Tuesday 21st May 2024

Richy's Blog

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New Year's Eve 2023

I've mentioned before the arbitrary nature of the changing of the year. Overnight, life doesn't change because it is a different year.

However, years do tend to get associated with events and memories, pinpointing a period of history or our lives. Internationally, I imagine that many will think of 2023 as the year of the terrible escalation of the situation in Gaza and Israel. Pretty much all Ipswich Town fans will fondly remember it as one of the most successful and entertaining in the club's existence, ourselves included having been blessed to watch much of it firsthand. Nationally, historians will report this year as one of a king's coronation, as Charles III was crowned at Westminster Abbey. And connected to that, ringing will recall it as the year of 'Ring for the King', which was a huge success locally as well as across the UK.

Group photo.
The Guild's Centenary AGM

Suffolk's ringers will remember 2023 as the Guild's Centenary Year though, which definitely created some happy memories. Beccles played host to an AGM which felt more special than usual, complete with a group photo of those present for an occasion which saw Chairman Rowan Wilson and Treasurer Stephen Cheek step down and replaced by Mark Ogden and Tim Hart respectively, whilst the day before a superb SGR takeover edition of The Ringing World was released. Most memorable of all though was the Centenary Dinner at Ashlar House in Bury St Edmunds, which grand but informal, in keeping with our grand but informal organisation. It was a wonderful evening attended by the Suffolk Guild's President the Right Reverend Martin Seeley, as well as The RW Editor Will Bosworth and former BBC Radio Suffolk presenters Lesley Dolphin and Mark Murphy with fantastic food and drink, but also ending with an impromptu disco and conga!

Great as that was though, the most important legacy of the centenary celebrations has been the 'Challenge 100' which has saw a huge number of achievements over the last twelve months. Amongst them was first-pealer Jill Apter who was also one of thirty who rang their first quarter-peal on Suffolk bells since 1st January. I'm not sure how that compares to previous years, but it seems an impressive number, so well done all of them, especially Jill for then going on to peal-ringing, as well as all who achieved something this year.

That number also includes me as it happens, as I called my first peal of spliced Surprise Maximus in the 5042 at The Norman Tower in February, which was the first of six peal attempts on twelve that I arranged at the twelves within our borders and the Ely Diocesan Association and Norwich Diocesan Association who Suffolk's towers were under until the SGR's formation in 1923. Although sadly I had to abandon our attempt at Great Yarmouth planned for earlier this month due to issues at the tower now resolved, the other five were all successful with firsts in each of them, which was the plan. Ultimately though, two peals stand out as personal highlights this year - the Master's peal at Monewden a few weeks ago and watching a masterclass in big bell ringing by current Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter in the 5056 of Cambridge Surprise Major at All Saints in Sudbury over the Coronation weekend, which was the first time the tenor had been pulled into a peal since 1955. Along with the boys' birthday peals - particularly because they were all with my wife this year - peal-ringing again produced many highlights.

With Alfie's football training on Wednesdays making it impractical a lot of the time to ring in the pre-practice quarter-peals at Pettistree and thus reducing our QP output this year, we've still enjoyed some nice ringing in the medium and whilst there wasn't an Ipswich entry in the National 12-bell Striking Contest we still took part in lots of striking competitions. We were both delighted to be in the St Mary-le-Tower teams that won in the George W Pipe Trophy at Chelmsford Cathedral, the Mitson Shield on the lovely easy-going six at Troston for the Guild 6-Bell and in the Pettistree band that were joint winners with Debenham of the Cecil Pipe Memorial Bell in the South-East District Striking Competition at Barham, whilst Ruthie was pleased to be in the SE District team that won the Rose Trophy in the Guild 8-Bell at Hitcham. Congratulations also to Bardwell who won the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy at Troston and to Halesworth, Aldeburgh and the hosts on winning the new Trevor Hughes Trophy, Call-Change Trophy and The Harry Archer Trophy respectively at the North-East District Competition held at Metfield and to whoever won the South-West District Competition at Polstead (apologies, I can't find anywhere who won it!) and indeed anyone who took part in a competition in an element of ringing that is one of the most engaging to recruits and the public. Likewise well done to our neighbours in the Essex Association on ending our winning streak in The Ridgman Trophy at Towcester this year!

Otherwise, we have really enjoyed our regular ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, Pettistree, Ufford and Woodbridge and those South-East District events we could make, although the fact we haven't made as many as we would usually is indicative of the evolution of our circumstances as Saturdays are now often busy following Alfred's team and ITFC. Hopefully we get lucky with timings and the like in 2024 and can do both footy and SE ringing more often!

Generally then, it's been another really positive year generally. Mason completing his GCSEs and setting out on the world of work and college in (tasty!) style, AJM getting Player of the Year from his footy teammates and Josh increasing in confidence, especially when performing on stage! Our weekend away in Cambridge and London when we went to see The Mousetrap, even our very soggy week on the Rambling Ringers Tour in Dorset, all highlights to God willing remember for years to come of a good year.

Sadly though, it hasn't been the case for all. This year, the Suffolk Guild has lost Ian Harris, Kevin Hohl, Ed Hynard, Adrian Knights, Hilary Mann, Muriel Page, Elizabeth Teverson and the late Rolie Whiting's wife Diana, amongst others I'm sure. The ringing family being what it is, whilst we may have known some better than others, they are all people we knew and we were saddened by each passing and our thoughts were with their family and friends both then and still now as we think more about people we've lost over the last year.

Hopefully most will look back on 2023 with more happy than sad reflections though, especially when reflecting on ringing in the county, which was rounded off with a couple of quarter-peals, Sunday morning ringing and various towers such as Troston and Woodbridge who rang 2023 out and 2024 in. The QPs were rung at Horringer and Ixworth. Congratulations to new North-West District Ringing Master Joshua Watkins on ringing his 150th in the medium in the former and well done on his first of Surprise Major as conductor, and well done to him, Sally Crouch, Andrea Alderton, Lesley Steed, Martin Kirk, Ruth Suggett, David Steed and Neal Dodge on ringing their first of St Andrew Bob Triples in the latter. Although no peals at the end of a year when the Guild has rung an impressive 118 peals with 107 ringers - the most since 2014 and 2018 respectively - and rang its 10,000th peal, I think (there was much readjusting of the figures and may still be more!) with the 5040 of Doubles rung at Poslingford on 7th June.

Ruthie and me enjoying our New Year's Eve!With Mrs Munnings not required for singing in Woodbridge, we both rounded our year of ringing off by joining the service ringing at St Mary-le-Tower with some superbly struck call-changes on twelve being rung as we approached and more good ringing once we were up there, and then enjoyed post-ringing refreshment at Costa Coffee before we went round the abode of Ruthie's sister Clare and her fiancé Chris, who were very kindly hosting us and my wife's Gran and Chris's father Bill and even putting our household up. A roast dinner was followed by an afternoon, evening and night of gentle drinking, more eating, Carry On films, Jools Holland and those spectacular fireworks in the capital, with the boys and their cousins very impressively staying up to see them!

Whether you stayed up or not, however you spent it, Happy New Year. Here's praying that we'll be here in a year associating 2024 with more good than bad at the arbitrary changing of the year!

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Saturday 30th December 2023

Multiple congratulations to ringers nationally and locally today.

Nationally they are due to Dickon Love who received an MBE in the New Year Honours List, and also to David Town and Andrew Beevers who were both awarded BEMs, all three for services to ringing. I have been privileged to ring with both of the former and know that not only are they good eggs and great ringers, but that they are very deserving of the honour. Dickon is a Past Master of the College Youths, but has done so much work on records of bells and ringing in London and Kent and has been the driving force behind new rings in the capital at St Dunstan-in-the-West, St James Garlickhythe (which famously started life as the ring of bells on the barge that began the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012) and St Magnus the Martyr, whilst David has done so much for ringing at Northallerton in North Yorkshire - being Tower Captain for fifty years there - amongst much else. And whilst I don't know Andrew, he is clearly deserving of the honour having been nominated also for his services to the Ecclesfield community in South Yorkshire. Congratulations to all three of them.

Their honours were celebrated here in Suffolk in the footnote to the 1260 of Doubles rung on the five at Hunston, whilst congratulations are also due for different reasons to Richard Knight and Alan Mayle on ringing their 200th peal together and particularly the former on ringing his 600th in the medium with the 5016 of Grandsire Cinques at Grundisburgh. And congratulations to Nigel Gale and Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge on ringing their 25th QP together in the success at Whepstead and especially to the latter on thus ringing a quarter-peal in every possible tower in the North-West District with five or more bells during 2023. Meanwhile another five-bell quarter-peal was rung at Badwell Ash.

Beyond our borders, the headline act was undoubtedly at Ticknall where Simon Melen rang the fourth AND fifth to a peal of twenty-three Surprise Major methods spliced in a success that the conductor David Pipe professed to have been the best of Norman Smith's famous composition he had ever rung in, which coming from someone who had rung it twenty-three times previously is saying something! Of course, people have rung this on two handbells which is impressive enough, but to do it whilst handling two tower bells is another level and although it isn't a unique feat as Andrew Mills did it at Kingsbury in Warwickshire thirty-two years ago, it is still incredible and adds to other amazing performances by him such as ringing four in hand to peals of Bristol and Orion Surprise Maximus.

No ringing for us today, let alone anywhere near that level, with our morning occupied instead with looking after our nieces and football down the park with a large number of the boys' footy friends.

Hollesley.God willing we will do more in the coming weeks and January's What's On offers plenty of potential opportunities to do so next month, starting as usual on the first Saturday with the South-East District Practice which is due to take place in precisely a week from 10.30am-12.30pm at Hollesley, one of the best eights in the county with tea, coffee and a toilet in the church! Additionally, it is planned to be the first practice to be run by the new young, enthusiastic and approachable Ringing Master Hal Meakin. Please do come along to support him if you can.

Ixworth. Worlingham. Lavenham.

Seven days later, another new young, enthusiastic and approachable Ringing Master should also be supported as all being well Joshua Watkins will be running the North-West District Practice which is intended to take place at Ixworth from 10am-noon, followed by lunch at The White Horse in Beyton six miles down the road. If you can't make that, later in the day the North-West District are planning on ringing at the 8cwt six of Worlingham on the edge of Beccles, with the suggestion of going to The Three Horseshoes less than a couple of miles away in North Cove afterwards. And then the South-West District have penciled in ringing at Lavenham from 3-4.30pm on Saturday 27th to begin their 2024 programme.

Bungay. Ufford.In between these Saturday events, the Bungay 8-Bell Practice is scheduled for the evening of Monday 8th, the Belfry Advisory Committee have lined up their next meeting for 7pm on Tuesday 30th in Stowmarket and on Friday 26th the aforementioned Hal Meakin has set up a Surprise Major Practice at Ufford open to all looking to progress their Surprise Major, which since ringing's return from pandemic restrictions seems to have been a real gap here and further afield. His hope is that it will be a monthly event, so again - and like with all the ringing mentioned here - please do support it if you can.

Hopefully by the end of January all this ringing will have helped progress Suffolk's ringers further and we shall have even more to congratulate ringers on.

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Friday 29th December 2023

It was a special day for Alfie. Not from a ringing perspective, as he still doesn't look much like taking the exercise up, but wonderful to see. For he and his footballing teammates were the flag wavers for the entrance of the players at tonight's Ipswich Town men's match, which meant they got to stand pitchside as 29,100 fans roared the Tractor Boys and their visitors QPR into the arena, high-fiving various substitutes and coaches as they went past.

Earlier, they had met players, got autographs, taken penalties at Crazee the mascot and been on a stadium tour, all of which required us getting to Portman Road a lot sooner than normal. In turn, that saw us begin our usual pre-match meal at the Mermaid with mother-in-law Kate and Ruthie's sister's fiancé Chris sooner and lengthened our socialising, which as on Boxing Day saw us meet up with ringers Robert Beavis and Simon Rudd. Sadly what followed was an ironically drab 0-0 draw in the last match of an exciting 2023 for ITFC, a match that even more sadly was overshadowed by a fan having a heart attack a few rows in front of Kate in the Sir Alf Ramsey Stand at half-time and delayed the start of the second half by about twenty minutes. We were praying for the best.

Following a big lay-in taken whilst we can and that early start in Ipswich, it didn't leave time for us to do any ringing, making this the first day of this Christmas week when we haven't managed any. That wasn't the case for everyone in Suffolk though, with a couple of quarter-peals rung within our borders. One was a 1260 of St Martin's & St Simon's Bob Doubles at Ixworth, whilst Chris Graham's first in the medium was rung in the success at Buxhall. Well done Chris, for whom it was also a special day.

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Thursday 28th December 2023

Lanterns up the path at Grundisburgh.It was a big day for Grundisburgh ringers Gill & David Twissell as their grandson Rob got married to Phoebe in a smart looking wedding, with Christmassy lanterns lining the path on a grey afternoon. And Ruthie and I felt privileged to help man all twelve bells as requested. I have to admit that I didn't know what to expect from this. Stephen Pettman understandably had his work cut out getting twelve ringers on the Thursday between Christmas Day and New Year and these aren't an easy twelve to just jump on and ring. I needn't have worried, as a disparate but good band gathered from many corners of the South-East District produced some really well-rung call-changes before and after, the ringing chamber unusually crowded during the ceremony.

Our ringing there was sandwiched between meeting ringing family members as first mother-in-law and Ufford Ringing Master Kate Eagle popped round for pancakes with her dog Merlin this morning. And then straight from our duties on Suffolk's lightest twelve, we travelled to near the county's youngest twelve to visit my brother Chris and his wife for some final present opening as our diaries over the festive period finally allowed us to meet! On both occasions we enjoyed ourselves immensely with no majorly pressing deadlines.

Meanwhile, the peal appropriately rung in memory of Muriel Page at Debenham where she organised the Veterans Day for so many years helps to explain why Stephen had to work so hard to get a band for the wedding in a week when ringers tend to do a bit more ringing if they aren't working or spending time with family, but I'm glad that Ruthie and I could participate in the Twissell's special day.

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Wednesday 27th December 2023

For the last three days, we have been fed, watered and generally occupied and well looked after for which we have been very grateful, doing lots of things over a busy seventy-two hours or so. Come the third day of Christmas though and things generally slow down and we have to fend for ourselves. It is usually a day of enjoying the presents kindly gifted to us a couple of days ago, which can be a lot of fun with the boys! This year, the 27th December was no different.

Pettistree. © Mike Cowling.During daylight hours, following another relaxing lay-in after weeks of frantic, early starts for school, work, football and ringing, a new football was kicked around in the garden, a model of Portman Road built and Ipswich Town Top Trumps played. Come the evening and it was Pettistree practice, which we all went along to with another morning free of deadlines due tomorrow. Not unexpectedly for this time of year when people are with non-ringing family or away, we were slightly lower on numbers than usual, yet still we rang Beverley Surprise Minor, spliced and a very decent course of Kirkstall Delight Minor, which was one of the nine methods that Mark Ogden and myself rang in the peal at Cretingham yesterday. And afterwards a healthy number of us popped to The Greyhound for post-ringing refreshment, whilst before the practice a quarter-peal was rung, which was the fifty-second at this ground-floor six in 2023.

That 1272 of Ipswich Surprise Minor was one of six QPs rung in Suffolk today, with a 1312 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung on The Barn Owl Ring in Norton, whilst Deborah Blumfield, Sally Crouch, Neal Dodge, Joshua Watkins and Jimmy Yeoman all rang in four quarters today, ringing Plain Bob Triples at Dalham, Cambridge Surprise Minor at Exning, three Doubles methods at Freckenham and Plain Bob Minor at St Mary the Virgin in Newmarket, the latter of which saw North-West Ringing Master Joshua pull in his heaviest bell to a quarter. Well done Josh! Well done also to Jimmy on ringing his most quarter-peals in a day. That boy will go far.

The Harborne band.Talking of youngsters going far, there was an encouraging 5120 of Superlative Surprise Major rung at Harborne in the West Midlands by a band with an average age of seventeen years. Things weren't slowing down for everyone on this third day of Christmas.

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Boxing Day 2023

Probably inspired by yesterday's collection of people completing the peal-ringing calendar, a thread was started on the Bellringers Facebook page today asking what the average number of peals was needed to be rung to have rung a peal on every date without making a special effort to do so. That is an important caveat as of course in theory one could ring a peal on every date in 366 peals, but that isn't very likely to happen as it is hard to envisage setting out to do that. It soon became clear though that strictly speaking this isn't something that can truly be worked out mathematically as it depends on humans and their lifestyles. Some ringers will ring regular peals on a certain day, such as the third Monday of a month for example and so dates around then would probably be completed multiple times before a date at the beginning of the month. However, the suggestion was that one would likely need to have rung at least two thousand, though others had done just over a thousand and the late Michael Hobbs of Bristol apparently did it after 'only' about 980.

Interestingly (for me anyway), before today I had sixty-eight more dates to complete the set having rung 658 peals. Most of those dates are 'normal' dates such as 8th March or 20th August, but there are a handful that stand out as being potentially tricky dates. Such as 14th February for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who has to consider other halves in the process of agreeing to a peal. And despite having rung far more peals on 31st December than any other date due entirely to the New Year's Eve peals at Grundisburgh which were once an annual occurrence on a day when the main action happens right at the end of the day, New Year's Day is one that I have never rung a peal on, primarily because I rarely like to commit myself to something as substantial as that on a day typically given over to recovery! Christmas Eve has been kept clear of such things in the days of parenthood, although I did once attempt one at Leiston (possibly of Christmas Eve Delight Major if I remember correctly) pre-Mason which was lost and I think Christmas Day might have to be the very last one if I ever get that far, hopefully at a time and place that will limit the amount of the festivities I miss in the process! The other date that would need the perfect circumstances to make it possible to ring, was Boxing Day. First thing in the morning wouldn't really be desirable due to the previous days' celebrations and with the rest of the day nowadays usually spent with Ruthie's (mainly) non-ringing family and/or watching Ipswich Town if they are at home, fitting a peal in has been impractical.

Until today that is! With the second-place Tractor Boys' fixture against first-place Leicester City at Portman Road moved to the evening for the TV cameras and my wife's sister Clare again working this morning, lunch at their Gran's was moved back to mid-afternoon to fit in with after the worker had returned and before eight of us had to depart to Ipswich for the footy, thus allowing me to accept Robert Beavis' kind offer to ring in an 11am peal at Cretingham. Thus, having had a relaxing lay-in at Kate's after she had very generously put us up last night, Guild Chairman Mark Ogden kindly picked me up and within minutes we found ourselves in this pretty, isolated village enjoying pre-peal conversation with Mr Beavis, which as per usual with this entertaining character once of this county took many tangents which before we'd even begun saw me being called Richard 'Voldemort' Munnings and Mark Ogden renamed April Day. Long stories.

Cretingham.The 2 hours and 27 minutes of ringing that followed on this pleasant 7cwt ground-floor six was extremely enjoyable as we rang a 5040 of nine Treble Dodging Minor methods conducted by another former ringer from within our borders, Louis Suggett. He had chosen a Peter Ellis composition of whole course splicing, which does what it says on the tin in as much that rather than changing method every lead or every few leads, a whole course of a method is rung before being changed to another method. This allows the band to get settled into a method and today contributed to some really good ringing.

It was rung in memory of the two big personalities that the SGR has lost this month, Muriel Page and Adrian Knights and memories of them both contribute to upbeat post-peal conversation, which continued as we were met by Robert's parents Graeme and Linda. We were later to meet Robert and his father pre-match in the Fanzone, along with Simon Rudd and my brother Chris as we joke that one day we could fill the place with Guild members!

At the Ipswich Town Vs Leicester City match tonight.What followed was a thrilling match between the two teams who have recorded a record haul of points for this stage of the season in this division and ended with an equaliser for the home team in injury time in excitable scenes against a team who were Premier League champions only seven years ago, but was preceded with a typically hearty feed at my mother-in-law's mother's once I'd been kindly dropped off by Mark after our travels through some beautiful countryside on a beautiful bright 26th December. The 299th date on which I've rung a peal.

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Christmas Day 2023

I usually have a brief period of utter contentment on Christmas Day. Normally it'll be after I have asked our hosts if there is anything I can do to help and have either helped (today was delivering cards to our host's neighbours) or been rebuffed and I am sat back on the sofa with my first or second alcoholic beverage, the children happily playing with their gifts, the smells of a roast dinner being prepared wafting through the house. Nothing expected of me. No jobs to do, nothing to get for the boys who are also unusually content, no deadlines, nowhere to be. I just relaxed and thanked God for how blessed I am.

The 25th December is indeed the day when my blessings seem most obvious and come together, stripping back the elements that go towards making those blessings possible such as work, managing finances, the shopping, the organising, the car journeys to training, matches and parties, method learning and the like which don't often allow one time to fully appreciate those efforts or how fortunate we are that those efforts are successful.

Ruthie getting festive!One of the things I am most blessed with is ringing and of course on this day of the year we are privileged to provide what so many people consider an essential sound at Christmas, first - once the normal frenetic present opening has been done before the sun has risen - at Pettistree and then after dropping Ruthie off at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge to sing for the service there, at St Mary-le-Tower. At the former we were delighted to help produce some lovely ringing, all of which was Doubles with a couple of pieces of Stedman and one of Grandsire, whilst at the latter we were again short on numbers for the same reasons as we were short for the ringing for the Carol Service here yesterday. Nonetheless, there was still some good ringing on the front and back eight before my three sons and I picked my wife up and after a visit home to collect our stuff for a festive sleepover, presents and cards, we headed to mother-in-law Kate's where we spent the rest of the day with our host, the boys' Grandad Ron, their cousins and their mother Clare and (as of today!) her fiancé Chris and his father Bill. We were royally treated, as we always are here and although with Ruthie's sister working we did things slightly differently as we had dinner in the evening we had an absolutely wonderful day of being well fed and well watered. Thank you Kate and Ron!

Meanwhile, here in our county, well done to the band who rang their first Christmas Day quarter-peal with the 1320 of Doubles rang on the back five at Great Finborough, whilst across the country there were also the usual collection of peals rung to complete the calendar in the medium, which means that someone has rung a peal on all 366 dates of the year. Today, that included within our borders as former Guild Peal Secretary Alan Mayle completed that particular challenge as he conducted a 5056 of Plain Bob Major on handbells in Bury St Edmunds, rather smartly staying up from Christmas Eve to ring it in the early hours of this morning rather than eating into the festivities during the day. Presumably whilst Father Christmas snuck as the band were concentrating too hard to notice him! Congratulations Alan!

Others beyond our borders were going one step further though, as Nicola Turner joined her husband Colin and the conductor today Peter Ellis in becoming just the third person to ring two peals in a day on every calendar date when she rang in a brace of peals at her home tower of Milton in Oxfordshire. It might seem madness, but it sounds like the band enjoyed them and rounded their efforts off with dinner at the Turners, so more power to them.

Personally, whilst I may want to complete the calendar one day, I'm not particularly close at the moment and I certainly have no desire to spend six hours of my Christmas Day ringing, so there were no such shenanigans for me. Instead, I got that brief period of contentment, counting my blessings. I hope you all got that chance too.

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Christmas Eve 2023

I worked out that Father Christmas must have begun his annual present drop around the world at about 9.30am our time today. By the end of Christmas Eve in the UK, the NORAD Santa Tracker said that he had reached Ponta Delgada and delivered over 4,000,000 presents to children across the globe. He had a busy day, but so did we. OK, maybe not anywhere as busy as the man and his reindeer who magically leave gifts for so many kids across the globe, but active throughout.

St Mary-le-Tower.As they were setting out, so were we, dropping Mason off for work and then travelling into Ipswich to ring at St Mary-le-Tower, his younger brothers being given an impromptu lesson on reading music in the car by their mother who was joining us with no service at Woodbridge this morning. That ringing also saw Josh delving into the world of method names and a flick through the Diagrams book while his parents participated in call-changes on twelve, Stedman Cinques and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus in the company of Dave - a young ringer who has recently come up on occasions in recent months - and Finley Meakin - Hal's brother - amongst a crowd large in number and understandably festive in mood!

St Lawrence's today.Following refreshment in Costa Coffee and a quick inspection at St Lawrence where an area around the base of the tower is cordoned off due to the loose flintwork there, we travelled out to visit Aunty Marian. I - and indeed Ruthie and the boys too - have spent many Christmas Days with the my father's sister, but she has now been in a home for over a year and so we're not due to see her tomorrow. Therefore we felt it important to drop off a card and present with her and impart seasonal wishes. As ever, most of the conversation revolved around ringing, but of course we don't mind that at all and it was lovely to see her.

Dad's grave today.Whilst we were out and about in the county town, we also felt it important to make the short trip to Sproughton to visit my Dad Alan's grave in the churchyard of All Saints. It was looking resplendent with a beautiful Christmas wreath laid on it and offered a spot of peaceful reflection during a lively time when one is blessed with young children at a time of year when we have previously spent a lot of time with father.

From there we returned to Woodbridge to pick Mason up from work and then went back to Ipswich where we were very generously treated to dinner and early presents at my mother Sally's during a very pleasant few hours before we all went back to St Mary-le-Tower to ring for the carol service there. This has been a part of our Christmas Eve for so many years, but it can be a bit hit and miss as to how many we get with regulars often away for family engagements or having gone away, though also sometimes we benefit from visiting ringers in the area for the same reason. On this occasion the numbers were low, but we still enjoyed a decent repertoire on eight with George Heath-Collins running proceedings before we returned home for an evening of waiting for the big day by briefly trying to help some passers by find an injured muntjac as I delivered a card and then watching the Church of England's official Midnight Mass broadcast which came from the same church we had just rung at, albeit filmed a few weeks ago!

Chevington.There will have been lots of ringing going on across the county of course as there usually is on 24th December, including four quarter-peals on this occasion. Headlining those was Arthur Pearce who made his debut in the medium in the 1260 of Doubles rung at Bardwell. Well done Arthur! Meanwhile, of the other three, the first QP since 2002 was rung at Chevington, a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was successful at Pettistree prior to their Carol Service and the fiftieth anniversary of Julian Lees' first quarter was celebrated with a repeat performance of Plain Bob Doubles at West Stow. And over the border in Norfolk, the 69th consecutive Christmas Eve peal at Long Stratton was rung, an incredible record that owes a lot to Suffolk ringers like David Salter.

It was a busy day for ringers as well as Father Christmas.

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Saturday 23rd December 2023

Putting aside Ipswich Town's heaviest defeat for several years, it was a day of seasonal cheer.

A lay-in was enjoyed bar briefly accepting a parcel from the postman for a couple days time before we meandered into the county town for a highlight of the ringing calendar for us - the Christmas ringing in the town centre. Ringers from around Suffolk and often beyond travel in to ring and meet up with friends just before the big day.

Ringing at St Mary-le-Tower for Christmas ringing in Ipswich. Ringing at St Mary-le-Tower for Christmas ringing in Ipswich.This year was organised by Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter, who did a tremendous job in the face of relative adversity. St Mary at Quay and St Nicholas were already out of bounds due to long term issues, whilst ringing at St Clement has sadly been beset by a complainant in recent weeks and only a few days ago St Lawrence's ancient five were put out of action by loose flintwork on the outside of the tower. Nonetheless, such is the rich depth of historic churches with bells hung for change-ringing which we are blessed to have in Ipswich (and bar Norwich is pretty unique outside London), that even after all of that the day began with ringing at St Matthew and before being rounded off with a session at the newly refurbished Wolery saw simultaneous ringing at St Margaret and St Mary-le-Tower, the latter of which Ruthie and I rang at with a encouragingly large crowd. It was great to see familiar faces not regularly seen, such as Guild PR Officer & North-West District Chairman Neal Dodge, as well as the Crofts and Ruth Suggett with her son Louis. Or Louis Suggett with his mother Ruth, depending how you look at it! Also, it was wonderful that there were plenty who don't normally get the chance to ring on twelve having a go, such as some of Woodbridge's ringers and particularly young Max from Bardwell who did especially well. Ringing Master here Colin Salter did superbly to manage the numbers with call-changes and rounds rung, but also touches of Grandsire Cinques and Stedman Cinques. And Christmas cards were exchanged.

Normally the main focus of the day is the refreshments typically held at St Margaret but today done at St Clement. On this occasion though we passed on those to go to the abode of my wife's sister Clare and other half Chris to watch the aforementioned footy on the TV, before wishing we'd hung around to socialise in the town the boys in blue were representing, if it weren't for the hospitality of my sister-in-law and her partner.

After that it was our turn to be hosts as we welcomed Mrs Munnings' best friend Fergie on her usual visit from Brighton to her hometown for the festive period along with a Harry Potter themed version of 'Guess Who' which she kindly brought as a present and provided much entertainment, before we finished our day watching the Christmas editions of 'The Vicar of Dibley'.

Twas a day of seasonal cheer indeed and as ever the last blog entry I am likely to get in before the 25th December and probably the last Chris will get the chance to put up, whilst I can't imagine anyone will be reading it over their turkey dinner! Therefore, I hope you enjoy good ringing over the next couple of days and that you all have a very Happy Christmas!

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Friday 22nd December 2023

It was panto time for us today. Oh no it wasn't! Oh yes it was! And so on.
This evening, mother-in-law Kate very generously took all five of us to watch Sleeping Beauty being performed at the Regent in Ipswich, along with Ruthie's sister Clare and her household, their Gran and the boys' Grandad Ron and his son Tom and other half Charlotte. We've seen many amateur pantos over the last few years and thoroughly enjoyed them, but you could tell this was a professional affair, complete with famous actors such as Vicki Michelle who is best known for playing Yvette, one of the waitresses in the sitcom "'Allo 'Allo!", great sets and a 3D section. All of us - young and not so young - had a great time. Thank you very much Kate!

Ashbocking.Whilst we were loudly booing, cheering and shouting "behind you" (some louder than others!), other Suffolk ringers were ringing. At Ashbocking, the FNQPC (as only I have ever dubbed them) rang a 1296 of Norwich Surprise Minor in memory of Muriel Page, who was an influential member of the band in their early years. And over in the far north-west corner of the county a 1280 of Yorkshire Surprise Major was rung at Elveden for the happier occasions of Neal Dodge and Deborah Blumfield's birthdays. Happy Birthday for today and Tuesday respectively guys!

I'm sure they were both really good performances. Oh yes they were!

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Thursday 21st December 2023

For the first time this week, I was joined in my time off today by Alfie, Josh and Ruthie. If I'm honest, it was slightly harder going than the last few days, with most of our activity constantly questioned and often protested against, but it was lovely to spend what is God willing the first of much quality time with my family over the next week and a half or so.

Whilst my wife was doing something in Felixstowe for example, the two youngest brothers and I had a nice wander around the pier and its surroundings, including them playing chicken with the sea on the beach. And following a spot of lunch at Gulliver's Wife Cafe where we had previously visited in warmer conditions in September, we enjoyed a seasonal afternoon in together watching The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Horringer.Great Livermere.With Mrs Munnings also going out this evening to practice with her choral colleagues, it meant there was no time left for ringing, but others in Suffolk were busier than us, especially in Horringer where not only was Deborah Blumfield ringing her first quarter-peal inside of Double Norwich Court Bob Major for thirty years, but a notable peal for this year of celebration for the Guild's centenary. The 5100 included 4800 changes of Century Alliance Major, but also 60 changes each of new Alliance methods NE & NW and Treble Place constructions SE, SW & Suffolk Guild 100 Treble Place. Great work guys! Additionally there was what seemed a last minute change of plan at Great Livermere where a 1272 of Plain Bob Minimus was rung on bells 1,2,3 & 5 with the fifth ringer Mark Steggles acting as an umpire!

Meanwhile, it has been announced that the funeral of Muriel Page is being planned for noon at Debenham on Thursday 11th January, with a reception at the village's Leisure Centre. Do let those know who might like to attend but don't have access to the internet or might not find out details otherwise.

More immediately though, the various ringing WhatsApp groups that I am on are are abuzz with requests for ringers for Christmas services, especially for the Grundisburgh one which also takes in a number of towers of The Carlford Benefice, where on Christmas Eve there is ringing slated for the county's lightest twelve from 4-4.30pm and then between 11-11.30pm for Midnight Mass, but also at Clopton and Hasketon, both from 5.30-6pm. That is on top of the ringing going on at other towers we ring at. There might be a bit more ringing interspersed amongst what God willing will hopefully be another day of quality family time.

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Wednesday 20th December 2023

Ringing at Pettistree tonight. Ringing at Pettistree tonight.

It was the night of the obscure Plain Minor method at Pettistree tonight. Rarely rung at practice and considerable vagueness about names. As Kate and I arrived with her dog Merlin and my youngest two, Alfie and Joshua, following their last day of term, my mother-in-law and myself were immediately thrust into discussion about ringing some Single Court Bob Minor. Or was it Single Oxford? It proved to be the former, which was rung at the second attempt, but mention of the latter prompted a request for that, for which a band gathered in the ground-floor ringing chamber, despite Ringing Master Mike Whitby announcing it as Double Court. One of the band then realised we weren't ringing Single Court. Eventually we rang some Single Oxford, with Mike saying "go, whatever it's called." I hope you're keeping up.

They weren't all we rang on this well-rung six where the session was preceded by a 1260 of Doubles. There was also some Grandsire Doubles, Cambridge Surprise Minor and a couple of touches of various Minor methods spliced, including Double Oxford to add to the earlier confusion...

Elsewhere, following my comment in my first blog of this month about Christmas Treble Bob Minor, I am absolutely delighted to see a quarter-peal of this tricky method rung at Woolpit today. It is always reassuring to know that someone is reading the blog!

Bromeswell church.Meanwhile, I'd had another relaxing day that began - once I'd taken Alfred and Joshua to school - with a refreshing walk on a crisp, bright winter's morning to Bromeswell church and back. Despite us being nearby to it for years, St Edmund's church is a building I've never been inside, primarily because there is no change-ringing done here on account of there only being two bells, although there is substantial mention made of those with photos on its entry on Simon Knott's superb Suffolk Churches website. And following my meanderings through marshes and down country lanes to it this morning, I still haven't been in it as disappointingly it was locked shut. Still, that wasn't the point of my traversing as much as just getting out of the house, leisurely enjoying the wonderful countryside we are blessed to have on our doorstep, but which the boys would understandably (due to it being a lot further with their shorter legs!) not agree to do without much protestation!

I'd definitely felt I'd earnt my drink in The Greyhound following ringing tonight, before Mrs Eagle very kindly taking the boys and me home having very kindly taken us out there, whilst the reason that Ruthie wasn't with us was because she was out at The Coach & Horses in Melton and then Ye Olde Bell & Steelyard in Woodbridge for her work's Christmas party. Where I believe it was more the night of the obscure drink rather than the obscure Plain Minor method!

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Tuesday 19th December 2023

Ufford. © Mike Cowling.Whilst With Hollesley learner Margaret out injured due to a goalkeeping injury in the line of grandparenting duties, most of the focus was on her fellow Hollesleyite Daniel at Ufford's weekly practice tonight. Very productive it was too, as we gave him a good go at treble bobbing after he'd watched me doing it a couple of times first and after a few attempts himself there was definite progress during a jovial hour and a half. And we produced some pretty decent Norwich Surprise Minor with the tenor covering, even if I'm not madly enthusiastic about ringing on seven!

It was also the last practice here of 2023. We weren't really planning on attending here on a Tuesday night being a regular thing when we began helping out about eighteen months ago, but it has been fulfilling and satisfying seeing the progress made by Daniel and Margaret over that time and particularly this year, whilst the opportunities to ring Surprise Minor and on eight have increased and will God willing continue to increase into 2024. Any further help would always be appreciated, as it would be anywhere of course.

At the same time, down the road in Woodbridge, the ringers there were enjoying their last practice night of the year too, combined with a Christmas party, which having been along to one a few years ago I can vouch is a very pleasant experience with food and drink!

Offton.Before another Tuesday night practice in Suffolk meanwhile, a very poignant quarter-peal was being rung at Offton, as Adrian Knights was remembered on the bells he rang so many pre-practice quarters on. That appropriate length of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung for 76-year old Arnie wasn't the only QP rung in the county today though, as a 1260 of Stedman Triples was rung at Ixworth. Well done to Guild PR Officer & North-West District Chairman Neal Dodge on ringing his first in the principle.

On a lower note though, it has been revealed today that ringing at St Lawrence in Ipswich has to stop immediately due to loose flintwork on the outside of the tower. That means no ringing on Wednesday lunchtime nor on Saturday for the Christmas Ringing around the town. However, as things stand, there is still ringing planned at St Matthew from 9.30-10.15am, St Mary-le-Tower and St Margaret from 11-11.45am and after refreshments and handbells at St Clement (where ringing on the 15cwt six isn't certain due to an issue with a complainant nearby), The Wolery from 2-3pm, so still plenty of ringing to travel in for.

It was bad news that came at the end of another relaxed though productive day off work. And thankfully an injury-free one which allowed me to get to Ufford tonight.

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Monday 18th December 2023

It was an unusual day for me today. I was using one of my remaining days of annual leave, but Ruthie was at work and the school term still isn't finished for the boys and so once I had dropped Alfie & Josh off at school and before I had to pick them up again, I had the day completely to myself, with no deadlines. And I had a rare productive, yet relaxed few hours, which unsurprisingly for precisely a week before many of us are due to be meeting with family and/or friends for the peak of the festivities and beginning of actual Christmas had an extremely festive feel to it. Seasonal shopping at various places was carried out and cards written to take to St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening, but I also had plenty of time to read the bumper triple Christmas edition of The Ringing World which arrived with us today.

There is minimal mention of Suffolk in the packed publication, but of course there has to be some sent in for it to appear! That said, a lovely poem from Roy Banks of Kersey features, but otherwise there is mention made in Will Bosworth's (who spoke superbly at the SGR's Centenary Dinner in March) editorial of the Guild's superb takeover edition from earlier in the year, Sam Slater who died in 1910 but was from Glemsford gets a brief shoutout in an article about newspaper reports on ringing through the ages and as has become the norm, there are a healthy number of reports of performances from the county in the peal and quarter-peal columns.. And elsewhere there are lots of interesting pieces ranging from money and tax advice with regard to tower funds to a wonderful ringing-themed pantomime story written by Norwich City supporter but good friend of Suffolk ringing Sue Marsden, to a lovely bit on Breadsall bells and Liz Bowden, a leading peal-ringer who I am privileged to have rung three of her 4022 peals with and I am glad sounds relatively well despite declining health.

Eventually I made it into Ipswich for the session on the county's heaviest ring of bells where a sizeable crowd allowed Stedman Cinques and Cambridge Surprise Maximus to be rung before we retired to the Halberd Inn, but with next Monday being Christmas Day and therefore there being no practice, it was the last of this year. It has been a year of change with Colin Salter taking over from David Potts as Ringing Master and other roles changing, but it has been a productive one. Indeed, after the disappointment of being unable to enter the National 12-bell Striking Contest this year, I believe we've done tremendously well to maintain the progress that led to such a successful entry in 2022 and thus put us in a position to enter the 2024 competition. That has also shown in our winning of the Mitson Shield at Troston in May and the George W Pipe Trophy at Chelmsford Cathedral in February, but more importantly in our Sunday morning ringing, whilst Monday nights have generally been a real joy to attend from a ringing and social perspective.

St Matthew.  St Mary-le-Tower. St Margaret. St Clement. The Wolery.
Ipswich Christmas Ringing

Of course, although it was our last practice until January, it isn't planned to be our last ringing here in 2023. On Saturday, there is due to be open ringing from 11-11.45am as part of the Christmas Ringing in Ipswich. This is always such a fun, welcoming event that helps gets me and many others in the festive mood, so please do come along if you can.

Meanwhile, there are still two Sunday mornings, the Nine Lessons and Carols and Christmas Day where the intention is to ring. All the morning ringing on the 24th, 25th and 31st December is planned for 9.45-10.30am, an hour later than on a normal Sunday morning, whilst ringing for the Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve is lined up for 6-7pm. Anyone who might be in Ipswich when they normally wouldn't be and would like to join us, then please do come along and ideally let our tower correspondent Ian Culham know. However, it is also a timely reminder if one needs it that it is likely that the next couple of weeks will see regular ringing at most places cancelled, changed and/or added to. For example, there is no service at Woodbridge this Sunday morning and so therefore no ringing on the 25cwt eight and the Christmas Day ringing is planned for 10-10.30am to accommodate an earlier service than the usual Sabbath morn. If you going anywhere or planning on not going anywhere, please check first!

Ixworth.For today though, congratulations to Alan Mayle on ringing his 1200th peal for the Guild, which - according to Pealbase - also puts him clear of the late Past Ringing Master of the SGR Martin Thorley as the outright third leading peal ringer for the organisation, behind another pair of former RMs, Stephen Pettman on 1463 peals and David Salter on an incredible 1813 peals. However, the 5088 of Cooktown Orchid Delight Major at Ixworth was rung to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Julian Colman first learning to ring. Congratulations to a ringer who has always been willing to help out when asked and continues to push himself and others. In February he rang his first peal of spliced Surprise Maximus and has used the presence of the Ormes and the proximity of the Cambridge band to advance ringing at The Norman Tower to great effect, which has seen three quarter-peals of Stedman Cinques with by a predominantly local band rung there this year and four of Surprise Maximus, including one of Bristol.

It was also the Guild's 113th peal this year, so it wasn't that unusual a day generally, even if it was for me.

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Sunday 17th December 2023

Something was occurring in ringing today. Many will have thought and many did think it mad, but it involved a young band totally absorbed in and enthusiastic for the exercise, something the art needs as much as we can get of.

What was occurring was an attempt at the longest length peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major ever rung (by some distance), being rung on handbells in Reading conducted by Cumberland Youths Ringing Master Jack Page and rung with his brother Daniel, Rambling Ringers Ringing Master Alex Riley and most pertinently to this blog (along with its remit to promote all that ringing offers more widely), former Exning learner Jimmy Yeoman. At 40,320 changes and therefore the extent of Major (i.e., every possible combination on eight), it was due to take a long time. Having started at about 6.15am, the anticipated finish time was around 10pm.

In that time, I had stirred from my overnight slumbers and clicked on the livestream via Twitch, by which point they were well into proceedings. The usual challenging morning routine to get the boys up, dressed, fed and out of the house was undertaken and we made the trip into Ipswich, whilst Ruthie traversed to the church of St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge for her choral duties. I called some call-changes on twelve from the tenor at St Mary-le-Tower and trebled to some more, as well as pulled the eleventh to (separate!) pieces of Grandsire Cinques and Little Bob Maximus.

From there, whilst others headed off to the usual post-ringing refreshments at Costa Coffee, Josh needed dropping off at nearby Goals for the birthday party of one of his schoolfriends. That safely done, Alfie and I headed out to Grundisburgh, first via a futile trip to McDonalds for a sausage bap for Alfred to make up for the loss of his normal sustenance and then the scene of a nasty looking car crash just before Tuddenham St Martin which appeared to have just happened judging by the flurry of activity, phones to ears and lack of any emergency services.

Praying everyone was well and with nothing that we could do there, the boy and I continued onto Suffolk's lightest twelve where ringing progressed from Plain Bob Doubles to Grandsire Triples to call-changes on the back eight and then with Stephen Pettman and Michael Pilgrim joining in, call-changes on ten. As I rang the fifth of the twelve to that, I was facing the pealboard recording the 12,240 of the 'standard' forty-one Surprise Minor methods rung here at the end of 1988. A reminder of the talents of Arnie Knights who died yesterday. From there we returned to Woodbridge to collect my wife and then I left my other two passengers at home and went back to Goals to pick Joshua up, arriving just in time to see him score a goal!

Navigating our way back to Melton whilst avoiding the Tuddenham area which was now gridlocked in the aftermath of the aforementioned accident, Mrs Munnings finished preparing and we then ate a roast dinner and I popped out to collect Mason from work and drop him off at his mother's. Ruthie then needed taking back to church to practice for the Nine Lessons and Carols taking place this evening, which the boys and I subsequently also attended after I had helped ring the bells upstairs. Between Once in Royal David's City and O Come All Ye Faithful there were favourites like In The Bleak Midwinter, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Away in a Manger interspersed with appropriate readings by people representing various elements of the church including ringers Jackie Shipley and Bruce Wakefield, the latter on behalf of the fast-growing numbers of ringers at this 25cwt eight, whilst Ruthie had a solo in a mini ringers takeover.

Elsewhere in the county, it was a pleasingly busy day with three quarter-peals rung within our borders with a 1260 of four Doubles methods at Bardwell rung for their carol service, a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Pettistree rung for the same reason but also in memory of Arnie Knights and well done to Ben Keating on ringing his first Stedman and South-East District Ringing Master Hal Meakin on ringing his first of Stedman Cinques in the 1347 at The Norman Tower.

Meanwhile, our evening out was rounded off with the usual refreshments in St Mary's House for those involved in the service which included the bellringers and was the main highlight for the boys, especially for Josh who was on his fourth meal of the day having not let the considerable amount of food he enjoyed at the birthday party stop him from participating in our roast dinner too. Eventually though, we left for our abode and put the boys to bed.

Throughout all of that and beyond, the boys in Reading were still going. Or at least they would've been if they hadn't lost it sometime around when Alfie and I were leaving Grundisburgh, following on from some phenomenal ringing. Unusually, everything can be viewed in all its glory and 'failure' on the Twitch stream, including the preparations! A date for a rerun has apparently been fixed though, for a day when hopefully even more will be occurring in ringing.

