers have active twelve-bell bands of course and some in the bigger cities will be rung by the same group of ringers, but there are a lot of places practicing the art through the medium of Cinques of Maximus. And today, the St Mary-le-Tower band were confirmed as one of the top ten in the country as we appeared in the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest. There was much fun achieving it too on a long, but fantastic day in Guildford.

It began early, in Woodbridge as we left the boys sleeping at Granny Kate's house and began a journey that was largely and mercifully uneventful, bar driving anti-clockwise round the M25 when we'd intended to go clockwise and the SatNav directing us past the turning for the Holiday Inn where we were staying and then wanting us to do a U-turn on the A3! Despite that though, we were at our accommodation in plenty of time to check our vehicle into the car park and take the ten minute stroll to the Cathedral. On such an occasion, the approach to this imposing structure, at the end of a long driveway at the top of big hill was quite imposing, perhaps even more so for the presence of the marques set up for the arrival of hundreds of people. There was no turning back now, but we didn't want to. This is what we had been waiting for!

The daunting approach to Guildford Cathedral! The beer tents outside the front of Guildford Cathedral. Outside the west front of Guildford Cathedral before the draw.

Our excitement levels were raised further by purchasing beer tokens, beer glasses and the programme before we entered the vast nave. Stands were being put up along the side aisles, including by The Ringing World as I grabbed a quick chat with editor Will Bosworth and Maypole Bells, which were being enjoyed by many young and not so young. With still an hour until the draw, I got Ruthie a cuppa, had a chat with local ringer - and one of around a hundred volunteers stewarding, serving and guiding attendees - Anthea Edwards who I used to ring with in Birmingham and we waited with our fellow Ipswich ringers for the rest of our team and to collectively settle the nerves.

Cotton.Other familiar faces began entering the bright interior, such as John Loveless who learnt to ring at Bures and wrote George Pipe's biography, his wife Linda Garton and Anthony Cotton from Derbyshire who I rung with much over the years and three years ago conducted a peal of Cotton Delight Major at Cotton! Still, it seemed relatively quiet for an event that often attracts around a thousand ringers and friends. Until I stepped outside to get to the facilities...

There, on the huge area in front of the west end of the Cathedral, hundreds of ringers were already gathered from around the country. Indeed the world, as after being given words of encouragement from Birmingham ringer and Past Master of the College Youths Steph Warboys, the first people I got chatting to were Paul de Kok and his daughter Thirza from the Netherlands, fellow Rambling Ringers and who are now well known for being the driving force behind the eight and now also ten in Dordrecht. There was a glint in Paul's eye when Nigel Gale and myself suggested he now needed a twelve so we could hold this competition on the continent!

Me looking looking decidedly uncomfortable in my team polo shirt. Inside the Cathedral after the draw.

Before we could get too carried away with that notion though, it was time for everyone to go into the church for the draw and so with a hug from Molly Waterson who was ringing with Bristol but who learnt in our neck of the woods with her brother Ben and mother Gill, and a high five from Cecilia Pipe, we took our seats for what was arguably the most nerve-wracking moment of the day. With ten teams at half an hour each to get through, our worry was being drawn last and having to wait until 4pm to ring and 4.30pm to relax and get properly stuck into the beer. You can understand the spontaneous outburst of joy when we were drawn third! Pretty much the perfect position, allowing us time to have a settling pint ahead of ringing, but also to enjoy the majority of the day afterwards.

From there, the conductors - Colin Salter in our case - were briefed, the official team photo was taken in one of the chapels and then an unofficial one with our supporters, by which point the favourites Birmingham were practicing. A notable phenomenon at these occasions are the crowds that gather to listen to the Brummies, something I was always glad I couldn't see when I used to ring for them! As such, the south side of the Cathedral beneath the tower was busy as they rang.

The running order on the screen whilst the conductors are given instructions. Waiting upstairs before ringing. In the ringing chamber beforehand. The Maypole Bells.

We had a chance to chat with David Pipe and his son Henry (who now towers above his father!), listen to my former fellow bandmates, finish our beer and take a strategic - ahem - break, before we needed to make the long walk to the base of the tower and then what seemed an even longer walk up the tower, where we had to wait in a corridor somewhere up above the roof space of this massive building whilst the Cumberlands rang. Once they were finished, we made our way into the vast ringing chamber, congratulated them as they wished us luck, waited for 12.30pm to come at this strictly timed contest, rang the touch of Stedman Cinques in its entirety, uttered words of encouragement to each other, just about got the signal that we were starting in about a minute before we had to be in changes and then got underway, before we welcomed the next team Oxford in, wishing them luck whilst they congratulated us and I spoke football with their conductor Robin Hall, and then descended the stairs much more quickly than we ascended them, a metaphorical weight lifted from our shoulders.

Crowds outside Guildford Cathedral as the Contest continues. Crowds outside Guildford Cathedral as the Contest continues. Crowds outside Guildford Cathedral as the Contest continues.

At the bottom, some of us paused to watch Colin and his mother and Guild Ringing Master Katharine being interviewed on Matthew Tosh's live broadcast, but once that was done, we were unleashed on the beer tent and BBQ! To and from getting our drinks we were stopped by many people, all of whom seemed to concur with the impression that we got inside, that we started confidently and then slowed and fell away a bit, but was overall a very decent piece of ringing we could be very pleased with.

The Ipswich band and supporters.
The Ipswich band and supporters
© 2022 Julian Colman

Bar my wife and I going back down the hill to check into the Holiday Inn, we then spent the rest of the day enjoying the superb ales of TEA and Surrey Nirvana from the nearby Hogs Back Brewery and catching up with so many people, from the Hills Christine, Peter and Rosemary, David Mattingley, Edd Colliss, Hannah Taylor, one-time Rambling Ringers Terry Astill, Matthew Dawson and Phil Ramsbotton (whose brother John rings within our borders) and current fellow Rambler Stuart Hutchieson, as well as former Suffolk ringers George Salter and Alex Tatlow, amongst others. It was truly marvelous to see so many, shame as it was that there were so many others that we didn't get the opportunity to catch up with.

My previous placing on the 'Ringers in Finals' leaderboard by percentage of wins. Awaiting the results Michael Wilby lifts the Taylor Trophy. My new placing on the 'Ringers in Finals' leaderboard by percentage of wins.

Eventually, over five hours and several pints since we had finished ringing, word got round that the judges Julia Cater, Tom Hinks and (would you believe it, another Rambling Ringer) Alex Riley were ready to impart their comments and results. Hundreds poured in and waited in anticipation and then the moment came. We came last, but not very last and we had produced a good piece of ringing, and there were encouraging cheers and applause for us as our name was read out. The only surprise was that they concluded that our ringing started in an unsettled fashioned and got better, contrary to the general view of those of us who rang and those listening outside. It highlighted an issue that many picked up that what ringers inside the ringing chamber could hear was different to what was heard outside and also to that which was on the live feed the judges were listening to. Nobody suggested that it affected the results in anyway, but there was some surprise that the ASCY - that myself and others thought from the churchyard might be in with a chance of winning - came joint sixth. That surprise merely added to the tension, especially as some had commented that Birmingham had rung as well as they thought they would. Who would win? In the end, it came down to the SRCYs and the Brummies. Young Mr Riley dragged the suspense out with a knowing grin and a chuckle from his fellow judges, before he announced that Team B had come second. Birmingham had won for an astonishing twenty-fifth time, the crowd erupted in a roar (although admittedly not as much as that which greeted the unexpected victory of Exeter three years ago!) and Michael Wilby lifted the Taylor Trophy triumphantly on behalf of his band before imparting how good it was that we were all back. Rarely a truer word spoken. Very well done especially to former Exning learner Jimmy Yeoman on winning it in his first competition and climbing to near the top of the list of ringers who have won the greatest percentage of finals they've rung in, a list that I have now plummeted down! He certainly seemed more relieved when I spoke to him afterwards than when I spoke with him beforehand!

Back outside, the bar remained open for a short while, but along with Claire & Ian Culham, Julian Colman and David Potts, we returned to the Holiday Inn to freshen up and then take an Uber into the town centre itself where most of our band and supporters club enjoyed a meal at an Italian restaurant called Olivo and then returned to base to grab a drink in the hotel bar before it closed.

It was a very pleasant way to end a wonderful day. One of the biggest signs of what we were up against was the history of the other teams over the last ten contests, a list that we were absent from having not entered since 2007. Only half our band had rung in a Final before, but now join a group that still only numbers a few hundred, even after this, its forty-sixth year. Yet we only finished 10% behind the previous winners Exeter today and earnt a lot of compliments, although "We're happy just to be here" became a catchphrase that epitomised the well-meaning conversations many of us had with others! We were grateful for the support from Suffolk both in person and via messages (including from the vicar the Reverend Tom Mumford) and even though I hated that they were polo shirts and I had to get mine off at the earliest opportunity, the striking blue team shirts made us stand out and looked very smart. Well done to all the team, but particularly Amanda Richomd and especially David Potts on making it all actually happen.

Meanwhile, the Guildford ringers and their volunteers are to be congratulated on hosting so brilliantly, with great beer, lovely food and helpful staff. For all that the big ringing circle and bouncing sound inside the tower caused issues, their hosting was absolutely faultless.

An unfortunate clash between the Centenary Guild Dinner and the 2023 eliminators means that there is uncertainty about whether we can practically enter next time round, which is a pity as we'd love to do both and this competition has represented Suffolk ringing so magnificently this year with The Norman Tower's entry and super hosting of one of the eliminators in March as well. Hopefully something can be arranged, as we would dearly love to go to the Dinner (especially as a Past Ringing Master), but we would also dearly love to build on on entry this year with one next year. When who knows how many twelves there might be?

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Friday 24th June 2022

The 25th of this month has been as anticipated in this household in a way only typically reserved for the 25th December. Today therefore was National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final Eve.

Mercifully there was no last minute present wrapping, nor has there been a bell shaped chocolate from a calendar every day this month, but there was that same slightly nagging anxiety that anything going wrong at this point would almost certainly spell the end of all our exciting plans for the next couple of days.

Well, so far so good. Most of the Ipswich band are now in Guildford ahead of tomorrow's planned competition, the team's WhatsApp chat alive with pictures and tales of early drinks, but also warnings about turning up hungover in the morning! We weren't amongst them, with two nights of child-sitting a big, unfair ask, especially after asking a lot of our usual child-sitters in recent months. However, we did end up going to bed where and when we had intended, with everyone including our children, mother-in-law Kate who very kindly agreed to look after them this weekend and our fellow bandmates seemingly all in good health.

It was at Mrs Eagle's that we were spending the night, the plan being that we set off for Surrey early in the morning to give us plenty of time to ensure making it to the Cathedral when the draw is due to happen, but without waking the boys to drop them off and/or disturbing Ruthie's Mum too early. Unusually for a Friday evening therefore, it was sober and early, although we did enjoy a takeaway pizza.

The day was generally similar in many ways to 24th December, with a half-day at work as I took the afternoon off to prepare for the 25th and a sense of just getting through it unscathed, although I did take the opportunity to read the new edition of The Ringing World which arrived with us today and features Don Price's obituary by Mike Sage (as already featured on this website) and a report on the back page by Alan Winter about last week's Ridgman Trophy at King's Lynn, complete with photo of the band.

Euston. Elveden. Horringer. Tostock.
Euston, Elveden, Horringer & Tostock

Unlike most Christmas Eves though, it involved no ringing for us, but there was plenty going on elsewhere in Suffolk on a busy day in the exercise on the county's bells. That included a couple of peals for the Peterborough Diocesan Guild of a 5040 of Surprise Minor at Euston and a 5024 of Unthank Surprise Major in the detached tower at Elveden that nonetheless involved resident SGR members, but also a 5072 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major in the Guild's name at Horringer and a quarter-peal of Marple Delight Minor at Tostock, which was a first in the method for conductor Stephen Dawson. Well done Stephen!

And Happy National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final Eve everyone!

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Thursday 23rd June 2022

I got ambitious on my eBells this evening, with Wheatley on Ringing Room. Too ambitious at first. For I thought I'd give Bristol Surprise Major a shot. Initially I thought I'd try 7-8, thinking how nicely course bells fit in together in Bristol. On towerbells when I'm just ringing one bell to this, I can usually keep track of my course bells relatively easily, even more so than in something like Cambridge for example. Ringing two bells in this oft-perceived complex method is not as easy, as I discovered. Even without the iffy internet connection, I think it was always going to be a step too far at these still early, tentative steps of mine into handbell ringing, so I decided to take a step back and try it on 1-2, with the result being I got through a course! It was far from pretty and I dare say it might even have been set up on towerbells at a practice night, but I couldn't imagine getting through a course of Bristol Surprise Major a few weeks ago, let alone a year ago!

It all came at the end of quite an active evening for a Thursday, as we went round mother-in-law Kate's to celebrate the tenth birthday of our niece Katelynn with a table sized feast and a 'Sorting Hat' cake (Harry Potter fans will know what I'm referring to!), before Ruthie had to get off to choir practice and I got the boys to bed ahead of my solo handbell practicing.

Meanwhile, the local organisers shared a photo through their Facebook and Instagram page of just some of the hundred helpers that are due to be on duty at Guildford Cathedral on Saturday, which I hope further encourages people to come along, especially with lots planned to be on show such as ART, The Ringing World and Maypole Bells amongst much else. And a suggestion also to bring cash (we must be almost the only section of society that still uses it!) for the bar and food, as although there will be card machines, there are only planned to be two of them on the day.

Wickham Skeith. Elveden. Buxhall. Pakenham.
Wickham Skeith, Elveden, Buxhall & Pakenham

Closer to home, an email via the Guild (if you don't get emails through the Guild and would like to, then please contact Webmaster Chris Garner) from the North-West District Secretary David Everett about their events lined up for the coming months. The District Outing has been postponed until October, which has led to a rejigging of their calendar. The plan is now for them to go Wickham Skeith in July, Elveden in September, Buxhall in November for their ADM and Pakenham in December, all on the second Saturday of each month. Hopefully they will be well supported by their members in particular, but also others from beyond the District, as this wonderful art of ours allows that.

Our wonderful art also allows ringers like me to occupy myself on my own at home whilst my children are in bed, with ambitious things like Bristol Surprise Major.

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Wednesday 22nd June 2022

Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - - 136670 Southwold.Typically a sign that the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final is not far away is when Matthew Tosh releases the trailer for the day-long broadcast that he usually leads and presents and indeed three days before we are due to be at Guildford Cathedral for the biggest ringing competition in the world, this year's was released via the contest's social media channels, complete with a clip that sounds like Simon Rudd bringing in cake! Kudos to anyone who sits and watches every second of the broadcast, but I have often had it running when unable to get to the event, the sound of magnificent ringing and the voices of friends and familiar characters floating throughout the house as I have gone about my business, attempting to feel like I am at an occasion that I have always enjoyed immensely when there. Normally it takes the format of opening at 10.45am - as it plans to this Saturday - in readiness for the 11am draw and then broadcasts the test pieces live and fills the time in between with interviews with participants, judges, hosts and other attendees, as well as running interesting reports on things going on behind the scenes and often from the previous night as ringers gather ahead of the big day itself. It then climaxes with the results, which at the last Final held in 2019 in Exeter produced the most joyous scenes when it was announced that the home team had won, 7hr 53min 50sec into the broadcast. I hope many of you can be there, but if you can't, I would strongly encourage you to take this in as much as you're able, although please do also support the North-East District Ringing Meeting at Southwold from 2.30pm onwards, if you can. All being well, the broadcast should be found on the contest's YouTube channel on Saturday.

Pettistree.Normal life has to be negotiated safely up until then first though, and these days on Wednesdays that means football training for Alfie which combined with Ruthie's work means neither of us can make the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree currently, although they again seemed to manage that without us this evening! One of us is usually able to go to the session that follows though and this week that was my wife who went with her mother Kate and topped her efforts with a drink in The Greyhound next door.

Debenham.Meanwhile, it is worth taking note of the return of Veterans' Afternoon at Debenham, lined up for Wednesday 13th July. This is a wonderful celebration of the ringers whose metaphorical shoulders we stand on and who have helped build the art that so many of us enjoy. Non-veterans are also welcome to help and having been before, I can vouch for what a lovely way it is to spend a summer's afternoon. As far as I know though, there is no live broadcast of it.

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Tuesday 21st June 2022


Framlingham. The Norman Tower.Ringing seemed to be following the Suffolk Day celebrations on the county's BBC radio station around today, but not quite making it onto the airwaves. Mark Murphy - on the last week of doing the breakfast show before he is due to move to weekends - was outside Framlingham Castle up until 10am, presumably just before the first ever peal of Suffolk Day Delight Major was rung on the 16cwt eight at St Michael's a few yards down the road, as sadly I didn't hear anything as listened whilst I worked. Later, just after his wife Lesley Dolphin had finished her afternoon show from the Cathedral at Bury St Edmunds, a quarter-peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major was rung at The Norman Tower.

However, one-time ringer Lesley did give an account of her learning to ring, as well as mentioning the Guild's victory in The Ridgman Trophy at King's Lynn and along with the Cathedral's PR Officer Sarah Friswell gave the exercise a plug about 3hr 47min into the programme, mentioning both the ringing that was to come and that at Fram earlier in the day.

Ufford.There was other ringing for the occasion though, as I conducted a 1260 of Doubles on the front six at Ufford this evening after popping to Woodbridge Library with the boys and before mother-in-law Kate returned to ours for a cup of tea and with tales of her recent trip to Austria. Additionally, a quarter was rung at Pakefield in the NDA for the First Light Festival at Lowestoft on the longest day of the year, with a band featuring resident Guild members.

Meanwhile, hopefully people are noting that a memorial service for Don Price is planned for 11am on Friday 8th July at Reydon. If there is anyone who isn't online that you feel would like to know this then please do let them know.

Once my ringing and our hosting was ended, I completed my evening with reading and viewing that had a strong theme of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final running through it.

CCCBR President Simon Linford's latest blog includes some very important subjects, such as crowdfunding for the Mobile Belfry project and issues surrounding safeguarding, but finishes by stating his intention to present at Guildford Cathedral on Saturday for an event that he has already said is the highlight of his ringing year.

There is more reading on the occasion on The Association of English Cathedrals website, that mentions Ipswich and further underlines the stage that we are due to be on this weekend and we were further reminded of that by again comedian Marcus Brigstocke's superb documentary Trophy People that focused on the efforts of the Birmingham and College Youths in the 2006 Final at Worcester Cathedral.

Hopefully this year's Final will be as much a celebration for ringing as today has been for ringing.

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Monday 20th June 2022

I have to admit to nerves setting in. Not for the ringing on Saturday, although if and when we get there, experience tells me that there will be some healthy metaphorical butterflies in the tummy. Rather, as we head into the week building up to the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final that we are due to be participating in (I might have mentioned it), the nerves are mainly for everything to go right in the coming days. God willing no illness or injuries as we had to compete with in the lead-up to the eliminator and no transport issues, especially as the train strikes leaves everyone with fewer options, although the Facebook pages of both the Competition generally and the event in Guildford specifically have announced additional parking for the extra cars now expected.

Beer and chocolates at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening.From a ringing perspective, there is no point being nervous at the moment. Quite apart from the fact that one has to remember it is still fun, we can't practically prepare anymore for the ringing until we get into the actual (vast) ringing chamber at the Cathedral, all being well sometime between 11.30am and 4.30pm (we hope closer to the former than the latter!). As expected, there wasn't another opportunity to practice the touch tonight at St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice, with a handful of the band not there and a late start to allow for a fundraising concert in the church to finish meaning we had less time, although touchingly we had been left with beer and chocolates as a sign of their gratitude and also to wish us luck for the weekend.

St Lawrence.There was still a lot crammed into our willingly disrupted evening though. The learners were given their usual focus on tied bells at St Lawrence instead and once the ringing at St Mary-le-Tower got underway, we managed to get Superlative Surprise Major, Grandsire Caters, Stedman Caters, Cambridge Surprise Royal, Grandsire Cinques and lots of rounds on ten and twelve for George, Anna and Jacob, the latter pair showing true dedication by coming straight from their train (they are likely to be a rare sight this week) to the session, complete with camping gear on their backs!

Earlier in the day, a 5040 of Plain Bob Major was rung in hand at Moats Tye, already the ninth on handbells for the Guild this year, before we've even got halfway through it. According to Pealbase, the most peals rung on handbells for the SGR is seventeen in 1948. By my maths we are on course to beat that this year and set a record, so there's a challenge to our talented handbell ringers!

Perhaps a deserved drink was had by the band afterwards, but I actually passed on one after my ringing tonight, conscious that after a bit more than usual over the weekend to celebrate striking competition victories and Father's Day, I perhaps ought to give my liver a chance to recover ahead of potentially even more drinking this weekend. Hopefully that's one less thing to worry about before Saturday.

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Sunday 19th June 2022

St Mary-le-Tower. Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - - 136670 That was it then. Our last planned practice of the test piece of Stedman Cinques we are due to ring at Guildford Cathedral on Saturday, with the band (bar one on this occasion) that is planning on ringing it for Ipswich on the 30cwt twelve in Surrey, was held this afternoon at St Mary-le-Tower. Some of us may get the chance to ring it at the usual weekly practice lined up for tomorrow evening, but it certainly won't be the full complement of ringers with one or two away on top of those such as Ruthie who normally can't make Monday nights up 'The Tower', and the later start time might mean that depending on numbers there simply won't be time for it. Otherwise though, the next time that it is planned for us to ring this touch is at Guildford in our practice piece before then ringing it competitively.

Analysing results on Hawkear at St Mary-le-Tower. What a practice it was too! With Hawkear guiding our analysis of our efforts, we got two four-star performances from our five goes at it, a reassuring way to finish our preparations. We are under absolutely no illusions as to how we might get on next weekend. Apart from hoping for an earlier draw than in the eliminator (third or fourth out of the ten would be ideal!), our main ambition is to ring as well as possible. We may finish last, especially if the experienced finalists and hosts familiar with the bells and ringing chamber ring at their very best, but if we produce a good piece of ringing then we shall be chuffed. If we ring as well as we did today, we should be delighted!

It all had the feel of a dress rehearsal, with James Smith sporting his team shirt and some of us having had a drink beforehand. The pre-ringing drink sounds a bit of a joke, even something entirely undesirable ahead of something that requires concentration and accuracy, but actually many - myself included - feel it is an almost vital means of settling the nerves. We won't produce good ringing if we are a nervous wreck, although some nerves channeled effectively are not a bad thing.

Framlingham Castle, with the tower of St Michael's church poking over the top! Me with my Father's Day beer in The Castle Inn in Framlingham. Ruthie and I had our drink each at The Castle Inn at Framlingham ahead of travelling to the county town and after taking the boys to the famous castle in the pretty market town. Stunning views can be seen from the walk around the top of this ancient structure, including of the tower at St Michael's church next door that holds the 16cwt eight, but also of a tower on the horizon to the north, which we speculated might be that of Badingham, which is home to a 9cwt ground-floor five. Perhaps someone more local might be able to tell us if our speculation is correct or not?

Our touristy bit this afternoon was all part of a lovely Father's Day treat on a day that I was royally looked after with cups of tea, wonderful cards and an announcement from Joshua that I "didn't have to do anything today." It always makes me feel very grateful for the blessings I have.

Despite my youngest's instructions, I did do something though, even apart from our session at St Mary-le-Tower, as I rang at Woodbridge this morning, which on this occasion was not only for the important reason of ringing the congregation in for the service. For Ringing Master Bruce Wakefield had received a request from a lady called Maureen Goodman to ring the bells in memory of her mother Grace Sidey, who died aged 97 in February and learnt to ring at Rushmere St Andrew in her teens with her brothers Jim & John Jennings. One of her last wishes was that the bells of Woodbridge were rung in memory of her and I am delighted to report that all eight were ringing out for her this morning in the presence of Maureen and her husband Bernard, and I felt privileged to be a part of it. Hopefully she would've been pleased with it.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, there was more ringing, including at Blythburgh, where all bar conductor Philip Gorrod and Jonathan Iles were ringing their first quarter-peal of Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place Doubles in the 1260 on the ground-floor six that recently hosted the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions. Well done to all!

Hopefully it won't be the last time they ring it!

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Saturday 18th June 2022

St Margaret's Church - panoramio (1)
St Margaret's, King's Lynn

Like a football team in an FA Cup Final a week before they are due to play in a Champions League Final, it might have been easy for the five of us due to ring for the Ipswich band in next week's planned National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final at Guildford Cathedral and who were ringing in the Suffolk Guild team for The Ridgman Trophy today, to not apply quite the same focus to the ten-bell striking competition for East Anglia's ringing organisations as we usually do. And I have to admit that with the busy Sunday last weekend to fit in a quarter-peal and then unplanned practice for it before another practice for the twelve-bell, I wondered if we had taken on too much agreeing to this just seven days before we plan to be ringing in Surrey in the biggest striking competition in the world, especially when the boys have had to be pushed from one place to another whilst we went about it all.

As it happens though, I'm glad we did make the journey to King's Lynn today. Although the weather was pretty miserable (particularly compared to yesterday!), the boys still seemed to enjoy the opportunity of another vast space to run around in and a play corner to take advantage of and the bowls of chips each that they had in The Wenns whilst we had a post-ringing drink with our fellow bandmates, although I expect there were a million and one things they'd rather have been doing.

In the ringing chamber at King's Lynn before ringing in the Ridgman Trophy. In the ringing chamber at King's Lynn before ringing in the Ridgman Trophy. The boxes at King's Lynn.
The Minster ringing chamber

They behaved impeccably for Anne & Paul Bray who very kindly agreed to look after them whilst their parents again disappeared into a ringing chamber, this time for a touch of Erin Caters on the lovely ten at the Minster, even if the array of boxes for the tenors seemed a little OTT! Our practice beforehand was hardly inspiring, littered with mistakes, but with those eradicated for the test piece, we came away feeling fairly chuffed with what seemed like a decent bit of ringing.

The unique aspect to this competition is that the draw is done three weeks in advance. On the plus side that means that you can plan your day a bit more, for example meaning that we knew we had until until 12.45pm to get to the far north-west of Norfolk, which was welcome with young children and a two-hour journey (not helped this morning by the more rural route to avoid the closed A14!) to make and even allowed me the chance to read the bumper Platinum Jubilee edition of The Ringing World which got to ours today. It also means less hanging around for those who don't like hanging around at such events, but that lack of hanging around also means less casual mingling and catching up, as many participants come, ring and leave. Additionally, if you do just arrive in time for your ringing as we did, that you don't get a sense of what the other teams' ringing is like. We heard the Ely Diocesan Association as we got there, although not all of it and heard mere snippets from inside the pub of the Bedford Association and the Norwich Diocesan Association ringing and so we had no idea where our ringing fitted in with the general standard of the day.

Sally Brown, Lewis Benfield & Richard brown giving the results.
The Suffolk Guild band with the Ridgman Trophy. Front row r to l; Cathy Colman, Amanda Richmond, Colin Salter (C), Ruth Munnings & Katharine Salter. Back row l to r; Mark Ogden, Mike Cowling, Tom Scase, Richard Munnings & Julian Colman. (taken by Sally Brown) Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter receiving the Ridgman Trophy from judges Sally Brown & Lewis Benfield (taken by Mike Cowling)
Sally Brown, Lewis Benfield & Richard brown giving the results,

The Suffolk Guild band with the Ridgman Trophy. Front row r to l; Cathy Colman, Amanda Richmond, Colin Salter (C), Ruth Munnings & Katharine Salter. Back row l to r; Mark Ogden, Mike Cowling, Tom Scase, Richard Munnings & Julian Colman. (taken by Sally Brown)

Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter receiving the Ridgman Trophy from judges Sally Brown & Lewis Benfield (taken by Mike Cowling)

Therefore, we gathered in the church for the results from the Leicestershire trio of wife and husband Sally & Richard Brown and up and coming young ringer Lewis Benfield with no real idea of where we would finish. So when they announced that we were winners, we were genuinely surprised! To win it last year at Braintree after twenty-seven years was special, but to repeat the feat of the Guild from nearly three decades ago by defending it successfully is also very special. I guess the aim is now to win it three years in a row when the competition is due to go to the Peterborough Diocesan Guild - possibly at either Towcester or Higham Ferrers - in 2023 on Saturday 17th June.

Today's event was a great event. Superb hosting from the local ringers who supplied tea and cake and even offered to show us up to the bells, although time didn't allow us. Great also to catch up with various familiar faces from across the region, such as Linda Garton, John Loveless, Alban Forster, Richard Allton, Richard Carter, the Reverend Richard Turk and the usual banter with Dave Griffiths, amongst others. And well done to SGR Ringing Master Katharine Salter on continuing her 100% winning record in the competition in the role, her son Colin on calling it, Julian Colman for his much remarked upon tenor ringing and of course to all the band on ringing so well!

Aldeburgh.Meanwhile, back in the county we were representing, farewell to Aldeburgh ringer Sally Mason who is leaving for Bristol (where else would a Suffolk ringer be leaving for?) and whose departure was marked with a quarter-peal at her home tower yesterday.

Whilst she is departing Suffolk, we were returning for a couple of celebratory drinks at home and then watching a huge thunderstorm, which was a relaxing way to prepare for the Champions League Final National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final we hope to take part in next Saturday.

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Friday 17th June 2022

If all goes to plan, one week from now bellringers from around the country and even the world will be gathering in Guildford ahead of the long awaited return of arguably the biggest ringing event in the world, the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final. Not just participants, but supporters and those who simply want to be there, including many who will be aiming to avoid the rail strikes on the day itself. The Britannia will apparently have space set aside from 7.30pm, whilst from the same time until 9pm there is planned to be ringing at the nearby 21cwt ten of St Nicholas.

It is due to be but the start of a weekend that - if previous experience is anything to go by - may well end with hungover ringers boosting the numbers at various towers around the town and local area on Sunday morning and/or imparting tales of the previous day.

The competition itself could in theory have been one of the most unpredictable for years after two years of disruption to twelve-bell bands across the UK. However, Birmingham still remain the band to beat, having won three-quarters of the last twenty finals and the peals rung in the second city since ringing's return and the quality of their ringing that won our eliminator at The Norman Tower back in March suggesting they are still the overwhelming favourites. They also include former Exning learner Jimmy Yeoman in their band - it would be lovely to have another Suffolk ringer winning this competition.

Still, it is worth remembering that the holders of the Taylor Trophy (I imagine for longer than they expected when they received it for the first time on home turf three years ago) are currently Exeter and will of course be determined to hold on to it. Other former winners are present and one might expect to be ready to also to step up if the Brummies or the holders fall short. The Cumberlands haven't won it for a quarter of a century, but also rang extremely well in Bury St Edmunds and have an extremely strong band, whilst the College Youths will be confident having been the only other team to come out on top in recent years who have made it to the final this year. Additionally, Bristol (featuring former Suffolk ringer Molly Waterson) and Cambridge have both come close to winning in the last few years and can't be discounted. Perhaps the hosts will use the advantage of their bells and their unique setting to take an unlikely victory?

Meanwhile, Melbourne and Oxford are seasoned finalists (indeed Guildford and ourselves are the only teams in this final who weren't competing on the 72cwt twelve in Devon in 2019), but for whom victory would be a big surprise.

And as for us? Well, we're surprised to be there, but intend to put on our best possible show. If we finish tenth in doing so, it would be no disgrace and we will still be chuffed, but of course we are aiming to finish as high as possible, albeit fully aware we that we won't be troubling the leaders! That said, we thought the same before the eliminator, so...
Whatever the outcome, God willing it'll be a lovely occasion to make friends and catch up with long established ones and hear lots of fantastic twelve-bell ringing.

For today though, the focus was on a more immediate striking competition as we hope to defend the Ridgman Trophy in King's Lynn tomorrow. Our car was returned from its MOT with a relatively clean bill of health, with the only real issue the air conditioning on a day when temperatures soared towards the mid-thirties centigrade, temperatures that have seen the A14 closed at Haughley due to the road surface coming apart and could give us challenges in getting up to north-west Norfolk to compete.

Oulton. Somerleyton. Wissett.
Oulton, Somerleyton & Wissett

No actual ringing for us on this roasting Friday, but there were a couple of quarter-peals rung by the NDA at two of their towers in our county, Oulton and Somerleyton. Additionally there was also a 1260 of Plain Bob at Wissett which was a first of Minor inside for Erika Clarke - well done Erika!

Hopefully there will be lots of well dones in just over a week in Guildford too!

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Thursday 16th June 2022

St Mary-le-Tower. If you are planning on coming to St Mary-le-Tower practice on Monday, then please do note that it is due to start later than usual, at 8pm. This is due to an unfortunate administrative error which we have been apologised to for and assured won't happen again, but is actually for a very good cause as a concert is being held by youngsters to raise money for Ukraine. And we have been given dispensation to finish later.

For the second evening running though, I didn't do any ringing at all, as combining preparing for and then dropping the car off for its MOT with getting the boys to bed afterwards meant I ran out of time for my usual Thursday night eBell focus.

God willing I'll squeeze some ringing in on Monday night, even if I'll have to wait a little bit for it!

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Wednesday 15th June 2022

Football training, a bit of housekeeping with mother-in-law Kate's in her absence, consoling one of the boys when he discovered we'd be away for a birthday party he'd been invited to and then having tea all meant we ran out of time for either of us to help out at Pettistree practice this evening, but there was lots of ringing going on in Suffolk today as four quarter-peals were rung to help gather recordings as part of the centenary celebrations for the Guild due to take place next year.

Cretingham. Dennington. Earl Soham. Tannington. Pettistree.
Cretingham, Dennington, Earl Soham, Tannington & Pettistree

Two Surprise Minor methods were rung at Cretingham, four Doubles methods and Stedman at Dennington, Cambridge Surprise Minor at Earl Soham and three Minor methods at Tannington for what I imagine must have been a very pleasant meander through some of our beautiful countryside on another hot and sunny summer's day. The aforementioned session at Pettistree missed by us was also preceded by the 1280th QP on the bells since rededication in 1986, aptly by a 1280.

Despite our lack of actual ringing, I was pleased to receive my now usual email from College Youths Secretary Simon Meyer with a summary of last night's monthly meeting. It included obituaries for Don Price and further highlighted his achievements in and out of ringing, the minefield of information he imparted and respect he was held in, with words from Stephen Bedford and James Smith attached to the email, the latter of which reminded me of the peal some of us Suffolk ASCYs rang at St Lawrence Jewry in London in 2006 and particularly the history that Don was able to give of the streets we were walking along!

Meanwhile, more information for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest has appeared through the competition's websites and social media channels. The rail strikes look like they will still be going ahead unfortunately, a disappointing additional challenge to an event that Guildford's ringers have spent years putting together and which has already overcome the significant challenge of a pandemic. In order to work around that, there is now added, cheaper accommodation available at the University of Surrey adjacent to the Cathedral, hopefully making it easier for people to arrive on 24th and depart on the 26th, when there are no rail strikes planned.

There was also some good PR done by the locals on BBC Radio Surrey on Monday, when 3hr 40min 28sec into the afternoon show, the Cathedral's Head of Operations Matt O'Grady speaks with presenter Danny Pike about the contest.

God willing it'll be a very enjoyable day with us doing more ringing than we managed today!

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Tuesday 14th June 2022

Sproughton.There was a ringing link to Lesley Dolphin's 'sofa' guest (since the pandemic I think only one or two of the guests have actually sat on the sofa in the studio as Bruce Wakefield and myself did a few years ago) on her BBC Radio Suffolk show this afternoon, and not just through the fact that the presenter has been a big supporter of local ringing on the airwaves and even learnt to ring as part of a project back in 2009. She was interviewing Ben Woolf, who learnt to ring at Sproughton in my youth. Sadly ringing didn't get a mention, but that wasn't surprising as they reflected on Oak House Farm, which Ben and his wife Georgina took over running from his late father Stephen (and is a place I worked at one summer), as well as his main daytime job and interesting root to his current circumstances. He also hasn't rung for many years, although he rang a quarter-peal as recently at 2015 at his home tower and has rung three peals according to the excellent Pealbase, albeit all for the Warwick University Society back in 1996. His father also learnt to ring, as did his brother Joel, whose one and only peal I rang in at Sproughton in 1997.

Woodbridge. Great Bealings. Buxhall. Pakenham.
Woodbridge, Great Bealings, Buxhall & Pakenham

Although there was no mention of the exercise on the local airwaves, there was plenty to read about locally and with local connections. In the Inside Out magazine for St Mary-the-Virgin church in Woodbridge, where mention is made of the ringing on the 25cwt eight (and chiming of the 7cwt five of Great Bealings which is now linked to St Mary's) over the Platinum Jubilee weekend and there is a report of the band's recent 'Spring Ring', incidentally right above an advert for E.B.Button & Sons Ltd, Ruthie's family's business!
Meanwhile, the latest issue of The Ringing World features much on ringing from within our borders, with a report on Kevin Price's Annual Peal Tour to the area, the first quarter-peal on the augmented eight at Buxhall gets a mention in 'What's Hot on BellBoard' and there is a lovely obituary for Pakenham ringer Joan Tipple written by her son-in-law Steve Munford, complete with a quarter on the anti-clockwise six and a photo of the band who rang in the 1260 of Grandsire Doubles there for her eightieth birthday in 2016.

Offton. Ixworth. Framlingham.
Offton, Ixworth & Framlingham

There was actual ringing going on in the county too, with a pre-practice QP of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Offton and a 1320 of Norfolk Surprise Minor was rung at Ixworth for Claire Free's birthday, and we also heard the weekly session at Framlingham  whilst on a videocall with my wife's sister, who was in earshot of the 16cwt eight.

None for us though, as instead we watched football on the TV on a day when the men's footy team did rather worse than the men's cricket team. It was much more enjoyable listening to Lesley and Ben!

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Monday 13th June 2022

Southwold.Ringing and pubs go together like fish 'n' chips, with a drink after ringing being an important part of the social aspect of the exercise that encourages many ringers out to the ringing chambers of the county, especially in the cold winter months. Therefore, my attention was naturally drawn to an article I happened across on the East Anglian Daily Times website today, which listed the pub-to-population ratio of Suffolk's towns. Woodbridge comes out pretty well with a tavern for every 1031 residents, but Southwold is at the top of the list with an inn for every 122 people who live in the genteel community. Good news for the ringers of the 10cwt eight of St Edmund King and Martyr. Being essentially a huge housing estate mainly built in the last thirty years, Kesgrave sits at the bottom, both in terms of rings of bells hung for change-ringing, as well as pubs, with just one per nearly 9,500 locals.

Ipswich features nearer to that than Southwold, both geographically and in regards to this league table of hostelries, with one for every 3155 citizens, but there certainly weren't  as many at the Halberd Inn when I sat in the beer garden there this evening! There were a lot of ringers though, following on from a busy practice night at St Mary-le-Tower a few yards down the road, where at its peak twenty-five were present, made up of a range of abilities from extremely experienced on twelve to learners just starting out and one non-ringer offering support to her mother. As such the repertoire was necessarily but pleasingly varied, from rounds to the planned test piece of Stedman Cinques for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final and although Yorkshire Surprise Maximus didn't make the distance, it was well rung up until its collapse and good experience if we are to get more into Surprise Max once the need to focus so much on Stedman has passed!

There were also a number in the famous ringing chamber to practice the test piece of Erin Caters due to be rung at King's Lynn in The Ridgman Trophy on Saturday, meaning we had the pleasure of the visits of Mike Cowling, Mark Ogden and Tom Scase, as well as Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson. Great to see them all and to have a drink afterwards in one of the pubs of Ipswich we have to share with three thousand others!

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Sunday 12th June 2022

God willing Ruthie and I will be ringing in two of the biggest striking competitions around over the next couple of Saturdays and this afternoon was dedicated to preparing for them.

The Norman Tower & the Cathedral this afternoon.First up, The Ridgman Trophy is due to be held in six days time on the 28cwt ring at King's Lynn Minster in Norfolk, where we are lined up to ring for the Suffolk Guild as we attempt to defend the prize we won at Braintree in October. The test piece is penciled in as a touch of Erin Caters and so some of the band (as I discovered when I was SGR Ringing Master, it is almost impossible to get the entire band from around the county together at the same time) gathered at The Norman Tower for an quarter-peal attempt in the method.

That included my wife, but not me, as we were anxious about subjecting the boys to too much ringing and palming them off on others (although we had a very kind volunteer willing to look after them!), especially as that was the plan for later in the day and so the intention was that they would be spared that as I looked after them. However, having nipped off to deliver a birthday card to sister-in-law and fellow ringer Becky and returning to Bury St Edmunds with this fine ten ringing out in a very decent fashion across the historic town centre bathed in hot summer sunshine, those intentions fell apart as the QP did, just as I passed the ancient tower on the way to the Abbey Gardens with my expectant sons. A text message from Mrs Munnings shortly confirmed that they weren't going for it again and so we ended up in the ringing chamber anyway to that we could practice the planned competition piece a couple of times. It was lovely to finally ring with Ben Keating, whose astonishing drawings have quite right gained a huge following in the ringing community and beyond. If you haven't seen them, then take a look at his website.

St Mary-le-Tower. From there, we were back down the A14 to Ipswich where my mother Sally very generously looked after the brothers and fed them whilst her son and daughter-in-law went to St Mary-le-Tower for our latest practice for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final that Guildford Cathedral are gearing themselves up to host in just under a fortnight. That touch of Stedman Cinques was rung several times over the hour-and-a-half session and Hawkear studied after each go and it has to be said it went very well, especially given the humid conditions.

Aldeburgh. Meanwhile, the second Sunday peal at Aldeburgh was successfully rung to open the seventy-third Festival of the Music and Arts, as it has done so many times before, whilst earlier in the day my long suffering sons accompanied me to the aforementioned 35cwt twelve in the county town and then to Grundisburgh for service ringing, although that was either side of a treat for them at Costa Coffee. And we completed a busy morning by popping to Ufford to answer a request for the bells to be lowered, with Ringing Master Kate Eagle not around today to do it.

Two at a time, Ruthie and I rang them down striking them as well as we possibly could. You can tell we are in full striking competition mode!

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Saturday 11th June 2022

We are busy, busy bellringers at the moment. Ringing for the Platinum Jubilee, practices for striking competitions and the actual competitions have meant that the boys have been subjected to lots of ringing or handed over to others because of ringing and there is going to be lots of the same over the next couple of weekends.

Therefore, today was a definite non-ringing Saturday, with the day essentially handed over to what the brothers would like to do, within reason!

Ruthie & me with beer at the Rendlesham Show. Unfortunately an afternoon doing more crabbing with Ruthie's sister, other half and her girls was cancelled with one of the boys' cousins feeling poorly, but we still managed football training for Alfie and then later a visit to the Rendlesham Show for lots of bouncy castles, rides, candy floss and ice cream, although it also turned into a treat for my wife and me as we caught up with good friends Toby & Amy and their children and enjoyed a beer!

In between, there was time made for something less exciting, but still important, for all five of us I think, as we laid flowers at the grave of my Dad Alan in the the churchyard of All Saints in Sproughton, where he did so much ringing on the 8cwt gallery-ring six that my brother Chris and I learnt to ring on. Today would've been his seventy-seventh birthday and it offered an opportunity to spend some time thinking of him, nearly two years after he died.

Much like last year when we visited this spot, the boys took it as a chance to play, too young to fully appreciate such moments of reflection, but it was an uplifting counterweight to what could have been a very melancholy occasion. And it gave them a way to enjoy another aspect of this distinctly non-ringing day.

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Friday 10th June 2022


A quite unremarkable day from a ringing perspective countywide and personally, especially in comparison to a week ago. Even our usual weekly virtual drink with Simon Rudd didn't happen, with a lot of the usual crowd on their way to Lundy Island.

I imagine their days should be more remarkable from a ringing perspective over the coming weekend.

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Thursday 9th June 2022

With a determination that method ringing should not be the be all and end all of the exercise, CCCBR President Simon Linford's latest blog from earlier this week gives a focus on call changes and rounds, opening on the launch of ART's Learning the Ropes Advanced Call Change Scheme and his plans to go to his first call change competition in Devon this weekend, and - bar an anecdote about electric scooters - finishing with a story about a band of recruits ringing rounds on six together for the first time over the Platinum Jubilee weekend, an echo of the success at Bramford mentioned earlier in the week in this blog. Personally I hope that there is an ultimate ambition to take every learner as far as they possibly can, but of course the most immediate aim is to get them contributing to service ringing and that is typically at call change level. If that proves to be as far as they get or wish to get, that shouldn't be seen as a failure and then for them to be pushed to the fringes, only getting a proper go when numbers are low. Rather, we should be doing all we can that they get all the opportunities to ring call changes as well as possible - it is preferable to ring well struck call changes to some rough Bristol on a Sunday morning.

I am keen to improve my handbell ringing and hopefully I am a little bit better after my latest solo session on eBells with Wheatley on Ringing Room. Cambridge Surprise Major on 1-2 wasn't great, but unlike when I first started out, I was able to place myself in unsure moments without my brain exploding! And a course of Plain Bob Minor afterwards felt a whole lot easier and was rung a whole lot better.

Hopton.Elsewhere in Suffolk, I imagine the ringing was much more accomplished at Hopton today, with the 1280 of Superlative Surprise Major, whilst I expect there were also some very well struck call changes rung throughout the county.

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Wednesday 8th June 2022

Wilby.Whilst I noted the three thousandth peal of friend Andrew Mills who I have known for years from Rambling Ringers and will be familiar to many in Suffolk as a bellhanger for his work on projects such as Parham and his seven peals for the Guild, it was the forty-third peal of 2022 for the SGR that is most celebrated in this blog, as the 5184 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Wilby took us past the target needed for the end of July to keep us on course for 'Project 10,000'. Much has been made of the downturn in numbers of peals generally since the pandemic, but there have been more peals rung for the Guild this year then up to this point in 2019, the last comparable year.

Pettistree. There was a quarter-peal as well on the the county's bells today with the 1440 of six Surprise Minor methods spliced rung before the practice at Pettistree, a session that I joined after taking Alfie to football training, picking Ruthie up from work and grabbing some tea. Even though I was only there for a relatively short time, I was still able to call some Plain Bob Doubles for Daniel Atkinson to treble to and some Kent Treble Bob Minor and participated in Grandsire Doubles for Sam Shannon, Stedman Doubles and Norfolk Surprise Minor which was so well rung that Mike Cowling proclaimed it was good enough for a striking competition! I'm inclined to agree.