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Saturday 16th December 2023

Tis the season of goodwill, peace to all men and all that. Except for a few hours in the south-west corner of Ipswich town centre today that is. For this lunchtime saw the first East Anglian football derby for four years between the Tractor Boys and our friends from Norfolk, Norwich City. Personally this is all very pantomime for me. I have friends and acquaintances who are fans of the Canaries (or the Budgies as most ITFC supporters call them!), most of whom are ringers such as North-East District Ringing Master Philip Gorrod. Yet it is difficult not to get swept up with the edgy, tension-riddled atmosphere when these two traditional rivals come together, especially when everything around it has to bend to accommodate it and its earlier 12.30pm kick-off (to allow fans and interested neutrals around the world to watch it on TV and there were lots worldwide viewing apparently). Alfie's team's match was moved to an extremely early kick-off so that people could get into town afterwards, there were far more police around than you would usually expect in 'Sleepy Suffolk', road closures abounded and I think Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter was eminently sensible to move the Christmas Ringing around the town (including the 10cwt six of St Matthew's a few hundred yards up Portman Road) from today to next Saturday!!

At the Ipswich Town match today. At the Ipswich Town match today.
At the Ipswich Town match today

Mother-in-law Kate had already taken Mason and Josh into Ipswich whilst Ruthie and I watched Alfred's match where despite defeat our son got the player of the match award, before we then travelled in to be met by thousands with flares, drums and flags ready to greet the arrival of the players' coach. We headed straight into the Fanzone where we were still able to welcome them in as they drove past (and the car carrying the visitors' director Delia Smith which perhaps inadvisably followed directly behind and apparently got a 'warm' welcome round the corner) into the car park, blue smoke everywhere. The usual pre-match pint was had with ringer from 'enemy' territory Simon Rudd before an absorbing 2-2 draw which was a diplomatic triumph!

Sadly, when we met with Simon again at half-time he brought us the sad news that Adrian 'Arnie' Knights passed away at Ipswich Hospital this morning. I have often commented how Arnie is one of the best ringers this county has produced. He was a member of the Ipswich team that came fourth in the 1991 National 12-bell Striking Contest on home bells, ringing the non-too-easy eleventh. He rang 1055 peals, 157 of which were on twelve. For a good old Suffolk boy through and through, it is telling that Bristol Surprise Major and Stedman Cinques are in his top four leading methods in his peal records on Pealbase and he was a regular for many years at the Tuesday night practices at Offton and in the quarter-peals rung beforehand that were typically of Surprise Major and often of spliced.

He was also fantastic company. There was many a time when I arrived for a peal attempt and was cheered to see him in the band, not just because I knew he was likely to ring brilliantly, but even more because I knew the post-ringing refreshment would be entertaining! His sharp, dry wit was hilarious, especially with his broad local accent which he used to great effect at social events like the Offton BBQ at the home of his dear friend Brian Whiting. The peals arranged every year for his birthday even after he was no longer able to ring in them hint at how popular he was.

Additionally, he represented a link to our ringing history, with one of my favourite memories of him (that I can repeat in a family-friendly blog at least!) being the 5024 of Plain Bob Major we rang twelve years ago to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the famous Bailey brothers doing the same, two peals in which he in 2011 and his ringing tutor Ernest in 1911 rang the sixth. And he had many stories to tell of the county's old ringing characters.

Sadly, this wonderful old ringing character was largely lost several years ago through illness and so in some respects his passing is merciful, but it remains a sad moment for his many friends, some of whom rang in this evening's peal at Beccles which also remembered another memorable ringing personality Barry Pickup, a decade on from his death.

Meanwhile, well done to our ringing friends in Norwich for what sounds like a very successful Christmas ringing event in the city and peace & goodwill to them all. Even on Derby Day.

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Friday 15th December 2023

Another day off from work was used to good effect with Ruthie also off. Shopping was done, including a quick trip to the Ipswich Town Planet Blue club shop in a corner of town that was busy but positively tranquil compared to what it should be twenty-four hours later!

It also allowed us both to get the boys from school and for me to collect Mason and then take Alfie across to Jump In on the outskirts of the county town for his classmate's birthday party.

However, it didn't leave any time for ringing on this occasion on a day when there wasn't anything noted from Suffolk's bells on BellBoard either. Quite a few Guild members seem to have been having a day off too. From ringing at least.

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Thursday 14th December 2023

Edwardstone.Congratulations to Jill Apter, who in ringing the treble to the 5040 of Plain Bob Minor at Edwardstone rang her first peal. There is so much to like about this peal, which I hope translates into likes on BellBoard because it certainly deserves them! Not only that it is Jill's first peal, noteworthy in itself of course. But also that it was done at the first attempt and just four months since she rang her first quarter-peal with the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Little Cornard. And it's not just that she is the first first-pealer for the Suffolk Guild in its Centenary year, but also that she was inspired and motivated by the 'Centenary Challenge', whilst it was great to see it rung by an entirely South-West District band. And for good measure, it was dedicated to Jill's grandson Ted's first birthday. Happy Birthday Ted!

Blythburgh.Keeping up the feelgood theme to the county's ringing today, well done also to Erika Clarke and Jonathan Iles on their first quarter-peal of Treble Bob inside in the 1272 of Kent TB Minor at Blythburgh.

No ringing for us today though, as Ruthie went out to her choir practices and we then treated ourselves to some mulled wine on her return as we toasted the SGR's latest first-pealer! Congratulations Jill!

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Wednesday 13th December 2023

Festive magic abounded, as both Alfie and Josh joined a stageful of fellow pupils from their school for their Christmas Concert at St John's church in Woodbridge, lesser visited due to the lack of bells bar the one that struck the hour as this evening's concert drew to a close. It was all such a lot of fun, with the brothers and their peers doing magnificently, with our two (who we were watching most closely of course) singing, dancing and - for Joshua - playing the glockenspiel in all the right places. Meanwhile, we'd bagged space in the balcony area (from where I imagine a ringing chamber could adjoin if the congregation and their leaders were so minded) where coincidentally we found ourselves amongst fellow Ipswich Town supporting parents who were also selected to belt out the "five gold rings" line of the 'Twelve Days of Christmas' singalong! For a short while this usually tranquil corner of the town resembled something more like Portman Road! It was nice also to hear from the Reverend Charles Trefusis to remind us of the real reason behind the festivities.

Pettistree. © Mike Cowling.There was also time afterwards for Ruthie to join her mother Kate in going to Pettistree's weekly practice which was preceded with a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung in memory of Muriel Page and was followed by a visit to The Greyhound next door. My wife particularly enjoyed the mince pies, cake and truffles that were on offer at the ringing!

One of the QP ringers at the ground-floor six Mike Cowling had earlier been in Essex at Tollesbury ringing in the latest Suffolk Guild peal, which appropriately for an SGR Centenary peal was a 5100 of Yorkshire variant Centennial Surprise Royal, as Guild peal number 110 was notched up for this celebratory 2023.

I hope they enjoyed themselves as much as we did this evening, even if there probably wasn't as much festive magic!

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Tuesday 12th December 2023

Ufford. © Mike Cowling.Whilst we were slightly short on numbers at Ufford practice tonight, with the help of another welcome visit from Alan McBurnie we had enough to give Hollesley ringer Daniel Atkinson a go at trebling to spliced Plain, St Martin's & St Simon's Bob Doubles and then courses of Plain Bob and Grandsire Triples, whilst additionally indulging in some Stedman Triples, before Daniel rounded the session off by doing his first ever ringing down. Well done Daniel!

Meanwhile, although there was nothing noted on BellBoard today from Suffolk bells, it was lovely to see a quarter-peal rung at Loddon in Norfolk dedicated to the memory of Muriel Page, which joins a 720 of St Clement's College Bob Minor on handbells in Knaresborough in North Yorkshire as a performance in memory of her rung beyond our borders.

I'm very pleased neither band were short on numbers for these.

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Monday 11th December 2023

St Mary-le-Tower.The intention this evening at St Mary-le-Tower's weekly session had been to get enough of the intended band for our entry to the 2024 National 12-bell Striking Contest to practice the planned test piece of Cambridge Surprise Maximus. Sadly, work commitments, illness, early departures and late arrivals meant that things didn't go to plan. I have to admit that I was the late arrival on a typically busy Monday evening with the boys' swimming lessons (no power cuts to help us out this week!), getting to the top of the stairs and into the famous ringing chamber just as Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter was having to leave. We did ring it, but not very well and so the remainder of the ringing was mainly on ten, which did at least include some well-rung Stedman Caters and Cambridge Surprise Royal before an unusually small number of us retired to the Halberd Inn.

The Norman Tower. © Mike Whitby.Still, it was a nice night out, even if I was left wondering if we were having a better or worse one than the lady already ordering tequila shots from the bar as we arrived at the pub and elsewhere other ringers also seemed to be having a good time, with Norwich ringer Michael Clements ringing his one hundredth quarter-peal of 2023 in the 1272 of Cambridge & Carlisle Surprise Minor on handbells in Bacton. Well done Mike! And not far away at The Norman Tower, a 1295 of Grandsire Caters was rung for the Emergency Services Carol Service. Which was hopefully the intention!

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Sunday 10th December 2023

Aldeburgh.A number of landmarks were reached with the 5024 of the Cambridge/Yorkshire-above Oldebi Delight Major at Aldeburgh this afternoon, especially for Alan Mayle who rang his 300th peal with Richard Rapior and his 450th with Mary Dunbavin, as well as completing the Delight Major alphabet as conductor. Congratulations to all concerned, particularly Alan.

However, it was also the 109th peal rung for the Suffolk Guild in 2023, meaning that more peals have been rung this year than any year since 2014. It is still some way short of that year's total of 121 (although we may get within touching distance before 2024 arrives), certainly a long way off of 2013's total of 155 (thank you again to the superb Pealbase for the easy-to-access figures!) and of course you would expect an uptick in numbers in such a significant year for the SGR, but in an age post-pandemic restrictions where peal numbers are generally a lot lower than before March 2020, it is an impressive achievement. Great too that it has included such variety, whilst the 103 ringers taking part is comparable to previous years and reasonable after so many peal-ringers were lost for one reason or another through the lockdowns. Well done everyone!

Ufford this evening.We weren't helping with the Guild's peal totals today, although I'd done my bit yesterday and on Friday. Both Ruthie and I did ring today though, me at Woodbridge this morning before the boys and I attended the service that followed and my wife was singing in, whilst this evening we rang at an atmospheric Ufford for the carol service there. Pleasingly we had more than enough to ring all eight at the latter, including some Plain Bob Triples which didn't meet with the approval of Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth's six-month old son Jonathan!

In between my ringing efforts, there was picking Mason up from work, shopping and supporting one of Alfie's classmates who was playing a gig on his guitar at Planet Music in Martlesham. They were excellent, playing and singing a variety of classic songs with a composure incredible for a nine-year-old in a fantastic location that I knew little about before today.

Others in the county were busy ringing though, with three quarter-peals rung within our borders today on top of that 2 hours and 50 minutes of ringing on the 11cwt eight on the coast. Well done to Tim Forsey on his first as sole conductor in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Little Cornard and to Judith Raven on her first on eight in the same number of changes of the Triples variety of the aforementioned method rung at Southwold, whilst a 1312 of Cambridge, Superlative and Yorkshire Surprise Major was rung to a Brian Whiting composition at The Norman Tower for the Cathedral's Evensong.

And further afield, my attention was caught by yesterday's 5056 of Cambridge Surprise Major rung at Islip in Oxfordshire with a band made up entirely of people who have had 'x0' birthdays this year, each from a different decade and in order from the ten-year old treble ringer James Ellis to eighty-year old Chris Kippin on the tenor. It comes ten years after a similar success at another Oxfordshire tower Milton featuring most of Saturday's band and indeed one in 2003 at Marston Bigot in Somerset which was conducted by this year's conductor Roy LeMarechal when he was a mere fifty years old, whilst the treble was rung by ten-year old Andrew Dodd, who yesterday progressed onto the third!

A fascinating ringing history of landmarks reached.

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Saturday 9th December 2023

Pettistree.Yesterday's peal at Monewden was my 657th and finished bang on 6pm. Precisely twenty-four hours and one minute later, my 658th was coming round, as I rang the fifth to the annual attempt to mark the anniversary of the first peal on the rededicated bells of Pettistree in December 1987. This was harder work than ringing the 3cwt third of the little six on Friday, but still produced an enjoyable 2 hours and 38 minutes of ringing.

And at least it was indoors and dry, unlike Alfie's football match this morning where stood out in the open our sons and us got soaked to an extent I can't recall ever getting from simply rain before. Even with my huge, thick and usually warm 'waterproof' coat, my t-shirt and jumper were so wet I needed to change them as well as every other bit of clothing I had on when we got home. All of his teammates looked frozen, but poor Alfred in goal and therefore not moving around as much as them was sodden, freezing and by the end of the match was shivering and almost in tears, despite his team's 8-6 victory.

Even our nine-year-old would've probably have preferred to be inside (which takes a lot for this footy-crazed boy!) and elsewhere at the same time other ringers had the right idea by doing some ringing indoors, as a 5184 of Cambridge Surprise Major was rung at St Margaret's in Ipswich which was last-minute stand-in Rowan Wilson's 200th peal - congratulations Rowan!

Great Ashfield. Rickinghall Superior.

Meanwhile, a brace of quarter-peals were rung in the North-West District. Happy Birthday to Sally Veal, who was celebrated with the 1260 of Doubles at Great Ashfield, whilst a 1320 of Plain Bob Minor was rung at Rickinghall Superior following the NW's Christmas Practice.

I can only conjecture what those bands did after their performances (although I know Mike Cowling joined me this afternoon!), but I followed ours by being dropped off by mother-in-law Kate (who very kindly took me there and back) and then helping Ruthie host our near neighbours Verity & Jade for an evening of food, drink and entertaining conversation. Although I don't know what time we finished.

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Friday 8th December 2023

It's that time of year again where I need to use up my annual leave before the calendar runs out. With Ruthie also off work today, my day off was useful for getting lots of those mundane jobs done around the house that are harder to do with our children there, but also for peal-ringing! Especially when the peal involves getting a finite number together at the same time from a select group of people before a significant year finishes.

There are seven Suffolk Guild Ringing Masters past and present alive currently, of which I am honoured to be one. The others are Jed Flatters, Stephen Pettman, Lawrence Pizzey, Amanda Richmond, the current RM Katharine Salter and her immediate predecessor Tom Scase. Lawrence apparently isn't doing much ringing these days and hasn't rung a peal for a decade since the 5016 of St Clement's College Bob Maximus at Grundisburgh which was George Salter's first on twelve. George has done a fair bit on that number since...

Monewden.Therefore, when it was recently suggested that we ought to ring a Master's peal in the remaining month of the SGR's Centenary year, the remaining six of us needed to find a date in the short amount of time left of 2023, a time further shortened by the fact that one of the band is due to be away from next week for the Christmas period. My day off definitely helped then and so we found ourselves in the chilly church of St Mary's in Monewden as the sun set over the beautiful rolling countryside surrounding this isolated location on a lovely bright winter's day. And despite the cold and a delayed start due to one of the band being stuck in traffic, we set about a really enjoyable 2 hours and 36 minutes, the band placed in order of when we took up the role we were there to celebrate. I felt privileged to be a part of it and it was nice that we could mention the Reverend Canon Pizzey in the footnote. In the absence of any humanity within what seemed like miles, a selfie of the team was somehow taken and us chaps went on to The Bell in the neighbouring village of Cretingham, festive illuminations of many colours shining through the pitch dark of the rural landscape. This atmospheric tavern is an absolutely magical place to be during Advent.

Elsewhere in the county meanwhile and as with our 5100, Muriel Page was remembered in the footnote to the 1440 of Norwich Surprise and Oxford Treble Bob Minor rung at Troston on a good day for ringing within our borders. I definitely enjoyed my useful day off!

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Thursday 7th December 2023

Horringer.Lovely to see the ringing at Horringer to celebrate the church's Christmas Bells Festival, an event with lots going on and running until 15th December. Definitively something that could get one into the festive mood!

Lovely also to see the Guild ringing beyond our borders with a peal of Lincolnshire in Lincolnshire with a 5056 of the Surprise Major variety on the 15cwt eight of Spalding, whilst at the other end of the same county St Mary-le-Tower ringer Amanda Richmond was ringing in a 1696 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Stow with former Suffolk ringers Melanie Newman and Janet Clarke.

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Wednesday 6th December 2023

It was a sad start to the day as we learnt that yesterday evening Muriel Page passed away. Here was one of the big characters in Suffolk ringing for as long as I can remember. A lovely lady with a wonderful sense of humour, instigator and organiser for years of the popular Veterans Day at Debenham usually held every July, she was also a very good ringer. A look through her quarter-peal and peal records show many performances of Surprise, including a peal of London (No.3) Surprise Royal at Grundisburgh in 1971 which was conducted by Rod Pipe. It is an impressive repertoire, especially considering that she doesn't appear to have done much if any ringing much beyond our borders. I am pleased that at least I rang one peal with her and also have many happy memories of other times I've rung and socialised with her.

That news was in keeping with a generally downbeat day for us personally with Ruthie feeling under the weather and so having taken Alfie to an icy football training session, I popped to Pettistree for this evening's practice. I mean popped too. With missing last week's practice, I felt it was important to go, but after getting stuff for tea and then having that tea, it was after 8pm before I got there and having left my wife at home every night this week it seemed unreasonable to leave her there on her sickbed whilst I went to the pub, so I headed straight back after Hilary Stearn had led the back five down in peal. That said, in between I had managed to fit a fair bit of ringing in, including conducting a couple of 120s of Grandsire Doubles and ringing in courses of Annable's London and Surfleet Surprise Minor in a repertoire not too shoddy with quite a few Surprise Minor regulars not there!

Elveden.One of those regulars, Mike Cowling, had been at Elveden on the other side of the county ringing in a quarter-peal of Bristol, Cambridge, Cornwall, Lessness, London, Superlative, Yorkshire and Ytterbium Surprise Major spliced in what was an impressive success. And was appropriately rung in memory of Muriel Page.

RIP Muriel.

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Tuesday 5th December 2023

Fair play to the ringers at Woolpit who following me jokingly professing disappointment in Friday's blog that the quarter-peal at Tostock wasn't of Christmas Treble Bob Minor apparently gave it a go at their practice last night! According to Neal Dodge it wasn't easy, but I guess we should have another few weeks for Suffolk's ringers to keep practicing it!

I imagine that come the New Year, there may well be lots of performances of festively named methods featuring in The Ringing World, but unsurprisingly there weren't any in last week's edition which arrived with us today and beyond the Doctor Who themed covers (spot the TARDIS on the front!) there wasn't anything from or about ringing within our borders. Lots of other interesting stuff though and who isn't excited by the announcement that there is an attempt of 12,000 changes of Plain Bob Minimus on handbells planned in York on Sunday? Best of luck to them!

Ufford.Hopefully they shall enjoy themselves and we were at Ufford for the weekly practice tonight during a productive session that saw Hollesley ringers Margaret and Daniel treble to Ipswich Surprise Minor and Plain Bob Triples respectively and Bredfield ringer Vince continue his foray into ringing Plain Bob Minor inside.

There was no Christmas Treble Bob Minor on this occasion though.

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Monday 4th December 2023

Power cuts are usually disruptive to plans, but today one actually paved a way towards a less hectic evening, as when we arrived for the boys' swimming lessons with everything in darkness, we were informed that the electricity had just gone out there and across a large swathe of the local area. That understandably meant that the instructor couldn't go ahead with the lessons due to safety reasons and with word coming through that the power wasn't expected to be reinstated for another couple of hours, we and the other parents present decided to turn around and go home, where mercifully for us we still had working electrics.

Christmas trees at St Mary-le-Tower.Disappointing as that was for Alfie, Josh and us, it did mean that we could have tea and fit in the boys homework time at a more leisurely pace than usual before I set off for St Mary-le-Tower's practice, where once I'd made my way through an abundance of Christmas trees, I joined a reasonably big crowd. That included the visit of Norman Tower ringer & extraordinary artist Ben Keating and Ollie Watson from Norfolk and they were able to help us out with and hopefully also benefit from a session that included much from Little Bob Maximus to Stedman Cinques and Cambridge & Yorkshire Surprise Maximus as we look to hone our skills ahead of that planned date at Portsmouth Cathedral in March.

Ben also joined a large crowd in the Halberd Inn, whilst earlier in the day a quarter-peal was rung back in his neck of the woods of Bury St Edmunds with a 1312 of Kent Treble Bob Major. In their case, I imagine a power cut would've been more disruptive than it was for us this evening!

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Sunday 3rd December 2023

It has been a weekend of competition draws.

Two of them were for football, with yesterday's for the men's European Championships planned for the summer featuring England and this lunchtime's for the FA Cup that saw the Tractor Boys drawn away for the third round due to take place next month.

Chilcompton.However, the one of most pertinent to the purposes of this blog was for the 2024 National 12-bell Striking Contest eliminators slated to take place on Saturday 23rd March, especially as having been unable to take part in this year's competition, it included a team from Ipswich amongst a bumper entry that appears to be the contest's biggest this century. We have been drawn to ring at Portsmouth Cathedral, which would be a new tower for Ruthie and me if we are fortunate enough to ring in what is the largest group with nine teams. One would imagine that we have our work cut out to be one of the three that qualify for the final lined up to take place at Chilcompton on Saturday 15th June (earlier than usual to avoid the nearby Glastonbury Festival planned for the usual weekend a fortnight later), as it will take a lot to finish above seasoned finalists of the Cumberland Youths, Oxford and Melbourne, whilst I imagine that York stand a good chance having missed out by just 4% in the 2023 eliminator in their first entry for seven years following the high-profile change of band there in 2016. Following our unexpected success in 2022 though, don't rule us out! We have shown over the last couple of years and pre-pandemic that we are capable of producing some great ringing. Nonetheless, Hursley have more experience than us in this competition in recent years and will likely be familiar with this 25cwt twelve just twenty miles away, of course the hosts will fancy their chances at home and whilst Cheltenham and Wimborne Minster only have three previous entries between them, they have some talented ringers in their ranks and of course offer an element of unpredictability to proceedings.

Elsewhere, the eliminator at St Stephen's in Bristol is due to see three previous winners Cambridge, Exeter and St Paul's Cathedral competing with the hosts who have qualified for the last eleven finals and finished second or third on a number of occasions and Leeds who have failed to qualify from only two of the last twelve eliminators they have competed in. A couple of big names at the very least are going to miss out from here, whilst Southwark - who like any London team have a multitude of twelve-bell ringing opportunities on their doorstep - can't be discounted. It would be a minor shock from this strong group of bands if Stockton-on-Tees make their first final since 2011 or Worcester qualify with their first entry in seven years, but again, you can't be certain. There will be very good ringers in both bands.

Possibly the most exciting eliminator will be the one at Reading. Birmingham and the College Youths have won this competition more often than any other team with the former way out ahead on twenty-six titles including this year and so they will be favourites, but behind them are a number of teams who could get the third spot. Indeed, only Guildford and Towcester from the remaining teams of the group have qualified for a final in the last decade, although Norwich hosted it in 2015. Our neighbours north of the Norfolk border have a talented band though as we know, whilst after entering the last four contests Chester may well feel they are getting to their breakthrough year, Sheffield will have gained invaluable experience from hosting this year's final and as with the other venues the hosts will have a vital advantage on their home bells which could make the difference. It is a wide-open group.

The Christmas decorations on the Cornhill in Ipswich. Our Christmas tree, with a George Pipe drawing of St Mary-le-Tower on the wall.

This morning though, our focus was on our main purpose as St Mary-le-Tower ringers, which was to ring for the 9.30am Sunday service before refreshment in Costa Coffee and then - via looking at the Christmas decorations on the Cornhill - for me to 'help' out at Grundisburgh where we had seven in total, with two out with injuries and one on holiday. From there we continued our seasonal journey with looking around Woodbridge's popular annual Street Fair, although the rotten weather that developed dispersed the crowds somewhat. And we rounded off another typically festive day for December with my wife being taken off to Essex to sing with Illuminati whilst the boys and I put our tree up at home.

The church of St Nicholas, Great Yarmouth - geograph.org.uk - 2350653It was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon when I should've been attempting a peal at Great Yarmouth, the final part of a six-part project to celebrate the Guild's centenary year, but whilst it came too late to reignite arrangements though, I was kindly contacted by Ann the correspondent there a few days ago to say that thankfully the issues aren't as serious as first feared, which is brilliant news.

Meanwhile, whilst a 5040 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal was rung at Coggeshall in Essex for the SGR yesterday, elsewhere in Suffolk today there was more ringing to make up for the loss of my arrangements at Great Yarmouth, including another peal as the first at St Gregory in Sudbury was rung since they were rehung by Taylors last year, whilst a 1278 of Grandsire Caters was successful at The Norman Tower and Jill Apter rang her first quarter-peal inside in the 1320 of Plain Bob Doubles at Kersey that remembered Ed Hynard. Well done Jill!

Hopefully in the next few months we'll be saying well done to England, Ipswich Town and Ipswich's ringers too.

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Saturday 2nd December 2023

Thanks to the generosity of my mother Sally (thank you Mum!), we only needed to wander half-an-an-hour or so back to hers following the St Mary-le-Tower ringers' curry last night for a bed to sleep in. And thanks to the icy conditions this morning, we were able to have a much more leisurely departure from hers than originally planned as Alfie's team's football match was postponed, disappointed as we were for our goalkeeping son.

Our afternoon was busier though, as unlike Alfred and his teammates, Ipswich Town's fixture against Coventry City was on (undersoil heating is more prevalent at that level than for under-10's footy!) and so we were picked up by mother-in-law Kate, had food at the Mermaid, grabbed a drink at the Fanzone and then watched the Tractor Boys win 2-1 with one of the best goals ever seen at Portman Road, which prompted a kind message from Birmingham ringer and supporter of our visitors Fran Dodds. Unfortunately though, Simon Rudd only just made it in time for the second-half after the train he was on broke down just after leaving Norwich, so we were unable to have a pint and catch-up with him this time.

Melton Old Church.And our presence at Portman Road meant we missed out on the South-East District ADM at Tuddenham St Martin and Rushmere St Andrew which was running at the same time. When I saw that the meeting itself was due to start at 6pm and thus after ITFC's game had finished, I spent a lot of time going through the practicalities of attending it. I've frequently mentioned how important the time is spent with my family as the boys grow up doing something together we all enjoy, but whilst we were always going to miss the enjoyable parts of this occasion like the ringing and socialising (and the tea!), I also feel it is important to attend District and Guild events where and when at all possible. However, unlike the Superblues, circumstances weren't playing ball today. Mason needed to be back at his mother's and even more immediately, Ruthie needed to be at Melton Old Church as soon as possible to sing in a concert with the Woodbridge Illuminati choir and as I had feared it took an absolute age to get out of town with 30,000 other people, so even without those additional tasks it seems unlikely that I would've made it to proceedings, on time at least. Besides, I'm not sure I'd have been popular with a certain hungry seven-year-old and nine-year-old going to a bellringing meeting where we'd already missed the tea!

Still, the wheels of democracy turned without us I'm glad to report. Having taken on the role of SGR Chairman at April's AGM in Beccles, Mark Ogden was replaced in the same position for the SE by Stephen 'Podge' Christian, whilst Mary Garner became Treasurer and Hal Meakin was elected as Ringing Master replacing Jenny Scase. Hal has been such a welcome addition to the Ipswich ringing scene since moving into the area from Lancashire via Essex a couple of years ago. Not only is he a very good ringer, but he is young, enthusiastic and extremely approachable and I hope he gets a huge amount of support from South-East District members. Many thanks are also due to Jenny though, who since becoming RM in 2019 has led the District's ringing through the difficult period of lockdowns and restrictions and out the other end with the enthusiasm and energy that those who have ever been to a practice at Debenham will recognise!

Woolpit.Elsewhere in Suffolk meanwhile, other ringers were also busy in the art, with a peal rung for the NDA on handbells in Bacton and Guild PR Officer & now North-West District Chairman Neal Dodge was ringing his 450th quarter-peal in the 1260 of Double Oxford Bob Minor at Woolpit. Congratulations Neal!

It was part of a busy day for local ringing and local ringers, but ours ended in much the same way as it began, in a leisurely fashion.

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Friday 1st December 2023

I'm not sure December could've begun in a much more festive way than it did today.

Advent calendars, snow, seasonal jumpers, Christmas Fair at the boys' school, the John Catt Christmas meal and the annual St Mary-le-Tower ringers' curry reached via the streets of Ipswich suburbia suddenly awash with bright multicoloured lights, inflatable Santa Clauses and illuminated reindeer.

The weather was an unusual bonus, ironically precisely a year on from I went into far more depth than necessary for a ringing blog about how it rarely snows at this time of year and even better for being heavy enough to lay a little but not so heavy as to be disruptive. Certainly not as disruptive as the closure of the Orwell Bridge all day due to a broken down bit of maintenance machinery which caused gridlock throughout the county town and the villages to its north and caused issues for those coming in for the curry, with a handful arriving at Maharani just in time for their food following difficult lengthy journeys that took hours instead of minutes in some cases.

Earlier, Ruthie and I made it to the Halberd Inn having passed the worst of the traffic going the other way, dropped the boys off at my mother Sally's where she was very kindly looking after them whilst we went out and then walked into the town centre overtaking hundreds of frustrated drivers stuck in the queues. Despite causing all sorts of problems by clicking on the cashback option when paying for our drinks (note to self, they don't do cashback at the Halberd Inn!), we had an enjoyable couple of pints with Hal Meakin, David Potts and Ringing Master Colin Salter before setting off for a very enjoyable meal, for which everyone was rightly grateful to Hal for organising.

It wasn't my first big meal of the day though, as resplendent in one of my seasonal jumpers, I had been to The King's Head in Woodbridge for the John Catt Christmas meal this afternoon. As usual, it was three courses and drink all paid for by the company, but there were notable differences this year. A couple of years ago, our little but hugely successful locally-based business was bought by Hodder Education and so today we were joined by their Managing Director Sesni and one of her colleagues Paul, who were also here for another reason this year's dinner had a slightly different feel, as we were also saying farewell to one of our directors Jon who had his final day with us earlier in the week. He also has a ringing link as in his previous job he was the reporter who came from the East Anglian Daily Times to report on the celebrations of the Bailey Brothers in Leiston in 2011 that included a recreation of their peal of Plain Bob Major a century earlier.

Tostoick.After those festivities, Alfie, Josh and their mother collected me having been to a reassuringly busy Christmas Fair at their school, with tales of meeting Santa, whilst elsewhere other ringers were doing actual ringing with the entire band ringing their first quarter-peal of Pennine Treble Bob Minor in the 1250 at Tostock. Well done to Maureen Gardiner, Andrea Alderton, David Howe, Lesley Steed, David Steed and conductor Stephen Dawson. Although I'm disappointed that they didn't ring Christmas Treble Bob Minor on this most festive of starts to December...

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Thursday 30th November 2023

Ruthie went out pretty much as I was finishing work this evening as she went up to sing at the Christmas light switch-on in Woodbridge before subsequently joining her usual choir practices.

It all meant that today was a ringing desert personally, but that hasn't been the case for a number of Suffolk's ringers who have just finished a week in Norfolk on Brian Whiting's Quarter-Peal Tour. They appear to have had a successful few days, kicking-off with former Ringing Master of the Guild Jed Flatters' 800th QP in the 1312 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Swaffham. Congratulations Jed, whilst Ralph Earey conducted a 1280 of Turramurra Surprise Major from a chair outside the rope circle at Felmingham and a couple of quarters were scored on handbells of Kent Treble Bob Major and Plain Bob Major on Monday and Tuesday respectively amongst the eleven quarter-peals rung.

Further afield, well done to the entire band in the peal at Great Easton in Leicestershire on ringing the first of Movember Delight Minor to mark their completion of Movember, a great example of ringers doing something different.

Not as much activity involving Suffolk's ringers noted on BellBoard today though, different or otherwise. And none in our household at all.

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Wednesday 29th November 2023

It was cold this evening. Very cold. Yet whilst ringing chambers across the county would've been chilly places as a result, at least they would've been warmer than being outside. So cold was it that Alfie's football training was cancelled, whilst I can vouch for the low temperatures tonight as I watched Ipswich Town's male footballers play their latest match at Portman Road. They at least kept me warm in typically entertaining fashion with a 3-1 win over Millwall, but we were starting to get a bit worried that the increasing fog would get too thick to continue playing!

An increasingly foggy Portman Road tonight! An increasingly foggy Portman Road tonight! An increasingly foggy Portman Road tonight!
Portman Road Tonight

Last time we took Alfie and Josh to a midweek fixture on a school night, they ended up being very tired both then and the next day, so on this occasion Ruthie stayed at home with them, especially as the kick-off was at a slightly later time of 8pm to be shown live on TV. Meanwhile, Mason, myself and my wife's sister's other half Chris travelled in with my mother-in-law and Ufford Ringing Master Kate, before we then met with my brother and Norman Tower ringer Chris and Norwich Ringing Master Simon Rudd at the stadium for a drink.

Of course it all meant that neither my wife or I could get to Pettistree practice, but hopefully they had a good session on the ground-floor six and it certainly started well with a quarter-peal of Stamford & Wearmouth Surprise Minor, which hopefully kept them warm on this very cold evening.

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Tuesday 28th November 2023

If you receive emails via the Guild, then you should have got December's What's On. In terms of numbers of events there's not much, but there are a couple of big ones in there and an anniversary, as well as two very useful sessions.

As is the norm for the first Saturday of the calendar's twelfth month, the South-East District is planning on holding their ADM. On this occasion, it is at the easily accessible sixes of Tuddenham St Martin and Rushmere St Andrew right on the outskirts of Ipswich, with bus routes 70 and 70A serving the former from the town centre and routes 5E,6 and 11A serving the latter (please check details before, don't just take my word for it!) and note that ITFC are slated to play at 3pm at Portman Road, but I'm sure as well that there would be people willing to offer lifts.

Tuddenham St Martin. Rushmere St Andrew. Bungay. Bacton.

The usual Christmas Ringing in the same town planned for Saturday 23rd ought to be even easier to get to and whilst in between these dates the 8-Bell Practice at Bungay between 7.30-9pm on Tuesday 5th and North-West District Practice at Bacton from 10am-midday on Saturday 9th look impossible to get to via public transport (although, again don't just trust me on that, check it out!), I hope members will try to get there in whatever way they safely can.

Meanwhile, Wednesday 6th apparently marks a quarter of a millennium since the first peal of Plain Bob Minor. Where has the time gone?

Further afield, there was much interest today in Catherine Williams ringing her first quarter-peal in the 1260 of Doubles at Ranmoor in South Yorkshire yesterday, with a video on the Bellringers Facebook page demonstrating her superb handling style, which highlights how important that element is in a learner's progression. Straight pulls all the way down on both strokes minimising the amount of energy used for pulling, tailend round the back of the sally leading to the hands being able to go round said sally and giving her more control of the bell at handstroke and letting both strokes go up just the right distance. If you able to, whether a learner or a teacher, do watch it and hopefully it will help, as it is only really with a good handling style that one can progress onto change-ringing.

Ufford.Back here, Ruthie chose ringing in the quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Major at Ufford this evening over watching the final of this year's Great British Bake Off (although she did watch it on catch-up when she returned home!), but there wasn't anything else noted on BellBoard from Suffolk. God willing December will bring more active days of ringing in the county.

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Monday 27th November 2023

The ringers' tree for St Mary-le-Tower's Trees @ the Tower.We are still in November of course, but the signs of Christmas are becoming increasingly obvious. More and more decorations are appearing on houses and there have been big switch-ons of festive lights in the towns of Suffolk over the last fortnight. And now the ringers at St Mary-le-Tower are ready with their entry for Trees @ the Tower, which was very kindly put up by a dedicated bunch who arrived early to put it up before the weekly practice this evening.

With work immediately followed by accompanying the boys to their swimming lessons and then the family getting fed, there was no time for me to help our fellow ringers with the tree, but it was an uplifting sight as I arrived to the session that followed and where I hope I was able to help my fellow ringers. I'd like to think so anyway, especially as we were very short tonight. Understandably so in many cases. One only returned from a work trip to India today. Another was being generously taken to the Illuminated Garden Trail at Helmingham Hall. Dog-sitting a puppy prevented another from attending. A couple were ill. Others are on a ringing holiday. Nonetheless, Ringing Master Colin Salter fashioned a useful practice, although bar call-changes on twelve and a course of Little Bob Maximus it was all on ten, from Plain Hunt on Nine for Rosemary and Sonia to Stedman Caters and Yorkshire Surprise Royal.

Meanwhile, an email to members from Paul Stannard has revealed that the funeral of Brian Wells is due to take place at 11am on Tuesday 5th December at All Saints church in Barrow where he regularly rang on the ground-floor 11cwt six. If you know someone who might like to attend but is likely not to have picked up the details from here or Paul's email, then please do let them know.

On a happier note, congratulations to former Bardwell ringer Louis Suggett on his engagement to his other half Lucy, which was mentioned in the footnote to the handbell peal in Trowse north of the Norfolk border and indeed was previously celebrated by another handbell peal a fortnight ago, on that occasion rung in Bournemouth where Louis is now resident.

As someone who has rung around a hundred peals in Birmingham, I imagine that Louis would've noted like me that Michael Wilby rang his one thousandth peal on twelve or more bells in the 5040 of Avon Delight Maximus rung at St Philip's Cathedral this evening, which is a phenomenal landmark to reach and an indication of just how essential he is to have in so many pealbands on higher numbers, now and for many years.

I expect that he celebrated with a drink in the pub afterwards and the pub is where I ended up after my ringing, as I joined a healthy number in the Halberd Inn where we blew George Heath-Collins' mind with videos of ringing at East Bergholt and I attempted to get in the festive mood!

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Sunday 26th November 2023

In the abundance of copies of The Ringing World which have arrived in the last few days, there is an article on best practice in ringing leadership which mentions that communication and democracy are important factors.

Pettistree Ringers AGM and a glass of wine!One should therefore be impressed with the dedication shown to ensure that communication and dedication overcame adversity at the Pettistree ringers' AGM this evening. Held via video call as has become normal for this particular event, when Minute Secretary and Tower Correspondent Kate Eagle's internet access suddenly stopped and she disappeared, we lost the person recording what was being discussed and a report not yet imparted. Ruthie and her mother quickly communicated to ascertain the situation and in a quick bit of thinking my wife began taking notes, but the quorum was resigned to going without her mother's report. Until the mother-in-law suddenly appeared at ours, still in her slippers, to join Mrs Munnings and me and carry out her duties from our dining room table!

Otherwise, the rescued meeting continued in its usual form, uncontroversial, informal and relatively brisk, but still providing the first opportunity to look back on the year. Whilst we remembered Hilary Mann (formerly Talbot) who used to ring at the ground-floor six and passed away recently, generally it has been a very successful and upbeat twelve months. More quarter-peals rung than in the previous twelve months, recruits and a dinner were reflected upon, whilst intentions were laid out for the year ahead, including ringing over the Christmas period, which is a good moment to remind ringers - if they need it, which most almost certainly won't - that if the normal order of things is maintained there will be extra ringing for seasonal services and practices cancelled, especially those usually held on Mondays or Tuesdays which is when Christmas Day and Boxing Day fall this year. And do note that Christmas Ringing in Ipswich is due to be held on Saturday 23rd December.

Today though, the only ringing either of us did was when I climbed the many steps to the ringing chamber at Woodbridge with the boys to help with the service ringing there, including calling some call-changes before attending the service itself.

The pealboard at Marlesford.That wasn't the only church with bells that we attended a service at on this chilly Sunday though. For we had been invited to the Christening of the daughters of one of Ruthie's work colleagues, which was held at Marlesford, home of a 9cwt six where Ruthie and I rang a quarter-peal in 2008, I rang a peal four months earlier and a peal board hangs in the church itself recording the details of a 5040 of five Minor methods rung in the summer of 1991. There was no ringing today, but we felt privileged to attend the ceremony where the new vicar there the Reverend Ann Kember involved lots of the children present and we enjoyed the post-service refreshments at the Community Centre round the corner, before we returned home for that fine example of dedication to communication and democracy!

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Saturday 25th November 2023

It was another logistically challenging Saturday morning for us as Alfie and his teammates had a football fixture at exactly the same time his older brother Mason was booked in to the Winter Italian Course at the Food Hub just outside Debenham, something very kindly bought for him by his ringing uncle and aunt Chris and Becky last Christmas.

The view from the Food Hub across to Debenham.Mercifully, as is thankfully so often the case, we were grateful to Ruthie's mother Kate, as she took my wife and two youngest sons to Alfred's match whilst on this bright late autumnal morning my eldest and I traversed across the beautiful Suffolk countryside along highways still following the meandering twists and turns fashioned centuries ago through farmland and forests of many colours, past the old windmill at Framsden and of course through Debenham itself, where amongst the buildings of many pastoral shades along the main street the village's Christmas tree was being put up near to The Lion, a real rarity of a house being turned back into a pub after twenty-five years and recently reopened.

I made it to AJM's game in time to see most of it including a number of really good saves from our goalkeeping son, before he was picked up by his friend's father to attend his classmate's brother's birthday party and I returned to the Food Hub with Josh and his mother, as Mrs Munnings enjoyed pointing out places she had rung peals at as we passed by Grundisburgh, Burgh, Otley, Helmingham, Winston and Debenham. We brought back a sixteen-year-old who had had a thoroughly enjoyable day and had in his possession Tupperware full of tasty grub!

We took most of it to our next engagement, which once Alfie had been dropped off with us again was at the abode of Ruthie's sister Clare and her other half Chris to watch Ipswich Town's latest match as they played away at West Bromwich Albion on the TV in the company of mother-in-law Kate and my wife's Gran. Sadly we witnessed a rare defeat for the Tractor Boys, but we still had a great time with plenty of drink, food and good company.

It all meant that we didn't have time to ring though, but others in the county were much busier today. There was the South-West District's ADM at Hadleigh which was hopefully a success, as well as a very impressive five quarter-peals. Well done to George Heath-Collins on ringing his first inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Rushmere St Andrew and Paula Howes on her first for over thirty years in a similar performance at Walsham le Willows, whilst the first QP since 2010 was rung at Thelnetham and there were successes in Double Oxford Bob Minor at Hinderclay and seven Doubles methods at Stoke Ash on what must have been a logistically challenging Saturday for some of them too.

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Friday 24th November 2023

A day after three copies of The Ringing World turned up together, another one arrived in the post this morning as this week's issue came. As with the previous trio of journals there was nothing about or from Suffolk, but still plenty of interesting stuff, both personally and generally, including an obituary for Wendy Piercy from Eaton Socon in Cambridgeshire who our family rang regularly with on the St Neots ringing weekends organised by Tim Griffiths when I was a young ringer and also the report on the College Youths' recent Anniversary Dinner.

Kersey.Meanwhile, the Reverend Geoffrey Clement was welcomed to his role as Rector of Kersey and its associated parishes with a peal of Bristol Surprise Major on the 14cwt ground-floor eight. It's great to have Geoffrey back for so many reasons, not least because he is a super Surprise Major ringer, so I'm delighted to see his return has been celebrated so appropriately.

There was also reason to celebrate in our house as Mason returned from a work's awards ceremony complete with a trophy akin to best newcomer. It has been wonderful to see him getting on so well since starting his job in the kitchen of a local cafe where he seems very popular, so this is the icing on the cake, so to speak! Well done Mason!

Ashbocking.And well done to another youngster Clem Day, who rang his first quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor in the 1269 at Ashbocking.

No ringing for us though as instead we sat back and relaxed with a beverage and not much else to do. Except read all those copies of The Ringing World.

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Thursday 23rd November 2023

You probably haven't, but you might have noticed that I haven't referenced the The Ringing World for a few weeks. We take it on behalf of the Pettistree band, but a delay in payment (the cheque got held up in the post!) for the tower subscription meant that we hadn't received any copies for the last month. Until this morning, when like the proverbial bus three turned up together - the 3rd, 10th and 17th November editions.

With Ruthie feeling better and out at her choir practices, it was my turn to stop in this evening and so I had plenty of time to read them. Whilst I couldn't find anything specifically from or about Suffolk, there were interviews with young Central Council Reps about their visit to Ipswich for September's AGM and there is an interview with new President Tina Stoecklin and Deputy President Vicki Chapman - the latter of whom rang in the town regularly for a while in the 1990s - who were elected at that meeting. Halesworth and the county town's ancient five of St Lawrence get mentions in an article considering when rounds were first rung and even more tenuously our county is highlighted as one from where visitors came to the Winchester & Portsmouth Diocesan Guild's hugely successful Tower Open Day of a couple of months ago in the report of the event.

However, there is plenty of interesting stuff in there, especially the pieces on gender balance in the exercise, in part generated from the twenty-fifth anniversary of the removing of the male-only rule in the College Youths, which was driven in no small part by George Pipe.

A future edition of The RW should feature the latest achievement of one of the many former Suffolk ringers now down in and around Bristol, as one-time Reydon learner Philip Moyse, who yesterday circled the 4cwt six of Frenchay in Gloucestershire to peals. In itself not particularly notable, but the way he has done it is impressive, as it has been achieved in just six peals, each of a different composition of the 'standard' forty-one Surprise Minor methods spliced, called by six different conductors, the latest of which was fellow former Suffolk ringer George Salter. Well done Philip!

Lavenham.Well done also to the band who rang the peal at Lavenham, also yesterday, with the Guild's Facebook page highlighting that there were compliments from locals about the 3 hours and 19 minutes of ringing and hopefully there were similarly positive comments about the quarter-peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major at The Norman Tower, rung instead of the weekly practice due to low numbers.

All being well, both performances should appear in The Ringing World in the near future and hopefully they'll be delivered to us now the cheque's arrived!

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Wednesday 22nd November 2023

The last couple of evenings have been a wonderful example of what ringing can offer beyond just turning up and ringing bells. On nondescript Monday and Tuesday nights in November, when otherwise I might be bemoaning how far away the weekend is, I have found myself in jovial atmospheres with friends, helping people progress in an ancient art in historic landmarks of the community before rounding my nights off in two proper pubs surrounded by character and characters.

However, in our otherwise welcome circumstances, Ruthie and I can't usually do such things together and so in amongst parenting and work too, we haven't seen much of each other since the weekend and of course she has been at home dealing with the bathtime and bedtime routines. Therefore, it only seemed fair that Mrs Munnings went out to Pettistree's practice tonight. Except she was feeling tired and a little unwell and so obviously didn't feel she ought to go out, even if she felt up to it and following the last couple of nights and her ill-health, it didn't seem at all fair for me to disappear and leave her with everything to do for a third night running. Once I'd taken Alfie to his football training and we'd done a spot of shopping then, I returned home and we both spent an evening in together, whilst at the ground-floor six three miles away a quarter-peal was rung before the weekly session in memory of one-time ringer here Hilary Mann (formerly Talbot), whose funeral was held yesterday.

Lavenham.Meanwhile, further across the county, the 250th peal on the 21cwt eight of Lavenham was rung to 5008 changes of Double Norwich Court Bob Major, appropriately for the village credited with being where the Guild was formed a century ago. It was also the 101st peal in the SGR's name this year, with the hundredth being brought up in last week's 5040 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at Rothwell in Northamptonshire and the first time since 2018 that our peal totals have hit triple figures. Well done to all who have contributed! Additionally, it 'only' leaves eight more peals to reach our best total since 2014. Now there's a challenge!

I can imagine the band from this latest success finding themselves in one of the wonderful pubs of this character laden community afterwards. Another wonderful example of what ringing can offer.

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Tuesday 21st November 2023

An announcement on the Guild's Facebook page reveals that there will be no practice next Tuesday (28th November for the avoidance of doubt!) at Offton, with the intention being that things will be back to the normal order of things the following week on 5th December.

Ufford.Exactly the same applies to Ufford, but as I imagine was the case at the 8cwt ground-floor eight fourteen miles away, there was a practice here this week on a night when we were chilled by the heaters packing up though warmed by more progress and the unexpected arrival of former Hollesley Ringing Master Alan McBurnie. Ruthie and I rang loads of quarter-peals with Alan in the late 2000s and early 2010s as he arranged projects to ring QPs of spliced and half-lead spliced Surprise Major, as well as quarter-peal holidays, all of which were great fun, as was the socialising! However, we hadn't seen him for several years since he based himself in Norfolk and furthermore he hasn't rung much over the last four or five years for one reason or another, so he entered the ringing chamber tonight warning us not to expect too much from him.

Nonetheless, he was a huge help, standing behind Margaret treble bobbing and enabling us to ring Plain Hunt on Seven for Daniel, whilst he was also able to reacquaint himself with Cambridge Surprise Minor inside before we wrapped up the session. And his unexpected presence led to an unexpected visit to the White Lion for a drink to catch up properly with him, which in turn led to an unexpected encounter with a lapsed ringer called Nick who once rang at Earl Soham but is now resident in the village here and was sat having a pint when we entered. It was nice to meet him and great to see Alan again.

I was also pleased to hear that the funeral of former Rushmere St Andrew and Pettistree ringer Hilary Mann (formerly Talbot) today was well represented by Guild members and that a quarter of Plain and Little Bob Minor was rung at Rushmere in memory of her.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Joshua Watkins and Neal Dodge on becoming the North-West District Ringing Master and Chairman respectively at the recent NW's recent ADM at Stowmarket, with their respective predecessors Maureen Gardiner and David Steed due thanks, as are all who volunteer to take on such roles. With the North-East District also having had their ADM at Reydon, it is a timely reminder for people to make time if they can to attend to the South-West District ADM this Saturday afternoon at Hadleigh and the South-East District ADM at Tuddenham St Martin and Rushmere St Andrew a week later, especially members of those districts.

Don't go to Offton and Ufford expecting to ring next Tuesday though!

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Monday 20th November 2023

Happy St Edmund's Day!

This once represented a superb PR opportunity for the Guild, with us working closely with BBC Radio Suffolk to promote the day of the county's patron saint. However, even before the main driver of the campaign Mark Murphy - one of the speakers at the SGR Centenary Dinner in March - left the station and it significantly reduced its local output earlier this year, the prominence of the occasion had dwindled considerably on the airwaves to the point that it was reduced to a passing comment by the breakfast presenter Wayne Bavin this morning.

The Norman Tower.Our members still celebrate it though, I'm pleased to say. Maybe not to the extent of when we attempted peals in each district and radio reports outside towers, but still notable, especially in Bury St Edmunds - named after the saint of the day of course - where quarter-peals on handbells and at The Norman Tower dedicated their respective performances of Kent Treble Bob Major and Grandsire Caters to St Edmund.

Elsewhere within our borders a peal in hand was rung for the NDA in Bacton, whilst following watching the boys have their swimming lessons, I attended the weekly practice at St Mary-le-Tower where we were extremely short on numbers. Nonetheless, once we'd managed to pin down a plan for decorating the ringers' Christmas tree for Trees @ the Tower planned for downstairs in the church next week, we managed quite a useful session, including Stedman Caters and three leads of Bristol Surprise Major on the back eight, before we retired to the Halberd Inn.

It was a nice way to spend St Edmund's Day evening.

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Sunday 19th November 2023

For most of today, it was another largely unexciting day.

This morning though, was memorable, especially for Josh as he went to a classmate's birthday party at Jump In on the edge of Ipswich. A couple of hours of lots of bouncing with friends followed by pizza and other party food followed for our youngest son, but we enjoyed our morning too as fortunately timings worked out for us. Well, in theory.

Usually, the 9.30am start for the birthday party would've meant leaving service ringing at St Mary-le-Tower early and indeed it probably wouldn't have been practical to go at all. However, with four baptisms and the filming of the Church of England's official Christmas broadcast later in a hectic day for the vicar Tom Mumford, there was no service at 9.30 and so we rang an hour later, thus meaning we could drop Joshua off and make our way into the town centre in time for ringing. Except we arrived in the area around Jump In to find roads closed and police everywhere. We made it through to our destination OK, but others including the star of the day were stuck in the traffic gridlock behind the closure which transpired to be for an abnormal load making its way necessarily slowly up Norwich Road. Therefore, once we'd waited for their arrival in order to leave JB in their care, we were running quite a bit later than we had intended.

Nonetheless, Ruthie - who was with me as she wasn't needed by her church choir on this occasion - and Alfie made it in time for my wife and I to ring in some Little Bob Maximus, some call-changes on twelve and a really well-rung touch of Stedman Caters and then refreshment in Costa Coffee before we returned to the party to collect an excited seven-year-old who had had a very good time.

Signposts for the Suffolk Guild Striking Competitions.The rest of our day was far less interesting, as we did a bit of clearing out, although that did lead to the discovery of two signposts for the Suffolk Guild Striking Competitions from my time as SGR Ringing Master (so it has accompanied us on at least four house-moves!) and have now been offered to the current RM Katharine Salter in readiness for the 2024 contests due to take place in the South-East District in pretty much exactly six months on Saturday 18th May!

And looking back for a moment, I was pleased for Sudbury resident James Croft completing the calendar to peals yesterday, which means he has rung a peal on all 366 dates of the year, achieved with the 5040 of twenty Surprise Minor methods spliced on handbells in Bromley, Kent. Also yesterday, here within our borders, a band of the county's Cumberland Youths rang a quarter-peal of Cornwall Surprise Major at Bardwell, which whilst sadly a lost peal attempt is still a worthy achievement. Better luck for the Society on its annual Peal Weekend this afternoon though, as a 5080 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal was rung at Grundisburgh in 2 hours and 59 minutes and also dedicated to the eightieth birthday of David Culham, as was another 5080 at Wormingford in his homeland of Essex by a predominantly Suffolk band on Saturday. Happy Birthday David, who is always entertaining company and an extremely good ringer!

I hope his day has been more exciting than ours!

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Saturday 18th November 2023

When Alfie's football match today was cancelled with the pitch unplayable during the heavy rainfall of this morning, it left us unusually short of engagements for a Saturday. There was no Ipswich Town fixture either, nor any birthday parties for the boys or the like. Typically though, considering the ringing that we have forsaken on other Saturdays when there simply haven't been enough hours in the day, there was no ringing advertised within the Guild today and so the closest we got to the exercise was reading about it.

Ashbocking. Barham. Henley. Tuddenham St Martin.

Apart from the message telling us that Alfred's team's game was off, the first thing I took in was the announcement on ART's Facebook page of the formation of the bellsashen Teaching Hub which consists of Ashbocking, Barham, Henley and Tuddenham St Martin with the contact being South-East District Secretary Liz Christian. Good luck to all concerned with what will hopefully be a fruitful grouping.

The Wolery.Meanwhile, I was delighted to see that some of Suffolk's Cumberland Youths rang a peal at The Norman Tower as part of the society's peal weekend, whilst at Haughley the tower open morning was followed by a quarter-peal of Grandsire, St Martin's Bob and St Simon's Bob Doubles. However, there was also a College Youth once of our county who was achieving today, as former Ipswich ringer George Salter rang his 700th peal. It wasn't rung for the ASCY for whom I seconded his proposal for membership, but it was done in a style that is an extension of the talents that I, his proposer David Potts and many others recognised back then in 2014, as today he pulled in the tenor at St Mary-le-Bow in London to a 5040 of Avon Delight, Bristol, Rigel and Zanussi Surprise Maximus spliced, a long way from his first peal bonging behind to Doubles at The Wolery at the top of his garden in 2010. Congratulations George!

It put our day firmly in the shade. It was lovely to spend more quality time with the boys and Ruthie of course, but with the weather so wet, windy and grey and darkness basically fallen by 5pm, the highlight was a trip to Woodbridge Library, a couple of the local shops and bumping into Mervyn & Tracey Scase before an evening in the warm watching the Blackpool special of Strictly Come Dancing.

Like I said, it was a Saturday short on engagements!

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Friday 17th November 2023

The latest edition of Tower Talk is now available to read, the publication for ART whose editor is our very own Ruth Suggett! It is another uplifting publication of wonderful stories of best practice, tips and experiences of those only at the beginning of their "journey of discovery" in the art. As always, it is well worth setting aside time to read it. Well done Ruth and all who helped put it together.

All the experiences outlined with fresh eyes should encourage those of us who have perhaps taken all that ringing offers for granted to take in as much of the exercise as possible, but as usual on a Friday evening these days there was no ringing for Ruthie or me. Instead it was an evening in with the boys watching England's men's latest football fixture, all of which was something we shouldn't take for granted on this Children in Need day, which was again marked by the exercise, although it sounds like the now traditional CiN peal attempt at Liverpool Cathedral sadly came a cropper after more than three hours.

That said, the England versus Malta fixture which was the focus of our night in was spectacularly dull, so I was glad of another absorbing edition of Tower Talk.

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Thursday 16th November 2023

Returns seem very much the order of the day currently. David Cameron is back in frontline politics, The Beatles have recently released a new old single which has become the best selling vinyl of the century and this week Past Master of the College Youths Swaz Apter took one step closer to returning to the role as she became Senior Steward for the society at its monthly meeting, as her immediate predecessor as Senior Steward James Marchbank became RM, as is the norm. To cap a good few days for her, today she rang her 2000th peal. Wonderful to see after the challenges she's faced over the last three years.

On a sadder note and locally, I was sorry to hear that Hilary Mann - formerly Hilary Talbot - has died. She used to ring at Rushmore St Andrew and Pettistree and I recall her being a useful ringer who rang several quarters and peals and was a nice lady. Her funeral is due to take place at 2.15pm on Tuesday 21st November at Ipswich Crematorium (West Chapel, Cemetery Lane).

Woodbridge.On a more functional note meanwhile, Woodbridge ringers are holding their AGM with fish 'n' chips on Tuesday evening next week, so there won't be a practice on the 25cwt eight. Please don't go along expecting any ringing. And if you haven't ordered, don't expect any fish 'n' chips either.

We were doing neither ringing nor fish 'n' chips as Ruthie went to her choir practices whilst I looked after the boys, with the highlight being Josh and his classmates doing their assembly in front of us at school. Our son was tremendous in his singing, speaking and even in a conversation held entirely in French!

It was a fine return to the stage for him.

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Wednesday 15th November 2023

The Norman Tower. St Mary-le-Tower. Grundisburgh. Cmglee Great St Marys St Peter Mancroft

I received a bit of bad news today. As many will know, for this centenary year of the Guild I have been arranging peals on the six twelves which are located within the SGR and the two ringing organisations that covered ringing in our county before the SGR was formed a century ago, the Ely Diocesan Association and Norwich Diocesan Association, with each featuring a first. Thus far there has been a 100% success rate, with Suffolk's twelves of The Norman Tower, St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh ticked off and then those at Cambridge and Norwich scored. Just Great Yarmouth was left.

Unfortunately, an email from my contact there Ann informed me that during their servicing yesterday, "safety problems" had been identified and so the peal I had lined up next month has had to be cancelled. God willing it isn't something too bad or expensive and they'll be up and running again soon, especially for Christmas, but obviously it means to get the complete set of peals as planned at the beginning of 2023 won't be possible before 2024 is due to takeover. It's frustrating for me, but even more so for the locals at the 30cwt Norfolk twelve.

If one believes the headline 'Single noise complaint against Beith Parish Church bell silences 200-year tradition,' then you might think that silence will also be falling upon the Scottish church in question. I was fully prepared to get annoyed by this story, but actually the request seems a quite reasonable one to stop the overnight clock chimes, which the church decided to do despite not being asked to by the council. Instead, the story here is that over a thousand local residents have signed a petition to get it reinstated. Although this doesn't involve change-ringing bells, this is a reminder both that we need to be flexible and receptive to our neighbours where it is reasonable, but also that the sound of bells are still very important to many communities.

Pettistree is somewhere that the ringers seem to have a good relationship with their community, which allows for an active band to thrive and which tonight rang a quarter-peal of Stamford Surprise Minor before a practice that Ruthie attended and where she conducted some Plain Bob Doubles but also tested her power of recall with Annable's London Surprise Minor and Lightfoot Surprise Minor before she joined others in The Greyhound for post-ringing refreshment at the end of a good night out for my wife.

At least it wasn't all bad news today.

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Tuesday 14th November 2023

KIng Charles III.As someone who was given a go at the art (in 2018 by then Rambling Ringers Ringing Master Chris Woodcock, as highlighted by the footnote to this evening's ringing at Potterhanworth in Lincolnshire), King Charles III's 75th birthday was marked today with ringing across the UK, including by Suffolk ringers, even if not in Suffolk, as a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Royal was rung for the Guild on the 21cwt Northamptonshire ten of Rothwell, a 5040 that also celebrated the anniversary of former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd's birth.

Ufford.I wasn't doing any ringing for either, but I was ringing as I went to Ufford practice for another productive session of call-changes on eight for Mary Leaming and Plain Bob Minor for her fellow Hollesley learner Margaret Weeks to ring inside to and Norwich Surprise Minor for her to treble to.

Nonetheless, Happy Birthday Simon! Oh, and to His Majesty too.

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Monday 13th November 2023

As we caught the edge of another named storm, it was pretty blustery today. It blew a tree down blocking Woods Lane in Melton, which as those who can recall the long-term closure of that route for building a housing estate a few years ago can imagine caused gridlock in the area, but gave me the opportunity to get picked up by Ruthie on the way to the boys' swimming lessons.

St Mary-le-Tower.Mercifully though, it had been reopened and the local roads cleared by the time it came to going out to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice, where it was nice to see Ivan Culham accompanying his brother Ian who was running things this evening as Ringing Master Colin Salter had to work late. Despite Amanda Richmond asking for ten and eleven to swap before some Plain Hunt on nine on the back ten, it was a productive session that also included Stedman Caters and Cinques and a reasonable half-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus before the bells were rung down to take the muffles off and most of us rounded our night off in the Halberd Inn. Which seemed the best place to be with the weather outside.

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Sunday 12th November 2023

We have spent much time remembering the sacrifices of those in the armed forces this weekend. Indeed, with school and his football match, Alfie has stood in silence for nearly ten minutes in total over the last three days, which is no mean feat for an excitable, active nine-year-old! None of it has been done reluctantly though, even with the boys, who are quick to announce when they are bored. Indeed, because this annual tradition has become so familiar to them, they appear to understand why this is important, even if mercifully they won't fully comprehend the horrors of what our armed forces can and have faced.

However, what it underlines is that whatever we have done this weekend, whether it be football matches we've attended, TV programmes we've watched, radio we've listened to or going about our ringing this morning, it has quite rightly been seen as important to pause and think about the sacrifices made that underpin our freedom to attend football matches, to watch or listen to whatever we like on TV & radio and of course ring bells. And as bells have reflected celebrations locally and nationally for events like Suffolk Day, Jubilees and the Coronation, it is only proper that we reflect sombre moments of reflection such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. The sound of bells takes the occasion beyond just the small area where ceremonies are taking place, hopefully prompting others in earshot to take a moment to reflect when they otherwise might not have done for whatever reason, especially if the bells are half-muffled.

Remembrance Sunday at Grundisburgh.Therefore I'm pleased to see and hear that ringing in Suffolk ensured that our art could do just that for as many communities as possible. BellBoard reports that there was ringing at Glemsford, Haughley, Little Cornard, Old Newton, Poslingford, Stowmarket and Woodbridge and I imagine there was similar at many, many more places around the county. Graham Ridgeway shared a video on Facebook of some lovely sounding half-muffled ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, but we weren't there as I had to drop Mason off at work, so with Ruthie and her choral colleagues not needed for proceedings in Woodbridge we both went to Grundisburgh to ring for the service taking place at the war memorial on the village green in front of the church. Although they weren't half-muffled, it felt a privilege to ring for such a special occasion that judging by the numbers outside is also special to this community. We went down to the gathering after I'd set the 10cwt tenor at backstroke to allow the tenor to be more easily tolled eleven times (no easy task!) and took in the familiar words and the two-minute silence in the presence of a diverse crowd that took in schoolfriends of the boys, fellow parents, a player and a coach from Alfred's football team, and of course those who had just rung the bells, giving an indication of how the sentiment of this occasion straddles many age-groups and sections of society.

The rest of our day was more social than reflective as we went round to the home of friends Charlotte & Gregory and our Godchildren Ava & Bea for play, drinks and food before we unexpectedly got a lift from our friend Shem who happened to be driving past as we were walking home!

Meanwhile, whilst a College Youths peal was rung on handbells in Risby to remember Past Master of the Society Michael Moreton who rang five peals for the SGR, other ringers were continuing to mark Remembrance Sunday as a quarter-peal and two peals were rung for the Guild. Well done to Mark Steggles on ringing his first peal on eight in the 5040 of Grandsire Triples at Hitcham, whilst Alan Reading conducted one of his compositions for a 5008 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Aldeburgh and a 1367 of Grandsire Caters was rung at The Norman Tower. All rung to remember the sacrifices made by members of our armed forces.

Lest we forget.

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Saturday 11th November 2023

Armistice Day was marked by ringing today as it often is, in abundance. BellBoard slowed considerably as performances from general ringing to peals were put up on the site.

That included three performances on Suffolk bells, as a quarter-peal was rung at Pettistree before the Act of Remembrance at the village's war memorial in the churchyard and peals were rung of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Horringer and seventeen Surprise Minor methods spliced rung at Higham, albeit the latter wasn't specifically dedicated to the fallen.

Remembering the fallen at Portman Road. Remembering the fallen at Portman Road.
Remembering the fallen at Portman Road

Football too movingly marked the occasion, as before Alfie's team's match and Ipswich Town's later there were silences and unsurprisingly on a Saturday these days, that's where we found ourselves taking time to remember those who have lost their lives in our armed forces.

After both acts of remembrance, we took in another fine goalkeeping performance from Alfred helped by Josh who offered his older brother his cap when he was keeping goal looking into the low sunshine on this autumnal morning, whilst Ruthie caught up with a uni friend whose son was on the other team. And despite a huge traffic jam in Melton on the way home leaving us with far less time than hoped, we were still - just - ready for the return of our 'football bus' driver, mother-in-law and Ufford Ringing Master Kate Eagle who took us on to lunch at the Mermaid before we then bumped into Offton ringer Caroline Goodchild going about her work at the stadium and had a pre-match pint with St Peter Mancroft Norwich Ringing Master Simon Rudd and my brother and Norman Tower ringer Chris in the Fanzone. All followed by the customary glut of goals as the Tractor Boys beat Swansea City 3-2 in another thrilling ninety minutes.

Meanwhile I hope the North-East District ADM at Reydon went well and was well attended, as we all went about enjoying the freedoms earnt for by others, whether we were watching football or ringing bells.

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Friday 10th November 2023

Alfie, his classmates and other children from the schools of Woodbridge gathered at the town's war memorial this morning to remember those who have suffered and sacrificed and those who continue to do so for us in our armed services, a reminder of the importance of the events on and surrounding the 11th November. I imagine that ringing will do its bit over the weekend.

Indeed, ringers in Suffolk were already doing so with a handbell quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor in Hasketon, whilst others beyond our borders were also paying tribute to the fallen of wars and conflict.

St Peter's Church, Croydon - WestAlso though, many remembered Past Master of the College Youths Michael Moreton, whose death at the age of ninety-one was announced today. One imagines more will come in the coming days, but already a brace of quarters and peals apiece have been rung in memory of him. Many others knew him much better than I did, but personally my favourite memory of him was ringing a peal at his home tower of South Croydon which I arranged and that he very kindly rang in back in 2007 and particularly listening to him in the pub afterwards. Thanks to technology, one can get a flavour of him in his pomp through the recording of his interview with ASCY Secretary Simon Meyer two years ago. This was carried out in the ringing chamber of St Paul's Cathedral and was the first of what have become annual interviews on the morning of the Anniversary Dinner with significant characters from the society, which are named the George Pipe Interviews as they originated from George's suggestion that it would be fascinating to interview Reydon & Southwold ringer Don Price. Something that sadly never happened, but which spawned this interview with Michael, an eccentric, welcoming personality and extremely good ringer.

No ringing for us, as is not unusual for a Friday these days, but in part thanks to Alfred and his peers' visit to the war memorial this morning, the thoughts of those we plan to remember with our ringing this weekend were never far from our minds.

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Thursday 9th November 2023

Another plug for the Guild's YouTube channel, as a number of videos were uploaded to it today.

I'd seen some of them elsewhere, such as the Stedman Doubles rung during the South-East District Practice at the ground-floor 11cwt six of Barham, the half-muffled ringing from last year's quarter-peal at Pettistree for Armistice Day and a clip from the first peal of Carpenter's End Delight Major, rung at Southwold in memory of Don Price last year. However, I enjoyed being introduced to a video of some ringing at East Bergholt (complete with hand signal 1 minute and 10 seconds in, presumably a visual prompt to set the bells for a band that can't rely on hearing 'stand' being shouted!) and a lovely 14 minutes and 2 seconds that walks you up to the church at Campsea Ashe on a beautiful day, before taking one into the practice itself with an encouraging eclectic range of ringing at this easy-going light gallery-ring six. Some really good ringing throughout the videos too.

There was no ringing for us though, as I undertook parental duties whilst Ruthie went to her choir practices, but I was pleased to see others in Suffolk ringing and especially to see that Barrow and Horringer ringer Brian Wells was celebrated at the latter tower with a quarter-peal of Kenninghall Surprise Major, which was a first in the method for all the band. Well done Sally Crouch, Deborah Blumfield, Ruth Suggett, Lesley Steed, Martin Kirk, David Steed, David Howe and conductor Stephen Dawson.

Perhaps there is some video of it which might end up on the Guild's YouTube Channel?

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Wednesday 8th November 2023

A not unusual Wednesday evening for our family, as Alfie's football training was followed by ringing at Pettistree.

Peter Harper is presented with a birthday card at Pettistree practice.That ringing was a usual eclectic mix, with Plain Bob Doubles & Grandsire Doubles for John Horsnell & Sam Shannon to treble to respectively, Plain Bob Minor for Vince Buckman to ring inside to, Stamford rung to help the collective expansion of Surprise Minor repertoire, Cunecastre for Hilary Stearn (once we'd stopped confusingly referring to the work below the treble as Annable's London, King Edward or Netherseale!) and Cambridge for Jane Harper on a night that we presented a card to her husband Peter with a rousing chorus of 'Happy Birthday' to celebrate the recent anniversary of his birth. And as is the norm, it was all preceded with a quarter-peal, which on this occasion was of Norwich Surprise Minor. Unusually though, there was no visit to The Greyhound afterwards as no one else was going!

Meanwhile, earlier in the day a 1280 of Bristol Surprise Major was rung at Orford after a lost peal attempt. Which with a band of that calibre was unusual.

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Tuesday 7th November 2023

When the main ringing highlight of the day was having a chuckle at a Facebook discussion about the Carolina Reaper being usurped as the world's hottest chilli pepper by one called Pepper X, then you know it has been a quiet one. A method considered to be similarly challenging has been named after the former, so there was a suggestion that there needs to be a new method named after the latter!

In fact, with Ufford's weekly practice cancelled due to a lack of numbers with lots away, it was a bit of a throwback to Tuesdays of old, complete with the currently unusual frustrations of following Ipswich Town on the radio on a typically chilly autumnal evening without even a hot chilli to warm things up.

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Monday 6th November 2023

Happy Birthday to my brother Chris!

St Martin's Birmingham2I suppose as his elder sibling I am supposed to be sickly gushing about him or deeply disparaging, but the simple truth is that he has been a very supportive brother and is also an extremely good ringer who Suffolk is fortunate to have in its midst. He was a part of the Birmingham ringing scene at the same time as me when we were both at university out that way and as such has achieved much in ringing. In keeping with one of yesterday's themes he has rung four peals on sixteen, with one of Stedman Septuples, spliced Septuples & Sixteen and a brace of Surprise Sixteen, whilst he also rang in a peal of 165 Surprise Major methods spliced, amongst much other impressive stuff during his time in the Midlands and since returning here has been of great benefit to ringing, taking part in one of the peals of Suffolk Surprise Major earlier this year and in numerous quarters on ten and twelve at The Norman Tower.

Although I didn't speak with him on his big day, I did grab the chance to text him whilst watching the boys having their swimming lesson. It's not something I always get to do as they have usually left with Ruthie by the time I finish work, but they were running very late today and so I tagged along to watch. And I was glad I did of course. Not only is this an essential skill for them to learn, but they always seem to enjoy it and their joyful faces are ones of accomplishment, which hopefully helps with their confidence too.

St Mary-le-Tower.As alluded previously though, it makes Monday evenings yet another busy evening and once back home there was only just enough time for tea before I was going out to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice, which was another useful session from call-changes where I fancied calling the bells to Tittums and back (where the respective bells from each half of the row are called together, back half after front half with it being 172839405E6T on twelve, creating a tit-tum, tit-tum, tit-tum sound) to Stedman of the Caters and Cinques varieties and both Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus with the help of Peter Bill who was visiting from Devon, but not Amanda Richmond (a long story involving a bus), before we retired to the Halberd Inn.

Talking of weekly practices, there are a couple local to us that aren't taking place this week, as Ufford's on Tuesday and Grundisburgh's on Thursday have both been cancelled. Whilst I have mentioned the former on the Guild's Facebook page, the latter isn't mentioned on there, so it is a timely reminder to check before you head to a practice night that you don't regularly go to and also to share news of a cancelled practice if you can, just to reduce the chances of any surprise visitors being disappointed!

Hopefully not disappointed are the band who rang a handbell quarter-peal of Kent Treble Bob Major in Bury St Edmunds today.

Well done to them and Happy Birthday Chris!

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Sunday 5th November 2023

It has been the College Youths Anniversary Dinner this weekend and therefore lots of ringing has been done in London and its surroundings for the occasion, with a peal of Lessness Surprise Major at St James Garlickhythe not only rounding things off, but appropriately dubbed 'the hangover peal' and also introducing me (and I suspect others as well!) to BeReal!

However, the Cumberland Youths were in the ringing headlines today with a 5058 of Bristol Surprise Sixteen at St Martin's in the Bullring in Birmingham with a band featuring the Ringing Master of the Society of Rambling Ringers Alex Riley and former Exning learner Jimmy Yeoman on the trebles. It is the third peal on sixteen bells in 2023, but before this year there had only been one rung in the previous five years. Of course the pandemic won't have helped, but even before that they were relatively rare, with this year's total being the most since 2011. I am pleased that a new, incredibly talented generation seems to be taking on this challenge, with the help of some experienced hands!

Not leaving Suffolk today, we didn't ring on quite so many bells, but we still managed some twelve-bell ringing at St Mary-le-Tower. For me that included service ringing at St Mary-le-Tower that included call-changes and Little Bob Maximus, followed by refreshment at Costa Coffee. With no ringing at Grundisburgh, that gave the boys and me a more leisurely opportunity to chat as I discussed football with Luton Town fan Graham Ridgeway, checked on how Amanda Richmond was feeling following yesterday's peal and also heard about an unfortunate incident involving a complainant about the 15cwt six of St Clement's across the town centre. Sensibly, sound control is being put in.

Following an afternoon of picking Mason up from work and an ultimately unfruitful search for a heated airer in various depressing windowless identikit warehouses in some of the various depressing identikit retail parks of Ipswich, I was back at the county's heaviest twelve, this time accompanied by Ruthie, Alfie and Josh, as my wife and I participated in Ipswich's latest practice for the 2024 National 12-bell Striking Contest and our sons munched on their tea. For the first time for a while we were being listened to by Hawkear as we practiced the test piece of half-a-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus and although I rather overcompensated in trying to rectify the errors it raised, I think it was useful to have it there again. Our ringing still needs improvement, but there is definite progress.

Halesworth. St Matthew.Elsewhere within our borders meanwhile, a 1256 of Little Bob Major was rung on the 18cwt ground-floor eight at Halesworth, whilst an extract of Netherseale Surprise Minor from the peal at St Matthew's in Ipswich rung in May 2022 was the feature on BBC Radio 4's 'Bells on Sunday', with a longer recording available on this website's page for the 10cwt six.

It hasn't all been about the College Youths and Cumberland Youths this weekend!

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Saturday 4th November 2023

It was a logistically ambitious start to the day.

St Mary-le-Tower.Some time ago, Ruthie and I had agreed to ring in a peal attempt at St Mary-le-Tower for Past Guild Ringing Amanda Richmond to ring the eleventh in order to circle the tower to peals. It is a rare spot of indulgence for someone who spends so much time teaching others and has helped in a number of the peal attempts I have been arranging this year and so we were keen to help her in this aim.

However, it did leave us with a conundrum of what to do with the boys, with a couple of those who usually very kindly look after them when we call upon them unavailable on this occasion. A challenge further multiplied by Alfie's football team having a match arranged in a previously free slot at relatively short notice in a scenario we have become increasingly used to over the last year. Anxious not to deprive him of something he enjoys so much but also of course not to let Amanda down (especially at the last minute), we set about dropping the three boys off at three different venues, as Mason was delivered to his mother's, Josh to his Great Granny's and Alfred to his teammate, whose parents generously took him to their match and then afterwards took him to Ruthie's Gran to be reunited with his younger brother and their cousins.

Unbelievably we managed that without a hitch and were in the centre of Ipswich on time for the peal attempt, where it became obvious that despite our convoluted travels, our journey to the county's heaviest twelve hadn't been the most difficult of the band, as David Brown had to go from Norwich via Beccles with the trains between the county city and town of Norfolk and Suffolk cancelled, whilst Simon Rudd and Frank Rivett's car journey from the same area was considerably delayed by being stuck behind an accident on the A14.

James Mott's memorial tablet.Eventually though, we were all gathered and we set off on 3 hours and 31 minutes of pretty decent ringing that also marked the one hundredth anniversary of the death of James Motts, the famous ringer here who called the first ever peal of Cambridge Surprise Maximus in this tower in 1908 and who is remembered along with William Catchpole with a spectacular tablet on the wall behind the ropes of the sixth and seventh in the ringing chamber. For all her doubts, Amanda was absolutely fine, but she and I were ready for a drink in the Halberd Inn afterwards!

Additionally, it was nice to ring a peal with Alan Regin and Frank for the first time, two big names in the exercise and extremely good ringers who have rung 9,190 peals between them before today, but who for whatever reason I'd never been in the same pealband as up until today.

On the downside, it meant that we missed the South-East District Outing to north Suffolk. I have to admit that when agreeing to ring in the peal that I hadn't clocked that the outing would be today rather than in October when it has sometimes been held and so had hoped that we could still make an afternoon or evening event. Our fault entirely and disappointing as I like to support District events when we can, which isn't as often as we would like these days. Nonetheless, I had given some consideration to joining up with proceedings following our efforts in the 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus, but in the end I was in no state and even before we got to this morning we'd been made aware of something else that made joining our fellow members at Metfield and Laxfield impossible.

Artwork at the Tide Mill (not Josh's!)This is of course the weekend of fireworks, remember, remember the fifth of November, Guy Fawkes and all that. Fireworks are being viewed less and less favourably though and whilst I love a good firework display, I can understand why. They are considered bad for the environment and the noise has long been a bone of contention for pet-owners whose animals are frightened of the sudden, loud bangs, whilst for the first time that I recall, the subject of the effect it has on war veterans was brought up. Therefore as part of the Woodbridge Festival, instead of traditional fireworks, they have "fish-friendly" fireworks at the Tide Mill. Essentially these are flashed up on the side of the famous local landmark, rather than flying into the sky and landing in the River Deben, thus harming the wildlife in there, but that didn't seem to be happening until the end of a four hour display. We were more interested in the beginning of festivities when some artwork that Josh and his classmates were involved in was being displayed, something he was very excited about and so at 5pm we found ourselves by the riverside. It was lovely to watch and exciting to witness his artwork up in front of a sizeable audience, but it meant that there wasn't enough time to make the end of the SE Outing. Hopefully all went well.

Old Newton.As I hope the North-West District ADM at Stowmarket this afternoon did. I imagine a big crowd would've been there for the county's newest ten, but there was also success beforehand at nearby Old Newton with a quarter-peal of six Doubles methods rung at this 10cwt five.

Meanwhile, the College Youths Anniversary Dinner looks like it was another success, with a big crowd, superb handbell ringing shared on Facebook and lots of peals and quarters earlier in the day in an around the capital, including an under 30s band at South Croydon that included St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Colin Salter. All being well he didn't need to be as logistically ambitious as we were for our ringing!

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Friday 3rd November 2023

As has become the norm during the social media age on the day before the first Saturday of November, my Facebook feed was awash with friends down in London enjoying the start of the College Youths Dinner weekend. At least one Suffolk resident is down there already and others seem to be planning on being in the capital tomorrow night. There are photos of Tower Bridge, ringers on tr - ains and one notable character from up north in their hotel room looking unusually excited with a bottle in hand! And there was a quarter-peal and three peals rung for the ASCY to mark the beginning of the annual festivities.

A different type of excitement for us though, as we took the youngest two boys to their school's Halloween Disco where all sorts of costumes were on show (one parent was dressed as a carrot of course) with the boys giving their Darth Vader gear another outing on a night of dancing, spooky goings on, sweets and cake.

Other ringers from the county not down in the big smoke were busier than us in the exercise though, with two quarter-peals rung within our borders with pleasing sequencing as a 1271 and 1272 were rung, the former of Norwich Surprise Minor at Earl Stonham, the latter of Bucknall Delight Minor at Tostock and which was a first in the method for all the band. Well done to Andrea Alderton, North-West District Chairman David Steed, NW Ringing Master Maureen Gardiner, David Howe, Stephen Dawson and conductor Lesley Steed. This band of ringers achieving firsts. Something that is the norm, regardless of social media.

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Thursday 2nd November 2023

Is Imogen Holst the most famous member the Suffolk Guild has ever had? That was the question SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge recently put to me when sharing a clip of the daughter of Gustav Holst and composer herself on Desert Island Discs in 1972, when she chose a recording of some Bristol Surprise Major being rung at Aldeburgh to take on the hypothetical desert island and with it spoke rather wonderfully about the art and her Honorary membership of the Guild.

A recording of it is on the SGR's YouTube channel, along with a handful of other videos, including ringing from the new ten at Stowmarket and three minutes and forty-six seconds of really good ringing from a quarter-peal of Norwich Surprise Minor rung at Ashbocking in July last year that I'd never seen until this evening. If you wish to receive notifications of any videos uploaded to the channel, then please do subscribe to it by clicking on the 'Subscribe' button - it won't cost you a penny!

Meanwhile, those intending to go on the South-East District Outing scheduled for this Saturday need to note that there is a change of location, as the first planned tower of the afternoon has had to be changed from South Elmham St Cross to Mendham, the neighbouring village. Only a couple of miles difference, but important to note for all members, famous or otherwise.

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Wednesday 1st November 2023

A good start to Suffolk's ringing in November as a quarter-peal of Cooktown Orchid Delight Major was rung at Buxhall.

Tonight at the football. Tonight at the football

Neither Ruthie or me have got our ringing underway this month though, as instead we were at Ipswich Town's latest home match. This one was in the League Cup (romantically named the Carabao Cup after its current sponsors) and against a Premier League team, Fulham. Sadly, unlike our exciting victory against another Premier League team Wolves a few weeks ago, our opposition tonight was just too good for us and so that's the end of our participation in this competition for the 2023/24 season.

It meant missing Pettistree's weekly practice, but even in the absence of mother-in-law and Ufford Ringing Master Kate Eagle on this occasion we met other ringers this evening. Offton ringer Caroline Goodchild was working at the stadium and whilst Norwich ringer Simon Rudd was too late following a 1312 of Jovium Surprise Major he rang in on Ringing Room to join us for a pre-match pint, we did meet him at half-time.

Meanwhile, the footy is having an effect on arrangements for one of the Guild's biggest annual events, the Christmas ringing around Ipswich. Originally that was planned for Saturday 16th December, but with the big local derby with Norwich City at Portman Road having recently been moved and scheduled for 12.30pm on the same day, SGR Ringing Master Katharine Salter has rather sensibly announced that the ringing on the town's many bells is now slated for Saturday 23rd December. Do keep the morning and early afternoon of that day free as this has always been a really sociable event that gets one into the festive spirit! I'm sure more details will be available soon.

Hopefully the result of that match will be better for ITFC than tonight's, but despite this loss it was another lovely family outing, with all three boys enjoying it in their own way, although I think the younger two were very tired afterwards! If they aren't going to join us in ringing, at least for now we have this as something we can all do together.

God willing though, we'll get our November ringing going shortly too.

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Tuesday 31st October 2023

Following on from a busy evening yesterday, it was another one tonight. It was at least a one-off, as Ruthie and I reluctantly relented to Alfie and Josh's pleas to go out trick or treating. Neither of us are particularly keen on the OTT fashion that Halloween is now 'celebrated', but the associated activities of pumpkin picking and carving, and making of themed biscuits gave the boys something to do over half-term last week and they enjoyed themselves immensely as they were greeted with smiles and sweets as they both dressed up as Darth Vader and knocked on the doors of those decorated and clearly willing to take part in the occasion. Nonetheless, we were uncomfortable traipsing our local streets accompanying them and were relieved that after about half-an-hour they seemed pleased with their haul and we returned home.

Ufford.Even so, there wasn't much time left before I had to head out to run Ufford's weekly practice in usual Ringing Master Kate Eagle's absence tonight. I was pleased to make it too, as I guided a small but useful number of ringers boosted by the visit of Bredfield ringer Vince Buckman, with lots of Doubles and Minor rung, from Plain Bob to spliced.

Elsewhere in Suffolk before another Tuesday night practice, well done to Ben Keating on backing up his extraordinary drawing skills with some pretty good ringing skills as he rang his first quarter-peal of Bristol Surprise in the Major version of the method at Offton.

Another busy one for others as well as us on this spooky nigh

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Monday 30th October 2023

Following last week's cancellation of the practice, it was nice to be back at St Mary-le-Tower tonight and that things essentially picked up from where they were left, as Stedman Cinques and Cambridge Surprise Maximus were rung, along with opportunities nearer the beginning of their ringing progression on ten and twelve. There were good numbers, including the visits of Julian Colman and Mike Cowling, all after a rush around in search of pies between work and ringing whilst the boys had their swimming lessons. Monday nights have become just another busy night!

Others had been busy earlier in the day too, although it was a pity to hear that the peal attempt at Grundisburgh to celebrate Martin Kirk's eightieth birthday was lost due to a rope coming untucked. Still, pleasing that a quarter-peal was rung on the bells instead and then later after a visit to the pub, a 1312 of Kent Treble Bob Major was rung on handbells in nearby Hasketon. I hope you had a good birthday Martin.

We rounded our ringing off with a visit to a tavern as well (though not a handbell quarter!) as we retired to the Halberd Inn and sat round the well. It was nice to be back there too!

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Sunday 29th October 2023

St Peter Mancroft in Norwich late on this autumnal afternoon. Peals of Stedman Cinques are not two a penny. Even the best ringing in it can collapse without warning. A misscall, hesitation on the front or miscounting of dodges (especially if you are at the back when multiple bobs are called) can all scupper it surprisingly easily and quickly. Without the treble ringing a set pattern to reassuredly hang yourself off in times of trouble and calls coming more frequently than with Surprise Maximus methods, concentration is required for literally every blow. If you take your mind off it for even a couple of seconds you may find you've caused carnage! Therefore even the most experienced bands lose peals of this, as I found to my cost when I went to St Peter Mancroft in Norwich last November with a band put together by Roy Le Marechal featuring ringers like Richard Alton, Julia Cater and Tim Palmer.

I arrived for this afternoon's peal attempt of this famous principal at that same 37cwt twelve in Norfolk fully aware of the task ahead of us, even more so as it was for the Suffolk Guild with a band predominantly made up of ringers from within our borders and/or who regularly ring in our county, with the last peal of Stedman Cinques for the SGR (apart from the handbell one rung by a visiting band in Leiston to mark one hundred years since the Bailey brothers doing the same) rung in 2016. Colin Salter was even more aware as he was preparing to attempt calling his first peal of Stedman on any number.

Neither of us needed have worried though. Colin had smartly communicated with David Brown - one of the very best ringers in the world, who we are blessed to have in the region - about keeping an eye on things as a fallback and even more smartly chose to call the very same composition that David had called only last weekend at York Minster, but in the end he didn't need any help and nor did we. Indeed, after I'd made a mistake the first time I got to the front when concentrating more on striking then whether I was in quick or slow (thus failing to strike or stay right!), the next mistake didn't come until nearly three hours in and like my error was instantly self-corrected and the third and final trip didn't come until just before the end and was the only time anything needed to be said by anyone apart from Colin putting the calls in. As a result, the ringing was really good, consistently moving along for one of the quickest of Cinques here. Personally, I haven't enjoyed ringing in a peal quite as much as I did this for a long time.

I'm not convinced Ian Culham on the tenor felt quite the same though! There is a misconception that ringing behind is 'just' bonging at the back, but particularly on a heavy bell such as this one, that is far from the truth. You have to set a consistent rhythm for eleven others and unlike when pulling it in when you can regularly afford to cruise a little with the bell's momentum on the way down, you don't get that luxury when you are knocking behind. Effectively, you're doing lots of pulling to stay in the same place, but he put in an heroic effort to keep us going to the end of our 3 hours and 22 minutes of ringing.

He contributed significantly to the latest of the twelve-bell peals I have been organising this year for the Guild's centenary on the twelves of our county and within the boundaries of The Ely Diocesan Association and Norwich Diocesan Association, which once covered ringing in Suffolk, with the aim of each of them being to include a first. Colin's first of Stedman as conductor this afternoon joins James Smith's first of Cambridge Surprise Maximus as conductor at Cambridge in August, Hal Meakin's first of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus in the success at Grundisburgh in June, Amanda Richmond's first of Yorkshire Maximus as conductor at St Mary-le-Tower in April and Tom Scase, Nigel Gale, Julian Colman and Tim Hart's first of spliced Surprise Maximus in the 5042 at The Norman Tower in February. 'Only' Great Yarmouth to go...

For now though, we were all pleased to score our effort and most of us were glad that we had done our ringing for today. Not all of us had though, as Simon Smith stayed on to ring in a 1282 of Cambridge Surprise Royal that started pretty much straight after we finished, whilst David Brown returned after that to conduct an impressive 1344 of Bristol Surprise Maximus rung a Sunday service band, after he'd joined us in The Coach and Horses round the corner!

It was lovely to ring with everyone of course, but especially nice to ring with and socialise with the Phils Wilding and Moyse. The former is a regular in the advanced ringing scene at Great St Mary's in Cambridge - where James Croft and Phillip Orme from today's band rang in the 5040 of four Surprise Maximus methods spliced yesterday - and was once a regular at The Norman Tower, whilst the latter grew up in and learnt to ring at Reydon, before going on to greater ringing things down in Bristol. It was very kind of everyone to come out today.

And it was very kind of Mr Culham to give myself, Amanda and Stedman Cinques peal-conductor Colin a lift there and back on a day that began with me catching a train into Ipswich to meet up with my ride in Costa Coffee following morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower. Sadly there isn't any public transport early enough to get one from Melton to Sunday morning ringing here, but with Ruthie needing the car to get to church in Woodbridge with the boys, work for a Halloween party and Mason to and from work, it was the only way for me to get into the county town. Nice to hear that there were plenty at ringing though.

God willing, more peals of Stedman Cinques can help further support our ringing there on a Sunday morning.