Framlingham.Afterwards some of us enjoyed a drink outside The Greyhound, whilst inside it was pleasingly crowded and included Wickham Market Ringing Master Ray Lewis who yesterday conducted a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Framlingham in celebration of the Platinum Jubilee. Congratulations to the band there and congratulations to Andrew 'Millsy' Mills on three thousand peals.

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Tuesday 7th June 2022

Since Don Price died last month, there have been many words and memories of him imparted by ringers in Suffolk and beyond, via footnotes, social media and indeed from me on this blog. He was a wonderful man to know and ring with. Today though, a more local, personal and in-depth tribute was provided by fellow Southwold ringer Mike Sage. They are lovely words and well worth taking the time to read.

Additionally, Mike mentions that Don's funeral will be a private one, but there is an intention to hold a memorial service at a date to be advised.

Funnily enough, one of the fond memories I have of Don is him turning up at the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final in 2003 at Surfleet in Lincolnshire, a place not blessed with strong public transport links, unlike Guildford, the planned venue for this year's event. However, a fly was thrown into the ointment in that regard today, as it was announced that 25th June is one of the days that the RMT Union has announced there will be a national strike by railway workers. Hopefully the fact that it is also Glastonbury that weekend means there might be more motivation to get things resolved, but even if it isn't, I hope that it doesn't put people off travelling down to the Cathedral for ringing's biggest striking competition.

More immediately though, the Guild's Facebook page announces that there will be no practice at The Norman Tower this Thursday, but also that practices at St Matthew's in Ipswich are due to recommence on the first Thursday of each month, on 7th July.

Offton.Meanwhile, ringing in within our borders for the Platinum Jubilee continued today, with a 1270 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung ahead of the weekly session at Offton, which was a first in the method for Mark Ingledew - well done Mark!

Ufford.And after Ruthie had taken the boys out to another birthday party at Play2Day, I was delighted to conduct a well-rung 1250 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Ufford, which was partly recorded - as were our tryout rounds beforehand from inside the ringing chamber - for some sort of 'soundscape' project, which I hope we will get to hear! Thank you to Grandad Ron for looking after the boys whilst my wife, her mother Kate and myself rang and then aptly left our donations in the box and cabinet constructed with such craftmanship by Don Price.

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Monday 6th June 2022

St Mary-le-Tower. It's not often one goes into a practice night wondering if the Prime Minister would still be in position when one leaves said practice, but that was the case this evening as I went to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly session, as down the A12 in London Boris Johnson was undergoing a vote of confidence in him from his MPs.

Bramford. As it happens, he survives to fight another day, announced pretty much exactly when we'd finished hanging the ropes up at the end of our ringing, but it provided a source of conversation in the Halberd Inn after our efforts, as did the flourishing band at Bramford which some of the SMLT ringers are helping Eric Falla and John Doy with and who were delighted with achieving their initial aim of ringing for the Platinum Jubilee. Now they need a new challenge!

Our own ringing was also progressing nicely this evening, albeit with lower numbers than usual with a handful of ringers not present, including our Ringing Master David Potts on this occasion. Jonathan Williamson did a superb job of running things, with a touch of Plain & Little Bob Caters spliced, Stedman Caters, Cambridge, Bristol and Yorkshire Surprise Royal and Grandsire Cinques all rung well on a good night's ringing, although it was briefly interrupted.

Most of us had passed someone sleeping in the corner at the bottom of the tower on our way in, choosing to let them be, albeit wondering what we would do when it came to locking up. That issue was sorted by a huge clatter and crash from downstairs partway through the Cambridge, leading us to immediately set the bells and myself, Jonathan and George - Lucy Williamson's boyfriend who is learning to ring and doing very well at it too - to descend the stairs to check if they were alright and if anything had been damaged. By the time we got down there, the person had disappeared, with the A-boards that are set up to welcome people into the church scattered on the floor in the corner they had been snoozing in and presumably the source of the noise, perhaps waking them when they fell over or knocked over as they woke. Whilst George picked them up and checked they were undamaged, Jonathan and I went out to the churchyard to see the person climbing over the fence and into the alleyway that goes around it, looking a bit disorientated and walking off into the distance, before we returned to the ringing chamber and started the Cambridge again.

Elsewhere though, after four days of so much ringing it was almost impossible to recount it all on here, there was nothing from within our borders on BellBoard on a quiet day for the county's ringers. I expect Boris Johnson was probably wishing it was a quiet day for him too.

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Sunday 5th June 2022

Inside St Mary-the-Virgin church in Woodbridge before ringing and the service. The final day of what may be the final royal jubilee weekend in this country for many decades and possibly even in the lifetime of most of us saw more celebrations in London and around the country, with a pageant on The Mall, some guy called Ed Sheeran serenading the crowds (and it transpired the 96-year-old Queen as she made a surprise appearance on the balcony after missing all the events from Friday onwards), street parties and Sunday services dedicated to Her Majesty, including one that we attended at Woodbridge that was notable to me for having my first communion wine for over two years and some nibbles and fizzy afterwards.

Checking Hawkear at The Norman Tower during the St Mary-le-Tower practice there. We also returned to ringing, but none of it was directly for the Platinum Jubilee. In between blowing up balloons for that service downstairs, the boys and I climbed the many stairs where the presence of Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth wasn't quite enough to ring the 25cwt eight in their entirety, but did allow us to ring some Plain Bob Doubles on the front six. And later we travelled to The Norman Tower for the latest practice for our planned entry into the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest due to be held at Guildford Cathedral in twenty days time, an important opportunity to ring on different bells. I suspect it is more to do with our conscientious practicing and growing confidence, but perhaps the brilliant session this afternoon (if not our best yet then certainly one of the best) was inspired by our presence at the venue where we unexpectedly but deservedly qualified seventy-one days ago. There was some truly superb Stedman Cinques floating out across the ancient streets of Bury St Edmunds' town centre from 2-3.30pm.

Whilst in the area, we decided to pop in and see my brother Chris and his wife Becky, the latter of whom was back from a day of ringing herself, having been to Pakenham, Great Barton and then ringing in a quarter-peal at Bardwell which was Claire Free's first of multiple methods. Well done Claire!

That 1270 of Grandsire & Plain Bob Doubles was one of a trio of QPs rung in Suffolk today, along with the same length at Rushmere St Andrew and a 1320 of Single Oxford Bob Minor at Rougham which was a first in the method for Mark Steggles, Neal Dodge, and Ben Keating - well done Mark, Neal & Ben!

Meanwhile, there was general ringing at Ashbocking, Barham, Barrow, Clopton, Debenham (who were also mentioned on our local BBC radio station this morning), Felixstowe, Haughley (as far as BellBoard records, our busiest tower of the weekend), Henley (well done to Miles Ellis on ringing his first rounds on eight), Horringer, Ixworth, Otley (well done to Jen Ellis on her first backstrokes on her own to call-changes), Tostock and in Ipswich at St Lawrence, St Margaret and St Matthew, whilst the unringable five at Hessett were chimed and 60 changes of Grandsire Doubles were rung on the musical clock at St Clement in the county town, all adding to the ringing from the previous days that have been added since I wrote my blog entries for those days. They can all be found on the Suffolk Guild event for the Platinum Jubilee on BellBoard - there is a lot I am happy to say! Well done to all concerned.

Of course, it is perfectly possible that in five years we shall be celebrating an even more impressive seventy-five years of Queen Elizabeth II's reign and maybe in a decade we'll be marking her Oak Jubilee, but there did seem to be a sense that this will be the last Royal event of this magnitude for a long, long time. If that is the case, I think ringing in Suffolk definitely made the most of this final big hurrah!

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Saturday 4th June 2022

Melton Fete. Melton Fete. Melton Fete.
Melton Fete

Day three of the Platinum Jubilee celebration weekend and although the Queen has been unable to join the celebrations, we joined them on her behalf at Melton Recreation Ground as we went along to the village fete, which formed a central part of the community's marking of this significant occasion. It was a lovely event featuring dog agility tests, belly dancers and face painting, as well as Pettistree ringers Pippa Moss and Mike Whitby and was neatly sandwiched in between a chilly football training session for Alfie this morning and a BBQ at the home of our friends Verity and Jade round the corner from ours this afternoon and evening.

Much like Thursday, it didn't involve any ringing, but also like Thursday and also Friday there was much going on elsewhere in Suffolk. Again there was a pleasing mix of general ringing, quarter-peals and peals. There was ringing across the county, at Campsea Ashe, Cowlinge, Haughley, Horham, Stradishall and a couple of entries at Redgrave, whilst quarter-peals were rung at Hitcham and Stradbroke, the latter of which saw Chrissie Pickup and Philip Gorrod ringing their one hundredth QP together. Congratulations Chrissie and Philip! And there was a peal at The Norman Tower of Elizabeth R Surprise Royal, a Yorkshire-above construction and generally themed on the familiar method, but still not entirely straightforward, so well done to all ringing in this 5070.

Church of St Mary Le Bow, 2001 Further afield, there were lots of peals from Exeter to Inveraray, Minimus to Maximus, but if you are on Facebook (and possibly even if you're not), you can view and listen to the band ringing the 5070 of Stedman Cinques at St Mary-le-Bow yesterday. An absolutely marvelous example of a band just getting on and ringing at the same pace as each other, rather than worrying about speed or how fast the bells 'should' be rung at.

It has thus far been a good weekend of ringing, whether it be day one, day two or day three, and we are still due to have day four to celebrate.

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Friday 3rd June 2022

When I awoke this morning to the news that a man had been stabbed in Ipswich town centre, my initial reaction was naturally of horror that such a thing had happened on the familiar streets of the town I grew up in, albeit that this was sadly not the first time an incident of this nature had happened in the county town. My next thought was of concern for the peal attempt I was in this morning at St Mary-le-Tower, alongside Tower Street which was one of two streets closed off for police investigations.. Immediately, the annoyance that we couldn't park in the Citizens Advice car park as it is a Friday was diminished, as that was well within the cordon and out of bounds anyway, although I had decided to travel in by train. However, one wondered whether if we could get to the church at all to ring, with memories of Southwark Cathedral being out of bounds for several days to churchgoers,  local ringers and bands booked in to practice for the approaching 2017 National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final after the dreadful London Bridge attacks already rekindled on the fifth anniversary of that particular tragedy today.

St Lawrence in Ipswich with the police presence in the background. The scene at St Mary-le-Tower this morning. The scene at St Mary-le-Tower this morning.
The scene outside St Lawrence and St Mary-le-Tower this morning

Our fears were allayed on arrival though, along with news that the poor man who was the victim of the attack wasn't facing anything life-threatening. There was still access to the church from the south and east gates of the churchyard and the police officers guarding the area had been consulted and had no objections to our plans to attempt a 5070 of Stedman Cinques. The vicar the Reverend Tom Mumford had very kindly come to meet us to say a prayer for our efforts, as well as let us into the toilet facilities, including going back to let one of the band out after Ian Culham and myself had innocently given Tom the all clear!

We hoped from there to give the police outside three-and-a-half hours of top class twelve bell ringing as a backdrop to their investigations and of course to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee, but unfortunately that wasn't to be. They got over an hour of almost spotless ringing and confident assured conducting from Colin Salter, before Stedman did what Stedman does. The briefest of hesitations on the front sowed seeds of doubt into the minds of those coming down to join them, myself included, and as so often in this principle it had collapsed within a few changes with bells swapped when we came out of the mess.

For a few minutes we licked our wounds and discussed our next move. I think most reading this know how much I dislike going for quarter-peals after a lost peal attempt. The main focus is lost, you just want a drink to drown your sorrows or get on with the rest of your day and there is an element of going through the motions to get something considerably less than you came for, even more so on hot days like today after a substantial amount of ringing. However, this is such a unique occasion that we really wanted the Civic Church of Ipswich to have something to have marked the event on its bells, the heaviest in Suffolk and so we went for and scored a very decent 1346 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus.

Still, we were disappointed not to have achieved our ultimate aim, not least for Tom, who is keen to have his name on a pealboard! Nonetheless, today marked real progress. All bar Simon Rudd are in the local band and I don't believe this is something we could've have contemplated two or three years ago, yet today we could've been one of just four peals of Stedman Cinques on a very busy day of ringing nationwide, with the others rung at no less than St Mary-le-Bow and St Paul's Cathedral in London and York Minster. With the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final due to take place at Guildford Cathedral later this month in mind, it was also a very useful experience. If we needed it, it reminded us that Stedman Cinques can go very badly wrong very quickly and so on the day we will need to concentrate fully for every blow, but it also reassures us that we only need to do that for less than fifteen minutes rather than over three-and-a-half hours! And ultimately we did drown our sorrows in cheerful fashion at the Halberd Inn, or rather in the beer garden.

Trying to retrieve the second rope at Woodbridge after it had slipped wheel at ringing for the Platinum Jubilee.Having come in on the train, I was then grateful to Ruthie and the boys for picking me up after they too had had a morning out that involved ringing, at Woodbridge where my wife helped man the eight either side of sorting out the rope on the second after it had slipped wheel, before they then enjoyed refreshment and cake in an apparently magnificently decorated church.

Our ringing was just the tip of the iceberg in regards to all that was happening on bells within our borders today though. A successful peal was rung at Bures, whilst QPs of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Earl Stonham, Plain Bob Triples at Halesworth, another of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree, Jubilee Delight Minor (the quarter) at Tostock and Doubles at Wickham Market were scored. Well done to Keith Dennis on ringing his first on eight inside in the success on the 18cwt ground-floor octave in the North-East District, to Andrea Alderton on ringing her first of Jubilee Delight Minor and to Jonathan Cottrell on ringing his first on the treble in the last of those quarters, which was also Richard Ellis' first in the medium completely. Many congratulations Richard! Additionally, there was also general ringing recorded on BellBoard at Beccles, Bramford, Brandeston, Buxhall, Dalham, Easton, Falkenham, Haughley (where there was also some ringing yesterday), Haverhill, Ingham and Kettleburgh, whilst Paul Stannard chimed the 14th century 2cwt bell at Denham near Bury St Edmunds. Brilliant work by all!

The rest of our day involved more chores though, most notably with Ruthie washing the car, but we did catch up with ringing friends, as we joined Simon - fresh back from Ipswich - for his weekly virtual pub this evening where much was imparted about what those 'present' are up to over this weekend.

It's just a pity that we couldn't join it all with a peal, especially after overcoming the challenges thrown our way on the streets of Ipswich.

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Thursday 2nd June 2022

A Platinum Jubilee. An unprecedented, historic celebration, the like of which we almost certainly won't see again in the lifetime of most of us and likely in anyone's lifetime. Four days have been set aside to mark it with church services, pageants and concerts. So how did we spend the first day of this momentous weekend? Well, cutting the grass and doing the garden of course.

The extra bank holiday and glorious hot weather did lend itself to such a job for us when Thursdays would usually be occupied with the school run, work and recovering from said tasks and weekends have been taken up by football and ringing in recent months. However, it was all done to the backdrop of the Jubilee celebrations, dipping in and out of the Trooping the Colour on the TV as we sought breaks, refreshment and shade and looking to the skies for the flypast of seventy aircraft flying over Suffolk on their way to Buckingham Palace, although in vain as they flew too low and too far east for us to see them beyond the buildings and trees surrounding us, even though we heard them minutes before they appeared over London in front of the watching world!

The lit beacon at Melton Park. And we did make one event as the boys and I wandered down to Melton Park for this evening's lighting of the village beacon, where we bumped into fellow Pettistree ringers Pippa Moss and Mike Whitby and the boys played football, which occupied them when the advertised lighting time of 9.15pm was put back to 9.45pm, although at least it allowed Ruthie to watch it lit with us after her choir practices.

In between it all, I made my first visit to Dad's sister Aunty Marian in her temporary abode of Bluebird Lodge in Ipswich, where the occasion merited party hats and ginger biscuits, but was also a depressing throwback as along with my mother Sally I donned a mask and disposable apron & gloves. Still, it was lovely to see her again and chat ringing with this former ringer.

Clare. Euston. Great Thurlow. Hawkedon. Lavenham. Little Thurlow. Poslingford. Stansfield. Woolverstone. Bardwell. Woolpit. Great Barton. The Norman Tower. Chediston. Whepstead. Great Finborough.

We did no ringing though, albeit we hope to be doing a fair bit in the coming days. Unsurprisingly though, there was lots of ringing going on, including here in the county. There was general ringing going on at Clare, Euston, Great Thurlow, Hawkedon, Lavenham, Little Thurlow, Poslingford, Stansfield and Woolverstone, a 672 of Cambridge Surprise Major was rung at Bardwell, 240 of Plain Bob Minor scored at Woolpit, an apt length of 1270 of Doubles was successful at Great Barton and further quarter-peals were notched of Grandsire Triples at The Norman Tower, PB Minor at Chediston and Doubles at Whepstead, whilst a 1320 and 264 of Jubilee Delight Minor were rung at Great Finborough and I am aware of an outing that took its participants from Leiston to Aldeburgh. Lots of superb band photos on BellBoard too!

And in the honours list announced today, it was great to a couple of ringers being recognised, with John Davidge of Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire awarded the BEM for services to ringing, whilst Geoff Pullin of Northamptonshire and a former President of the Peterborough Diocesan Guild was given the same honour for services to the community in Badby, where he regularly rings on the 14cwt six.

It was certainly a more memorable way for them to start the Platinum Jubilee weekend then ours!

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Wednesday 1st June 2022

There was a heartwarming peal rung for the Guild today. 1st June is the birthday Adrian 'Arnie' Knights, one of Suffolk's finest ringers, an event typically celebrated with a peal of Bristol Surprise Major to composition of an appropriate length composed by his good friend Brian Whiting. Arnie has usually rung in them in the past, but sadly ill-health has prevented him from participating for five years, when a 5070 was rung for his seventieth birthday, in what transpired to be the last of his 1055 peals altogether.

Felixstowe Peal Band.Wonderful not only then to see a 5075 at Felixstowe for his seventy-fifth birthday in the first of these rung for his birthday for three years (although a 1274 of two Major methods was rung on handbells last year and 73 changes of Plain Bob Minor was rung on Ringing Room in 2020), but that Adrian was able to join the band for a photo afterwards.

Horringer. It wasn't the only peal rung for his significant landmark, as former Suffolk ringers John Loveless and Simon Rudd rang in a 5152 of Cooktown Orchid Delight Major (a method devised by Ipswich ringer James Smith) at Llantilio Crossenny in Wales on the East meets West Peal Tour, before conductor Simon then impressively joined some of the Felixstowe peal band back within our borders for a quarter-peal of London Surprise Major at Horringer.

Pettistree. That wasn't the only QP in the county today, with a 1296 of Beverley Surprise Minor rung at Pettistree, prior to a practice that I briefly joined following more football training for Alfie, once I'd gone to the right place! Despite a number of regulars being missing from ringing, there was a pretty decent turnout and a still eclectic method repertoire from Plain Hunt on Five for new quarter-peal ringer Daniel Atkinson to Norwich Surprise Minor, before we retired to The Greyhound for a drink.

Happy Birthday Arnie!

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Tuesday 31st May 2022

Today was the first day of the 2022 Suffolk Show. We had considered going along, but it's proving to be an expensive year for one reason and another and with the weather forecast pretty uncertain, spending £60 to get in before we even spend anything on the stuff onsite seemed a bit much for something that we couldn't be sure the boys would enjoy. Still, every time the Show is on, I am reminded of the gloriously sunny day in 2011 as I helped man The Vestey Ring at Trinity Park. It was a hugely successful day topped by the first quarter-peal on the bells, but importantly which saw hundreds have a go and thousands see and hear us. Sadly, we haven't been back since. Eleven years ago we were a part of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich's tent, but I think the noise was a bit much for those volunteering for them and as I understand it, the cost of having a tent for ourselves is too prohibitive. Nonetheless, wouldn't it be wonderful to have a presence of some sort at the 2023 Show in the Guild's centenary year?

St Matthew. Sproughton.That would be great publicity, as is the video I saw today from the Churches Conservation Trust promoting ringing and ringing 'Taster Days' in conjunction with the CCCBR. It is a slick production featuring lots of enthusiastic youngsters and will hopefully catch the eye!
Meanwhile, Happy Silver Wedding Anniversary to Sproughton Ringing Master Ralph Earey and his wife and fellow ringer at All Saints, Tessa, which was celebrated with a quarter-peal at their home tower on this last day of May. Along with that of Jonathan & Sue Williamson, this is a marriage made in ringing and more specifically in the ringing chamber of St Matthew's in Ipswich where Tessa and Sue were among the large number of learners from the congregation there that Ralph and Jonathan taught. It is lovely also that both marriages have led to ringing children too, with Lucy Williamson a member of the the band due to ring in the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final at Guildford Cathedral for Ipswich with her father and Ellie Earey ringing in today's celebratory 1260 of Plain Bob Minor on the 8cwt gallery-ring six that I learnt to ring on, something that Ralph was a huge part of. Congratulations Ralph & Tess!

Blythburgh. Another significant life landmark was being celebrated with a QP as Erika Clarke rang the second at Blythburgh in a quarter of Plain Bob Doubles after her last day at work following retirement, which was Mike Bostock-Smith's first on a working bell. Well done Mike!

Even if there wasn't anything at the Suffolk Show, there was much to be celebrated in the art elsewhere in the county.

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Monday 30th May 2022

You can tell that it's half-term and that the Suffolk Show and a Jubilee are lined up as the weather has got chilly and wet, perhaps no more so than tonight as I travelled back from Ipswich in a torrential downpour, a difficult journey back then made even harder by having to zig zag around Woodbridge with the rest of the A12 traffic to get home with the town's bypass closed for roadworks.

The Platinum Jubilee is one of two big ringing occasions planned for June hugely anticipated by many, the other being the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final that the ringers of Guildford are readying themselves for on the 25th. On the former, much ringing is lined up at many towers, with the ambition in the South-East District being to get as many - if not all - towers ringing at some point over the celebrations for example. Understandably then, with more bells then ringers in the county, there are various calls going out for help, including on the Guild's Facebook page. If you do need assistance, please do use the network of members at the SGR's disposal and put something on the FB page and/or let Webmaster Chris Garner know so he can email the membership.

Out the front of Guildford Cathedral, where the beer tent is due to be for the Final. Meanwhile, the competition for the Taylor Trophy booked in for twenty-six days time is a huge event in its own right and depending on location and weather, hundreds and even a thousand or more can be in attendance from across the country and indeed the world. The Surrey town has certainly got the location, being easy to get to by public and private transport for a large proportion of the UK and the cathedral has the space both indoors and out in its vast grounds, especially outside the west end of the cathedral. Obviously none of us can do anything about the weather though! That it is the first Final for three years further adds to the anticipation and from a Suffolk and personal perspective, the fact that Ipswich is one of the ten teams due to take part takes the excitement levels up multiple notches and we're praying for a wonderful day showcasing national and Suffolk ringing and meeting friends and making new ones.

Southwold. Stoke by Clare.Of course it isn't the only ringing event penciled in for the forthcoming month or even on that day and whilst I encourage people to come down to Guildford to cheer us on and/or take in the atmosphere, if you can't then please do watch the live broadcast that Matthew Tosh and his team have so successfully done and plan to do again this year from the contest's YouTube channel, but take time out to support the North-East District Meeting at Southwold. Then once the broadcast has finished, you should have time to go to the South-West District on the 13cwt ground-floor six of Stoke by Clare from 7.30-9 on what one prays will be a lovely midsummer's evening.

A week before that there is even another striking competition in what is hoped to be a busy couple of weekends for some of us, as the Guild looks to defend The Ridgman Trophy it won at Braintree in October when a band plans to traverse its way to King's Lynn for this year's contest, which sees East Anglian ten-bell bands representing the territorial ringing organisations that border the Ely Diocesan Association. Again, please fell free to come along to take it all in, even if you're not ringing.

In between that and the following weekend, the 21st is marked - as it has been since 2017 - as Suffolk Day, a day that has traditionally offered much good PR for local ringing. It falls on a Tuesday this year which makes it trickier to get ringers together during the day due to work, but hopefully plenty of ringing will be happening, which I'm sure SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge would love to hear about.

Oakley. Helesworth. Rumburgh.
Oakley, Helesworth & Rumburgh

More ringing still is planned for earlier in the month too, with Saturday 11th earmarked for the North-West District Meeting at Oakley from 10am to noon, whilst my mother has booked ringing at Halesworth and Rumburgh either side of a pub meal for Midweek Ringing on Tuesday 14th and would be most grateful if you could let her know if you would like to join them for the meal as soon as possible. Last month's return of this fixture was apparently very successful and it is a lovely way to spend a weekday.

All that is the hoped for future though, but in the here and now, the reason for me travelling back from Ipswich in the rain was not surprisingly because I was coming back from the weekly practice at St Mary-le-Tower. Much like last week we were a little short on numbers, but we still rang Grandsire Cinques on twelve and on ten there was another impressive repertoire of Stedman Caters and Cambridge, Bristol & Lincolnshire Surprise Royal, whilst we also did some rounds on ten for learner Jacob, as we continue to try to incorporate ringers of all stages of the ringing ladder. We were also delighted to welcome in a young family who apparently regularly come to listen from downstairs, to watch us ring and also go upstairs to see the tenor turned over. It is a reminder that for all that ringing occasionally get complaints, for many the sound of bells is a joy and a reassurance.

Our efforts were topped off by a drink round the well at the Halberd Inn, before I made my way out into that rain. God willing the weather will improve in the coming days.

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Sunday 29th May 2022

This afternoon was the latest practice for the Ipswich band ahead of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final due to take place in twenty-seven days, as we returned to St Mary-le-Tower following our important visit to the planned competition venue of Guildford Cathedral last Sunday. For some reason - perhaps the grey, wet weather - everything felt a little flat though and it was generally considered not to be our finest practice, although that says a lot about how the competition has helped raise our standards as the session was actually a pretty decent one-and-a-half hour's ringing of the test piece of Stedman Cinques several times over, clearly getting better and better.

Besides, to an extent in the context of this, it isn't necessarily the main purpose of these practices, as much as of course we are aiming to ring as well as possible each time. It isn't on this set of familiar bells that we already typically ring very well that we will be competing, which is why the practice of a week ago was so vital. However, every opportunity to ring the competition touch is invaluable in order that on the day it is as familiar as possible, so that we can concentrate on the striking as much as we can, as well as help us get back right again quickly in case the worse case ringing scenario happens. To that end therefore, this was still extremely useful practice, listened to by former Tower ringer George Salter and his girlfriend Rachel outside in the churchyard.

An example of the rising standards here was the ringing this morning. There can't be too many places where for service ringing on the Sabbath morn the repertoire includes the Lincolnshire Surprise Royal I was given the tenor to as soon as I arrived (late of course!) and Stedman Cinques either side of the Little Bob Maximus that sounded very nice from the nearby toilets when one of the boys had a call of nature!

Clopton.Following post-ringing refreshment in Costa Coffee, the boys and I then made our way to Clopton where ringing for the Carlford Churches benefice was taking place on this fifth Sunday of the month. This remains one of my favourite rings of bells in the county and I think David Stanford has done a tremendous job teaching a band here and continues to do so, especially when one considers all that the last two years have thrown at them and other similar bands, with the walls adorned with ART certificates amongst the various peal boards. It is also a pretty unique ringing chamber, with no windows letting natural light in, but a grill in the middle of the floor that allows the ringers to see parishioners making their way into the church through this tower that doubles up as the porch (as the tower at Burgh yards down the B1079 does too) and therefore also the public to watch the ringing from below.

There was a large crowd there too and it was lovely to ring with Adrian Craddock for the first time for years as he did his first ringing for a while, and collectively it allowed us to ring call-changes and Plain Bob Doubles on this lovely 11cwt six.

Pettistree. Hollesley.Whilst we ended up shopping for shinpads for Alfie and dodging downpours on the way into the county town for the practice, others were ringing within our borders, with a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Pettistree and most notably a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Hollesley, which was Daniel Atkinson's first quarter-peal. Congratulations Daniel!

Here's hoping we're congratulating ourselves on a good effort in the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final too, and if so it will largely be because of all that practicing!

Saturday 28th May 2022

I am a ringing football fan.

Often the two weave in and out with each other, but today, unusually for Saturdays in recent weeks, this was a day where we did no ringing at all and did nothing vaguely ringing-related. It was very much a day themed on the latter and excitedly so this morning as completely unexpectedly, a new child appeared at Alfie's football training with an increasingly famous father. That father was none other than Kieran McKenna, who has made quite an impact since taking up his first managerial role in the game as manager at Ipswich Town in December. He is tipped to be a big name in the sport (with or without the Tractor Boys) and has learnt his trade coaching at Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United working directly with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and now he was watching a training session featuring Alfred whilst I chatted to the Northern Ireland man about footy, his family, my family, Woodbridge and their new home. AJM was absolutely made up and to be fair, so was I! Mr McKenna seemed very impressed with the set-up and sounds like he may well be present for future sessions too, so he might become a more familiar sight there, at least until his Saturdays start getting busy again as the 2022/23 season approaches.

Crabbing at a cloudy Bawdsey Quay. Our afternoon wasn't football related, but still didn't involve any ringing as we went crabbing at a cloudy Bawdsey Quay with Ruthie's sister Clare, her other half Chris and the boys' cousins, but elsewhere there was ringing in Suffolk as Bures ringer David Reeve was remembered with a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Triples on the 21cwt anticlockwise eight, with his daughter Claire fittingly ringing the treble.

Further afield, there was Suffolk representation in the headline performance of the world of ringing as one-time Exning learner Jimmy Yeoman rang in the 5019 of Stedman Cinques at Kidderminster in Worcestershire that very impressively was the first peal for the daughter of CCCBR President Simon Linford Charlie on her fifteenth birthday. Congratulations Charlie!

Meanwhile, every single Annual Report in the Guild's ninety-nine year history is now scanned and available to read on this website. It has been an extraordinary task undertaken by SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge and South-East District Chairman Mark Ogden and allows us to easily take in the snapshots of the organisation from 1923, the war years, the rebuilding of the membership numbers under George Pipe and Howard Egglestone in the 1960s and 1970s and more recently how its members got through the pandemic. Set aside some time though, because you'll likely get drawn into more than you intend to once you start looking through them!

There was no opportunity for us to indulge in such time-travelling though, as a busy day climaxed with more football, as we - including a very excited Alfie - watched on TV as the Champions League Final in Paris was played between Liverpool and the ultimate 1-0 winners Real Madrid, which prompted a joke from Norwich ringer Jon Spreadbury on Facebook. "How do we know Jurgen Klopp is a bellringer? Treble's going... Treble's gone."

Something only a ringing football fan is likely to get.

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Friday 27th May 2022

The Ringing World.This week's copy of The Ringing World is heavily themed on the forthcoming planned Platinum Jubilee, which is also the reason why it is a double issue, an unusual move outside of Christmas and New Year, but understandable with the reduced office time and likely delays on post due to the three-day working week we are due to have after this weekend.

However, there is also a three-page spread from the Guildford ringers on the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final that is due to take place at the Cathedral in less than a month's time. Much information imparted can be found on the event's website, but there is also some more in depth and interesting background to the venue and hosts. It also gives an indirect link to Suffolk's ringing in this bumper edition, although an account from Ipswich St Margaret Ringing Master John Girt of his ringing for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II gives a more direct connection with ringing in the county.

The whole edition is a good read, but we didn't do any ringing ourselves today, with the closest we got being Simon Rudd's weekly Friday night virtual pub where conversation veered from theatres to where one St Mary-le-Tower put their Fitbit to shapes made by GPS on runs and bike rides. Even ringing was mentioned, including the Essex Association 'First Pealer's Club', which also features in the latest issue of The RW and how many QPs we've rung. It appears from BellBoard that I have rung at least 404, although I'm pretty sure the first one in 1988 (two-and-a-half years before my actual first one) was probably my Grandad R J 'Jack' Munnings and not me!

Ashbocking. Horringer. Meanwhile, congratulations to South-East District Ringing Master Jenny Scase and her husband Robert on very nearly forty years of marriage, a landmark noted by the 1440 of Plain Bob Minor at Ashbocking, whilst a 1280 of Xian Surprise Major rung at Horringer yesterday was uploaded to the site this afternoon and adds to the North-West District Quarter-Peal Fortnight. Well done to all the band on ringing their first in this Yorkshire-above method, an achievement that all being well should appear in The Ringing World in the near future.

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Thursday 26th May 2022

Following my recounting of my eBell ringing on this blog, a couple of ringers have very kindly offered to subject themselves to a handbell quarter-peal attempt with me. It's hard to tell if I'm ready for such a step as I haven't done any touches of anything in hand, so trying Yorkshire or anything like that would be ambitious, but perhaps Plain Bob Minor might be realistic. Therefore this evening whilst Ruthie was choiring, my solo session on Ringing Room was focused on lots of PB6 on 1-2 and I have to admit to be being pleased with my efforts. Whether it is good enough for me to try for my first QP attempt on handbells may need to be tested out now.

It was the only ringing from within Suffolk that I can report upon on a day where the other main highlight (apart from time spent with family of course!) of the day was a lunch of pizza, pavlova and cheesecake in the office being held as a celebration for something work-related not interesting enough even to go into here.

That said, it set me up nicely for my Plain Bob Minor eBell focus this evening though!

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Wednesday 25th May 2022

With Alfie's football training again the focus of the first part of our Wednesday evening, it was a relatively brief stint for me at Pettistree practice in the second part of the evening once we'd also sorted baths and bed for the boys and tea for us.

Nonetheless, despite not arriving until after 8pm on this occasion, there was still time for me to catch Mike Whitby & Pippa Moss before they left assuring me it was nothing personal, call 120 of Plain Bob Doubles from the third, ring in Plain Hunt on five from the second whilst occasionally helping in guiding Hollesley learner Daniel on the treble, conducted a plain course of Carlisle Surprise Minor from the tenor and participated in some Stedman Doubles from the fifth with Mark Ogden putting the calls in, before ringing the fourth in the lowering of the bells at the end of the session.

It was all topped off with a roaring fire and a drink in The Greyhound, where the increasingly late sunset gave the timbered walls a pink hue as we made our way there across the churchyard, and conversation ranged from the architectural merits of the Cathedrals at Guildford and Liverpool and ringing at Pershore Abbey, where they appear to ring a lot for their fruit and veg!

Earlier a quarter-peal of Rossendale Surprise Minor was rung on the ground-floor six, whilst elsewhere in Suffolk but within the boundaries of the Norwich Diocesan Association at Lowestoft, the Guild was ringing a peal of six Surprise Major methods spliced.

With work and football training though, I can't imagine either of us will be joining in with quarter-peal or peal ringing on Wednesdays anytime soon.

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Tuesday 24th May 2022

CCCBR President Simon Linford's sixtieth blog entry is mainly focused on areas related to the health of the art future, present and past, looking forward to a potential recruitment campaign, to the now with an interview with a young New Zealand ringer and back at the interesting results of the 1988 Survey of Ringers. He also points out that a new Library Steward for the Central Council needs to be found, as does a home for the library, whilst explaining why hippos won't allow him to house it! As usual, well worth a read for entertainment and informative reasons.

Offton. Ixworth. We weren't doing any actual ringing ourselves today though, but elsewhere within our borders others were, with the pre-practice 1280 of Rutland & Superlative Surprise Major spliced at Offton remembering Don Price and 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Ixworth rung in memory of Brian Hale and also for the North-West District Quarter-Peal Fortnight. Well done to Mark Ingledew on ringing his first of Surprise Major spliced in the former and to Serena Steggles on ringing her first on eight in the latter.

Good to see the present in Suffolk looking healthy!

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Monday 23rd May 2022

Yesterday was a roasting hot late spring day, ideal for sitting outside Cathedrals, taking in views across Guildford and its surroundings and enjoying barbecues.

Today, it pretty much rained to varying degrees from getting up to ready the household for work and school to me returning from Ipswich in the dark at the end of the evening.

The only time the sun did break out was on my journey into the county town for the weekly St Mary-le-Tower Monday session and it has to be said that the feelgood mood from our practice in Surrey for the National Twelve-Bell Final carried over into tonight with a jovial but focused atmosphere.

We were missing a handful from Sunday's band in part due to the long day that it transpired to be, but with London ringer Janet Archibald visiting for a second week we still managed Grandsire Cinques and Little Bob Maximus on twelve, Stedman Caters, Cambridge Surprise and Lincolnshire Surprise Royal on ten and a touch of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods spliced on the front eight, as well as some rounds for learners Judy and Jacob, before we retired to the Halberd Inn for post-ringing refreshment.

Meanwhile, Don Price was again remembered with another handbell peal for the Guild, as a 5040 of Plain Bob Major was rung in Bury St Edmunds. Presumably it wasn't rung outside though!

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Sunday 22nd May 2022

The theme of today's blog is views from ringing chambers.

View from Woodbridge's ringing chamber.In my humble opinion, the finest view from a bell rope in Suffolk is off the tenor box at Woodbridge which watches the River Deben meander off towards Bawdsey, Felixstowe Ferry and the North Sea, but I don't get the chance very often to take it in as usually it is fairly impractical to get the 16cwt seventh and 25cwt eighth up in the limited time they have on a Sunday morning and so typically the front six are rung. When the rope slipped the wheel on the second during the first piece of ringing though, it seemed a shame to have to ring just five of the front six with seven ringers present and so Susanne Eddis and myself decided to get the back two up as quickly as possible and hence I got the opportunity to take in that magnificent view.

I did ring it down again afterwards before descending the many stairs to the service we were ringing for, where we stayed long enough for Ruthie to help her choral colleagues sing an anthem before we inconspicuously snuck out as we needed to get to our next spectacular view from a ringing chamber by 2pm. For this afternoon was the one and only practice that St Mary-le-Tower are allowed at Guildford Cathedral ahead of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final due to take place there on Saturday 25th June.

Much like local striking competitions such as yesterday's Guild Six-Bells, this should be a fun occasion, with the emphasis on socialising and gathering ringers together, but when one is travelling 130 miles to compete in a contest where the eyes and ears of a large proportion of the world of ringing will be watching and listening, and dedicating so much time to practicing as we are, then one has to take it slightly more seriously. Therefore, the opportunity to visit the competition venue is vitally important, especially when the bells are so unfamiliar, as this 30cwt twelve were to all bar Colin Salter who rang here regularly during his student days. Indeed, many had never rung here at all, including us and so this was our chance to experience these unfamiliar surroundings for the first time.

Out the front of Guildford Cathedral, where the beer tent is due to be for the Final. Guildford Cathedral West Front & SMLT Band. Guildford Cathedral East Front & SMLT Band.

We're glad we took that opportunity too. The Cathedral Church of the Holy Spirit is not a particularly pretty building by most cathedral standards, built as it was less than a century ago, but it is imposing in almost every sense. That includes the long driveway up the hill to it and the grounds out the front of the west end, where the beer tent, BBQ and children's play area are planned to be set up for 25/6 and where we met the rest of the Ipswich squad in roasting hot weather that we'll be delighted to have in thirty-four days time.

The Ringing Chamber.  View from my rope at Guildford Cathedral. View towards Guildford from the balcony on the east side of the tower at the Cathedral.

It also includes the ringing chamber, a large, daunting room and the main spot that we needed to experience now rather than on contest day. The danger with a setting like this is that you feel like you are ringing a much heavier ring, but in fact these are lighter than we are used to at St Mary-le-Tower. Additionally, with such a big space surrounded by brick and concrete, the acoustics are very different too, with a lot of sound bouncing around that you have to learn to cut out. Quite simply, it would all have been too much to take in and get used to in the fifteen minutes practice on the day.

Additionally though, the hour-and-a-half session we had, as well as the ten minutes beforehand as we caught our breath following the substantial climb, allowed us to explore the impressive views that can be had from the balconies that adorn each side of the ringing chamber, including the one I could see from my bell looking west. From the various vantage points, much could be seen from the Cathedral's position atop Stag Hill, from the town below and even the City of London in the very far distance. It is a breathtaking location.

According to the host's own website, we are the second team to travel down to practice, after Melbourne went there a fortnight ago, but the third team weren't far behind us as the favourites Birmingham were arriving as we were leaving, allowing us to do some more catching up with old friends like Fran Dodds, Mark Eccleston, Stef & John Warboys and Vicky & Michael Wilby.

We had time to get back to Suffolk for a BBQ at the abode of mother-in-law Kate, who had very kindly looked after the boys for the day, taking them to morning ringing at Pettistree and even Alfie to a birthday party, which was probably preferable to them being dragged all the way down to Surrey for another boring bellringing practice!

Meanwhile, there was more ringing going on in the county in our absence, with another QP for the North-West Quarter-Peal Fortnight and in memory of Don Price with the 1346 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus at The Norman Tower, as well as the last ringing on the 16cwt eight at St Gregory's in Sudbury prior to their rehanging, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Triples that was also dedicated to the hard work in leading the project of Pauline Brown, who fittingly was ringing the treble.

Also ringing was Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge who today shared a video of the 120 changes of Cambridge Surprise Minor that St Mary-le-Tower rang to win The Mitson Shield at Blythburgh yesterday. Where the views of the stunning surroundings are wonderful, even if not from the ground-floor ringing chamber.

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Saturday 21st May 2022

Blythburgh. I'll admit to feeling a little nervous ahead of today's Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions at Blythburgh. These weren't the nerves that are perfectly natural before ringing in such a contest and which I still have even after all the competitions I've competed in, from the four-bell to raise money for the Campsea Ashe project a few years ago to the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final. Rather, when Ringing Master Katharine Salter mentioned as recently as last Sunday that she had only had three entries, I was nervous that we would be greeted with a very sorry, sparse scene at this stunning location.

The draw for the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions at Blythburgh. The draw for the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions at Blythburgh. The draw for the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions at Blythburgh. Running order. The Ringing Chamber.
The Draw, The Running Order & The Ringing Chamber

As it happened though, having negotiated an A12 that is appalling north of Wickham Market, we made it to this beautiful village sadly cut in half by one of Suffolk's main trunk roads to find a sizeable crowd awaiting the draw for the running order in the church for eight teams representing three of the Guild's four Districts. Clearly not as many as the twelve who competed three years ago when we last met to compete for the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy in Polstead, the thirteen at Earl Stonham the year before, the fourteen at Ashbocking in 2014 and Thornham Magna in 2013 or fifteen at Nayland in 2011 (I'm sure there were seventeen one year in the more distant past too!), but still enough to make it worthwhile for Alan Winter from Cambridgeshire to travel to the far east of the county to judge.

Listening to the ringing at Blythburgh. Listening to the ringing at Blythburgh. Listening to the ringing at Blythburgh. Listening to the ringing at Blythburgh.
Listening to the Ringing

With Pettistree and St Mary-le-Tower - our regular towers who we both rang for on this occasion - drawn just a couple of places apart in the middle, there wasn't enough time to pop over the road to The White Hart to listen to the ringing with a pint either, but it was still lovely to take it all in from the churchyard chatting with lots of friends from talking history with John Taylor to catching up with Anita Rose to trying St Mary-le-Tower team shirts for Guildford for size, as the boys made the most of the space and warm weather to dash about and play hide and seek.

Alan Winter gives out the results. David Potts receives the Mitson Shield on behalf of St Mary-le-Tower from Alan Winter. (Katharine Salter)
Alan Winter giving out the results & David Potts receiving the Mitson Shield on behalf of St Mary-le-Tower from Alan Winter
Neal Dodge receives the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy on behalf of Thurston from Alan Winter. (Katharine Salter) The Thurston band with the Lester Brett Trophy. (Mike Whitby)
Neal Dodge receiving the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy on behalf of Thurston from Alan Winter & The Thurston band with the Trophy

The ringing itself was superb from all that I heard, both next to the church and as we wandered down to the village hall where we were met by refreshment and then a superb tea as we mingled further and took in the lovely views across the Blyth Estuary, before Alan - who is the successor to Ian Holland as organiser of The Ridgman Trophy - gave out the close results having imparted how impressed he was by the overall standard of ringing. My wife and I were chuffed to be part of the winning St Mary-le-Tower team and well done to Thurston on winning the call-change competition, completing an impressive day for the Munnings family as sister-in-law Becky was part of their victorious band in the latter. Both pieces of ringing were recorded by Mike Cowling and are on this website to listen to. (Results. Ed.)

Well done also to Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter on leading today's events, ensuring there was a judge and timekeepers for the practices and call-change teams.

If the pre-pandemic order of things picks up again, God willing we will be in the North-West District on Saturday 20th May 2023 for next year's competitions and I hope there will be even more teams and hopefully from the South-West District too, as we missed them this afternoon. Today was always going to be a tentative return. Some are still understandably anxious about being around crowds, whilst various bands have lost members since the 2019 competition for one reason or another and some are perhaps not back to full pelt after a difficult couple of winters where ringing has at best been sporadic. Hopefully in twelve months time things will have settled down. If circumstances allow, it'll be great to see teams like Clopton, Pakenham and Woolpit back who were entering before the lockdowns and going even further back, teams like Offton, Sproughton, Stowmarket and The Norman Tower. Holidays and family events prevented Hollesley and Falkenham & Felixstowe coming today to build on their successful showings in the South-East District Striking Competitions a fortnight ago, but all being well that won't be the case in twelve months. Maybe there will be some completely new names. Perhaps a year further into their learning, bands at places like Hitcham and Laxfield where new eights have been installed since the last competitions will be encouraged enough to join in next year. Please don't feel that because you have more than six bells (or even fewer!) that you are prohibited from entering - this is a fun competition for six-bell ringing, not just six-bell towers.

One of the reasons some give for not entering is that they don't have the time and of course ringing for weddings can make things logistically difficult, but of course this is not a serious contest. Organisers and other participants are usually happy for teams to have favourable draw time to work around other engagements. And we were able to comfortably fit it in even though it was sandwiched in between taking the boys to football training and my wife going out for breakfast to celebrate a work colleague's birthday this morning and us welcoming our friends Charlotte & Gregory to ours for a curry this evening.

Buxhall.Meanwhile, it seemed apt on the day that the trophy bearing his name was competed for that Hubert Mitson was remembered for the bequest he made that initiated the project to augment the six of Buxhall to an eight, as the first quarter-peal on the octave there was rung on what would've been his 102nd birthday.