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Saturday 28th October 2023

With Alfie's team not playing a match and Josh taking one look out of the window and deciding he didn't fancy football training, we had a rare Saturday lay-in this morning and that allowed me to indulge in some ringing reading.

As with every Saturday morning, I received an email from Ringing Forums with a snapshot of topics being discussed on this great site. On this occasion, the topic of ringing open days caught my attention. These can see dozens of towers open, often overlapping in timings and ringers trying to ring at as many as they can, sometimes all of them. They can get a bad press, with a perception of aggressive bands racing around and bad ringing, but I have quite fond memories of open days. I remember being taken round the odd one as a young ringer and remember them being quite thrilling and one of my first proper tests as a qualified driver was going round one in Worcestershire when I still lived in the West Midlands. Yes, there were elements of the organised bands rushing round, complete with 'getaway driver' outside in the car, engine still running. Standards of ringing could be varied because you often weren't ringing with the same people from one tower to the next, but I enjoyed not being entirely sure who I would meet next, what I might be asked to ring and exploring an area in a way that only ringing affords.

The thread on RF was begun back in May and was questioning if this aspect of the art was as successful. I haven't been on an open day for years, with finances, time and parenthood contributing to my lack of attendance on them over the last few years, which are touched upon in the thread as reasons for not so many going on them these days.

However, the subject was picked up again three or four weeks ago following an apparently very successful event held by the Winchester & Portsmouth Diocesan Guild. At the time, I recall photos of long queues and happy smiling faces and it appears that it raised an impressive £3,625 for the Ropley Bell Restoration, the Hampshire bells, tower and church gutted by a fire in 2014 and reopened last year, with the 15cwt six currently awaiting rehanging. When looking for fundraising ideas, it is worthwhile considering an open day in Suffolk.

With this week's edition of The Ringing World arriving as we enjoyed the more relaxed start to this Saturday, we were also able to take that in too, as well as the insert appealing for donations for The Loughborough Bellfoundry Trust. Although there wasn't anything directly related to ringing in our county (bar performances in the quarter and peal columns), I was intrigued by the CCCBR's new ringing history website. It is in its infancy at the moment, but could be a fascinating resource.

Briefly it all inspired me to consider joining the Army Guild's outing in Ipswich today after a request for support was put out, but with small children it is difficult to do such things (indeed most things!) on a whim. We listened out for them from Ipswich Town's stadium as they were ringing on the 10cwt six of St Matthew's just up Portman Road as the Tractor Boys' thrilling (another one!) 3-2 win over Plymouth Argyle got underway. We did meet ringers today, as although there was no mother-in-law Kate this afternoon, another ringer joined us in The Mermaid as my brother Chris popped up as we sat outside on another warm sunny afternoon for the time of year and as usual we enjoyed a pre-match drink with former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd, fresh from a session at the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre on a busier morning for him from a ringing perspective than us!

And elsewhere within our borders, other ringers were also busier than us with actual ringing, as four quarter-peals were rung on Suffolk's bells. Of those, the headline act was Brinley Wilkes' first QP in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles on the 7cwt ground-floor six rung from the round tower of Wissett. Congratulations Brinley! Meanwhile, well done to Andrea Alderton on her first of Cambridge-below method Darton Exercise Delight Minor in the 1296 at Great Finborough in another rung in memory of Rumburgh Tower Captain Ian Harris, whilst there were quarters of Yorkshire Surprise Major and Alnwick Surprise Minor at Buxhall and Woolpit respectively.

A busy day of Suffolk ringing to follow a relaxed morning for us!

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Friday 27th October 2023

Clopton.My unusual ringing week continued with a rare Friday afternoon session as I popped along to Clopton. This felt a little overdue on my part. Although there are elements of helping those at the start of their ringing progression, primarily I get to indulge a fair bit at St Mary-le-Tower and Pettistree's practices with stuff like Stedman & Surprise on ten and twelve at the former and much Surprise Minor and spliced at the latter. I regularly ring in striking competitions and this year I have been privileged to ring in six twelve-bell peals, albeit most of them have featured firsts for others. However, I don't feel I help enough at the 'grassroots' level.

A lot of that is down to time and primarily parenting young children who are currently not interested in taking up the art. If I'm not doing the above, I'm looking after the boys, spending time with Ruthie, going to football with them and of course working, which normally rules me out of the weekly practices at the aforementioned 11cwt six. Even if I happen to have a Friday off work, the 2.30-4pm running time goes straight across when the boys need picking up from their seat of learning. School holidays therefore offer my best opportunity.

Circumstances didn't play ball over the summer hols though. If we weren't on Ramblers, Ruthie was at work with the car, I was working or we were out getting our new vehicle, so I wasn't able to help then as I had hoped. Today, with my wife also off work and looking after Alfie, Josh and their cousins following a morning of helping them to carve pumpkins, I took my chance to meander along the B1079 and just past the ground-floor six of Burgh.

Once there, it was nice to see Phil & Sandy Jones, who I used to ring with at Sproughton and who are regulars here. Except, due to ill-health Phil hadn't rung for a while, until this afternoon. It was great to see him grabbing hold again.

In Clopton ringing chamber. In Clopton ringing chamber.

Great also to help in whatever little way I could with a very positive hour-and-a-half. David Stanford does a fantastic job here and has done since the bells were done up a decade ago. He has a number of learners at various stages of progression but manages them superbly in a fun atmosphere and today call-changes, Plain Hunt on Five and Plain Bob Doubles were rung, as well as some call-changes starting at reverse rounds! I hope more can come out to help, as this is such a lovely, easy-going six and whilst the afternoon timing makes it difficult for those working a Monday-Friday 9-5, it also means that it is perhaps a more appealing prospect to some as even after the clocks go back an hour as they are due to in the early hours of this Sunday, going to and leaving from here should mostly be done in daylight hours throughout the next few months. And as the smart ringing chamber is completely enclosed (at least when the grid in the centre of the floor is covered as it was on this occasion) and nicely carpeted, I imagine it can be a cosy place on a cold day, particularly with any more than seven or eight people up there!

Elsewhere in Suffolk there was other ringing too, with the FNQPC ringing a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Ashbocking joining a similar performance at Framlingham from yesterday, whilst north of the Norfolk border, Past Secretary of the Guild the Reverend Carl Melville was welcomed to his new benefice with a peal at one of his churches, Pulham Market, which was also the 1000th peal for Michael Clements. Michael has always been willing to help where he can, with quarters, peals and judging striking competitions, so I'm delighted he's reached this landmark.

This 13cwt eight is also one of the towers booked for the South-East District Outing planned for Saturday 4th November and if you would like lunch at The Black Swan in Homersfield then you will need to let organiser and SE Ringing Master Jenny Scase know by this Sunday. God willing there will be a good turnout for an event that is intended to kick-start a month of ringing activity in the SGR that is slated to include the North-West District ADM at Stowmarket on the same day, the North-East's at Reydon a week later, the South-West's at Hadleigh on the 25th and the Bungay 8-Bell Practice at Bungay on the evening of Monday 13th. Please do support what you can.

Meanwhile, there was good news from St Mary-le-Tower where we received the go-ahead to start ringing again after our brief break following 'Watergate'. Which will hopefully allow me to me to get back to a more unusual ringing week. Although I did enjoy my trip to Clopton this afternoon!

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Thursday 26th October 2023

Woodbridge Pumpkin Patch on a wet grey morning! Whisstocks where the view of St Mary's Woodbridge should be from the Tide Mill.

It was a day of two halves. The morning, with more rain, which of course we spent outside. This afternoon, which was bright and sunny and which we spent inside! Both made up a relaxed day out close to home though, to the Woodbridge Pumpkin Patch for the obvious first and then as conditions brightened up a trip to Ruthie's Gran before we visited the Tide Mill. It is a wonderful, interesting location that being so close is rarely taken in by us and indeed this was the first time we'd seen it with the wheel turning, including my wife who has lived in the town her whole life! It also frequently features on photographs by Mike Whitby, but whilst there was no sighting of that Mike today, we did bump into another ringing Mike, as Mr Cowling was also visiting with his wife and grandchildren ahead of us absorbing the fascinating three floors of this ancient local landmark. Although sadly the view of St Mary's where the 25cwt eight are hung is now blocked by the otherwise lovely Whisstocks development.

There was no ringing involved, as my wife later went choral practicing and there was nothing from Suffolk's bells on BellBoard. In either half of the day.

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Wednesday 25th October 2023

This week's ringing has been quite unusual.

Laura Davies getting a shower from ringing the eighth at St Mary-le-Tower on Sunday and the subsequent cancelling of Monday night's practice, a big crowd at Grundisburgh on the Sabbath and then this evening - following Alfie's football training being called off - both of us and the boys were able to attend Pettistree practice during this half-term in pretty decent time. Just in time to ring in and for me to call a 120 of  Plain Bob Doubles which was promptly cut short when the treble ringer let go of the rope and it wrapped itself round the guides.

Trying to release the treble rope at Pettistree from the guides! Trying to release the treble rope at Pettistree from the guides! Trying to release the treble rope at Pettistree from the guides! Trying to release the treble rope at Pettistree from the guides!
Trying to release the treble rope at Pettistree from the guides!

Mercifully the bell also rung itself down and so at this point the session was put on hold as it became a spectacle of Guild Chairman Mark Ogden trying to release the caught rope with a massive pole whilst Mary Garner pulled it from the clock room high above. Eventually the operation was successful and ringing could continue with its usual mix that included spliced.

Appropriately on the sixteenth anniversary of my first blog entry, it highlighted the unpredictable nature of life that I hope helps keep my meanderings vaguely interesting, which also includes Ipswich Town - the source of much disappointment throughout my contextual writings - doing so incredibly well, with the men's team's 1-0 win at Bristol City tonight maintaining their unexpected second-place position in the Championship.

Pettistree.There are many aspects of life that have been consistent throughout the blog to the present day though and ringing at the ground-floor six on a Wednesday has been one of them. This evening, the eclectic mix and decent sized attendance was preceded by a quarter-peal and followed by a drink in The Greyhound with the three people whose patience have been invaluable in the blog's continuation over the years - Ruthie of of course, Webmaster Chris Garner and his wife Mary. Thank you to them all.

Bures.Another constant since 25th October 2007 has been the Guild's peal-ringing, which I believe has long punched above its weight and showcased what the county's ringers are capable of and today saw the ninety-third peal of 2023 rung for the SGR as a 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Bures. There haven't been as many peals rung for the organisation by this date since 2014 as it continues its centenary year.

And so the blog notches another landmark. Sometimes I wonder why I'm still writing it, but from a personal perspective I still find it quite cathartic and it is clear that still quite a lot of ringers read it and not just those from within our borders or even direct links to ringing here. Many compliment it, which is incredibly humbling and the further we get from its beginnings the more I realise how much it records happenings, places and characters of ringing in the Guild that might not have been remembered so readily, alongside the news of the time and my own life, as mine and Ruthie's relationship has bloomed and our family grown, including Mason who was the subject of the blog's first few lines as the then nine-month old baby was in the midst of operations, casts and hospital appointments to rectify the club foot he was born with and who now has done his GCSEs, is at college and holding down a job he is enjoying. House-moves, new jobs, our wedding, pregnancies, parents evenings - they've all been recorded amongst our ringing too. Looking back - as I often do - one can find people who were about but for various reasons now aren't, the new rings of bells and some lost rings of bells all mainly on a local level, but also beyond our borders, as I feel it is important to highlight the almost limitless nature of our art in the friendships, what we can ring and where. Please do keep letting me know if you enjoy it but even more so if there's anything that you don't like, as my aim is not to be controversial or offensive.

God willing I can continue writing for a while more about ringing, unusual or otherwise.

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Tuesday 24th October 2023

Whilst Ruthie went into work, I was on another day of holiday as half-term continued. Another relaxed day of going with the flow that this time saw the boys and me visit Woodbridge Library before meeting our friend Gregory and his daughters - and our Goddaughters - Ava & Bea for refreshment in Two Magpies and then wandering to their house for a cuppa.

Ufford.We were reunited with my wife for a short while and then I was off to Ufford for the weekly practice where the highlight was Hollesley learner Margaret Weeks announcing that she'd like to try Plain Bob Minor inside before promptly ringing it twice, really well!

Offton.Elsewhere in Suffolk, another Tuesday night session was preceded as it usually is with a quarter-peal, as a 1428 of Plain Bob Triples was rung at Offton on a day that - for me at least - felt pretty relaxed.

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Monday 23rd October 2023

When the highlight of your day is getting to the rubbish tip, finding it has been rebuilt and then saying "ooo, this has been done up quite nicely", then you know its been a slow one!
Actually, to be truthful, that wasn't the main highlight of course, as it is the start of half-term and with both Ruthie and me off work, it was wonderful to spend so much time with the family on a day where there were no deadlines, apart from our appointment at the partially rebuilt, sleek Foxhall Road Recycling Centre.

The lack of a deadline continued into the evening as following yesterday's events there was no practice at St Mary-le-Tower tonight, but there was ringing action elsewhere in Suffolk as a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Doubles at Rumburgh was rung. Well done to Debbie Kingston and Sange Wilson on their achievements in that 1260, but I was sorry to hear of the passing of the Tower Captain at this lovely 7cwt ground-floor six Ian Harris. He was a lovely chap and an important part of ringing in that area and beyond, also taking on the role of Beccles Deanery Rep and representing the North-East District on the Recruitment & Training Committee. Our thoughts are with his family, especially his wife Pamela and son Jason.

Removing the bells at Fornham St Martin. (Taken by Neal Dodge). Removing the bells at Fornham St Martin. (Taken by Neal Dodge). Removing the bells at Fornham St Martin. (Taken by Neal Dodge). Removing the bells at Fornham St Martin. (Taken by Neal Dodge). Removing the bells at Fornham St Martin. (Taken by Neal Dodge). Removing the bells at Fornham St Martin. (Taken by Neal Dodge). Removing the bells at Fornham St Martin. (Taken by Neal Dodge).
Fornham St Martin
Images: Neal Dodge

There was also more ringing activity over the weekend, as the 6cwt six at Fornham St Martin were removed in anticipation to their rehanging and augmentation to eight, God willing being completed around about spring 2024. As is often the case at these historic removals, Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge was helping out and recording the occasion with lots of superb photos and it whets the appetite for what will hopefully be a successful return next year.

Our less than exciting day also allowed me to read CCCBR President Tina Stoecklin's latest blog entry from last week, which was in a recent copy of The Ringing World, but a subsequent edition arrived on Friday in amongst the carnage of that day and features a lovely report on the Durham University Society of Change Ringers' recent visit to the ten at Vernet-les-Bains and whose party included Woolpit ringers Astrid & Nigel Gale. And where I expect the highlights were greater than visiting a rubbish tip.

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Sunday 22nd October 2023

It was an unusual morning.

St Mary-le-Tower.One of the factors making it unusual was the welcome appearance of Laura Davies at St Mary-le-Tower. Laura is a superb ringer and great on big bells and so very useful for a band like ours, but it turned out a while ago that she is also a fantastic cyclist to the extent that she does lots of racing, which of course requires lots of travelling, dedication and time, leaving little opportunity for ringing.

Not that she got much ringing in today, as just before the boys and I arrived, she had pulled off the eighth and got a little bit wet as it transpired that the bell had filled with water, presumably on Friday! Not a soaking, but the children's toy box had been emptied of its contents and was being used to catch some of the wet stuff and when an inspection upstairs revealed more water and with electrics up there and uncertainty about what effect it might have had on the fittings, it was decided to err on the side of caution and ring the bells down to check them more closely. The result is that there will be no practice there on Monday.

Cardboard replica of Wolsey's Gate on the Cornhill in Ipswich today.It also meant an early finish, allowing some to get across Ipswich town centre to St Matthew's to help out and others - ourselves included - to get to Costa Coffee for refreshment and a proper catch-up with Laura, before we left to get to Grundisburgh. Except we then got distracted by the sight of a huge structure on the Cornhill in the distance, which looked like a solid stone building, although strangely tethered by ropes. As we got closer, it became obvious that the whole thing was constructed of cardboard and tape and is apparently a replica of Wolsey's Gate as part of the SPILL Festival.

Impressive as that was, we did drag ourselves away to get out to the county's lightest twelve via the still unusual sight of abandoned cars and down to the village green which just two days ago was a lake. Once at the bottom of the little wobbly red brick tower, we were met by an unusually large crowd with twelve present, albeit one of those is unable to ring currently due to a rib injury. That allowed us to ring call-changes on ten before we travelled back to Woodbridge via more vehicles left in the road to pick Ruthie up from church and round off quite an odd morning.

Our afternoon was less odd, although following on from the events of the previous forty-eight hours it felt strange to have such bright, sunny, warm, still weather that we were able to do some work in the garden, take the youngest boys to the park for more cycling focus and even sit outside The Coach and Horses for a drink.

Elsewhere, the conditions presumably made it easier for the band to get to Bury St Edmunds to ring a quarter-peal of Stedman Cinques at The Norman Tower, which is impressive, but I'm pleased to say is no longer unusual.

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Saturday 21st October 2023

It was another busy Saturday, but following yesterday, we had imagined that our plans for today would be cancelled. We had expected the pitch that Alfie's football team were playing on to be waterlogged and the ringing outing in north Suffolk to which we'd committed to be a victim to flooded roads and understandably reluctant participants. Even the birthday party at Felixstowe Leisure Centre that the boys had been invited to for the end of today might have been called off, we feared.

As it turned out, everything went ahead, although the aftermath of Storm Babet's effects on Friday made it all a lot more challenging than it would've been. Alfred and his peers played on a pretty decent surface in the end, with their heavy defeat in still fairly unpleasant conditions offset for our son as he got Player of the Match for his side after some pretty stunning safes in a busy game for him!

By this point, Ruthie had been very kindly collected for the ringing outing by South-East District and Guild Chairman Mark Ogden. The outing had been organised by former Pettistree ringer and now Norfolk resident Paul Norris in response to the frustrating lack of everyday Surprise Major opportunities available to many here and in Norfolk (as well as more widely it appears), with five eight-bell towers booked for the day.

Fressingfield. Horham.With the ringing at first tower Fressingfield running at the same time as AJM's footy fixture, I knew I had no chance of getting to this 17cwt ring, but I initially had hopes of getting to second octave of Horham, a tower I rang a peal at in my earlier days of ringing in 1996, but which I hadn't been to since a Guild of St Agatha outing twelve years ago. Mother-in-law Kate already had her granddaughters with her and therefore felt unable to go on today's outing and so she had generously offered to meet us after the game and have the boys too, which felt a nicer option for them rather than taking them around more churches in the still windy and wet weather. My intention then was to get to the 6cwt eight to ring, but already circumstances were conspiring against me...

Normally under-10's games are twenty-five minutes each half, but this morning's seemed to be half-an-hour each way. With stoppages for the odd injury and tying players' bootlaces (very common at this age!), I was already 15-20 minutes behind schedule, but with the most direct route to my intended destination taking me through some of the worst effected places in the county from Storm Babet, my journey was more convoluted than I had hoped as I zig-zagged around those communities. Even so, the lanes and roads of our rural county were still straining under the weight of what happened twenty-four hours ago. There remained a lot of standing water and I had to turn back on one highway where I was met with a lake where the road normally is, whilst the dozens of vehicles left abandoned (some with hazard lights still flashing) was almost apocalyptic. Eventually I made it to the White Hart in Stradbroke where we were booked in for lunch, by which time ringing at Horham was being wrapped up and so I cut my losses and waited at the pub with my Mum Sally who had been unable to find a way to the last tower of the morning.

Wilby. Ringing at Wilby.

Reunited with my wife, I enjoyed my food at the type of tavern that I love, full of character and with basic but nice food at an affordable price before we continued onto Wilby, another tower where I have rung a peal - three in fact, in 1995, 2007 and 2014 - and one of my favourite eights within our borders, certainly from a sound perspective. However, they aren't rung regularly as far as I know and were hard work this afternoon. Nonetheless, I was impressed with our efforts here, with Bristol, Superlative and Yorkshire rung on this 15cwt ring of bells, but it was the only tower I had time to ring at today. And as it transpired, I barely had time for that!

For the party the boys were going to was still on. In theory, I had plenty of time to get from the small village on the B1118 to Felixstowe, but the problems that presented themselves on the way up did the same on the way back, meaning lots of diverting and being stuck behind understandably cautious traffic. Then I had to pick the boys up from their Granny's, but a misunderstanding led to me going to Ufford where Kate had been welcoming a visiting band when in fact she was back at home!

Laxfield. Halesworth.It all meant that we were a little late for the festivities, but there was still time for the boys to get plenty of swimming in before the singing of 'Happy Birthday' and collection of party bags and then returning home to meet up with their mother again, who had enjoyed her full day of ringing that had also taken in the new eight at Laxfield and then the ground-floor ring of Halesworth. Paul was unfortunate with dropouts including some today who were unsurprisingly anxious at travelling out into the flooded countryside, but it sounds like he succeeded with his aim of providing plenty of Surprise Major focus, with London also attempted. Nice also to catch up with Past Ringing Master of the Norwich Diocesan Association Dawn Pullan and Bardwell Ringing Master Ruth Suggett.

Meanwhile it was impressive to see a quarter-peal and a peal rung on 'our' soil in difficult circumstances, especially the former which was rung in one of the worst effected places yesterday, Debenham. It was a very special one too, as it celebrated seventy years since Diana Pipe rang her first peal, rung on this 21cwt eight in the same method in 1953. The latter was special too, a 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Cavendish rung in thanksgiving for the life of former tower captain of this 11cwt six Michael Pizzey, who was also a loyal supporter of Sunday ringing at nearby Clare.

I'm relieved that all these plans could go ahead and we could still have another busy Saturday!

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Friday 20th October 2023

If I'm honest, I spent much of yesterday wondering what the fuss about Storm Babet was. The autumn sun shone brightly, the wind was pretty much a strong breeze and the storm itself actually seemed to be doing its very worst in Scotland, where there were some terrible tales of destruction and sadly death. We'd been warned that things would be worse here today, but I'm not sure many of us were prepared for what was unleashed upon Suffolk on this October Friday...

Wind and heavy, constant rain battered us all day. And I mean literally all day. Throughout daylight hours, we watched on in horror as news came in of flooded roads all over the county. Debenham and Framlingham were particularly badly hit, with some pupils at the former's high school apparently due to have to stop overnight because they were unable to get home and at the latter's students were evacuated, whilst in the town itself the car park next to the famous and usually tranquil mere in front of the castle flooded to the extent that the roofs of cars parked in there were only just visible. Social media was awash (no pun intended) with reports from friends trying to get home from work and houses being flooded. Further up north, Ipswich Town's match at Rotherham United was postponed frustratingly close to kick-off considering how obviously bad the conditions were from an early stage, with lots of Town fans already on route in the dangerous weather and some even outside the stadium. Although perhaps mercifully quite a few supporters due to travel up on coaches supplied by the club wouldn't have made it anyway as those coaches couldn't get to Portman Road to pick them up.

With the fixture intended for live broadcast  on television, that also put paid to our plans to go to Ruthie's sisters to watch it and so in the end it was a sensibly quiet night in at home for us and that understandably seemed to be the case for other ringers within our borders with nothing noted on BellBoard from Suffolk's bells. Indeed, with the worst of the storm in the east and north of the UK, it was interesting to note how little was recorded as happening in those areas on BB.

I definitely know what the fuss was about now.

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Thursday 19th October 2023

An email from Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter reminds members that we are due to enter ADM season, starting in the North-West District who are planning on holding theirs on the new ten of Stowmarket on Saturday 4th November. Note the very unusual date for a NW event! A week later the North-East District hope to hold theirs at Reydon and a fortnight after that it is intended for Hadleigh to host the South-West District's, before the South-East are due to hold theirs seven days after that on Saturday 2nd December at Tuddenham St Martin and Rushmere St Andrew. It isn't just a reminder to keep the dates free if you can, but also to encourage people to consider filling any vacancies that come up. For the Guild and its Districts to work at their best, we need officers and as Katharine quite rightly points out it doesn't matter what stage of your ringing you are at, you could still help out. Please do consider taking a role on - it needn't be as time-consuming as you might fear, but it would help a lot!

A reminder that if you don't get these emails through the Guild and you would like to, then contact Chris Garner the Webmaster. Your email address wouldn't be shared with anyone else and you would only receive emails deemed appropriate for you.

Rushmere St Andrew.Meanwhile, Happy 60th Birthday to Rushmere St Andrews Ringing Master Paul Sharples, who celebrated his significant landmark with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at his home tower, which also saw his daughter Jo conducting a quarter-peal for the first time. Well done Jo! Paul has always been most obliging when I've asked for the 9cwt six and is a useful ringer too who has done much to help ringing in the local area, so I hope he enjoyed his big day.

We also enjoyed today, although not for ringing, as not unusually we didn't do any. Instead, we were chuffed with Alfie and Josh following their latest parents evening whilst Granny Kate very kindly looked after them. Amongst their achievements their teachers imparted how impressed they were with their hard work, which we pray will hold them in good stead in the future.

With that and Ruthie's choral practicing, it didn't leave any time for ringing, but hopefully events like the ADMs might offer opportunity for us and others to do more in the coming weeks.

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Wednesday 18th October 2023

Storm Babet began today, apparently the start of three days of high winds and lots of rain (albeit I don't think we are expected to get the worst of it) and it really got going as I stood next to a football pitch, under an umbrella a fellow parent was very kindly sharing with me, watching Alfie at his football training as he got an absolute drenching.

Pettistree.Once home, he went straight for a nice hot bath, but I was back out again on roads covered with puddles increasing in size as I went on my way to Pettistree's weekly practice, reminded on nights like this how fortunate we are that ringing is usually done indoors. The conditions outside were dreadful, which probably explained the lower than normal attendance, but the session at this ground-floor six was definitely worth the journey as in addition to helping John Horsnell's progression on the treble to Plain Bob Doubles, much Surprise Minor was rung, with Bourne and Westminster amongst the repertoire rung on their own, as well as in spliced with a touch of spliced Doubles & Minor also rung, whilst I trebled to some Kent Treble Bob Minor. All following on from a quarter-peal of Wearmouth Surprise Minor very kindly dedicated to my recent birthday. Thank you guys!

Horringer QP Band.That wasn't the only QP rung in Suffolk today though, as Maurice Rose completed his eightieth birthday challenge with a 1280 of Bristol Surprise Major at Horringer and I daresay a pub might have been visited afterwards, as it certainly was after the ringing I did. Not only did a visit to The Greyhound make travelling out in such weather even more worthwhile, it also looked incredibly inviting with candlelight welcoming us into the warm character-laden ancient building and a number of us obliged by entering for a drink where Hilary Stearn was busy orgsanising again and the assembled crowd bemoaned signs that warn of road closures, before we all left to battle Storm Babet once more.

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Tuesday 17th October 2023

Ufford.Hilary Stearn is to be congratulated on a number of levels following this evening's 1250 of Yorkshire at Ufford.

Primarily on ringing her first quarter-peal of Surprise Major. Secondly, doing it against a backdrop of a Surprise Major desert locally and more widely, at least in everyday ringing. Thirdly, being proactive and arranging her own opportunities on the back of booking herself into the Surprise Major course at the Bradfield Ringing Course recently. And fourthly on ringing it so well.

Indeed, the entire band rang well with a number of others having not rung Surprise Major regularly since the pandemic interrupted established sessions and got many out of the habit and out of practice. I think in part the brisk pace helped, allowing it to flow and making it easier to strike than if it was slow and ponderous. Certainly I had that in mind as I set off on the tenor, but I have to admit that I was also mindful that England's men's football team's latest match was kicking-off as we were ringing. It was a fairly important one too as they could qualify for Euro24 due to be held next summer and especially as the Great British Bake Off had been moved to tomorrow to accommodate the footy, I imagined that Ruthie would probably be keener than me to go out this evening. However, my wife had had a pretty exhausting day, as could be expected looking after lots of small children and so it was I who was called upon to represent us. I wasn't reluctant to ring at all, but I was anxious not to miss any more of the big match than necessary. And in the end I really rather enjoyed the QP, whilst still getting back home in time to watch the second half of the Three Lions' 3-1 victory over Italy to confirm their qualification for next year's tournament in Germany.

Ours wasn't the only quarter rung in Suffolk tonight either, as the practice at Offton was preceded with a 1344 of Plain Bob Triples which was J P Lodge's first on eight on a working bell. Well done J P Lodge and well done Hilary, on so many levels.

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Monday 16th October 2023

St Mary-le-Tower.We were short on numbers at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening.

As ever, that opened doors for further opportunity for those near the beginning of their life in ringing. I think Plain Hunt on Eleven from the tenth was a bit of a shock to the system for George, but he did really well trebling to Grandsire Cinques, whilst it was also another useful session for Rosemary and Sonia. And there were still enough for some Cambridge Surprise Royal that Abby Antrobus rang assuredly despite her protestations that she'd learnt Yorkshire instead and we rounded the ringing off with a very well-rung touch of Stedman Triples on the back eight before we retired to the Halberd Inn. Where we didn't seem so short on numbers.

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Sunday 15th October 2023

My father Alan used to say that birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

Therefore I try to celebrate each anniversary of my birth on 15th October with an increased appreciation and gratitude. Not just on surviving another year, but for all that extra year has given me, especially in ringing and with friends and family. Today I was able to enjoy all of those aspects.

The ringing came at Woodbridge, where our efforts were very kindly dedicated to my birthday and came before the boys and I attended the morning worship afterwards. Presumably 'someone' in the choir had been talking as various choral colleagues of my wife approached me to wish me a "Happy 104th Birthday..."

That was all the ringing I managed today, with the rest of the day focused on family. My Mum Sally and brother Chris called and we were visited by Ruthie's family as her sister Clare and other half Chris popped round and then the boys' Granny Kate and Grandad Ron called by.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, well done to Andrea Alderton, Stephen Dawson and Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge on ringing their first quarter-peal of Wimborne Minster Bob Minor in the 1260 at Barrow, whilst there was also a 1295 of Erin Caters at St Mary-le-Tower, but I was busy being treated, from a cup of tea (one of three made by Ruthie today!) to numerous presents (Ipswich Town and beer featured prominently!) and a cake made by my wife. Thank you to my family for a lovely day and to everyone who sent wishes and cards, as well as to the Woodbridge ringers for that footnote.

Me with a birthday pint in The Dog at Grundisburgh.

Disappointment only came in the form of The Turks Head in Hasketon being closed when we popped over for a drink an hour and a half before it's website said it was closing, but that was overcome by continuing on to The Dog in nearby Grundisburgh where I had a very pleasant pint with Mrs Munnings and the boys.

I pray I have many more of these, as they seem good for me in lots of ways!

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Saturday 14th October 2023

We have got used to busy Saturdays, but this one was largely unplanned.

Grundisburgh.A football match for Alfie was planned, as he kept a clean sheet in a big victory for his team, which just left us enough time to grab a quick bit of lunch at home before heading to Grundisburgh to ring for the wedding of Rachael and Terry, which of course was also planned. £25 (transferred straight to our bank account rather than cash in hand as is increasingly the norm these days), a course of Cambridge Surprise Minor, some Plain Bob Minor and rounds and call changes either side of a not unusually lengthy ceremony later and we were leaving as the new husband & wife and their guests were on the pretty village green having a photo taken by a drone up above.

At this point we had previously expected to have a free afternoon and so had intended to visit my Aunty Marian, but mother-in-law Kate needed to get off on an unexpected work matter and so could no longer let a visiting band in at Pettistree. Therefore with Ruthie being the helpful daughter she always is, we took the keys and headed back to our abode again for what we thought would be an oasis of rest in what was becoming an increasingly hectic day. Enough time for a cup of tea even. Until Ruthie realised she had left her phone in the little wobbly red-brick tower. With Jo Crowe very kindly agreeing to immediately return to the county's lightest twelve to let my wife in, we travelled back there, Mrs Munnings still clutching her cuppa and retrieved the device with much relief.

However, it meant we then needed to drive straight from there to the ground-floor six to gladly carry out Mrs Eagle's duties and let the visitors in, who it transpired were the Bramford ringers on a mini-outing taking in Wickham Market beforehand and then Hasketon for ringing and a meal at The Turks Head afterwards. It was fantastic to see this still new band throwing themselves into all the art offers, having also entered a team into the South-East District Striking Competitions at Barham earlier in the year.

Birthday celebrations on the Bradford outing at Pettistree. Birthday celebrations on the Bradford outing at Pettistree.

They also brought out cake for the birthday of St Matthew's ringer Matt along with a rendition of the usual song on these occasions, but I couldn't stick around long enough to enjoy that as I headed off solo to visit Aunty Marian. As many will know, she is my Dad Alan's sister and a former ringer herself and so she continues to take a keen interest in the exercise and indeed the subject came up in conversation during my fifty-minute visit before I was reunited with the rest of my family at home and finally settled down for an evening in.

Stradbroke.We weren't the only busy ringers within our borders though, with a College Youths band ringing a peal of Cambridge Surprise Royal at Stradbroke with Suffolk ringers Phillip Orme and Colin Salter in the band. Which I imagine was entirely planned on this busy Saturday.

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Friday 13th October 2023

Hinderclay.Congratulations to David Carter on ringing his 900th quarter-peal when pulling in the tenor to the 1440 of Kent & Oxford Treble Bob Minor at Hinderclay on a day when Pettistree Ringing Master Mike Whitby was busy peal-ringing in Norfolk with one at Upper Sheringham and one at Wighton.

It was all far more active in the exercise than we were today, as instead our efforts were focused on work, meeting our friend Matt and going out for a meal at our local The Coach and Horses, whilst Ruthie's mother and Ufford Ringing Master Kate looked after the boys whilst they watched what was apparently a pretty dull match on the TV involving England's male footballers and Australia.

Thank you to David for being more interesting than the football therefore!

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Thursday 12th October 2023

Well done to Andrea Alderton on ringing her first quarter-peal of Surprise Major in the 1280 of Cambridge rung on the 8cwt ground-floor eight of Horringer today.

Andrea's ringing endeavours and those of her fellow quarter-pealers were greater than ours, with Ruthie's focus on singing leaving no opportunity for ringing for us.

Hintlesham. Elmsett. Kersey.

I did get the chance to read the draft minutes of the Belfry Advisory Committee meeting recently held at Hintlesham where it is worth mentioning that another ringing vicar has taken on a role, as the Reverend Geoffrey Clement has returned from Oxfordshire to become vicar at the 9cwt six, along with the 3cwt five at Elmsett, 14cwt eight at Kersey and the one-bell towers of Aldham and Chattisham. Welcome back Geoffrey, who was very kind to me at a difficult time, but is also a good ringer.

Although not exciting on the face of it, the minutes of the BAC meetings can give a fascinating insight into the ongoing projects and often make the first mention in the public domain of jobs that God willing will shape the future of ringing within our borders. These minutes highlight work at various stages in Suffolk. They report that Stowmarket's newly augmented ten are now up and running and that the planned augmentation of Fornham St Martin to eight is starting imminently and indeed will probably have begun by the time you read this. The scheme to restore and augment Hoxne's five is "progressing", whilst the five of Westhorpe are apparently at Taylors in Loughborough for assessment for a similar project. Meanwhile, a new frame is planned for the six at Copdock now rung from a gallery after years being rung from the ground-floor, active fundraising is seemingly taking place at Drinkstone and discussion and consideration are being given to potentially rehanging Blaxhall's anti-clockwise six and turning Felsham's current six into an eight, whilst it looks like the installation of a ten at Combs could be on the cards again, although this has been an on-off project for various reasons ever since it was mooted some years ago.

Of most interest to me though, was the mention of floor strengthening at Framsden. It may sound incredibly mundane, but it would allow all eight bells to be rung again at a place where it has only been possible to ring the back six and was the scene of much advanced ringing once upon a time. Since I rang my one and only peal there in 1994, I have only been back once to ring for a wedding there in 2005, with this wonderful village synonymous with the farming and ringing heritage of Suffolk now merely somewhere we pass through on the way to elsewhere, especially with the closure of the lovely Dobermann Inn. Perhaps the strengthened floor and the ability to ring all eight will attract more ringers to this 16cwt ring and in turn help the community get their pub open again!

And perhaps it will open the door to more achievements like Andrea's.

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Wednesday 11th October 2023

Further to the invite in The Ringing World recently for ringers to give their views on the possibility of renaming the methods and variations named after Julie McDonnell, Central Council President Tina Stoecklin has also now outlined the situation on the CCCBR's website. I don't know if the penultimate paragraph suggests that the most likely outcome is that the methods will be renamed, but if you were one of the many Suffolk ringers who took part in performances of one of the methods or variations and you feel strongly about what should or shouldn't happen next, then like Tina I would encourage you to email methods@cccbr.org.uk.

Pettistree. Elveden. Horringer.

Seven quarter-peals were rung in methods named after Julie McDonnell at Pettistree alone, but there was no quarter of anything on the ground-floor six this evening as the pre-practice attempt was unusually lost. However, once I'd returned from football practice with Alfie, Ruthie went along to the session that followed and was able to report upon a productive night topped off with a drink in The Greyhound, whilst elsewhere in the county the QP at Elveden was more successful and at Horringer another peal was rung of the non-too-easy Suffolk Surprise Major.

Which I'm glad to say shouldn't need renaming anytime soon.

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Tuesday 10th October 2023

Ufford. Earl Stonham. Earl Soham.

We were short at Ufford's weekly practice this evening due to meetings and parenthood and so we only had enough to ring six, but it was still a productive session for Hollesley learners Daniel and Margaret, with trebling to Doubles (including a nice little touch of spliced) and Minor for the former and affected 120s of Plain Bob Doubles inside and trebling to Cambridge Surprise Minor for the latter. Entertaining too, as one of those present recounted how they ended up at Earl Stonham rather than Earl Soham for Saturday's South-East District Practice and lovely to get word of the engagement of St Mary-le-Tower ringers Lucy Williamson and George Heath-Collins whilst I was out!

Meanwhile, I missed that yesterday there was a handbell quarter-peal rung in Bury St Edmunds and this evening the practice at Offton was preceded as it usually is with a QP, which on this occasion was a 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Major. They don't appear to have been short!

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Monday 9th October 2023

St Mary-le-Tower.I came away with two birthday cards from St Mary-le-Tower this evening, very kindly given to me in anticipation of the not particularly significant anniversary of my birth that God willing I'll celebrate on Sunday, but it was also a very satisfying and productive practice that included touches of Stedman Cinques and - as we continue our preparation for our hoped-for entry to the 2024 National 12-bell Striking Contest - Cambridge Surprise Maximus, both with a half-course, but also ringing the first lead over and over. In striking competitions, the start can be so important and this was a useful exercise towards focusing on that and it also meant that people only have to 'worry' about one lead rather than thinking about what follows and thus can concentrate more on the striking.

Meanwhile, it was nice to hear there was ringing representation at the church of St Thomas the Apostle & Martyr in Ipswich for a memorial service for former St Matthew and Bramford ringer Rose Godfrey who sadly died recently. She was a dedicated local ringer from strong Suffolk ringing stock and a lovely lady who was always cheerful when I saw her, so I was sorry to hear of her passing. RIP Rose.

My mother Sally was one of those who attended and was able to tell me more on a night that as usual ended up in the Halberd Inn for another convivial drink. Hopefully I can enjoy a convivial drink on Sunday too.

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Sunday 8th October 2023

The weather at the moment is both balmy and barmy, certainly for more than a week into October. Indeed, if we'd had sunshine and temperatures like this at any point over the summer we would've been delighted, so we tried to enjoy it this afternoon with a trip to the park. A rather momentous trip to the park as it happens, as it was the first time that Josh managed to ride a bike unaided for any significant distance. Well done Josh!

Well done also to Sheila Baker on her first service ringing, done at Little Cornard with the pleasingly active band there.

That ringing was noted on BellBoard, along with other ringing in the county, such as the peal at Aldeburgh, which was Mark Ogden and conductor Alan Mayle's fiftieth together, whilst the 5056 of Pudsey-above method Kimberley Surprise Major completed the Surprise Major alphabet for Suffolk Guild Chairman Mark to peals, meaning he has rung a peal of Surprise Major to methods beginning in each letter, from A for Ambridge and Amsterdam to Z for Zelah, Zerere and Zurich in Mr Ogden's case. Congratulations Mark and Alan.

Meanwhile, the quarter-peal of April Day Doubles at Heveningham was a first in the variation for all the band, so well done to Judith Raven, Erika Clarke, Sal Jenkinson, conductor Philip Gorrod and Jonathan Iles, whilst there was a 1295 of Grandsire Caters at The Norman Tower.

The reinstated view from Grundisburgh's ringing chamber through the new window.Additionally, the ringing for morning worship at Woodbridge features on BB too, but as you can see I wasn't involved as this week I was at St Mary-le-Tower before refreshment at Costa Coffee and then helping out at Grundisburgh where I was able to appreciate the lovely view out of the reinstated ringing chamber window there.

And what a lovely day to appreciate it too!

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Saturday 7th October 2023

This week's edition of The Ringing World arrived this morning, with a wonderfully different front cover, minutes from the Central Council AGM held in Ipswich just over a month ago and an amusing letter from Clopton Ringing Master David Stanford comparing the process of Yellowyoyo working to understand 'Ringing 2030' with the mockumentaries Twenty Twelve and W1A! Fortunately it reached us early, as that was just about the only opportunity we had to read it today.

For almost as soon as I put the journal down, we set in motion a series of events that would take pretty much the entirety of this unseasonably warm October Saturday. First up was getting the boys breakfasted and readied in time to take Josh to football training and once that was finished we returned home for me to immediately swap sons and take Alfie to Cineworld in Ipswich for the birthday party of one of his classmates.

Leaving him there, I just had enough time to replenish the car's fuel supply and get home before the rest of our household went back into the county town with Ruthie's mother Kate and sister's other half Chris to The Mermaid for a spot of lunch and drink prior to the afternoon's entertainment. The morning already gone with barely a moment to stop, you might understand why we couldn't be at the South-East District Practice at Earl Soham, despite my attempts to figure out how we might be able to support it even if just for one ring! Hopefully they got a big turnout and were as successful as the three quarter-peals rung in the county today. Especially Sharon Burman who rang her first QP in the 1320 of Doubles at Woolpit. Congratulations Sharon! And well done to John Ramsbottom on ringing his first of Kent Treble Bob Minor in the success at the church of St Genevieve on the estate of Euston Hall, whilst there was also a 1260 rung on the anti-clockwise six at Pakenham.

As disappointed as we were to miss out on ringing, we were still having fun, enjoying Josh giving the thumbs down to a couple of away fans outside the pub, but we were soon on the move again as my wife had to race off to collect Alfred from his party which had finished early and we then walked to the Fanzone at Portman Road to meet them with the thousands of others there, which included my brother and Norman Tower ringer Chris, although not former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd, who had told us he wouldn't be present today as he'd committed to a Suffolk Guild peal attempt at Towcester in Northamptonshire this morning. Imagine our surprise then when he suddenly appeared behind us at half-time, the attempt sadly lost but enabling him to just about make kick-off!

Either side of our unexpected meet-up with St Peter Mancroft Norwich's Ringing Master, we watched yet another exciting match, with yet another win for the Tractor Boys, this time against Preston North End, all in a now typically raucous and noisy atmosphere in the packed out stadium.

It was exhilarating, but exhausting and I have to admit we could've done with a few minutes to sit down and catch our breath, but there was no time for that as we returned to our abode only to leave immediately to drop Mason off at his mother's and take his younger brothers to another birthday party, which on this occasion was at Play2Day in Martlesham.

Eventually we returned home and finally got the boys to bed and sat back with a glass of wine, about fourteen hours after that distant memory of reading this week's edition of The Ringing World. Phew!

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Friday 6th October 2023

A quiet day from a ringing perspective, internationally, nationally, locally and in our household.

Tostock.Apart from some partial participation in online ringing, the only performance noted on BellBoard from overseas was a quarter-peal in Ireland, featuring Matthew Higby and The Ringing World editor Will Bosworth. Across the UK and beyond, just one peal was recorded, in Bristol, where former Reydon ringer Philip Moyse was among those circling the eight at the Cathedral with the 5024 of Cambridge Surprise Major. Here in Suffolk, 'all' that was mentioned on BB was a 1296 of Peveril Delight Minor at Tostock which was a first in the method for all the band - well done to Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge, Andrea Alderton, North-West District Ringing Master Maureen Gardiner, Stephen Dawson, David Howe and conductor Lesley Steed!

Meanwhile, we were doing no ringing. Indeed, I wasn't doing much at all, as I relaxed at home childsitting whilst Ruthie went out to Papa Panda in Ipswich for a meal with work colleagues this evening.

There have been more exciting days from a ringing perspective, internationally, nationally, locally and in our household.

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Thursday 5th October 2023

Happy Birthday to mother-in-law, Ufford Ringing Master and Past Ringing Master of the South-East District Kate Eagle.

The occasion was marked yesterday with the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree, but we as a family celebrated it after work today, as she very kindly invited us, her daughter Clare and her other half Chris, the boys' Grandad Ron and her grandchildren to hers for tea and plenty of cake. Although our participation in the dancing the children were doing was minimal!

Rougham. Redgrave. Ixworth.

Meanwhile a trio of QPs were rung elsewhere in Suffolk. One was rung at Rougham for the Service of Installation of the benefice's new Rector Reverend Canon Julia Lall and the recent eightieth birthday of the Tower Captain there Maurice Rose, whilst another was at Redgrave and was a first of Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place Doubles for Catherine Harrison and the third was a 1280 of Cornwall Surprise Major at Ixworth which was a first in the method for Deborah Blumfield, Clare Veal and Neal Dodge. Well done Catherine, Deborah, Clare and Neal!