That 1344 of Yorkshire Surprise Major also kick-starts the North-West District Quarter-Peal Fortnight, an event that will hopefully be nothing to get nervous about!

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Friday 20th May 2022

An email from the Woodbridge ringers today reminded me that a focus of ringing for the Platinum Jubilee weekend is for when the Service of Thanksgiving is being held at St Paul's Cathedral at 11.30am on the Friday. Woodbridge are planning on ringing, as I know that St Mary-le-Tower hope to be and whilst there aren't enough ringers to go around all the bells of Suffolk simultaneously, it would be great to get as many of the county's towers as possible ringing at this point.

Grundisburgh.There was ringing happening today, albeit for a very different reason as Don Price was remembered with a 5092 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at a tower he regularly travelled thirty miles to support and indeed was his leading peal tower by some distance with eighty-five, Grundisburgh. Meanwhile, congratulations to Brian Whiting who was ringing his two hundredth on the bells in the 2hrs 52mins of ringing.

Tostock.It wasn't the only ringing within our borders on this May Friday though, as a quarter-peal of Rossendale Surprise Minor was rung on the 5cwt gallery-ring six of Tostock, which was a first in the method for Maureen Gardiner and Neal Dodge. Well done Maureen and Neal!

No participation in the art for us though, with the closest we got being reading The Ringing World which arrived with us this morning and featured reports on the SGR Peal Week and David Salter Memorial Ringing Weekend, joining in with Simon Rudd and friends at his weekly virtual pub and watching Have I Got News For You which this week opened with a joke that suggested a bell ringer may have got on the wrong coach and ended up at what looks like a stag do in Ibiza!

Hopefully no ringers get on the wrong coach for ringing over the Platinum Jubilee weekend.

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Thursday 19th May 2022

Blythburgh. It is two days until the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions for the Mitson Shield and the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy are due to be held at Blythburgh, but today is actually exactly a decade since they were last held on the 10cwt six. My blog entry that day and a link to the SGR Facebook page exhibits a number of photos that captured a brilliant day that saw ringers listening to good ringing in a wonderful location from across the village, including outside The White Hart. Along with the fact that we had new winners of both contests in the shape of Pettistree and Otley, I hope it all inspires and encourages any potential late entries and if nothing else anyone who just fancies coming along and soaking up the atmosphere.

One of the winners that day was then Guild Chairman Philip Gorrod, who was part of the victorious North-East District team that won the Eight-Bell Striking Competition for the Rose Trophy at Leiston when that was held on the same day. Ten orbits of the sun on, congratulations are again due to the now Ringing Master of the NE District, this time for ringing his one hundredth quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor, which was rung on handbells in Beccles and appropriately in memory of fellow North-East District member Don Price.

My own handbell ringing is most probably nowhere near QP standard, but I continue to persevere, although I was less ambitious than usual this evening as I looked to do a bit of consolidation and having fought with internet lag and sensitive eBell on Ringing Room, I restricted my efforts to Little Bob Major on 5-6. I am pleased that my brain seems to cope more naturally with ringing two bells simultaneously, but I imagine I would still feel more in my comfort zone at Blythburgh on Saturday.

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Wednesday 18th May 2022

Football and ringing were vying for space in our household today.

God willing one day he'll feel ready to take up the latter too, but for now Alfie's great obsession is the former, especially playing it. It helps that he has an aptitude for it too and so he and some of his classmates who have been regulars at footy training on a Saturday morning found themselves training this evening with the aim of being ready for a team next season.

That this is planned to be a regular fixture over the coming weeks and months will make it even trickier for us to ring in the pre-practice quarter-peals at Pettistree, as it did on this occasion, but one of us can still make the session later in the evening, which tonight Ruthie did having got a lift with her mother Kate there and back following ringing and a drink in The Greyhound.

Pettistree. Hartest. Long Melford.
Pettistree, Hartest & Long Melford

That QP of Cambridge Surprise Minor beforehand was one of a trio of quarters rung in memory of Don Price, with the other two being a 1272 of Beverley & Surfleet Surprise Minor rung at Hartest and a 1260 of Grandsire Triples rung at Long Melford.

Meanwhile, regardless of additional football training, we still have the usual midweek evening logistics that mean that one of us has to stay at home to look after the children whilst the other is out ringing, but at least this time I was able to watch some football on the TV, which transpired to be the exciting Europa League Final that ended in penalties just as my wife returned on an evening where football and ringing mixed nicely for us.

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Tuesday 17th May 2022

Next year is the centenary of the Suffolk Guild of Ringers, as most of you will be aware. It is a once-in-a-lifetime event and a significant landmark that could put the Guild at the forefront of the attentions of ringers worldwide in 2023. Already the five-yearly Dinner is lined up for Saturday 25th March and the Central Council are planning on holding their AGM in Ipswich over the first weekend of September next year. Personally I am busy trying to line up a series of twelve-bell peals that I hope will present opportunities for various firsts, whilst readers of this blog will know how keen I am to see the Guild reach 10,000 peals before the end of its 100th year, with Friday's 5152 of Bristol Surprise Major at Kersey taking us to 9,894. However,  Rowan Wilson and her fellow officers are keen for as many ideas as possible to celebrate this special occasion and to that end there are now three documents on this website aimed at inspiring such ideas, not just for the celebrations, but also for fundraising and for where the organisation goes afterwards. Some are already being worked on, such as a 'takeover' of one of the editions of The Ringing World and collecting sound recordings of Guild towers, but there are also aspirations such as electing at least a hundred members and getting an attendance of a hundred or more at the Guild AGM at Beccles penciled in for Saturday 15th April. Do take the time to look at it all and please do let Rowan know of any ideas you get - she'll be delighted to hear from people!

Meanwhile, Don Price's death was announced to College Youths members with an email from Secretary Simon Meyer, as is usual with members who pass away and this revealed that he was the joint-third longest serving member of this aspirational society having been elected on 10th February 1945 along with John Mayne, who of course has his own Suffolk connections.

Otherwise today though, there was no actual ringing in the county to report on and nothing personally, as we sat back on our soft sofas and tried to think of more ideas to celebrate the Guild's centenary.

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Monday 16th May 2022

We like to do as much together as a family as possible, but of course evenings tend to see us necessarily disperse if either Ruthie or I want to go out, on school nights at least. In that context then, it was lovely as I departed for the weekly Monday night practice at St Mary-le-Tower, to leave with everyone in their happy place. Joshua was playing me off with a ukulele, Alfie was on his latest shift of watching back Saturday's Eurovision Song Contest on iPlayer and my wife was taking in an old episode of the Great British Bake Off featuring Sandi Toksvig, who we went to see perform recently.

St Mary-le-Tower. SMLT was a happy place to be too, with twenty-two present, including Janet from London and Peter Sanderson from York, a week after his wife Tina had visited us. There was even briefly a twenty-third as a beaming visitor stood in the open doorway behind the sixth ringer taking in some call-changes on twelve before leaving again, seemingly delighted by what she had witnessed.

Those call-changes were one of many pieces on twelve, with Cinques of the Grandsire & Stedman variety and Little Bob & Yorkshire Surprise Maximus also rung, in addition to the now usual Bristol Surprise Royal, amongst other things on a busy night of ringing. And the vast majority of it was well rung.

It was a good day generally for ringing in Suffolk, with a quarter-peal of Little Bob Royal rung on handbells in Moats Tye, in memory of Don Price.

After our ringing, the vast majority of that large crowd squeezed around the well inside the Halberd Inn and chatted ringing and beer festivals.

I think everyone was in their happy place.

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Sunday 15th May 2022

Another aspect of pre-pandemic life was restored this morning, as I followed up ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and refreshment at Costa Coffee with service ringing at Grundisburgh. They have been more cautious in their return than some, which it is important to note is entirely acceptable and understandable. As with at the height of all this, no one should feel they have to go ringing or ring with someone if they feel unsure or unsafe, even if now the virus is no longer the petrifying prospect it once was, thank God. With Alfie and Joshua not currently vaccinated, they were quite within their rights to feel anxious about them coming up with me, something I respect and therefore I hadn't been to Suffolk's lightest twelve with the boys since March 2020.

Grundisburgh.I was pleased therefore to receive an invite to join them this morning to help ring some Plain Bob Doubles, Grandsire Doubles and call changes on seven. It was lovely to see Ruth Symington again, who I had seen for the first time for years last time I was in the little wobbly brick tower on a Sunday morning. Ruth was a good Surprise Major ringer and is now finding her way back into the art after her return was interrupted by events of the past two years.

Huntingfield.My return to the St Mary-le-Tower/Grundisburgh Sabbath morn circuit seemed apt in light of yesterday's sad news about Don Price, who was also a regular for service ringing at those towers and it was lovely to see a quarter-peal of Doubles at Huntingfield rung in his memory and featuring a new method named after the village. I imagine more will be rung remembering this significant character of the county's ringing.

Great Barton.That 1368 on the 6cwt ground-floor five wasn't the only QP within our borders today though. Well done to Neal Dodge on ringing his first of Beverley Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Great Barton which also included Cambridge, and congratulations to the Guild's PR Officer and Ruth Suggett on ringing their 75th together.

Meanwhile, there was also ringing done at Great Livermere as the Festival of Suffolk Torch was carried through the village, whilst I returned to SMLT with Ruthie for our latest practice for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final. Our most important practice will be when we plan to go to Guildford Cathedral, but our sessions on home bells are still important for getting as familiar as possible with the touch of Stedman Cinques that we are due to ring on 25th June and the multiple goes we had this afternoon (either side of a not-so-quick toilet break for the boys) certainly helped in that aim. However, the fact we were getting better and better over the hour and a half is also good for our confidence.

Nice as well to see the band photo from our eliminator at The Norman Tower in this week's edition of The Ringing World, after the one that accompanied Rowan Wilson's article in the publication a fortnight ago was of a very poor quality. And it wasn't the only mention of Suffolk ringing within its pages, with mention in 'What's Hot on BellBoard' made of the successful recent SGR Peal Week made.

That Peal Week was another welcome restoration of pre-pandemic life.

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Saturday 14th May 2022

For a 92-year-old man who dedicated decades of his life to ringing and indeed excelled at it, was one of the College Youths' longest serving members and who travelled often unfathomable numbers of miles to support Suffolk ringing, it seems almost comforting to hear that when he passed away it was to the sound of bells.

I really hope it is as peaceful and fitting as it sounds, because it would be deserving for one of the nicest and most gentle people I've had the pleasure of knowing, let alone rung with, Don Price, who died at Allonsfield House in Campsea Ashe in earshot of the 6cwt gallery-ring six ringing for their weekly Saturday morning practice. His wife Helen very kindly met the ringers afterwards to impart the sad news, news which will be keenly felt by many who also rang with Don over the years. Despite living in Reydon, every week he would travel over thirty miles to ring at and then afterwards Grundisburgh on a Sunday morning, but also helped out locally, as well with many quarters and peals. Personally I was honoured to ring 39 peals with him, 22 of which were on twelve, including spliced, Humberside Surprise Maximus at SMLT and York Surprise Maximus at Great Yarmouth, and even on fewer numbers our peals together included things like Stedman Caters and eight Surprise Major methods spliced. Which outlined how, for all his abundance of self deprecation, he was an extremely good ringer. For example, in the 1940s when he was ringing in St Albans, he rang in peals of Albanian Surprise Royal and Stedman Cinques at the Cathedral, the former of which was the first peal in a method that has been pealed almost 200 times according to the excellent Pealbase. For good measure, he rang in the first quarter-peal of it too. He was highly thought of in high places, with Swaz Apter speaking fondly of him at an ASCY meeting last year whilst she was Ringing Master.

It wasn't just ringing he excelled in either, with examples of his superb carpentry dotted around the ringing chambers of Suffolk. An extremely talented, affable gentleman, who has been much missed in local ringing in recent years due to ill health, but it is still extremely sad that we won't see him again and our thoughts are with Helen and their family in particular.

This sad news rather overshadowed an otherwise very enjoyable day that took in a BBQ at a friends' house to watch the FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Liverpool on a big screen in their garden, before we returned home to watch the UK in the Eurovision on an exciting day of competition.

Blythburgh. God willing we'll be enjoying an exciting day of competition in precisely a week at Blythburgh, but of course it will need teams, so please do let Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter know if you are entering a team as soon as possible so she knows it is worthwhile the judges travelling here for it! This should be a fun competition, in a social atmosphere, with two trophies on offer and even if you don't win one of those - as Falkenham & Felixstowe showed at the South-East District Striking Competitions at Pettistree - you can still come away feeling chuffed with your efforts. I have taken much joy from seeing teams like Great Barton, Woolpit, Otley, Clopton and the like entering in recent years and bringing more members to a ringing event to meet and mingle and hopefully benefit from the day, so I hope those towers are considering entries, along with other similar bands - don't forget the Lester Brett Call Change Trophy if you don't feel able to enter ringing a method. This is first and foremost aimed at bringing people together, something we've surely come to appreciate more than ever after the last couple of years. No one is going to be criticised, mocked and humiliated. The result is ultimately immaterial, but it adds a different aspect to the art and in my humble opinion an enjoyable one. Please, please, please do enter a team and/or come along to take it in and make this a memorable return for the Guild Six-Bell Competitions.

Regardless of how many exactly take advantage of an afternoon in a lovely part of the world that we are utterly privileged to have on our doorstep and to share with friends, I hope it will again contribute towards the rich tapestry of ringing, an art that was so enjoyed by Donald C Price.

RIP Don.

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Friday 13th May 2022

Friday night is party night.

Not in a way they once were for us, with pubs and even clubs. Rather, I accompanied the boys to Play2Day in Martlesham for the birthday party of one of Joshua's classmates, a venue we've become extremely familiar with in recent months.

I did make it back in time to partake in the end of Simon Rudd's weekly virtual pub with various ringing friends from across East Anglia, the closest we usually get to a Friday night party these days, which was also the closest we got to ringing today.

Kersey.Not so for others who actually did ringing, including some on the video chat, as a peal of Bristol Surprise Major was rung at Kersey in a welcome return to peal ringing for Guild Peal Secretary Christine Knight.

St Clement's Church, Cambridge, England - IMG 0649 And over the Cambridgeshire border in Cambridge, it was an exciting day at St Clement's where six new bells arrived at a significant moment in a project I have mentioned on here before, with some great pictures on the Twitter feed of the Cambridge University Guild.

I imagine it is party night in Cambridge tonight.

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Thursday 12th May 2022

Striking competitions were on my mind today.

For once, not the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest, with no new developments on that today, although I would still encourage readers to consider a weekend in Guildford, if they aren't already and to that end to take a look at the superb website for the Final itself for details on accommodation, things to do, what's planned, etc.

Blythburgh.Rather, Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter's email to members about the SGR Six-Bell Striking Competitions planned for Blythburgh on Saturday 21st May brought the subject to mind. Her email draws attention to the draw time of 2pm and that ideally she needs notification of teams entering and numbers stopping to the bring and share tea by Wednesday 18th May, although later entries will still be welcomed. And I hope there are lots on both fronts. Saturday's South-East District Striking Competitions at Pettistree was a success and a very enjoyable afternoon, whilst the Eight-Bell Competition for the Rose Trophy at Horringer back in September saw a good turnout on its first outing as a standalone contest, with representation from all bar one District of the Guild, with the missing District being the North-East who are hosting in nine days time and so hopefully feeling more confident to provide entries with proceedings on their doorstep.

Wissett.However, whilst the NE are due to hold their competition on Saturday 3rd September at Wissett, the North-West and South-West don't have such events on the What's On as I write this, as far as I can tell. These are sometimes difficult for District officers to garner enthusiasm from their membership for, but both the NW and SW have a good history in the Guild competitions. The Norman Tower and Stowmarket have come close to winning and Pakenham actually have won it just five years ago from the former District, whilst from the latter Woolpit have been runners up in three of the last four contests. Let's make these true Guild competitions!

Coincidentally as I discovered, it is a decade to the day since Ruthie and I judged the North-East District Striking Competition at Chediston in 2012, the closest result between first and second that I can recall for a competition either of us have been at. In fact, so close was it that my then fiancee and I disagreed on the winner! All good fun, as striking competitions should be.

It is also worth mentioning that in amongst the excitement of the contest for the Taylor Trophy God willing taking place on 25th June, a week earlier the Suffolk Guild are hoping to defend their Ridgman Trophy title at Kings Lynn in Norfolk, the ten-bell competition for territorial organisations bordering onto the Ely Diocesan Association. Again, any support would be welcome!

Buxhall. Halesworth. Rumburgh.
Buxhall, Halesworth & Rumburgh

Meanwhile, it has been good to hear about the successful return of Midweek Ringing earlier this week. Over twenty joined them for ringing at Buxhall and then most of them for the meal afterwards, with the plan being for next month's to go to Halesworth and then Rumburgh on Tuesday 14th June, either side of food at The Angel in the former. Ideally, if you could let my mother Sally - who is organising it - if you want to join them at the pub by a fortnight before, that would help her greatly in booking everything up.

Also earlier this week but only just appearing on BellBoard, the L Martin Daniels Peal Tour continued with a 5040 of Grandsire Triples at Ixworth on Tuesday and a brace of peals of Minor yesterday, one on the gallery-ring at Monewden and one on the ground-floor six of Wingfield, as well as a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Triples on the back eight at Stradbroke. And congratulations to fellow Rambling Ringer Philip Wild on ringing his 750th peal in the one rung today at Hempstead in Essex.

There was ringing occurring within our borders too today and with resident members. Well done to Erika Clarke on ringing her first QP inside with the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles, appropriately for today's theme rung at Blythburgh where I hope lots of us will be competing at in just over a week, with the judges from the weekend's SE Striking Competitions, Keith Dennis and Philip Gorrod.

Nothing so noteworthy from my own personal ringing on this largely sunny Thursday, although I did try out my theory from last week on my eBell with Wheatley on Ringing Room this evening, as I stepped back to Cambridge Surprise Minor on 3-4 and Yorkshire Surprise Major on 1-2, with quite reasonable results.

Although they won't win any striking competitions.

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Wednesday 11th May 2022

The Mitson Shield & the Cecil Pipe Memorial Trophy at Pettistree. (taken by Mike Cowling)
Pettistree Trophies
© 2022 Mike Cowling

This evening, I was at the home of the holders of both the Cecil Pipe Memorial Trophy and the Mitson Shield for the South-East District and Guild method six-bell striking competitions respectively, Pettistree. As well as call-changes for the learners from here and Hollesley and a couple of pieces of Grandsire Doubles, there was Surprise Minor of the Beverley, Cambridge (or you could argue Ebor as it was a bob course!), Carlisle and Netherseale varieties, the latter of which Chris McArthur asked for and made no mistakes in, which was one fewer then me! All with the aforementioned trophies watching over us.

Pleasingly, there was a big crowd there too, both at ringing and in The Greyhound and it is nice to see Daphne Rose making a return to ringing, accompanied by her ringing friend who is staying with her and Rob. Hopefully there are others making similar returns as ringing's recovery from the pandemic continues.

Sadly the pre-practice quarter-peal attempt of Norwich Surprise Minor was lost, but generally I think it could be said that things are going well at Pettistree.

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Tuesday 10th May 2022

It was more a day reading about ringing than doing ringing today.

The Ringing World arrived with us this morning and with it honourable mention of the weekend to celebrate the life of David Salter and Suffolk Guild Peal Week, whilst the peal we rang at Grundisburgh for Alfie's eighth birthday appears too.

Talking of SGRPW22, well done to Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter on organising what must be considered a successful event, with eleven peals rung, including one in hand. A very decent return on a Peal Week as peal ringing here and elsewhere continues to recover from the last couple of years.

Peal Week has contributed heartily to the Guild's peal total for this year, which continue to be ahead of the curve of where we need to be to achieve 10,000 peals for the organisation before its centenary year of 2023 is out and God willing they will be bolstered further by the planned forthcoming long Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday Weekend in just under a month. However, it doesn't have to be peals marking the occasion and there is further guidance, advice and useful links on the CCCBR website that will hopefully help ringers use bells appropriately in their community. There is a BellBoard event set up for all ringing for this historic occasion, as well as one for ringing in this county and indeed also for the South-East District, where in keeping with so many are hoping to get ringing of all sorts done on as many bells in the District as possible over that weekend. Peals would be brilliant, but so would quarters and general ringing. Please do whatever you can and let SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge and your District know about it.

Also on the Council's website is President Simon Linford's latest blog, which again touches upon many subjects. Apart from promoting his new eBook on Devon Call Changes, he mentions the CC's AGM weekend in September in Nottingham, which is due to involve ringing and events for more than just the CC Reps and there are now details elsewhere on the site about accommodation for the event.

Additionally though, he also reports that an incumbent has restricted access to visiting bands unless a full set of Basic Safeguarding training certificates can be shown. This is something we may need to accept will happen more and more, so something that organisers of and attendees on outings may need to consider.

Offton. Meanwhile, the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton remembered the Priest in Charge there from 1994 to 2000, Kit Gray with a 1280 of Superlative Surprise Major which was a first in the method for Mark Ingledew. Well done Mark! It's good to read about.

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Monday 9th May 2022

As I walked away from the Halberd Inn in Ipswich town centre tonight, after a convivial post-ringing drink with my fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringers which mainly consisted of talk about the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final at Guildford Cathedral from arrangements to visiting the host tower for our important pre-competition practice to the results of the poll as to what our team shirts should look like to our expectations for the day, I wondered if the We Are The Champions being belted out badly from the weekly Monday karaoke night at Yates next door was a good or bad omen!

To be fair, we have no realistic ambitions of being crowned champions with the Taylor Trophy on 25th June (although it has to be said we perceived we had no realistic ambitions of qualifying for it in the first place, so you never know!), with the general expectations amongst us being that even if we finish tenth, we shall be happy if we have rung well. However, the practice that preceded our socialising in the pub should've helped us towards our ambitions, as we rang some decent Stedman Cinques tonight without a full band to call upon.

Grandsire Cinques was rung on twelve too, but also lots of ten-bell ringing as we aim to help bridge the giant leap from eight to twelve, with Surprise Royal of the Bristol, Cambridge and Lincolnshire varieties rung, as well as rounds on eight for our learners Jacob and Judy, whilst we were delighted to welcome York ringer and one-time member of the band here Tina Sanderson.

It was a nice evening out, briefly extended on the way home by me pulling over to check on a cyclist who had just been in an 'incident', but who seemed physically unhurt, even if he was understandably raging from what he said had happened.

Barham. Cretingham. Tostock.
Barham, Cretingham & Tostock

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Suffolk, peals were rung at Barham and Cretingham to add to Friday's at Tostock as it appears the L Martin Daniels Peal Tour has returned for it's annual visit to the area. I expect Don't Stop Me Now would be more appropriate for them!

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Sunday 8th May 2022

When I rang my first ever peal in the 5040 of Cambridge Surprise, Plain Bob, Kent and Oxford Treble Bob Minor at Ashbocking on 8th May 1992, I was already discovering the variety of opportunities that ringing offers. I'd rung quarter-peals, got a unique vantage point of people's special day by ringing for weddings (and getting paid a grand sum of £1 or £2 in the process, which felt like a fortune to me at the time!), participated in striking competitions attended District and Guild events, gone on outings and even weekends away visiting towers.

However, that 2hrs 47mins opened the door to another (at times) electrifying and exciting element of the art, one that has introduced me to a lot of people I wouldn't otherwise have rung with or even met, allowed me to take in a standard of ringing that some never get the privilege of and taken me to a wide range of places to ring, from quaint little village fives and sixes to a trip to Dublin to ring in the first peal of sixteen in Ireland to weekends in Towcester with the local ringers to a rock and a pub in the middle of the Bristol Channel to St Paul's Cathedral, York Minister and right back round to Ashbocking, Hopefully just for now.

For with more peals planned for the future, this afternoon I returned to this lovely ground-floor 10cwt six to replicate what was rung precisely thirty years ago where it all began. I had three others from that original band join me too, unexpectedly so in a couple of cases. Louise Whitehead and I rang together regularly at Offton as ringing youths back then, but we hadn't rung a peal with each other for twenty-five years and indeed this talented ringer hadn't rung any peals for almost fifteen years since she rang for the Cumberland Youths at Barrow in 2007. Today's success was her first for the Guild for nearly twenty years. It was very kind of her to come out.

The ringer of the fifth three decades ago Amanda Richmond was also a pleasant surprise so soon after the recent skiing accident that had put her out of action and although one of her crutches fell over from its resting position and hit her within minutes of us starting, she managed magnificently with her leg support and the occasion use of the corner behind her, although she didn't do the latter too much over the 2hrs 41mins as it made her feel sea sick with the tower movement!

Simon Rudd conducted proceedings for this my 638th peal as he did for number one back then and although from my debut peal band Ralph Earey wasn't able to ring and Steven Edson no longer rings as far as anyone seems to know, it seemed rather pleasing that their stand-ins represented my more recent peal-ringing life. My successor as SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge wasn't even born when I rang my first peal, but he has rung in almost half of my last seventy-eight peals since my first one with him in 2015. Meanwhile, having become good friends with Simon's fellow Norwich ringer Ros Burrough via his weekly Friday night virtual pub over the last couple of years, it was lovely to ring my first peal with her as she became the 527th different ringer I have rung a peal with. Many thanks to all the band for indulging me.

Many thanks also to Liz and Stephen 'Podge' Christian on allowing us to ring on the bells for this very special occasion which is touchingly busy picking up likes on BellBoard and it was great to chat with them afterwards, as indeed it was to take in the beautiful countryside that surrounds this isolated church on gorgeous sunny spring evening as I waited for Ruthie to pick me up after she had picked Alfie up from a birthday party in Campsea Ashe.

Ashbocking. Ashbocking. Ashbocking. Ashbocking.
Ashbocking Today

As well as the majority of the band, there was much else that was pleasingly unchanged from 8/5/92. In addition to the same methods being rung, the ringing chamber remains gloriously rustic, with its brick floor and its use - much like many other ringing chambers - as storage for things like cups and Christmas decorations is not dissimilar to as I remember it as a thirteen year old. However, this was very much a peal of the modern age, initiated by Simon via a video chat and with the entire band secured via Facebook Messenger, whilst of course the peal was on BB by this evening. The days of organising peals by letter and even phonecalls seem largely gone, as have sending them up to The Ringing World by those pink slips of paper!

In this modern age of the exercise, I also rang at Woodbridge this morning for the service that the boys and I attended and my wife sang for, whilst I was pleased to have got such a good band for our efforts that clashed with the second Sunday peal at Aldeburgh which on this occasion was a 5024 of Gainsborough Surprise Major and a 1296 of Plain & Little Bob Royal spliced at The Norman Tower.

I'm glad to see that 8th May 2022 is exhibiting the variety of opportunities that ringing offers as much as 8th May 1992 did.

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Saturday 7th May 2022

Triangle sandwiches in abundance and homemade cakes. Steaming tea in an array of different sized cups. A functional but homely village hall with views across the Suffolk countryside. Wisteria climbing up a thatched cottage. Huge puddles that need large detours to get around after a much needed but heavy deluge earlier in the day. Even the much commented upon horse poo in the country lanes as we walked into Pettistree. All very evocative and even more so when accompanied by friends and the sound of bells drifting across the fields.

South-East District Ringing Master Jenny Scase carrying out the draw for the Striking Competition ringing order. Ringers outside the church and in the village listening and/or waiting to ring. Ringers outside the church and in the village listening and/or waiting to ring. Ringers outside the church and in the village listening and/or waiting to ring.
The Draw and Waiting & Listening

This was the 2022 South-East District Striking Competition and it may not be everyone's (steaming) cup of tea, but since I missed this over the last couple of years whilst we haven't been able to hold them. It is cosy, quaint, even twee, but reassuring and today it was an afternoon very pleasantly spent. Eight teams from across the SE, in the middle of the county to the coast, experienced peal-ringers to some who had only first rung on towerbells a few months ago, gathered together for some friendly competition.

View of Pettistree tower from Pettistree Village Hall. View of Wickham Market tower from Pettistree Village Hall.
Views of Pettistree & Wickham Market

Once I'd accompanied Alfie to football training, our preparations began with making cheese sandwiches and flapjack for the hungry participants and interested spectators, before arriving at the Village Hall for the draw and to begin a lovely few hours of mingling, listening to and taking part in good ringing and taking in the surroundings, with the base for the draw, tea and results offering views across to both the tower where competitors were being put through their paces to the south and Wickham Market where there is a 12cwt six and where the contest was held six years ago to the north-east.

Both Ruthie and I were ringing for the hosts, whilst I also rang for my home tower St Mary-le-Tower, pleasingly one of just a few ringing for more than one team. Both pieces of ringing were of a well rung course of Cambridge Surprise Minor and we listened to Debenham as we made the picturesque stroll from the Village Hall to St Peter and St Paul to compete, as well as picking up the ringing of other bands as we stood in the churchyard, in the lanes and from the hall. Noticeably, it was all of a good quality.

We caught up with friends - some not seen for a couple of years - and played games with the boys, drank cups of tea and generally took it all in with a new appreciation. It's not rock 'n' roll, its probably not fashionable, even in ringing circles, but life doesn't get much better as far as I'm concerned.

The trophies - The David Barnard Memorial Call Change Trophy on the left, the Cecil Pipe Method Trophy on the right. Enjoying the tea at Pettistree Village Hall.
The Trophies & Tea

Eventually the octet of bands finished with Hollesley 'H' rounding proceedings off and with everyone now convened back in the hall, along with latecomers such as my mother Sally who hadn't been ringing in the competition but had come from other ringing (a wedding at Offton on this occasion) to join us, the call "grubs up" was bellowed out to cut through the multiple conversations taking place and an increasing queue built to take their turn to pick from a feast put on for us. And all just for £3.50 a head.

Plates of food were set aside for the judges, Halesworth ringers Keith Dennis and North-East District Ringing Master and Past Chairman of the Guild Philip Gorrod, as they arrived late, having had to mull over what they had heard over the previous couple of hours or so. Allowing them time to digest their food, it was then time for them to impart to the world what they had made of it all.

Philip started off, giving their thoughts and constructive criticism in a jovial fashion and then Keith revealed the results, first of the David Barnard Memorial Call Change Trophy and then the Cecil Pipe Method Trophy. Congratulations to Hollesley on winning the former, although special mention has to go to the Falkenham & Felixstowe band who came second in their first ever competition. If anyone has any doubts about the potential benefits of striking competitions, I'm sure the looks of satisfaction and joy on their faces would've dispelled those doubts. Hopefully this will be a fillip to this fledgling band and encourage others to take the time to help them out from time to time. Much like the entries of bands such as Clopton in the past, it gives a good indication of how active a band is, which in turn I hope will tempt others to join them.

Judges Keith Dennis & Philip Gorrod giving remarks and the results at Pettistree Village Hall. Peter Harper receives the David Barnard Memorial Call Change Trophy on behalf of the winning Hollesley band. Mike Whitby receives the Cecil Pipe Method Trophy on behalf of the winning Pettistree band.
Judges Keith Dennis & Philip Gorrod giving remarks and the results,
Peter Harper receives the David Barnard Memorial Call Change Trophy on behalf of the winning Hollesley band,
Mike Whitby receives the Cecil Pipe Method Trophy on behalf of the winning Pettistree band

In the latter contest, it was Pettistree who claimed the trophy to add to the Mitson Shield that they still hold from winning the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competition at Polstead in 2019, but ultimately well done to all who took part today, to the local ringers on their welcome, District Ringing Master Jenny Scase on keeping everyone moving and Secretary Liz Christian and her husband Stephen (better known affectionately as 'Podge' to most of us!) on making sure all the practical elements like timing of the bands' practices went to plan. Considering its a while since the SE have had to do this, there was an impressive slickness to it!

Hitcham.Away from the competition, well done also to Nicola and Malcolm Currie on winning a Heritage Champion Award from Suffolk Preservation Society for their work on the project to restore and augment Hitcham's bells. A fantastic and well deserved achievement!

St Philip & St Jacob.There was more achieving in the county as a 5040 of Plain Bob Major was rung in hand at Moats Tye as part of SGR Peal Week, which also includes in its numbers a 5008 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at St Philip and St Jacob in Bristol rung earlier this week where former resident Suffolk ringers and now South-Westerners Robert Beavis, Philip Moyse, George Salter and Molly Waterson made up half the band.

Rougham.It wasn't the only ringing noted on BellBoard from within our borders either, with a 280 of Grandsire Doubles rung at Rougham to celebrate Brenda Simmons' eightieth birthday.

All part of the rich, evocative tapestry of ringing being enjoyed in the county today.

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Friday 6th May 2022

Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - - 136670It is fifty days until God willing Ruthie and I will be at Guildford Cathedral ringing for Ipswich at the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final and catching up with friends over a few beers in glorious weather. All whilst wearing team shirts and progress is being made on what they will look like with an online band vote on colour, logo and type of shirt. Hopefully the results will be announced shortly.

Earl Stonham. Tostock. Bacton.

Although we are due to take part in a different striking competition in Pettistree tomorrow and quarter-peals of Cambridge Surprise Minor and Ditchingham Surprise Minor were rung at Earl Stonham and Tostock respectively, there was no ringing for us today, the closest we got being Simon Rudd's weekly virtual pub where conversation ranged from a successful sounding practice at The Norman Tower last night to masculine and feminine nouns in French.

Not the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final, but there are fifty days that might allow for it to pop up in conversation.

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Thursday 5th May 2022

I've always been a believer that by ringing harder stuff, the stuff that was hard becomes easier. If that is true, I don't know, but I've decided to apply the same logic to my solo eBell practice on Ringing Room with Wheatley, safe in the knowledge that I'm not annoying other ringers around me with my whims. Therefore, despite not ringing Yorkshire Surprise Major particularly well on 1-2 but working my way through a course a week ago, I ploughed on with the same on 7-8 tonight. The results were not too dissimilar, although not helped by internet lag that was even worse than usual. After a concerted and strenuous focus I was too mentally drained after a day working and getting the boys fed and to bed and so I shall have to wait to see if I could ring Yorkshire on 1-2 better, generally when I have taken a step back I have found that my ringing is better, as it typically has been as I've progressed throughout my ringing 'career'.

Whilst I was doing that, Ruthie was doing her usual choir practices with her choral colleagues from St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge and Illuminati, but with a twist as she travelled out to Dallinghoo with the latter to prepare for a forthcoming concert there on Saturday evening.

Chediston.Elsewhere though, other Suffolk ringers were ringing  and on real bells in the county, most notably Keith Dennis who rang his first quarter-peal of Treble Bob in the 1272 of Kent Treble Bob Minor rung on the 11cwt ground-floor six of Chediston. Hopefully it'll make some of the stuff he might have found harder previously seem a bit easier now!

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Wednesday 4th May 2022

Pettistree. Ruthie rang in the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree this evening, accompanying her mother Kate who conducted the 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor, before attending the session that followed and retiring for a drink in The Greyhound afterwards in a textbook but enjoyable Wednesday evening, whilst I had a different kind of textbook and enjoyable evening at home as I got the boys washed, reading done and then to bed with little resistance.

There might likely to have been more of the same tomorrow night too, even if my extremely better half wasn't singing, as the weekly Thursday evening practice at Grundisburgh has been cancelled, but the scene of the brothers' mother and gran's entertainment tonight is due also to be the scene of Saturday's South-East District Striking Contest. Even if you're not in a team, please do consider coming along and even booking a tea by contacting Mary Garner. With a 1.30pm draw, it will hopefully be a pleasant afternoon in the countryside listening to some nice ringing and catching up with friends and maybe even making new ones.

One sad note today was the death of Margaret Chapman of Somerset. I didn't know her personally, although I was invited to ring in the band attempting ten peals over a twenty-four hour period across 27th & 28th June 2009 at Pig-le-Tower in Marston Bigot, the private ring of her and her late husband Tom, which were duly scored, even with a rehang of the tenor six peals in! Many here did know her though and she was a very popular character in the art, and already a peal has been rung to her memory in her resident county on another private ring - The Potters Yard Ring in Holcombe - with a band featuring former Suffolk ringer Barrie Hendry and rung to a composition of one-time Great Barton ringer Alex Tatlow.

Tostock. Hopton.Meanwhile, Mrs Munnings and Mrs Eagle's QP wasn't the only in Suffolk today. Well done to Clare Gebel on ringing her first of St Clement's College Bob Minor in the 1260 at Tostock, whilst there was a 1250 of Lincolnshire Surprise Major rung on the 9cwt ground-floor eight of Hopton in the far north of our rural county, all on a day that one of the biggest supporters of that county and ringing here received his MBE from the Duke of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace today. BBC Radio Suffolk presenter Mark Murphy has often given ringing within our borders a prominent platform, not least when he made ringing a focal point for his celebrations of the county's patron saint St Edmund.

Congratulations Mark and to the county's quarter-peal ringers today, including Ruthie!

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Tuesday 3rd May 2022

The Ringing World. The Ringing World arrived with us this morning, with the highlight personally and from a Suffolk perspective being Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson's superb article on the recent National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminator at The Norman Tower from a local perspective and which is already on this website. Despite our photo looking like we've been blurred out to protect our identities, it all looks very good and is great PR for ringing in the county to an international audience.

We were doing nothing to add to the local ringing scene ourselves today, apart from arranging a peal band. Instead, it was an evening in, once the boys had been to a birthday party after school.

At least it gave me time to read The Ringing World.

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Monday 2nd May 2022

I have to be honest. It had completely passed me by until a few days ago that this Bank Holiday Monday was coming. Easter Monday was only a fortnight ago and came at the end of the unmissable build-up of Lent, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter itself. In a month's time the Queen's Platinum Jubilee is due to be marked by an extra Bank Holiday to make a four-day weekend and there is increasing coverage and anticipation around this. Therefore, I was unsurprisingly not the only one to have overlooked this one and unlike the Bank Holiday of two weeks ago we hadn't made any social arrangements or indeed planned anything else.

St Mary-le-Tower. That meant we had time to do lots of largely unexciting and mundane things that were nonetheless important, like a rare lay-in, a reordering of one of the bedrooms, a trip to click and collect the shopping and a general tidy up. Additionally, it allowed me to get out to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice. Bank Holiday practices can be quite unpredictable. Sometimes you have lots of visitors who would usually be unable to get to Ipswich on a typical Monday evening, other times numbers are low because regulars are away. There was more of the latter unfortunately, but Ringing Master David Potts had ensured that at least enough were present to make it worthwhile people travelling out and with the help of one-time Great Barton ringer and member of Southwark Cathedral's band in the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Alex Tatlow, there was an impressive ten-bell repertoire, with Stedman Caters, Bristol Surprise Royal and Lincolnshire Surprise Royal, as well as Plain Hunt on Seven and Call-Changes on Twelve for Anna.

Nice as well to seeing Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter looking relaxed after a very successful weekend celebrating the life of her husband David, during which the peal at St Margaret's across the county town was successful yesterday. Apparently the internet connection in the hotel that conductor Barrie Dove was staying in wasn't very good, hence its absence from BellBoard!

Being a Bank Holiday Monday, our post-ringing refreshment had to be moved from our now usual pub of the Halberd Inn to our old drinking hole of The Cricketers, as the former only serves up until 9pm on such days. Despite the surroundings, the atmosphere was still jovial and a nice way to round off the night.

Meanwhile, a photo was shared on the SGR Facebook page of Peal Secretary Christine Knight receiving her certificate for fifty years membership from Chairman Rowan Wilson at the recent AGM in Drinkstone. As readers will know, we missed the occasion, but I'm delighted that Christine has received recognition of her service to the Guild, as so many have in recent years, and of course she continues to give that service in her current role. Congratulations Christine!

Beyond our borders meanwhile, there were plenty of peals across the country taking advantage of the extra Monday off. Many were for the College Youths' Peal Weekend in Leicestershire, but having been in Ipswich peal ringing only yesterday, Colin Turner was ringing peals forty-three and forty-four of 2022 on the other side of the country in Shropshire, occasional visitor to Grundisburgh Peter Emery was in Gloucestershire ringing in someone's first peal and one-time Exning learner Jimmy Yeoman was ringing in a peal of Stedman Cinques at Carlisle Cathedral.

Clearly the Bank Holiday didn't pass everybody by!

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Sunday 1st May 2022

St Matthew.The ringing weekend in memory of twice Past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild David Salter continued today with another peal to also add to the SGR Peal Week as a 5040 was rung at St Matthew in Ipswich, whilst there were also a couple of quarter-peals rung. Congratulations to Clare Veal and Neal Dodge on ringing their 100th together and well done to the latter on ringing his first of Surprise Major in the 1280 of Yorkshire at Horringer, whilst back in the county town, David's eldest sons George and Colin rang a 1320 of Oxford Treble Bob Minor on handbells with Deborah Thorley, the daughter of another Past Ringing Master of the Guild, Martin.

Deborah was one of a number who are within our borders for the weekend who also boosted the attendance at St Mary-le-Tower this morning and allowed us to ring Little Bob Maximus and Stedman Cinques, even with a number of regulars away on this bank holiday weekend. Good to see George Salter up the tower, as it was to see him last night.

Vintage buses on the move.Some of us went on to St Lawrence where I rang some Stedman Doubles, before Lincoln ringer Graham Colborne, the boys and myself left the rest of them to appropriately ring some Mayday Doubles to join others for some post ringing refreshment in Costa Coffee, before my sons and I and Bristol ringer Ian Hill wandered into Christchurch Park to the vintage car rally as the bells of St Margaret's rang out. Ian and ourselves parted to make our own way around the hundreds of vehicles before they went on their usual annual convoy to Felixstowe, which we inadvertently became a part of as we eventually made our way back to Woodbridge, much to Joshua's amusement as he waved to the crowds who lined the streets to see the rally and who in turn very kindly waved back!

Ian was due to ring in a peal on the 14cwt gallery-ring eight next to the park afterwards, but I notice that there is no entry on BellBoard and no word of it being scored, so I fear it may have been a rare loss from the last three days.

And again, we were unable to ring as non-ringing commitments prevented us, although again it was for happy reasons as we went for a meal with my wife's family at the Coach & Horses in Melton to celebrate the birthday today of Mrs Munnings' sister Clare, before we wandered up to the home of mother-in-law and Ufford Ringing Master Kate for more food and drink.

It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon, even if it did involve no ringing on a superb weekend of ringing in Suffolk.

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Saturday 30th April 2022

David Salter, twice Past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild, long-time representative for us on the Central Council and much more besides for an organisation that he did so much for from gathering information for the Annual Report to being a huge influence to ringers across the county, myself and Ruthie included. That was just his influence within our borders. As his blog so wonderfully captured, he was also a busy ringer across the country, ringing in far flung towers and being an important part of peal-bands from Devon to Yorkshire and making many friends along the way.

Ringers gathered at St Mary's Church Hall to celebrate the life of David Salter.When he sadly died in September, his expressed wish was for no funeral, but I think he would definitely approve of the ringing weekend that his family led by wife and current SGR Ringing Master Katharine organised for this weekend, which has brought together ringing chums for three days of tower grabs, quarters and peals and this evening a social at St Mary's Church Hall in Combs for some of his many ringing friends. With hog roast alongside a spread of food savoury and sweet and beer for those not driving, this was a wonderful occasion to catch up with friends from across the county as well as from further afield, such as Catherine and Roger Riley from Selby who we usually see on Rambling Ringers and whose son Alex has made a name for himself for his exploits on handbells and in judging his first eliminator in the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest in Bury St Edmunds, which personally I think he did very well at! There were also some of the most well known characters of the peal-ringing world, such as Barrie Dove, Alan Regin and Nicola & Colin Turner, the latter of whom has rung more peals than anyone else in the history of the art, with the 5040 at Barham this afternoon being his 7828th.

Of course, that wasn't his only peal of the day, as he was also in the 5088 of Lessness Surprise Major at Gislingham (the footnote of which captured how much David did for ringing beyond peal-ringing) and in turn his brace was actually a mere drop in an ocean of performances for David within our borders today, which included seven peals, six for the Suffolk Guild which he was the RM of from 1994 to 1999 and then 2003 to 2006 that have also kicked off this year's Guild Peal Week in spectacular fashion! As far as I can make out, that is the most rung in a day for the Guild since 29th January 2011 when the same number were rung. I don't know if more have been managed in our name in one day and whilst someone may be able to tell me, I'm pretty certain that David would've known, which seems fitting!

There were achievements along the way that he would have appreciated too. Congratulations to Simon Rudd on ringing his 1750th peal in the 5042 at The Norman Tower that he conducted, to David's eldest son George on ringing his 50th of Doubles in the success at Great Livermere and Louis Suggett on circling the 8cwt six at Great Barton with the 2hrs 58mins of Cambridge Surprise Minor he called to a DGS composition, whilst there were also peals at Henley and Stonham Aspal and quarter-peals of Major in Plain Bob and Yorkshire Surprise at Kersey and Bardwell respectively.

The 'lap of appreciation' after the Ipswich Town match.It was an appropriately phenomenal day of ringing in the county involving so many both locally and from further afield for a man who had a pretty phenomenal ringing output himself, but none of it involved Ruthie or me today. In October, just after his passing, I was privileged to ring in the first post-lockdown second Sunday peal at Aldeburgh which he had done more than most to garner the superb reputation they have, as well as in the peal last month on what would've been his 66th birthday, at Leiston near his birthplace of Aldringham. However, any ambitions we had of joining in the ringing were scuppered by the 12.30pm kick-off of Ipswich Town's final match of the season, which of course cut across both morning and afternoon from a ringing perspective. Still, we were pleased to have gone for the boys, as well as their cousins who were attending their first match and will hopefully have fond memories of a 4-0 win against Charlton Athletic on a sunny day that was climaxed with the traditional 'lap of appreciation'. 'Lap of honour' would be stretching it for a team that has just finished 11th in the third tier of English, something I'm sure David would've chuckled at!

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Friday 29th April 2022

When Simon Rudd first started his Friday evening video chats a couple of years ago, it was a response to us being completely holed up at home. No ringing, no going to the pub, not even going to our places of work. When talking about our contemporary activity, once we'd got beyond discussing homeschooling, our trip to the supermarket or compost, there wasn't much to impart.