And Happy Birthday Kate.

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Wednesday 4th October 2023

Those at Pettistree practice this evening. (Taken by Mike Whitby).It was Ruthie's opportunity to go out tonight as she joined her mother Kate in going to Pettistree's weekly practice. It was a busy one judging by the photos that later appeared on Facebook and my wife certainly enjoyed it. Even more so for being able to have a drink in The Greyhound this time, along a big crowd of ringers, which is as it should be if possible. Always nice for ringers to support the community which we need support from.

Earlier, a quarter-peal was rung on this ground-floor six as it usually is before the Wednesday session and also as usual it wasn't practical for us to ring in it as we attended Alfie's football training, but it wasn't the only QP rung in the county today, as a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles was rung at Otley and a 1312 of Yorkshire Surprise Major celebrated Ruth Young's seventieth birthday. Happy Birthday Ruth!

I'm glad that she and others also got the opportunity to go out!

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Tuesday 3rd October 2023

Another football Tuesday rather than a ringing one, although as usual it involved ringers.

Ufford Ringing Master Kate Eagle was responsible for taking us into Ipswich and to The Mermaid. And whilst there was no Ruthie as she stayed at home with Alfie and Joshua with late nights watching football two weeks running deemed too much for the latter in particular, my brother and Norman Tower ringer Chris joined Mason and me in meeting former St Mary-le-Tower ringer Simon Rudd in having a drink in the Fanzone before we all watched another impressive Ipswich Town victory also memorable for Ed Sheeran pulling pints and joining the players in the dressing room afterwards for a singalong. But not a ringalong.

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Monday 2nd October 2023

Sat outside St Mary-le-Tower this evening.Only a few weeks ago, I sat on a bench in the churchyard at St Mary-le-Tower when I arrived for the Monday night practice listening to the piece that I was waiting to finish before I climbed the stairs to the famous ringing chamber and took a photo. It was dry and light. This evening, at about the same time, I did the same from the same bench and on this occasion it was wet and dark. Tis the reassuring cycle of the year.

The session that I joined afterwards was a productive one for all the abilities present, from call-changes on twelve and Grandsire Caters to Stedman Cinques and Cambridge Surprise Maximus, a method we hope to get very used to ringing in the coming months, helped along the way by the visit of former local here and now of York, Tina Sanderson.

Earlier in the day, well done to Ollie Watson on ringing his first peal on handbells in the 5008 of Plain Bob Major rung in Bacton for the Norwich Diocesan Association and whilst I can't speak for how that band celebrated afterwards, I know that we finished our night's ringing with refreshment round the well inside the Halberd Inn, rather than outside in the beer garden as we were doing only a few weeks ago.

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Sunday 1st October 2023

That moment when you realise you should be somewhere else is a dreadful one. Even more so when there is no chance of getting there and you're letting eleven others down. Therefore, when it dawned on Ruthie and me at 12.40pm today that we were supposed to be in Bury St Edmunds at 12.45pm for one of us to ring in a quarter-peal attempt of Bristol Surprise Maximus at The Norman Tower, we were mortified.

The Norman Tower.In our defence, it wasn't that we had forgotten about it, it's just that we had assumed that the ringing would be at the same time as all the other ringing we've ever done at The Norman Tower on a Sunday afternoon, for 3.30pm evensong. Indeed, it was as we were checking emails on the way home from church at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge on our way home to prepare to leave for the QP that my wife noticed the timings with a gasp and a remarkable restraint in her language with the boys in the back of the car!

However, we couldn't escape that it was a massive faux pas on our part and we instantly pulled over and called the organiser Julian Colman, who to be fair to him couldn't have done much more to get the information across to everyone, even sending a follow-up email this morning about parking with the meet time in the heading! At this point, things got better though, as Jadd Virji had travelled over from Cambridge as a reserve for another member of the band (tempting as it is to suggest there are hoards of Bristol Max ringers wandering the streets of Bury St Edmunds waiting to be called upon!) and so the mess we'd created was sorted very quickly and a 1344 was successfully rung. Well done to Clare Veal and Julian on ringing their first in the method!

Relieved as we were that our incompetence hadn't changed the intended outcome, it was still a pity. Ruthie had been eagerly awaiting a rare opportunity to ring some Bristol Max and I had been looking forward to wandering this lovely town with the boys, as well as catching up with Cecilia and David Pipe along with others that we see more regularly, some as recently as yesterday. Additionally, with a practice at St Mary-le-Tower at 4.30pm, whilst the later time we thought we were ringing at would've meant that socialising would've been brief, we were disappointed that our lack of awareness had deprived us of chatting with friends in a leisurely fashion at a pub if we'd turned up at the correct hour.

On the plus side, the extra time allowed us to undertake some mundane but necessary tasks at home and still make that aforementioned practice in Ipswich on time and where we were able to apologise to the remarkably gracious and understanding Mr Colman in person. This time the focus was Cambridge Surprise Maximus, as we turn our attentions to the 2024 National 12-bell Striking Contest, which we intend to enter, with the plan being that the test piece is half a course of this method. As with when we began preparing for our successful 2022 entry a couple of years ago, initially we are looking to get people used to ringing it and making sure they are as familiar as possible with the method. Unlike in the autumn of 2021 when we were just coming out of pandemic restrictions and needed to get up to speed on twelve-bell ringing generally, that shouldn't require as many practices as the almost weekly sessions we had then, but of course it will take a certain degree of dedication if we are going to give it our best shot and so this hour-and-a-half (with the help of visiting Essex ringer Ben Steed) was useful, even if at the moment the ringing wouldn't necessarily be very competitive. Then again, it started that way two years ago and it turned out alright!

Earlier I had been ringing at Woodbridge before the Harvest service that we attended, with the boys making pizzas and even being invited to the front to make sandwiches whilst their mother sang in the choir and the ringing that we did (and didn't!) do wasn't the only in Suffolk of course. Well done to Keith Dennis on ringing his first of Grandsire Triples in the 1260 at Halesworth and get well soon Veronica Downing. And very well done to Eleanor Waller on ringing her first quarter-peal and to Chris Ward on his first for fifty years in the Plain Bob Doubles at Cavendish, with the former tower captain at the 11cwt six Michael Pizzey remembered, as was Eleanor's mother Marjorie.

Meanwhile, there was a bit of synchronised announcing on the Guild Facebook page as Felixstowe and Rushmere St Andrew would both like to "announce a slight change to practice arrangements for Friday nights" as they have been "asked to lock the church whilst we are ringing." In both cases the sessions are due to start at 7.30pm, so if you arrive after then you will need to contact Jacky Savage for Felixstowe and Paul Sharples for Rushmere.

If you do go, it is very important that you note what time ringing starts...

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Saturday 30th September 2023

The South-West District is set in arguably the most beautiful part of the county. When you think of the quintessentially picturesque Suffolk scene, it is likely that you see this corner of our world. Places like Cavendish, Kersey and Lavenham, with cottages half-timbered and of all sorts of pastoral colours, often thatched, which one can imagine haven't changed for hundreds of years, in rolling countryside and not a dual carriageway in sight as even the main roads meander round fields like country lanes, winding miles out of their way. Pretty as it is though, it made the practicalities of our morning tough!

We were out that way this morning at Hitcham for the Guild 8-Bell Striking Competition for the Rose Trophy, which was starting at 10am. Also this morning, Alfie was playing for his team back towards home. Options available included Alfred not playing or one of us not attending the contest, neither of which were ideal scenarios, especially with AJM being the goalkeeper! And so we both put ourselves forward for selection for the St Mary-le-Tower on the proviso we could ring first (a request that was very kindly granted) and arranged for the parents of one of our son's teammates to take him to the fixture whilst we travelled to the new 15cwt gallery-ring eight to compete, with Josh in tow.

The churchyard at Hitcham. At the bottom of Hitcham tower. The ringing chamber at Hitcham. The St Mary-le-Tower band ringing at Hitcham in the Guild 8-Bell Striking Competition (taken by Mike Whitby).

Arriving in bright sunshine at the start of another unusually warm day for the time of year, I helped ring the bells up and then the Ipswich band practiced for the five minutes permitted (longer than has previously been the case) and then rang a course of Yorkshire Surprise Major. It is a sign of the standards on show that we weren't the only ones to ring that today.

Not that I heard much of the rest as I needed to traverse the county to collect Alfie whilst his mother rang for the South-East District and then return with a GK pleased with his efforts in securing his team a draw. We returned just in time to catch the ringing of the Bury St Edmunds band, the final team of the morning to ring, a sizeable crowd now gathered at the bottom of the tower enjoying the ringing and the tea, coffee & delicious cakes that the locals had generously supplied. Instantly I got stuck into the refreshments and catching up with the friends and acquaintances present, with the hosts the SW District one of the topics of conversation. There was a sense of achievement that they had got a band to ring and quite rightly so. There is a perception amongst some that if you don't win a striking competition that it hasn't been worthwhile attending, but these are invaluable occasions in my humble opinion, usually fueling good ringing in the everyday ringing of participants and often those they ring with. And frankly, if you are good enough to be considered for selection in a striking competition then you have already achieved something. Well done therefore to the SW, as well all the other teams and their ringers, especially newcomers to the contest Bardwell.

However, there are also concerns in the South-West at the void left by the imminent departure of two of the District's leading members and also the difficulty in filling some positions. This isn't necessarily unique to the SW. Whenever a position in any district or the Guild comes up, there is a collective holding of breath as to who will fill it. After all we as an organisation, like the whole of ringing and so many other activities are reliant on volunteers. Many are working full-time and/or raising families. Some have other commitments and these roles can be perceived to be time consuming, which they are to an extent, even if not to the degree reluctant nominees may fear. The South-West District are in the blessed position of having many learners, but of course it is also a big ask to expect them to fill in for roles in the exercise that has already demanded a big shift in lifestyle for many to take. That said, I think our situation with vacancies is healthier than other ringing organisations, so hopefully SW members will step up to the plate and not necessarily the same group of dedicated stalwarts who can often be called upon, as is the case in all the districts, across the SGR and throughout the art!

The results being imparted at Hitcham. South-East District Chairman collects the Rose Trophy.

This morning was a good example of what can be achieved in an active Guild with engaged officers and members. Six teams from both sides of the county, lots of ringers from all over Suffolk and some superb ringing produced on a lovely peal of bells. Congratulations to the SE District on winning, although there was a bit of confusion on the giving out of the results, with The Norman Tower placed in three different positions after various checks and clarifications! Nonetheless, thank you to the judges David Culham and Jennifer Warren, a role that I know from experience isn't an easy one. Whilst those taking part only have to concentrate for a few minutes, the judges have to concentrate throughout as others are relaxing nearby!

As such it isn't always easy to get people to judge and apparently especially at this time of the year. Primarily for that reason therefore, Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter announced her intention for this competition to revert back to the same day as the SGR 6-Bell Competitions on the third Saturday of May, which means that if all goes to plan that 2024's should take place in the South-East District on Saturday 18th May. Keep the day free if you can! Thank you to Katharine and also those who contributed to 2023's being so successful.

It was also nice to see Maurice Rose, who - appropriately on the day ringers were competing for the trophy he and Anita presented to the Guild ahead of the first competition in 1984 - was celebrating his eightieth birthday today, with a rousing chorus of 'Happy Birthday' before the results being another highlight of a wonderful morning out in arguably the most beautiful part of our county.

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Friday 29th September 2023

The new window in the ringing chamber at Grundisburgh. Photo Mile Cowling.At last, there is a new window at Grundisburgh in the ringing chamber, captured in a lovely photo very kindly sent to me by Mike Cowling yesterday, presumably at the weekly session there last night. Hopefully it'll make it a more pleasant experience ringing there than it has been over the last four months!

We weren't ringing there or anywhere today though and there was nothing on BellBoard from Suffolk, but Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter did announce on the SGR Facebook page that at Rushmere St Andrew's Friday evening practice the draw had been done for the ringing order for tomorrow's Guild 8-Bell Striking Competition at Hitcham. And we read this week's edition of The Ringing World which arrived with us this morning and features Haverhill's ringing vicar the Reverend Max Drinkwater using his experience of learning Suffolk Surprise Major in 'Thought for the Week'!

It's always nice to see local contributions to the exercise's main journal and nice also to see the window back in Grundisburgh's ringing chamber.

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Thursday 28th September 2023

Rougham.As mentioned yesterday, today saw a peal attempted for the forthcoming eightieth anniversary of the birth of Maurice Rose, a man who has done much for Suffolk ringing, as a GMC Representative, North-West District Ringing Master and most particularly at his home tower Rougham. He frequently stands at meetings to ensure that those who work hard in the Guild are thanked, so it feels appropriate that appreciation is shown to him. That there is an article on this website from fifteen years ago thanking him for half a century of ringing highlights just how long he has been a pillar of local ringing and he is a popular fellow, so I was delighted to see the aforementioned attempt was successfully rung with a 5080 at Horringer of Cambridge Surprise Major spliced with a new method named Rougham Rose Little Surprise Major. Great also to see SGR Peal Secretary Christine Knight peal-ringing again.

It wasn't the only peal rung in the county today though, as one was rung on handbells in Bacton, but it was a quiet day for us from a ringing perspective as Ruthie attended her choir practices, making it impractical to get out to our nearest Thursday night practice at Grundisburgh.

Instead, the highlight of our day was watching Alfie's class assembly as he and his peers showcased what they have been learning about this term thus far, from counting in German to naming North American countries (Alfred was charged with naming Dominican Republic, which isn't the easiest to pronounce in front of hall full of people, so well done him!).

Earl Soham. Bungay. Thornham Magna. Hitcham. Sudbury Arts Centre.

All being well, October should see busier days in the exercise for us, with a glance at What's On highlighting much that is planned. It is due to begin as it often does with a South-East District event on the first Saturday of the month. On this occasion a practice is slated for the 10cwt six of Earl Soham from 10am-noon and two days later the monthly 8-Bell Practice at Bungay is hoped to take place from 7.30-9pm. Precisely a week on from the SE's practice the North-West District intend to hold theirs on the ground-floor six at Thornham Magna before a fortnight on from that the plan is that October ends as September is lined up to end with a visit to the new gallery-ring eight at Hitcham, this time for the South-West District Practice. And earlier on in the day the intention is that there will be general ringing to celebrate the reopening of Sudbury Arts Centre, which most reading this will know better as St Peter's.

First though, I hope that Maurice enjoys the eightieth anniversary of his birth, especially having been shown how much he is appreciated!

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Wednesday 27th September 2023

Following on from yesterday's blog, there was more football today. You'll be relieved to hear it isn't as prevalent this time though!

Pettistree. Sabarat.Nonetheless, Alfie's training did make it impractical for either of us to ring in the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree, but at least one of us was able to get along to the session that followed as I went along to the ground-floor six. Compared to recent weeks we were a little short so I was glad to help as I circled the tower, ringing the treble to Plain Bob Doubles for Vince to ring inside to, second to a touch of Stedman Doubles, third to a couple of bits of rounds for Catherine to do backstrokes and then handstrokes to, fourth for a further 120 changes of PBD for John to treble to, fifth for a course of London Surprise Minor and tenor Norwich Surprise Minor for Joanna, whilst I also rang in a touch of seven Surprise Minor methods spliced conducted by Suffolk Guild and South-East District Chairman Mark Ogden who was fresh from a few days ringing in France.

And after the disappointment of last week when The Greyhound was closed by the time Ruthie and co had finished ringing, the Garners and myself were delighted to find the ancient tavern open for a drink tonight.

Felixstowe.Earlier in the day, a peal was rung at Felixstowe to mark the twentieth anniversary of the installation of this nice little 7cwt eight on the coast, whilst plans for a peal attempt tomorrow to celebrate the eightieth anniversary of the birth of Maurice Rose got some of us considering members of the SGR who don't seem to have aged! It makes a change from talking football...

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Tuesday 26th September 2023

Just a reminder that this is still a ringing blog! I suppose the amount of football that has featured on here recently fits the self-imposed remit of my daily entries which is to highlight how active bellringers like us can still fit our participation in the exercise around whatever our circumstances are at the time. Currently those circumstances see us raising three football-mad boys, with one of them playing in a team and during a time when following Ipswich Town is at its most exciting for years, if not decades!

Nonetheless, I apologise that this is another footy-heavy entry, as the five of us went to watch the Tractor Boys beat Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-2 (after being 2-0 down!) to make it through to the next round of the League Cup as one of only sixteen teams from the ninety-two who originally started out. Having followed the Superblues for thirty-six years, I know that there are generally more lows than highs in following a team such as ours and so it is important to enjoy this whilst it lasts, but it isn't just the football itself which is appealing. It is turning into a real family and social occasion and as mentioned before it usually involves other bellringers. Tonight was no different as we travelled to the Mermaid for a meal with mother-in-law Kate and Ruthie's sister's other half Chris and then met up with Norwich ringer Simon Rudd for a drink in the Fanzone before settling down for another ninety minutes of entertainment.

Offton.However, it did also mean there was no Ufford for us this evening. There was ringing elsewhere though, as the practice at Offton was preceded as it usually is with a quarter-peal which this week was a 1280 of Bristol Surprise Major, thus at least giving me something ringing-related to write about in what is supposedly a ringing blog!

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Monday 25th September 2023

Redgrave.A fairly active day of ringing in Suffolk today, with a 1312 of Kent Treble Bob Major on handbells in Moats Tye and a 1440 of Cambridge & Norwich Surprise Minor on the 7cwt six at Redgrave.

The weekly practice was also held at St Mary-le-Tower, but unusually I wasn't there as this evening we were hosting a visit from Ruthie's best friend, bridesmaid from our wedding and Godmother to Alfie, Fergie. She is up in her home town from Brighton where she currently resides for a short time and tonight was the only practical opportunity for us to meet up, so on this occasion I forsook my Monday night ringing fix.

Thankfully others in the county were more active in the art to make up for my absence!

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Sunday 24th September 2023

St Margaret.St Margaret's in Ipswich has always been a special place to me. It was the church we often went to as a family in my youth and where I was confirmed by the late former Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich (and therefore once President of the Suffolk Guild) the Right Reverend John Waine and from a ringing perspective it was where my brother Chris and I did much of our early Major ringing and where as small children we watched our Grandfather Jack ring before for a short while we rang with him.

Of course it has changed a lot since then with the 2017/18 recasting of the treble, second and fourth, lowering of the eight bells in a new frame in the tower and therefore also the ringing chamber to a more spacious, brighter gallery open to the world to see, but mightily fond as I was of the old small atmospheric ringing chamber it was all for the better and I was delighted to be back there this afternoon.

Hitcham.The occasion was a quarter-peal attempt, partly as practice for the St Mary-le-Tower entry into the Guild 8-Bell Striking Competition slated for Hitcham on Saturday, with most of those ringing due to ring in the contest in six days. For all that the perception seems to be that the team from the county's heaviest twelve always win this, our victory last year at Offton was our first for six years and only our third since 2009 in which time the North-East District had won it four times, whilst the North-West District, South-East District and the Norman Tower had also been victorious over that period. It is important to note that it is of course a very friendly bit of fun between friends, but we felt it would be as well to be prepared!

Besides, we were also ringing it for the Harvest Festival and it was useful experience in particular for Sue Williamson for whom this was her first of Major inside. Well done Sue! Additionally, it was nice to ring a different composition to the norm as Colin Salter called a cyclical composition that by its nature brought up lots of runs of bells and roll-ups off the front and back and made it a little more interesting! Lovely too that we could ring it well for John & Shirley Girt who were listening down in the church.

Meanwhile, thank you to my Mum Sally who very kindly looked after Alfie and Josh whilst their parents rang the tenors to the 1344 of Plain Bob Major, whilst elsewhere in Suffolk well done to Ben Keating on ringing his first QP of Surprise Maximus in the 1294 of Yorkshire in Bury St Edmunds.

St Mary-le-Tower. The view from inside Grundisburgh ringing chamber on 10th June.Earlier I had been to the aforementioned 34cwt twelve in the centre of Ipswich for service ringing where we were joined by Ian Culham's ringing brother Ivan and then Costa Coffee for post-ringing refreshments with the boys before we continued onto Grundisburgh where after more than four months of the ringing chamber window being boarded up it seems the plan is for the new window to be put in tomorrow. Although a small opening had been put into the boarding, the lack of a glass window had made this already cosy room a lot hotter, airless and darker over the summer, so it ought to be good to get natural light and the lovely view over the village green back.

We prepared for the installation of the new window by ringing all twelve down in groups of four from the front to back, with the ringing beforehand useful for Sarah who is just setting off on her life as a bellringer and who did well in some rounds and call-changes on six. That's once we'd got started after most of the band got delayed by unexpected bacon butties following ringing at Clopton!

Still, we finished in time for us to collect Ruthie from her choral duties in Woodbridge and for our afternoon ringing at a special place.

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Saturday 23rd September 2023

For us, it was a day of goals rather than bells. Lots of goals! In fact, across Alfie's match in the morning and Ipswich Town's in the afternoon, we witnessed an incredible eighteen goals, but it left no time for ringing.

The former fixture saw Alfred and his teammates win 7-4 in the first match of his that his Uncle Chris and Aunty Becky had been able to watch, thus doubling the number of ringers in attendance, whilst his older brother Mason made a rare but welcome appearance at that hour of a Saturday!

Meanwhile the latter was an equally rip-roaring victory for the Tractor Boys in front of another packed Portman Road just down the hill from the 10cwt six at St Matthew's as they beat visitors Blackburn Rovers 4-3. These frequent visits to ITFC are becoming a real highlight in complete contrast to just a few years ago and not just for the football but also the socialising, as we went in with Ruthie's mother and Ufford Ringing Master Kate Eagle and my wife's sister's other half Chris for another pre-match meal in the sunshine outside The Mermaid and then met Norwich St Peter Mancroft Ringing Master and former St Mary-le-Tower RM Simon Rudd in the Fanzone. Sadly he was fresh from a lost peal attempt at Hollesley, but it was lovely to catch-up over our usual pint ahead of kick-off.

Coincidentally at the same time, some Suffolk ringers were making the opposite journey to Simon as the Bardwell ringers were having an outing to Norfolk, where presumably there were rather more bells than goals!

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Friday 22nd September 2023

This week's edition of The Ringing World arrived with us this morning, packed as usual with coverage of ringers of all ages from around the world doing all sorts of varied levels of ringing, as well as fascinating historical content.

It also touches upon a subject I've tried to avoid mentioning, wary of the legalities of what can or can't be said about it. Many, if not most of those reading this will recall the 'Bellringers Strike Back Against Blood Cancer' campaign, motivated by Julie McDonnell's battle with cancer, with fundraising aligned with the numbers of performances dedicated to the campaign, especially in methods named after Julie. Millions of pounds were supposedly raised, it was extremely uplifting and I mentioned it frequently on this blog because of that. It was wonderful to see ringing and ringers of all abilities from rural five-bell towers to St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey joining forces for such a good cause, with Suffolk doing its bit.

However, it is alleged that it was all a sham, that she was never ill - at least to the extent that she claimed - and that she has benefitted financially from it all. I won't be commenting on that except to say that it is very sad that something that was so positive has been tarnished, which has had some calling for all methods named after Julie to have their names changed. That would affect twelve quarter-peals rung in this county, including three at Pettistree that either Ruthie or I rang in. My personal view is that it is unlikely that these methods will be rung again anyway and there's an element of historical record about it, but I can understand why some would like the name changed, both in case someone would like to ring one of the methods again (perhaps for its music or because it would fit in with a composition of spliced, improbable as that may be) and because they perceive it leaves a nasty and sizeable stain on the art. Either way, the Technical and Taxonomy Workshop of the CCCBR are keen to gauge the views of ringers on this subject and if you do have an opinion which you wish to be considered then please do email them on methods@cccbr.org.uk.

Vernet-les-Bains.Less controversially, the back cover features a report on the Essex Association's recent trip to Scotland and coincidentally some of them are currently ringing in another country again, taking with them a couple of ringers from within our borders as they rang a quarter-peal and a couple of peals on the 5cwt ground-floor ten of Vernet-les-Bains in France.

Ashbocking.Nothing as exciting as that in our family, but the same can't be said for the Scases, who celebrated the birth of Rachel's son with a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Ashbocking with a band including his uncle, grandparents and great uncle & aunt. Congratulations to all concerned!

Tostock. .Meanwhile, well done to Clare Gebel on ringing her first QP of Kent Treble Bob Minor in the 1320 at Tostock and to Erika Clarke on ringing her most methods in the 1260 of six Doubles rung in the round tower at Wissett.

God willing I'll get to see them all in a future edition of The Ringing World.

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Thursday 21st September 2023

It was one of those days that are hard to justify a blog entry for.

Ipswich, St Clement.The boys went to school, we went to work, but that was about it. There wasn't even any choral practicing for Ruthie, which did briefly lead me to consider popping over to Grundisburgh practice before the bedtime routine for the boys put paid to that being practically possible, and I'd already ruled out as feasible going into the county town to ring for the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust AGM at St Clement's church and the opening of the new toilets there by the Mayor Lynne Mortimer.

Such is the variety of the ringers life, even if we didn't take advantage of it today.

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Wednesday 20th September 2023

Stowmarket.On Sunday, High Tea was held at St Peter and St Mary in Stowmarket to celebrate the completion of the augmentation there from eight to ten, with photos featuring on this website and now also on the Guild Facebook page from SGR Ringing Master Katharine Salter. Well done again to all involved in this project and I hope you all had a great time on Sunday!

Nothing as exciting as that for me today though, bar being responsible for getting both Alfie and his friend to football training in the rain, as Ruthie represented us at Pettistree practice where she called touches of Grandsire Doubles and Norwich Surprise Minor and which was preceded as usual by a quarter-peal. Sadly however, it wasn't followed by the normal drink in The Greyhound as when my wife and others went round there, everything was locked up and in darkness in a disappointing end to her night out.

At least there was no such disappointment at Stowmarket on Sunday.

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Tuesday 19th September 2023

Hitcham.Hitcham. A lovely new eight in a pretty part of arguably the most picturesque bit of our beautiful county. We are blessed through ringing to be able not just to go to places like this, but to contribute to the scene through the quintessentially English rural sound that all of us who can ring at least rounds are able to produce. One such opportunity is due to take place on Saturday 30th September when the plan is for the Guild 8-Bell Striking Competition for the Rose Trophy to be held on the 15cwt gallery ring.

Since this occasion was separated from the 6-Bell Competitions in May and moved to September a couple of years, this has been a really upbeat, attractive occasion, boosted by good turnouts not just in numbers of teams, but numbers of ringers and because they were held with the SGR Social a number of those not taking part in the contest. In 2021 at Horringer, five teams took part, twelve months ago at Offton there were six, with both sides of the county represented in each and whilst there is no social this year having already held the five-yearly dinner, I really hope that we can get a similar turnout this time around. There is no set method to ring, so there is no need to know Surprise Major. So long as you ring 224 changes, it could be Plain Bob Triples or Major if you wish. It is open to Districts, as well as towers and remember, it is a competition for eight-bell ringing, not eight-bell towers! Winning is not as important as having lots of teams and lots of ringers participating.

That's not to say it is easy to get eight-bell bands for such events, as the cancellation of tonight's practice at Ufford due to a handful of regulars being away attests. Since the return of ringing after the pandemic restrictions, we have certainly found it harder around our way to get regular change-ringing on eight and I believe we're not alone in that, but most of those who once rang Triples and Major every week not all that long ago are still ringing and the striking competition should offer an ideal opportunity to focus on ringing on this number, especially when members can be drawn together from across a district. The intention being that the draw is made the day before on the 29th, bands have until the 28th to get their entries to Ringing Master Katharine Salter.

With the aforementioned weekly session on the 13cwt ring at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary not on and Ipswich Town playing their latest match of an impressive return to the Championship away at Southampton, we delved into the world of Town TV. This is a new TV channel dedicated to all things ITFC and it shows some of the Tractor Boys' fixtures including this one and so we purchased a match pass and from the comfort of our living room watched what was an impressive 1-0 victory at a team only relegated from the Premier League last season and thus who were two divisions above us just a few months ago.

Meanwhile, other fellow happy Ipswich Town fans were ringing this evening, as the usual pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton was rung, this time in Lincolnshire Surprise Major. Hopefully practice for the Guild 8-Bell Striking Competition five miles away at Hitcham!

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Monday 18th September 2023

St Mary-le-Tower.After a late summer blast, today and particularly this evening felt quite autumnal, with the damp and chilly edge to the air driving us into the Halberd Inn after the St Mary-le-Tower practice, rather than out in the beer garden as we have been for the last few months. And whilst it doesn't seem all that long ago that I took a photo of the famous tower still bathed in bright daylight after I'd left the pub in midsummer, it was already dark when I got to ringing tonight.

That said, I was very late to the session, as much was packed into my evening between finishing work and arriving in the famous ringing chamber just in time to catch the end of notices. Starting with joining the youngest two boys for their swimming lessons for the first time, a vital skill for them to pick up and actually quite a moving experience watching them making their way through the water with a joyful look on their faces as they clearly felt they were accomplishing something, as indeed they were.

In the meantime, Ruthie had been picked up for a meeting at work and with that going on until 7pm and after nearly an hour-and-a-half at swimming, the only practical solution to my wife and I having something to eat in time for me to get into Ipswich for ringing was takeaway. Kebab was plumped for and so having popped home to grab cake for the boys (they had already had tea before swimming, that wasn't all we gave them, just in case social services are reading this!), I scooped the brothers up for what I thought would be a pretty quick operation ahead of picking Mrs Munnings up, having tea and hopefully getting out to ringing without having missed too much of the practice. Except, I turned up to find the first choice of restaurant unusually shut today and then got to the second one to be reminded that they only take cash. With the only time that I typically carry cash around being for peals or ringers teas and neither planned imminently, that required travelling to the nearest cash machine, which was quite some distance as lots have been taken away as hardly anyone takes cash out now of course.

Eventually I returned, bought food with the shiny new notes the machine had passed me, collected my other half late, devoured my chicken kebab and set off for the heaviest twelve within our borders. Even then it wasn't a straightforward journey into the county town, as we'd discovered that Josh had left his bottle of water at the takeaway and so my traversing took a diversion via there, with even that trip was longer than it normally would be due to one of the roads that I would usually take closed.

Thus I got to the practice with it already halfway through and was 'rewarded' for making it with the eleventh to some Grandsire Caters (well the ninth, but you get what I mean!) which was much rung on this occasion as useful practice for George, Rosemary and Sonia to treble to but we did also get in some Stedman Cinques for Sue and a half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus that won't win any striking competitions but was reasonable on a night where we were still missing a handful of regular Surprise Maximus ringers.

Elsewhere, a quarter-peal was rung in the Guild's name just over the Norfolk border at the 8cwt six of Bressingham where Peny Conway was ringing her first inside and first of Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place Doubles. Well done Peny!

It seems a good way to spend an autumnal day.

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Sunday 17th September 2023

Woodbridge.With Bruce & Gill Wakefield not present this morning, service ringing today exhibited the strength of recruitment numbers at Woodbridge as the front six were rung as usual despite the absence of their two most experienced ringers. 'Only' call-changes were rung, but as we've been quite rightly encouraged to recognise over recent years, that is just as important as a band ringing complicated methods, especially for services and under the supervision of Jacky Shipley it was positive that apart from me, all there were bona fide local ringers at this 25cwt, with about half there taught over the last year or two. It underlines the importance of recruiting and of the huge success of the recruitment campaigns ahead of the Platinum Jubilee and the coronation.

That was my only ringing of the day though as following our attendance at the act of worship that followed and which Ruthie was in the choir for and a spot of lunch, the afternoon was dedicated to Josh going round a classmate's house for a playdate, whilst I played a spot of football in the park with Alfie, picked Mason up from work and went shopping for tea. Alfred and I did later rock up to join his mother and younger brother at a house where hide-and-seek was in full flow and a chocolate cake had been made on a fun afternoon, especially for Joshua and his friend.

However, although there was nothing noted on BellBoard, there would've been plenty of ringing going on across Suffolk involving other ringers, greatly helped by all those new recruits!

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Saturday 16th September 2023

Once we'd enjoyed watching Alfie being captain for his football team as they won a particularly early away match on another warm day, today was largely one of sorting out the garden, listening to Ipswich Town winning on the radio and then settling down to watch the start of this year's Strictly Come Dancing (complete with lots of dancing with a very excited Josh!).

No ringing for us on this Saturday though, but that certainly wasn't the case for other Suffolk ringers past and present, here in the county and beyond our borders on a busy day of peal-ringing fuelled to a large degree by the College Youths Peal Day. The Salter brothers Colin and George were both ringing peals in London, the former at St Andrew, Holborn Circus of Superlative Surprise Major, the latter conducting David Pipe's classic cyclical composition of six Maximus methods spliced at St Magnus the Martyr with Norman Tower ringer Phillip Orme ringing the 18cwt eleventh, whilst at Inverary in Scotland Bardwell Ringing Master Ruth Suggett carried out the important role of trebling to a 5000 of Bristol, Cambridge, London (No.3) and Yorkshire Surprise Royal spliced that her son Louis impressively pulled the 41cwt tenor in to with a band that included new CCCBR President Tina Stoecklin, and former Bures learner John Loveless called the 5040 of seven Surprise Minor methods at Lullington in Derbyshire on JJ Ford's Peal Tour. And here in Suffolk itself, a 5100 of Grandsire Cinques was rung at The Norman Tower as part of the Guild's centenary celebrations and incredibly the twelfth twelve-bell peal for the organisation in 2023, the most since 2000 when fourteen were rung! For the record, as far as I can tell, fifteen - set in 1988 and 1999 - is the most that the Guild has achieved in a year.

I also took some time out to read the latest edition of The Ringing World which arrived with us this morning and which has in it five SGR peals including our successes of Cambridge at Cambridge and Grandsire at Grundisburgh last month, as well a pullout and order form for ringing merchandise that includes cards of which one features a photo by Ben Keating and the aforementioned John Loveless' excellent biography of the late, great St Mary-le-Tower ringer George Pipe, Shake my hand and I'll show you the ropes.

All of which has me pining for more ringing, as much as our day without ringing was unavoidable!

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Friday 15th September 2023

Sudbury Arts centre.Having watched episode two of the TV series Norfolk and Suffolk: Coast & Country last night in order to catch the bit about ringing at Lavenham, I watched the first episode tonight. No ringing from this one, but they focus on the market in Sudbury which takes place in the shadow of what is now called the Sudbury Arts Centre which is - as far as I know - due to open next month and has included moving the ringing chamber down to a gallery, albeit just for ringing the front six. It will be interesting to see how it all works and generally what the interior of this refurbished building will look like once its finished.

Meanwhile, it is nice to see new CCCBR President Tina Stoecklin continuing the President's Blog. It has been a tremendous way of giving an insight into the inner workings of the Central Council in recent years and Tina seems to have an engaging writing style in a similar way to her predecessor Simon Linford. Please do take the time to read it.

It was all very interesting, but Ruthie had the more entertaining evening as she went with her mother Kate to watch the Deben Players performing their play Crushing Grapes at Woodbridge Town Football Club, whilst I watched TV and read ringing blogs.

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Thursday 14th September 2023

Lavenham.I am grateful again to Ralph Earey for bringing my attention to Suffolk bells and ringers appearing on national TV. These days there are so many channels and with streaming so much opportunity for the art to appear on the television, but it also means that it can be more easily missed and although mention was made of it on Facebook's Bellringers page, it was Sproughton Ringing Master and former South-East District Chairman Ralph mentioning Norfolk and Suffolk: Country & Coast on Channel 5 which prompted me to search it out. This is a lovely looking series focusing - as the name suggests - on aspects of our county and that of our northern neighbours and the people who live and work in them, but it it is of specific interest to ringers - and particularly those from within our borders - because it features a section on the bells and ringers at Lavenham, the 21cwt eight rung in the impressive, huge tower of St Peter and St Paul. The main piece comes straight after the ad break that ends 21 minutes and 19 seconds in, with teasers immediately before that break and the beginning and it also appears in a summary at the end of the 43 minute and 32 seconds long programme.

As is usual for such things, it is full of odd terminology, not just from the narrator and distinguished actor Bill Nighy, but also one of the ringers interviewed, Mervyn Cochrane who explained one needs to keep pulling or else the bell would "dingle-dangle in the bottom", a phrase that he instantly recognised as not the one he was searching for! Jane Forsey, Martin Weaver and South-West District Chairman Pauline Brown are also questioned on the exercise, whilst I was pleased to spot Past Ringing Master of the SW District Derek Rose and the District's Technical Advisor Neville Whittell in what was an upbeat piece that showed ringers as an enthusiastic, cheerful bunch and exhibited the type of spectacular and/or pretty surroundings that we are blessed to often find ourselves ringing in. Well done to all involved!

Tostock.Tostock was the pretty surroundings that six Guild members found themselves ringing in today as Deborah Blumfield rang her first quarter-peal of Bourne Surprise Minor in the 1320 rung on the lovely 5cwt gallery-ring six, but for the first time this week there was no ringing for anyone in our household, as Ruthie instead went to choir practice, leaving me at home with the boys.

At least that gave me time to watch Ralph Earey's TV recommendation!

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Wednesday 13th September 2023

At Alfie's football training on another sunny evening, the conversation amongst some of us parents was predominantly about nice local pubs, a subject that many a ringer can contribute substantially to. One of those mentioned was The Greyhound in Pettistree where I ended my evening having a drink and (in an reversal of talking pubs at football) chatting footy with Hollesley ringer Sam Shannon, an evening which was non-stop.

Indeed, Alfred's weekly session wasn't even the start of our evening, as straight from work we were up to the boys' school for 'A Meet the Teacher' gathering for Josh's year's parents and primarily aimed at imparting to us what they plan to do with our youngest and his peers in the forthcoming academic year and how we can help. It is only just a couple of years since AJM had been at the same stage, so we already knew the teacher and a lot of what they discussed was quite familiar, but it was a useful refresher that will hopefully help us keep on top of our youngest born's education alongside that of his brother's.

Pettistree practice.Whilst I went on with Alfie to football training and that verbal tour of the area's pubs, my wife and JB returned home where the former did tea which I was then able to quickly gobble down on our return, before heading out to the aforementioned Pettistree for the practice on the village's ground-floor six, where I rang in an eclectic range from Plain Bob Doubles to spliced Minor, whilst I approved of the blue and white colour scheme in the flowers on the font and runner beans were on offer. All preceded by a quarter-peal of York Surprise Minor and followed by that drink in one of those nice local pubs.

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Tuesday 12th September 2023

Ufford.We were one short to ring Surprise at Ufford's weekly practice this evening, but mother-in-law Kate still ran a typically productive and busy session. Rounds and call-changes on the front and then later the back six for Mary saw her called to Queens and back as her control and accuracy continued improving, whilst her fellow Hollesley learners Daniel and Margaret excelled at trebling to spliced Doubles and ringing inside to touches of Plain Bob Doubles respectively and a touch of Grandsire Triples was rung for some of the rest of us, all of which showed signs of improvement.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Ian Mills on ringing his one thousandth peal in the 5088 of Cornwall Surprise Major rung at Barrow upon Soar in Leicestershire on JJ's 2023 Peal Tour. Ian was a regular at St Mary-le-Tower for a while at the turn of the century with twelve of his thousand being rung for the Suffolk Guild and he is an extremely good ringer and lovely chap, so this is a well earned landmark.

And at least they had enough to ring Surprise Major!

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Monday 11th September 2023

St Mary-le-Tower.Post-ringing conversation in the beer garden of the Halberd Inn was particularly nerdy, but wonderfully so! Primarily it was focused on methods as we initially discussed the desire of one of those present to go for eight-spliced Surprise Royal, which led to musing over the merits of London No.3 and then how Pudsey improves the more bells you ring it on, such as on sixteen which my brother Chris and I rang a quarter-peal of for Children in Need at St Martin in the Bullring in Birmingham and Maximus, which was pealed for the first time ever almost exactly ninety-three years ago, at St Mary-le-Tower. That in turn led us to some of the other Maximus methods that were pealed for the first time on Suffolk's heaviest ring of bells and whose centenary anniversaries are due to come in the next few years, such as Superlative (pealed in 1927) in 2027, but also other methods that that talented band rang between the two World Wars, such as Duffield (pealed there in April 1926) and Forward (a month earlier), whilst Ian Culham admitted that he'd come across Bourne Surprise Maximus and its seventeen-pull dodge on the front when looking for something new to ring on twelve. And on fewer numbers, Jonathan Williamson extolled the virtues of Double Dunkirk Bob Minor, where bells do the Stedman slow work on the front and back and sounds like fun! For non-ringers it would have been a nonsensical conversation, but I enjoyed it!

Earlier on, we were actually far too short to try anything too adventurous at the weekly practice on the famous twelve, although we did do a course of Oxford Treble Bob Major on the front eight for Rosemary Caudle to treble to and generally it was a useful session for Rosemary who also trebled to some Grandsire Caters, Sonia Docherty who did some Plain Hunt on Nine and Sue Williamson who rang inside to Little Bob Royal, whilst we also rang a really well-rung touch of Stedman Triples before we climaxed the ringing with call-changes on twelve and Colin Salter called an early end to proceedings on a hot night, particularly as a lot was being asked of the few who were there.

Chilcompton.Something else that may also become a topic of conversation in the pub (or outside it, depending on how conditions allow!) in the coming weeks is the National 12-bell Striking Contest and there was an announcement made today about the 2024 competition, as the organisers confirmed that the plan is for the eliminators to be held on Saturday 23rd March at St Stephen's in Bristol, Portsmouth Cathedral and St Laurence's in Reading and that the Final is due to be held at Chilcompton in Somerset on Saturday 15th June (earlier than normal to avoid clashing with Glastonbury locally), whilst Tom Griffiths was announced as the Chief Judge. I've known and rung with Tom since we were both young teenagers, as well as throughout my time in Birmingham, so I'm well chuffed for him. And frankly, with all he has done in the art, especially on higher numbers, he is very well qualified for the role!

He knows a lot of methods too, so he could've very easily have joined in our nerdy conversation this evening!

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Sunday 10th September 2023

Another day of constant - though enjoyable - activity.

St Mary-le-Tower. . Campsea Ashe.

It began - again once the household had all been breakfasted and readied - with ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, where despite confusion over the commands "rounds" and "stand" the ringing was of a very decent standard and followed by brief refreshment in Costa Coffee. Brief because the bonus of Ruthie coming ringing with us this morning was offset with having to dash off to get to St Mary's in Great Bealings where my wife was on choral duty for a joint Benefice patronal festival service with St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, meaning there was no service or ringing at the latter and hence allowing some of the ringers there to help out at Campsea Ashe.

Benefice lunch outside Great Bearings church.The boys and I also took in the service in this picturesque rural idyll, with the boys encouraged by the promise of a lunch being put on for the congregation! Sadly the 7cwt five here are hung dead, but they were chimed to signal that food was ready, although not by us as you'll be surprised to hear we were already in the queue outside for grub and wine! An enjoyable and relaxed chat with various church folk and Mrs Munnings' fellow choristers was had before we were off - via what sometimes seems like a daily shop to keep the children sustained - to get fed again. This time it was at mother-in-law Kate's where she was taking advantage of the hot weather to have a barbecue, with Alfie, Josh and the girls having a swim in the pool whilst us adults enjoyed a drink or two. Lovely to see all age-groups happy and having fun.

Aldeburgh.In all honesty, whilst they were gorgeous conditions for a BBQ, they weren't quite as much so for peal-ringing, but I'm glad to report that even with temperatures topping thirty degrees centigrade again, the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh was still rung, especially as it remembered twice-past Ringing Master of the Guild and driving force behind these attempts for many years David Salter, two years after his passing.

I imagine he would have been pleased to see it was successful, as were we with another active day for us and other ringers in the county.

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Saturday 9th September 2023

From the second we got up this morning, there didn't seem a moment where we weren't occupied today, and ringing did feature!

The boys were breakfasted and readied almost immediately from us rolling out of bed ahead of taking Alfie to his football team's first 'competitive' fixture of the new season, before we headed straight to Felixstowe for an hour's swimming with the boys, their cousins and Ruthie's mother Kate at the town's leisure centre on the seafront. There was just enough time for us to have lunch outside Gulliver's Wife Cafe opposite prior to dashing to Ufford where we all met up again with the addition of Elaine Townsend and Susanne Eddis & Pete Faircloth to ring for a wedding. A very small wedding too, with the boys and their cousins 'looking after' Pete & Susanne's young son Jonathan whilst we all rang meaning that there were as many - if not more - in the ringing chamber as there were down in the church. It felt a privilege to ring for them and I hope they enjoyed our ringing which included a 240 and a plain course of Plain Bob Minor on the back six.

We followed that up straight after with a drink outside The White Lion with Elaine in more roasting sunshine and then a quick shop for some essentials and an evening in watching the TV, first with England men's footy team's 1-1 draw away to Ukraine and then - having got the boys to bed - the Last Night of the Proms as they exhibited how a rip-roaringly patriotic occasion can be diverse and inclusive to all.

It was a packed day that ultimately meant that we were unable to help with what was an apparently successful open tower at St Mary-le-Tower at the start of a week of Heritage Open Days that also gave people the opportunity to see the bells at Bungay, The Norman Tower, St Margaret's in Ipswich and Stowmarket, whilst the Wickham Market ringers enjoyed a 'Ride and Ring' Outing alongside the 'Ride and Stride' event on a busy weekend in Suffolk's churches.