Hawkeden. Kedington. Orford. Ufford.
Hawkeden, Kedington, Orford & Ufford

The virtual pub is still opening on Fridays, but there is a marked difference in their circumstances and content. People are now doing stuff, to the extent that regulars are missing on a more frequent basis, as we were a week ago. And there was much to talk about on the subject of what people have been doing and plan to do. Whilst we shared recollections of our visit to The Regent to watch Sandi Toksvig and our intentions for the weekend, our host was there at the beginning live from his car in Ardleigh as he waited to ring in a quarter-peal at Ardleigh involving him and five Culhams at the end of a day where he had also been quarter-pealing in Suffolk with a 1260 of Doubles at Hawkedon and a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Kedington and following a busy few days ringing on the European continent. Meanwhile, the Colmans were preparing for a peal attempt in the morning and Mark Ogden told us about his stint judging a national robot competition in Telford last week (complete with impressive videos), as well as his peal-ringing exploits as he rang in a peal today at Orford at the start of a planned weekend of ringing in celebration of the life of twice Past Master of the Guild David Salter, which also saw a peal rung at Ufford. There is much more lined up over the next couple of days.

God willing it'll give us a lot to talk about next Friday for Simon's weekly video chat.

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Thursday 28th April 2022

Back to my solo practicing on Ringing Room with my eBell and Wheatley and my most ambitious to date as I attempted a course of Yorkshire Surprise Major on 1-2. Perseverance paid off as I managed it after a handful of goes, some aborted by double-clappering and/or internet lag. I can't claim it to have been very good, but I was pleased to be able to right myself pretty instantly and to make it through!

Mike Cowling's camera at Barham. Barham. Leiston.
Elveden. Grundisburgh.
Mike Cowling's camera at Barham, Barham, Leiston, Elveden & Grundisburgh

I also found time to have a look at the updated page for Barham on this website, which like others such as Leiston has benefitted from the work of Mike Cowling. In addition to the photo, contact details and timings of regular ringing that most other Suffolk towers have, he has added photos and even video and sound recordings, collected from the South-East District Practice there at the start of this month. Much as I aim to achieve when I take photos of ringing on my travels, this is intended to give a record of the sights and sounds of our ringing chambers. Mike has already done many sound recordings at towers like Elveden and Grundisburgh, but he is keen to hear from towers who are willing and able to accommodate him and his recording equipment, which doesn't take up much room, as one of my pictures from the same event shows! It would be great to have recordings of as many places as possible within our borders for the centenary of the Guild next year.

Halesworth.Another place that already has a recording on their entry is Halesworth, where today a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Triples was rung for the licensing of Reverend Gini Williams. Well done to Peter Lock on his first on eight as conductor and congratulations to Gini on her licensing!

On top of all this local activity, CCCBR President Simon Linford's latest blog entry is available to view on their site. Amongst his jovial musings of whether we overcomplicate ringing bells after his recent holiday in Italy, he makes a serious point about safeguarding. Apparently some are understandably confused about what level of safeguarding training they should be doing, so he points out that on the Central Council website there is now a flowchart that should hopefully help anyone who is unsure. Do take a look please, as this is such an important issue.

Meanwhile, on the Guild Facebook page, PR Officer Neal Dodge has shared details of a leatherworker who has offered to quote or making muffles for any tower looking to renew theirs. For those not on FB, he is Peter Ward of Ardleigh and his website is and can be contacted on

A lovely offer, but I shan't need any for my eBells.

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Wednesday 27th April 2022

Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - - 136670 St Nicholas. I promise I'm not intending on bombarding everyone with stuff about the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final at Guildford Cathedral until 25th June. However, by the nature of its sheer size and broad appeal compared to pretty much any other ringing event, there is likely to regularly be something new to impart and as I have always been, I am keen to encourage ringers from Suffolk to go along and enjoy the day or even the weekend out. For those looking to do the latter, there is now information on the Final's website about arrangements for the Friday and Saturday nights either side of the competition itself. Both involve a designated pub, the Britannia, where an area has been put aside for ringers to gather and mingle, which means you can be pretty much assured of meeting friends and/or making new ones. Additionally on the Friday, there will also be ringing at the nearby 21cwt ten of St Nicholas. Along with the discounted rooms at the Holiday Inn, I hope that will make the occasion an even more appealing one to the casual spectator, of which there are anticipated to potentially be around 1,000, although we are entering into unchartered territory in this 'post-pandemic' world.

Cowlinge. Stradishall.We hope to be making positive headlines in the local media for our efforts in Surrey, but one Suffolk ringer who is already making local media headlines is Adrian Lee who rings at Cowlinge and Stradishall. He is amongst the first round of people nominated to take part in the Festival of Suffolk Torch Relay due to run from Brandon to Ipswich between 13th May and 1st June, as promoted on SuffolkNews. Congratulations Adrian!

Horringer. And making ringing headlines locally was the band ringing the 5184 of Lessness Surprise Major at Horringer for what I assume (as it isn't recorded as such on BellBoard) is the twenty-fourth Guild peal this year, thus keeping 'Project 10,000' on track!

We weren't being any use to this or any ringing cause today though. Rather, we were taking in a Christmas present from Ruthie's mother Kate (who also very kindly looked after the boys whilst we were out), as we watched Sandi Toksvig at The Regent in Ipswich on her Next Slide Please... Tour. As presenter of my wife's favourite show QI and also one-time presenter of another of her faves The Great British Bake Off, Mrs Munnings and I had high hopes of this and we weren't to be disappointed as she took us through a hilarious account of how she spent the lockdowns, as well as revealing her research on Ipswich, which included an old postcard of The Ancient House. A lovely way to spend an evening, as I hope a drink at the Britannia in Guildford in June will be!

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Tuesday 26th April 2022

You may not have noticed as I haven't mentioned it much, but I am very excited at the prospect of competing with St Mary-le-Tower in the Final of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest at Guildford Cathedral that is due to happen in sixty days time. Today though, I was transported back a month to the eliminator at The Norman Tower as I read Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson's wonderful report on the event from a Suffolk perspective. It reinforces just what an achievement it was to have two teams from the county competing in the biggest competition in ringing, especially after the disruption of the previous two years and adds to the feeling of anticipation that is already building for 25th June.

St Lawrence.It wasn't the only ringing reading I did today though, with The Ringing World arriving this morning and giving much to take in, although the only connections to ringing within our borders was a plea from former Guild Treasurer Gordon Slack for potential new members for The Faraday Guild and the 120 of St Martin's Bob Doubles rung in October at St Lawrence in Ipswich in memory of SGR Secretary from 1989-1999 Bruce Wakefield's friend Anthony Peake, placed at the bottom of his obituary.

Pettistree. Blythburgh. Bungay. Buxhall. Brandon. Long Melford.
Pettistree, Blythburgh, Bungay, Buxhall, Brandon & Long Melford

Meanwhile, now we are twenty-six thirtieths through April, it is worth noting that if all goes to plan, May will be a busy month of ringing here. Starting with the South-East District Six-Bell Striking Competitions planned for Pettistree on Saturday 7th May, which I believe will be the first District competition for three years. Hopefully that will mean there will be an abundance of teams ready to take advantage of us being able to do this, as I hope there will be a fortnight later when the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions are lined up for Blythburgh. Their absence from our calendars of 2020 and 2021 should have confirmed their nature, that they are just a fun, different way of enjoying ringing. It really doesn't matter who wins, just that lots of ringers and teams are there to ring and socialise in a way that we weren't able to for so long. However, for those who perceive the result to be more important than me, but might be put off by the longstanding but unfounded (at least in recent years) perception that St Mary-le-Tower will definitely win ought to note that the current holders are Pettistree and even just in the time since I returned to the homeland seventeen years ago, other winners have included Pakenham, The Wolery, Grundisburgh and Rendham. And Ipswich's own surprise qualification in the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest proves that nothing can be taken for granted. And that's before you consider there are the David Barnard Memorial and Lester Brett Call-Change trophies up for grabs on the 7th and 21st respectively. Please do enter.

It isn't just striking competitions that are penciled in over the thirty-one days of next month of course. On Monday 9th, the plan is to hold the Bungay Eight-Bell Practice from 7.30pm with access via the priest's door on the north side as usual, whilst the following day is the hoped for return of Midweek Ringing, on this occasion at Buxhall. My mother Sally has been the driving force behind the revival of this previously popular event for those who are free during the day (which can include anyone with a day off, tourists, students, shift workers, the unemployed, stay at home parents, as well as those who are retired) and she would appreciate names for lunch as soon as possible, as ideally she'll need them two weeks in advance for this get-together a fortnight from now! Come Saturday 14th, the North-West District are due to hold their monthly meeting, this time to Brandon from 10am-noon and the South-West District intend to hold their Practice on Saturday 28th at Long Melford from 7.30-9pm. Please do support as much as you can, whatever you perceive your ability to be.

Additionally, the NW District QP Fortnight is due to run from 21st May to 5th June, the end of the Platinum Jubilee weekend and the Guild Peal Week is planned to run from this Saturday until 7th May. Whilst there will be some number crunching (which is also something to be encouraged IMHO), these will offer plenty of opportunities for learners in particular, so if you want to do something or know someone who you feel would benefit from doing something, then please contact Maureen Gardiner for the former and Katharine Salter for the latter, or organise something yourself!

There is hopefully plenty to look forward to as well as back on.

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Monday 25th April 2022

St Mary-le-Tower AGM.I may have missed the Suffolk Guild AGM on Saturday, but I was at least able to make the St Mary-le-Tower Society of Change Ringers AGM this evening. Sadly the plan to hold it in a room at the Halberd Inn didn't materialize, but the Right Reverend Tom Mumford was superb in chairing the meeting for the first time, ensuring all that needed to be done was done and needed to be said was said without it dragging it out, and having got underway a little after 8.30, we were done at 9 and off to the pub with Tom!

Once there, we sat round the well in the corner, which made for the perfect setting to discuss the team shirts we are planning to have at Guildford Cathedral for the National Twelve-Bell Contest Final. What colour should they be? What writing should they have on them? Should they be specific to ringing or have broader appeal? T-shirt or polo shirt? (Please be t-shirt, please be t-shirt...)

It all provided much joviality over a pint and topped a nice evening off, even if the ringing itself was strangely below par. Nonetheless, Bristol Surprise Royal and Lincolnshire Surprise Royal and Grandsire Cinques were rung, as well as call-changes on twelve for learner Anna and much more could have been rung on twelve if time had allowed.

Ours wasn't the only ringing in the county today of course and indeed David Stanford was present tonight on a day that he also rang in a quarter-peal of Little Bob Royal on handbells in Bury St Edmunds, as ringers within our borders continue to impress in hand.

Who knows what they may have achieved by the next Guild and St Mary-le-Tower AGMs?

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Sunday 24th April 2022

Today was a good day of twelve-bell ringing in Suffolk.

Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - - 136670 It all began with the Grandsire Cinques being rung as we - with Ruthie, as the choir aren't used at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge on Low Sunday - waited on the stairs at St Mary-le-Tower with Diana Pipe and continued with a course of Little Bob Maximus that I called from the tenor, before we retired to Costa Coffee for refreshment. Later, we returned to the heaviest ring of bells in the county for a practice for the Final of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest at Guildford Cathedral. This was our first opportunity to ring the new touch of Stedman Cinques that we are due to ring as the test piece in Surrey in sixty-three days time and I am happy to report that we have started well, with the boys sat in the ringing chamber behaving very well. There has been a little bit of shuffling of band placement and we were pleased to have James Smith and Amanda Richmond back after they were unable to ring in the eliminator at The Norman Tower, although we were without Katharine Salter as she was ringing a peal at Milton in Oxfordshire this afternoon. Already though, we were picking up on all the bits that God willing will become very familiar to us in the coming weeks and hopefully help us to pick things up quickly if anyone gets lost or disorientated and increasingly allow us to focus on the striking.

Meanwhile, at the scene of our still barely-believed qualification last month, a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Maximus was being rung by a local band, further evidence of how competition ringing has helped boost ringing on higher numbers.

Finedon.Elsewhere beyond our borders there was ringing on fewer than twelve bells, but notable nonetheless, especially at Finedon in Northamptonshire, where celebrity vicar the Reverend Richard Coles retirement from there was marked with a PR friendly peal of Don't Leave Me This Way Delight Major in a nod to his past life as a member of The Communards!

In between our ringing though, we weren't far away from that 1294 in Bury St Edmunds, as we were making a first visit to the new abode of my brother Chris and his wife Becky in a nearby village. Very nice it was too on another sunny spring day that allowed the boys to run around the garden before and after a lunch very generously provided by our hosts. Thank you Mr & Mrs Munnings!

And it recharged our batteries nicely for some more twelve-bell ringing!

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Saturday 23rd April 2022

2005. That's the last time I didn't attend a Suffolk Guild AGM. At the time, I was still living in the West Midlands, but having returned to the homeland later that year, I have been at every AGM (albeit only virtually for the last two) and having been elected as SGR Ringing Master at the 2006 meeting in Bury St Edmunds I have felt what is these days referred to as 'invested' in proceedings. It isn't exciting, but it is important.

Today though, we were unable to attend the 2022 meeting at Drinkstone Village Hall and join the many friends we are blessed to have through the art within our borders. All for a good cause though. This year, the boys have had to put up with either being passed over to very patient relatives who have been extremely generous with their time whilst we go ringing or they have had to come with us, often reluctantly. Therefore, when Alfie was invited to a birthday party at Jump In at Ipswich for just when we were planning on mingling ahead of our first ringers' tea since 2019, we felt it would be incredibly unfair for him to miss out on this occasion. And so instead of munching on the tea very kindly put together by the local ringers in a hall overlooking the open, sunbathed countryside of the west of county and experiencing ringing democracy in action, we were wandering the grim urban surroundings of Anglia Retail Park and taking Joshua to the Castle Hill Recreation Ground that my brother Chris and I used to play at and treating him (Josh, not Chris!) to a Peppa Pig ice cream lolly. I can't say that I wouldn't have preferred for us to all have been in Drinkstone and for the timings to have worked out better, but actually it was lovely to see them so happy and enjoying themselves. We're glad we made the decision we did, sorry as we were to miss the event taking place less than twenty miles up the A14.

Great Finborough. Great Finborough.  The view of Buxhall across the fields from Great Finborough ringing chamber. Buxhall. Buxhall. Hitcham.

Besides, we were able to at least take in much of the ringing that led up to the main event before we had to facilitate Alfred's social life, starting with Great Finborough with its wonderful views from the ringing chamber to Buxhall where we went to next to ring on one of the county's new eights, before moving on to another of them at Hitcham. Sadly, there weren't enough ringers to make the most of the overlapping times of the open towers which also included Rattlesden and Woolpit where we didn't get to, as there were only just enough to man all the bells so it wasn't possible to nip off to another tower without leaving others in the lurch. Still, it was great to ring on two of the youngest octaves in the Guild and to ring with three learners from Bildeston who were entering into the spirit of this event, which is a chance for ringers of all abilities to ring together and hopefully for the learners in particular to benefit. Nice also to chat with Nicola & Malcolm Currie at Hitcham who gave a fascinating insight into the project that they had helped drive and which has benefitted not just ringing, but the church itself by providing a superb new space and facilities below the gallery reinstated for the ringers.

The meeting itself was apparently relatively brisk, with the biggest issue being the introduction of a rate for members over eighty years old and attended by around seventy-five members, which in circumstances where some are still anxious about meeting in large crowds is reasonable. And of course the tea was lovely!

As was ours as it happens, as we met with Ruthie's schoolfriend Verity and her fiancée Jade at the Coach & Horses for a meal, although I think I would have preferred the slab of cod that one of our party had to the much smaller asparagus and tagliatelle I had. That'll teach me to attempt to be posh!

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that there won't be a practice at the 8cwt gallery-ring six at Sproughton next Wednesday on 27th April, so although you would be welcome any other week, please don't turn up expecting ringing this time!

Beccles.However, please do turn up at the next Suffolk Guild AGM, which is due to be held on Saturday 15th April 2023 at Beccles. God willing, we will be able to.

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Friday 22nd April 2022

St Mary-le-Tower. Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - - 136670 It is almost a month since St Mary-le-Tower qualified from the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminator at The Norman Tower and just over a couple of months until we are due to ring in the Final at Guildford Cathedral. Since that day in Bury St Edmunds, we've been in a sort of limbo in regards to the competition. There was a session a couple of weeks ago which we couldn't make, but otherwise we have had a sensible breather from the intense practicing of Stedman Cinques and in particular of the same touch!

However, our first practice for the final and of the new touch we'll need to familiarize ourselves with by the 25th June when we are due to ring it as the test piece is planned for this weekend, a peal of Stedman Cinques is penciled in and we have our invaluable pre-contest practice at the venue of Guildford Cathedral lined up in the coming weeks. And this evening we returned to the Maharani on Norwich Road in Ipswich for a curry that was part celebratory for our success a few weeks and I guess part team-bonding for the exciting adventure that we hope lays ahead over the next few weeks. To add to the sense of occasion, the vicar the Right Reverend Tom Mumford and his wife Laura were present, with Tom giving a very kind speech that even drew applause from our fellow diners for our achievements!

We had a very enjoyable night, topped by a swift drink in St Jude's Brewery Tavern down the road and all made possible by my mother Sally's generosity as she looked after the boys and then put us up for the night - thank you Mum!

Grote Kerk, Dordrecht. Grote Kerk, Dordrecht. Grote Kerk peal band.
Grote Kerk, The Bells & The Peal Band

Two people who may well have joined us for socialising in normal circumstances are Gill & David Sparling, the latter of who rang the treble superbly for our qualifying piece. However, they were otherwise engaged today in the now famous Dutch ringing city of Dordrecht, as they rang a 1260 of Stedman Triples on the well-established 1cwt eight in the 't Klockhuys on the same day as Past Ringing Master at St Mary-le-Tower Simon Rudd was part of the band that rang in the first peal on the new 16cwt ten in the Grote Kerk. There was also a strong Rambling Ringers connection, with the hosts being fellow Ramblers the de Kok family, with Paul and his son Harm Jan doing an incredible job in putting the frame together and driving this project forward, especially over the last difficult couple of years. They rang in the 5040 of Bristol Surprise Royal, as did the daughter of the family Thirza (congratulations to her on obtaining her Bachelor's degree!), other Ramblers Stuart & Liz Hutchieson and Ruth & Paul Curtis who have also joined us on Tour and who on this occasion rang their 5000th peal together, a staggering achievement. Congratulations to them both.

Tostock.Perhaps less headline-grabbing, but worthy of mention though, is Clare Gebel ringing her most methods to a quarter-peal with the success at Tostock.

It is also in keeping with an upbeat day for ringing.

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Thursday 21st April 2022

St Mary-le-Tower. An email today from Stephen Cheek reminded me that St Mary-le-Tower Society of Change Ringers are having their AGM next Monday at 8.30pm, which of course will mean an early finish to the weekly session. All visitors are still welcome to join us ringing, but just be aware of the early finish if you do plan on coming along!

Redgrave.There was no ringing for Ruthie or me today, finishing early or otherwise, with even some eBell focus not possible this evening, but there was ringing for others in Suffolk, even if it was done in the name of the Norwich Diocesan Association Quarter Peal Week as a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles was rung at Redgrave. Well done to Trevor Conway on ringing his first QP, Andrew Castleton on ringing his first inside for forty-seven years and congratulations to Chris Davies on ringing his 75th.

It was also one of many performances across the UK from Exeter to Newcastle rung for the 96th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, although there were no other ones noted in the county. However, it is a reminder that Her Majesty's Platinum Jubilee is God willing just a few weeks away, so do make sure bells are a part of your local celebrations at some point over the four days between Thursday 2nd and Sunday 5th June and be sure to add it to BellBoard's event for the occasion.

And feel free to join us at St Mary-le-Tower on the evening of Monday 6th, when all being well we should ringing up to 9pm!

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Wednesday 20th April 2022

In my early years of ringing, along with my father Alan, mother Sally and brother Chris, I would spend almost every night out ringing. St Mary-le-Tower on a Monday, Offton on a Tuesday, Sproughton on a Wednesday, St Margaret's in Ipswich or Grundisburgh on a Thursday. A few years later, when I lived in Hollesley, mine and Ruthie's ringing week would be equally busy. There was still SMLT on a Monday and Grundisburgh on Thursdays, but also Pettistree on a Wednesday and the local eight on a Friday. Gradually, parenthood and particularly 24/7 parenthood has reduced how much we can and should get out to. After all, as we are unable to both get out together, we need some time for each other, especially as one of the nights sees my wife out singing.

Pandemics notwithstanding though, it has still been normal for one of us to be out on a couple of nights a week in recent years. Therefore, it has felt quite odd not to have done any ringing this week, as after me not getting along to the county town for my usual weekly dose of twelve-bell ringing on Monday due to bank holiday socialising, this evening there was no practice at the ground-floor six of St Peter and St Paul (where the South-East District Striking Competition is due to be held on Saturday 7th May), with a number away, injured or ill.

We were partially responsible for that decision, with our presence uncertain for otherwise happy reasons as we celebrated the birthday of the boys' cousin Anna at their Gran Kate's house, with cake, balloons and food aplenty. Happy Birthday Anna!

Bardwell. There was ringing in Suffolk today though, with a quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples rung at Bardwell.

I'm glad someone is doing some ringing this week.

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Tuesday 19th April 2022

On the East Anglian Daily Times website today there was a reminder that even where bells are ringing out in a landscape beneficial to them, things can change. Barham's new six currently sit in almost complete, glorious isolation to any houses or anyone that they might disturb. The fields right next to the church were in the news today for being sold to a housing developer looking to build hundreds of homes. It will mean that if all goes to plan, there will be a huge estate of homes within clear earshot of the bells, There has just been three quarters and a peal rung since they were augmented and rehung last year, so they haven't been reckless in their use of the bells, but if peals, quarters and potentially any other ringing is to be assured once their new neighbours appear, I hope that thoughts are already being given by local ringers and even the Guild as to how the potential of complaints (however unjustified they may seem) can be mitigated. Might there be an opportunity to ensure that buyers of these new houses are aware that there are regularly rung bells on their doorstep? Is there already sound control in? Part of the consent is an extension to the church grounds, so hopefully the developers will be fully aware of the church and all that happens there, but it may pay to be proactive on this. It would be a pity if all the hard work, money (including a grant from the SGR) and time to complete this project went to waste because of the grumbles of a newcomer being taken seriously.

The EADT wasn't all that I was reading today, as the latest edition of The Ringing World arrived with us this morning, full of plenty of varied and interesting content, from Alliance methods to a report on the Cambridge University Guild Annual Dinner, the 'roaring' return of the Roving Ringers to recollections of the life of Miss Doris Sheppard of Stroud in Gloucestershire. In between all that, there are Suffolk links, including a look back on a recent ringing trip to Lundy Island written by Norman Tower ringer Joan Garrett, a trip that was also joined by St Mary-le-Tower ringer and Guild Librarian Abby Antrobus and featured a quarter-peal rung in memory of Joan's fellow Bury St Edmunds ringer Marion Holland on the day of her funeral. Appropriately on the very next page, Marion's obituary appears, lovingly and touchingly written by her husband Ian.

there was a pre-practice 1270 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Offton ahead of local ringer Joanna Gray's forthcoming significant birthday, though it is worth noting that there is no practice at Pettistree on Wednesday evening, with it already known that there will be quite a lot of regulars absent for one reason or another, but all being well next week things ought to be back to normal, by which point God willing we would've had a very successful, well attended Guild AGM Day at Drinkstone. A good point to remind anyone wishing to be fed at the tea needs to get their names into Nigel & Astrid Gale by the end of tomorrow, Wednesday 20th April.

It is something to look forward to on a day that for me personally was overshadowed by news that someone I went to school with passed away suddenly and unexpectedly yesterday. Not someone I had seen for several years, but someone I had kept up with on Facebook, was of course my age and with a seven-year-old daughter. Such news is a sobering reminder of how fragile life is and how we can take nothing for granted, so we must make the most of it, especially with our families.

At the football.He was a season ticket holder at Ipswich Town too, so it seemed apt that I found myself at Portman Road with Mason this evening, watching the Tractor Boys draw 2-2 with Wigan Athletic. Alfie was there too with his Granny Kate in a different part of the stadium, having been give two tickets after a holiday football session with the ITFC Community Trust earlier in the week. There was a lot of noise too, so I hope they're not planning on building more houses nearby...

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Easter Monday 18th April 2022

Easter Monday is traditionally a day of 'big' peals, particularly peals at 'big' towers, often on twelve and today was no different. There were peals on twelve at Birmingham Cathedral, St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol, St Paul's Cathedral in London, Gloucester Cathedral, All Saints in High Wycombe, Wimborne Minster and Worcester Cathedral, whilst there was also a 5040 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at Lichfield Cathedral.

Ruthie and I have done one of the 'big' ones before, ringing a 5042 of Swindon Surprise Maximus on the aforementioned 50cwt twelve in Bristol in 2007, although the only other one either of us had rung on this particular bank holiday was less exciting, ringing a 5055 of Grandsire Major at Grundisburgh the year before. However, on this occasion, there was no ringing for us, as instead we were meeting with our friends Charlotte & Gregory and their daughters and our Goddaughters Ava & Bea, first at Kingston Fields after a short adventure on the train, then at The Cherry Tree for food for the children, followed by a kebab for us adults on the way home.

The only downside was that we didn't finish in time for me to make it to St Mary-le-Tower's practice. I've mentioned before that as with other towers that hold their weekly session on a Monday, they can suffer from the timings of everything at this time of year. At many places, Holy Week means that the practice doesn't happen at all and then the following week the bank holiday is a time that can see people away or busy with other things that they usually wouldn't be doing on a Monday, as was the case with ourselves on this occasion. Hopefully they still had enough to have a productive evening.

Two places have announced on the Suffolk Guild Facebook page that they intend on practicing on Tuesday night this week are Bramford and St Margaret's in Ipswich, but there was no ringing in the county noted on BellBoard today. It seems to have been a busier day of ringing elsewhere.

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Easter Sunday 17th April 2022

St Mary-le-Tower. On the most important day of the Christian liturgical calendar, it was lovely to see ringing for it appreciated by the Church, as it was on St Mary-le-Tower's Facebook page and Twitter feed this morning with a brief recording of some lovely rounds on the twelve on this most special of days. Those rounds were followed or preceded by either the Grandsire Cinques being so well rung as the boys and I walked up Tower Street to join them or the enjoyable Little Bob Maximus that we finished with and hopefully will have added positively to the Easter of those arriving for worship this morning and beyond.

For our efforts we were rewarded by Easter egg cakes very kindly provided by the Williamsons before then retiring to Costa Coffee, where I'm glad to say we were again joined by Amanda Richmond as she continues her recovery.

Having then picked Ruthie up from her Easter choral duties at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, we made the walk up to mother-in-law Kate's for the second day running, this time so the boys and their cousins could have an Easter egg hunt in her garden before the chocolate melted and we could all enjoy a roast dinner - thank you Kate!

Chediston.Easter was also being celebrated in Chediston, with a 1272 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung on the 11cwt ground-floor six in the centre of this village in the North-East District.

Meanwhile, there was some unexpected PR for the art with a piece on the BBC News website focusing on Andrew, the Ringing Master at Barking in Greater London and his ringing sons. I hope their ringing was also appreciated today.

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Holy Saturday 16th April 2022

The pandemic has of course been devastating for so many far more important reasons, but personally I have been very sad not to have been able to keep up my ambition to ring a peal for every birthday of each of the boys, with either an appropriate number of changes or methods, or both. At least with Joshua and Mason I only missed one year before we were able to start up full-on towerbell ringing again nine months ago, but the timings of the first lockdown and then the gradual release from restrictions that we were still in the midst of twelve months ago have meant that I have missed out on marking Alfie's sixth and seventh birthdays since we rang a 5184 of five Surprise Major methods at Felixstowe for his fifth birthday back in 2019.

Grundisburgh.Therefore, I was keener than ever to ensure that I could arrange and ring a peal for his eighth birthday of a few days ago. At just before 1pm, a wave of relief came over me as conductor Brian Whiting called "That's All" on the 5008 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major on the back eight at Grundisburgh, following quite a convoluted path to even get to the start. Having already got much of the band for an attempt at another tower for Good Friday, only to be told that the enthusiastic confidence that the contact had that that would be no problem at all was misplaced, it became obvious that yesterday was going to be too difficult a day to get a tower for. As a result, I was grateful to Stephen Pettman for the use of Grundisburgh bells today and to those who had said yes to the 15th for instead agreeing to the 16th. Even having got a band after rather dimly underestimating just how busy the county's peal ringers would be over Easter, I then had to do a quick bit of replacing yesterday morning when someone had to drop out due to illness. Thank you to Joan Garrett for stepping in at short notice and to others who were willing to ring.

Apart of a bit of longwinded (though amusing!) adjusting of the treble rope, that was the end of the problems. The 2hrs41mins of DNCBM was well rung with minimal, instantly (typically self) corrected mistakes with some really good striking and never seemed in danger of being lost due to human error. Thank you to the Twissells for letting us in, to the band for ringing and particularly Brian for calling it, with composition number eight to boot!
All bar one were able to enjoy post-peal refreshment outside The Dog in gorgeous spring sunshine across the picturesque green, before I returned home to the family and then a walk up to mother-in-law Kate's for the first BBQ of the season that was more earned by those who had been putting up new fencing than me ringing a 6cwt bell to a pleasant peal, but still much appreciated. Thank you Kate!

It was a lovely way to complete a long overdue day of success in Alfie's name.

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Good Friday 15th April 2022

The hottest day of the year thus far and the first opportunity of these Easter holidays for us to get out as a family together and we took advantage of it.

Admittedly our morning activity wasn't weather dependent as we took the boys to the indoor play centre Play2Day in Martlesham after much nagging from Alfie and Joshua and - more importantly - the brothers earning it following a good week, but this afternoon was very much an outdoor one as we made the short journey to Rendlesham Forest. Primarily this was to give our sons some cycling focus and very successful it was too, but it was generally really nice to get out in such wonderful surroundings on a lovely day.

St John-on-the-Wall. We were back indoors come this evening as we chatted with some of the many ringing friends we are blessed to have, in Simon Rudd's virtual weekly pub, but our day involved no actual ringing. Nor was there any in Suffolk noted on BellBoard, although there was ringing beyond our borders that caught my eye. Some of it even included connections to the county, such as the peal of spliced Cinques & Maximus at St Magnus-the-Martyr in London that featured one-time Exning learner Jimmy Yeoman in the band. I was also impressed by Julian Howes, Lucy Warren and Alan Reading, who rang a 5760 of 147 Treble Dodging Minor in hand in the ringing chamber of St John-on-the-Wall in the Bristol and then rang it again with three others on towerbells in the same room.

What a way to spend the hottest day of the year so far!

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Maundy Thursday 14th April 2022

Me trying my eBells out. Dare I say it, but I feel I might be getting the hang of this handbell malarkey. Nowhere near the standard of those who have been ringing quarters and peals in the county over the last couple of years and progressing impressively, and certainly a million miles off the likes of Philip Earis, David Pipe, Alex Riley or the Page brothers, but my brain seems to getting into the right way of working. Despite a brief mind fart during a course of Cambridge Surprise Minor on 3-4 during my usual Thursday evening solo session with my eBells and Wheatley on Ringing Room, I did follow that up successfully, having also surprised myself with a decent(ish) mcourse of Kent Treble Bob Major on the same pair, following the inroads made on 1-2 last week.

Curfew Tower, Windsor Castle I had the time tonight, with Ruthie carrying out choral duties at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge for the rightly sombre Maundy Thursday service, on the day that local ringer Alison Wintgens received Maundy coins from Prince Charles at Windsor Castle, an occasion for which a quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples was rung at the Curfew Tower.

The Millbeck Ring.There was a QP rung in Suffolk today too, with a 1312 of St Clement's College Bob Major rung on The Millbeck Ring in Shelland, but there was no ringing on towerbells for us, as instead I looked to get the hang of handbell ringing.

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Wednesday 13th April 2022

Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - - 136670 God willing in seventy-three days time, Ruthie and I will be at Guildford Cathedral, helping Ipswich put on a good show at the first National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final for three years. In these times particularly we have learnt not to take anything for granted and so I'm trying to keep my anticipation levels in check with so much (hopefully predominantly good!) likely to happen over the next three months. However, if my excitement at the mere announcement on the various social media channels and websites of the competition and the hosts that discounts are available for the Holiday Inn - the nearest commercial accommodation to the Cathedral apparently - to those who book a room for the Friday and/or Saturday and tell them they're attending the Twelve-Bell by 27th May, is anything to go by, I'm going to need to work harder at keeping calm as further details are released as we get closer to 25th June.

This afternoon's announcement is genuinely useful though and a good point to remind people that this event is not just for competitors and interested local ringers. The last final in 2019 at Exeter Cathedral attracted around 1,000 people, which these days isn't atypical of the occasion. Ringers come from all over the country and the world to take in brilliant ringing (we'll try our best!), catch-up with friends, make new friendships, soak up the atmosphere and often have a weekend away. The map on the final's website and video from Phill Ridley on their Facebook and Instagram pages showcases the outdoor space available on the day, which should hopefully allay many COVID worries with ventilation certainly not likely to be an issue! It would be lovely to see support from Suffolk in leafy Surrey and if indeed you are considering coming down for the weekend, then I hope the discount will be helpful!

In the here and now though, it was a notable day of handbell ringing in the county, as two peals in hand were rung within our borders at different venues on the same day for the first time since 4th September 2016 and the first time that one of them was rung for the Guild since one of the trio of 5040s rung on New Year's Eve 2015 was rung for the SGR. Perhaps inevitably and as on the previous aforementioned occasions one of the peals today was in Bacton, but there was one of Plain Bob Major rung in our name in Moats Tye.

Pettistree. Ruthie was adding a quarter-peal to the county's ringing total today, with Norwich Surprise Minor rung before the practice at Pettistree where she rang some Beverley, Cambridge and Carlisle Surprise Minor (as well as her favourite Stedman Doubles!) and which was followed a goodly number going to The Greyhound, as I looked after the boys at home, at the end of a day when they had enjoyed an Easter egg hunt down by the Tide Mill.

Meanwhile, CCCBR President Simon Linford's latest superb blog was released on their site today and entertainingly packed with lots of subjects, with a Monday morning scenario I can sometimes relate to, his view of a hugely successful ART Masterclass that I have heard about from others there too, advertising of the many ringing courses planned for this year, he joins in the WHW April Fools from The Ringing World, talks safeguarding, the CC Bell Restoration Fund and ringing insurance and even fits in mention that the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final is his favourite day of the year. I expect he already has his accommodation sorted - make sure you do too!

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Tuesday 12th April 2022

Via the What's New section of this website which is worth checking regularly, I had a read of the Guild's revised Safeguarding Statement, which I would urge all members to check. There may not be anything you didn't already know, but it is best to check just in case. Ringing isn't necessarily just as simple as turning up and ringing these days, but whilst that is regrettable and may be perceived a pain for some, it is important to protect young and vulnerable ringers and indeed to protect you all too. The safeguarding training takes a bit of time, but is straightforward and most will only need the very basic level, so please do make sure you are familiar with what is expected of you. It is also worth noting that this isn't something unique to ringing. You will likely come across such requirements in many other aspects of life.

Meanwhile, Holy Week continues and with it mainly silent towers, although Woodbridge still makes it onto BellBoard with an account of what sounds like quite a fun evening cleaning and taking the muffles off the bells that have been on throughout Lent. Nonetheless, it is interesting to note three peals and eight quarters rung on church bells across the country today.

Hitcham. Great Finborough. Rattlesden. Woolpit.
Buxhall, Hitcham, Great Finborough, Rattlesden &Woolpit

Apart from its liturgical meaning, that it is Holy Week should also remind members to book their tea by Wednesday 20th April for the SGR AGM Day planned for Drinkstone three days later (as with pretty much always, the AGM is on the Saturday after the Easter weekend), which if all goes as is hoped will allow ringers to ring on the new eights of Buxhall and Hitcham earlier in the day, as well as Great Finborough, Rattlesden and Woolpit.

Hopefully it'll be a busy day of ringing with many members present of all abilities from across Suffolk, but for now though, the downtime from ringing should give you the opportunity to read the Guild's revised Safeguarding Statement.

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Monday 11th April 2022

The Vestey Ring at Henham Steam Rally, 2010.There is a new and final CCCBR Photo Competition, announced today on their website by Central Council PR Officer and one-time ringer at St Margaret's in Ipswich Vicki Chapman. The theme on this occasion is 'In the Community' and is looking for photos of ringing taking place out in public. It gives the Outreach page on the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre site as a good example of the type of pictures it is looking for and I would hope that here in Suffolk we may have some potentially good entries. After all, The Vestey Ring and its predecessor have been travelling around to events like the Henham Steam Rally and the Suffolk Show over the years and although I expect the judges will be looking for something more up to date, there may even be a winning shot from when Ralph Earey's demo bell was doing the rounds in the 1990s on occasions like the National Twelve-Bell Contest Final and the Ipswich Carnival. On a day when a quarter-peal of Little Bob Royal on handbells in Moats Tye exhibited the progress made in hand by the county's ringers, perhaps there are shots of local handbell ringers showcasing the art to the general public. I hope to trawl my photos to see if I might be able to enter something before the deadline of 16th May.

This announcement made for good reading as I occupied my evening whilst Ruthie did some work for her qualifications on a night when there was no practice at St Mary-le-Tower in this Holy Week, which also meant that there was nothing to report on towerbells within our borders and indeed very little beyond.

Maybe it'll give us all time to take photos of ringing taking place in the community instead.

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Sunday 10th April 2022

Happy 8th Birthday Alfie!

That baby from 10th April 2014 has grown into a football mad comedian who is kind to others and seems to be popular with his contemporaries.

Alfie's Birthday Cake. We celebrated as an eight-year old should, with lots of presents, cards, cake and friends, as he and Joshua awoke early with much excitement to drag us from our slumbers so the birthday boy could open his first batch of gifts and cards, we took him and some of his classmates ten-pin bowling at Tenpin in Martlesham and then hosted Granny Kate & Grandad Ron for tea and a slice or two of Alfred's superb football cake made by Corrie's Kitchen in Rendlesham.

In amongst that, on this Palm Sunday we processed behind an actual real-life donkey into St Mary-the-Virgin church in Woodbridge where Ruthie and her choral colleagues were spared singing duties as a visiting choir from Imperial College in London sung for us. Thankfully they weren't as wobbly as the famous tower that holds its 38cwt ten!

Palm Sunday procession led by a donkey beneath the tower of St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge. Palm Sunday procession led by a donkey beneath the tower of St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge. There was no ringing for us as the boys were needed in the car park of The Abbey School next door for the boys to feature prominently in the procession, but we heard some very good ringing floating clearly across the spring morning air in gorgeous sunshine.

The Norman Tower. Redgrave. Great Barton. Blythburgh.
The Norman Tower, Redgrave, Great Barton & Blythburgh

And others in Suffolk were also ringing, with quarter-peals of four Surprise Major methods spliced rung at The Norman Tower and Plain Bob Minor at Redgrave, whilst congratulations are due to Deborah Blumfield on ringing her 300th QP in the 1320 of Bourne & Cambridge Surprise Minor at Great Barton and especially to Kevin Mossop on ringing his first quarter in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Blythburgh, where the Guild is due to hold the Six-Bell Striking Competitions next month.

However, Holy Week is now starting, which in most places will mean there will be no ringing on their usual practice night, such as towers local to us like St Mary-le-Tower on Monday or Ufford and Woodbridge on Tuesday. Also locally though, Pettistree are planning on holding their weekly session on Wednesday, so please do check so that you don't have a wasted journey or a practice is unnecessarily short because it was assumed they weren't ringing!

Mind you, after an exhausting but fun day of celebrating, we might be grateful of the rest from ringing to recuperate!

Happy Birthday Alfie!

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Saturday 9th April 2022

The printed word features prominently today as I read this week's copy of The Ringing World which arrived today and the newest edition of the Suffolk Guild Annual Report, which I picked up from St Mary-le-Tower earlier in the week. Both are available digitally and indeed I'd already flicked through the latter when it first appeared on this website, but personally I still really like the feel of an actual real life copy of something like this.

St Leonards, Leverington (geograph 3166987) The RW had a local theme to it, with a photo of Leverington in Cambridgeshire taken by Norman Tower ringer Ben Keating adorning the front cover, whilst twice Past Ringing Master of the SGR Stephen Pettman appeals for details of anyone supporting the Italian National Federation's 'Din Don Dan: The World Bells for Peace' event on Friday 22nd April (a poster can be found here) as part of World Earth Day and Horringer ringer and current student Joshua Watkins co-wrote an entertaining report on the recent Annual Dinner of the Southampton University Guild he is a vice Master of.

Meanwhile, I was able to take in a much more relaxed and in-depth read of the AR excellently put together by Mark Ogden, with the usual but invaluable help of others. Hopefully other members are now also getting theirs in readiness for the Guild AGM due to be held in Drinkstone in a fortnight.

God willing that'll be a busier day (especially after the last two AGMs) for us, albeit it may be a logistically challenging one, but today was far more straightforward, largely because we did no ringing. I much prefer to have a ringing event to go to on a Saturday, but there has been a fair bit of that in recent weeks and so instead our day today was made up of football training for the boys and getting the last elements together for the celebrations planned for the eighth anniversary of Alfie's birth tomorrow that required us to get balloons from one Card Factory in Woodbridge and then helium to fill them from another one in Martlesham. It appears petrol and diesel aren't all that is in short supply at the moment.

Fortunately the printed word isn't in short supply though.

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Friday 8th April 2022

Woodbridge ringer Alison Wintgens is set to have a notable Maundy Thursday this year when she is due to receive the Queen's Maundy Money at St George's Chapel in Windsor. Although it was announced today that Elizabeth II will not be handing it over herself, the next in line to the throne Prince Charles is stepping in and especially in this most special of royal years it is a well deserved recognition of the work Alison does in prison chaplaincy.

Nothing as exciting for us today, but we did at least have our usual enjoyable catch-up with Simon Rudd and friends in his virtual pub, with one present joining us from a hotel room whilst they waited for takeaway pizza, whilst another joined the the praise I've heard for last week's ART Masterclass in Birmingham and particularly for Mark Eccleston!

Tostock. Perhaps also not as exciting but certainly more interesting from our ringing perspective than ours was the quarter-peal of Old Oxford Delight Minor at Tostock, which was a first in the method for Andrea Alderton, North-West District Ringing Master Maureen Gardiner and conductor Stephen Dawson. Well done Andrea, Maureen and Stephen!

And well done Alison!

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Thursday 7th April 2022

Me trying my eBells out. For one reason or another, it has been a while since I've sat down in peace to ring the eBells that Tim Hart very kindly sent me last year, so I was pleasantly surprised to pick them up this evening and ring courses of Plain Bob Major and then Kent Treble Bob Major first time on 1-2 in my solo session with Wheatley on Ringing Room. Hopefully a sign that I am making some sort of progress, albeit I'm aware that ringing the trebles is simpler due to having to really 'only' ring one line and being more aware of where the treble is!

Fressingfield. Horham. There was ringing on actual real life bells within our borders too, albeit by the Saint James' Guild (featuring one-time Suffolk ringers John Loveless and Simon Rudd), as a 5088 of London Surprise Major was rung at Fressingfield and 5024 of Bristol Surprise Major at Horham, although at the latter it seems they were being watched over as the tenor rope only just survived the 2hrs47mins, judging by the photo accompanying the report of the performance on BellBoard!

Southwold. Wissett.Meanwhile, if you have a spare few minutes and want to keep up with what's going on across the Guild, it may be worth having a read of the draft minutes of the North-East District Quarterly Meeting held in Aldeburgh on 19th March, which were shared on this website earlier this week. Good to see a number of events being planned for this year, such as the ringing and Bring & Share Tea at Southwold on Saturday 25th June, a visit to the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre in Norwich on Saturday 13th August and their Striking Competition at Wissett. on Saturday 3rd September. They have also penciled in Saturday 12th November for their ADM, where it appears they will be needing a new Chair to replace Sal Jenkinson and Secretary to follow on from Kate Gill, so hopefully NE members are thinking about who will take on these important roles in seven months time, whether it be themselves or someone they know.

Beccles. BlythBurgh.Additionally, as also mentioned in the minutes, they are due to host next year's Guild AGM on Saturday 15th April in Beccles and more immediately the SGR Six-Bell Striking Competitions on Saturday 21st May at Blythburgh where I hope there will be a large entry from all Districts, as I hope there will also be for the Eight-Bell Competition that the South-East District are lined up to host at Offton on Saturday 24th September. The National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest and particularly the preparation and focus for that have had a demonstrably positive effect on ringing on that number at St Mary-le-Tower and The Norman Tower and I'd like to think that even a fraction of that application will have a similar effect on six and eight bell ringing in the county.

As I hope such application will have on my handbell ringing.

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Wednesday 6th April 2022

It was a busy day of quarter-pealing in Suffolk today, with a trio of successes on the county's bells.

The Millbeck Ring. Elveden.All three were conducted by Brian Whiting, with two of them rung at Shelland on The Millbeck Ring with a 1312 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major and a 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Major, whilst at Elveden Ben Keating became the second ringer to ring their first QP of Rutland Surprise Major in as many days. Well done Ben!

Pettistree. Sadly no pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree as COVID took out two members of the band. The end of free lateral flow tests for most of us last week means ringing has lost one of its means of trying to ensure safety in the art, but whilst of course it would be unreasonable and impractical to insist ringers pay for LFTs before going to ringing, some will still have a stockpile and on this occasion it has spared a potential spread of the virus. Nonetheless, like many areas of life, we will just have to get on with things with caution, although I also hope we don't go too far and end up cancelling something simply because someone has a sniffle, cough or any of the seemingly hundreds of other symptoms that could either indicate coronavirus, any number of other things or nothing at all!

Despite the cancellation of the quarter, there was still a practice, which - once I'd had to stop to let three Muntjac Deer cross the road as I entered the village - I joined for another productive session. I was immediately thrust into a touch of Huntley Place Doubles, before much from Grandsire Doubles to Norwich Surprise Minor was rung with a number of ringers from Hollesley.