I still managed to find time to read the latest edition of The Ringing World which arrived with us this morning and I'm glad I did, most of all for the lovely obituary written by David Stanford for Offton ringer Kevin Hohl, with the quotes of family and friends highlighting just how fondly thought of he was. However, there was also further Suffolk-related content with Haverhill vicar and ringer the Reverend Max Drinkwater reviewing the book 'Wisdom for Worship Bands: Advice from Unexpected Places', whilst a photo by Theo Johnson of Horringer church cat Smudge adorns the back as 'The Image of the Week'.

Little Cornard. Woolpit. Vernet-les-Bains.

Elsewhere in the county meanwhile, 360 changes of Plain Bob Doubles was rung at Little Cornard to celebrate their Harvest Fair and at Woolpit a quarter-peal of Eynesbury, St Martin's, St Osmund and St Simon's Bob Doubles was rung, whilst one of the latter tower's ringers, Nigel Gale, was ringing a peal in France at Vernet-les-Bains as part of the Durham University Society of Change Ringers' weekend there.

It wasn't only us who were busy today!

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Friday 8th September 2023

Curfew Tower, Windsor CastleSerious occurrences such as escaped prisoners and faulty concrete have quite rightly been making most of the headlines this week, but many noted that today marked precisely a year since one of the biggest headlines in UK history - the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The Royal Family remembered her passing with services in Scotland and Wales, but otherwise not as much was made of this or that of course King Charles III has been on the throne for precisely twelve months now and that seemed reflected in ringing's response. I suppose I imagined it would be a good reason for lots of peals and the like being arranged, even at rare towers, but in the end there were a handful of quarters, touches and tolling, albeit including a notable 360 of Plain Bob Minor at the Curfew Tower at Windsor Castle with former Halesworth ringer Maggie Ross in the band and here in Suffolk a quarter-peal was rung at Buxhall in a new method the band wish to name God Save The King! Bob Triples.

As it always will be though, it is also the anniversary of mine and Chris' Dad and husband to our Mum Sally, Alan dying. In a way there seems something quite appropriate about the date he died being overshadowed, as he lived life not attracting any attention whilst just getting on with dedicating time to others, whether it was helping friends and family with a broken TV or offering sage ringing advice.

However, also appropriately, for all the words and events dedicated to the memory and life of Her Late Majesty, father is always remembered, certainly by us and he was in my thoughts today. There was no ringing for him three years on, although as the timing of his death didn't allow us to do any significant ringing at the time, I hope we can arrange something at an appropriate moment.  As we celebrate the Guild's Centenary and understandably hone in on the famous characters that many will instantly associate with the SGR, it is worth remembering the likes of Dad who quietly contribute their time and skills to the organisation. They are invaluable, even if they don't make headlines.

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Thursday 7th September 2023

The Tour of Britain peloton passes me in Melton, with the spire of St Andrew's church tower in the background.
The Tour of Britain peloton passes me in Melton, with the spire of St Andrew's church tower in the background

With the men's Tour of Britain coming past the offices of John Catt Educational in Melton, I couldn't resist popping out during my lunchbreak to watch some of the world's best male cyclists racing through the village where I spend most of my time. As is usual with this sort of thing, the build-up was longer and more exciting than the actual racers coming through, but the peloton was still an impressive sight as it breezed past me and our offices.

The spire of St Andrew's church tower was just in sight, but there was no noise from the unringable 10cwt three and whilst on the last visit from the men's race through the area I rang in a quarter-peal at Grundisburgh to welcome them and there were QPs rung at Market Weighton in the East Riding of Yorkshire on Tuesday and Edwinstowe in Nottinghamshire yesterday for the occasion of it passing through their locality, there was nothing done in the county for this.

There was a quarter within our borders today though and a very significant one at that, as Georgina Inglis rang her first in the medium when she trebled to the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Redgrave. Congratulations Georgina!

Meanwhile, attention was drawn on Facebook to Loughborough's inaugural Bell Festival, a celebration of the town's heritage in bells, especially through Taylor's Bell Foundry which is based there. Due to take place on Sunday, it sounds a wonderful event, but I expect I would need more than my lunchbreak to take it in!

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Wednesday 6th September 2023

The weather is hot at the moment, very hot. I love it and even more so because we have had so relatively little such weather this summer, at least since that blast in June. Whilst I can't deny that I wished we'd had it over the school holidays (especially when we were camping!) and I'm aware that some people don't like it, it made for very nice conditions for our evening's activities.

Pettistree.For the boys and me that was going to Alfie's football training, for Ruthie it was going to Pettistree practice where there was an apparently good turnout that amongst much else saw learner Catherine ringing rounds and call-changes, was preceded by a quarter-peal rung by a band that featured Hilary Stearn's cousin Geoff Durrant and Hilary herself and followed by a drink in The Greyhound next door.

Elveden. Ixworth.Meanwhile, that 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the ground-floor six wasn't the only QP rung in the county today, with 1280s of an impressive ten Surprise Major methods spliced rung at Elveden and of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung at Ixworth, the latter in anticipation of the eightieth anniversary of the birth of Maurice Rose, a dedicated servant of the Guild who has done so much for ringing within our borders. Happy Birthday Maurice!

As it happens, he is almost precisely eight decades older than Jacob Waterson, who was born today into two great ringing families which includes a Suffolk one that features former Bramford ringer Christine Hill, one-time Grundisburgh and Sproughton regular Daphne Pegg and twice-Past Ringing Master of the Guild Stephen Pettman among its branches. His mother Katie has done a fair amount of ringing within our borders, including three peals in three days locally in the lead up to Christmas 2006 which the then very young Katie seemed less than enthused by but nonetheless rang faultlessly in, whilst father Tom has pulled in the heavy tenors of Exeter Cathedral, St Paul's Cathedral and York Minster single-handed to peals of Maximus. Congratulations to Katie and Tom!

Appropriately for someone of such distinguished ringing stock, Jacob's arrival was celebrated by some of the very best ringers around participating in a handbell peal of Stedman Cinques in the vestry at St Michael Cornhill in London, where hopefully it wasn't too hot for them after three hours of ringing!

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Tuesday 5th September 2023

Following on from The Central Council AGM Weekend in Ipswich, two promotional videos premiered there were shared via the CCCBR's website today, prompting Ruthie and me to watch them both, with one coming in at 9 minutes and 2 seconds long and the other at 1 minute and 48 seconds. They are both absolutely superb productions, looking very professional and well worth watching. And not just because Woolpit ringer Nigel Gale's name appears 2 minutes and 13 seconds into the former, longer video on a pealboard in the background in the ringing chamber of Horsham in West Sussex and that the eagle-eyed viewer will notice at 1 minute and 46 seconds into the same video the words 'Bellhangers Eye Suffolk' can be seen on the side of the frame, which with the help of the credits at the end and Doves Guide can be deduced to be at Shipley, also in West Sussex where the frame is by Eye's George Day & Sons in 1893. Rather because these showcase a marvelous range of young and old enjoying the art, which don't get technical about the exercise but impart the essence of why so many of us ring. All involved are to be congratulated.

Ufford. St Mary-le-Tower. Offton.

I was experiencing the art it was promoting this evening as I joined another big crowd at Ufford for its weekly practice. That included Pippa Moss & Mike Whitby, as well as Andrew & Susan 'SuzySuperlative' Hall from Derbyshire, who were continuing their trip to the county for the aforementioned Central Council AGM which had also taken in a visit to St Mary-le-Tower last night. Their visit helped us to ring a well-rung plain course of Stedman Triples and also some very reasonable Cambridge Surprise Major in addition to hopefully helping the progression of Hollesley learners Daniel Atkinson, Mary Learning & Margaret Weeks with call-changes, Plain Hunt on Seven, Grandsire Triples and Cambridge Surprise Minor during another productive session, whilst at Offton who also practice on Tuesday evenings, 90 changes of Erin Triples were rung for the ninetieth birthday of Abby Antrobus' grandmother Ruth, all highlighting the variety of age-ranges, people, places and ringing that exist in ringing and which those superb videos hope to reveal to the world.

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Monday 4th September 2023

St Mary-le-Tower.There was a strange feeling about this evening's weekly practice at St Mary-le-Tower. Not in a bad way, more a kind of end-of-holidays, unfamiliar way. We had a handful of visitors who were extending their time in the area for The Central Council AGM, who were very welcome, especially as we had a number of regulars away. With an experienced core absent and our visiting ringers unfamiliar with the bells though, it was difficult to produce ringing of a high quality for them. Stedman Caters, Grandsire Cinques and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus collapsed and we struggled with our striking on an unusually disappointing Monday night of ringing.

Still, there were highlights. Sonia Docherty rang inside to a touch of Plain Bob Doubles, Rosemary Caudle to a touch of the Minor version and George Heath-Collins trebled to Little Bob Maximus, all of them showing progress, whilst a touch of Grandsire Caters was struck to a standard that we are much more used to and before it fell apart, the Yorkshire Max was pretty reasonable. And of course it was all carried out in a convivial atmosphere which continued on to the Halberd Inn with our new friends joining us in the beer garden. I'm just sorry we couldn't give them better ringing.

Meanwhile, one of the visiting ringers Sue very kindly brought our attention to Redbubble, 'a global online marketplace for print-on-demand products based on user-submitted artwork' (according to Wikipedia) through which she produces a range of products with ringing themes through her 'SuzySuperlative' profile and could be the source of ideal gifts for those difficult-to-buy-for bellringing friends and relatives.

They could be accompanied by a St Mary-le-Tower card, which we hope to sell in aid of the Training Bells project. Hopefully they will be doing the rounds soon and their most obvious use in the coming weeks and months will be as Christmas cards, but they are blank on the inside and could be used for any occasion, so if it is sooner than you would wish to think about the festive season (and as much as I enjoy it, I can entirely understand why!) then they could be used for planned birthdays in September, October (such as mine!), November and December, as well as to thank people or wish them well. They are a wonderful thing to behold, adorned on the front cover by a beautiful drawing of the Ipswich church towers with bells by Ben Keating, with a QR code on the back that takes you to information about the Training Bells project. Look out for them and more info on how to get them!

Elsewhere in Suffolk, another impressive handbell quarter-peal was rung by resident members of the Guild as a 1296 of Little Bob Royal was rung in Moats Tye. It is such a normal occurrence that I don't imagine it felt at all strange!

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Sunday 3rd September 2023

Well done to former Ipswich ringer George Salter, who today pulled in the 48cwt tenor at Worcester Cathedral to a peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus, a mammoth task which isn't a frequent occurrence with tenor-ringing superstars Andrew Mills and Mark Regan the only ones to have managed it to an entire peal of Maximus in this decade thus far. I'd like to think that George's ringing upbringing in Suffolk and especially with his parents David and Katharine has contributed significantly to his rise to amongst the elite of the country's ringers and such achievements as today, but it has to be said that much of it has been due to his own determination and proactiveness, which I hope is an inspiration to other young learners in the county.

Old Newton. Quite where the next local young ringer to reach such heights may potentially come from hasn't been entirely clear for a few years and of course one can never be certain (I have to admit that before he got the bug I didn't think that George was interested in even taking up ringing, let alone throwing himself into it to the extent that he has!), but perhaps Harriet Aves may be one such candidate following her first quarter-peal, achieved with her trebling to a 1260 of Doubles at Old Newton. In all seriousness, I have no intention of piling any pressure on Harriet to achieve what George has achieved (not many will!) and I hope that she enjoys taking ringing as far as she wishes to take it, but congratulations to her for today's landmark in her ringing progression!


Meanwhile, well done to Keith Dennis on ringing his first QP of Major in the 1280 of Plain Bob at Halesworth, whilst the fortieth anniversary of the first peal on the augmented ring at Offton was celebrated with a 5008 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung on the 8cwt ground-floor eight and on BBC Radio 4, 'Bells on Sunday' featured an extract from the 5088 of Lessness Surprise Major rung at Gislingham last year for the weekend in memory of David Salter. As ever, a longer recording exists on the tower's page on this very website.

Woodbridge.However, today my ringing consisted only of my attendance at Woodbridge before the service that we attended, although we couldn't ring all eight as the tenor clapper has had to be taken away by Taylors for repair. Which was a particular pity as on this occasion we were joined by Bob Blanden from Wiltshire who was in the area for The Central Council AGM Weekend which continued today with the Ringing 2030 Q&A at St Clement and concluded what seems to have been a hugely successful few days. Well done especially to Katharine Salter, Cathy Colman and Neal Dodge on the organising from this end, but also to so many others who helped make everything run smoothly with volunteering and of which I don't all of so it would be unfair of me to single anyone out. Suffice to say that I think Suffolk have proved tremendous hosts to bellringers from across the world.

Our afternoon was one of playing Harry Potter Cluedo, Ipswich Town Monopoly and even actual real-life football though, as we left the ringing to others like George Salter.

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Saturday 2nd September 2023

The Central Council's AGM weekend in Ipswich continued today with its main focus being the actual meeting at The Hold and from which there were notable headlines. One was the big motion to reduce the numbers of CC Reps, which as someone said was "turkeys voting for Christmas." Perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn't pass, so I'm not sure where that leaves the CCCBR's reforms.

Less controversially, though also importantly, one-time Ipswich St Margaret ringer Vicki Chapman was elected Deputy President after several years as Public Relations Officer to replace David Kirkcaldy and former editor of The Ringing World Tina Stoecklin was voted in as President to take over from Simon Linford. With all due respect to previous Presidents, Simon has been a blessing for the Council in my humble opinion. Known to and by so many people due to his ringing exploits and with the ear and support of many of the leading 'influencers' of the art and as someone clearly used to getting stuff done in his working life, his four years in the role seemed far more high profile and productive than I can recall with any of his predecessors, even when I was a representative for the Suffolk Guild. Even though he is clearly an elite ringer keen to promote and progress the top end of the exercise, he has been incredibly proactive in encouraging call-change ringing, especially Devon call-changes. And that is notwithstanding having to help guide ringing through the pandemic, which he was never going to do satisfactorily for everyone, but which was an assurance to many at the time. His blog - as I set out to do with mine when I started it as SGR Ringing Master - has shone a light on a lot of the background stuff that once seemed mysterious to outsiders, if most of us were even aware of them before.

None of this history was witnessed by us though, as perhaps unsurprisingly for a Saturday in September as the football season gets going for both Alfie and Ipswich Town, our day was mainly taken up by the beautiful game. That meant watching Alfred gallantly keeping the score down in a difficult friendly match for his team of under-10s before we joined mother-in-law Kate and Ruthie's sister's other half Chris in travelling to The Mermaid in the county town for a meal in the beer garden ahead of walking to Portman Road to watch The Tractor Boys thrillingly beat Cardiff City in a match where they were 2-0 down until half-an-hour before the end in front of another full house and a fantastic atmosphere.

St Peter. St Clement. St Margaret.

We also hadn't booked ourselves in for the evening's beer tasting and hot food at St Peter's by the Waterfront where there was also handbell ringing as a course of Ipswich Surprise Minor and a 1272 of Plain Bob Minor were rung, whilst earlier in the day across the town centre, quarter-peals of Norwich Surprise Minor and Cambridge Surprise Major were rung at St Clement and St Margaret respectively. Well done to Lancashire ringer Andrew Kayll on ringing his first of the Surprise Major in the latter, as the Central Council's AGM weekend continued in active fashion.

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Friday 1st September 2023

The eyes of the ringing world are on Suffolk this weekend. Well, quite a lot of them anyway.

Gislingham. St Lawrence. St Matthew. St Nicholas.

With the Central Council planning to be holding their AGM at The Hold in Ipswich tomorrow, The Ringing World which arrived with us today is adorned by a photo of Eye on the front cover taken by Neil Thomas and also features CCCBR President Simon Linford's final blog, Gislingham are lined up to feature on BBC Radio 4's 'Bells on Sunday' and already events and courses have been taking place at local towers throughout the day, whilst quarter-peals were rung in Ipswich of Stedman Doubles at St Lawrence, Ipswich Surprise Minor at St Matthew's and Doubles at St Nicholas. Well done to Cumbrian ringer Jayden Milby on ringing his first of Stedman in the first of those and it was touching to see twice Past Guild Ringing Master David Salter remembered in his home town in the latter for his decades of service as a SGR CC Representative.

Ringers gathered outside of St Mary-le-Tower for ringing and registration for the CCCBR AGM weekend. Ringing at St Mary-le-Tower for the CCCBR AGM weekend.

And there was also general ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, which I went along to. I needed to be there to return the visitor car park permit that had been used by the Norrises on Monday, but I had always hoped to go along with the ambition of doing some ringing and meeting friends and to that end the evening was a success. Having queued (!) to get up the tower, I enjoyed some rounds on the back ten, Stedman Caters and then Stedman Cinques as Simon Linford ran the ringing by playing things sensibly safe with huge numbers of people pouring in constantly over the hour-and-a-half session, many of whom I imagine he didn't know their abilities.

Either side I also got the opportunity to catch-up with ringing friends and acquaintances, some more fleetingly then others, such as Simon Dixon from the Peterborough Diocesan Guild (who are due to celebrate their centenary next year), Essex ringer, former Ipswich St Margaret's ringer & current Central Council Public Relations Officer Vicki Chapman, Cambridgeshire ringer & Norwich City fan (though still a good egg!) Sue Marsden, Ramblers past and present James Ramsbottom, Steve Askew & Jim Crabtree and Matthew Higby who is pleasingly busy! That's before I even begin mentioning the locals who were present to help with registration and those who had been behind the extraordinary organisation needed for something like this, such as Cathy Colman and Guild PRO Neal Dodge.

Bacton. Earl Stonham. .

Tempting as it was to pop to the Halberd Inn for a drink (though not the social event there, which I hadn't booked for), I returned home whilst there was also ringing elsewhere in the county, with a peal rung at Bacton to mark the departure of the vicar there and former SGR Secretary the Reverend Carl Melville, who rang the treble. And there were two more QPs, as a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung at Earl Stonham and a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Wissett celebrated tenor ringer Rosie Rolph earning her place at the University of East Anglia and attaining ART Level 3. Congratulations Rosie!

Meanwhile, the Tour of Britain cycle race is lined up to run in Suffolk next Thursday and may be something that towers along the route might like to consider ringing for, when the eyes of the cycling world will be on Suffolk.

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Thursday 31st August 2023

ST PETERS COCKFIELD This afternoon was the last ever airing of 'The Dart' on BBC Radio Suffolk. Originally 'Dolphin's Dart' until its founder Lesley retired last year to much deserved fanfare including a peal of Dolphin Bob Major at Felixstowe, and it has often included mention of bells in its clues and having visited so many of the county's villages through ringing we enjoy working out the location, although today's final place was Cockfield where the 15cwt six is hung dead. To my mind it was so engrossing because it was about the county and it's community. A competition about Suffolk, for Suffolk. It's sad to see it go.

Sad also is the reason for the disappearance of this popular feature, which is that from next week after 2pm the programming will be regional rather than local, which I worry might reduce the opportunity for the Guild and ringing in the county to get publicity. Time may well tell I guess.

Whether it is worthy of reporting to the local media or not, there was notable ringing going on within our borders, most particularly in Bury St Edmunds where a handbell peal by Suffolk ringers was rung for the College Youths to celebrate forty-seven years membership of the Society for the ringer of 3-4 and Past Ringing Master of the SGR Jed Flatters and forty years of membership for the ringer of the tenors, conductor and former Guild Peal Secretary Alan Mayle. Congratulations guys!

We were helping Ruthie's mother Kate with some caravan maneuvering, so there was no ringing for us despite an apparent bumper crowd for the weekly practice at Grundisburgh, one of the many places in the county to have featured on 'The Dart'.

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Wednesday 30th August 2023

The delightfully hectic life of parents.

This evening after I'd returned from work, Ruthie sorted out tea, which we hurriedly ate before we took Alfie to football training and leaving him there took Josh to the familiar Play2Day in Martlesham for the birthday party of a classmate of his. Josh released with his friends into the maze of tunnels, slides and bridges, I left him and his mother after a few minutes to return to a wet Alfred as he finished a session largely spent in the rain. AJM collected and then it was back to the party where the elder brother was also released to the fun whilst we and other parents swapped tales of the summer holidays thus far and Ruthie chatted with a choral colleague. Eventually, with darkness almost fallen, it was back home to finally get the boys to bed.

Pettistree.All of which meant that for the second night running there was no time left for ringing, with Pettistree missing out on our presence on this occasion, but I expect they managed alright without us, at least judging by the band that would have already been there for the start of the practice following a successful quarter-peal of Bourne Surprise Minor as part of the delightfully hectic life of bellringers!

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Tuesday 29th August 2023

An unusual evening friendly football match for Alfie and his teammates meant that there was no time for ringing tonight. Alfred's team won, he made some superb saves, Josh got to play with his fellow band of younger siblings of AJM's peers and we enjoyed catching up with the other parents, especially those who stuck with the camping on Sunday night! But unfortunately (or maybe fortunately some might say!), Ufford had to do without our 'help' on this occasion.

Barking.Hopefully they coped without us and there was ringing elsewhere in Suffolk today, most notably at Barking, which marked the twentieth anniversary of the death of one-time tower captain at this 11cwt ground-floor six David Barnard, who was also the South-East District Chairman, a good ringer and lovely chap and who the SE Call-Change Striking Competition is named after.  Appropriately, the 5040 of four Minor methods was trebled to by his sister Jenny and her husband Robert and conducted by their son Tom, whilst the current tower captain Phil Day who was taught by David rang the fifth.

Offton.It wasn't the only ringing in the county today noted on BellBoard either, as the practice at Offton was preceded as it often is by a quarter-peal, which on this occasion was an impressive 1312 of Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Superlative & Yorkshire Surprise Major spliced and a 5024 of Yeading Surprise Major was rung at Elveden.

And there is of course plenty of ringing planned for the county this weekend, especially in and around Ipswich as The Hold is due to host the AGMs of The Ringing World and The CCCBR on Saturday with plenty of events being held, as outlined in a fantastic looking programme that can be accessed via the Central Council's website. Most of them are now fully booked, but the general ringing at St Mary-le-Tower on Friday planned for 6.30-8pm is open to all without booking, as I believe is the Ringing 2030 Presentation and Q&A lined up for St Clement's between 11.30am and 1pm, on Sunday. Do take the opportunity to go along to either or both and take in the wider world of ringing.

We hope to be able to make some of it in amongst football!

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Monday 29th August 2023

Bank Holiday Mondays usually see peals rung at some 'big name' venues and today was no different. A 5042 of Bristol Surprise Maximus was rung on the 50cwt twelve at St Mary the Virgin Redcliffe in Bristol and a brace of performances of Stedman Cinques were rung at the cathedrals of Exeter and Winchester, with a 5001 on the former and a 5005 composed and conducted by former Bardwell ringer Louis Suggett at the latter.

Earlier in the weekend Louis rang a peal at another notable location as part of a band of which a quarter had Suffolk origins, as a 5040 of Bristol Surprise Maximus was rung at St Mary-le-Bow in London with Mr Suggett, one-time Reydon learner Philip Moyse and on the tenor, past Ipswich ringer George Salter for what is apparently a warm-up for a couple of peals that if scored will be very impressive!

Modern day band of Whittells & Salters. Their ancestors!

George was in the county today though as he and his brothers Colin & Henry, mother Katharine and his uncles Martin, Neville & Roger Whittell and Roger's grandson Will recreated an old photo of their ancestors at Bildeston holding handbells, which has become quite well known over the last couple of years or so. It highlights not just the ringing history this family has, but also its potential future.

Later on, Colin was at St Mary-le-Tower running the weekly practice, which although a few down on regulars was boosted by the visit of Nathan Colman & his father Julian from Bury St Edmunds and also Norfolk couple Paul & Sandra Norris who have been in the area over the last few weeks and indeed very kindly gave me a lift in this evening.

Hopefully they enjoyed themselves and benefitted from a repertoire that ranged from call-changes on twelve and Little Bob Maximus to Stedman Cinques and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus before we went to the beer garden of the Halberd Inn for a drink and Paul & Sandra returned me home at the end of a day that mainly consisted of Ruthie and me emptying cupboards, tidying the garden and doing washing. Which is what Bank Holiday Mondays usually see us do!

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Sunday 27th August 2023

Just three and a bit weeks since we packed up our soggy tent from the soggy but lovely Brewery Farm Campsite in Dorset following a soggy week on Rambling Ringers, we were back on a campsite this afternoon. And true to form, it was a soggy experience!

On this occasion though, we weren't staying, but rather visiting some of Alfie and Josh's football and schoolfriends and their families at The Orchard Campsite on the edge of Wickham Market for a fun afternoon of drinks, a BBQ and marshmallows (or "marshmarlows" as the children inexplicably started calling them) over a firepit. As thunder, lightning and torrential rain continued with brief respites of sunshine and dryness and the time that various weather apps thought conditions were going to clear kept getting put back hour by hour, we pushed on with plans with periodic dashes to tents and had a lovely time, but with everyone's homes not far away there were plenty there reconsidering spending another night there with leaking tents and soaking wet beds, and indeed some did eventually give up and return home before the night was out.

Redgrave. As did we at the end of a day that began with us ringing at St Mary-le-Tower with call-changes on twelve, Grandsire Cinques and Little Bob Maximus amongst the repertoire on a morning when we were a little short on numbers, but helped by the presence of Simon Edwards from Wiltshire who had stopped over having taken part in all three twelve-bell peal attempts yesterday. Simon is an all-round good egg in the art, an invaluable 'commodity' for the exercise as a very enthusiastic youngster and extremely talented ringer and is a lovely chap to boot, so I was delighted that he also joined us in Costa Coffee afterwards before heading up to the Norfolk border to ring in a couple of quarter-peals, including one of Sandiacre Surprise Minor at Redgrave which was Michelle Clutten's first in the method. Well done Michelle!

That wasn't the only successful QP rung in the county today though, with a resident Guild band ringing a 1280 of Cornwall Surprise Major at The Norman Tower as they rather sensibly spent their afternoon indoors out of the soggy conditions!

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Saturday 26th August 2023

Grundisburgh. The Norman Tower. St Mary-le-Tower.

Ever since The Norman Tower became Suffolk's third ring of twelve in 2012, I have fancied the idea of ringing a twelve-bell peal at each of them in one day. It sounds impractical. Four peals of Maximus were rung in one day and by the same band back in 2005, but that was in the centre of London where earlier starts were possible and distances between towers not as vast as between Bury St Edmunds, Grundisburgh and Ipswich. Additionally, the band for those successes eighteen years ago was one used to endurance ringing. Doing the same here would probably require a lot of help.

However, it definitely seemed possible. Our lightest twelve in Grundisburgh don't take as long to ring as many other twelves due to their weight of just 10cwt and the A14 links the two main towns of the county. An earlyish start for the first peal of the day and it could be done. So long as we didn't insist on all the band ringing all three, that should make it more plausible to do with mainly local ringers.

Nothing ever ever got organised, by me or anyone else though. Personally, parenthood to three young boys took precedence over such ambitions and no other organiser stepped forward and then of course the pandemic meant we all had other things to consider. I wasn't the only one who had the feat in mind though and earlier this year Ian Culham began making arrangements.

That is how I found myself at Grundisburgh at 8am today with eleven others for a peal attempt of Grandsire Cinques. This little wobbly red-brick tower was the ideal choice of the three towers to start at for a couple of reasons, the main one being that it was the only one with sound control that allowed us to get underway early enough to fit the later two in, backed up with communication from Stephen Pettman to nearby residents letting them know what was happening. Contrary to the perception that I once had that you'd want to finish with the lightest, easy-going ring for things like this, it is actually best with tired bodies and limbs in the last attempt to have something heavy to lean into.

And so we were off. Then stopped almost immediately. Off again. Then stopped. We had a backstroke start, but that wasn't the issue so much as one of the ringers thinking we were ringing Stedman! Once that was sorted though, this band who could've very easily have rung Stedman (or as easily as anyone could hope to ring Stedman!) set about a really enjoyable, well-rung 5060 of Grandsire which ranks as one the best I've rung here. Which is impressive, as it transpires this was also my one hundredth peal on the bells!

As others continued on to the next attempt at St Mary-le-Tower, that was it for me though. I would've happily rung in all three, but we had somewhere else to be as Ruthie and the boys picked me up and we were then subsequently collected by my mother-in-law Kate to go to Portman Road. There we were met by brother Chris and were reunited for a drink with Simon Rudd who had also rung with me earlier, before we went inside to watch Ipswich Town take on Leeds United, who were recently relegated from the Premier League and were sadly though not unexpectedly just too good for us in a match that was nonetheless a very exciting one as we lost 4-3.

Unfortunately, it wasn't the only defeat in the town, as just half a mile away, the second of the trio of peals was lost, despite still going as my brother walked past on the way into the footy. Obviously it is disappointing in its own right, but especially as it meant that three-in-a-day was over on this occasion. Nonetheless, the peal at The Norman Tower later was scored, in the process meaning that the Guild has rung more peals by this date than in any year since 2013. Even in the centenary year, that's pretty good going post-pandemic and though not all three peals were successful today, it is the first time that more than one of the county's twelves have been pealed on the same day for the Guild.  Ian is to be congratulated for his organisation and I hope that the idea is picked up again.

By the time the pealband was underway in Bury St Edmunds though, we had also left Ipswich and were at Ruthie's mother's enjoying curry whilst the boys and their cousins had a selection of pizza, nuggets and burgers, completing a long day that began early in Grundisburgh.

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Friday 25th August 2023

Unusually for these days I began and ended my day with a couple of video chats, albeit very different ones.

This morning I was up relatively early for a video meeting with someone from a South Korean school as they finished their day, which although pleasant was of course for work. This evening's meetup with Simon Rudd and friends was much more relaxed and the first one of these for several months, as we chatted memories of grandparents and some of us anticipated our planned part in a potentially famous day for Suffolk ringing tomorrow.

Wissett.Although not a particularly famous day in the exercise for the county, today was still a very busy one for it as four quarter-peals were rung within our borders. Most notable was the 1269 of Grandsire Doubles at Wissett, which was not only Judith Raven's first this century, but was Erika Clarke's first in the method. Congratulations Judith and well done Erika!

Elveden.Meanwhile, Happy recent Birthday to Nikki Thomas! She is the Manager at the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre in Norwich and therefore a Norfolk ringer, but she is great company, a good ringer and a friend of Suffolk ringing and ringers, not least through the work she does through the MRDC which has benefitted many Guild members this side of the River Waveney. And her birthday was celebrated on bells here with a 1280 of Bristol Surprise Major at Elveden.

Tostock.Also, well done and thank you to David Steed on the harvest, vital, all consuming (a quick look at BellBoard shows how less frequently he has been quarter-pealing in recent weeks!) work which has ended for him and was marked with a 1296 of Melandra Delight Minor at Tostock, whilst the FNQPC continue to do valuable work to maintain and progress standards, this time with a 1320 of Primrose Surprise Minor at Ashbocking.

All of these performances should hopefully appear in The Ringing World in the coming weeks, but this week's issue arrived with us this morning, which I was glad to get the opportunity to read between video calls!

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Thursday 24th August 2023

It was a significant day in the life of Mason and many others in his age-group today, as GCSE results were released and I felt privileged to take him to Farlingaye High School this morning to collect his.

For many of his peers it is an understandably stressful occasion, with so much emphasis and pressure placed on how young people perform sat in a hall for a couple of hours in the middle of a hectic schedule. I know I was certainly never at my best in an exam. However, my eldest was pretty level-headed about it all. He didn't have high expectations, with his skills more practical than academic and indeed unlike many of those nervously finding out grades which will have an immediate impact on their plans, Mason is essentially already on his way in his, with a job in a café cooking and a course in food tech lined up, none of which has been affected by the grades revealed by the simple opening of a white envelope picked up from the school's Sixth Form Centre.

Nonetheless, I have been impressed by the work my son has put into these and with the outcome of that work considering the challenges that have been thrown his way throughout his school education, not least the pandemic that so severely disrupted his and millions of others' schooling. More importantly, he has grown into a well-rounded, polite and engaging young chap, which ought to take him far. Well done Mason!

Barking.There was another significant landmark in Suffolk ringing on this wet Thursday, which although not anywhere near as important is perhaps more pertinent to this ringing blog. Namely the twentieth anniversary of Past Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase's first peal, which was marked precisely two decades on with a 5040 in the same methods and on the same second of the 11cwt ground-floor six that he rang on 24th August 2003 and even with the same conductor, James Smith.

That wasn't the only ringing on the county's bells though. Well done to Neal Dodge on ringing his first quarter-peal of spliced Surprise Major in the 1280 of Cambridge & Yorkshire at Ixworth, whilst there was also a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles rung at Redgrave.

Meanwhile, on this website's 'What's New' section, I spotted today that Sudbury St Peter has now been renamed as Sudbury Arts Centre, as the building's renovation nears completion in a project that also includes lowering the ringing chamber to a new gallery, albeit only for the front six to be rung whilst retaining the ability to ring the 20cwt ten in their entirety from the current ringing chamber. Although I'm not sure how that's going to work practically, it is wonderful to see bells not just thought of but actively included in something like this.

Also in the same section is a link to the printable version of What's On for September, which I hope that all towers (with active bands at least!) will print out and put up in their ringing chamber to allow as many ringers as possible to see what they can join to help make the most of the art and in the process help the exercise.

There has been much made of the planned visit to Ipswich of the Central Council for their AGM over the first weekend of the month and rightly so, but there is much due to happen after that too. Such as the North-West District Practice lined up for Elveden from 10am to noon on Saturday 9th and as usual the Bungay 8-Bell Practice is penciled in for the evening of the second Monday, which on this occasion is on the 11th. A very tasty sounding event is then slated for the 23rd in the South-West District, when they intend to host a BBQ on Bures Common as part of the SGR's centenary celebrations with ringing on the 20cwt anticlockwise eight beforehand.

Hitcham.The intention is for the month to then be rounded off with a couple of Guild events. One is the 8-Bell Striking Competition booked in for the morning of Saturday 30th on the lovely octave at Hitcham, which I hope will be a celebration of the superb job that has been done at this tower, as well as a simultaneous celebration of eight-bell ringing in the county and boost to ringing on this number within our borders, which appears to been slow to pick up on an everyday basis since ringing returned full-on a couple of years ago. Please remember that this a friendly, no-pressure competition for eight-bell ringing rather than eight-bell towers (Pettistree have entered in the past!) and please do try and get a band together, either as a District or tower.
On the same day, current Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter intends to start the SGR Peal Week. It has been a tremendous year already for peal-ringing for the organisation, but I hope this can give concerted focus to the medium. Hopefully there will be lots of achievements and yes, a bit of number-crunching too!

God willing there can be more significant days to report that week.

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Wednesday 23rd August 2023

Pettistree. As the week goes on, attendances at practices I've been going to have been getting bigger and bigger. St Mary-le-Tower's on Monday was topped by Ufford, which in turn this evening was dwarfed by the numbers at Pettistree's weekly session. One wonders if everyone could fit in the church by Friday if I attended practices for the rest of the week.

On this occasion the numbers were amply accommodated by the space in the church and outside in the churchyard in yet more pleasant summer conditions and included a couple of ringing visitors from Kent and also Jim Hollins and Margy Forrest. Jim used to be a regular in Suffolk ringing a few years ago and extremely good at it and Ruthie and I rang in Margy's first peal (as did Kate and Mary, which impressively was inside to eight Surprise Major methods spliced at Grundisburgh, but both drifted away from the exercise several years ago. However, although Jim is still not ringing, he joined Margy this evening who is making a return and I hope we were helpful for her as she rang inside to Cambridge Surprise Minor.

Also present was Hilary Stearn, who was fresh from attending the Bradfield Ringing Course at the college of the same name in Berkshire in an act of proactiveness that I would encourage more to do. We weren't able to further progress what she learnt from her Surprise Major course during a session where Ringing Master Mike Whitby otherwise did well to make sure everyone got a decent go, from those having handling lessons to the touches of spliced and a lot in between!

Unfortunately the pre-practice quarter-peal attempt of Suffolk Delight Minor which I had dropped Ruthie off before Josh and I watched Alfie's football training was lost, but there was another good crowd in The Greyhound afterwards as the boys and us joined Granny Kate, the Norrises and Garners in a reassuringly busy pub.

And there was success for the county's ringers, albeit beyond our borders as a Guild peal was rung at Gressenhall of Cambridge Surprise Royal on what would've been Offton ringer Kevin Hohl's 88th birthday and was also Jed Flatters and Martin Kirk's first peal together for fifty years!

Although, following the previous peal for the SGR which was of Cambridge Surprise Maximus, I'm expecting the next one to be of Cambridge Surprise Major as unlike the numbers at practices the numbers in pealbands this week get smaller and smaller!

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Tuesday 22nd August 2023

Ufford. There was another bumper crowd at Ufford practice this evening. Indeed, more than were at St Mary-le-Tower yesterday, as fourteen were present. Well, fifteen if you count Susanne Eddis & Pete Faircloth's eight-week old son Jonathan who came along to this 13cwt eight for the first time.

His presence led to much understandable cooing and no shortage of volunteers to hold him whilst his Mum & Dad rang, but much ringing was done too. Although as with a week ago there were probably enough for Surprise Major, the focus was on other areas this time, as Hollesley learners Daniel Atkinson, James Mallinder and Margaret Weeks honed their Plain Hunt on Seven, Sandra Norris rang inside to touches of Grandsire Triples superbly and Bredfield ringer Vince Buckman trebled to a couple of courses of Cambridge Surprise Minor as he got his first big focus on treble bobbing, all of which went very well during a productive session which included much else.

It was all perhaps less exciting than the ringing life of Jack Page though, who according to BellBoard rang peals five and six today of the last four days, taking him from Reading to London, back to Reading, then to Birmingham, back to Reading again and then to Somerset, conducting them all to compositions of Orion Surprise Maximus, that spliced with another four Surprise Max methods, four Surprise Major methods spliced on handbells, Stedman Cinques, the ''standard' forty-one Surprise Minor methods spliced in hand and Bristol Surprise Maximus on handbells, ringing 51 methods in total. Hardly anyone (if anyone?) can be expected to match these incredible feats of mental agility from this young superstar of the art, but it once again shows the almost limitless nature of the exercise.

Which I am glad a bumper crowd at Ufford were exploring this evening.

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Monday 21st August 2023

Holidays, work, illness and other personal reasons at this quiet time of the year contributed to an extremely low turnout at St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice this evening, with just thirteen present.

However, as is often the case in such circumstances, this offered up opportunities, especially for those nearer to the beginning of their ringing progression. On this occasion that meant Sonia Docherty getting a good bit of Plain Bob Doubles focus inside, whilst Rosemary Caudle was able to build on her recent weekend on the North West Ringing Course with more Plain Bob Minor, but we also worked up to half a course of Yorkshire Surprise Royal before retiring to the beer garden of the nearby Halberd Inn.

Despite the lower attendance at the ringing, there were still eight who sat round a table chatting coursing orders and preparations for what God willing will be an extraordinary day of ringing in Suffolk on Saturday, when they will need more ringers than were at St Mary-le-Tower this evening!

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Sunday 20th August 2023

England's women footballers have been entertaining and inspiring for the second summer running, hopefully not just for female footballers, but female participants of all sports and indeed female ringers, by further making a mockery of age-old misplaced perceptions and prejudices. Sadly though, there was no happy ending in today's World Cup Final as their opponents in Sydney, Spain, deservedly won the trophy that thirty-two teams began competing for just under a month ago.

In the Long Arm watching the England game. In the Long Arm watching the England game.
In the Long Arm watching the England game

Still, if the crowds in the pub we watched the match in are anything to go by, the women's game as a whole can claim a victory. I don't recall the last Women's World Cup just four years ago getting much coverage and yet having woke up and had breakfast at a leisurely pace in the Travelodge, there was standing room only in the Long Arm on Worship Street in Shoreditch literally round the corner from where we'd spent the night, when we arrived a few minutes before the 11am kick-off and apparently the boys watched it on a big screen at the Torchlight Festival along with huge crowds. Our venue nearly exploded when England hit the crossbar and erupted when Mary Earps saved a Spanish penalty which would've almost certainly finished the game as a contest long before a thrilling finale as we tried desperately to find an equaliser to the first-half goal that eventually won it. Disappointing and uplifting in equal measure.

Having watched with our suitcases propped up against the bar, we began our journey back to Suffolk via the underground and then up the A12, all of which left no time for any ringing. In the London we were leaving behind it was more active though, with a peal of five Surprise Maximus methods spliced rung at St Magnus the Martyr with a band featuring former Rambling Ringers Ringing Master Andrew Mills, although it was amazingly topped by the band ringing a peal of ten Maximus methods at Ossett to the famous 'Pipe's Particles' composition conducted by the current Rambling Ringers Ringing Master Alex Riley as it was suggested by Philip Earis on the Bellringers Facebook page that ringing's "pre-eminence" might be flipping from the south to the north!

There was also ringing in the county we were returning to happening. Interestingly at about the same time as George Salter was impressively conducting a quarter-peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major from the 50cwt tenor at St Mary the Virgin Redcliffe in Bristol, his younger brother Colin was also conducting a quarter-peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major from the tenor, albeit on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower and presumably learned at a bit more short notice as it was to have been a QP of Erin Caters but for the faulty battery of a bandmember's clock!

Hopefully no such issues at Bardwell in the other performance from within our borders to appear on BellBoard today, where Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge was ringing his first quarter of London Surprise Minor in the 1296 rung on the back six - well done Neal!

Meanwhile, we were reunited with the boys. We had a great time doing exciting things that they wouldn't have been so excited about, whilst they appear to have had a fantastic time in Nottinghamshire, but we have missed them and it was a delight to hear them recounting all the activities they did, singers they heard and food they ate, before we gave them a lift in the new car for the first time as they had been asking about for days. Thank you to Granny Kate and Grandad Ron for helping us all have a lovely few days.

And thank you to England's women footballers for entertaining and inspiring us for another summer!

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Saturday 19th August 2023

It was an extremely enjoyable day for our household.

Cmglee Great St Marys Whilst the boys were enjoying various activities and Sophie Ellis-Bextor at the Torchlight Festival in Nottinghamshire, their Mum & Dad were ringing a peal of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at Great St Mary in Cambridge itself, the former reluctantly so initially having originally planned to wander the city and even visit The Fitzwilliam Museum before last night's dropout. However, after 3 hours and 26 minutes of very decent ringing, she was actually really rather pleased to have rung and its not surprising. These are an extremely nice ring of twelve, new as of 2009 and go fantastically well. I rang a peal on the old twelve in 2000, so I am delighted to score one on the 'new' twelve, but that wasn't the main purpose of this 5040. Rather, I had arranged it as part of my attempts to celebrate the Suffolk Guild's centenary with a twelve-bell peal at each of the twelves within the old boundaries of the Ely and Norwich Diocesan Associations before the SGR was formed in 1923. Thus far the three twelves within our borders have been pealed with successes at The Norman Tower in February, St Mary-le-Tower in April and Grundisburgh in June and so therefore today's was the first of a trio of here, Great Yarmouth and Norwich beyond our borders planned for before 2023 ends.

Ideally each one was to have featured a first, but circumstances meant that it didn't transpire on this occasion, albeit this was James Smith's first of Cambridge Surprise Maximus as conductor. However, with James already having accomplished much in the exercise as a ringer, conductor and composer, it seemed more appropriate to record this as his one hundredth as conductor for the Guild, but I believe it was also another useful part of the SGR's extraordinary progress in twelve-bell ringing this year, with this being the ninth on this number in our name since 2022 finished.

Inside St Martin's Theatre. Ruthie with her Mousetrap Gin.

Once we'd made a carefully planned exit as a band to avoid passing the tower tours that even continued through our ringing (not via the ringing chamber you'll be relieved to hear!), our efforts were certainly worthy of a celebratory drink in the beer garden of The Eagle as we did post-ringing, as was Ipswich Town's win at QPR which the boys also apparently enjoyed. We were able to keep up with the first half of that on the radio as we drove our new yet already well-travelled car to Newbury Park for the next part of our weekend away. As a Christmas present, my peal-ringing wife had very generously bought tickets to The Mousetrap at St Martin's Theatre in the capital's West End and tonight was when we had booked our visit to watch the longest-running play in the world. Having enjoyed a pleasant walk from our accommodation for the night at Travelodge Central City Road on a sunny warm evening (passing the twelve at St Sepulchre's on the way), we enjoyed a Mousetrap Gin in the cosy theatre bar even more as we attempted to spot any celebrities entering or leaving The Ivy opposite, but most of all we enjoyed the play itself. Agatha Christie has been watched on TV at our house many times over, so we were excited to see something on the stage and to which we didn't know the ending! Famously, audiences are asked not to reveal the murderer, so of course I shan't, but I can say it was a real treat to watch in a small but beautiful, atmospheric auditorium. Whilst sat watching the excellent acting on a fantastic set, I was genuinely drawn into a post-war manor and absorbed by the typically quirky characters. Thank you for my Christmas present Ruthie!

Afterwards we stepped back out onto the bustling streets and grabbed some delicious burritos from Chipotle on Charing Cross Road before trying unsuccessfully to find our way back, reverting to using the underground and then rounding our night off with a glass or three of red wine. It was an extremely enjoyable way to finish an extremely enjoyable day for our household.

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Friday 18th August 2023

After six years, today saw us change cars. Unusually for us, we didn't simply run our vehicle into the ground and unlike our previous one it didn't unexpectedly and prematurely pack up on us, but the motor that has taken us to ringing across the county and country since 2017 and most recently very successfully to and around the Rambling Ringers Tour in Dorset and back doesn't owe us anything. That trip with it packed full of camping gear and five people merely confirmed that with the three boys growing, we need a bigger form of transport. And so we found ourselves this afternoon trading in our current one for a brand new model, larger and God willing able to give us several years of safe, reliable travel.

Immediately it got a significant runout as Ruthie and I took it home, plonked some luggage in its spacious boot and took it straight to Cambridge ahead of a peal attempt there tomorrow morning and if all goes to plan an exciting weekend away. With the boys still away with their Gran and Grandad and us booked in at the Newmarket Road Travelodge which is our accommodation for the night, we decided to wander into the nearby city centre for some food and a few drinks.

Ruthie at The Brew House surrounded by appropriate signs! Both were achieved with a meal at The Brew House, a venue in an uninspiring building but with a wonderful interior, lovely food and great service. At this point, there was a brief distraction when one of tomorrow's band messaged me to say that they understandably couldn't ring now as they were feeling very unwell and unable to ring. Usually this would be my worst nightmare as a peal organiser, especially when away from home, but with my wife a reserve for this effort and sat directly opposite me as I got the message, a replacement was sourced within seconds. My beloved will have to forsake the sightseeing she had planned, but it spared me frantic messages and calls in a bid to find a Surprise Maximus peal-ringer for twelve hours later whilst also trying to enjoy a rare-ish childless night out with Mrs Munnings, grateful as I was that the retiring ringer informed rather than jeopardise the peal by not being able to get through it. These are the risks of peal-arranging and on this occasion I was blessed with good fortune!

It allowed us to continue our evening relatively carefree, albeit in more restrained fashion with the morning's activities in mind, attempting to trace a route between Great St Mary's and our Travelodge. Although that wasn't entirely successful as we realised when we'd noticed we had reached St Clement where a new 6cwt six hangs on a rapid traversing out towards the north-west when we needed to be heading towards the east, we did eventually make it back via The Burleigh Arms and its beer garden beneath a marque on a drizzly night.

Hessett. Bacton.Meanwhile, back in Suffolk, three of the five unringable bells at Hessett were chimed by Luke Lapthorn and former Guild Chairman Winston Girling celebrated an incredible seventy years of ringing with conducting a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor at Bacton. Congratulations to Winston on seven decades of ringing achievement and thank you for your service to ringing in the county over that time and hopefully for quite a few more years yet!

We hope to meet up with Winston again soon by going ringing with him via our new car!

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Thursday 17th August 2023

We love the boys to bits, but it is about that time - around halfway through the summer school holidays - when we need a little break from them (or more to the point from their constant though necessary requests!) and probably they from us! Therefore we were grateful to Granny Kate and Grandad Ron for collecting the brothers this morning for an adventure.

In the rectory garden. With our brief respite from parental responsibilities and with Ruthie's choirs still on holiday, we were in Grundisburgh this evening. Not for the weekly practice though, as that wasn't happening, but we were with some of their ringers, as well as some of Otley's. For the ringers - myself and therefore also my wife included - had very kindly been invited by the Rector Katrina Dykes to the lovely rectory and its garden for one of a series of similar soirees held for various groups involved in the Carlford Benefice, hence the welcome presence of those from the 9cwt ground-floor six three miles away, such as the Sweets, Spreadburys, Carol Brown and Matt Newson. It was lovely to chat with them about Debenham's ringing trip to Shropshire earlier in the year and Matt's history in the exercise that began out that way and crossed paths with some that I did when I was based not a million miles away in the Midlands a few years earlier.

The band at Polstead (Richard Knight). Nice also to sit down over a glass of wine or three and a plate of food with the Twissells, Joanna Crowe, Mark Ogden and Stephen Pettman, fresh from conducting a 5098 at Polstead in memory of former Tower Captain Ed Hynard who died in May at the age of 98, rung in methods spelling out EDWIN C H. Pleasing to see him remembered so appropriately at the tower he was synonymous with in Suffolk.

It was nice to catch up with it all at the leisure afforded us by Granny Kate and Grandad Ron very kindly taking the boys on an adventure.

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Wednesday 16th August 2023

Well done to England's women footballers on reaching the World Cup Final with victory over hosts Australia this morning, with Sunday's 11am kick-off of the biggest match in English football since 1966 hopefully giving ringers time to get service ringing and even going to church (there may be more at early services!) in beforehand!

Pettistree. Unsurprisingly it was the talk of Alfie's footy training this evening, but also at Pettistree practice which I went to afterwards where Ringing Master Mike Whitby was kept busy trying to fit in two ringers having handling lessons, those ringing the treble, inside or behind to Plain Bob Doubles and the usual variety of Surprise Minor methods. At least at this ground-floor ring of six where the ringing chamber can be closed off to the church and especially at this time of year if the weather is nice enough to take advantage of the churchyard on these light evenings, those present can chat and bands can be arranged all whilst ringing is ongoing. This means that there is rarely much of a gap between pieces and more people get more of a go, although the high numbers usually mean that no one has to ring every single time.

Most of those present at Pettistree practice this evening (taken by Mike Whitby)
Most of those present at Pettistree practice this evening
Image: Mike Whitby

It makes for a convivial evening captured on camera by Mike and which normally continues onto The Greyhound next door and so it was on this occasion as the Garners, Norrises, Sam Shannon and myself supported the venue that has to listen our efforts most.

Elsewhere in Suffolk meanwhile, a brace of quarter-peals were rung on The Barn Owl Ring in Norton with a 1260 of Grandsire Triples and 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Major. I wonder if the football was a topic of conversation for them too.

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Tuesday 15th August 2023

Ufford. The power of just one or two extra ringers was displayed at Ufford practice this evening, as they made the difference between a session of just Plain Bob Doubles and Plain Hunt on Seven and one that also included Plain Bob Triples, a touch of Grandsire Triples and a well-rung half-course of Cambridge Surprise Major. If more could come out to an extra practice every now and then - not necessarily every week - to places like Ufford and other practices in similar positions and even better from beyond the same pockets of dedicated ringers around the county who usually spread themselves thinly to help, then it could make a big difference to many ringers across Suffolk.

Of course it is also important that ringers get out to other practices, District and Guild events to improve themselves, again where possible. Some are even going beyond our borders, as in the case of St Mary-le-Tower ringer Rosemary Caudle who at the weekend attended the Plain Bob Minor session on the North-West Ringing Course at Myerscough College in Lancashire over the weekend. Rosemary is to be commended for her proactiveness and whilst the time and dedication exhibited by her isn't something we can expect from everyone, I hope it inspires and encourages more to step out beyond their home tower to take advantage of what the exercise can offer.

The quarter-peal band at Little Cornard (taken by Jill Apter) Two more ringers that I hope can also inspire and encourage others are Jill Apter and Gerald Bird, who today rang their first quarter-peal in what was also the first quarter at Little Cornard since their restoration and augmentation five years ago. Congratulations to Jill and Gerald and all involved in the project on this latest landmark for this 8cwt ground-floor six.

However, I'm sure they wouldn't object to an extra couple of ringers now and again at their Wednesday evening practices.

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Monday 14th August 2023

Hartest. After getting back from work and waiting for Ruthie to return from her employment with the boys, I took the opportunity to listen to yesterday's clip of Hartest's 9cwt six on 'Bells on Sunday' on BBC Radio 4. It was pointed out on the Bellringers Facebook page that the clip was in fact of Beverley Surprise Minor and not Surfleet as advertised (you can hear the tenor going down to the front and then dodging with the fourth before leaving as in the former, rather than making places as in the latter), but it doesn't detract from a good bit of ringing and more great exposure of Suffolk's bells through this famous programme during the Guild's Centenary year.

My view of St Mary-le-Tower before I joined the practice this evening. I found myself listening to more Suffolk ringing this evening as I sat in the churchyard at St Mary-le-Tower as I waited to go up to the ringing chamber for the weekly practice. The nights are now noticeably drawing in, but it is still very light at that point and on this occasion extremely pleasant as I sat on a bench looking up at the tower.

Once up there, I was pleased to join a smaller than normal crowd due to holidays, but which included David Lugg at a session where we managed plenty on ten and also on twelve, including Cambridge Surprise Maximus, all followed by refreshment in the beer garden of the Halberd Inn where we heard about how one member of the band got back into their house after the BBQ yesterday!

Earlier in the day meanwhile, another handbell quarter-peal was rung in Bury St Edmunds, this time of Kent Treble Bob Major. Which I imagine was nice to listen to.

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Sunday 13th August 2023

One trip into Ipswich was enough to keep us occupied for the bulk of the day, from ringing at St Mary-le-Tower to leaving Diana Pipe's beautiful home and garden.

With the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge on their usual August holiday, Ruthie was with us and able to join me in some reasonable call-changes and Grandsire Cinques, notwithstanding the conducting errors that in the former saw the first calls of "2 to 3" and then "3 to 4" cause a few confused looks, and in the latter the conductor turning the treble round before they got to the back and seeing the following bob come in an unexpected position!

Handbell ringing at the St Mary-le-Tower ringers BBQ. Handbell ringing at the St Mary-le-Tower ringers BBQ.
Handbell ringing at the St Mary-le-Tower ringers BBQ

It all added to a jovial atmosphere that continued on into Costa Coffee for post-ringing refreshment, but even with the later ringing time of 9.45-10.30am that is in place this month, we still had some time to pass before we were due at Di's at 12.30pm for the St Mary-le-Tower ringers' BBQ she was very kindly hosting. We chose to spend that time in Christchurch Park at the playground, before we then made the short journey to Pipe Towers for a wonderful afternoon of food, drink and handbells, which even I was tempted into for a very robotic bit of ringing on 7-8 to three leads of Kent Treble Bob Major! Although it was rather easier to ring that than putting Ralph Earey's gazebo up which saw much head-scratching between myself, Nigel Newton and Mr Earey!

My wife had produced a very tasty pasta salad and even tastier strawberry cheesecake which were part of a delicious selection brought by others, but the most work was carried out by Diana, her son Steve and his son, whilst we were blessed with the added bonus of the weather holding out. To top the occasion off, the vicar Tom, his wife Laura and their puppy dog arrived for a drink and a chat ranging from sermons to football.

Elsewhere in Suffolk meanwhile, a brace of quarter-peals were rung, one of Woodbine Delight & Oxford Treble Bob Minor on the ground-floor six of Cretingham, the other of Grandsire Caters at The Norman Tower for former Guild Treasurer Gordon Slack's significant birthday yesterday.

Happy Birthday for yesterday Gordon and thank you to all who made the St Mary-le-Tower ringers' barbecue such a successful occasion. And helped occupy much of our day in Ipswich.

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Saturday 12th August 2023

Back at Portman Road! We were back at Portman Road this afternoon, almost three months to the day since we celebrated both the promotion of Ipswich Town and birthday of one of their biggest fans with a peal up the road at St Matthew's, to watch the Tractor Boys in a new division but with similar results as they won 2-0 against Stoke City in front of a packed stadium that puts us top of the league table. Only another forty-four matches to hold on there!

Mother-in-law Kate had taken us in and we'd renewed our now usual custom of a drink with Norwich St Peter Mancroft Ringing Master Simon Rudd ahead of kick-off, but that was the closest we got to any ringing. Hopefully the North-East District had a good turnout for their Walk, Ring, Picnic and Quarterly Meeting though and there was at least one peal rung in Suffolk, on handbells in Bacton, albeit for the Norwich Diocesan Association.

With me still on antibiotics, it was a quiet evening in and even more so with Ruthie on a night out with her work colleagues at The Woodyard in Woodbridge, so I sat with a cup of tea, watched lots of football highlights and reflected on a fine return to Portman Road.

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Friday 11th August 2023

Ruthie and me on our eleventh wedding anniversary. The eleventh day of August this year is the eleventh anniversary of mine and Ruthie's wedding. Steel apparently, so I am retrospectively claiming me taking her to Toller Whelme last week as my gift to her.

We celebrated with a family trip to tenpin bowling in Martlesham followed by making use of the other 'attractions' there, before we had a special meal at home. Although I'm still on antibiotics for my thumb, I even managed a glass of wine!

None of our day involved any ringing, but a 1296 of Beeston Delight Minor was rung at Tostock, whilst I missed that a Suffolk Guild quarter-peal was rung yesterday at Swaffham Bulbeck in Cambridgeshire of Cornwall Surprise Major which was a first in the method for Louise Whitehead, Martin Kirk and Stephen Dawson. Well done Louise, Martin and Stephen!
There were also Suffolk ringers past and present participating in the art beyond our borders today. In the same county as the above 1280, a peal of The University of York Surprise Major was rung at Meldreth, with former Bures learner John Loveless, one-time Ufford local Stephen Wood and current Blaxhall ringer Mike Cowling in the band, whilst John was also ringing in the quarter at Kempston in Bedfordshire with past Norman Tower member Clive Dunbavin. And there were some blasts from the past that jumped out at me from the 1254 of Grandsire Cinques rung at St Magnus the Martyr in London with Tom Britten on the tenth and Mark Liebenrood bonging behind on the tenor.

Tom learnt in the North-East District and we have many fond memories of social occasions and ringing with him up this way, but we haven't seen him for an absolute age since he left the county and indeed he disappeared from the BB columns altogether for a few years until becoming very active again last year. Meanwhile, Mark was a regular at St Mary-le-Tower when I started ringing up there and was an extremely talented ringer, but then was barely seen nor heard of from the mid-1990s, with his last peal being a 5042 of Bristol Surprise Royal composed and conducted by himself for the SGR at St Mary's in Beverley (they were augmented to twelve in 2018) in 1996. It wasn't until I saw his name today that I looked back and was delighted to see that he has been very busy since his return QP last November.

All being well, today's performances ought to appear in a future edition of The Ringing World, which in keeping with recent weeks prominently featured the youth of the art with a double-page spread of various university societies welcoming potential incomers with useful information and welcoming intros. Although there is a reminder that ringing is for all ages with a report on the recent ASCY Seniors Peal Week in Wales.

However, it was mainly a day that highlighted how lucky I am to be married to such a lovely, talented wife and mother, especially one who shares my love of ringing and since our previous anniversary has even discovered a renewed enthusiasm for peal-ringing!
Happy (Steel) Anniversary Ruthie!

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Thursday 10th August 2023

No ringing for us today. Both of Ruthie's choirs were off this evening, so in theory one of us could've gone to Grundisburgh practice, but we haven't had a night in together since before our holiday and so it was a quiet one at the end of a day of sorting out and consolidating the many boxes of Lego in our house as we looked after our nieces before a cup of tea with their mother.

Participants and judges of the St Matthew's Fun Striking Competition in Ipswich (taken by Jonathan Williamson). Other ringers in the county were being much more active in the exercise though, as at St Matthew's in Ipswich a fun striking competition was held for the many learners that Amanda Richmond and Jonathan Williamson have been teaching from this 10cwt six, St Mary-le-Tower & St Lawrence across the town centre and Bramford just outside town. Amanda and Jonathan judged it and gave feedback, which is a vitally important part of striking competitions. What a wonderful way to use what I believe is one of the most effective elements of the art to get learners and potential recruits really engaged in the art. It sounds like everyone had a good time!

Meanwhile, back in Dorset where we were last week and where the Rambling Ringers were on their last day of the 2023 Tour today, there was a significant peal rung featuring a strong Suffolk influence, as in Bournemouth the first in the medium of Cornwall Surprise Major in hand for the Salisbury Diocesan Guild was conducted by former Bardwell ringer Louis Suggett to a composition of current Rushmere St Andrew ringer James Smith.

At almost the other end of the country, ringers were arriving for North West Ringing Course at Myerscough College in Lancashire, with a couple of ringers scoring quarter-peals on the Charmborough Ring which is onsite, but for me my ringing was limited to what I read about.

An email from Cathy Colman was sent to Guild members via webmaster Chris Garner encouraging us to take advantage of all that is planned to happen when the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers AGM is due to take place in Ipswich over the first weekend of September. There is much lined up and not just for CC Reps. Indeed, most of it is specifically designed for all ringers and on this occasion we are blessed to have it all on our doorstep, with events taking place at towers across Suffolk. Please do read Cathy's email and if you haven't received it then ask Chris about being added to the SGR's email list - don't worry, none of your details are shared with anyone else! Failing that, you can find more information and book through Eventbrite and on the CCCBR website.

Another email I read was on the subject of BBC Radio 4's 'Bells on Sunday', which this weekend is intended to feature Surfleet Surprise Minor at Hartest, rung as part of a quarter-peal that also included Beverley rung on this 9cwt six in May last year. A longer extract can be found on the tower's page on this website and at least offers more ringing than we did today!

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Wednesday 9th August 2023

Harwich St Nicholas across the estuary from Landguard Fort. Today, with both of us still on our holidays, we had the sunny day by the seaside that we'd hoped to have got last week. We are blessed to have the coast on our doorstep and so with the weather generally hot and sunny this week, we'd agreed to meet my brother & his wife and fellow ringers Chris & Becky in Felixstowe. More specifically at Landguard Fort, the fascinating history-laden defensive structure in the shadow of the UK's biggest port and overlooking the estuary where the rivers Orwell and Stour meet, and beyond that Harwich with the spire of St Nicholas where a 13cwt eight hangs.

Felixstowe St John the Baptist in the distance, with the new Ferris Wheel in the foreground. After a really interesting couple of hours where the boys also did a dinosaur trail, we headed up to the seafront where the new Ferris Wheel was being used for the first time and we wandered around the superb Beach Street before wandering to another new feature in this part of the town, SeaYou Cafe & Restaurant, where we enjoyed lunch and ice cream before parting company. It was a lovely way to spend a day and great to see Mr & Mrs Munnings!

Later, things were returning to a more normal format as Alfie returned to football training for his team, meaning once more that our Wednesday evenings are a juggling act between footy and Pettistree, though willingly so if it makes him happy. With no work and conditions still warm and pleasant, Ruthie was at least able to take part in the pre-practice quarter-peal on this occasion, whilst Josh & I watched Alfred being run through his paces and then listened to the last few minutes of their mother's efforts with a picnic in the churchyard.

The session that followed was another productive one which saw much Surprise Minor and some well-rung Stedman Doubles in the repertoire as Paul & Sandra Norris followed-up their visit to Ufford yesterday by joining us at this ground-floor six, but there were also more handling lessons for Catherine and a first go in the art for potential recruits Charlotte and Julie, before ourselves and the Norrises went for a couple of drinks in The Greyhound, which was more like last week than our sunny day at the seaside!

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Tuesday 8th August 2023

Ufford. Ufford practice this evening was further boosted by the appearance of Paul & Sandra Norris, which allowed us to ring Grandsire Triples on another productive Tuesday session, before Ringing Master and mother-in-law Kate Eagle came back to ours to collect some of the camping gear she'd very kindly leant us for our week in Dorset. A cuppa and exchange of holiday tales followed at the end of another day of washing clothes and sorting stuff out and me going to the doctors to see to an ingrown thumbnail entirely of my own doing. I'm not sure how easily not chewing my nails is going to be with the football season now underway, especially as I'm now on antibiotics which means my alcohol intake has to be severely reduced over the next few days!

Meanwhile, other ringers are enjoying their holiday this week and in Suffolk at that, as the White and Wilby families rang a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Blythburgh in a 1296 conducted by Mike who led Birmingham to their latest victory in the National 12-bell Striking Contest a few weeks ago.

Nice to see the ringing of the county's bells being boosted by visiting ringers.

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Monday 7th August 2023

Being our first day back from holiday and both of us still off work, today was one largely dedicated to sorting stuff out from our travels. Having packed it away in Dorset on Saturday soaking wet and covered in mud, the first task was to dry our tent out on a mercifully warm, sunny day without rain. Then there were the bags of muddy clothes that needed washing. And catching up with emails and mail, including the latest edition of The Ringing World, which whilst not featuring much Suffolk content did have a fascinating insight into the sixtieth anniversary of the extent of Major first being rung in the words of some of those who rang, such as Rick Shallcross who I have been privileged to ring forty-eight peals with, mostly at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham when I was living out that way. And it was nice to catch up on CCCBR President Simon Linford's now monthly blog which I missed online last week and where he touches upon his departure from the role which is due to happen at the Central Council's AGM in just under a month's time at The Hold in Ipswich.

St Mary-le-Tower. I still found time to go to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice though with a sizeable crowd (including Philip Goodyer from Australia on an almost literally flying visit before he had to catch a train!) ringing Stedman Cinques and Cambridge Surprise Maximus amongst much else before we retired to the beer garden of The Halberd Inn.

Earlier in the day, another Guild handbell peal was rung in Bury St Edmunds as a 5056 of Plain Bob Major was scored in what is the seventh peal in hand for the SGR in 2023 and impressively the tenth at this venue since the start of last year.

There was certainly no space or time for handbell peals in our house today though!

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Sunday 6th August 2023

Brewery Farm Campsite is a wonderful little site in a lovely spot, with good facilities and apparently run by a bellringer. However, after the boggy conditions they couldn't do much about and the wind that battered our tent in a fearsome fashion on occasion over the last week, we cannot deny our night's sleep in Mike and Kelly's farmhouse with proper beds and solid thick walls that don't move with every breeze was an absolute joy. With our hosts not being ringers, we didn't think it fair to abandon their wonderful hospitality to go and ring on the local twelve at Crediton for morning ringing and so we woke at our leisure, feeling refreshed.

After breakfast, a relaxed morning of me accompanying Alfie and Josh on a tour of the farm by Mike, an education on children's TV for Kelly and more catching-up and laughter was climaxed with a hearty farmer's lunch of bacon sandwiches before we set off on the long journey back to Suffolk, one punctuated by tea at Gordano Services and listening on the radio to Ipswich Town's victory at Sunderland in their first match of the season as their return to the Championship began pretty much perfectly.

Back in the county we arrived back in this evening, well done to Erika Clarke on not only ringing her first quarter-peal of Major but also her twenty-fifth in the medium altogether in the 1264 of Plain Bob at Halesworth, whilst the Minor variation was rung in the 1260 at Rougham.

As wonderful as Brewery Farm Campsite is, it's great to be home!

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Saturday 5th August 2023

This week has been testing at times. Seemingly endless traffic on just about every main road has seen up to an hour or more added to some journeys over the last seven days. And the persistent rain and at times high winds have meant that everything from going to the toilet to making a cup of tea has become an exhausting logistical challenge on occasions. At various points, it has been mere survival rather than a holiday.

Yet, do you know what? We've really rather enjoyed it. Although tiresome when stuck in an apparently never-ending queue with hundreds of other vehicles when we wanted to be exploring this beautiful county, it came as no surprise that at peak holiday season on the south coast that we were sharing the highways with so many others. Additionally, the soggy conditions were perhaps merely balancing out the gloriously hot sunshine we got twelve months ago and God willing may get on future tours. There is worse going on in the world then us getting damp on our hols! Incredibly the boys enjoyed it, or at least have been convincing in telling us they have! Even Mason, who had chosen living out of a tent essentially pitched in the middle of a boggy lake by the time we packed it away this morning (mercifully without having to do it in the dreadful storm we feared we might be out in) over going to a roasting Greece with his mother and other siblings!

I can't speak for what made it so enjoyable for them, although much football was played on site and they made new friends (especially little Lucas who was one of the few non-ringers there throughout and was adorably entertaining!) and I hope that the days out away from ringing helped, although I still harbour hopes that maybe one day they might also take on and enjoy the ringing. For us though, the pervading mud and dampness and lengthy periods staring at the same bit of tarmac were wholly mitigated by two factors of this Rambling Ringers Tour.

One was the company, particularly onsite, where every evening was spent enjoying a drink or two and much laughter, whether in a tent, outside the toilets or stargazing when the clouds dispersed. Also with others on tour. We have been going around the area with about fifty other ringers, so even over eighteen towers, a curry night and a couple of pubs it hasn't been possible to properly catch up with everyone, but we have loved chatting with fellow members to the backdrop of the ringing. Which brings me to the other saving grace of what could have been perceived to be a disastrous few days otherwise - that ringing.

There has been some disappointment over too many mistakes creeping into the ringing and it is something that we're all keen to eradicate in order to return to the high standards that we're used to. Primarily that is because we are privileged to ring on other peoples' bells, every day, over a lengthy period and it is not fair that the locals are subjected to bad ringing on their bells. But also because good ringing makes the whole experience more enjoyable. Whether it is a hangover of the pandemic or just that we're getting a little older, I don't know. However, despite all that, the ringing is still of a higher quality and range than certainly we regularly manage and I imagine many others do.

We are blessed to have another superb young ringer as Ringing Master in the shape of Alex Riley after years of good work from Chris Woodcock, who it was great to see on tour for a bit this year. Alex is one of the fine crop of youngsters ringing all sorts of extraordinary things across the country and whilst I believe it is a good sign that so many of the familiar faces that greeted us when myself, my brother Chris and Mum & Dad first joined in 1994 keep coming back, it is also reassuring that there is a strong youthful contingent within our numbers in their thirties, twenties and younger. We will always welcome anyone new of any age, so long as you're ready to join in, with the criteria broadly being if you can at least ring Cambridge Surprise Minor or similar well and are not here just to grab a tower without contributing. If you're still finding your way through Plain Bob Doubles, it would be a long tour for you, but I hope ringing to the standards of tours like this and other similar organisations is something you can aspire to! Let me know if you do want to dip your toe in!

Indeed, if you want to make your debut next year, you shouldn't have far to go, as this afternoon members voted during the Tour Meeting to go to North-West Kent for 2024. Not us, as we fancied Lancashire, but all being well we will happily travel down the A12 in fifty-one weeks for what we hope will be another wonderful week of ringing and socialising.

Ringing in the crowded ringing chamber at Gillingham. Tour meeting at Gillingham. Tour meeting at Gillingham.

The 2023 Tour ended for us at that Tour Meeting at Gillingham (I'm not sure anyone else had noticed that we had voted to go to Gillingham next year in Gillingham this year) after I'd considerably stretched my arms pulling in the 24cwt tenor to half a course of Yorkshire Surprise Major and was even called a young ringer! I'll try to live off that for as long as I am able!

Ringing on the ground floor ring of Margaret Marsh. Earlier, we'd again missed the first tower of the day, but having got our home for the last seven nights packed into the car along with all our stuff and somehow all three boys and us, we made it in time to the ground-floor five at Margaret Marsh for the squash and biscuits very kindly laid on by the local, a course of Orpheus Doubles (double-place Stedman on the front and enough dodges in 4-5 to cover that!) and St Martin's Doubles for Ruthie.

Farewells made to as many of those we have been holidaying with since last Saturday as we could, the end of this year's Tour wasn't the end of our holiday. For having grabbed a bit of lunch at Gillingham's Costa Coffee, we were off to Crediton in neighbouring Devon to see my wife's schoolfriend Kelly and her husband Mike and stay overnight in their farmhouse. Of course it is a bit of a detour on a journey between Dorset and Suffolk, but having come all the way down here, it would've been very remiss of us not to see them and we were glad that we did. Much catching up was done over afternoon tea, a meal at the Red Deer and a couple of beers back at their abode before we eventually got to bed in rooms where the walls didn't move!

Meanwhile, back in the county we plan to shortly return to, it was a busy day of ringing, as two quarter-peals and two peals were rung. After the disappointment of the South-East District Centenary Tea at Bramford being called off, well done to SE Ringing Master Jenny Scase on arranging a 1296 of Plain Bob Major at Offton instead, whilst a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung at Woolpit. In Bury St Edmunds, the 5042 of Bristol Surprise Maximus at The Norman Tower was rung by an extremely good band of College Youths, but the 5100 of Suffolk Surprise Major was rung by the SGR as part of the celebrations of its one hundred years.

Much like our week on Rambling Ringers, those hundred years have been testing, but they have also been very enjoyable, also much like our week on Rambling Ringers.

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Friday 4th August 2023

Ringing at Piddlehinton. Ringing at Piddlehinton.
Ringing at Puddletown. Ringing at Puddletown.

It was a short day of ringing for us on the Rambling Ringers Tour today. Not least because as usual we missed the first tower, but after I'd pulled the tenor in at Piddlehinton to a course of London Surprise Minor and Ruthie was put on the same bell for some Bourne Surprise Minor and we'd then rung together in a course of Hull Surprise Minor around the numbered mats of another ground-floor six at Puddletown, we also left the Tour for the afternoon to spare the boys more ringing.

Corfe Castle village and church from the castle. Corfe Castlle.
Corfe Castle

Our destination this time was the Swanage Railway and more particularly one of its stops, Corfe Castle, a famous ruin that looks over this area of the south coast, taking in views as far as Poole Harbour six miles away, and much further, as well as of St Edward the Martyr the church in the village just below in which hangs an 11cwt six. A trail was enjoyed, archery (not with real arrows you'll be relieved to hear!) tried and centuries of fascinating history taken in before we returned to the campsite for our final night.

We have been made aware that the second weather warning of storms this week has been issued for the conditions due for tomorrow morning, just as we are planning on taking our tent down and so a considerable chunk of our evening was taken up with packing away what we no longer needed to God willing make the task easier in around twelve hours time. However, with that task carried out and the smaller boys in bed, we set about enjoying our final night at Brewery Farm. And how! A pitfire was purchased by the Rileys to keep a large group warm including the visit of Phil & Cindy Maude and the Cornwells, and eventually saw marshmallows roasted over it, whilst Luke Riley fell through a chair and tortoise-like attempted to get free from it. I'm too kind to share any footage or photos here!

Things were probably a lot more sensible back in Suffolk, where a 5095 was rung at Reydon for Helen Price's 95th birthday yesterday. Helen is an inspirational ringing character, seemingly as energetic and lively now as at any time I've ever known her over the last thirty years and an integral part of the ringing scene at this ground-floor six and at Southwold where a peal was also rung twenty-four hours earlier for her big day. I hope she has enjoyed the well deserved celebrations.

Meanwhile, later in the day, the FNQPC rang a 1272 of Ipswich Surprise Minor at Earl Stonham. I'm glad others in the homeland were doing more ringing than us!

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Thursday 3rd August 2023

Ringing at Toller Whelme. Ringing at Toller Whelme. Ringing at Toller Whelme.
Toller Whelme

Variety is the spice of life and also bellringing. That's certainly what I was telling myself as the Rambling Ringers visited the ground-floor five of Toller Whelme today. These are a 2cwt ring of steel bells without stays or sliders and sounding like - to quote their entry on Dove - "1,2,3,3,5 of 6." Of course with the permission of the local correspondent, they had been inspected by the RR's resident bellhanger Andrew Mills and another new young ringer on the tour Lewis Benfield - who judged the Suffolk Guild's victory in last year's Ridgman Trophy at King's Lynn - and made ringable with the addition of ropes, but they weren't exactly a pleasant experience.

However, as I've mentioned before, in my humble opinion, ringing would be dreadfully dull if all rings of bells were easy to ring or sounded glorious. My ringing of Plain Hunt on Five on the tenor here in a quaint, almost magical spot hidden away well off the beaten track (or indeed any unbeaten tracks), was arguably the most interesting of my tour thus far. And after several days of bells that probably sound the same to them, these were the first of ring of bells to get any sort of reaction from the boys this week!

Ringing at Cattistock. Ringing at Cattistock.

Still, it was nice to ring on more normal bells throughout the rest of the day, even if we again missed the first tower. I was pleased to ring the method of the day Cattistock Delight Major at its eponymous tower, though less so to set off on calling a touch of Grandsire Triples thinking I was ringing the sixth only to discover in the first blows of changes that I was on the seventh!

Ringing at Beaminster. Ringing at Beaminster. Ringing at Beaminster.

Following the unforgettable Toller Whelme (which had only been called upon after Rampisham couldn't be rung due to birds nesting in the bells) and lunch outside St Mary of the Annunciation in Beaminster and a drink and more Uno in The Greyhound nearby, it was time to ring on the ten here. An hour's ringing on this 22cwt ring was memorable for some pretty decent Bristol Surprise Royal, but also a seemingly never-ending touch of Plain & Little Bob Royal which began with a lead of LB and a single and then a course of PB that felt like it went on forever before a single and "that's all" were called and caused much amusement with each leadend passed without a change of method!

Ringing at Netherbury. Ringing at Netherbury.

Next up was then a first for Ruthie as she ran the ringing at Netherbury where she rattled through an eclectic range of pieces from Hull and London Surprise to Single Oxford Bob and spliced Double Oxford and St Clement's College Bob on this 18cwt six.

Ringing at Stoke Abbott. Sheep in the churchyard at Stoke Abbott.
Stoke Abbott

And then she rounded off our ringing day by grabbing hold of the second of the 14cwt ground-floor five at Stoke Abbott (where sheep grazed in the churchyard) for what she thought was Stedman, only to discover that she had grabbed hold for one of the Doubles methods of the week when conductor Mike Dew said " go Harecastle Place"! After being talked through the first few blows by Alex Riley and myself either side of her though and given the basics of its construction, she rang it faultlessly without the need to start again.

Whilst all this was happening, back home, a peal for the birthdays of local ringers Helen Price, John Uden and Shirley Wilde was rung at Southwold, with the 95th anniversary of Helen's birth falling today. Happy Birthday for today Helen and for recently to John and Shirley. That wasn't the only ringing in the county today though. 240 changes of six Surprise Minor methods spliced were rung by The Society of Roving Ringers at Little Cornard and well done to Paul Harrison on ringing his first quarter-peal of Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place Doubles and to conductor Betty Baines on ringing her first full QP in the method, both in the 1260 at Redgrave. The very best of luck to Robin, the son of local ringer Chris Davies.

Meanwhile, we travelled back to Beaminster for what has become a very welcome tradition (especially for those like us limited to what they can cook for two young children on a two-hob gas stove all week!) on tour, the annual curry. We were again grateful to Catherine Riley for organising this year's event at Bombay Spice, where Mason enjoyed joining the younger members of the Society at the other end of the restaurant and we and his brothers had the pleasurable company of Anne & Paul Bray, Andrew & Emily Mills, Bryony Dorrington and Jenny Cornwell. Thank you Catherine and thank you Bombay Spice for a lovely evening, offering some actual spice on this ringing tour that was definitely a more pleasant experience than Toller Whelme!

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Wednesday 2nd August 2023

It can feel like a very small world sometimes. Aware that Rushmere St Andrew ringer Elaine Townsend is also holidaying in Dorset this week, we've been primed to bump into her at some point. However, as we queued to get into the Oceanarium in Bournemouth in order to get out of the rain, 170 miles away from home, we didn't expect to come across Pete, Jacqui and their children from St Mary-the-Virgin church in Woodbridge doing exactly the same, completely unexpectedly!

Bournemouth Pier on a wet and windy day! That was one of a number of highlights as we tried (and I think succeeded) to make the most of another wet and windy day on the south coast whilst we again gave the boys something other than ringing on this holiday. The world of fish, penguins and other aqua life was much enjoyed by all of us, though I think the young children appreciated the crowded arcade section on the pier a lot more than their parents and big brother! Whilst we did also get a few minutes on the famous beach before another bank of dark clouds and rain could be seen heading our way, deep within a multistory car park wasn't the nicest place we've ever had lunch!

At least we were having a better day than my Mum Sally who phoned me to say that her car wouldn't start and she was stranded at one of the towers on tour, albeit with Devon ringer Richard Shere and former Ipswich St Margaret ringer Sue McCouaig who she has been staying and sharing driving duties with this week. Mercifully they were soon rescued and returned to their accommodation, but they did miss the rest of the afternoon's ringing on a busy day for the Rambling Ringers.

For not only were they ringing at six towers on the closest day to the campsite, but two peals for the Society were attempted. One was on handbells in the Hutchieson's caravan on Brewery Farm and although lost, a quarter-peal of Bristol Surprise Major was scored. The other was successful though, as a 5152 of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods spliced was rung at Bradford Peverell, the 5cwt eight that we visited yesterday.

Eight Surprise Major methods were also rung spliced in Suffolk today, this time to a 1280 at Elveden, which was one of three QPs rung in the county on this first Wednesday of August, with a 1260 of Stedman Triples conducted by David Stanford on The Barn Owl Ring in Norton and the weekly practice at Pettistree preceded by a 1272 of Ipswich Surprise Minor.

Meanwhile, back on the campsite, we were joined by some of the returning Rambling peal ringers around our citronella candles on a parking space (rather than sitting on the bog surrounding our tent!) as helicopters flew low overhead and we recounted how small the world got for us today.

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Tuesday 1st August 2023

"Quelle surprise," I hear you mutter.

A full day of ringing on the Rambling Ringers Tour began with us missing the first tower. It's not that we deliberately miss them, but I have to admit that we don't break a sweat to reach them. Mainly it is because we are on holiday and for most of the year we have to set an alarm seven days a week and cajole the boys through the usual morning routine of peeling them from their slumbers and then feeding, washing and dressing them. We signed up for it when we became parents and of course have no intention of abandoning them whilst they grow up just so we can get some extra sleep, but during the school holidays and whilst we are off work ourselves we are happy to take our time and make it when we make it in a relaxed fashion. Especially when based on a soggy campsite!

Rambling Ringers waiting patiently in the church at Maiden Newton. Ringing at Maiden Newton. Ringing at Maiden Newton.
Maiden Newton

I had to chuckle therefore that when we arrived at the unusually laid out St Mary's church in Maiden Newton - where the altar has been moved to the north side and the original altar at the east end is alongside a section set aside for the kitchen, toilets and junior church - in plenty of time, we were made to wait as we appeared to be locked out!

After a bit of milling around in the church, we eventually found a way in and up to the ringing chamber where I rang some of the 'Method of the Day', Frampton Alliance Minor. We didn't have these last year as then Ringing Master Chris Woodcock understandably and quite rightly eased us into the first tour back after the pandemic, but his successor Alex Riley appreciates how important they are to preventing ringing fatigue over several days (and weeks for those who stay on that long). They are usually relatively straightforward constructions and selected because of their relevance to the local area, but give those of us willing to learn them something different to think about.

Frampton. Frampton.

Ironically I didn't ring it at the next tower where today's method is named after, a gallery-ring of six where the stretchy new rope on the 16cwt tenor caused some more trouble than others! I played it safe by ringing the treble to some Cambridge Surprise Minor!

Stratton. At the end of a relatively relaxing morning listening to radio commentary of England's women's football team winning 6-1 in the World Cup, we had lunch and then popped to The Saxon Arms in Stratton for a drink and a family game of Uno that set me up nicely for running the ringing on the 10cwt ground-floor five in the church of St Mary the Virgin round the corner. With so many towers across the fortnight-long tour, it is unreasonable to expect the Ringing Master to run our efforts at every one and so the honours are shared out amongst as many members as the RM can persuade. When asked by Alex, I had chosen here because I prefer GF rings, where I can easily ask what members want to ring whilst the ringing goes on, rather than relying on whoever can fit into the ringing chamber, but with my repertoire on five limited I was worried about finding enough to call for. I needn't have worried though, as request after request came my way and forty-five minutes of generally well-struck ringing on this lovely ring was completed with a wide variety of methods rung.

Ringing at Bradford Peverall. Ringing at Bradford Peverall. Outside Bradford Peverall.
Bradford Peverell

The pressure now off, I was able to enjoy the light eight at Bradford Peverell and the six at Cerne Abbas where I rang the tenor to a really pleasing course of Norwich Surprise Minor to round off a nice day, although we were disappointed that the famous giant chalk man nearby was distinctly lacking in chalk and barely visible!

Back in Suffolk meanwhile, well done to Luke Lapthorn on ringing his first quarter-peal of Minor inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob at St Mary the Virgin in Newmarket, whilst the first Guild peal of August 2023 was rung with the 5040 of seven Surprise Minor methods at Redgrave.

Outside the toilets on the campsite!I can't say what they did after their ringing (although I can hazard an educated guess with some!), but we returned to base for another chilly, wet evening of socialising that began again in the de Kok's tent and ended with those of us remaining sat shivering outside the campsite's toilets under the only bit of covering we could find without waking someone!

It's probably going to have to be another relaxed start tomorrow.

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Monday 31st July 2023

Westhorpe.Good news from Westhorpe, where the project to restore the existing five and augment them to six has received £142,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund towards their target of £182,000, which has also been helped by a £5k grant from the Suffolk Guild.

This prompted an article on the East Anglian Daily Times website which I read from inside our tent in Dorset as the wet weather continued and which had made our fossil hunting in Charmouth on the coast a damp experience! Still, we enjoyed ourselves as the boys searched for ancient relics other than bellringers (that joke was made a lot of times whenever we told people of our plans!) and we went to Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre after another in-car lunch, as we took a day off ringing for Mason, Alfie and Josh.

We were able to hear about the day's ringing on tour though as we enjoyed another evening of socialising with a drink or two.

I imagine there might have been a glass raised tonight in Westhorpe as well.

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Sunday 30th July 2023

Today didn't exactly go as we would've wished.

Not in respect of our first ringing on the 71st Rambling Ringers Tour which either side of the 18cwt six at Trent which are very loud inside and the 12cwt ground-floor five at Nether Compton which are very loud outside without even any louvres, saw us ringing at two large eights.

Ringing at Milborne Port. Ringing at Trent. The louvreless tower of Nether Compton. Ringing at Nether Compton. Ringing at Nether Compton. Ringing at Sherborne Abbey. Ringing at Sherborne Abbey.

First up was the 26cwt ring at Milborne Port just over the border in Somerset where my first ringing of the holiday was on the seventh to some Yorkshire Surprise Major from inside a ringing chamber in this central tower which was completely enclosed from any natural light. And last was at Sherborne Abbey, which at 46cwt is the heaviest ring of eight hung for change-ringing in the world in another enclosed ringing chamber rung from a central tower, this time reached via the roof of this vast building and where even the sixth which I rang to some more Yorkshire Surprise Major was 22cwt.

There was even the additional bonus of meeting with my father Alan's cousin David and his wife Pam who live nearby, something arranged by my Mum Sally who is also on the Tour, before they went for a meal in a neighbouring pub and we meandered back to base.

 Lunch in a wet Milborne Port. However, having woken this morning to wind and torrential rain that made the entire day extremely soggy and definitely made it more difficult putting their tent up for the three de Koks joining us straight from their successful ringing trip to Lundy Island, we turned the gas on to our stove so we could make a cup of tea, tried to light the hob and... nothing. There was certainly a smell of gas but none under the kettle that would light and with it obviously too dangerous to experiment with it inside the tent and conditions making it impractical to take it into the open air, that first cuppa would have to wait. Those who know how important tea is to Ruthie can imagine what her mood was like until we eventually found The Three Wishes Café in Sherborne after a packed lunch in the car outside the first tower of the day as the rain continued.

The lack of a stove also meant that we didn't have any way of cooking an evening meal and so with hopes of sorting our kitchenware out tomorrow, we decided to make the short walk to The Fox Inn across the lane from our campsite for food. Very nice it was too, especially as we were sat indoors, although the cost of feeding a family of five reminded us why we can't eat out everyday as we used to on Ramblers!

Once finished there, we had to brave the great outdoors again, but once the young boys were put to bed, we coped with it by gathering first in the de Kok's tent and then Liz and Stuart Hutchinson's awning with them and the Rileys. That now included their other son and new RR Ringing Master Alex who had arrived on site following a weekend celebrating Jack Page's birthday and a peal of twelve Major methods spliced at Hawkesbury in Gloucestershire.

Edwardstone.Meanwhile back in Suffolk, well done to Tristan Shaw on ringing his first quarter-peal inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Edwardstone which also celebrated the 85th birthday of the tenor ringer Geoff Haynes. Hopefully that went exactly as they wished!

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Saturday 29th July 2023

For years we have been voting for the Rambling Ringers to go to Dorset on their annual tour and having finally seen our wish come true at last year's Tour Meeting (ironically in our absence) in Leicestershire, we have been very excited for some time about the start of the 2023 Tour beginning today. It's a long way though!

Therefore, we set off early (for us!) and meandered down the A12. Not early enough to make any of the ringing as we thought that with getting the tent up, provisions purchased and the nearest tower of the day about 18 miles and 35 minutes away we thought that would be ambitious after several hours of travel and especially with the the children in tow. However, despite the traffic jams one might expect heading to this area at this time of the calendar and the necessary though lengthy stop at Fleet Services - where we bumped into fellow St Mary-le-Tower and Ramblers Chris & Jill Birkby for lunch, it was early enough to get to the encouragingly named Brewery Farm Campsite in Ansty, put our home for the week up and get food for tea and citronella candles from Blandford Forum in time to enjoy what for us is the best part of camping on RRs - the socialising!

The views on our campsite. The views on our campsite. The views on our campsite.
The views on our campsite

The campsite is small and there are already a number of the Society's members on site, such as the brothers Jim & Tony Crabtree and their respective wives Janet & Erica and Roger & Catherine Riley and their son Luke and with the site on multiple levels on the side of a hill, we sat with them overlooking our tent and beautiful views of the local countryside in this isolated spot, enjoying a few drinks and the entertainment of owners trying to catch their loose black dog in the dark.

If every evening is going to be as entertaining as this, then our week will definitely be worth the long trip down!

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Friday 28th July 2023

Another birthday peal for the boys successfully rung!

Rushmere St Andrew. This time it was for Josh's recent seventh birthday and therefore as with the lost attempt at Orford thirteen days ago, it was of seven methods, although as it was rung at Rushmere St Andrew, they were Minor methods! And the rescheduling worked well for Ruthie, who this time was able to ring too and thus for the first time has rung in all three peals dedicated to the anniversaries of the boys' births in a calendar year.

Our 2 hours 38 minutes of ringing was all very straightforward, dull even, with wrong-home-wrong called for the second-place methods and in-out-in for the extent of Norwich Surprise Minor at the end, but we weren't here to break new ground or wow and amaze. Rather, we were here to ensure a peal was scored for Joshua and preferably with good ringing and we certainly succeeded with that in quite humid conditions in a small ringing chamber with not much ventilation. Additionally, nice little six as they are, the position from which the tenor is rung leaves no space for my usual style of wandering about and using my body to heave it in when necessary! Thank you to Paul Sharples and the local ringers on letting us ring the bells, especially ahead of their weekly practice this evening. Much gratitude to the rest of the pealband as well on taking the time to come and ring.