They have been busy practicing for their entry into the South-East District Striking Competition, which is due to be held on this ground-floor ring in a month tomorrow and God willing will be a super, informal, fun day on an easy-going six, with a large turnout. Hopefully there will be good weather (and not thunder and strong winds as we got today to join the rain, hail, snow, sleet and sunshine we've had in April thus far) in a nice community where the village hall offers parking just a short, pretty walk from the church.

All being well some may get the chance after the 1.30pm draw for a drink in The Greyhound next door before it shuts at 2.30pm and maybe at a stretch once it reopens at 6pm, but Sam Shannon and myself had a pint after ringing tonight in this tavern full of character and history, which topped off a very enjoyable evening, even if it didn't include a quarter-peal.

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Tuesday 5th April 2022

Little Cornard. Offton.Little Cornard was the latest place to feature on 'Dolphin's Dart' in the first hour of one-time ringer Lesley Dolphin's afternoon show on BBC Radio Suffolk using mention of their bells as a clue, but it was Offton where actual ringing headlines were being made within our borders today. Well done to Mark Ingledew on ringing his first quarter-peal of Rutland Surprise Major in the 1282 rung before the weekly practice on the 8cwt ground-floor eight.

Nothing as thrilling for us from a ringing perspective, apart from hearing Little Cornard's bells being used as a clue on 'Dolphin's Dart'!

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Monday 4th April 2022

Heat, marvelous heat! We have hot water and we have fully functioning central heating again after three weeks. God willing permanently now.

St Mary-le-Tower. Beccles. It sent me on my way to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice in good cheer for what was an eclectic and productive session. Of course it is tempting to ring on twelve here all the time and especially Stedman Cinques at the moment, but ten-bell ringing is an extremely important stepping stone between ringing on eight (which is increasingly plentiful in Suffolk with the many new eights!) and twelve, which generally is only available on a regular basis in Suffolk here and at The Norman Tower. Sadly, there isn't currently much ten-bell ringing going on frequently within our borders, apart from perhaps occasionally right on the edge at Beccles. That may change when the newly augmented ten at Stowmarket are up and running, but at the moment the practices at SMLT and in Bury St Edmunds need to include much on this number to bring through more ringers to twelve.

This evening therefore, there was quite a bit of Surprise Royal, including Bristol, as well as Stedman Caters, although we also rang Grandsire Cinques and I got to ring the treble to Yorkshire Surprise Maximus in a packed programme navigated brilliantly by Jonathan Williamson in the unplanned (though not serious thankfully) absence of usual Ringing Master David Potts.

We were joined in the famous ringing chamber and in the Halberd Inn afterwards by David Stanford and Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson after they had rung another handbell quarter in Moats Tye, whilst further afield one-time Exning learner Jimmy Yeoman was ringing his most methods in hand in the peal of 147 Treble Dodging Minor methods spliced in Selly Oak, which was then followed up by the usual Monday evening peal at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham. Well done again Jimmy!

After peals of Stedman Cinques, Bristol Surprise Royal and spliced Surprise Major over the previous two days, he's on a peal-ringing streak almost as hot as our house now!

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Sunday 3rd April 2022

St Mary-le-Tower. The Norman Tower. These are good times for twelve-bell ringing in Suffolk. The progress being made at St Mary-le-Tower before the pandemic has been picked up again, whilst the superbly hosted National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminator at The Norman Tower not only saw the world's biggest ringing competition return to the county after more than thirty years, but showed the strength in depth of the art on this number within our borders, in the east and west as there were two teams from here entering for the first time in the contest's history.

Therefore, we were delighted to join a twelve-bell practice at the scene of Suffolk's success on this number eight days ago. This was set up by Julian Colman, with the aim of further cementing the progress on twelve made by the county's ringers and was mainly focused on Lincolnshire Surprise Maximus, which improved over the session. However, we also rang some good Stedman Cinques, showing just how much good had been done by months of practice at this by the bands of The Norman Tower and St Mary-le-Tower.

Earlier in the day the boys and I had been along to service ringing at the latter, followed by refreshment in Costa Coffee where we were met by Amanda Richmond, who is still on crutches following her recent skiing accident, but recovering.

And later in the day, after our trip to Bury St Edmunds, we were very kindly treated to tea prepared by the boys' Grandad Ron round at Ruthie's mother Kate's, as well as being allowed to use her wash facilities, with our house still without hot water or heating. Thank you Ron & Kate!

Meanwhile, nationwide there were two peals, a brace of quarters and a date touch of Cinques and one quarter-peal and three peals of Maximus. Pretty decent times for twelve-bell ringing generally!

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Saturday 2nd April 2022

Our day.

Ruthie was dropped off in Grundisburgh for a walk, taking in the new Village Hall, before ringing a quarter-peal of Lessness Surprise Major on the back eight of Suffolk's lightest twelve. Meanwhile, I took the boys to football training, before we then joined my wife and her fellow bandmates for tea and cake, before I took her place for another QP on the bells, this time of the earlier method spliced in with Cambridge, Cornwall, Superlative and Yorkshire Surprise. A quick spot of lunch and then we were off to Portman Road to watch Ipswich Town beat Cambridge United, before a gentle meander via McDonald's and the car to the South-East District Practice at the still fresh 11cwt six of Barham six miles up the road on a light, warm spring evening, before returning home to hot water and heating after mother-in-law Kate very kindly stopped in at ours to allow someone to come in and fix our boiler and return the basic amenities we have been missing for almost three weeks.
At least, that was how we had hoped it would pan out.

It all went to plan up to the part when we dropped Ruthie off in Grundisburgh. She didn't quite get as far as the new Village Hall before receiving an email saying that the quarters had both been postponed due to someone in the household of one of the band testing positive for COVID. It was entirely understandable and exactly what we did when my wife was the first in our house to test positive, plus it couldn't be called off any earlier, but by that point I was already enjoying watching the boys at football training, a real highlight of the week for them and the first time they've been able to go for a month. Still, I left them under the watchful eye of a friend and dashed back to Grundisburgh to collect Mrs Munnings and return with her to the boys.

At the football! At the football!
At the football!

The extra time created by the lack of a second QP allowed a more leisurely trip into the county town for the footy and a chance of a drink with Past Ringing Master at St Mary-le-Tower Simon Rudd and Cambridgeshire ringer and Cambridge fan Gareth Davies ahead of kick-off, before taking our seats with brother and Norman Tower ringer Chris on the front row by the corner flag for a close up view of the action and some of the boys' favourites! Sadly, that was where the positivity ended as our visitors from the neighbouring county went away with a 1-0 win.

Barham. Ringing at Barham for the South-East District Practice. Ringing at Barham for the South-East District Practice. Ringing at Barham for the South-East District Practice. The boys occupying themselves at Barham. The brief meeting at the South-East District Practice at Barham.
SE District Meeting at Barham

We managed tea at the famous golden arches which filled both stomachs and time ahead of the evening's proceedings at Barham, the first opportunity for many to ring on these bells, including us. Unfortunately, despite the bright sunshine, the bone-chillingly low temperatures meant that with the ground-floor ringing chamber - which doubles up as the porch into the church - wide open at both ends, this was a cold experience! Still, it was lovely to ring here at last, having looked forward to doing so since the lockdowns. SE District Chairman Mark Ogden did well in the Ringing Master Jenny Scase's absence and got plenty going from call-changes to Surprise Minor, as well as running a brief meeting that saw local ringer Paul Corbett elected to the Guild and the announcement of the 2022 Guild Peal Week, which is due to run from Saturday 30th April - Saturday 7th May, whilst SGR RM Katharine Salter signed lots of membership certificates.

Ringing resumed after the bit of business, but we returned home after a long day for the boys. Sadly though, not to a warm home. The person who was booked in to come round to ours to fix our boiler and return our hot water and heating and for whom mother-in-law Kate had waited in our house whilst we were out, had not turned up. Further investigations revealed that they had been ill (ironic given that it was our illness that had prevented them sorting this out three weeks ago) and believed they had sent a message to "someone" to inform us. As I have been at pains to point out all along, there are others in far worse situations in the world, so we can't really grumble, but it is getting very wearing now, especially as we had built ourselves up for a hot bath and central heating. What's more, it was annoying and embarrassing that Ruthie's mother had to waste five hours of her day waiting at ours for someone who was never going to turn up.

Woolpit.On a happier note though, on the 8cwt six of Woolpit where there will be ringing on Guild AGM Day on Saturday 23rd April, a quarter-peal of Grandsire Doubles was being rung. I'm glad their day went more to plan.

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Friday 1st April 2022

April Snow. Theberton.In a continuation from yesterday's blog, today actually is 1st April. But again it was no joke that there was more snow today. Indeed, there was a reasonably hefty amount settled on the rooftops as I pulled back the curtains for the first time in this second month of spring. With the weather warm enough last week to consider getting sun cream and having since put the clocks forward to British Summer Time, it has all been a bit of a shock! Still, it excited the boys and was never enough to cause any issues with everyday life, including in ringing, with Edgar Wilhelm ringing his first quarter-peal of St Remigius & St Nicholas Bob and Huntley & Winchendon Place in the 1260 of Doubles at Theberton. Well done Edgar!

We did find time to read this week's copy of The Ringing World which arrived with us today though and featured a newsflash on how the standard 720s such as wrong-home-wrong had been discovered to be false, causing much disappointment to David Pipe whose record handbell peal of 72,000 changes of Surprise Minor with Philip Earis and Andrew Tibbetts in 2007 will have to be struck off the records and to Colin Turner who stands to lose about a third of his 7814 peals. Of course it was all an April's Fool, but very entertaining!

Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - - 136670 As I was reading the various perspectives of Saturday's National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminators and a preview of what one might expect at the Final due to take place at Guildford on 25th June, but it wasn't only in ringing's journal that the competition was reported upon. For there is an article on the East Anglian Daily Times' website about St Mary-le-Tower's qualification, complete with photo of the band!

It was also a subject at Simon Rudd's weekly virtual pub, minus our host who was otherwise engaged, as Norman Tower ringer Julian Colman still seemed on an understandable high from a hugely enjoyable and successful day, whilst for others tomorrow's ART Masterclass in Birmingham was the focus.

-Hopefully there won't be a continuation of today's blog and they're travelling in snow!

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Thursday 31st March 2022

April 1st is tomorrow.

Snow. Hail.I say that as some might have believed that reports of snow today may have been an April Fools joke, but sure enough, having felt like spring had sprung last week, we were faced with the white stuff falling this morning, then hail and a considerable chill, especially in a house still without heating. We were therefore grateful for a delivery of some electric heaters from Ruthie's Gran's!

That April is due to start tomorrow also means we hope to have a busy month of ringing ahead of us.

Barham. Bardwell. Woolpit.
Barham, Bardwell & Woolpit

God willing, it will begin with Saturday evening's South-East District Practice at the ground-floor six at Barham from 7-8.30, which would be the first opportunity for many to ring here. A week later, the plan is for the North-West District to meet at Bardwell from 10am-noon. In a District that elected an incredible ten new members at its last meeting, there will hopefully be a large and enthusiastic attendance for this! And a fortnight on from then on Saturday 23rd, all being well there will be a large representation of the membership at Woolpit & Drinkstone and a number of towers beforehand for the Guild AGM Day. Please do support all that you can.

In amongst all that, it is also Holy Week, which even after the disruption to ringing over the last couple of years will see many towers fall silent again. In his Blog this week, CCCBR President Simon Linford suggests what I've often suspected that this tradition is one we seem to have imposed on ourselves, as apparently there is no liturgical reason for the bells not to ring during that week. Indeed, from a discussion on it on Ringing Forums, he has concluded that more seem to be deciding to practice in the days leading up to Easter. And it is worth noting that three years ago we were positively encouraged to ring on Maundy Thursday for mere bricks and mortar, however special those bricks and mortar were together.

Of course, if the incumbent wishes for the bells not to remain silent that week, then they should, but it strikes me that whilst barely anyone would notice the absence of bells on any given day, they might notice them being rung more or being rung half-muffled, as they are at Woodbridge, albeit they muffle their bells throughout Lent. Whilst that might be food for thought for the future though, plans will already be in place at most places for this year, so as usual it is worth reminding everyone to double check if their regular tower(s) are ringing or not that week.

Horringer.There was definitely ringing at Horringer today though, with a quarter-peal of New Cambridge Surprise Major on the lovely ground-floor eight in the west of the county and at The Norman Tower where Ben Keating rang his first of Lincolnshire Surprise Major in the 1344 there. Well done Ben!

None for us though, as instead we went to The Coach and Horses near us in Melton with my wife's choral colleagues as a farewell to the former choirmaster Bob, thankfully after the snow had stopped.

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Wednesday 30th March 2022

Pettistree. Mike Whitby is a reassuring presence at Pettistree, but he will be more pleased than anyone to know that even in his absence this evening, we enjoyed a very successful and productive practice night, from the pre-session quarter-peal of Ipswich Surprise Minor well conducted by Mark Ogden to a range of requested Surprise Minor methods. Anne Buswell asked for Beverley, rang it and rang it well. Chris McArthur asked for Netherseale, rang it and rang it well. Hilary Stern asked for Primrose, rang it and rang it well. And Mike Cowling topped an night that also included Stedman Doubles by suggesting London, which was also rung well.

Felixstowe.Meanwhile, Jacky Savage is asking for help for ringing for a wedding at Felixstowe on the August Bank Holiday Monday, 25th, so if you can fill in I'm sure she would be most grateful.

That may be followed by a drink, but mine certainly was, with Mark Ogden and Chris & Mary Garner in the corner of The Greyhound at the end of a very successful and productive practice night. We'll still be pleased to see Mike Whitby return!

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Tuesday 29th March 2022

At last, hot water and heating! Thanks to a visit from the boiler man, our missing basic amenities were returned. After more than a fortnight of the household bathing in two or three boiled kettles worth of water and several days of living in a chilly home (albeit mitigated by the lovely warm weather we enjoyed last week), we instantly enjoyed wallowing in a hot bath and warmed the cold bones of our house by putting the heating on. Except it seems to have lasted barely a few hours, as it all packed up again as darkness fell. We were warned that may happen as it was just a temporary fix, whilst a new part is ordered to properly fix it, but it was slightly deflating to be faced with a third week without hot water.

Hopefully there was hot water at 26 Redland Road in Reading for the band that rang a 5088 of Bristol Surprise Maximus on handbells to celebrate the precise fiftieth anniversary of the first peal of the method rung in hand (which was also marked by peals in the ringing chambers of Birmingham Cathedral and St Paul's Cathedral) and pleasingly featuring two of the original band, Bernard Groves and Robert Newton, as well being called by one of the outstanding up and coming youngsters of the art, Jack Page, who since conducting the Cumberlands' qualifying piece at The Norman Tower on Saturday, has rung in the first ever peal of PAZORABS (Phobos Surprise, Ariel Surprise, Zanussi Surprise, Orion Surprise, Rigel Surprise, Avon Delight, Bristol Surprise and Strathclyde Surprise Maximus spliced in a composition composed by Jonathan Potter and arranged by Robin Hall) on Sunday and calling that 5040 of six Maximus methods spliced in Birmingham last night.

Ixworth. Woolpit. Great Finborough. Buxhall.
Rattlesden. Hitcham.
Ixworth, Woolpit, Great Finborough, Buxhall, Rattlesden & Hitcham

There was nothing as extreme as that recorded in Suffolk on BellBoard today, although there was a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Triples rung at Ixworth, but God willing it'll be much busier on Saturday 23rd April when the Guild AGM is due to be held at Drinkstone Village Hall, with ringing and a service at Woolpit beforehand and now also at Great Finborough, the newly augmented eight at Buxhall, Rattlesden and the new octave at Hitcham. There is so much more to the day then the meeting, but ahead of the business it may serve you well to acquaint yourself with the rule changes proposed. There doesn't seem to be anything particularly controversial, with much of it simple housekeeping, but it all ought to be worked through quicker if everyone is familiar with the details.

Before we get that far though, we will hope to have fully-functioning, reliable hot water and heating.

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Monday 28th March 2022

St Mary-le-Tower. This evening's trip out to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice felt very uplifting. That I was even going at all, three weeks after I was last able to go was part of it, but also that I was doing that in daylight following the putting forward of the clocks to British Summer Time yesterday morning. And it was lovely to see the smiling faces of a couple looking up at the tower approvingly as the bells rang out whilst they walked past.

St Philip's Cathedral. However, there was a very upbeat mood generally after the weekend's events and as to underline our achievements, whilst some of those we were competing with on Saturday were ringing a peal at Birmingham Cathedral of six Maximus methods spliced to David Pipe's cyclic composition, the first ringing I did tonight was trebling to Plain Hunt on Seven with young learner Anna on the front eight. That's not to say the other teams like the Brummies and the Cumberlands don't do much for grassroots (with the former particularly successful with the Birmingham School of Bell Ringing and Brumdingers), but it seemed to highlight how well we did to qualify amongst such esteemed competition!

Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - - 136670 We did do much on higher numbers too though. We decided to give Stedman Cinques a rest for one night (despite the temptation to try out the new touch we are due to learn for the Final in three months time!), but did ring some Grandsire Cinques and some particularly well rung Lincolnshire Surprise Royal.

Afterwards in the Halberd Inn, unsurprisingly the talk was of the weekend, about Guildford and even team shirts (keeping my fingers crossed they aren't polo shirts which I feel extremely uncomfortable in!) for the occasion, all of which was further encouraged by the vicar The Reverend Tom Mumford joining us for a drink. He has been very supportive of the ringers and seems genuinely chuffed with our qualification, with a tweet congratulating us on the church's Twitter feed much appreciated by us.

It was all very uplifting for my journey home.

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Sunday 27th March 2022

Bury St Edmunds , St Edmundsbury Cathedral (19521865636) The Norman Tower. The morning after the day before, began with an interview with Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge about the day before, 42mins into Sarah Lilley's Breakfast show on BBC Radio Suffolk. He captured the essence of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest, what a privilege it is for a tower in Suffolk to host it, but also how well The Norman Tower and the Cathedral did in hosting it, whilst our qualification added another local element to this good news story. It was also great to hear some of our ringing over the airwaves! Additionally, having somehow his interview 40mins into the same show a week ago, that too is worth a listen.

St Lawrence.We were back to the primary purpose of ringing afterwards though, that of announcing the start of a service and calling people to worship. With Ruthie's voice struggling a little after her recent bout of COVID, she joined me in the climbing the many stairs to the bells of St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, where we were very congratulated for our efforts yesterday.
Meanwhile, there was good news that the tower at St Lawrence in Ipswich has been checked out and the go ahead has been given for ringing to resume on the oldest complete ring of five hung for change-ringing in the world.

However, today is of course Mothering Sunday and so the rest of the day was dedicated to the mothers in our life. That included my Mum Sally where we popped in for a cuppa, before we also imparted felicitations of the day to mother-in-law Kate and my wife's Gran, before I 'treated' the mother of our household to a roast dinner cooked entirely by me and an Eton Mess accompanied by a bottle of wine for a rare Sunday drink.

Which was a nice way to finish the day after the day before.

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Saturday 26th March 2022

St Mary-le-Tower

Success for Ipswich at today's National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Eliminator at The Norman Tower from a personal perspective was Joshua testing negative and thus allowing us to leave the boys with their Granny Kate, turning up with at least twelve ringers, coming out on top in the friendly local derby with Bury St Edmunds and not embarrassing ourselves.

Objective one, achieved, incredibly so as our five-year-old son somehow managed to survive the best part of a fortnight with a household where everyone had COVID, without contracting it. As a result, he could join his Gran for ten-pin bowling and then a birthday party for one of his classmates.

Objective two, achieved, where despite one ringer being incapacitated by a skiing accident and another with a positive coronavirus test earlier in the week.

Objective three, achieved with a climax to the day's ringing, with the hosts ringing penultimately and us ringing last, although to be fair it felt like Suffolk ringing was the proverbial winner with everyone incredibly impressed that two bands from our rural county could enter ringing's premier competition.

Objective four, achieved. And how.

Edmund Green The draw in the Cathedral. The draw in the Cathedral.
Edmund Green & The Draw in the Cathedral

With the youngest son still free of the virus and the rest of us no longer infectious, we left the boys with Ruthie's mother and set about our train journey to the west of the county, firstly to Ipswich, where we bumped into Chris & Jill Birkby, and then to BSE, where the four of us made the walk from the railway station to the Cathedral and a big crowd of participants and spectators in the sunshine of Edmund's Green awaiting the 11am draw for the ringing order.

The ringing order.Bacon butties consumed and beer tokens purchased as a band including my Mum Sally rang with the judges, we gathered inside the church for the draw and bemoaned being drawn last to ring, meaning we had to patiently wait to get stuck into the beer being provided in the south transept.

Listening to ringing on Edmund Green. Listening to ringing on Edmund Green.
Listening to ringing on Edmund Green

As we waited, we listened to the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths open proceedings, followed by the competition favouriites Birmingham, both ringing superbly. A tactical and nerve-settling pint was enjoyed and then some lunch from the handily placed catering cart and some strategic toilet breaks. Then, as we gathered at the gates to this landmark of Suffolk ringing, we listened to our hosts ringing, before it was our turn.

To be fair, our fifteen minute practice beforehand was not our finest. After months of ringing the test piece of 252 changes of Stedman Cinques practically perfectly throughout, it felt more than ironic that our last opportunity to run through the piece was beset by mistakes. However, we recovered superbly and then set about the actual test piece, aware that many were listening outside. What followed was a particularly pleasing bit of ringing and arguably our best attempt at it yet.

In good cheer, we descended the steps from the ringing chamber and out in the sunshine where a sizeable crowd had been listening in impressive numbers considering the beer could only be drunk inside the Cathedral and got stuck into the alcohol now that we could - thank you to Maggie Ross and Tim Palmer on having drinks waiting for my wife and me! Having left the children with Kate and trained it over with the idea being to enjoy a few leisurely drinks without boring Mason, Alfie & Josh, the only downside was that being drawn to ring last meant there was lots of hanging around watching others enjoy the superb beer put on from The Dove, although we did allow ourselves that one pint beforehand.

Results being given in the Cathedral. Results being given in the Cathedral. Results being given in the Cathedral. Results being given in the Cathedral.
Results being given in the Cathedral

Nevertheless, it's fair to say we'd consumed a surprising amount in the relatively short period between us finishing and the judges Lesley Boyle and fellow Rambling Ringer Alex Riley arriving from their deliberations, with the latter giving constructive comments and the former then imparting the results. She began by revealing that The Norman Tower and Sheffield had finished at the bottom of a competitive field and then onto telling us what we all expected, that the Cumberlands and the contest's most successful team Birmingham had qualified for the Final in second and first respectively. That just left two teams waiting to find out who would take the third and final spot from this eliminator for the final in June. Us, entering for only the second time in twenty-four years, having not rung in a final since we held it thirty-one years ago and having not qualified for one since 1989. And Towcester, who have rung at eight finals in that time, most recently in 2015 and finishing second on home bells in 2005 and who have some ringers very experienced at this level of ringing. I was impressed that we were involved in the cliffhanger that had the hundreds present on the edge of their seats. I was staggered when Lesley read out that our friends from Northamptonshire had come fourth. We had done it! Our name is on the list of finalists due to compete at Guildford Cathedral on Saturday 25th June that also includes the College Youths, Bristol, Cambridge, Exeter, Melbourne and Oxford from the other eliminators and the hosts. Well done also to former ringers of this county Molly Waterson and George Salter on qualifying with Bristol, whilst one-time Great Barton ringer Alex Tatlow was ringing the tenor for Southwark in the eliminator at St Magnus-the-Martyr in London. Meanwhile, I was delighted that three members of the Munnings family were competing today, with my brother Chris ringing for The Norman Tower.

The whole SMLT band deserves credit of course, but especially David Potts and Amanda Richmond (who was present but still injured and unable to ring today) on arranging the practices and guiding us, to Colin Salter on conducting it and giving the right words at the right time and to Lucy Williamson and her father Jonathan who only rang their first quarter-peal of Stedman Cinques a few weeks ago and yet now find themselves ringing it well enough to qualify for the final of the biggest ringing competition in the world! And it couldn't be done without those who helped us prepare. I was privileged to win this contest twice for Birmingham previously, but I am honestly far more chuffed about helping my home town team make it through to the final!

It was a massive surprise though. Indeed, such a surprise to us was it, that a couple of members of the band can't make our unexpected appointment in Surrey in ninety-one days time, but having lost two members of the band in recent weeks we have shown our resilience and strength in depth today and so we celebrated with a brief drink in The One Bull on the way back to the station to begin our train journey home where we were very kindly met by my mother-in-law, the boys and a plate of toad-in-the-hole. Thank you very much Kate, for today and to her and my Mum Sally for the immense amount of child-sitting that has enabled us to practice as much as we needed to to prepare for today.

What a day too, even aside from the result. These types of occasions usually bring together ringing friends from all areas of one's ringing life and so it was today, in a way that has been so missed over the last couple of years. There were plenty from my Birmingham days as you can imagine with the Brummies participating, but also Ramblers, familiar faces from when we used to ring with the Peterborough Diocesan Guild, College Youths ringing for other teams, Cumberlands and of course Guild members who were supporting the event in numbers.

The Norman Tower.The biggest mention has to go to the local ringers and their numerous hi-viz helpers. Frequently at such events, grumbles can be heard about how things should've been done differently, even if only with small things, but everyone I spoke with were overwhelmingly glowing in how things had been organised. Refreshment solid and liquid, alcoholic and soft was available in abundance and the clergy are an example to others of how to support ringers. They struck the perfect note between appreciating the spirit of the occasion but also reminding us of the important role bells play in the church and with supporting others. Well done to all at the Cathedral and The Norman Tower on a superb day.

It was very much a success for all.

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Friday 25th March 2022

The Norman Tower. Sad news today as Leeds withdrew their entry at tomorrow's eliminator at The Norman Tower for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest. The reason is that they have been unfortunate to have a wave of COVID decimate their band and it is unsurprising that a team has had to drop out for this reason. Despite mercifully not leading to anywhere near as much severe illness or death as it did even just a year ago, it is absolutely rife in society, as we can testify! However, ringers generally and particularly for this competition have been abundantly cautious with their approach towards coronavirus, with regular tests and immediately isolation when testing positive, even if it does mean not being able to ring on Saturday. Therefore, there was always the danger that if it caught hold amongst a number of any team that there would be a pullout.

St Mary-le-Tower. It is a fate that could still yet afflict any team even in the morning, but for now, our own virus episode seems to have been timed well, although we are still hanging on and praying for Joshua testing negative in the morning to allow both Ruthie and I to ring. As such, we were able to join the rest of the band at St Mary-le-Tower for some last minute practice at tomorrow's touch. With the boys behaving really well in the corner, we rang it really well three times in the hour-long session, which apart from anything else was useful for getting used to handling a bellrope after almost a fortnight staying away from ringing chambers. It was great to get out again.

Helmingham.Meanwhile, Happy Birthday to twice Past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild, Stephen Pettman, who celebrated by conducting a peal of Bristol Surprise Major on the 17cwt gallery-ring eight of Helmingham.

I'm glad to see that there weren't any last-minute COVID withdrawals there!

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Thursday 24th March 2022

Our electricity went off today. I have been loathed to moan about our current 'predicament', fully aware that there are people going through far, far worse, as we are seeing daily on the news. However, with our isolation continuing and boredom well set in on top of the discomfort of having no heating and no hot water for a week and a half now, the thought of also being without power too was almost too much to take. Mercifully, it was soon apparent after a quick (very long distance!) chat with a neighbour to the sound of alarms going off in the background that it wasn't just us and indeed the power was restored even before I'd finished my short conversation.

That restoration of electricity allowed us to later listen to Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson being interviewed on Gen X Radio, a new local radio station. Pretty much exactly thirty-six minutes into Eloise Trett's afternoon show, she was able to talk superbly on this Saturday's National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminator at The Norman Tower and also ringing generally over several minutes on the airwaves. Well worth a listen.

Horringer. Not far from Bury St Edmunds, there was ringing happening, as a quarter-peal of Quedgeley Surprise Major was rung at Horringer. Well done to Pat Lees, Martin Kirk and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first in the method!

Meanwhile, please note that there will be no Tuesday night practice at Offton next week, in case you or someone you know was thinking of going along.

And of course no ringing for us tonight (although we enjoyed a nice distanced chat with local ringer Pete Faircloth on our doorstep when he very kindly dropped some tests off for us), so we spent another evening at home. With electricity thank God.

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Wednesday 23rd March 2022

Blythburgh. Focus is on the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Eliminator at The Norman Tower on Saturday and God willing Joshua continues coming up negative as today's did so that both Ruthie and I can be there (especially as we are another ringer down due to the virus), but there are of course other striking competitions planned in the coming months, including the Suffolk Guild Six-Bell Competitions for the Mitson Shield and the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy, lined up for Saturday 21st May at Blythburgh. Hopefully a bumper turnout of teams with a renewed appreciation for events like this after a two year absence will allow for plenty of time to take in this lovely setting, including The White Hart, the local tavern which offered superb views from the beer garden last time we were here for this occasion a decade ago and which features as one of the seven family friendly pubs in the county in an article on the EADT website today. Another great reason to come along on 21/5/2022, even if you aren't ringing!

Barham. Ringers were ringing today, most notably Tom Harvey who rang his first quarter-peal in the 1320 of Reverse St Simon's Bob Doubles on the 11cwt ground-floor six at Barham, which was also a first in the method for all the band. Well done to them all, but especially to Tom!

Perhaps we'll even see a Barham entry in the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competition and we can join them in The White Hart for a pint!

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Tuesday 22nd March 2022

The Norman Tower. I may have mentioned that the biggest ringing competition in the world is due to come to Suffolk on Saturday with one of the three eliminators of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest at The Norman Tower and personally I think it is ringing PR gold dust. One of the few memories I have of the day after the Final at Surfleet in Lincolnshire in 2003 was of seeing a newspaper billboard advertising the occasion, whilst the 2006 Final at Worcester was famously the subject of Marcus Brigstocke's Trophy People. The eliminators too are - in my humble opinion - great publicity for the art, an example of it at its social best and the closest to professional sport that the exercise gets. Therefore, I was delighted to see an article on it featuring Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson on the East Anglian Daily Times website today, hopefully making the public aware of why the bells are ringing and encouraging many of them along.

Edwardstone. Additionally, I hope lots of SGR members come along too, as I hope both Ruthie and I are able to. There may be understandable concern about the amount of COVID flying around, but even though there is no obligation to do so, my Facebook feed is awash with participants isolating from the virus like us, even at the expense of being able to ring on the day, whilst others are anxiously testing in the lead-up to be as sure as possible that they are safe. God willing the weather looks like it might be good, so lots of time could be spent outside listening to superb ringing and even if indoors it is mainly in big spacious surroundings. In line with every other striking competition I've rung in or heard about since ringing's full on return eight months ago, there is also additional time between teams to allow for the air to clear. Once again, a ringing event is likely to be one of the safest places to be with crowds in society currently, so please do support these efforts if you can and also if you can, pop out to Edwardstone for the South-West District Practice.

All being well it ought to be a busier day of ringing for us than today as we continue to avoid ringing chambers and other ringers, but the weather on what was presumably the warmest day of 2022 thus far allowed for plenty of football in the garden with the boys whilst I wasn't working. Although there has been lots of that over the last week anyway!

That has been a rare bonus of being housebound, but I'm still hoping I'm not kicking a football round the garden on Saturday and am instead at the well publicised National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Eliminator in Bury St Edmunds!

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Monday 21st March 2022

The Norman Tower.Still Joshua continues testing negative, still we pray that continues, both for his wellbeing, but also to help ensure that on Saturday at The Norman Tower we can both contribute to the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest entry for an Ipswich band that is already depleted by Amanda Richmond's unfortunate accident. The only problem is that with the rest of us still testing positive, we can't get him to school!

Nor could I get to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice, the second I've had to miss due to our isolation, but hopefully those who were able to attend were able to enjoy a productive session and maybe even a go at the touch of Stedman Cinques which is due to be the test piece in Bury St Edmunds in five days time.

Edwalton.There was ringing in BSE today too, as another impressive handbell quarter of Major was rung in Suffolk, featuring Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson on her birthday - Happy Birthday Rowan and to Lesley Steed and Barry Dixon. Meanwhile, well done to Bardwell Ringing Master Ruth Suggett on calling her first QP of Kent Treble Bob in the 1320 of the Minor variety over the Norfolk border on the 10cwt six of Shotesham. Even further afield, thank you to the Rambling Ringers band who rang a peal at Edwalton in Nottinghamshire which remembered my Dad Alan, amongst other members who have sadly died since the start of the pandemic.

God willing both Ruthie and I will be able to also do some ringing, this weekend.

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Sunday 20th March 2022

In just six days time, the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest is due to return after a three year absence, since hosts Exeter won the famous Taylor Trophy for the first time on a glorious sunny June day, in wonderful scenes caught for posterity at the climax of Matthew Tosh's superb broadcast of the occasion. Three eliminators are lined up to whittle down the current eighteen entrants to the nine that should then join this year's planned hosts Guildford on Saturday 25th June - one in the North-West of England at Chester Cathedral, one down in the capital at St Magnus-the-Martyr and of course a third here in Suffolk at The Norman Tower.

That the chances of Ruthie and I both ringing for the St Mary-le-Tower band in Bury St Edmunds could depend on whether Joshua continues to test negative for COVID over the next few days, is just a small example of the additional factors that go into making this year's competition harder to call than ever before, but one imagines that Birmingham (who have won the trophy more times than every other team who has ever entered since it was first competed for in 1975) shouldn't have too much trouble qualifying from our group, whilst the Cumberlands will be next favourites in many observers' attempts at predicting the outcome of ringing on the county's youngest twelve. My best guess would be that Leeds and Towcester would be most likely to challenge for the last qualifying spot having been the only other ones from our eliminator who have made the final over the last decade, but don't rule out the rest of us. Sheffield will be particularly keen to qualify for the main event in the summer having missed out on hosting it in 2020 and ahead of their plans to hold it next year and reach their first final since they held it in 1996. The Norman Tower have form in winning twelve-bell striking competitions having won the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell two of the four times it has been held and of course have home advantage. And we in the Ipswich band have been delighted with our practices for the competition over the last few months.

In the other eliminators, one wouldn't be surprised if the London-based teams of Southwark, St Paul's Cathedral and the College Youths made familiarity of the bells at St Magnus-the-Martyr count, but both Melbourne and Oxford were in the last final (indeed the former have been in every one of the last eleven), whilst Louis Suggett has been ringing regularly at Wimborne and spoke glowingly of the standard of ringing there when we conversed a few weeks ago, so look out for a potential surprise there! Meanwhile in Chester, it would be a shock if regular finalists Bristol, Cambridge and current holders Exeter didn't qualify ahead of Chilcompton and the hosts, neither of whom have ever rung in the final, but again, you never know!

Edwardstone.Whatever the outcomes, God willing all three will be successful occasions and both my wife and I can attend together at something we've been looking forward to for a long time and hopefully many Guild members can come along to BSE to support the locals and take in some great twelve-bell ringing, whether in its entirety, for a short while or either side of nipping over to Edwardstone for the South-West District Practice between 3-4.30pm. If all goes to plan , food and soft drinks will be available from 9.30am-4pm and the bar open from 10.30am-5.30pm, the draw made at 11am, a Said Evensong for those who wish at 3.30pm and the results at approximately 5pm. Many more details are available in the PDF linked from the front page of the Contest's website.

Lakenheath.In the here and now though, there was ringing happening already within our borders today, apart from the usual - and most important - ringing for services, with a peal rung at Lakenheath, but although I enjoyed taking in Ipswich Town's Women playing on the TV, for us our circumstances took another turn as the heating joined our hot water in failing. We pray that Josh continues testing negative, most crucially for his own health but also so we can get our boiler fixed ASAP and at least warm ourselves by looking forward to six days time in Bury St Edmunds.

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Saturday 19th March 2022

We've been trying to find silver linings to our COVID-induced isolation.

That we didn't catch this two years ago (at least as far as we are aware) before vaccines watered down its effects and means that whilst we have felt better, we have felt worse, so far anyway. That the three of us who have caught it in our household thus far have hopefully caught it early enough not to disrupt our plans for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Eliminator at The Norman Tower in a week, although if Joshua tests positive between now and then it will mean those plans will have to change. That we have had the chance as a family to spend this extra time together. That we are fortunate to have the kind help of relatives nearby.

Up there with all of that is a lay-in on a Saturday morning though, as we experienced today for the first time for a long time and which we took advantage of with some much needed sleep and then - having briefly got up to feed the children breakfast - have a cuppa in bed with a read of the newly delivered copy of The Ringing World, which this week features Suffolk ringing and indeed ringing involving me pretty prominently. Last Saturday's peal at Leiston to mark the sixty-sixth anniversary of David Salter's birth featured in the top five of 'What's Hot on BellBoard', whilst the marvelous report by Jane Waters of the George W Pipe Striking Competition won by St Mary-le-Tower at Waltham Abbey precisely a month ago appears with photos.

Earl Stonham. Oakley. Thornham Magna.
Earl Stonham, Oakley & Thornham Magna

Meanwhile, whilst an ART course was taking place at Earl Stonham, there were also a brace of 1296s were rung in Suffolk, with Double Court Bob Minor rung in forty-eight minutes at Oakley and Netherseale Surprise Minor rung in forty-two minutes at Thornham Magna.

It is a silver lining to our predicament that we have been able to see ringing in the county continue whilst we've been housebound.

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Friday 18th March 2022

Simon Rudd's weekly Friday night virtual pubs have been a welcome remnant of the lockdowns of the last couple of years, but tonight they served their original purpose for us, namely connecting us with friends at a time when we are unable to physically meet with people. Therefore we particularly enjoyed our catch-up this evening that amongst other things took in a discussion on what regular ringing there is in the Telford area, as one of our number is planning on going there soon. Perhaps someone reading this may have more of an idea than we all did!

We also spoke of the Norwich Diocesan Association's mini-ring's use in schools and so it seemed appropriate afterwards that I got the chance to read the update on the Schools & Youth Groups Workgroup on the CCCBR's website which makes interesting reading. Well worth a read.

Even if we can't ring as we would like to, at least there is still ringing-related activity to occupy us.

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Thursday 17th March 2022

Positive test no.3 this week as Alfie produced two lines, although it confirms what we suspected a couple of days ago. Mercifully he's been relatively OK, beyond the coughing, sniffles and tiredness he exhibited earlier in the week and led us to conclude that he already had it, especially after we had tested positive. Josh is still testing negative, but has had a cough too, so we'll be surprised if he doesn't give us a full house.

It doesn't change much about our current circumstances where we were isolating anyway, which means no ringing with others in person for a while and no choir practices for Ruthie this evening, whilst with no hot water until we are free of the virus it means lots of boiling of kettles.

Horringer. At least others in Suffolk are free to ring, most notably at Horringer where Trevor Smith was ringing his first quarter-peal on eight. Well done Trevor and Happy Birthday Sally Crouch, who also rang and has done so much for ringing on this ground floor octave, not least in being a driving force in the transformation of these bells to one of the best eights in the county.

Additionally, there are much, much worse things happening in the world and arguably we're having a better time of things than the poor ringer who broke their arm when a slider failed at the practice night at St Andrew in Plymouth on Tuesday, as reported in the local paper and was shared on the Bellringers Facebook page today. Such events are incredibly rare when one considers how much ringing is done and so it seems even more shocking, but of course I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing the injured party a speedy recovery and return to ringing.

As we're praying for in our household.

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Wednesday 16th March 2022

Isolation continues for Ruthie, this time with myself and the boys, both of whom have been showing symptoms but are testing negative for now. Besides, there was no way of getting them to school and so we returned to our old lockdown routine of me working from home whilst Ruthie homeschooled Alfie and Joshua.

Pettistree. As such, it was a very mundane day, great as it was to spend some unexpected extra time with my family. Indeed, an indication of its mundanity was that a highlight was receiving bread and ice cream from mother-in-law Kate, who kindly dropped the goods off from afar on her way to calling the (sadly unsuccessful) pre-practice quarter-peal attempt at Pettistree. Although the practice was cancelled earlier in the day with low numbers. It has been a difficult few weeks on Wednesday nights on this six, with injuries, illness (COVID and other), work and meetings contributing to what is always a difficult time of year to encourage ringers to a ground-floor ring, especially as people are understandably anxious about huddling around the heater in the ringing chamber as we used to do! God willing the lighter, longer, warmer evenings of the spring and summer will encourage healthier numbers at a venue that is a very appealing place to go the practice at that time of year.

The extra time offered us this evening gave me more time to read CCCBR President Simon Linford's latest blog, which again makes superb reading, somehow starting with ringing's response to events in Ukraine and ending with his daughter's Superlative costume for World Book Day! In between he gives updates on the ringing centre in Northampton, the Council's Mobile Belfry project and a document being put together aimed at helping Environmental Health Officers understand more about bell issues, whilst he also points out that the page on ringing for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee has been moved to the front page of the CC's site.

Coddenham. Helmingham.All being well there will be plenty of ringing over the long bank holiday weekend at the start of June being held to celebrate Her Majesty's seventy years on the throne, but there was a lot of ringing going on today in Suffolk, with quarter-peals of Single Oxford Bob Triples rung at Coddenham in 1260 changes and Yorkshire Surprise Major at Helmingham in 1344 changes, whilst a QP of Plain Bob Major was rung on handbells in Hasketon.

At least others are able to get out and about ringing, I'm glad to say!

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Tuesday 15th March 2022

The Norman Tower. Almost as surely as Tuesday follows Monday, Ruthie's positive test for COVID yesterday was followed by mine today. The negatives from the positives are balanced out by more traditional positives, or vice versa depending on whether you are a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person! We will both be past day ten and safe to be released by the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminator due to be held at The Norman Tower on Saturday 26th March and available to ring for Ipswich, although still praying we haven't passed it on to anyone else, especially any others in the band. And if either Alfie or Joshua test positive after tomorrow that will complicate things.

Mercifully of the many, many people we know who have caught the virus over the last couple of months, no one has been ill enough to end up in hospital and God willing that continues, but for some it has been very unpleasant, so whilst we currently feel no worse than we would with a slightly bad cold, we are braced for it potentially getting worse.

Again, although we don't have to isolate, we will, although it gives us a conundrum over whether we get the boys to school and if so how and also means that if all goes as it should from now on, the next time my wife and/or I ring on towerbells with others is going to be in Bury St Edmunds on competition day at the earliest!

There was ringing done by other ringers in Suffolk though and for very good reason, as a quarter-peal of Grandsire & Stedman Caters spliced was rung half-muffled on the back ten of the aforementioned twelve in The Norman Tower after the funeral of local ringer Marion Holland in the Cathedral, rung by her friends in ringing. A suitable send-off for a much loved ringer.

Meanwhile, our current condition isn't being helped by our lack of hot water and vice versa, as we discussed today. For having called someone to come out and fix it and in the process doing what we thought was the right thing by informing them of COVID in the house, we were told that no one could come out to us until the virus had passed through, even if we kept completely separate from them in a different part of our abode. Instead, someone tried to guide me over the phone through a temporary measure aimed at getting hot water back for the time being, which required me clambering about in our loft with a torch in one hand, my phone in another and toolkit in another. Well, you get the idea. Those who are aware of my distinct lack of practical skills will be unsurprised that it didn't go well, but even I surpassed my own low expectations by nearly flooding the loft and briefly depriving the house of water altogether! The situation was rescued before anything too damaging occurred, but the long and short of it is that we're still without hot water until this wave of coronavirus has left our household.

Debenham.Still, we were helped to get over that trauma and through our isolation by the latest edition of The Ringing World, which arrived with us this morning and features an article by John Eisel about the 'Background events leading to the long peal at Debenham in 1892', which whilst he didn't mention much about the 21cwt ground-floor eight in our midst is part one of a series of articles, so look out for more!

After all, we've got the time to now.

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Monday 14th March 2022

Neighbours have had it. Family have had it. Work colleagues have had it. Ringers and other friends have had it. In fact, just about everyone seems to have had it recently and so it seemed inevitable that at some point soon one of our household would catch COVID and that is what has now happened as Ruthie tested positive in a test today.

In many respects the actual illness is the lesser of the worries. We are young and fit and almost two years to the day since ringing and so much else was completely halted in an attempt to stop the spread of a virus we knew very little about and had nothing to fight with against, the incredible work of scientists and medicine to create vaccines and treatments mean that this is much more of an inconvenience comparable to other viruses that already existed, for us personally at least. Indeed, it was interesting to listen to the Chief Executive of Ipswich Hospital on the radio this morning remarking that for all the ubiquity of the virus now and for some time that mercifully only one person is in intensive care at the hospital with this once terrifying affliction.

However, although we have no obligation to isolate now, with just twelve days until St Mary-le-Tower are due to participate in the eliminator of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest at The Norman Tower, we are anxious not to start a new wave of infection through the team and so we decided straight away that I wouldn't go to the practice tonight. After Ruthie had rung with the band yesterday in Norwich after testing negative, SMLT Ringing Master David Potts was understandably harbouring the same abundance of caution and with low numbers expected this evening anyway he decided to call the session off. Even without that, it wouldn't feel right going out and about freely knowing Ruthie and very probably myself would be spreading coronavirus around, so safety first is the mantra. God willing the rest of our household either avoids the bug or catches it quickly before the 16th, because I'm desperate not to miss an occasion that I have been looking forward to for ages. Arguably for years.

In fact, now that our family are the proverbial lepers, our main issue is actually our hot water stopping this evening as we consider how we are going to get it fixed safely and/or wash over the next few days. To be fair, there are far, far worse things going on in the world at the moment.

Still, all of this was such a shame, as the day had started with a positive of a much more, well, erm, positive nature, as Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge's voice carried across our kitchen on the airwaves of BBC Radio Suffolk as I readied the boys for school. He was speaking about a peal attempt planned for Framlingham on Suffolk Day on 21st June. His time speaking with presenter Luke Deal about 2hrs 15mins into the breakfast show was brief as they were rattling through lots of people speaking about the event that is lined up for ninety-nine days time, but again he came across superbly, even taking the question about 'icons' of the county in his stride very professionally!

Meanwhile, well done to the resident band who rang a 1296 of Little Bob Royal on handbells in Bury St Edmunds.

I'm relieved not everyone has COVID.

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Sunday 13th March 2022

St Peter Mancroft Norwich St Peter Mancroft was the latest port of call for our preparations ahead of our planned entry into the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminator due to take place at The Norman Tower in less than a fortnight on Saturday 26th March. This was a useful exercise in ringing the now familiar test touch of Stedman Cinques on different bells, getting used to ringing it without the usual surroundings to lean on and so it was this afternoon, but it certainly didn't go to plan.

Illness deprived us of one ringer, whilst having waited for a while for another and even attempted some Stedman Caters as we did so, another was reached at their home after an understandable mix-up with so many dates and responses flying around. By far the biggest blow came from France though, where bandmember Amanda Richmond was on holiday skiing. Unfortunately, she has suffered an injury that in an eerie repeat of when we were last entered in ringing's biggest striking competition two years ago means that she won't be able to ring this time round either.

Our first thoughts are with Amanda of course, as I'm sure are the thoughts of all Suffolk's ringers for this Past Guild Ringing Master. It is so unfortunate that it has happened having recovered from two previous bad injuries and most importantly we hope for a full recovery for herself and then ultimately when she's ready to come back into ringing, but in the meantime it means a bit of shuffling about for our band. Thankfully we have good back-up in the squad that is necessary for such a competition and with the help of local Ringing Master (and Past Ringing Master at St Mary-le-Tower) Simon Rudd and Joe Waters (who as luck would have it was still in the city with a number of other very talented ringers and having refreshment in the Forum opposite!) filled in excellently. Thank you to them both!

View from the ringing chamber at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich. The ringing itself was not without its challenges. To my mind, what they have done here off the back of the Mancroft 300 project is superb and amongst much else has created one of the most spectacular settings for a ringing chamber anywhere in the world. However, that same setting that sees the ringers separated from the church far below only by glass understandably unnerves many ringers to varying degrees and it seemed to contribute to an unsettled start. It soon did settle though and improved, as was born out by the results from Hawkear that Mr Rudd very kindly forwarded to us. Particular credit to Colin Salter who battled through with hands ripped apart by yesterday's peal at Leiston which continues to climb the top places of BellBoard's leaderboard of most popular performances.

We left as the locals arrived to attempt a quarter-peal of Stedman Triples on the back eight that sounded very good as the boys and we left the nearby McDonalds for a treat for being so well behaved up the tower for the hour-and-a-half session, at the end of a day that started at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge where I participated in ringing on the bells which are half-muffled throughout Lent, which I think sends a noticeable message that something different is happening in the liturgical calendar.

Great Ashfield.Meanwhile, the second Sunday peal at Aldeburgh was rung to a 5120 of Yorkshire Surprise Major in 2hrs52mins, whilst I missed mentioning a QP rung yesterday at Great Ashfield which was the first rung on the 11cwt five since 2013 and a first of Grandsire for Claire Free. Well done Claire!

I await with interest to see what her next ringing port of call might be!

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Saturday 12th March 2022

Our plans for today changed regularly over the last few weeks, before I ended up doing something that I had hoped to do originally.

Leiston.There was talk of a meal to celebrate the eightieth anniversary of Aunty Marian's birthday or of going to watch Ipswich Town's latest home match of an increasingly entertaining season. However, when Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter asked me if I would like to ring in a peal she was arranging at Leiston for this morning, just a mile from where her husband David was born on what would've been his 66th birthday, my initial reaction was a positive one, subject to checking the family diary. Subsequently though, that revealed that Ruthie had a course at work, a rare intrusion into the weekend from her employment compared to her previous in retail, but one that would need me to focus my efforts on looking after the boys with child-sitting credits being largely overspent for our participation in the George W Pipe Striking Competition and the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest. Unsure how long that would take therefore, our day was lined up to be one of taking the boys football training whilst my wife worked and then other mundane tasks for afterwards.

My view from the fifth at Leiston.The last couple of days altered things considerably though. Mrs Munnings' course was postponed and Alfie & Joshua's footy session was called off, sadly so as it is a real joy to watch them enjoying something so much. And then when a number on Simon Rudd's video chat last night revealed they'd been contacted by Katharine to step in for a last minute dropout due to illness, I let her know that I was now again free if it helped and thus this morning I found myself being picked up by Mrs Salter and her son Colin and on my way to the 20cwt gallery-ring eight for what transpired to be a well-rung 5056 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung to one of David's compositions conducted by his wife. Katharine was superb with a not particularly simple one-part composition on what must have been a difficult day for her, whilst Colin rang the tenor brilliantly. Being so much heavier than the seventh and the rest of the bells, this is a tricky bell to ring as the natural reaction is for the front seven to ring at a much faster pace than the big bell, so I was impressed by the quality of ringing, as was caught by Mike Cowling in a recording of our efforts. Personally, I enjoyed the view from the fifth of the church, framed by the usual storage that gets hidden in ringing chambers, such as Christmas decorations and the manger!

They were efforts largely enjoyed by residents too, at least judging by a largely complimentary thread on the 'Leiston chit chat page' on Facebook which is hopefully representative of those who will have heard our 3hr 10 min of ringing.

That was brought to my attention by our treble ringer today and SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge, who is also due to be on BBC Radio Suffolk at about 8.15am on Monday talking on a peal attempt at Framlingham planned for Suffolk Day on 21st June, whilst he was also able to impart the happy news that a very impressive ten new members were elected at the North-West District meeting at Bacton.

Meanwhile, he has also been contacted by Colin Turner - who with 7807 has rung more peals than anyone else in the history of the exercise - seeking to find out the first name of a ringer called H E Allum for Pealbase and who is recorded as having rung peals at Ashbocking and Debenham on 10th June and 24th November 1951 respectively. If anyone has any further information, I'm sure it would be much appreciated.

After our modern day peal-ringing exploits, I was very kindly dropped off by Katharine and Colin with time still to play football with the boys in the garden, listen on the radio to the Tractor Boys drawing 0-0 with Portsmouth and take our vehicle through the car wash, much to excitement of our sons.

In the end, for all the changes, our day worked out very well.

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Friday 11th March 2022

I wrote recently about how it seems an unnecessary expense for the Guild to send out hard copies of the Annual Report to every member, especially when more than one lives in the same household, but I have to confess that I still enjoy the feel of an actual printed copy, much as I do of paper versions of The Ringing World.

However, it is great to see the digital version now up on this website, free to read and use. As always, it isn't an exciting read and it isn't meant to be, but again it gives a snapshot into ringing here last year and it should become increasingly fascinating as time goes by. Like last year's was particularly interesting as it recorded ringing within our borders as we were plunged into the COVID pandemic in 2020, so this one is too as it records our ringing as we began coming out of it. The understandably downbeat undertones of reports from twelve months ago have been replaced with joyous reporting of ringers gathering again to ring on church bells that had been silenced for all bar the most occasional and restricted ringing for sixteen months. Lovely too to get the first report from our new Ringing Master Katharine Salter.

Woolpit. All being well, the printed copies will be sent out via towers and the tireless efforts of many invaluable volunteers with the hope that all households with members have one in time to take to the SGR AGM Day that is due to take place in forty-three days time at Woolpit and Drinkstone, an occasion that God willing will be a celebration of the county's ringers and friends being able to gather to ring, eat, drink and catch-up together in person in large numbers.

Tannington.Today though, there was ringing on Suffolk's bells, most particularly on the 10cwt ground-floor six of Tannington where the FNQPC rang a 1260 of five Doubles methods, whilst apart from reading the new Annual Report, we met with Simon Rudd and friends on his weekly Friday virtual pub where much of the chat revolved around what our driving licenses entitled us to drive, before Ruthie and I then met up with my uni mates, again by video.

Familiar situations with familiar friends, but in modern circumstances. Much like reading the Annual Report now.

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Thursday 10th March 2022

Me trying my eBells out. Progress of sorts on my eBells this evening, but ultimately disappointing. After building my confidence with Plain Bob Major on 7-8, I decided to try Yorkshire Surprise Major on the same pair. I was fairly chuffed with how far I got, but then my brain just imploded. Moving onto 1-2, I got a few leads in again, but my mind was completely frazzled and the lag was playing up badly, so I called it a night for my ringing.

Blythburgh.They were doing much better at Blythburgh, where the quarter-peal on this ground-floor ring was a first of Minor for Erika Clarke and first of Minor as conductor for Peter Lock. Well done Erika and Peter!

Glad to see progress without disappointment!

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Wednesday 9th March 2022

Ruthie and I haven't seen too much of each other this week. With St Mary-le-Tower practice and the Halberd Inn on Monday and then the football last night, I have been out a lot and of course my wife has had to stay at home looking after the boys in the meantime.

Pettistree. Therefore, when Pettistree practice packed up early this evening with a significant number of absentees and a considerable chill in the air, it was a silver-lined cloud that allowed me to get home earlier without feeling I was leaving the weekly session short of numbers.

By that point we had rung a 1271 of Ipswich Surprise Minor conducted by Mark Ogden with a nice composition that came round at hand (hence the odd number of changes) and which the band very kindly agreed to ring for the forthcoming eightieth anniversary of my Aunty Marian's birth (she's an avid reader of The Ringing World so it would be lovely to get enough likes for it to get mentioned in 'What's Hot on BellBoard!), listened to his recounting of a very interesting talk he'd attended about Melton Old Gaol and rung a touch of Grandsire Doubles for Sam Shannon.

Felixstowe.Whilst I went home, some went to The Greyhound, but Mike Cowling understandably decided against it after a long day that had seen him down at Felixstowe for a 5008 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major in memory of Marion Holland, whose funeral is due to take place next week on Tuesday 15th March.

Pleasingly that peal was also number eighteen for the Suffolk Guild in 2022 thus far, which means that we have already reached the total we needed to reach by the end of March if 'Project 10,000' is to stay on course and see the SGR reach its 10,000th peal by the end of its centenary year of 2023.

Hopefully both Ruthie and I can contribute further to the totals together and in the process see a bit more of each other!

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Tuesday 8th March 2022

Mine was an evening spent with ringers without doing any ringing.

St Matthew.Having kindly been dropped off by former South-East District Secretary Ruthie at the home of her mother and Ufford Ringing Master Kate Eagle to meet my eldest son and one-time (and who knows maybe again in the future) learner Mason, my mother-in-law kindly took us to Suffolk's county town, where once parked up, we walked past the 10cwt six of St Matthew's on our way to our ultimate destination further down Portman Road to the famous home of Ipswich Town Football Club. For the boy had touchingly bought me and himself tickets for the Tractor Boys' match against Lincoln City, whilst Kate was already going with my wife's sister Clare and her other half Chris.

Ipswich Town Vs Lincoln City watched by 26,000 people including a band of ringers!Once there and ensconced in the superb Fanzone with a beer, we were met by my brother and Norman Tower ringer Chris and then Norwich ringer, but Ipswich Town fan and former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd for what proved to be a convivial night further enhanced by our team's 2-0 victory over the visitors from the lovely cathedral city (where I discovered today said cathedral and home of a 23cwt twelve is free of scaffolding for the first time for thirty-six years) in Lincolnshire.

Meanwhile, other ringers were engaged in actual ringing, at Bramford where Eric Falla was advertising the practice on the Guild's Facebook page and at Offton, where the weekly session was preceded as usual by a quarter-peal, which on this occasion was a 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Major and capped a good evening for ringers, whether they were ringing or not.

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Monday 7th March 2022

St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master David Potts was worried we may be very short at the weekly practice this evening and warned everyone to brush up on their Surprise Major, so it was a pleasant surprise that we had enough to ring on twelve and Surprise Royal.

Amongst our number was returning ringer Anna and friend Jacob, the former of whom rang call changes on twelve very confidently and the latter of whom was given some handling lessons at the start of the night, whilst they were also taken up to see the bells. Meanwhile, there was some Superlative Surprise Major, a couple of courses of Bristol Surprise Major, a touch of Stedman Caters and half a course of Yorkshire Surprise Royal and in notices Diana Pipe announced her intention to hold a thanksgiving event for the life of her late husband George on Saturday 23rd July. It is all very provisional at the moment, but the plan is to hold it at SMLT with refreshment and ringing and Di is keen to let as many people as possible know, so please do bookmark the date if you would wish to come along.

Our night was topped with a convivial drink in the Halberd Inn at the end of a day that saw another successful handbell quarter in Bury St Edmunds by a band of resident members, whilst we received the latest edition of The Ringing World, which was mainly celebrating the tenth anniversary of ART, which is certainly something to celebrate. After all, hopefully it'll help ensure that there will be fewer practices short of ringers.

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Sunday 6th March 2022

We were a little short at St Mary-le-Tower this morning, but still managed some decent ringing, including Yorkshire Surprise Royal, importantly well-struck.

St Lawrence.Sadly no ringing at St Lawrence afterwards though and not for the foreseeable, as some concerning cracks have appeared in the ancient tower and so as a precaution the oldest complete five in the world hung for change-ringing won't be rung until things can be assessed. Hopefully they'll be in action again soon, but we'll just have to wait and see.

There was refreshment at Costa Coffee after our efforts on Suffolk's heaviest twelve though, but not before we crept around some kind of police incident opposite our destination that seemed calm but involved two - and then moments later three - police cars and a group of seemingly miffed gentlemen.

The Norman Tower. Still, it didn't prevent us enjoying our drinks and after dropping Joshua off at another birthday party to later be collected by his Granny Kate, and his brothers at her abode, we returned to Ipswich town centre for the latest practice at SMLT for our planned entry into the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest in the eliminator due to be held at The Norman Tower in just twenty days time. With a trio of absences it required a bit of a reshuffle that saw me back on the bell I'd originally started on when we began our practicing for the contest in earnest a few months ago, but it was still a useful session that keeps confidence high that at the very least we can put in a good display on the 26th March.

Ixworth. Rougham.We went back to Woodbridge for a roast dinner very kindly provided by Ruthie's mother (thank you Kate!) and to be reunited with the boys, whilst elsewhere in the county ringing was done at Ixworth in memory of the former Rector Rev'd Philip Oliver and Virginia Moye, the mother-in-law of the fourth ringer Kim Rutter-Moye and half-muffled at Woodbridge for Lent. Meanwhile, the 88th birthday of Serena Steggles, Gwendoline, was celebrated with a 1260 of two Minor methods at Rougham.

All part of a decent day of ringing.

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Saturday 5th March 2022

Ringing at Orford for the South-East District Practice.Eclectic is a pleasing word to use for this morning's South-East District Practice at Orford. I called some call-changes on eight (although that I was calling them the 'wrong' way round for some in the band caused some problems!), rang the treble to a course of Plain Bob Major, traversed three leads of Bristol Surprise Major on the seventh whilst Ruthie called it from the tenor and then pulled the great bell in myself to some Double Norwich Court Bob Major, in amongst having a cup of tea very kindly supplied by SE Secretary Liz Christian and taking the boys across the Market Hill to the 'facilities' for a call of nature. District Ringing Master Jenny Scase superbly guided a sizeable attendance of members drawn from across the SE, which included Mervyn Scase who impressively cycled from the north-west of this corner of the Guild, taking over an hour. Well done Mervyn.

Bardwell.Meanwhile, Happy Birthday to Ruth Suggett, an occasion celebrated with a quarter-peal of Beverley, Bourne & Cambridge Surprise Minor at her home tower of Bardwell, where she has done so much for the ringing and ringers there, encouraging and leading an enthusiastic band. She also somehow fits in being editor of Tower Talk, the newsletter for ART and progressing her handbell ringing. And she was one of the most energetic and helpful members when I was SGR Ringing Master. Enjoy your birthday Ruth!

Our ringing was preceded by taking the boys to football training and followed much later by accompanying them to a birthday party at Play2Day in Martlesham Heath, completing quite an eclectic day.

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Friday 4th March 2022

Well done to Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart on ringing a quarter-peal of 53 Surprise Major methods in hand today. Having not rung a QP on handbells until less than eighteen months ago on Ringing Room, he has used the banishment from ringing chambers over much of the last two years to astonishingly good effect to progress his handbell ringing online and on actual bells and having rung the same composition on RR last month, today in the Essex village of Thorrington truly marked the culmination of a project that has been building up with David Sparling, former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd and Paul Cammiade. Well done to all of them, but especially Tim.

We actually spoke with the conductor Simon briefly on his weekly virtual pub where he was still at the venue of their successful 1696 and it all followed on from his participation in a peal of Bristol Surprise Major rung at Grundisburgh today in memory of Marion Holland, appropriately rung to a composition of her husband Ian.

Theberton.That wasn't the only ringing success in Suffolk today though, with a 1260 of five Doubles methods rung on the 6cwt ground-floor six at the pretty thatched church of St Peter in Theberton being the most methods rung to a quarter by Edgar Wilhelm. Well done Edgar!

Horringer.Meanwhile, there is an additional QP from yesterday to report, with the 1344 of Quedgeley Surprise Major at Horringer being a first in the method for Deborah Blumfield, Louise Whitehead, Clare Veal, Maureen Gardiner and David Steed.

Well done to them all and well done to Tim.

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Thursday 3rd March 2022

Harry Potter, Matilda, knights, princesses, pirates, Cat in the Hat. Just some of the literary characters being paid homage to by schoolchildren on the streets of Melton and Woodbridge during the school run this morning on World Book Day and wonderful it was to see too.

It was a lovely start to a generally positive day when the meteorological spring 'finally' produced a spring-like day of sunshine and mild-ish weather, but of course there continue to be dark clouds across in the Ukraine and ringing showed solidarity with the suffering residents of that country as many towers rang for them as part of something called 'Let the Bells Ring Out', which was a Europe-wide initiative apparently mainly aimed at cathedrals, but taken up by bands and individuals in ringing chambers in villages and towns across the UK, as well as at cathedrals. Nothing from anywhere in Suffolk as far as I can tell from BellBoard as I write this, but to be fair it was (understandably) imparted quite late, with Julian Colman at The Norman Tower saying that he didn't hear about it until yesterday, whilst I suspect many like me won't have known about it until today. The timing of it at noon would've also made it impossible for pretty much any ringers who were at work.

St Mary-le-Tower. Still, there was ringing of note on BB from within our borders. Quite of note in fact, as after getting in a bit of practice on the bells on Monday, Carrie Livermore rang her first quarter-peal as she bonged behind to a 1260 of Doubles on the middle six at St Mary-le-Tower. Well done Carrie!

Meanwhile, many reading this will be interested in the page set up on this website in memory of The Norman Tower ringer Marion Holland, which confirms that her funeral is due to be held at the Cathedral at 11am on Tuesday 15th March, followed at 12.30pm by the committal at The Abbey Chapel at the West Suffolk Crematorium in Risby and then at All Saints Hotel Golf and Spa at Fornham St Martin at 1pm. Donations are requested to Diabetes UK via Marion's funeral notice and ringing arrangements are intended to be announced in due course.

Me trying my eBells out. There was very little ringing for me though, although despite my evening's attention being taken by football on the TV for much of it and Ruthie 'only' attending one choir practice, I still fitted in some eBells practice on my own with Wheatley on Ringing Room, which on this occasion saw me trying to grapple with Plain Bob Major on 3-4 through much double-clappering and internet lag.
Which was useful, though not as much fun as ringing with ringing's characters.

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Wednesday 2nd March 2022

Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. At the end of it is Holy Week, when traditionally bells in church fall silent, followed by them ringing out first mournfully and then joyfully at Easter and then a week after that the Suffolk Guild AGM is penciled in to be held at Woolpit and Drinkstone on Saturday 23rd April. Over that period, if usual ringing is going ahead, it may be going ahead at different times, so it is well worth checking before you go out or indeed don't go out, as not everywhere will have a week off on that week beginning 11th April.

Barham. Today itself saw the normal routine changed too. As mentioned yesterday, there was no practice at Barham this evening. However they rang a quarter-peal before Pettistree's weekly session, whilst Ruthie was called upon for choral duties for the service at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, meaning she couldn't go ringing and nor could I as I was at home child-sitting.

Exeter Cathedral. Still, that allowed me time to read CCCBR President Simon Linford's latest blog, which amongst recounting speaking at the Leicester Diocesan Guild's 75th Anniversary Dinner and various meetings, mentions this year's Ringing World National Youth Contest due to be held in Exeter on Saturday 2nd July, for which entries are planned to open on Friday. Sadly I'm not aware that we have enough young ringers to put a team in, or at least that ring together, but I'd be delighted to find out I'm wrong!

Ipswich, St Stephen.Meanwhile, although I've never rung on the three at St Stephen's in Ipswich and they are currently very unringable, I was interested to read the article on the Ipswich Star website about it becoming a music venue and wonder whether it changes the future of the 6cwt trio.

Stowmarket. Somewhere that the future of the bells are more certain (as much as anything is!) is Stowmarket and as part of the Heritage Lottery activities that come with the money granted to the project, at 2pm on Saturday 21st May they intend to do a guided walk round the town centre that is themed on church bells.

Although much is due to happen before then. Such as Lent.

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Tuesday 1st March 2022

Hitcham.BBC Radio Suffolk are a good source of local ringing PR, but especially the presenter of their afternoon show Lesley Dolphin. She once famously learnt to ring as part of a project for the presenters of the time to learn new skills and I was privileged to be a part of that with Alan McBurnie, Bruce Wakefield and Kate Eagle. And on a regular basis her popular quiz 'Dolphin's Dart' uses bells and ringers as a clue to the identity of the community that listeners are trying to guess. This afternoon, there was another one, as those participating were told that last year the six bells at All Saints church here were rehung, refurbished and augmented to eight. The answer is where this peal was rung, in case you haven't worked it out yet.

We weren't doing any ringing there or anywhere today, as being Shrove Tuesday we were invited round to the abode of the aforementioned mother-in-law Kate for pancakes, and there is no ringing at Barham on Ash Wednesday tomorrow either. Indeed, there may be other places where ringing will be cancelled or ringing times changed. If you are planning on ringing anywhere then it would pay to check first before going out.

Birmingham Cathedral (40315490683) Exning.There was ringing for one Suffolk youngster though and in quite spectacular style, as one-time Exning learner Jimmy Yeoman rang two handbell peals in the West Midlands where first he rang the 'standard' forty-one Surprise Minor methods spliced in Selly Oak, before he (and fellow bandmates Oliver Bates and Jack Page) then rang David Pipe's famous Cyclic 6 composition of six Maximus methods spliced at Birmingham Cathedral. He's come a long way since that first quarter-peal at his home tower just four and a half years ago!

And he's great PR for Suffolk ringing too!

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Monday 28th February 2022

St Mary-le-Tower.After a bumper crowd last Monday, this evening's weekly practice at St Mary-le-Tower was a little lower on numbers, but full of endeavour, productivity and good striking nonetheless.

Ipswich, St Margaret. Edwardstone. Especially so for Carrie, a learner from St Margaret's across Ipswich town centre, who rang behind to some well struck Grandsire Doubles and then rang on twelve for the first time with quite some aplomb. However, although there weren't enough to ring changes on all twelve, there was an accomplished repertoire on the back ten, with Stedman Caters and Surprise Royal in the form of Cambridge, Lincolnshire & Yorkshire, before we retired to the Halberd Inn where the non-ringing partner of one of the ringers was given an eye-opening insight into some aspects of ringers' habits and we chatted in eager anticipation about the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminator at The Norman Tower, due to take place on Saturday 26th March. A reminder that anyone can attend this, for as long as they wish. For those not participating, this is a purely social event and with bands from Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich competing, as well as a number of locals undertaking hosting duties, there should be plenty of familiar faces there, as well as opportunities to make new friends and/or meet some of the best ringers in the world, whilst listening to some tremendous twelve-bell ringing. And it is perfectly possible to pop out to support the South-West District Practice at Edwardstone just half-an-hour's drive away, if you would also like to support them.

The occasion is also advertised in the latest edition of The Ringing World which arrived with us this morning, with the front cover featuring a lovely shot of the tower at Middleham in North Yorkshire, which we visited on Rambling Ringers in 2014. Inside, the Guild gets a mention in Sue Marsden's article about the digitisation of annual reports (ours can be found on this very website), whilst there is a bumper number of SGR peals in the peal columns, including the peal I conducted at Monewden for Mason's birthday a month ago.

One Guild peal that should appear in the RW in the near future is the 5056 of Plain Bob Major rung today on handbells in Bury St Edmunds on the sixtieth birthday of conductor Alan Mayle. Happy Birthday Alan and great to see such endeavour, productivity and I imagine good striking on bells in this county.

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Sunday 27th February 2022

Adjusting my rope at St Mary-le-Tower.With the George W Pipe Competition now finished for this year and given us a tremendous fillip, the focus at St Mary-le-Tower from a competitive perspective is now solely focused on the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminator at The Norman Tower, which we are due to compete in and is penciled in for less than a month away. This afternoon therefore, our preparations intensified as we went for a quarter-peal of the principle we are charged with ringing on Saturday 26th March, Stedman Cinques. On its own, the 1260 completed successfully is notable as a couple of years ago we couldn't confidently contemplate ringing something like this to a QP, but of course it is another boost ahead of our planned entry and useful too, with the composition essentially being the test piece going round in a loop five times. Well done to Colin on calling it in such an assured manner, but particularly Lucy Williamson and her father Jonathan on their first quarter of Stedman Cinques. And it was good just to get started having had to ring my bell up and get the generously given help of young Mr Salter and his mother Guild Ringing Master Katharine to adjust my rope beforehand after it was hastily replaced this morning with the current rope fraying alarmingly!

We were also all unanimous in ringing it in support of the suffering citizens of the Ukraine, joining an increasing number of ringing performances dedicated to our fellow human beings in the besieged country. Ringing won't end the situation of course and such footnotes may appear futile, but combined with the outpouring of support from billions of people worldwide who can in all practicality offer little more, I hope it will offer some comfort to someone.

Henley.Ours wasn't the only success in Suffolk, with the aforementioned twelve in Bury St Edmunds the scene of a 1282 of Cambridge Surprise Royal on the back ten, whilst a 1344 of the Major variety was rung at Henley.

Meanwhile, my other ringing of the day was at Woodbridge ahead of the service that the boys and I attended, but I also spent a large proportion of the afternoon chatting in the street with Hollesley ringer Nigel Bond, who now professes himself a "professional wedding ringer"!   I'm enjoying it immensely, but at the moment I'm feeling a little like a professional striking competition ringer!

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Saturday 26th February 2022

Grundisburgh.The result was the same, but the manner in which it unfolded was much more satisfactory. No, not Ipswich Town's latest disappointing draw, but rather this morning's 50% success rate in the brace of PPE inspired quarter-peals at Grundisburgh. A fortnight ago, Ruthie was part of a band that rang a 1280 of Cornwall Surprise Major on the back eight of Suffolk's lightest twelve whilst I took the boys to football training, before I joined my wife and her successful quarter-peal ringers for tea and cake and then rang in an unsuccessful attempt of a QP of the same method spliced with Bristol, Cambridge, Superlative and Yorkshire as Mrs Munnings occupied the boys. This morning, Ruthie was part of a band that rang a 1280 of Cornwall Surprise Major on the back eight of Suffolk's lightest twelve whilst I took the boys to football training, before I joined my wife and her successful quarter-peal ringers for tea and cake and then rang in an unsuccessful attempt of a QP of the same method spliced with Bristol, Cambridge, Superlative and Yorkshire as Mrs Munnings occupied the boys.

This time, there was clear progression. The successful score apparently got better and better and the second that I was ringing in was going really well too. If anything, perhaps a little too well, as a moment of confusion seemed to catch us out and sadly very quickly led to its demise just a couple of courses from the end. Importantly though, these regular get-togethers already seem to be serving their purpose and Mike Cowling deserves much credit for getting them up and running.

It was also nice to catch-up with others, especially David Webb who we hadn't seen for quite some time. And lovely too that the band were happy to dedicate the success to the birthday today of my mother Sally - thank you all.

After a spot of lunch, we visited the suburbs of Ipswich to visit the birthday girl herself to impart felicitations and enjoy a cuppa and a couple of hours chat at her abode and my childhood home. Happy Birthday Mum!

Cowlinge.Meanwhile, at the South-West District Practice at Cowlinge, it was a nice touch for them to ring something for the poor people of Ukraine, who are in the thoughts of many, with other ringing also being done for them over the last couple of days.

Hopefully the practice on this 10cwt ground-floor five was a successful and useful one, but our day was rounded off at home, listening on the radio to the Tractor Boys' match. Where the result was also the same as a fortnight ago.

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Friday 25th February 2022

Cowlinge. Orford. Bacton. Bungay. Aldeburgh. Edwardstone. The Norman Tower.
Cowlinge, Orford, Bacton, Bungay, Aldeburgh, Edwardstone & The Norman Tower

As we approach the end of February, thoughts turn to what ringing events are planned in Suffolk for March. It is worth noting that before this month is out, the South-West District are due to meet tomorrow (Saturday 26th) afternoon between 3-4.30 on the five bells of Cowlinge, but then next month's programme is penciled in to start at Orford from 10.30am-noon on Saturday 5th for the South-East District Practice, before God willing continuing a week later from 10am-noon at Bacton for the North-West District Meeting, two days ahead of the plan to go to Bungay for the monthly Eight-Bell Practice from 7.30pm on Monday 14th and the next weekend as the North-East District intend to hold their Quarterly Meeting at Aldeburgh, with ringing on the 11cwt eight by the coast and then a Bring & Share tea and meeting next door at the Church Hall. Then, all being well, on Saturday 26th there is the opportunity to go to the SW District's Practice at Edwardstone from 3-4.30pm or the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest at The Norman Tower, where both the hosts and St Mary-le-Tower will be competing with Towcester, Sheffield, Leeds, the Cumberland Youths and the overwhelming favourites and by far the most successful team in the competition ever, Birmingham. Or perhaps you could go to both, as of course the latter will be going all day, with refreshments available on Edmund Green by the Cathedral's South Door, through to the results at 5pm and most likely beyond then for many.

Woolpit.We are also approaching Ash Wednesday next week, which will mean the start of Lent of course and therefore - barring any change in circumstances - the Guild AGM on Saturday 23rd April at Woolpit & Drinkstone. Please do put the date in your diary and come along and support this event, whatever you consider your ability to be. Indeed, those at or near the beginning of their ringing progression are those most welcome. This is is not an elite event for the perceived best ringers of the SGR to amuse themselves ringing complicated methods whilst tutting at anyone who rings anything less than Surprise Minor. Rather, it is a chance to pick up tips or even to simply take things in, to be a part of your Guild. Please don't dismiss it as something for other ringers to indulge in, please come and enjoy it for yourself. The meeting itself may not be exciting, though it is important, but there is much to do in a lovely part of the world, from ringing to food to socialising to a pint in the pub.

Ashbocking. Tostock.The county's ringers were busy in the art today too. Well done to new SE District Secretary Liz Christian on ringing her first quarter-peal of Childwall Bob Minor in the 1308 at Ashbocking and to Andrea Alderton, Maureen Gardiner, David Howe and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first of Neasden Delight Minor in the 1320 at Tostock.

Meanwhile, it was lovely to see Immediate Past Master of the College Youths Swaz Apter doing her first ringing since March 2020 in the touch of Stedman Caters on Lundy Island after a very tough couple of years for her personally.

St Helena's church, Lundy No ringing for us today, though we did finally receive last week's copy of The Ringing World (though not this week's, as the postal system continues to struggle) and met up over video for Simon Rudd's virtual pub, where amongst other things we discussed curry and caught up with Gareth Davies about his adventures on a windy Lundy Island on a trip extended by Storm Eunice that at least allowed for a bit of extra ringing! It was a typically jovial hour and a bit and a lovely way to spend an evening as February ends.

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Thursday 24th February 2022

Horringer.I expect the thoughts of most people were on the events in Ukraine today, but in reality everyday life here in the UK was mercifully peaceful in comparison, including ringing and indeed ringing in Suffolk, where a quarter-peal of Cambridge & Yorkshire Surprise Major was rung on the ground-floor eight at Horringer.

With Ruthie out at her choir practices, the only ringing I did was my now usual Thursday evening solo session on eBells with Wheatley on Ringing Room. This week was a Kent Treble Bob week, first with Minor and then Major. Both were done on 1-2, which seemed a sensible place for me to start on my first foray into Treble Bob in hand, with the treble a big help to staying in the right place in methods like Kent and Oxford, but it was still enough to test my brain cells and distract me from depressing events further afield.

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Wednesday 23rd February 2022

Continuing on from yesterday's blog, Ruthie and I have managed to divvy up our ringing this week satisfyingly equally. After I went to my home tower St Mary-le-Tower for the weekly practice on Monday, this evening my wife went to her home tower Pettistree for their weekly practice, with her mother Kate taking her and very kindly bringing her back too!

Grundisburgh. Harkstead. Rendham.
Grundisburgh, Harkstead & Rendham

They apparently got there with the pre-practice quarter-peal still going after starting late due to a calendar malfunction, but enjoyed listening to the end of it, as well as the ringing they did themselves in the session that followed, before they retired to The Greyhound next door and where conversation also turned to my blog entry yesterday and particularly peals that the also present Mary Garner had conducted 2006 at Grundisburgh, 2007 at Harkstead and 2008 at Rendham. It got me thinking that we perhaps ought to be getting more ringers in the Guild like Mary calling peals. Hopefully a challenge that ringers throughout the county are willing to take up!

Meanwhile, a peal was rung for the Guild in Essex today with a 5024 of Bristol, Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Rutland, Superlative and Yorkshire Surprise Major at Toppesfield to a composition by Don Morrison, arranged by tenor ringer Brian Whiting and conducted by Simon Rudd. Nicely divvied up.

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Tuesday 22nd February 2022

During my lunchbreak on this 22/2/22 (which was marked by a date touch at Great Gransden in Cambridgeshire), I took the opportunity to do something I've been meaning to do for some time by listening to Let's fix Ringing's 'leaky pipeline', an episode on the superb Fun With Bells podcast focusing on the the issue of why there is a roughly 50/50 split of genders in ringing at 'grassroots' level, but relatively few women end up in positions of responsibility, conducting, composing and ringing big bells.

It is something we all ought to listen to, even if you don't feel you are part of the problem. For example, I grew up not even thinking about, probably because I am a man who has had lots of ringing opportunities handed to him. However, there were also strong female characters in my ringing life. My mother Sally made her name in Northamptonshire successfully teaching and leading the band at Thrapston and is still very respected for it. The first Suffolk Guild Ringing Master that I remember was Amanda Richmond and Sylvia Pipe was still ringing regularly at Grundisburgh and highly thought of. Yet the leading female conductor in my peals is Maggie Ross at joint 28th, having conducted just two of them and indeed out of the seventy-four ringers to have conducted peals with me in, only five others are women - Mary Dunbavin, mother-in-law Kate Eagle, Mary Garner, the aforementioned Amanda and Steph Warboys. And although I always considered that I gave everyone a chance - and certainly intended to - when I was Ringing Master at St Mary-le-Tower and of the SGR, I can't 100% say that I didn't fall victim to unconscious bias, an issue that was discussed with Elva Ainsworth, Julia Cater and Tessa Simpson as they stressed that the issue wasn't necessarily one of open and wanton sexism.

Things are better I think, with an entirely female top table of the Guild with Chairman Rowan Wilson, Ringing Master Katharine Salter and Secretary Kate Gill, we have more women ringing big bells at St Mary-le-Tower, such as Ruthie, Laura Davies, Lucy Williamson and regular visitor from the Norman Tower Rowan and the likes of Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre Manager Nikki Thomas and Bardwell RM Ruth Suggett get more done for the art than most ringers in East Anglia. Judging by the stories from still very recent times imparted by the trio interviewed alone though, there is still a lot more to do, before one even thinks about what we can recall if we really think about it. And ultimately, an ambition has to be that no one notices nor cares if the tenor ringer, conductor or Ringing Master are male, female, neither or both.

At Ipswich vs Cheltenham. At Ipswich vs Cheltenham
Ipswich vs Cheltenham

Amongst much else, it was interesting to listen to them speaking about juggling ringing with parenthood, careers and in the case of Elva, singing too, something Ruthie and myself have to do. Neither of us can go out ringing as much as we did prior to 24/7 parenthood. Like new mother Tessa though, we try to share the ringing and parenting duties as evenly as we can.
There was no ringing for us today though, as instead we combined following Ipswich Town with parenting by taking the boys to the Tractor Boys' 0-0 draw with Cheltenham Town this evening, a frustrating match but cracking atmosphere that we all enjoyed on this 22/2/22.

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Monday 21st February 2022

Although by this evening it was largely overshadowed by the worrying escalation of events in Ukraine, the confirmation that one would no longer legally have to self-isolate when one catches COVID from this Thursday and the announcement that after the end of next month that most of us will no longer be able to get free lateral flow tests are of course relevant to ringing.

I suspect that most ringers will sensibly choose to stay away from ringing if they have reason to believe they have coronavirus, but ever since we were allowed back into ringing chambers last May, ringing has been done on the back of LFTs, either at the insistence of organisers or the thoughtfulness of ringers themselves. It has been a reassurance when going ringing and apart from the unfortunate North-East District Practice at Reydon in October, I am not aware of any other outbreaks linked to a ringing gathering locally and indeed beyond, although there must have been some. However, aside from the perceived political motivations for the removal of these last remaining restrictions, the reassuring scientific opinion seems to generally be - to varying degrees it has to be said - that this once alien virus is now a much more familiar, manageable and far less dangerous thing, which should give us the confidence to go forward with our ringing even without those remaining restrictions.

St Mary-le-Tower.And for now, I imagine ringing will continue the cautious approach that I feel has marked it out from other areas of society over the last couple of years. For tonight's practice at St Mary-le-Tower for example, testing was still expected before coming out and the famous ringing chamber was - as it has been ever since ringing resumed here after the very first lockdown - ventilated with doors and windows wide open.

Such precautions were especially sensible on this occasion as we had a packed ringing chamber. In part that was with a German lad who had come along having enquired about learning to ring and was then joined by three friends, including a girl called Anna from Biggleswade who is six months into a year-long stay in Ipswich and is already a ringer, albeit she hadn't rung since the pandemic. After a few understandably nervy strokes though, she rang the sixth to some rounds on twelve really well and remained for the rest of the evening and may possibly return now she knows that we ring on a Monday night, which she didn't know before.

The Norman Tower.We also welcomed Suffolk Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson who graciously congratulated us on winning the George W Pipe Striking Competition on Saturday on behalf of her fellow ringers at The Norman Tower and she contributed to a practice that saw us ring Maximus in the form of Yorkshire Surprise & Little Bob and Cinques of the Grandsire & Stedman varieties, whilst Sue Williamson rang inside to Cambridge Surprise Royal really well, before we rang the bells down in readiness for a Taylors inspection tomorrow.

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that there is no practice at Woodbridge on Tuesday (22nd), but we rounded off our practice with a drink in the Halberd Inn where the conversations about compositions of Stedman Triples, the bells of London and the history of those at St Peter's across the centre of the county town were a welcome distraction from gloomy news in Ukraine and COVID restrictions.

Sunday 20th February 2022

Buxhall.In other circumstances, we would almost certainly have been at Buxhall for the dedication of the augmented 15cwt gallery ring of eight. After all, there is much appealing about a dedication. They are typically a wonderful celebration of years of hard work, shared with the community and an opportunity to support the local ringers, who are sometimes new bands built around the project. There is usually socialising and of course that undeniable curiosity to feel and hear first hand how a new landmark on the local ringing scene has gone. All of which are hopefully appreciated more than ever after the last couple of years of lockdowns and out of bounds ringing chambers, with this particular project being one of a number in Suffolk that gave us something to follow and look forward to during those bleak times.

Dedication at Buxhall
Dedication at Buxhall
© 2022 Neal Dodge

However, after dragging the boys all the way down to Waltham Abbey yesterday and of course to morning ringing today, we felt it would've been unfair to put them through something that whilst immensely enjoyable for us would be another lengthy period away from their toys, games and TV. Even then, brief consideration was given to just me going on my own, but with another named storm whipping up again and the debris of Friday's Storm Eunice still lying alongside and even on the roads, a trip out to the more unfamiliar country lanes of the west of our county meant that caution consumed me and led instead to me remaining to help with the chores around the house. Still, it looks and sounds like there was a tremendous turnout, with a lovely note of thanks from the Rector the Revd Sarah Jenkins to SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge.

Pakenham.Neal was later to call a quarter-peal of four Doubles methods at nearby Pakenham in memory of long-time local ringer Joan Tipple, one of two quarters rung within our borders alongside a 1320 of Oxford Treble Bob Minor rung at Redgrave. And in my occasional update of ringing achievements of former Suffolk ringers, well done to one-time Halesworth ringer Maggie Ross on ringing her first peal of Surprise on handbells in the 5152 of Yorkshire Major in Maidenhead in Berkshire.

Meanwhile, the only ringing I managed was for the morning service at St Mary-le-Tower where I pulled the tenor in to half a course of Yorkshire Surprise Royal and rang the eighth to Grandsire Caters as the George W Pipe Trophy stood on top of the cabinet overlooking it. We followed that up with refreshment at Costa Coffee and then picking Ruthie up from singing in Woodbridge before that afternoon of chores and roast, but sadly not the dedication at Buxhall.

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Saturday 19th February 2022

Congratulations to Ian Culham. A few years ago, he instigated the George W Pipe Striking Competition for twelve-bell towers in Essex and Suffolk and it was starting to grow into a real highlight of the ringing calendar, especially when it expanded to include the twelves of Norfolk. Then, with it still in its infancy, you-know-what struck and although mercifully its February spot in the diary meant it was one of the last big ringing events in 2020, it was one of a catalogue of occasions sadly lost last year and I did worry (as I did about many things) if it would come back.

Church of the Holy Cross and St Lawrence, Waltham Abbey (9716395079)I needn't have worried. Ian is a determined man and there is huge support for this contest that has undoubtedly done much to improve twelve-bell ringing in the Eastern counties and so we enthusiastically (although not so much in the boys' case!) travelled down to Waltham Abbey, the furthest this competition could take us, sat as it is on the M25, a whisker from being part of the London sprawl. Our hosts today have waited patiently for this opportunity, having initially been slated to hold it two years ago before a cracked bell meant they couldn't and of course they missed out in 2021, but they certainly made the most of it today! From the moment we arrived at the foot of the tower to be met by a helpful volunteer who directed us to the Abbey Church Centre in the middle of the green oasis of Waltham Abbey Gardens to the north of the church, the hospitality was warm and organised, with seemingly everything thought of, especially on the food and drink front, helped by Rushmere St Andrew ringer Linda Sager in a pleasant surprise!

Bacon and sausage butties and cups of tea procured, we sat and waited for the draw for the ringing order, catching up with Norwich ringers Michael Clements and Jon Spreadbury, as well as my brother Chris who was ringing for The Norman Tower as we did so. With four entrants, we were pleased with ringing second, allowing the hosts to take the high profile and often nerve-wracking opening slot, but meaning that we weren't nervously hanging around all day waiting to ring.

In the Abbey Church Centre at Waltham Abbey for the George W Pipe Striking Competition. Representatives from each band gather for the draw. Listening to the ringing outside. John Lovless speaking. Linda Garton giving the results.

We listened in part to the first team outside the church centre, along with a number of others and had a benchmark as we made our way to the impressive church and up the stairs for our half hour slot that allowed us to practice the test piece of Grandsire Cinques and then ring it for the actual competition. Descending the stairs, we felt pleased with our efforts, but you can never tell and so we listened to parts of The Norman Tower and Norwich's ringing afterwards in between enjoying the jacket potatoes that the local ringers had put on for lunch, some wonderful cakes and a pint (or two for my non-driving wife) of Adnams, before the judges John 'Jake' Loveless and Linda Garton delivered the results following a fascinating history of ringing in Waltham Abbey from Jake and a personal recollection of first ringing with GWP.

Julian Colman accepting the 3rd place certificate on behalf of The Norman Tower from Diana Pipe. David Potts accepts the 1st place certificate and George W Pipe Trophy on behalf of St Mary-le-Tower from Diana Pipe. The boys looking at the George W Pipe trophy and through the competition's history books.

The results themselves reflected a very decent day of twelve-bell ringing, but ultimately a clear-cut order, with the hosts coming fourth, the holders from Bury St Edmunds finishing third, our friends from St Peter Mancroft claiming the runners-up spot and - I'm delighted to say - St Mary-le-Tower winning, with Ruthie on the fifth and myself on the eighth, but obviously part of complete team effort, as every ringing performance is. You are only as strong as your weakest link, but I couldn't even pinpoint a weak link in our band today.

Bacton. Wickham Skeith.Back in Suffolk meanwhile, there was more successful teamwork in evidence, with quarter-peals of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Bacton and Plain Bob Minor at Wickham Skeith. Well done to Clare Gebel on ringing her first of Treble Bob and indeed her first in the county in the former.

And well done again to Ian Culham on a brilliant day today and for instigating a superb day of ringing. Above all else though, it was brilliant to catch-up with ringing friends, including a large number of us who have spent much of the last two years meeting on Zoom on a Friday evening. And it was particularly nice that Diana Pipe was able to come along to take everything in and present certificates and the trophy at the first of these since George died. He would've been in his element today and would've been delighted after the disruption of the last couple of years that the competition is back.

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Friday 18th February 2022

Church of the Holy Cross and St Lawrence, Waltham Abbey (9716395079)Storm Eunice made it feel like old times as five of us were holed up in the house all day. I was working from home, Ruthie's playgroup was shut, as were the boys' schools and Mason was brought round first thing this morning to avoid me travelling in the worst of the winds later in the day to pick him up for the weekend. And the day finished with Simon Rudd's virtual pub where the storm was the main talking point, as was tomorrow's George W Pipe Striking Competition in Waltham Abbey, which a number of us present are planning on going to.

Throughout the day, the gales got stronger, even putting us into a rare red warning zone, but mercifully nothing at ours was broken, despite trees bending over at sometimes alarming angles and the fence flexing worrying amounts. Nearby though, trees blocked roads and squashed cars, whilst further afield hundreds of thousands were glued to a livestream of planes trying to land at Heathrow and the top of the spire at St Thomas' church in Wells in Somerset was caught on video. Although I roll my eyes when it is suggested everyone should avoid going out when a flake of snow drops (despite generally merely needs a bit of extra care and time in going about your normal business for most able bodied folk), wind is a genuine danger, especially wind as strong of this. Flying debris can come out from anywhere at anytime and cause very serious damage to people and so today really was a day to heed the advice and avoid unnecessary travel.

It was surprising therefore to see as much ringing in the UK recorded on BellBoard as there was, although much of it was in areas not so badly affected and there seemed less than usual, whilst there was nothing in Suffolk.

Probably sensible with Storm Eunice.

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Thursday 17th February 2022

Church of the Holy Cross and St Lawrence, Waltham Abbey (9716395079) God willing, we shall be at Waltham Abbey on Saturday for the George W Pipe Striking Competition, the twelve-bell striking competition founded and arranged superbly by St Mary-le-Tower ringer Ian Culham for twelve-bell towers in Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk and it is an exciting thought - especially after the last couple of years - that we might be able to enjoy a day like this with friends from across the region.

The Norman Tower. However, for the ringers representing Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds, we also have an eye on an even bigger twelve-bell contest, that of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest, for which one of the three eliminators is due to be held on Saturday 26th March at The Norman Tower. Therefore, another shot of excitement went through me when I saw that a local information sheet is now available from the contest's website that includes details of timings and info about where refreshment can be found. It all makes it feel a bit more real and hopefully offers further encouragement to others to come and cheer on the Suffolk teams and/or simply take in the wonderful atmosphere of the occasion and top notch ringing.

Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - - 136670 Who knows, either St Mary-le-Tower or The Norman Tower (or even both!) will make it from a group also featuring Birmingham, the Cumberland Youths, Leeds, Sheffield and Towcester to the final which is planned to be held at Guildford Cathedral (where it was supposed to be held last year, with Sheffield - who were going to host in 2020 - now hosting in 2023) on Saturday 25th June and who have now launched a website for the event.

Tostock.In the here and now, there were a couple of poignant quarter-peals rung in the county, as a 1320 of Waltham Delight Minor was rung at Tostock in memory of Lesley Steed's brother Ian Harries, who died yesterday aged only fifty-four, whilst a 1276 of Grandsire Cinques was rung at The Norman Tower for Marion Holland.

For us though, our day didn't involve any ringing at all, as instead we went to Alfie's parents' evening and Ruthie then attended choir, before we had a belated Valentine's Day meal and bottle of fizzy following my wife's ill health earlier in the week.

And according to the Guild's Facebook page, there also won't be ringing in Felixstowe tomorrow on what is usually their weekly Friday night practice on a day when I suspect there may be less ringing than usual due to the forecast Storm Eunice that it was warned will close the Orwell Bridge.

Hopefully there won't be any such problems on Saturday in Waltham Abbey or in thirty-seven days time in Bury St Edmunds.

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Wednesday 16th February 2022

Apparently Storm Eunice that is due on Friday is likely to be worse for us than today's Storm Dudley (which caused some amusement amongst those of us who went to university in the Black Country town that shares a name with it) was mainly centred on Scotland and the north of England, but this evening was a dreadful night to be out and about. As I left the offices of John Catt Educational this afternoon, the winds already fairly strong, my colleagues spoke of getting home and staying there.

Pettistree.Not me though, as once I'd had my tea, I was heading out on the short journey to Pettistree for the pre-practice quarter-peal attempt on this ground-floor six, which this week was of Snowdrop Treble Bob Minor. Initial attempts didn't go well, firing out quickly, with a problem with TB being that if you take your mind off it for a second it can very quickly get sucked into a black hole with fewer distinctive landmarks to cling to. However, after a shuffle of the band, we got into it and produced some good ringing, though somewhere something had gone wrong as it wouldn't come round!

Meanwhile, Storm Dudley was really whipping up menacingly. Doors rattled, a piece of paper on the wall between the treble and tenor ropes fluttered furiously and at times the noise threatened to overpower the sound of the bells, even for us in the ringing chamber. Slightly deflated by the loss of the QP, but also with no sign of any new arrivals at 8pm, a number having sent their apologies in advance and it thought unlikely that anyone would brave it on such a night as this, we thought it would be sensible to ring down and get back home, with reports of roads blocked by trees throughout the county. Although the unfortunate Chris McArthur arrived just as we were lowering the back five.

On the plus side, that gave me extra time at home afterwards and to read CCCBR President Simon Linford's latest blog, where again he covers many topics, including the discussion on Ringing Forums about the scanning of annual reports, where Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge made sure that our own superb digital library of reports got a mention.

Elveden. Bardwell.This year's Annual Report is in the process of being put together ahead of the SGR AGM at Woolpit and Drinkstone on Saturday 23rd April, but next year's should feature a brace of quarters rung within our borders today with 1344s of Superlative and three-spliced Surprise Major scored at Bardwell and Elveden respectively. Both done before Storm Dudley got going.

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Tuesday 15th February 2022

It was an interesting evening that didn't involve any ringing but was interesting to view from a ringing perspective.

For after work, Ruthie and myself took in Joshua's parents' evening. Inside, face-to-face with his teacher, the first time we had set foot inside the boys' school and been able to attend a parents' evening together for two years. What is more, although we were asked to take a lateral flow test beforehand, there was no shivering with windows open and no facemasks. To all intents and purposes, it was just like it was before the pandemic and along with the decreasing number of masks on show in supermarkets, falling numbers of cases, hospital admissions and deaths resulting from COVID and the increasing perception (rightly or wrongly) that catching the once dreaded virus is now not a serious issue, it seems to put ringing out on a bit of a limb with its precautions. Regardless of temperatures, we continue to ring in ventilated ringing chambers with windows and doors open wide and in places ringers are still being asked to wear masks. Personally, I don't think that is a bad thing, if that offers reassurance to those understandably anxious about returning to ringing, albeit I imagine that is a diminishing number.

Stowmarket. Buxhall.And hopefully it will allow us all to safely enjoy the burgeoning ringing calendar that can be found on What's On and has grown and been filled in considerably since I last looked at it, stretching out to December. Particular highlights include the North-West District planning on taking their ADM in October to the new ten at Stowmarket, whilst their practice the following month is due to be an opportunity to ring on the new eight at Buxhall, although there is a more immediate chance for people to ring at the latter, with its dedication lined up for this Sunday afternoon.

Woolpit.Meanwhile, the Guild AGM is penciled in to be held in the South-West District on Saturday 23rd April in person for the first time since we last met for real at St Matthew's in Ipswich three, long years ago. As was planned in 2020, it is again intended to be held at Woolpit and Drinkstone, with 2pm ringing and 3pm service at the former and then a 4pm tea and 5pm meeting at the latter. Please save the date and consider going along. The meeting itself is important of course, but not the most interesting part of the day and coronavirus concerns aside (and God willing by then it will be even less of a risk), if we aren't motivated after the last two years to attend for the ringing in our beautiful villages and countryside, the chance to celebrate why we ring with a service and the opportunity to enjoy the fellowship of friends established and new over tea and/or a pint, then I don't know what will motivate members to come along. Please, please, please come along, whatever your ability on the end of a bellrope - this occasion is for all members.

Understandably, not all the gaps for the year are filled yet, but it isn't inconceivable an event might be held at Grundisburgh, where according to 'Dolphin's Dart' (where listener's to Lesley Dolphin's BBC Radio Suffolk show) this afternoon, there is "a twelve peal bell". Cue much rolling of eyes as I worked from home, but nice to hear bells being used as a clue.

Nice also to go to school and talk to Joshua's teacher for his parents' evening.

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Monday 14th February 2022

No grand romantic gestures from Ruthie or me on this Valentine's Day, even by our usual halfhearted approach to the 14th February. With Ruthie feeling under the weather (not with that thankfully!) and me going to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice, my only nod to the day of love was trawling the Co-Op in Woodbridge trying to find something nice for tea, but quick and easy and unlikely to make my wife feel even more unwell, whilst constantly bumping into other husbands of my acquaintance seemingly looking for something more exotic than a Ginsters slice! I plumped for a rather nice cheddar cheese and maple bacon quiche in the end (for those interested and indeed those not interested), which seemed to to tick all the boxes on this occasion!

St Mary-le-Tower. Church of the Holy Cross and St Lawrence, Waltham Abbey (9716395079)The session on Suffolk's heaviest twelve afterwards was a decent one, predominantly on ten with Surprise Royal of the Cambridge, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire variety, but there was also an opportunity for one last practice of the test piece of Grandsire Cinques that we are due to ring at Waltham Abbey on Saturday for the George W Pipe Striking Competition. It is being held as far away as this contest can, but Waltham Abbey have been very supportive of the competition and deserve their chance to host, and it sounds like they are planning on putting on a good event, with food and drink being provided and what seems like a lovely spot near the church away from the busy town centre streets to hold things, so even if you're not ringing and you're at a loose end on Saturday and want to catch up with ringers from across the region and hear some great twelve-bell ringing, then please do come and join us to cheer on the Suffolk teams!

Our ringing this evening was topped off by a pint in the Halberd Inn, where I had a pint with my fellow ringers whilst my wife recovered on the sofa at home. Romantic that I am.

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Sunday 13th February 2022

St Mary-le-Tower.8.45am on a Sunday for the start of service ringing at St Mary-le-Tower is one that many reading this will be be unsurprised to learn I rarely make. With two young boys and a teenager to peel out of bed, breakfast and constantly cajole into getting dressed quicker than a trouser leg every ten minutes, and then getting into Ipswich, parked and up the stairs to this famous ringing chamber in time for the first touch is usually not a realistic prospect.

I was therefore surprised to arrive at nearly 9am to find the bells still being rung up, with David Potts and Colin Salter manfully heaving the eleventh up after the front eight were apparently found unexpectedly still down after the visit of someone to check something in the tower earlier in the week! It meant that I could ring in the opening piece of Grandsire Cinques, as well as the rounds and call-changes on twelve which was Diana Pipe's first bit of ringing after a break with some shoulder issues. And although I missed a very nice sounding touch of Stedman Caters whilst I took one of my sons for a call of nature, I was back in time for some rounds on twelve to finish off the ringing for the morning before heading to our usual post-ringing refreshment in Costa Coffee.

The Norman Tower.We met up with many of those present this morning a few hours later in Bury St Edmunds for the one and only practice that us or any other team due to be competing here on Saturday 26th March are entitled to on the bells before the day. Whilst perhaps not quite as critical as our trip to the largely unfamiliar Waltham Abbey last month as we've all rung much on Suffolk's youngest twelve, this was still a really useful hour and a half session, allowing us to try and get used to the intricacies of our particular bell, where precisely to look in a bigger rope circle in a larger ringing chamber and generally just to weed out any potential surprises that we would prefer not to have when we are next due to enter the room in forty-one days time.

We were well looked after by Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson who cheerfully welcomed us, but it was actually a very sad day for ringing here and indeed for many of us throughout the county, as local ringer Marion Holland died this morning. Sadly illness had stopped her ringing some time ago, but she was a huge support to her husband Ian, especially when he was in charge of organising the The Ridgman Trophy. Even more than that though, she was a good ringer in her own right, an invaluable member of the band at The Norman Tower and a friend to many. She will be missed and our thoughts are with Ian and their family at a difficult time.

Aldeburgh.Elsewhere there was other ringing going on within our borders too, with the second Sunday Aldeburgh peal seeing Alan Mayle call his 400th peal for the organisation he was once Peal Secretary of, appropriately at the tower where he has rung and called more than anywhere else. Well done Alan.

Meanwhile, according to the SGR Facebook page, there is no practice at Offton this Tuesday (15th), so please don't turn up there this week. Late or otherwise.

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Saturday 12th February 2022

Project Pickled Egg has been growing and evolving since its initial inception during a ringing holiday that now CCCBR President Simon Linford was on. Broadly speaking, it is a project aimed at shaking Treble Dodging Major ringing from the lethargy of what had long been considered the 'Standard Eight' of Bristol, Cambridge, Lincolnshire, London, Pudsey, Rutland, Superlative and Yorkshire Surprise, by introducing methods that were more musically pleasingly and in theory offers a better path to gradually more complicated methods, all decided after extensive consultation with ringers at various stages of Treble Dodging Major progression. The result is the Core Seven which importantly retains a lot of familiarity, including as it does five of the aforementioned well entrenched octet - Bristol, Cambridge, London, Superlative and Yorkshire - and added Cornwall and Lessness Surprise, with a number of 'try also' options such as Turramura Surprise and Cooktown Orchid Delight that aren't more difficult but give new skills to one towards harder methods.

Helmingham.Before the pandemic I was mulling over initiating some PPE focus locally, but ironically it was during the various lockdowns of the last couple of years when stuck at home all day every day that I got my first opportunity to undertake some sessions dedicated to the project as I joined the 'Cast of 1000' practices on Ringing Room. Today though, thanks to the efforts of Mike Cowling, the beginnings of a concerted dig into this new world started with a quarter-peal of a method that was first pealed at Helmingham in 1936 - Cornwall.

Grundisburgh.With me at football training with the boys, Ruthie was a part of the band who rang in the successful 1280 at Grundisburgh, thanks to Pippa Moss and conductor Mike Whitby very kindly picking her up. Footy finished, we had time to catch the end of the quarter, which sounded pretty decent (even if my recording doesn't!), before we joined the band in the church for cake and tea generously supplied by the organiser. The plan then was for a second QP on the back eight of the county's lightest twelve, splicing Cornwall in with Bristol, Cambridge, Superlative and Yorkshire, with me ringing in my wife's place whilst she took our sons up to the local park. Sadly, they found the playground closed and full of bulldozers and the football pitch out of bounds in readiness for the village team's fixture this afternoon, whilst the second part of the ringing efforts in the little wobbly red brick tower were unsuccessful, albeit there was some reasonable ringing as caught by my wife with a better recording. With the time remaining we did practice the first part of this two-part composition again but with ringers swapped over, including me swapping from the tenor to the seventh with Nigel Gale and all in all that was in keeping with a morning that was ultimately successful in its aim of familiarising the band with Cornwall and kick-starting a project that is due to continue in the same format on a regular basis and hopefully attract other like-minded ringers, either to join with us or start up their own sessions.

North Lopham.Whilst Mrs Munnings & co's success was the only noted on BellBoard within our borders, it wasn't the only from the county's ringers. Very well done to Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge on conducting a quarter on eight for the first time in the 1344 of Plain Bob on the Norfolk octave of North Lopham!

Hoxne. And Neal even found time to announce the exciting news on the SGR's Facebook page that the Keltek Trust have found a complete 1888 Mears & Stainbank eight from Wales for the restoration project at Hoxne. It is pleasing to hear that new ringers have been taught at nearby towers in anticipation of the new ring, but perhaps they might also be a good place for some Project Pickled Egg practice?

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Friday 11th February 2022

Well done to Bardwell Ringing Master Ruth Suggett on her latest edition as editor of the superb Tower Talk, the newsletter for the Association of Ringing Teachers (ART). It is another bumper publication of good news stories from learners worldwide.

Well done to Felixstowe ringer Jacky Savage, who the same issue revealed won £36.93 on the 50-50 Club Draw - the drinks are on Jacky after the next Friday night practice at John the Baptist!

Cretingham.Well done to Mervyn Scase and Phil Day on ringing their first quarter-peal of Warkworth Surprise Minor in the 1320 rung on the 7cwt ground-floor six at Cretingham.

Clopton.In contrast, we didn't achieve anything worthy of congratulations, at least from a ringing perspective. As is usual for Friday evenings, we joined Simon Rudd for his virtual pub, where - as is also usual - the conversation was eclectic, ranging from musing how Postman Pat still has a job, to how one of those in attendance arrived a week early for a funeral, to David Stanford reporting on a well attended practice at Clopton this afternoon.

Well done to the ringers of Clopton!

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Thursday 10th February 2022

Richy's eBells.Through work, parenthood and towerbell ringing, the only handbell practice I can get currently is on my own with Wheatley in Ringing Room, on the eBells Tim Hart very kindly sent me last year. On the plus side, it is more opportunity than I have ever had previously and I can forge my own path without annoying other ringers and feeling like I am wasting their time. Therefore, I am free to follow my whims. Tonight, with Ruthie at her choir practices, I tried my hand at ringing Plain Bob Major on 1-2, getting on reasonably well. I had in mind to attempt Surprise Major, but I thought it might be too ambitious for this evening and so I ended on the high of succeeding at PB without disappointing anyone else!

Hitcham. There was no disappointment at Hitcham I imagine, where a 1280 of Bristol Surprise Major was rung on one of Suffolk's new eights, whilst Alan Mayle was in the band that rang a 5040 of seven Surprise Minor methods for the Ely Diocesan Association at Swaffham Prior in memory of Newmarket-born Alan Barber, exactly sixty years on from the extremely talented Mr Barber's first peal in the same tower.

Meanwhile, there were plenty of handbell performances across the country, from a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor in the Nottinghamshire town of Beeston to a peal of five Treble Dodging Royal methods spliced in Reading.

All of which is far, far more accomplished than I can manage in hand at the moment!

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Wednesday 9th February 2022

There was an interesting discussion on the Bellringers Facebook page this evening, started in part by me.

When someone asked what the going rate was for peal donations to towers, I responded that in my recent experience that as each member of the band pays £1 to the Suffolk Guild (for Suffolk Guild peals of course!), we generally make a donation of £4 per rope to make the total for each ringer a straight fiver and thus reducing the need to fiddle about with loose change, which of course fewer and fewer people carry around with them these days. This prompted a response - and subsequently an entirely new thread - from Norwich ringer Simon Smith, who questioned the need for a Guild peal fee and indeed for territorial ringing organisations generally.

Simon is a good egg, one of the nicest in the exercise and an extremely talented ringer and I get on with him very well. I also don't disagree with him per se on his perception that traditional ringing societies are to a certain extent unnecessary in the modern age. No doubt some are ineffective now, but I don't think the Suffolk Guild is one of them. It offers a link to the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, financial support, a network of experienced ringers who are happy to impart advice on recruitment, retention, maintenance and much else. Like most reading this, the open nature of the art which allows one to arrive and join in with ringing at pretty much any change-ringing tower in the country and indeed the world means that we have ringing friends from beyond the county, but there are many within our borders that we wouldn't have had the pleasure of meeting and ringing with if it weren't for District and Guild events. And things like the striking competitions that the Guild and Districts organise are real highlights that the last two years have shown would be sorely missed by many.

Additionally, whilst ringing peals unattributed to any particular association when a band with no geographical ties to each other travel to ring a peal makes more sense then shoehorning in a guild to ring it for, the peals rung for the SGR are usually rung by bands made up predominantly or entirely of resident members and offer an easily accessible record of members' progress and achievements, both currently and historically, which I feel is important, even if non association peals are more easily referenced these days with BellBoard than in the past. And the peal fees are a useful addition to Guild funds which are used amongst other things to fund projects that often also feed recruitment.

His comment on Annual Reports was also something I agree with in part. Much as I enjoy holding onto an actual copy, even long before the internet, it always seemed an unnecessary expense for the Guild to print multiple copies for households where more than one member resides. Even more so now when they are available to read online via this very website.

Pettistree.All this was possible for me to keep up with once the boys had gone to bed, whilst Ruthie went to the weekly practice at Pettistree, which was preceded by a quarter-peal of Platinum Delight Minor, a Wells Surprise-below method which was of course rung for the recent seventieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne. All followed with well-earned refreshment in The Greyhound afterwards.

Orford.The appropriate length of 1270 on the ground-floor six wasn't the only QP in Suffolk today either, with a 1250 of London Surprise Major rung at Orford earlier in the day.

Although I daren't ask what donation they left for the tower!

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Tuesday 8th February 2022

The CCCBR have released some details about their 2022 Annual Meeting, which is due to be held in Nottingham over the first weekend of September and will God willing be the first time that it will have been held in person for three years, since the 2019 meeting was held in London. There is stuff for those who aren't CC reps or directly involved with proceedings and so the information may be of interest to more than just our quartet of representatives Chris Birkby, Cath Colman, Neal Dodge and Stephen Pettman. However, it drew the realisation that if all goes to plan, next year will see Ipswich hosting this event for ringing reps from across the world, as part of the Suffolk Guild's centenary celebrations.

Hopton.More immediately though, the North-West District are planning on meeting between 10am and noon on Saturday on the 9cwt ground-floor eight at Hopton, where The Vine Inn round the corner seems highly thought of by CAMRA and looks like it ought to be open after the ringing. Just in case anyone needs any more encouragement to go along...

Ufford.And even more immediately than that, Ruthie was at Ufford helping out her mother Kate at the weekly practice on the 13cwt eight this evening, the sound of Woodbridge bells apparently ringing out in the far distance as she returned home afterwards.

Woodbridge. Bramford. Woodbridge is one of many towers encouragingly recruiting and progressing, with two of their learners - Meg and Michael - ringing unaccompanied for the first time recently, whilst they are following in the footsteps of Central Council President Simon Linford in exploring the world of Devon Call-Changes. Meanwhile, Eric Falla reported on the SGR's Facebook page that there were twelve ringers at Bramford's session tonight, six of whom are learners. Even better, Eric says "it is a joy to go ringing." Just as it should be and wonderful to hear.

Hopefully the CCCBR's Annual Meeting will also be a joy for those who attend.

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Monday 7th February 2022

Framlingham.John Girt's media appearances on national radio and TV over the weekend have had some effect, at least at work where a colleague quizzed me on the art today having seen him and knowing that I am a bellringer. It is unlikely that Framlingham where they live will benefit from a new recruit in the near future as like us they have young children, as well as much else on, but perhaps in time when circumstances change they may remember the interviews with John and maybe even their subsequent chat with me and consider taking ringing up. Even when directly not resulting in new recruits immediately, if PR can at least raise understanding of the exercise then I think that it has done a good job, sowing the seeds for potential future recruitment and hopefully reducing the likelihood of complaints about bells.

John used to ring at St Mary-le-Tower some years ago, but the current band were there this evening for the weekly practice, where although we didn't on this occasion have all those who are due to represent Ipswich in the George W Pipe Striking Competition at Waltham Abbey in twelve days and the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest at The Norman Tower in forty-seven days, the standards being achieved in preparation for those seem to be filtering throughout the wider band, with the Grandsire Cinques in particular rung really well tonight. There was also Stedman of the Caters and Cinques variety and well struck Surprise Royal, with Yorkshire ringing out as I arrived, before I called half-courses of Cambridge and Lincolnshire. All climaxed with a very well managed lower of the back ten (ahead of someone having to go up the tower later this week) led by Louis Suggett who popped by whilst on a visit to his home county.

It was great to see Louis, one of Suffolk's finest ringing exports of recent years and currently joining an apparently excellent band down at Wimborne Minster in Dorset and lovely that he could join us in the Halberd Inn afterwards, which mercifully had returned to its usual relaxed state following last Monday's action.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson on ringing her fiftieth quarter-peal on handbells in the 1312 of Kent Treble Bob Major in Bury St Edmunds. As the footnote says, eighteen months well spent and adding to the feelgood atmosphere around Suffolk ringing, which I hope more members of the public will be drawn to.

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Sunday 6th February 2022

Seventy years. It is a long time, more than I can comprehend when I consider how long ago my earliest memories of about half that period ago feel. Yet as we are all aware, that is now how long Queen Elizabeth II has reigned. When she ascended the throne, the Guild was a mere twenty-nine years old, with its first Ringing Master Charles Sedgley still in the role. There was only one twelve in the county, the subscription was half a crown and just 1,901 peals had been rung in the SGR's name.

Hitcham.As I've mentioned before, I am predictably ambivalent towards the Royal Family, but whatever one's views on them and HM herself, a Platinum Jubilee for a British monarch is an entirely unique and historic event. I suspect most respect her and of course we mainly carry out the exercise on bells in buildings owned by the Church of England, who the Queen is the head of and so this occasion was always likely to be an important one to be marked by ringing, and so it was, especially here in Suffolk where the headline act was the first peal on the new eight at Hitcham, where a 5040 of Grandsire Triples was rung in 2hrs 53mins. Well done to all concerned!

It wasn't the only peal rung for the now ninety-nine year old organisation today, with another rung at Barrow, taking the Guild's total to 9,871 since its formation in 1923, an impressive 7,970 whilst QE2 has reigned over us. There weren't just peals though. Quarter-peals were rung at The Norman Tower, Great Finborough, Horringer, Pettistree and most notably at Aldeburgh where the three Doubles methods were the most rung by Edgar Wilhelm and at Redgrave where the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles was treble ringer Andrew Castleton's first QP for forty-seven years. Well done Edgar and Andrew!

Additionally, BellBoard shows what is presumably just a fraction of the ringing that would've gone on today within our borders to celebrate this extraordinary landmark, with performances recorded at Bardwell, Clare, Clopton, Hacheston, Hollesley, Horringer, Ingham, Ixworth, Rushmere St Andrew, Thornham Magna, Thurston and Woodbridge.

The very last of those was part of a busy day of ringing, preceded by Ruthie and me helping out at Pettistree along with Steve Elliott, the former Ringing Master at Woodbridge who returned to ringing at Wickham Market in recent years. Hopefully we'll see more of him at Pettistree too (Steve's already a regular service ringer at Pettistree. Ed.), as he is certainly a useful ringer to have about, allowing us to ring some spliced Doubles called by myself, Grandsire and some superb Stedman.

Later, having attended the service downstairs from where I'd just rung on the front six of the 25cwt eight at St Mary-the-Virgin (and where Alfie appeared confused as to why the singing of the national anthem wasn't followed by an England match!) and squeezed in lunch and a spot of clothes shopping for school, we dropped the boys off with my mother who was very kindly looking after and feeding them whilst we attended a twelve-bell practice at St Mary-le-Tower. Following our focus on the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest last Sunday and the George W Pipe Striking Competition a week before that, this afternoon's was on both, seeing us practicing the touches for each with some very decent results.

It topped off a superb day of ringing within our borders that saw the Guild's ringers mark a very special and unique occasion, but the highlight was probably not any particular ringing, but in fact John Girt following up yesterday's appearance on national radio with an appearance on national TV, as he was interviewed by well-known presenter Alastair Stewart on GB News on his tolling of the tenor at Eye on 6th February 1952. He came across brilliantly and the admiration of a newscaster who has reported on much reinforces how extraordinary it is to have such a vivid firsthand account of that moment in time. Which is a long time ago.

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Saturday 5th February 2022

Eye.We have a national radio star in our midst! For this morning the world was introduced to a voice extremely familiar to many of us, as Ipswich St Margaret's Ringing Master John Girt was interviewed on BBC Radio Four on his memories of being taken out of school seventy years ago as a sixteen year old to toll a bell at Eye to mark the death of George VI. Well done and thank you John on giving an insight into such a significant event and particularly how it was marked at a Suffolk tower.

Harkstead.Mr Girt was present with his wife Shirley at Harkstead later in the morning for the monthly South-East District Practice. Much like Monewden, this is a tower that I never seem to approach via the same route (and indeed we ended up travelling back by a completely different one today!), but we were late today partly because it was slightly earlier than usual, but mainly because we'd taken the boys to their weekly highlight of football club first and on this occasion Joshua's classmate too.

SEDP, Harkstead. SEDP, Harkstead. SEDP, Harkstead.
South-East District Practice, Harkstead

Still, we got there in time to join a sizeable crowd that included Colin Salter who had impressively run there from Ipswich, an election of a new member and touch of spliced Surprise Minor called by District Chairman Mark Ogden. Additionally, it was revealed that the District Striking Competition is due to be held at Pettistree on Saturday 7th May, where hopefully a large number of teams will enter.

We returned home briefly before then heading into the county town to watch Ipswich Town beat Gillingham 1-0, but others went from the Shotley Peninsula on to Grundisburgh where Robert Beavis' thirty-second birthday was celebrated with a 5032 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung to a Stephen Pettman composition of an appropriate length. Happy Birthday Mr Beavis!

Hoxne. Laxfield. Westhorpe.
Hoxne, Laxfield and Westhorpe

After a post-match McDonalds we enjoyed a quiet evening in that allowed us to read the latest issue of The Ringing World which arrived with us today and gave mention to the projects at Hoxne, Laxfield and Westhorpe in the Keltek Trust report.

Perhaps future editions will feature our new national radio star John Girt!

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Friday 4th February 2022

Earl Stonham.Well done to Tracey Scase on ringing her first quarter-peal of Warkworth Surprise Minor in the 1272 at Earl Stonham on the 9cwt gallery ring six alongside the A1120. This is one of the easiest of the 'standard' forty-one Surprise Minor methods to get caught out by. It is Norwich above the treble and at first glance Surfleet below. However, not quite, as instead of of a bell making fifths at the half-lead (that is Sutton Surprise), a bell makes thirds. Only a tiny change, but it can make a big difference, at least by perception.

The Norman Tower.Whilst the South-East District Treasurer was achieving there, we were chatting with the District's Chairman Mark Ogden - amongst others - at Simon Rudd's weekly virtual pub, albeit without our host as he was engaged elsewhere, but the rest of us still had a good time, making a long overdue return to the subject of compost and delving into Parkrun, whilst the Colmans whetted our appetite for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminator due to happen at The Norman Tower on Saturday 26th March with some of their plans for hosting hundreds of ringers and hangers on.

Buxhall.Meanwhile, I expect many will be interested to know that the newly augmented eight at Buxhall are lined up to be dedicated on the afternoon of Sunday 20th February with an open invitation. These are exciting times for Suffolk ringing, from augmentations to firsts in Warkworth!

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Thursday 3rd February 2022

On a day when Facebook announced that the number of 'DAU' (daily active users) went down over the last quarter for the first time in its history, it make me consider how much a part of our communications it has become. There are hundreds of members on The Suffolk Guild's page, which often relays news about ringing, such as forthcoming events, practices called off, links to local ringing in the media and some of the incredible drawings by Norman Tower ringer Ben Keating. More broadly the Bellringers page does similar on a national and international level, as well as prompting discussion and debate amongst ringers (usually in a friendly manner) and Simon Linford's book The Core Seven and Beyond was helped considerably by the views of those on the Project Pickled Egg page that was set up specifically to help build the project effectively.

However, the worry at Meta (as the company who own FB is now called) seems to be that young people are no longer attracted to Facebook, instead using TikTok. There is no reason why the SGR should stop using Mark Zuckerberg's brainchild, as well as Twitter and YouTube which we use (and good old fashioned email, telephone and the What's Ons that can be printed and put on ringing chamber walls), but perhaps we ought to be considering getting onto TikTok and Instagram in order to keep up with the evolution of social media, particularly in regards to recruitment and retention of youngsters.

Blythburgh.One event that will hopefully feature in whatever forms of communication and social media we use, is the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions which are due to happen on Saturday 21st May and which today I noticed are lined up to take place at the lovely ground-floor six of Blythburgh in the North-East District. This is a real highlight of the year for me and others and so I am excited to see the venue confirmed, especially as it was the location of one of the most memorable when the contests were held there a decade ago. On that day a large crowd mingled in the churchyard, in the hall next door to the church and at The White Hart across the road with stunning views across the River Blyth, allowing for those not ringing to be able to stay dry if it rained without disturbing the competitors in the ringing chamber which is open to the church. If the weather is nice though, this is one of the most beautiful parts of our county, with walks aplenty in the immediate surroundings. It is accessible with relative ease too, sat right on the A12 and just over five miles from the railway stations at Darsham, Halesworth and Brampton. Especially having not been able to hold them for the last two years, I hope that teams from every District can put in entries to compete for the Mitson Shield and/or the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy, as this is a great opportunity to focus on striking in a fun environment. Please do contact Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter to find out more and/or enter a band.

Tostock.In the here and now though, the only ringing I was doing was on my own at home on my eBell with the help of Wheatley on Ringing Room, with more Cambridge Surprise Minor focus, whilst Ruthie went to her choir practices. And well done to all in the band who rang the 1320 of Clarence Delight Minor at Tostock on ringing their first quarter-peal in the method, a Primrose-above structure that I imagine offered enough familiarity but also differences to produce some very good ringing from this experienced QP band.

Perhaps something that could be shared on Facebook?

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Wednesday 2nd February 2022

I finished reading Simon Linford's The Core Seven and Beyond this evening, a book that I would recommend to anyone at any stage of their Treble Dodging Major progression. It is also a book that I intend to reference for giving learners tips and looking for compositions, especially as plans are afoot for some ‘Project Pickled Egg’ focus locally. There is even a dipped toe into Royal with ‘Project Black Pudding’! Nice as well that a couple of Suffolk ringers get a mention, James Smith for his devising of Cooktown Orchid Delight and Brian Whiting for his composition of 1344 of Rook and Gaskill Surprise.

After I'd finished the 211 pages, I even gave Carolina Reaper Treble Bob Major - the climax of the publication - a go on Ringing Room with some success, whilst I'd love to give Don Morrison's peal composition of twenty-three 'All The Spices' methods a go with a Suffolk band one day!

Bardwell. Pettistree.One of those twenty-three methods was at least being rung individually to a quarter-peal in the county today, with a 1280 of Bristol at Bardwell, but that wasn't the only QP rung within our borders, as Ruthie rang in the quarter of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung in celebration of Chris McArthur's seventieth birthday (Happy Birthday Chris!) at Pettistree ahead of the practice that she attended afterwards before popping to The Greyhound.

Leaving me to finish Simon Linford's superb book!

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Tuesday 1st February 2022

Today is Chinese New Year and the start of the Year of the Tiger, but it is also the start of February and a month in which much ringing is planned in Suffolk and involving Suffolk's ringers.

Harkstead.It is due to begin on Saturday from 10-11.30am with the South-East District Practice at Harkstead, another open ground-floor ring that meets all the safety needs that are understandably still uppermost in people's minds at the moment and also in an area we don't get to go to all that often.

Cowlinge. Hopton.At the end of the shortest month of the year, the South-West District have lined up their monthly practice for Saturday 26th at Cowlinge, another ground-floor ring. In between there is the North-West District Meeting from 10am-noon on Saturday 12th on another ground-floor ring, Hopton.

Bungay.However, things do seem to be safer, directly and indirectly and so I hope that ringers also support the Bungay Eight-Bell Practice penciled in for the evening of Monday 14th on the upstairs eight, with entry through the priest's door on the north side of the church. A lovely way to treat your other half on Valentine's Day!

All these events are doing all they can to ensure we can enjoy our ringing safely and it has to be said that by and large we have been successful at doing that ever since we returned in July, so please don't hesitate to support them if you can.

Church of the Holy Cross and St Lawrence, Waltham Abbey (9716395079)Beyond our borders, but still involving the ringers of The Norman Tower and St Mary-le-Tower, both teams are aiming to win the George W Pipe Striking Competition at Waltham Abbey on Saturday 19th. This has grown into a real social highlight for participants, supporters and 'spectators' alike, so whilst the venue is about as far away from us as it could get for a contest involving twelve-bell teams from Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, you'd be more than welcome and I'm sure you'd enjoy your day out, with food and (potentially) drink being put on in earshot of what should be some great ringing.

More widely though, this Sunday gives ringers of all abilities on all numbers across the county to mark a historic event by ringing, as it marks seventy years since Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne and it is hoped that bells can mark the occasion. Previous experience suggests that Guild members will respond in emphatic style, so I'm hopeful of seeing lots on the BellBoard event set-up for this landmark!

Meanwhile, CCCBR President Simon Linford's latest blog was shared on the Central Council's website this evening and includes mention of David Salter. It also points people in the direction of the Fun With Bells podcast and particularly the episode titled ‘Calling all young ringers’, where they interview some of those involved with the Young Change Ringers Association, the transcription of which is shared by Simon. Definitely worth a read and/or listen, especially if you know any young ringers that need convincing of the merits of sticking with the art, bringing up as it does many of the elements that have made it so absorbing to me and so many others. The friendships, the opportunities, the places. So much, if you only embrace it.

As I hope members will do over the coming month.
Happy February and 新年快乐!

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Monday 31st January 2022

St Mary-le-Tower.In a brilliant end to Suffolk's ringing in January, well done to David Stanford on his first peal on eight in hand in the 5040 of Plain Bob Major in Bury St Edmunds, which means that an impressive ten peals have been rung for the Guild in the first month of 2022.   My own finish to ringing in January was a bit more bizarre as for the final few minutes of St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice we were joined by a friendly German tourist who arrived in her pyjamas and excitedly told us it was her birthday, before sitting in on our final piece of ringing.

That wasn't the end of our odd night though, as whilst we were enjoying our post-ringing refreshment at the Halberd Inn there was quite the commotion. I'm not entirely sure what was going on, but it involved lots of shouting, the doors being locked to stop someone getting in that staff didn't want to get in and a smashed glass, prompting two police cars to arrive as some of us were leaving. All very unusual for a tavern that we have found to be extremely safe and friendly.

It shouldn't distract from a very decent session that took in much valuable twelve-bell practice with two striking competitions on that number planned for the coming weeks and there was definite improvement as we went through, culminating with some well struck Stedman Caters and then Grandsire Cinques.

Indeed, it was a very nice way to end our ringing for January!

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Sunday 30th January 2022

Church of the Holy Cross and St Lawrence, Waltham Abbey (9716395079) The Norman Tower.A week ago the George W Pipe Striking Competition was our focus as we visited Waltham Abbey to practice on the bells we are due to compete upon on Saturday 19th February. This afternoon, we were back on home turf and focusing on practicing for our planned participation in the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest on Saturday 26th March, where The Norman Tower is the location lined up.

Of course this was less about the specifics of striking, although we were buoyed by Hawkear giving us our best results since we resumed practicing for ringing's biggest striking competition a couple of months ago. Rather, our hour-and-a-half session was further familiarizing ourselves with the touch of Stedman Cinques that is the designated touch for fifty-five days time and it was certainly successful from that perspective. It is all feeling very familiar, which gives us the confidence to concentrate on the striking and that was very much in evidence today. That we are achieving good striking at St Mary-le-Tower is great, the hope now is that we transfer it to our practice in Bury St Edmunds and more importantly on the day.

We also hope that it trickles down to our Sunday morning ringing, which ultimately is the main purpose of striking competitions and that seems to be have been the case this morning, once the boys and I had made it past a convoy of trucks collecting piles of potatoes or swedes or something. Grandsire Caters and then spliced Plain & Little Bob Caters were struck well, before we retired to Costa Coffee for refreshment, returned to the car with the sound of St Margaret's bells ringing out across the town and then picked Ruthie up from St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge where she had been singing in the service.

Later we left our sons with my mother Sally who very kindly fed them and afterwards made us a cuppa, whilst elsewhere in Suffolk a 5040 of seven Surprise Minor methods was rung on handbells in Bacton and further afield former Halesworth ringer Maggie Ross impressively rang her first peal of twenty-three Surprise Major methods spliced in the 5152 at Spitalfields in London - well done Maggie!

That remains an ambition of mine, but for now I was most satisfied with our twelve-bell focus this afternoon.

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Saturday 29th January 2022

The Wolery.A busy day of ringing in Suffolk. One quarter-peal and three peals, the latter of which is the first time more than one peal has been rung in a day for the Guild for almost two years. And having worked out that from the start of this year the SGR needed around six peals a month in its name to appropriately reach it's 10,000th in our centenary year of 2023, I am delighted to say that it takes us to nine peals in 2022 before January is out, equal with the same month in the last comparable year of 2020 and indeed along with that year the most since eleven were rung in 2016. Considering I was expecting a slow start due to the uncertainty over facemasks and things generally, as well as the lack of peals at The Wolery which have in recent years considerably boosted numbers, it is an astoundingly fast beginning to 'Project 10,000' as only I have dubbed it, especially at a time when peal numbers more widely are still well below those of pre-pandemic.

Rougham.The QP was a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor rung on the 15cwt six at Rougham as a farewell compliment to the Rev Nick Cutler, conducted by Guild stalwart Maurice Rose in forty-eight minutes, the twenty-sixth rung in the county since 2021 drew to an end twenty-nine days ago. Sadly this is considerably down on previous years, but I imagine this too will pick up.

Sproughton.Meanwhile, two thirds of the SGR's peal totals today were rung this morning. One was an impressive 3hrs 25mins of Swindon Surprise Royal on the back ten at The Norman Tower, a noteworthy performance in its own right, let alone on a day that another was being rung at the same time within our borders. That was the 5040 on the 8cwt gallery ring six of Sproughton, rung to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of Neville Whittell's first peal at the same tower on this date, albeit a year late for obvious reasons. Neville's debut in the medium that has since been followed by 410 more (according to Andrew Craddock's superb Pealbase) was shared with David Wilson, father of the conductor for this morning's 2hrs 47mins at the tower where I learnt to ring, all combining to make for a very special success.

South-East District Chairman Mark Ogden rang the third in that and was fresh from his efforts ready for the third of the trio of peals for the Guild today, rung this afternoon and arranged by myself to celebrate Mason's recent fifteenth birthday with a 5040 of fifteen Surprise Minor methods that began with tremendous winds blowing around this exposed church and ended in calm, dimming sunlight.

Monewden.I'm not a comfortable conductor, anxious not to let anybody down, aware that as conductor, any mistake I make could be terminal to our performance. Such anxiety was particularly high with the 1440 of ten methods that we began with, but even going into the remaining five extents of single methods, I was aware of the precise callings needed for Wells and London, the potential for flare-ups in the plain hunting at the half-leads of Norfolk and Ipswich and the lead-ends for the former and complete differentness to the previous fourteen methods of the Norwich we finished with, but I needn't have worried as apart from initially calling Hexham instead of Surfleet (which was instantly and easily rectified as the first is simply a sixth-place version of the latter), I managed to keep on top of the calling and the experienced Surprise Minor band restricted any mistakes to an absolute minimum and sorted them out immediately. There never seemed any danger of us losing it (although one can never be entirely certain of course!) and the result was a very pleasant 2hrs 34mins of ringing that restarts the annal of birthday peals for the eldest son after its necessary absence last year.

There were only two disappointments. One was that having left the church to hear the full-time whistle on an Ipswich Town defeat just before 5pm, The Cretingham Bell was not opening until 6pm and so a practical post-peal drink wasn't possible. The other was that I missed out on going over to Rendlesham Forest with the boys and Ruthie's wider family this afternoon, but I returned home to spend a relaxed evening at home with my wife and youngest sons, delighted with a busy day of ringing in Suffolk.

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Friday 28th January 2022

This week's edition of The Ringing World arrived with us today and featured a lovely obituary for twice Past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild David Salter, written by his wife - and current Master - Katharine, with the help of family and a number of good friends. It is wonderfully detailed and it has to be to do justice to a busy and varied life that not only took in lots of ringing (as we know!), but also much else besides, from scouts to singing and even magic, as those who recall him cutting Val Mayhew's head off at a SGR Social many years ago will testify! Don't worry, she survived with her head intact, ringing a quarter-peal at Woolpit as recently as 2018 on BellBoard!

It also helps dismiss the lazy accusation that prolific peal-ringers do nothing else for the art. David rang over three thousand peals and until bad health curtailed his efforts was ringing hundreds a year all over the country. And yet as Katharine points out, he and his family still supported fledgling bands at Falkenham, Stutton, Wingfield, Gislingham and Harkstead over many years, before you even mention the opportunities he gave to so many ringers through his quarter-peal and peal-ringing, myself and Ruthie included. The numbers of quarters and peals all over the UK by many, many ringers is a testament to the affection he was held in by the ringing family.

This is probably a good point to remind people that Katharine is organising a ringing weekend with a social event on the weekend of Saturday 30th April and Sunday 1st May in memory of David, so please do feel free to contact Katharine to find out more.

The art that David so enjoyed was naturally a subject of conversation at Simon Rudd's weekly virtual pub, as were ditches and the falling in them thereof and the menu for tomorrow night's planned St Peter Mancroft Ringers Dinner, once we'd got in after the online ringing our host had been doing had overrun. I almost immediately followed that up with a video chat with my uni mates, all without the company of my wife who was out with her work colleagues for a meal.

Ashbocking.Meanwhile, well done to Tig Sweet, Robert Scase, Stephen Christian and South-East District Ringing Master Jenny Scase on their first QP of Warkworth Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Ashbocking.

I imagine David would've approved of such endeavour.

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Thursday 27th January 2022

It feels absolutely incredible to me, but today Mason turned fifteen. He spends more time in his bedroom playing on his computer than we would wish, but even as he creeps further into his teenage years, he continues to be a thoughtful, polite youngster. And although his first meaningful progress in the exercise was abruptly ended by the pandemic and not yet picked up again, he continues to join us at ringing events when we have him with us for the weekend.

Unfortunately for him and us, we were unable to celebrate with him as he is currently isolating after testing positive for COVID at the weekend, the good thing on this occasion being that we hadn't seen him for a few weeks as the virus was already running riot in his mother's household before he was last due to spend the weekend with us. Sorry as we were to not be able to mark the occasion with him (as indeed we couldn't exactly a year ago), I did at least chat with him on the phone and briefly from a far distance when I left his gifts and cards on the doorstep, and at least this year we have a peal attempt lined up to mark the date, God willing adding to the quarter-peal very kindly dedicated to him at Pettistree last night.

He isn't the only one isolating of course, but whilst he occupied his latest day locked away from the rest of the world with computer games and takeaway pizza, another slightly older Suffolk youngster was occupying himself with ringing from his student digs in Southampton, as Horringer ringer Joshua Watkins did what he could on his own by notching up a couple of QPs on two. If nothing else, well done on the perseverance Josh!

Whilst Ruthie was out at her choir practices, I was also ringing handbells on my own, albeit they were eBell on Ringing Room, as with the help of Wheatley I tried mastering a course of Cambridge Surprise Minor on 1-2. Not sure I can say I mastered it, but I did manage a course before giving my brain a rest!

Others within our borders were ringing actual bells with other people though, most notably at The Norman Tower where a 1272 of Norwich Surprise and Oxford Treble Bob Minor was rung on the Osborn 6 for Holocaust Memorial Day, another more sobering and sombre reason for 27th January being notable.

Meanwhile, on the day that the requirement to wear facemasks was removed, the CCCBR shared the latest guidance on ringing now these restrictions have been dispersed with. It is generally in keeping with the advice and guidance we had before 'Plan B', which is namely that everyone can feel confident in going about their normal ringing, but with care. Ringing chambers should be ventilated if possible and in some places facemasks might be considered suitable for the time being, whilst lateral flow tests ought to be taken before going ringing, ideally as late beforehand as possible.

One year on from wondering where we'd be on Mason's fifteenth birthday, the answer seems to be 'in a much better place.' Therefore, although we couldn't see him today because of coronavirus, a very Happy Fifteenth Birthday Mason!

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Wednesday 26th January 2022

St John on the Wall.On this blog I typically refer to quarter-peals and peals rung in Suffolk. Usually they are the easiest way of referencing the achievements of the county's ringers, as they are put on BellBoard for the world to read about. One can even keep track of past ringers from the county, such as former Reydon ringer Philip Moyse who has been achieving much in Bristol and continued today with his first peal of forty-two thirds place Delight Minor methods spliced. Even if they haven't got a footnote highlighting any firsts, they give a good indication of the capabilities and progress of a band and/or individuals, such as the pre-practice quarter-peal of Norwich Surprise Minor at Pettistree, for which I am very grateful for the birthday wishes to Mason.

Bramford.However, everyday successes at practices and the like are harder to come by as they aren't usually published to see readily, so it was great to see the update on the Guild's Facebook page from Eric Falla about the progress of the band at Bramford. This is a venue that holds a special place in my affections as my Dad Alan was a part of a young and apparently very enthusiastic band in the 1960s that included the Christian siblings, Roger Whittell and Jim Hollins and as the neighbouring tower to Sproughton where I learnt to ring, we sometimes helped each other out, although both practices were on a Wednesday at that time. Fantastic therefore to hear that a band of six new ringers were ringing rounds hand and back unaided on the 10cwt six last night in a mightily impressive show. Well done to all concerned!

There were signs of progress in the weekly session at the aforementioned Pettistree which I attended too and where - despite arriving a little late - I was still able to participate in a couple of courses of Netherseale Surprise Minor for Chris McArthur, trebled to Surfleet Surprise Minor rung for Anne Buswell, called some Stedman Doubles and rang the fifth to some spliced. Despite the absence of a handful of regulars, there were far more than at recent practices, including the return of Ringing Master Mike Whitby after a couple of weeks away and even The Greyhound had reopened, although having not expected it to be and after a long day for Ruthie and me with our respective jobs, I passed on popping in for a drink.

Fulbourn.Meanwhile, the sixth peal of 2022 for the SGR was rung today, with a 5184 of five Surprise Major methods spliced rung at Fulbourn in Cambridgeshire, which is a good indication of the band's capabilities and very impressive it is too, but I am just as pleased to hear of the progress of the band at Bramford.

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Tuesday 25th January 2022

The Public Relations Workgroup update on the CCCBR's website makes for interesting reading, highlighting all the hard work of the group - which includes our very own PR Officer Neal Dodge and new Suffolk resident Phillip Orme - over the last year, much of which is due to come to fruition in the coming months. Do try and keep abreast of it all if you can as there is some great stuff going on.

Which is in contrast to our day today, certainly from a ringing perspective. And although there will have been practices on across the county, there was nothing reported on BellBoard on a very quiet day.

God willing what is reported in the Public Relations Workgroup update will mean that busier days lay ahead.

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Monday 24th January 2022

Another Monday and another handbell peal for the Suffolk Guild. Encouragingly though, not the same band as rang the peals of Plain Bob Major in Bury St Edmunds a week and a fortnight ago, but another quartet, this time in Ipswich with a 5088 of Kent Treble Bob Major.

As it happens though, the Bury band were also ringing Kent TB Major, this time to a quarter-peal, but still with plenty of achievements. Well done to Rowan Wilson and Jed Flatters on ringing their first QP of Treble Bob in hand and Brian Whiting on his first as conductor.

St Mary-le-Tower.Half of today's peal band were at St Mary-le-Tower practice later, as I was for a decent session where there was lots of ten-bell ringing that included some very good Lincolnshire Surprise Royal and an entry to add to our catalogue of memorable touches of Kent, all accompanied by chocolate and cake.

Post-ringing refreshment in the Halberd Inn topped off an enjoyable evening and a successful day of handbell ringing in the county.

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Sunday 23rd January 2022

Church of the Holy Cross and St Lawrence, Waltham Abbey (9716395079) Much of the focus from a striking competition perspective at St Mary-le-Tower in recent weeks has been on our planned entry in the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminator at The Norman Tower on Saturday 26th March, an event highlighted in the email from Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson sent to members today. However, this afternoon, our attentions turned to the George W Pipe 12-Bell Competition due to be held at Waltham Abbey in Essex on Saturday 19th February, as we travelled down to the competition venue for our one practice on the 37cwt twelve just off the M25.

The entrance to the ringing chamber at Waltham Abbey. The clock mechanism in the ringing chamber at Waltham Abbey. Inside Waltham Abbey ringing chamber whilst the tenor is rung up.
At Waltham Abbey today

This is a very important session in such contests, our main opportunity to get used to the intricacies of unfamiliar bells, their sound, their go, even the noise of the clock mechanism going off periodically directly behind  the ringers of seven, eight and nine. It is all stuff that we want to avoid getting surprised by on the day and this was an extremely useful hour-and-a-half trying to make sure that we aren't. Although with the boys being very kindly looked after by Granny Kate and Grandad Ron and us arriving early, our taking the time to look around the stunning church after arrival inadvertently caused much panic as unbeknownst to us, most of the band were outside the church wondering when we would get there, not knowing we had already been in the church for half an hour!

Henley.It wasn't my most important ringing of the day though, as earlier I'd been at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge ringing for the morning service that we attended afterwards, arriving with birthday girl Susanne Eddis who happened to be walking past as I was cajoling the boys out of the car, whilst elsewhere in Suffolk a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Triples was rung at Henley. Well done to Phil Sweet on ringing his first on eight in that 1302.

We returned from our ringing to tea and a drink at Kate's before taking the boys home, very satisfied with our focus on the George W Pipe 12-Bell Competition and a lovely afternoon out at Waltham Abbey.

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Saturday 22nd January 2022

For us it was a morning of football training, helping Mum move her furniture back into her newly recarpeted living room in Ipswich and then visiting Ruthie's sister in her new abode in Framlingham not far from the tower that holds the 16cwt eight, along with a visit to their local park.

Polstead.For all that it involved one other ringer in the form of my mother Sally, it didn't see us doing any ringing, but there was plenty going on in the South-West District. Not just with their Practice at Kersey, but also with a very personal and poignant quarter-peal at Polstead rung in memory of former local ringer Richard Lynn who died in Australia last month, by a band featuring his sister Astrid Gale and brother-in-law Nigel who conducted the 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung on the 9cwt ground-floor six.

Meanwhile, there is good news from the Church of England with the announcement that the Listed Places of Worship Scheme - which amongst much allows the reclaiming of VAT on bell work - has been extended until 2025. If you are planning any work at your tower, then it might be worth getting familiar with this.

Otley Peal Board (© Mike Whitby).And on the 'Peal board pictures' Facebook page, Pettistree Ringing Master Mike Whitby left a typically eye-catching photo, which on this occasion was of the pealboard at Otley recording a 5040 of Minor that Ruthie, her mother Kate and myself rang in in 2007 that marked the 400th anniversary of the foundation of the first English Colony in the New World at Jamestown, which had strong links to the village. The first extent included a method named after the ship that took Bartholomew Gosnold out there, Godspeed Alliance. It was a brisk but very enjoyable peal!

It also involved more ringing personally than today!

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Friday 21st January 2022

Our washing machine being rehung.For the last few weeks, our washing machine has been making some very odd grinding noises and so today it had the equivalent of a restoration and rehang, albeit in its old frame. With working from home now a normal part of life, the need to be in the house to await an engineer to arrive at some point over a vast period of time wasn't the hassle that it once would've been and eventually a lovely masked chap called Matt (not Higby, to break with the comparison to bellhanging) came and replaced almost all the machines innards. After nearly two hours, our newly rehung washing machine was tested and hopefully ready to keep going for many more years to come.

Grundisburgh.Away from rehanging washing machines, there was ringing being done on actual hung bells not far away, as a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major was rung at Grundisburgh in memory of the Reverend Canon Norman Davies who was rector there for an impressive twenty-two years, thus the 5022 that required a snap start and half-lead calls of the bob and single variety.

We were able to catch up with one of the participants Mark Ogden later at Simon Rudd's weekly virtual pub, where the conversation was typically jovial (and occasionally juvenile!), but it was also good to hear from Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre Manager Nikki Thomas that things at the ringing centre in St Peter Mancroft in Norwich are picking up again, whilst it was great to see her and Simon's fellow ringer Ben Trent from Norfolk's county city for the first time in ages, with the reason he'd been absent, his baby daughter!

And we were able to enjoy it all safe in the knowledge that our washing machine had been fully rehung.

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Thursday 20th January 2022

With Ruthie out at her choir practices and having been outwitted by Alfie (those who are friends with me on Facebook will likely know what I'm referring to!), I gave myself a bit of eBell practice this evening, I think for the first time in 2022. I'm not sure why its been so long, but after a few weeks gap since I last picked them up to ring, I eased myself back in gently with some courses of Plain Bob Minor on 3-4, although encouragingly that wouldn't have been breaking myself in gently not all that long ago! A few attempts on the same pair for the Major version followed until I got through a course I was relatively happy with in the circumstances, although nowhere near the standard required to emulate the handbell ringers of the county who have already got a couple of 5040s under their belts this year.

Tostock. Horringer.My night in continued on a ringing theme as I explored some Surprise Minor compositions in anticipation of a peal attempt I am due to conduct in the near future, but elsewhere in Suffolk others were ringing actual church bells with quarter-peals of Cambridge Surprise Major and London Victory Delight Minor rung at Horringer and Tostock respectively, the latter remembering Hubert Mitson - whose name adorns the shield presented to the winners of the Guild Six-Bell method striking competition which will hopefully return this spring - three years on from his death.

Kersey.Meanwhile, a reminder that this Saturday the South-West District are planning on holding their January Practice on the 14cwt ground-floor eight of Kersey from 3-4.30pm, with all the now usual protocols.

Pleased as I am to pick up my (admittedly slow) progress on eBells this evening, I'm delighted to see plenty of ringing on real bells going on within our borders.

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Wednesday 19th January 2022

Today's announcement that England is reverting back to 'Plan A' from the 'Plan B' rules we have been under for the last month or so, means that from Thursday 27th January, facemasks inside public places are no longer compulsory. We are yet to hear if the Church of England will do likewise, but I suspect even if they do that ringers will continue to make sensible, proportionate decisions as many have been doing ever since restrictions were fully lifted precisely six months ago. Indeed, even though those in ringing chambers separated from the main 'public' part of a church have been granted an exemption from wearing masks, most have chosen to continue wearing masks, including at St Mary-le-Tower. After all, COVID is still around in plentiful amounts and likely will be during the rest of the winter, whilst there are more than a few people who have suggested that this has been announced to distract from Boris Johnson's current troubles rather than on any scientific basis!

I have no desire to comment on that, but it does seem that the peak caused by the Omicron variant has been reached and is rapidly falling, without admissions to hospital reaching the numbers that were feared, so God willing that bodes well for ringing continuing safely into the spring and hopefully the return of the events that help welcome the summer to Suffolk. Such as the District and Guild striking competitions and the AGM, occasions that usually give one something to look forward to as we try to get through the cold months of January and February.

Pettistree.Nonetheless, the rules remain in place currently and so all of those in attendance at Pettistree practice this evening and for the quarter-peal attempt beforehand were wearing masks. That included myself, having been picked up by my mother-in-law Kate Eagle to ring in attempt at a QP of Norwich Surprise Minor, which I was calling. Sadly, it went up in smoke just under halfway through, but it was a precursor to a productive session that saw an eclectic mix of Netherseale and Primrose Surprise Minor, as well as Stedman and Eynesbury Bob Doubles, impressively carried out on a springy new rope on the treble. All aided by some birthday cake from Anne Buswell delivered by Sam Shannon in her absence - thank you Anne and felicitations on your recent birthday!

Despite The Greyhound still being closed for its deserved annual break after Christmas and New Year and depriving us of post-ringing refreshment, it was an enjoyable evening, but one carried out with caution. Distancing was very easy in the church, hands were sanitised regularly, the ringing chamber was vacated and aired for several minutes between touches, ventilation was in place and I don't expect I was the only one to take a lateral flow test just before coming out. Hopefully such caution will carry us through in the coming weeks as restrictions are lifted.

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Tuesday 18th January 2022

Much of my spare time when not working, parenting, doing household chores, eating, sleeping, watching Winter Walks (this evening I enjoyed watching the Reverend Richard Coles, the vicar at Finedon in Northamptonshire where there is a 21cwt eight) or looking at my phone or laptop, I am reading Simon Linford's recently published The Core Seven and Beyond, which I would recommend to anyone looking to expand their Treble Dodging Major repertoire and indeed anyone looking for a way to guide learners through this stage of ringing.

However, I returned to the internet this evening to read his latest blog entry on the CCCBR website. Again he condenses much info into his thousand words, from ringing in South Africa to safeguarding to the Platinum Jubilee to the Young Change Ringers Association's Winter Event at the weekend. In keeping with recent blogs, he sends readers to a far-flung corner of the site, which on this occasion was the page about the Fred E Dukes International Bell Fund, a source of grants for work on bells outside the UK and Ireland. Also in keeping with when I direct people to Simon's informative and entertaining musings, I too am pointing my readers (reader?) to a page on the Suffolk Guild's website, with much to choose from thanks to the tireless work of Webmaster Chris Garner.

Today I am highlighting the page for Grundisburgh, which in keeping with other tower entries such as Leiston has been expanded and includes in the extra features photos of the many pealboards on the walls of this twelve-bell ringing chamber. Amongst them are ones that are notable, such as the board recording the 5036 of Grandsire & Gainsborough Little Bob Caters spliced in memory of Princess Diana in 1997 and special personally, like the one behind the tenor rope noting the 5148 of Grandsire Cinques on New Year's Eve in 2002 when Ruthie became the youngest lady from the county to ring a peal on twelve and the one recording the 5088 of Bristol Surprise Maximus almost exactly four years later that included an impressive number of firsts which I was delighted to organise.

Pealboard for Barham (Steve Rabong).However, I was drawn towards these after seeing Norfolk ringer Steve Rabong quite rightly showing off Suffolk's newest pealboard, which is recording the first peal at Barham. Made of Dibond material, it certainly looks the part - God willing I'll get to see it in situ in the ground-floor ringing chamber from where the 11cwt six are rung. When I'm not working, parenting, doing household chores, eating, sleeping, watching Winter Walks, looking at my phone or laptop or reading 'The Core Seven and Beyond'.

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Monday 17th January 2022

We were still missing a handful at St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice this evening, including our Ringing Master David Potts, but with a number of returnees, stand-in RM Jonathan Williamson was able to run a productive session that was already underway with a very decent sounding touch of Plain & Little Bob Caters spliced as I arrived outside (though the sound quality on the video I made of it doesn't do it justice!) and finished with the test piece of Grandsire Cinques for the George W Pipe 12-Bell Competition due to be held at Waltham Abbey on Saturday 19th February.

Afterwards a goodly number retired to the Halberd Inn, including Paul Bray who was joining us for the first time for a few years and whose return was a great help tonight. It was a nice way to finish a nice evening.

Elsewhere, the Suffolk Guild's peal totals were being added to with another handbell success in Bury St Edmunds, with the 5056 of Plain Bob Major conducted by Alan Mayle.

Good to see they had a full complement of ringers for it!

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Sunday 16th January 2022

It is unusual to listen to a service live on the radio on a Sunday morning as you are preparing to go out and ring at the same church, but it happened today on Sarah Lilley's show on BBC Radio Suffolk and indeed on BBC Radio Four and worldwide, whilst we got our household up, fed, tested and out the door to St Mary-le-Tower.

The Beeb's crew were busy removing their equipment by the time we got to ringing, an hour later than we usually ring due to a rejig of the service times to accommodate their time on the airwaves. Sadly absences for illness and injuries meant that we were considerably short, but with Ruthie again joining us with still no choir for her, we were able to ring a couple of touches of Plain & Little Bob Triples spliced, Grandsire Triples and Yorkshire Surprise Major on the front eight and some Stedman Triples on the back eight.

After we'd been to Costa Coffee for post-ringing refreshment, popped round to see Aunty Marian - sister of my father Alan and former ringer - to drop something off and had lunch back at home, we were back at SMLT, tea packed in lunch boxes for the boys as they had to accompany us again with our usual childsitters all unavailable. They were very good during our latest practice for Ipswich's entry into this year's National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest, although the band thought they themselves were being deprived of TV tomorrow after my wife reprimanded our sons at one point!

Once Amanda Richmond and Colin Salter had got Hawkear up and running though, it was a productive hour-and-a-half as we rang the touch of Stedman Cinques four times that we are due to ring at The Norman Tower in our eliminator on Saturday 26th March. Our band for this is an expansion from our Sunday morning band, taking in regular practice night attendees too, but even so we were a couple missing on this occasion, which meant a little bit of a shuffling of band placement and me ringing a different bell to that which I have been ringing thus far. This was not only useful this afternoon, but more long term, as we need to be prepared for any subsequent absences, especially on the day.

The Norman Tower.Meanwhile, the venue where it is planned that we compete with the likes of Birmingham, the Cumberlands, Sheffield, Towcester, Leeds and the hosts in sixty-eight days time was the scene of a quarter-peal of Grandsire Cinques, which was Stephen Dawson's first on twelve. Well done Stephen!

And Happy Birthday to former Guild Secretary Bruce Wakefield whose 81st birthday was mentioned in the footnote to the ringing at Woodbridge this morning. Although not preceded by a mention on the radio.

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Saturday 15th January 2022

Bardwell QP Band.Congratulations to Pat Lees, who having teased us with her 699th quarter-peal just over a week ago at Rougham, today rang number 700 in the 1260 of Grandsire Triples at Bardwell. A big achievement and great to see.

It joins last night's 1296 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Monewden by the FNQPC in the list of successes in the medium within our borders this weekend, but there was no such ringing activity from us on a day when football training for the boys was followed by an afternoon round at the abode of our friends Charlotte and Gregory and their daughters for a buffet, much tea and plenty of catching up.

I did find time to take in information on ringing, as I opened my weekly email from Ringing Forums. This is - as the name suggests - a forum for discussion on ringing topics, but crucially it is intended that this is a platform in which to discuss, debate and more importantly enquire without the negative aspects that often accompanies such things on social media. Thus far in my experience, I'd say it has been successful in this aim, with lots of interesting content, new information and opinion, all dealt with in a very civil and helpful manner. It will work best though the more who contribute to it, so please do subscribe. Even if you have nothing to contribute, it is worthwhile following, as I have discovered.

One discussion in this week's update was initiated by CCCBR President Simon Linford, who shares a link to his latest blog, prompting a thread on the importance of peal ringing and noted how it is being carried out by fewer young ringers. Hopefully it is a trend we can do something about here in Suffolk where I believe peal ringing can offer inspiration and motivation to young ringers, but regardless of whether peals are something on their radar, it was uplifting and encouraging to see the photos online of the inaugural Young Change Ringers Association Winter Event, held in Birmingham today with what appears to have been a huge crowd of youngsters gathering and ringing much from call-changes to Bristol Surprise Maximus.

God willing many will be ringing their 700th quarter-peal in the coming years.

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Friday 14th January 2022

The Ringing World arrived with us today and for the second week running there was nothing noticeably Suffolk related bar the usual quarter-peal and peal reports, although the front cover piqued my interest, adorned as it is with a stunning photo of Kinver in the snow, a 12cwt eight in that southern slither of Staffordshire to the west of the West Midlands, upon which I rang a brace of peals of Double Norwich Court Bob Major in 2001 and 2002, conducted by the late Martin Fellows. And there was plenty of other interesting bits and pieces from beyond our borders that make it a worthwhile read.

Our evening involved a recent innovation though, as we joined Simon Rudd for his virtual Friday night pub where the Norfolk market town of Attleborough was a focus of conversation for many different reasons, as was one attendee's various incomplete Christmas presents from one person! It was generally a jovial chat over a drink that was a nice way to finish the first full working week of 2022, as was reading The Ringing World.

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Thursday 13th January 2022

Recently details of the celebrations for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday Weekend at the start of June were announced and now the CCCBR have put things in a ringing context. As with the Diamond Jubilee a decade ago, the four days offer plenty of opportunity for ringing to be done, whether that be peals, quarter-peals or general ringing, but it has been suggested that a particular focus for ringing should be when the Service of Thanksgiving is due to be held at St Paul's Cathedral on Friday 3rd. Central Council PR Officer and former Ipswich St Margaret's ringer Vicki Chapman also suggests taking a look at the CC's Composition Library for inspiration for appropriate methods and compositions and a BellBoard event has been set up for performances linked to the occasion. Additionally, there is a reminder that the actual anniversary of her accession to the throne is on Sunday 6th February, for those who would like to mark it.

My reading development today!With the short days and cold weather in the immediate aftermath of the festivities at the end of a December of bright lights and anticipation, it is easy to yearn for a summer of celebrations and (hopefully!) hot, sunny conditions, but actually today I received a late Christmas gift as Ruthie very kindly presented me with a copy of Simon Linford's 'The Core Seven and Beyond', having waited to see if anyone else got it for me. Therefore, I finished up reading the absorbing autobiography of the late Ipswich Town legend Paul Mariner - which was another present from my wife via Santa Claus - and delved into the CCCBR President's publication. As previously mentioned, this looks a superb book for anyone starting out on Treble Dodging Major, offering an actual planned pathway to gradually ringing harder and harder methods, rather than simply doing the 'Standard Eight' and then hitting a ceiling or trying to try out random one-off methods with whoever else you can find to ring them with. However, there is plenty of interest for ringers like me who have done plenty of Treble Dodging Major over the years, especially from a conducting perspective. And having followed Project Pickled Egg (the project this book has been inspired by) from the beginning with intense interest, this has further inspired me to encourage more PPE involvement locally. There is even mention for a Suffolk ringer, with the James Smith composed Cooktown Orchid Delight Major featuring - one of my favourites!

There may have been Pickled Egg stuff being rung in the county, and there was certainly ringing going on, but bar a handbell peal in Bacton, there was nothing from within our borders noted on BellBoard today. God willing it'll be much busier for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

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Wednesday 12th January 2022

It was a fairly brief practice at Pettistree for me this evening. In part that was because in the well ventilated church on a cold night, it was a very chilly experience, especially for those who had been there since ringing in the quarter-peal right at the beginning of proceedings! With The Greyhound still shut for it's annual rest after Christmas, there wasn't even a post-ringing drink to extend things.

Joshua tenpin bowling.However, it was also short because I got there quite late having spent the latter part of the afternoon at Tenpin in Martlesham for the birthday party of a couple of Joshua's classmates after school. Josh was delighted to come joint top in his first game of tenpin bowling, but it made things a little more hectic than a typical Wednesday and saw my late arrival to the ground-floor six of St Peter and St Paul. Still, I was able to contribute in a vaguely worthwhile way by calling a couple of touches of Grandsire Doubles and a 120 of Stedman Doubles, as well as ringing in some London Surprise Minor as Mary Garner ran things with patience (especially with the minutes of rounds before the London whilst Mike Cowling, Mark Ogden and myself spent ages passing the buck to each other for the job of calling it!) and humour in the absence of usual Ringing Master Mike Whitby.

Elsewhere in the county, the Guild's first towerbell peal of the year was rung with a 5088 of Pudsey Surprise Major at Henley, with a composition from the conductor Brian Whiting that uses the sixth as the treble, which is great to see.

And great to hear was Mark Murphy MBE's interview with Neal Dodge SGR PRO, 3hr 38min 44sec into the former's breakfast show on BBC Radio Suffolk about the Guild's support for Suffolk Day on 21st June.

Unless something extraordinary happens in the meantime, by then the days will be longer. Hopefully the practices will be too!

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Tuesday 11th January 2022

I somehow ended up dogsitting whilst I worked from home today, mercifully with a recovering, low maintenance dog who pretty much sat on the sofa all day, but from a personal ringing perspective it was an unremarkable day, although one of us would have been helping out at Ufford practice if it wasn't for a mix-up with the keys, which for once wasn't our fault (reference any of the 12,633 key incidents attributed to us!).

St Sepulchre without Newgate. Offton.Not so for ringers elsewhere in Suffolk, with the practice at Offton preceded with a quarter-peal of Bristol, Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Rutland and Yorkshire Surprise Major, whilst down in London, Ipswich ringer Colin Salter is clearly benefitting from working in the capital and being able to regularly ring with the College Youths as he rang in a 1344 of six Treble Dodging Maximus methods at St Sepulchre's on the Society's meeting night.

All much more interesting than dogsitting!

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Monday 10th January 2022

The days are currently short, grey and cold, the afternoons still dark early and the mornings dark late, but today details of two big events in June when the days should be long and God willing the weather bright and hot were announced, and hopefully offer much opportunity for great publicity for ringing.

Suffolk Flag.One was the long bank holiday weekend from Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th to celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, the other Suffolk Day on Tuesday 21st. Previous versions of these have given ringers the chance to arrange special ringing, sometimes at rarely rung towers and the latter event often makes a big play of bells in the celebrations, so do look to arrange something and make bells a big focal point of proceedings in communities across the county!

For now though, we are still in the depths of a bleak midwinter and its effects were being felt at this evening's weekly St Mary-le-Tower where COVID directly and indirectly and other issues meant that only nine were present. That included an entire chain of command, with Ringing Master David Potts, as well as Jonathan Williamson, Amanda Richmond and Stephen Cheek all absent, albeit none have coronavirus as far as they or us are aware.

Fortunately, we did have the current Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter, myself as Past Ringing Master of the SGR and SMLT and an array of ringing experience to hand and so we fashioned a very productive session in the circumstances, especially for Sonia Docherty who got plenty of opportunities to treble to Plain Bob Doubles and behind to Grandsire Triples - with great effect - in between requests for Cambridge Surprise Major, Superlative Surprise Major and Stedman Triples on the front eight. Afterwards, as Chris & Jill Birkby, David Stanford and myself enjoyed our post-ringing refreshment in the Halberd Inn, we were briefly joined by the vicar Tom Mumford who kindly popped in especially to say hello, having just finished a meeting at the church which was set to the backdrop of our ringing.

Meanwhile, the first peal of year for the Guild was rung today, but it was far more than just that, as the admirable progress of handbell ringing in the county stepped up a notch in an impressive way in Bury St Edmunds. Extremely well done to SGR Chairman Rowan Wilson and Past Ringing Master Jed Flatters on ringing their first peal in hand in the 5040 of Plain Bob Major and congratulations to former Guild Peal Secretary Alan Mayle on his 1100th for the organisation he has served with such distinction.

Imagine what they could achieve by June!

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Sunday 9th January 2022

I've recently started watching Winter Walks, a low-budget but extremely relaxing series following various well known personalities whilst they take picturesque walks through the countryside of the north of England, accompanied only by a 360-degree camera and from a distance by a drone providing some stunning shots of the landscape. Currently I am trying to watch them on the rare occasion when I get half an hour's tranquility in our otherwise delightfully lively household and having got one such opportunity whilst Ruthie was reading bedtime stories this evening, I took in the poet and author Lemn Sissay traversing the route between the pretty looking Cumbrian village of Dent and it's railway station - the highest mainline station in the UK - which is actually four miles away in Cowgill, in a set-up reminiscent of that at Wickham Market's station which is actually in Campsea Ashe. I have rung in Cumbria, when I was kid, on one of the St Neot's ringing weekends organised by the late Tim Griffiths (where one of my abiding memories was coming across a carload of Ipswich Town fans when we going down one of the many isolated lanes between towers!), but with towers with bells hung for change-ringing sparse and far apart it isn't overly conducive to something like a Rambling Ringers tour and too far to pop up to from here and so I haven't been back since. It is something I'd like to put right one day, as it is a beautiful part of the world.

In the course of his soothingly gentle meanderings, he pops into the village church of St Andrew and highlights how much it is the centre of the community and how important a church can be to people of any faith or none.

Haverhill.However, as we all know, they are expensive to upkeep, which is why 'Walking Grandad' and Haverhill ringer Gordon Adams was on BBC Radio Suffolk, 2hrs 43mins 50secs into Sarah Lilley's show whilst we were driving to Ipswich for morning ringing, as having walked an impressive 4,000 miles last year (getting through five pairs of walking shoes in the process!), he is planning on walking a further three hundred miles before the eighty-eighth anniversary of his birth on 1st February in order to raise funds for the Friends of St Mary's Church where he rings on the 12cwt six. He is also asked about ringing, which he has been doing since 1944 and is also outlined in a recent article on SuffolkNews. Good luck Gordon!

St Andrew's Church, Dent (2)Meanwhile, back on Lemn Sissay's wanderings, as he leaves Dent, the 8cwt six are ringing, something that inadvertently or on purpose links in the sound of bells to the atmosphere of this small place dwarfed by the towering hills it sits in and seems to tie in with the prominence and importance of the church he mentions a few minutes earlier.

Westhorpe.This is something I imagine they are hoping to replicate within our borders at the even smaller village of Westhorpe, where the phenomenal publicity push about the project to restore and augment the five at Westhorpe saw Clive Mees being interviewed earlier on in Sarah's morning programme. Super to hear the greater detail that seven and a half minutes can sometimes provide above a limited printed article, including that locals are being recruited for a new band as part of the project, pleasingly. Good luck Clive!

Hopefully our ringing at St Mary-le-Tower this morning also provided a welcome sound in the county town. We were a little short due to various reasons, but we still managed some Grandsire and Stedman of the Caters variety, as well as some Little Bob Maximus before refreshment at Costa Coffee, with my wife helping to mitigate for some of the absences as her choir wasn't singing in Woodbridge this morning, although I'm glad to see that after having to call off ringing last Sunday, the bells at St Mary-the-Virgin were rung once again today.

Nothing else for us after that though on a largely uninteresting afternoon and evening from a personal ringing perspective. At least it gave me the chance to watch Winter Walks.

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Saturday 8th January 2022

One underlying purpose of this blog throughout has been to demonstrate how active ringers such as ourselves balance ringing with life and today perfectly demonstrated how it isn't always possible.

Having reluctantly avoided last week's South-East District Practice at Debenham, I had briefly been minded to pop over to Bury St Edmunds for the North-West District's Practice at The Norman Tower. However, I quickly realised that we wouldn't be able to combine that with the boys' football training. This is a real highlight of their week now, even in the constant rain we had over the course of the day and with there having been no sessions for the last two Saturdays due to them falling on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, there was no way we could get away with forsaking it for the brothers to watch us ringing!

St Mary's church - - 1406281 Still, hopefully there was a good turnout for an event that we have enjoyed going to in the past, but it is worth noting that if you are planning on going to Bungay for the Eight-Bell Practice on Monday evening that it has been cancelled for the usual reason most things get cancelled currently. However, there is an alternative practice at the better ventilated gallery-ring of Ditchingham, although the eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that this would be over the Norfolk border and on six!

Great Barton. St James Garlickhythe.Meanwhile, back in the NW District, well done to Joshua Watkins on ringing his first blows of Single Oxford Bob Minor in the quarter-peal of that and St Clement's College Bob that he called at Great Barton this afternoon, whilst down in London, Drinkstone ringer Nigel Gale was ringing in a peal at Galickhythe.

It is great to see Suffolk's ringers balancing ringing and life so successfully!

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Friday 7th January 2022

Westhorpe. More publicity generated from the Westhorpe project caught my eye this evening, as I came across an article about it on the Suffolk News website, whilst ITV broadcast a piece on it today that is brief but again great PR.

Clopton.Meanwhile, we enjoyed catching up with Simon Rudd and friends at his weekly virtual pub where John Loveless updated us on progress with his next publication and David Stanford appeared having moved Clopton practice to this afternoon, apparently with very good results.

Rougham. Earl Stonham. Elsewhere in Suffolk, well done to Pat Lees on getting to within one of her seven hundredth quarter-peal in the 1320 of Plain Bob Minor on the 15cwt six at Rougham, whilst Muriel Page's birthday was marked with a 1394 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Earl Stonham. Happy Birthday Muriel!

For us though, it was a very quiet, ordinary Friday, especially on the ringing front.
Not much to generate any publicity in the local media anyway.

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Thursday 6th January 2022

There was an interesting obituary on the EADT today for former Suffolk ringer Barbara Vaudrey, who died on 17th December at the age of 99 years old. It only mentions the exercise in one line (understandably given all she did in her life), but there was also a photo from the 1970s or 1980s, at an unnamed tower, of Barbara with a band. One looks like a young Winston Girling, but I'm not sure who the others are. Perhaps someone can identify them?

With no ringing this evening, there was time to discover more reading of ringing interest, as I caught up with CCCBR President Simon Linford's 'Golden Blog', which talks of his adventures with Devon style call change ringing and compares the value of The Ringing World to other specialist magazines. He also speculates how many peals might be rung this year compared to previous pre-pandemic years and guestimates that it may be 25% down compared to normal years past. We are only six days into 2022 and so it is hard to judge on this alone, but the thirty-eight peals rung thus far is up against eighty from the same period in 2019 and therefore suggests we may be ringing about half the number to usual. God willing the situation with Omicron will settle down in the coming weeks and allow more to be rung, including here in Suffolk where we still await the Guild's first peal of the year, but it certainly doesn't look like we'll be anywhere near normal levels for some time.

What Simon doesn't do on this occasion, which he has in recent blogs, is take readers to a far corner of the Central Council's website, but I shall continue to do so with this site. Today, I point you in the direction of the 'Subscriptions' page, as of course subscriptions are due! There has been tremendous support shown and endeavour displayed by members and officers in these trying times, but they have been tougher financially for organisations like the SGR over the last couple of years, so prompt payment would certainly help, if you are able.

Horringer.Meanwhile, there was a 1260 of Doubles rung at Horringer of Grandsire and Eynesbury, St Martin's, St Simon's and Plain Bob.

Nice to see that and also to see such a lovely obituary for Barbara and ringing featuring in it.

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Wednesday 5th January 2022

Pettistree.I finished the twelve days of Christmas in the same way as I began them - ringing at Pettistree.

My participation in the pre-practice quarter-peal tonight was also my first ringing since that which I did at Sproughton on Christmas morn, after caution over COVID saw all the ringing I had planned in that time wiped out, taking in a peal attempt at Stonham Aspal, the South-East District Practice at Debenham, Sunday morning ringing and the twelve-bell and regular weekly sessions at St Mary-le-Tower. Therefore, I was extra pleased to be out.

On the face of it though, it didn't look an overly appealing prospect. Ringing on this ground-floor six in the depths of winter is a chilly experience even in normal times, let alone with the ventilation that is necessary at the moment, but the drop in temperature from the balmy conditions we saw 2022 in with exaggerated that. With The Greyhound shut as it usually is for most of January after a hectic December, there wasn't even the prospect of a drink in a warm pub afterwards.

Indeed, we were a little short for various reasons and yet this was still an extremely productive and enjoyable evening's ringing. The 1440 of Ipswich & London Surprise Minor spliced beforehand was something different. Both are familiar methods, but can easily catch one out if you're not completely on the ball, but this was a very decent start to an annual QP total that we hope will be more comparable to that of the 59 rung in 2019, rather than the 12 of 2020 and 28 of 2021.

Ringing at the first Pettistree practice of 2022.Following on from this, the first practice here and my first ringing of the year was also pretty good, with a typically eclectic range of methods, from Grandsire Doubles for Sam Shannon to treble to and Elaine Townsend to conduct, to Netherseale Surprise Minor as requested by Chris McArthur and Norwich Surprise Minor, as well as a touch of spliced Minor that also added Little Bob, Beverley, Cambridge and Surfleet Surprise to evening's repertoire, all rung well.

In between ringing, Mike Whitby was handed a birthday card for his forthcoming birthday and Mike Cowling exhibited his new copy of The Core Seven and Beyond by CCCBR President Simon Linford based on the Project Pickled Egg project. Speaking with Mr Cowling and having taken a glance, this looks like being an extremely useful publication for those getting to grips with learning Treble Dodging Major methods in particular, but even for those who have been doing it for years, the 'spicy' section can offer inspiration and new methods. Having watched PPE evolve over recent years, it is great to see this book now in print.

Barham.Meanwhile, Barham started up their Wednesday evening sessions again from tonight, whilst our QP was not the only one rung in Suffolk, with a brace of quarters rung in Shelland at The Millbeck Ring as a 1260 of Stedman Triples conducted by David Stanford and a 1312 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major conducted by Brian Whiting were successfully scored.

A nice way to finish the twelve days of Christmas.

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Tuesday 4th January 2022

Get your bags of oranges and sugar out, for today entries are open for Dalemain's 2022 Marmalade Competition, including a category just for bellringers, which is due to run until 11th February with the awards ceremony planned for 14th May.

I'm not a marmalade maker myself, in big part to not having the time and I'm not likely to have more in the near future after I returned to work today following my break for Christmas, although of course that meant from home where I have spent the vast majority of the last few days anyway.

Westhorpe.With it being Tuesday though, this evening was quiet enough for me to read the ITV piece on Westhorpe's A-peal for Mary Tudor, the project to raise over £100,000 to restore this unringable five and augment to six. More good PR from this news.

Freckenham.Talking of PR, the Guild's Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge has put a clip of some ringing done at Freckenham following the quarter-peal rung on the 10cwt five yesterday on YouTube.

No quarter-peals in Suffolk today though. Perhaps everyone's too busy making marmalade.

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Monday 3rd January 2022

More fantastic progress on handbells for Suffolk's ringers today, with all bar Alan Mayle ringing their first quarter-peal of Royal in hand in the 1280 of Little Bob in Moats Tye. Very well done to Rowan Wilson, Jed Flatters, David Stanford and Brian Whiting, who are already extremely accomplished towerbell ringers, but who have used the troubles of the last couple of years to progress on handbells too.

Freckenham. Woolpit. Packenham.
Freckenham, Woolpit & Pakenham

Quarter-pealing on the county's church bells was also occurring though, with the first QP at Freckenham for a decade, a 1320 of Norwich Surprise Minor rung at Woolpit and a 1260 of Armitage-is-the-name Bob Minor scored at Pakenham, the latter of which was the first in the method for Pat Lees, Neal Dodge and Joshua Watkins - well done Pat, Neal and Joshua!

The present installation at Westhorpe. (by Neal Dodge)St Lawrence.There was more positivity involving ringing in the county in the media on this Bank Holiday Monday, with the East Anglian Daily Times carrying news on their website of the project to restore the five at Westhorpe. It ties in magnificently with the significant local Tudor history, which I absolutely love. The notion of having bells ringing out that Mary Tudor would probably have recognised the sound of is mind-blowing to me, especially when one considers how the five at St Lawrence in Ipswich would've been heard by Thomas Wolsey. We are so fortunate to ring on bells that link directly to a time of centuries ago. Look out too for something on ITV Anglia as they apparently did an interview this afternoon.

Stowmarket.Meanwhile, the new ten at Stowmarket - which God willing will be hung and ready to ring later this year - got a mention from the winner of Lesley Dolphin's 'Dolphin's Dart' competition Linda about 1hr 10mins into Lesley's BBC Radio Suffolk show this afternoon, which was an unexpected PR bonus for ringing within our borders.

For all this positivity in the art in this county though, we were going another day without ringing as I decided against going to St Mary-le-Tower practice as we continued our self-imposed limitation on our contacts. We don't have to and indeed if we did for every positive case we've happened to inadvertently come across we wouldn't have gone anywhere for the last three weeks. However, with the time that we spent indoors in close proximity and sharing takeaway with Ruthie's unfortunate best friend Fergie who subsequently tested positive and it being only just seven days (which seems to be the current general period of greatest risk) since we last saw her, we decided we might as well avoid the last remaining engagement either one of us had before we plan to return to school and work, and keep the risk to a minimum whilst it is still practical to do so. For us therefore, the highlight of the final day of my fortnight long break from work for Christmas was me taking the boys for an impromptu kickaround in the park as darkness fell.

The Norman Tower.Whilst we're not ringing right at the moment, hopefully enough will be to make the North-West District Practice at The Norman Tower from 10am-noon on Saturday a well attended event, especially as an email yesterday from NW District Secretary David Everett to Guild members confirmed it is still due to go ahead. Please do go along if you can and if you need further details and you haven't seen his email, then get in touch with David.

Also, keep an eye out for further details about the Festival of Suffolk, which is the county's contribution to the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations this year and may offer ringing opportunities, including for our ever improving handbell ringers!

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Sunday 2nd January 2022

2022 has started very quietly from a personal ringing perspective, but that has mainly been out of choice. Not because we haven't wanted to go ringing - we could have done with ringing to lift the subdued post-festivities boredom of this time of year! Rather, following our very close and prolonged contact with a subsequent positive COVID case a few days ago, we are trying to be as careful as possible when it comes to contacts, just to be on the safe side. Today, that meant missing out on what could've been a productive day of participation in the exercise.

Ringing at Woodbridge - where I had originally been planning on going - this morning was cancelled a couple of days ago due to a lack of numbers and the choir weren't singing at the service afterwards due to a coronavirus case amongst its members and so Ruthie and I could've gone to St Mary-le-Tower instead if we weren't being so careful. This afternoon was potentially more difficult logistically as we had committed to the first of Ipswich's practices this year for our planned entry into the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest in March, which was held at SMLT and of course involved a finite number of ringers. However, having warned those going of our situation in order for them to decide if they wanted to risk ringing with us and with fourteen from the squad (which is essential for an entry into this competition even in normal times) due to be in attendance and thus leaving them with enough if we didn't go, it was decided it wasn't worth the risk on this occasion.

Bradford Cathedral (6539533961) Long Ashton.Therefore, we remained at home all day, the highlight being football in the garden, playing Snap with a pack of Ipswich Town playing cards that Father Christmas brought last week and reading the thread on the Bellringers Facebook page about the longest length of ringing before losing a peal. It was inspired by an attempt lost yesterday after 3hrs 30mins, which isn't too much longer than my longest, which was very near the end of an attempt of Bristol Surprise Major in 2001 on the 30cwt eight at Long Ashton on the outskirts of Bristol, but both of these are small-fry compared to the time some of the lost long-lengths quoted by others on the thread, with an attempt at 27,827 changes of Stedman Cinques at Bradford Cathedral in 1995 coming to grief after nearly fifteen hours and one of the record attempts of Minor on handbells by Philip Earis, David Pipe and Andrew Tibbetts when a go at 72,000 changes ended prematurely after about seventeen hours appearing to be the record holders!

Successful or not, it is all a lot more ringing than we've managed in 2022 thus far.

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New Year's Day 2022

Happy New Year!

We awoke late in the morning with suitably sore heads, but were greeted with bright sunny weather that was perfect to lift any post-festivity blues. Indeed, it was apparently the mildest New Year's Day ever recorded in the UK, with temperatures reaching 16.3 degrees centigrade in central London.

It would have been great conditions in which to head over to Debenham for the South-East District Practice and then an afternoon watching Ipswich Town play, but of course COVID - now entering its third (or possibly even fourth by some accounts) calendar year of misery on our shores - reared its ugly head to prevent that happening.

The latter was postponed after the Tractor Boys' opponents Lincoln City suffered an unfortunate outbreak in their squad, but we decided to stay away from the former due to an abundance of caution following our prolonged contact with a subsequently positive case a few days ago and thus missed Liz Christian becoming SE District Secretary.

Outside at Debenham for the South-East District Practice. (Mike Whitby) Ringing at Debenham for the South-East District Practice. (Mike Whitby)I did see photos by Mike Whitby from the event and hear about how it went and how well attended it was - as the January one typically is - from my mother Sally later as my brother Chris and I went round hers to move some heavy furniture ahead of her carpet being taken up, in an operation that was as brief as possible and with all three of us masked throughout indoors and lateral flow tests taken beforehand.

To be in a position to safely rid ourselves completely of such precautions due to this dreadful virus being rendered even more impotent is one of my hopes for 2022, although it is not something that I have any control over in the wider scheme of things and of course there are all sorts of variables (I imagine largely unforeseeable currently) that will contribute to whether such a utopia could be arrived at.

Otherwise my ambitions for the forthcoming twelve months are largely to keep myself and my family safe and healthy whilst also getting on with life, as we managed to do for much of 2021. God willing we can finally hold the Suffolk Guild AGM in person again on Saturday 23rd April and the six-bell striking competitions can return in the Districts and on Saturday 21st May the Guild contests for the Mitson Shield and the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy and following it's successful reintroduction into the calendar in September last year, I wonder if the SGR Eight-Bell Striking Competition will once again be held then. Understandably after the last two years, very little is firmed up at this point, but hopefully all this will occur in 2022.

Two events planned for this year that do have details advertised and involve Suffolk ringing are the George W Pipe 12 Bell Competition due to be held at Waltham Abbey on Saturday 19th February and then one of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminators lined up for The Norman Tower on Saturday 26th March, with both set to feature teams from Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich. If these do go ahead as we come out of another difficult winter, then it is hopefully a promising sign that everything else should follow in the warmer months when illness generally has been less prevalent, even over the last two summers. Hopefully that will allow the Suffolk Guild to attempt to mount a successful retention of The Ridgman Trophy at King's Lynn in Norfolk on Saturday 18th June, Rambling Ringers to finally go to Leicestershire and maybe even personally for us to attend the College Youths Anniversary Dinner in November. As already intimated though, there are still lots of variables that could scupper any such ambitions.

If we dare to, looking even further ahead, next year will be the one hundredth anniversary of the Guild and we finished 2021 on 9,858 peals rung in its name since its formation in 1923. The happenings of the last twenty-two months means that it is going to be more difficult then we might have once imagined, but if we were to reach the fitting landmark of 10,000 peals before the end of our centenary year then we need 142 rung over the next twenty-four months. Peal-rates generally are much lower of course, but 71 a year sounds doable - get organising!

Tostock.There were no peals rung for the SGR today, but ringing in the county for 2022 got underway, with Tostock having rung the New Year in whilst remembering their former ringers Dr Ann Gath and Lionel Grooms and a date touch was rung at Offton, whilst Norman Tower ringer Ben Keating rang his first peal of Minor inside over the Cambridgeshire border at Holywell. Well done Ben!

Meanwhile, congratulations to friend of ringing Mark Murphy from BBC Radio Suffolk on his MBE in the New Year Honours. Along with his wife Lesley Dolphin (who actually learnt to ring partly under my 'tutelage'), Mark has done much to publicise ringing locally and in my opinion probably deserves the honour for just that, but of course it is for so much more.

With the lovely weather and that successful SE District Practice at Debenham, it all made for a good start to 2022, even we couldn't participate in any of it.

Happy New Year!

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The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Suffolk Guild of Ringers.