It was also my two hundredth peal with Tom Scase. As my leading peal-ringer, he is therefore the first ringer I have rung this many peals with and it isn't surprising. This fellow Past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild is one of the first that I ask when I'm organising most peals, as a reliable and reassuring presence in a band.

We also rang it for JB's mother's July birthday, but I stopped short at recording that it was his father's fiftieth as conductor, chuffed and - if I'm honest - slightly incredulous as I am as someone who doesn't consider himself a natural or entirely comfortable conductor.

Ashbocking. Tostock. Our 5040 wasn't the only performance in the county on BellBoard though. Having rung his two hundredth peal with me earlier, Tom was conducting the quarter-peal at Ashbocking, whilst the 1296 of Leasowe Delight Minor at Tostock was a first in the method for the entire band. Well done to Maureen Gardiner, Andrea Alderton, David Steed, David Howe, Stephen Dawson and conductor Lesley Steed!

Great Barton.However, the headline act of the day was Mary Oliver-Barratt, who rang her first QP at the first attempt in the 1260 of Doubles at Great Barton. Congratulations Mary!

It was a very successful day of ringing within our borders.

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Thursday 27th July 2023

The new ringing gallery at St Clement's in Ipswich during the Ipswich Beer and Cider Festival. (Taken by Chris Birkby) When Chris Birkby went to the opening day of the first Ipswich Beer and Cider Festival for eight years in its new home of St Clement's church today, he got a firsthand view of the excellently refurbished building. That includes a new gallery from which to ring the 15cwt six. No ropes just yet, but it looks superb and I hope we can all get the chance to ring them in their improved surroundings soon!

Neal receiving the Freedom from the Clerk of the Chamberlain's Court. The Freedom.

Meanwhile, a quarter-peal of Lessness Surprise Major was being rung at Ixworth to celebrate Suffolk Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge being admitted as a Freeman of the City of London, with the Freeman himself ringing his first in the method. Very well done on both counts Neal!

Perhaps if there are any other ringers from the county going to the Ipswich Beer and Cider Festival, they could raise a glass to him!

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Wednesday 26th July 2023

We try not to miss Pettistree practice if we can help it, aware that especially at this time of year they - like any tower - need as much support as possible, but for the second time in three Wednesdays we were unable to make it, as we were round mother-in-law Kate's sorting out various bits of equipment and details of trips away that we are all taking at various points over the summer holidays.

Poslingford. Still, in our absence, I'm glad to see that before their weekly session the quarter-peal of Newcastle Surprise Minor lost last week was successful this evening (I was clearly the weak link!) and when we did eventually get home, put the boys to bed and whilst Ruthie played Hogwarts Legacy, I got a bit of my ringing fix by catching up on the agenda shared on this website today for the North-East District Walk, Ringing, Picnic and Quarterly Meeting due to happen on Saturday 12th August and the draft minutes of Mark Ogden's first GMC Meeting as Chairman, which was held at Stowupland Church Hall just over a month ago. An interesting aside to the latter is that the latest update to the Guild's peal records suggests that the 5040 of eleven Doubles methods rung at Poslingford on 7th June is now the SGR's 10,000th peal! Which highlights why the work to verify a hundred years worth of records was so important from a historical accuracy perspective.

It also means that as things stand, today's 5088 of Felixstowe Surprise Major rung at North Lopham in Norfolk for the Guild was number 10,013 and the 71st of 2023.

Southwold. Meanwhile it was encouraging to hear that the open tower day at Southwold recently impressively attracted more than 160 visitors in just five hours! Julia Johnson is keen to place on record her gratitude to the ringers, helpers and St Edmund's church for their support. And she is right. The time and effort put into such events helps make them a success, particularly this one. 160 into an area of the church that the vast majority would never have seen before, hopefully gives them an understanding of ringing at the very least and all being well some new recruits.

Which we'll need if ringers like us keep missing practices.

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Tuesday 25th July 2023

Disappointing to hear that the South-East District Centenary Celebration on Saturday 5th August has had to be postponed due to there not being enough coming to make it viable in the planned location. The August SE event on the first Saturday has always been a tricky date to arrange something, with many people going on, coming back from or actually on holiday, although it did once play host successfully to a quarter-peal afternoon followed by a meal. And I was hopeful that a lovely event like this would appeal to enough to overcome the holidaying absences.

Bramford. Nonetheless, the plan is to hold a smaller scale version before the year is out and for there still to be open ringing at Bramford from 12.45-1.45pm and from 5pm onwards, as well quarter-peal opportunities at local towers on the original date in eleven days time. If you would like to take part in those then please do let District Ringing Master Jenny Scase know as soon as possible.

Ufford. Ahead of all that, I was already ringing in a QP, one of Plain Bob Major at Ufford organised by Hilary Stearn. It is the type of proactiveness to be encouraged, so Ruthie and I were more than willing to offer up one of us to ring and on this occasion it was me who got to ring in a very enjoyable 1280 which was dedicated belatedly to my wife's birthday.

Offton. Afterwards mother-in-law Kate Eagle dropped me back at home and joined us for a cuppa, whilst thirteen miles across Suffolk another eight-bell quarter was being rung, this time of Grandsire Triples before the weekly practice at Offton on a good day of ringing in the SE District.

God willing the rearranged South-East District Centenary Celebration will see an equally good day for this corner of the Guild.

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Monday 24th July 2023

St Mary-le-Tower. It was a really good practice at St Mary-le-Tower this evening. Not perfect, but then practices anywhere rarely are and indeed probably shouldn't be if you are pushing yourselves sufficiently. Nonetheless, a session that began for me ringing in some Plain Bob Doubles that George Heath-Collins rang well inside to and watching some very well-struck call-changes on twelve, also took in touches of Erin Cinques and Stedman Cinques that many twelve-bell towers would be delighted with and an absolutely superb half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus rung with purpose and precision that if it weren't for a kerfuffle in the last lead would've arguably have been the best we've rung Surprise Maximus since we were preparing for the 2020 National 12-bell Striking Contest that never was.

Lovely as well in amongst a big crowd to welcome Ruth Suggett and also Mark from Cambridge. Or Waldringfield. Or both. Either way, we hope we see them again soon. They would be most welcome.

As was a drink afterwards in the beer garden of the Halberd Inn where with Mrs Suggett present tales and tips of ART were shared before we all eventually dispersed at the end of a day that also saw more handbell ringing in Moats Tye, as this time a quarter-peal of Kent Treble Bob Major was rung. It seems they had a good practice too!

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Sunday 23rd July 2023

St Mary-the-Virgin,  Woodbridge.It seems that almost every time I join Woodbridge's ringers for service ringing, there is a new recruit to meet! The recent surge in recruitment due to 'Ring for the King' and before that for the Platinum Jubilee has really added life to ringing chambers across the county and whilst we know from experience that not all will stick with it, God willing the sheer numbers will mean that the art benefits from lots of them for many years to come, whether that be as call-change ringers or taking advantage of the seemingly limitless aspects of the exercise physically, mentally and socially.

This morning, it was Robin's turn to be introduced to me and vice versa as he did his first Sunday morning service ringing and did very well at it too as unusually I got to ring on the treble, so high were the numbers!

Afterwards the boys and I joined the service itself where their mother was in the choir and Great Granny in the congregation, before Ruthie, her choral colleagues and other halves (plus children in our case) had been invited to the rectory by Father Nigel Prior and his wife Liz for drinks and nibbles which was a pleasant occasion that also doubled up as lunch for us!

Indeed it was a day of being fed rather than feeding ourselves, as once we'd picked Mason up from work, we headed up to the home of friends Charlotte, Gregory and their children - and our Goddaughters - Ava and Bea for a BBQ. That we were able to enjoy that barbecue outside in pleasant conditions and even walk home afterwards in comfort was a pleasant surprise following the weather forecasts that we'd had and made it an even more pleasant afternoon in the company of good friends.

Hopefully it also made for pleasant conditions for those ringing in Suffolk today, especially those ringing at length in three notable performances. One was a 1311 of Stedman Cinques rung at The Norman Tower by a band entirely resident within the Guild. Never an easy proposition for even the most experienced twelve-bell bands, it is already the ninth quarter-peal on twelve in the county this year and a sign of how far twelve-bell ringing in the SGR has progressed in recent years, whilst a second QP saw young Clem Day ring his first on eight in the 1296 of Plain Bob Major at Henley as he too progresses at an impressive rate. Well done Clem!

Troston. Meanwhile, a little bit of history was made as the first peal on Troston's bells was rung featuring a mix of locals and bellhangers. All being well the first of many (within reason of course!) on these lovely, very easy-going light bells.

James pealband at Accrington with tailends! Further afield, ringers from within our borders were also peal-ringing, with James Croft taking part in the Guild of St Cuileáin Handbell Week in Bosham in West Sussex as he rang 3-4 to a 5152 of Cambridge Surprise Major, whilst James Smith was ringing with a band of James' for the Feast of St James at St James in Accrington (note the tailends in the band photo!) to a 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Major (disappointingly not St James Delight or St James Youths Exercise Bob!) composed by James Clatworthy in the first James peal ever rung.

There is a whole world of ringing out there for our many new recruits to explore!

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Saturday 22nd July 2023

Autumn comes round earlier and earlier it seems. Cool temperatures, high winds and plenty of rain made it feel more like November then the height of summer. Even I wouldn't want the scorching temperatures that most of continental Europe have had in recent weeks, but something about halfway between would be lovely!

Quarter-peal band at St Michael's, Cornhill. It is what it is though and of course the rainfall is needed, but it was a pity for Southwark Cathedral ringers Rebecca Steed and Anthony Matthews who were getting married at this famous London landmark today. Rebecca has family links to Suffolk, with her father John from within our borders and of course her Uncle David and Aunt Lesley are a big part of the county's ringing scene! Additionally, the abundance of ringing in the capital for the occasion included a quarter-peal of Stedman Cinques at St Michael, Cornhill composed and conducted by former Great Barton ringer Alex Tatlow, who was looking rather smart!

Ufford. A pity also for the couple getting married at Ufford this afternoon and for which Ruthie and I were ringing. Although, after a bout of forgetfulness from the keyholder, they nearly didn't get ringing beforehand at all! After a spot of chasing though, all was well, with the back five ringing out and then the back six all before the bride or even the bridesmaids arrived in the drizzle. And with the rain full on and umbrellas out after the ceremony, two 120s and a 60 of very well-rung Plain Bob Doubles was all they needed before everyone dashed off to the reception! Unlike the last nuptials we rang for here, there was no relaxed champagne-sipping at the gate today.

Before our £30 of ringing, we had watched England's women footballers kick-off their World Cup Campaign in Australia and New Zealand with a 1-0 win against Haiti on TV and even earlier (there's not much that is happening earlier in the day than this World Cup!), we had taken Josh to football training, keen as he was to put his new Ipswich Town kit to use, spots of the wet stuff already dropping, but not putting off the mass of young enthusiasm on show. Which links tenuously to more fantastic coverage in the latest edition of The Ringing World of the RWNYC held in York recently. Absolutely fabulous to see such colour, diversity and inclusion on show and showcasing the art as something other than the traditional misconceptions. Some great photography too.

Elsewhere in the publication, there wasn't anything Suffolk-related that I could find, although personally I hadn't realised that Devon ringer - and once of Norfolk - Peter Sawyer was in fact born in Ipswich until I read his touching obituary on p735.

However, throughout the issue, there is so much on ringing of all sorts from around the country and beyond, much of it not readily found online. For us though, our ringing at Ufford marked the end of going out, bar a brief trip to get me new footwear, as we bunkered down indoors from all that autumn can throw at us.

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Friday 21st July 2023

On the day when the news was dominated by Labour's 25-year-old Keir Mather being voted in as MP of Selby and Ainsty, another headline grabbed my attention, as former Suffolk Guild Secretary Reverend Carl Melville appeared on the Eastern Daily Press website as ahead of his planned arrival in the area as the Rector of Dickleburgh and the Pulhams just over the Norfolk border in September, he is now running The Falcon in Pulham Market with his partner Steve. It is the Bacton Benefice's loss, but exciting times for Carl! Good luck to them both!

There was ringing today in the benefice he is due to depart, as a handbell peal was rung in Bacton itself for the Norwich Diocesan Association that he is planning on living and working within, but otherwise nothing reported on BellBoard from the county and nothing to report from our household from a ringing perspective. Rather, once our working days were completed, there was a kickaround in our local park with the boys' schoolfriends and then a trip to Portman Road for Alfie and Josh to get new Ipswich Town kits.

That was the headline news in our house.

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Thursday 20th July 2023

August is lined up to be light on events in Suffolk ringing, but what there is, is planned to be big though laid back looking occasions.

You have one week until the 27th July deadline for booking your spot for the South-East District Centenary Celebration due to take place in Bramford on the afternoon of Saturday 5th. Although being hosted by the SE, it is open (as all District events are, but especially this one) to anyone in the Guild and particularly those who were unable to go to the Centenary Dinner in March. It looks like it should be another fantastic way of celebrating the SGR's one hundredth anniversary and hopefully very affordable for everyone. Please do contact District Secretary Liz Christian if you can make it and haven't already booked your space - there are only one hundred spaces available, so be quick!

Barsham. The Locks Inn, Geldeston - geograph.org.uk - 3265181 A week later, the North-East District have slated the 12th for their Walk, Ring, Picnic  and Quarterly Meeting at Barsham. God willing the weather will be good, as this is a lovely area to walk in and the planned destination of The Geldeston Locks Inn is somewhere which we know from experience is a fantastic location!

Elmsett.Meanwhile, two days after that the Bungay 8-Bell Practice is due to take place, whilst before we even get to August the South-West District have their monthly Practice penciled in for this Saturday evening on the light ground-floor five of Elmsett.

The thinner than usual programme probably reflects that of course we ought to be at the height of holiday season by then, so I hope that if you are able to get to any of these events or your local practice night and are wavering about whether to go, that you do try and support them if you can, lest they end up being unnecessarily short on numbers.

For all that, holiday season seems to be up and running already for many. Dynamics at work where I am predominantly contacting independent schools have been changing over recent weeks as term has finished, for some as long as a month ago. In our household, Mason finished school in June after doing his GCSEs, although apart from his recent trip to Normandy with his Nan, he has been spending much of his time working.

In ringing, over in Wales a band of 'senior' College Youths continued their peal tour today with a 5024 of four Surprise Major methods spliced at Radyr, a tour which has already seen Paul Mounsey ring his 5000th peal (incredibly since Colin Turner became the first to reach that number in 2007, Paul is the fifteenth to reach the landmark) in yesterday's 5004 of Stedman Cinques at Llandaff Cathedral.

And in here in Suffolk there was nothing reported from within our borders on BellBoard and to be fair we weren't doing any ringing (more peal-arranging though!) either, as Ruthie was practicing with her choral colleagues. August appears to have started early!

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Wednesday 19th July 2023

Pettistree. It was an eclectic few hours of conversation and ringing at Pettistree's weekly practice, enabled by another pleasant, light summer's evening in the countryside as the conversation spilled out into the church and churchyard whilst the ringing continued on this ground-floor six separated from the rest of the building by a screen of wood and glass.

Contemplating Newcastle Surprise Minor in Pettistree churchyard after our lost quarter-peal attempt of it. The latter saw me chatting with just a fraction of the sizeable attendance, as I discussed the weather with John Horsnell,  enjoyed hearing from Pippa Moss about her birthday weekend in north Norfolk, backstrokes, Bourne and Hull with Hilary Stern, climate change with Jane Harper and learner Catherine and Sunday's peal at Helmingham with Mark Ogden. Meanwhile the ringing ranged from handling for Katharine and Plain Bob Doubles for Vince Buckman and John to pieces of Cambridge and London Surprise, as well as both of those in a touch of spliced that also featured Beverley, Norwich & Surfleet Surprise and Double Oxford, St Clement's College, Little & Plain Bob Minor, with the session rounded off with some reasonable Stedman Doubles and a good lower. And even though we lost the pre-practice quarter-peal of Newcastle Surprise Minor, we rang a nice touch of this Carlisle-above the treble/Wells-below method afterwards to show we can ring it!

Post-ringing, I retired to the Greyhound Inn next door with the Garners and also mother-in-law Kate and the boys' Grandad Ron who had been to Ufford to put a new stay on the third, bringing the dogs along with them too. It was a nice way to finish an eclectic evening in Pettistree.

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Tuesday 18th July 2023

It was an eventful practice at Ufford this evening. And not just for Peter Harper finally - but very kindly - remembering to bring batteries for the ringing chamber clock!

Rather, it was as I was watching one of the increasing number of learners - who come over from Hollesley to supplement their learning in a way that I wish more countywide would - who was ringing the third. Just for a brief moment, they missed the sally and before I could move, the rope carried on up and lodged, the tailend out of reach just below the ceiling and the 4cwt bell ringing itself down.

Ufford. Pete inspecting the damage. The broken stay. The clock room at Ufford with the third rope in the far corner.

Eventually, once it had completed the job in its own sweet time, we'd checked on the poor learner who was shocked but not physically hurt and bells had been rung down to enable safe access, Pete Faircloth and myself climbed to the bells themselves to check the damage. Pete quickly ascertained that the unfortunate ringer had merely finished off a weak stay and had been very unlucky and in the process the rope had slipped wheel. From there, as Mr Faircloth lowered the rope through the floor, I went into the clock chamber and climbed up the structure which holds the majority of the clock mechanism to thread it through the rope guide in there and then down into the ringing chamber and with me and then Pete holding on to make sure the now stay-less bell didn't go over (something that is easy enough to do for most experienced ringers as we shouldn't be going anywhere near the stay whilst ringing anyway, but you do need to remember not to let it go over when 'stand' is called!), we were able to continue with a session that included Treble Bob Major (which is utterly false as everyone treble bobs and hence each row is repeated, but it is useful on occasions like tonight when there weren't enough to ring a Treble Bob or Surprise method) and Grandsire Triples with eleven present.

Hopefully they had more luck at Offton's weekly practice this evening and they certainly started off well with a quarter-peal beforehand, which on this occasion was dedicated to the memory of the late Rolie Whiting's wife Diana whose death at the age of 92 was announced this morning.

Meanwhile, the Central Council's AGM due to be held in Ipswich over the first weekend of September is getting closer and there are further details of the events taking place and how to book your place on them, which anyone is able to do, regardless of whether you are involved in the CCCBR or not. The main event page continues to get added to, including a link to a booking page, whilst Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter recently shared an eventbrite page for some of the activities. Please do support and/or take advantage of all that is on offer, as a lot of work has been put into welcoming the showpiece occasion of world ringing's representative body to the county.

Whilst taking that all in, I also got the opportunity to read the latest issue of The Ringing World, which features a report and great photos from the recent Ringing World National Youth Contest, but nothing specifically related to our county that I spotted, bar peal and quarter reports. Perhaps we ought to send in the tale of our eventful practice at Ufford?

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Monday 17th July 2023

Conversation in the beer garden of the Halberd Inn this evening started with a recounting of a chat that Amanda Richmond had with Stephanie Warboys on Saturday ahead of the latter ringing in the 5050 of Stedman Cinques at St Mary-le-Tower which then linked in to Bedford St Paul's in Steph's old stomping ground and the project there to rehang the twelve, that in turn led ex-Bedfordshireites David Potts and David Stanford to recall peals they'd rung on them and thus bridged to talk of another twelve in the county Luton and subsequently peals rung on twelves along the line from St Pancras! A verbal ringing journey which was very enjoyable over a drink.

St Mary-le-Tower. The practice on Suffolk's heaviest ring of bells which preceded it was also enjoyable as even with a few regulars away (tis the season!) we still managed some pretty reasonable Stedman Cinques and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, as well as call-changes and Plain Hunt on Eleven and George Heath-Collins rang the second to plain courses of Grandsire Caters and Cinques really well as ringers at various stages of their ringing progression continue to improve.

God willing in the near future that progression will be supported by six training bells in the tower, which I have mentioned in this blog previously and which many of you will have seen over the weekend has now obtained the necessary Faculty from the Diocese. We 'just' need to raise the £30,000 that we need as a minimum by the end of 2023. Please do consider donating to help get this up and running not just for our learners, but learners across the county and beyond. The Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich has shown for several years now the value of such a set-up where training and practicing can be carried out with flexibility and technology. If this can achieve even just a fraction of the success of our neighbours north of the River Waveney, then this will be a huge benefit to ringing within our borders and across East Anglia.

An insight into what can be achieved with the flexibility ringing that doesn't disturb local residents affords, can be gained by seeing what the Guild's handbell ringers have achieved in recent years and there was more evidence of it today as the sixth SGR peal in hand this year was rung, this time in Moats Tye and of Plain Bob Major.

I imagine the post-ringing conversation was as enjoyable as ours too!

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Sunday 16th July 2023

16th July and my annual opportunity to thank my talented wife Ruthie for all she does for our family, her choral colleagues and of course ringing on the occasion of her birthday. Without her, all three would be much the poorer.

And all three contributed to hopefully making her day a lovely one.

Although Mrs Munnings didn't participate in the exercise today, ringers imparted many messages through the day via the boys and me as I went ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh either side of refreshment from Costa Coffee, and on social media, whilst the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge apparently sang 'Happy Birthday' to her before the service there.

Beforehand, the birthday girl's sons and I treated her to presents, a cup of tea and some burnt croissants in bed and then after picking her up from church her sister Clare hosted a BBQ in honour of the occasion, with fellow ringer and mother Kate present.

The tower of St Clement's from the 'Amsterdam Arena' at Goals. It was an event that I had to leave early as Josh had been invited to the birthday party of two of his classmates, held at what seems to be the venue of choice for such events this year, Goals. This was my third visit of 2023 to this fantastic facility following a party a few months ago and Joshua's own celebrations a week ago, whilst we've also received an invite for one due to take place next month. However, it hasn't diminished the enjoyment of this venue for children and adults alike. Indeed, whilst the children were playing football under the supervision of their host, some of us parents had a kick around with some bigger kids in the shadow of the tower of St Clement, the bells ringing out as part of the clock chimes periodically. Although I was regretting my footy participation this evening as I ached quite a lot!

By that point, Ruthie was home and playing her new Harry Potter computer 'Hogwarts Legacy', one of her much-deserved gifts from today and so I cracked open a bottle of fizzy which was another one!

Ousden.Elsewhere, it was a busy of day of ringing for some of Suffolk's ringers as four quarter-peals and a peal were ring on Suffolk's bells. Sally Crouch, Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge, North-West District Ringing Master Maureen Gardiner, Ben Keating and Joshua Watkins rang in all four quarters with help from Louise Whitehead in a couple of them and Claire Free in one. Well done to Louise, Neal and Ben on ringing their first blows of Hempsted Bob Minor in the 1260 at Lakenheath and again to them as well as to Maureen and Joshua on their first blows of Hindley Bob Minor in the success at Brandon and congratulations to Neal and Joshua on ringing their twenty-fifth together in the process. Additionally, they rang the first QP at Mildenhall for a decade and six Doubles methods at Eriswell, whilst not all that far away, Luke Lapthorn chimed the unringable five of Ousden.

The Helmingham pealband. Meanwhile, the peal at Helmingham was a special one as it was Janice Davies' first peal since she rang in the 5058 of Bristol Surprise Major at Grundisburgh to celebrate Adrian Knights' 58th birthday in 2005, exactly fifty years since she rang her first in a 5040 of Plain Bob Minor at Benhall. Congratulations Janice!

And Happy Birthday Ruthie!

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Saturday 15th July 2023

Orford. Pity as it was to lose this morning's peal attempt in Orford, I felt considerable satisfaction once the initial disappointment had subsided. Being for Josh's seventh birthday on Tuesday, we were going for seven methods, with an appropriate number of methods and/or changes traditional for all the birthday peals specially arranged for all three brothers since they were born. Since Project Pickled Egg led to the creation of the 'Core Seven' Surprise Major methods of Bristol, Cambridge, Cornwall, Lessness, London, Superlative and Yorkshire (an evolution from the 'standard eight' that many of us have grown up on), I did have in mind ringing a peal of these for Alfie's seventh birthday, but went that came round in April 2021 we were still living through restrictions that made peal attempts for me impractical. Therefore, I'd shifted my hopes for such an attempt to Joshua's number seven.

Easier said then done of course. Arranging attempts for the anniversary of Joshie's birth have always been harder because of the time of year, with more people away on holiday and weddings regularly calling upon ringers' skills, but this year there is so much more peal-ringing (the 67 rung for the SGR in 2023 thus far is the most rung by this date since 2014) being done by members in the Guild's centenary year, which is stretching many. The relative complexity of the peal further reduced the potential pool and some from that pool were already attempting peals further afield. On a day of four peals of Cinques and four of Maximus, St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Colin Salter was in Portsmouth ringing the tenth at the Cathedral to Stedman for example. More still were at Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire attempting the first peal on the new twelve there and whilst I was sorry to see they'd lost that, it was pleasing to see they at least got the debut quarter-peal on them.

Nonetheless, despite all that, a really good band gathered at the 10cwt eight to ring a Don Morrison composition that I have spent the last few days in particular learning intensely. It is a six-part which means that essentially you only have a relatively small chunk of composition to learn which will be repeated five times. It is also not all-the-work for anyone, which means that there is less of the lines to worry about! The order of the bells at the end of each part are subsequently easier to commit to memory, with seven and eight always seventh and eighth place at those points, five and six swap fifth and sixth place each time and two, three and four revolve around second, third and fourth place.

Still, it requires fairly intense concentration, with lots to think about all at once, not least with Cornwall and Lessness being reasonably straightforward but unfamiliar methods to some of us. Also making sure that the calls in and out of London - where at the change of method one suddenly needs to change direction - were called in plenty of time, but not as early as I called it in the opening minutes, understandably leading to a fireout. I have to admit to doubts at that moment as to whether I could keep on top of this, but we then set off into a first part which was pretty much flawless, rung with confidence and at a steady pace. Although the second part started out a little more unsettled, it still felt we were comfortable, with any mistakes instantly rectified with little disruption. Until a hesitation towards the end of a lead of London, which led to another hesitation and then more, before a bob and change of method to Bristol became a big mess and finished us off.

As mentioned, disappointing, but actually after the doubts, it was reassuring that we didn't just bash our way to the fifty minute mark that we ultimately reached, but rang it assuredly. If the mix-up hadn't happened at one of the most awkward moments that it could've, there's every reason to believe a peal would've been scored, obvious as it may seem to point out. Personally, as someone who has never felt a natural conductor, it reassured me that I could call this.

With Simon Smith having to be in Ipswich by 2pm to ring in an ultimately successful 5050 of Stedman Cinques on the county's heaviest twelve though, there was no time to start again, even if there was an appetite in a ringing chamber which was still very warm despite the increasingly strong unseasonable winds outside and so we rang the bells down and retired to Pump Street Bakery. This was a place I have heard lots about, with it even getting a mention in an Oscars acceptance speech, but I'd never been. What a wonderful place though! I couldn't resist a custard doughnut and a hot chocolate with a marshmallow almost the size of the cup, which I enjoyed very much, despite spilling much of it over the table! Nice as well to see James Croft's wife Jenny, although we were sorry to cut short her walk!

Eventually we all went our separate ways, as I picked Ruthie up from her playgroup's fun graduation ceremony for those due to start school in September and we went to pick up the boys from my mother Sally. It was kind of her to look after them, especially as she'd only returned home yesterday from a few days in Normandy with Mason and so the collection of his two younger brothers was an excellent opportunity to hear about it over a cuppa.

The rest of our day was fairly mundane, mainly consisting of shopping ahead of tomorrow's anniversary of my wife's birth, as I grappled with the conflicting emotions of disappointment and satisfaction.

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Friday 14th July 2023

SE District Striking Competition, 2009 Another night of housesitting for Kate was spent trying to spot Cornwall ringer Alex Britton in the BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Chorus at the Royal Albert Hall on the first night of this year's Proms. Some may remember that Alex very kindly judged the South-East District Striking Competition at Rushmere St Andrew with George Pipe in 2009 after they both rang in a peal at St Mary-le-Tower that morning, but I didn't manage to pick him out from his colleagues this evening.

Ruthie didn't either as she missed the whole thing whilst attending a fundraising event for her work, but others in the county did spot fellow ringers and indeed rang with them as a quarter-peal of Single Oxford Bob Minor was rung at Wissett and was a first in the method for Erika Clarke and Jonathan Iles. Well done Erika and Jonathan!

And well done to Alex Britton and his choral colleagues on producing some superb singing.

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Thursday 13th July 2023

For reasons too convoluted to go into even in this blog, but not for any to worry about, logistics meant that we were housesitting for Ruthie's mother Kate tonight, the practicalities of which meant there wasn't any time left for my wife to go to choir practice nor for me to do any ringing, either on eBells, at Grundisburgh or anywhere else for that matter.

Not so for others, as a quarter-peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major was rung at Ixworth and the (Very!) South-West District of the Guild rang a 5056 of Centenary Delight Major at Barrow Gurney in Somerset, which was conductor George Salter's 250th for the SGR. Congratulations George!

And well done to the band on the convoluted circumstances leading to a Suffolk Guild peal being rung in the South-West of England on a Thursday!

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Wednesday 12th July 2023

Church of St Peter and St Mary - geograph.org.uk - 1702156 Suffolk has another ten, as the newly augmented ring at Stowmarket finally rang out in their entirety in their home for the first time. It is timely too, not least for the local band as this has been one of the unluckiest ringing projects I can recall, as the bells were last rung in February 2020 and then removed for a job that should've taken months just weeks before the pandemic stopped everything. Connected and unconnected issues have since complicated and held things up to the extent that the timing of today's ringing three years and five months on from the beginning of the process has made this an even more special landmark.

However, it also bolsters the county's patchy ten-bell offering. Of course ten-bell ringing still happens at The Norman Tower (as it does at St Mary-le-Tower and occasionally Grundisburgh), but since they were augmented to twelve eleven years ago, until today our only ten-bell rings were either right on the edge of our borders, partially unringable, hard going, out of action or a combination thereof.

Well done to all involved, including with the PR work that has accompanied it all the way, right up to today as a piece on Wayne Bavin's BBC Radio Suffolk show (the type of opportunity that I fear will be harder to come across once the Beeb reduce the county-only broadcasting that they intend to implement soon) and a couple of videos on YouTube of rounds and a piece of Little Bob Royal recorded some of the first ringing on the ten for posterity.

Pippa Moss with the broken rope at Pettistree! (Taken by Mike Whitby). It was ringing that Ruthie and I had the time to listen to this evening, as following a later than usual day on a first aid course at work for my wife and a busy few days of parties, plays, birthdays, work and ringing, getting out to Pettistree's weekly practice was a step too far on this occasion. Still, hopefully they coped without our presence, despite a broken rope and we were very touched by them putting a footnote to Josh's birthday to the quarter-peal that preceded the session. Thank you guys!

That wasn't the only ringing within our borders noted on BellBoard though, with the peal of Cambridge Surprise Major at Horringer dedicated to today's Veteran's Day at Debenham, which in this Centenary Year of the Guild is worth celebrating more than ever.

As is its newest ten!

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Tuesday 11th July 2023

Seven years ago today we spent almost the entire day in Ipswich Hospital for the birth of Josh. Very little of it with the actual birth of our youngest son, as that was remarkably quick as he came into the world at 7.12am, barely a couple of hours after we'd got there. Rather, it was waiting for the paperwork the poor overworked staff there needed to get through on top of all the other duties that were demanded of them that was the general theme of our day. Joyous as it was to undertake the important process of bonding with Joshua and overall it was an extraordinary, memorable and special day in our lives, he wasn't the most stimulating company that day and by the time we got to 11pm when we were finally released into the wider world with him, it had been a slow, largely uneventful afternoon and evening in the same room with the same view over the north-east of Suffolk's county town.

Today was quite different, as indeed Joshie is. By the point we'd got to 7.12am today, the birthday boy was already ripping wrapping paper off his presents, before we then eventually had to squeeze the usual routine of getting the boys ready for school into the time left us amongst much clearing up and dragging JB away from his new gifts and then ultimately got them them to school and us to work.

Josh's birthday cake, made by Ruthie! Even on our return from our respective institutions of education and employment, there was no rest as we welcomed some of Ruthie's family to ours for more presents for JB, a cuppa, nibbles and some of that wonderful cake that my wife made for our son's big day. From there, we then took the boys' Great Granny with us to their school to watch Alfie and his classmates help the Year 6s perform their traditional farewell play with lots of singing and dancing, something that his younger brother had sweetly requested to watch when we asked what he wanted to do on his birthday.

Offton. It was a lovely evening, but meant neither of us could make Ufford practice. Others were busier in the art though, with the weekly session on the 8cwt ground-floor eight at Offton preceded as it often is by a quarter-peal, which on this occasion was a 1260 of Grandsire Triples.

Meanwhile, we put a very content Joshie to bed, thoughts of that day in Ipswich Hospital much in our thoughts.

Happy Birthday Josh!

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Monday 10th July 2023

Ruthie's main focus today was making a bespoke cake in anticipation of the seventh anniversary tomorrow of Josh's birth.

Josh's main focus today was playing with the ball Goals gave him yesterday.

Alfie's main focus today was performing in the first of two productions at school.

St Mary-le-Tower. My main focus today was - beyond work and parenthood of course - going along to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice.

Ultimately we were all successful in our endeavours to varying degrees. The football shirt-shaped cake requested looks magnificent and was created with far less stress than my wife had envisaged. Joshie beat me in the garden with his new ball by many goals. Alfred's performance was apparently a triumph, backed up by his Granny Kate who was watching. And I was pleased when Amanda Richmond labelled my bonging behind to Plain Bob Doubles at the session on the county's heaviest twelve as "promising."

By the end of the evening I had progressed to Erin Cinques and Cambridge Surprise Maximus and stood behind George Heath-Collins trebling to some Little Bob Maximus to see how it should be done. All topped off by a drink in the beer garden of the Halberd Inn. A great way of finishing a day of focus off.

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Sunday 9th July 2023

Pealbase Bingo. Copyright Ruth Munnings. And quite good fun after a few drinks!

For those not aware, if you are registered with Andrew Craddock's magnificent website, you are able to check not only your own peal stats, but those of everyone else. That includes who one has rung peals with and how many, which can be viewed alphabetically or in order of who one has rung the most peals with.

Our impromptu game began when I mentioned that the 5100 of Suffolk Surprise Major at Grundisburgh yesterday was mine and Tom Scase's 199th together. With Tom my leading peal-ringer, Ruthie wondered where she came in my list. Impressively, despite having not rung one together for almost a decade until Mason's sixteenth birthday peal at Monewden earlier in the year, she is at number five, with 162 peals with each other. Of course then she was intrigued in who came above her and thus began a guessing game and once she had worked out that the much-missed David Salter comes in second on 190, Mary Dunbavin in third on189 and then conductor of twenty-fours ago Stephen Pettman on 163 is in fourth, she was curious to know who made up the rest of my top ten. Brian Whiting at six on 151, current Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter at seven on 142, another much-missed ringer Mick Edwards at eight on 103, Mary Garner at nine on 94 and James Smith at ten on 76 for the record. Naturally after that we went through my wife's top ten into she got a full house. It's a niche game, but so long as you are guessing about people who you know, it is interesting trying to work out who features in their top ten. And although we didn't try it tonight, rounds could be done using their leading towers and methods!

It wasn't the most fun we had today though, as after ringing in some of the best struck call-changes I have participated in anywhere recently at Woodbridge and gone to the service there afterwards this morning, this afternoon we took the boys to Goals in Ipswich for Josh's birthday party. Tuesday is the seventh anniversary of his birth, but obviously with work and school, the weekend is the best time to hold a party for quite a few of his friends to come along to and with yesterday busy, today was the chosen time. Jolly entertaining it was too, with Joshua getting a hat-trick and a trophy, the children were fed with pizza, hot dogs and chips and there was the opportunity for us adults to join in at the end! We even chose the only two hours post-lunch that wasn't raining!

Whilst we were doing that, other ringers were ringing, with quarter-peals of Yorkshire Surprise Royal and Plain Bob Doubles rung at The Norman Tower and Heveningham respectively to be added to 1260 of three Doubles methods rung at Barham on Saturday, whilst the 5376 of Quito Surprise Major at Henley was the first in the method for the entire band and for the SGR.

Additionally, conductor Tom Scase trebled and thus circled the tower for what was also his 800th peal. Congratulations to my leading peal-ringer and inspiration for Pealbase Bingo!

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Saturday 8th July 2023

It was another day of ringing and footballing success in our household.

Alfie was part of a 5-a-side team that won a tournament today, a victory that he was rightly chuffed with.

Sadly I wasn't there to witness it, as in an unfortunate diary clash I was in Grundisburgh taking part in one of three simultaneous peal attempts of Suffolk Surprise Major in the county this morning, something that had been booked a lot longer than the off-season footy competition.

Unluckily, two of those three attempts were lost. One at Hollesley particularly so as the rope of the fourth broke on the Reverend Max Drinkwater about halfway through, whilst the effort at Wilby ended just over an hour in. Which left just ours on the back eight of the lightest twelve within our borders. And that didn't look too hopeful after our three or four attempts in twenty minutes as we struggled to get the hang of the 'shunt' that enabled the composition to be a 5100. However, once it was realised that a stray, non-existent dodge was the issue, we set off on 2 hours and 51 minutes of ringing that got increasingly confident as we got more and more into it.

In such weather and with the window still boarded up, it was pretty warm too, so after a band photo we were grateful for a drink in the beer garden of The Chequers in Kettleburgh where we met with some of the other two pealbands and ultimately my wife and two youngest sons, the elder of which was wearing his gold medal and busy recounting his team's triumph!

Thank you to Brian Whiting for organising today. We might not have got all three peals, but it is impressive that a trio of bands could be raised by the Guild's Handbells and Mini-Ring Trustee of the quality to attempt these. And it was lovely to socialise with so many afterwards in a really lovely spot.

Grundisburgh church from the north.  The towers of Clopton (on the left) & Burgh (on the right) across the fields from Grundisburgh.

Beforehand, having been dropped off in Grundisburgh in plenty of time so that Ruthie and the boys could get off to the football tournament, I took the opportunity to have a wander through some of the countryside north of the village. On this already warm, sunny morning, I took in a different view of the little wobbly red brick tower and then across the golden fields in an almost ageless view spoilt only by the massive electricity pylons which cuts through it, the towers of Burgh and Clopton came into view, both of which hold sixes. As I've said so many times, we are blessed to have all of this on our doorstep to ring amongst.

And afterwards, once our family were all gathered together again, we paid a visit to Ufford ringers Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth to meet their nine-day old son Jonathan for the first time. Of course, he doesn't do an awful lot at the moment (apart from the obvious!), but Ruthie enjoyed having a hold, the boys were curious and we had a nice time catching up with a ringing couple who have been understandably occupied in recent weeks! It also still astounds me just how small we all start out at when you meet someone so young!

Meanwhile, others older than Jonathan but still much much younger then us were up in York today, competing in the Ringing World National Youth Contest. Ringing is wonderful for the fact that one can start it at almost any stage of one's life and still get years of fulfilment from it and be useful to a band or bands, but undoubtedly we want and need as many young ringers as we can get. In the most brutally obvious sense it is because we should potentially get the most years of ringing out of them, but young ringers do tend to do better when they have peers to encourage them and even to compete with, egging each other on. God willing they are the future of the art for many decades to come and not necessarily for other parts of the world, as is the common perception. Of the eight who represented Suffolk's youths in the RWNYC also in York a decade ago, certainly seven of them are still ringing regularly that I can make out, four of them within our borders. Two of them were ringing in the peal attempts of Suffolk Surprise Major today. A photo recently shared on Facebook of a Young Ringers event at Ufford in 2015 features thirteen under-eighteens, at least nine of which are still ringing on at least a semi-regular basis, seven of them here in the county, with two of them having rung in the National 12-bell Striking Contest in one of the last two finals. Not forgetting Neal Dodge who is now the SGR's Public Relations Officer!

Hopefully soon we can get another Suffolk entry into this wonderful competition, as from afar it appears to go from strength to strength. Social media was awash with photos of young ringers in team shirts of what seems to be every colour from across the UK, including our neighbours in Cambridgeshire, Essex and Norfolk. An increasingly diverse crowd of hundreds, some shortly to become adults, others it looks like are still at primary school. It is a superb advert for ringing. Congratulations to Durham & Newcastle Young Ringers on winning the call change competition and the W & P (Winchester & Portsmouth) Youths on their victory in the method contest.

It's nice to see other households having success today too!

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Friday 7th July 2023

Cathedral 2 (3542672756) This week's edition of The Ringing World arrived today, with its front pages dedicated to the recent National 12-bell Striking Contest at Sheffield and the Ringing World National Youth Striking Contest due to take place in York tomorrow. Apart from the usual presence in quarter-peal and peal columns, nothing Suffolk-related that I could find on this occasion.

St Mary-le-Tower. There is mention of Suffolk ringing in the late Bill Butler's 'On This Day' section on Pealbase, as apparently in 1812 the Ipswich Chronicle announced that on "Tuesday next, the 7th of July, being the first day of the Ipswich Races, will be opened at St Mary-le-Tower, Ipswich, a peal of ten bells, two trebles being added to the former eight, provided and hung by John Naunton”. As outlined in Colin Salter's excellent history of the St Mary-le-Tower Society of Change Ringers which can be found on the Society's website.

Meanwhile, it was a not unusual Friday of work, school and a night in for us. We were doing nothing that will be added to future editions of the RW or 'On This Day.'

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Thursday 6th July 2023

Horringer.Well done to Jane Watson on ringing her first quarter-peal on the tenor behind when she rang in the 1260 of Doubles at Horringer.

Redgrave.Well done also to Paul Harrison and Trevor Conway on ringing their first QP of Grandsire Doubles inside to the success at Redgrave.

Further afield, Colin Turner - who due to some ill health has been quite quiet in his peal-ringing by his standards over the last year or two - continued a busy week of peal-ringing up in Cumbria by ringing peals number 7939 and 7940 and the Cumberland Youths had an impressive start to their Country Meeting Weekend in Loughborough and surrounding areas, including some phenomenal statistics for Alan Regin in the 5088 of Bristol Surprise Maximus at Melbourne.

Personally though, our ringing was limited to me revising Suffolk Surprise Major, so well done and thank you to Jane, Paul and Trevor on keeping things interesting from a ringing perspective today.

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Wednesday 5th July 2023

This evening I watched an interview with outgoing President of the CCCBR Simon Linford, who is due to leave the role after four years when the Central Council's AGM is lined up to be held in Ipswich on Saturday 2nd September. Ruthie will be relieved to hear that it isn't a job I am at all interested in, with dedicating considerable time one of the ideal requisites! However, it was interesting hearing the background to him taking up the job, his plans for after he steps down in Suffolk and how important he feels his blog was for showing up the unseen aspects of the job and the CC, which isn't dissimilar to my original aim with this blog. At just 11 minutes and 21 seconds it is well worth taking the time out to watch. Especially if you do fancy the job!

The Pettistree band.As alluded, time isn't something I seem to get much of. Even on nights like this when I was at home whilst my wife went out to ring in the quarter-peal of Doubles at Pettistree, the practice that it preceded and a drink in The Greyhound afterwards, I still found myself occupied getting Alfie and Josh to bed, deconstructing the dens they had built on our sofas and then continuing my peal arranging, which seems to have been a constant state in 2023!

The 1440 that Mrs Munnings rang in to celebrate the 81st birthday of Guild Webmaster Chris Garner and his and Mary's Ruby Wedding Anniversary wasn't the only QP rung in the county today, as a 1376 of Suffolk Surprise Major was rung at The Norman Tower and a 1344 of Rutland Surprise Major at Hopton.

Lots of active ringers out there within our borders. Are there any potential CCCBR Presidents though?

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Tuesday 4th July 2023

Ufford.Last week we received the wonderful news that Ufford ringers Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth had become parents to their first child, a son called Jonathan. Therefore, I was delighted to represent Ruthie and myself this evening in a quarter-peal arranged especially to celebrate the li'l chap's arrival, as I rang the sixth in a really enjoyable 1260 of Grandsire Triples at the home tower of his parents. Nice also that Richard Rapior could ring for this couple who used to ring at Aldeburgh. Meanwhile, Woodbridge ringers also dedicated their practice night ringing to the same cause.

Kate and Mike trying to release the clock chimes after the quarter-peal! There was even entertainment afterwards too, in the form of Kate Eagle and Mike Whitby try to undue the ad hoc security system to make sure the now fixed clock mechanism didn't come loose during the ringing! It was clearly a little too good at its job and the local residents nearly didn't get their clock chimes tonight!

All in all it was a rather pleasant way to spend a wet evening, but it doesn't seem to have encouraged any other quarters in Suffolk judging by BellBoard, on what seems to have been a quiet day in the county through that medium.

I expect it hasn't been a quiet day for Pete and Susanne though!

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Monday 3rd July 2023

At 5pm today, the heavens opened. It was torrential. Much needed, but not something you would want to be out in. You can tell that Wimbledon fortnight has begun!

St Mary-le-Tower. By the time I was travelling into Ipswich for St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice later in the evening though, the sun was shining and we even sat in the beer garden at the Halberd Inn afterwards.

The ringing itself was another productive session. Despite a handful of Surprise Maximus regulars being away, we still rang Cambridge and Yorkshire on twelve, as well as Erin Cinques, whilst there was also call-changes on twelve and Plain Hunt on Eleven for those at that stage.

All completely uninterrupted by rain.

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Sunday 2nd July 2023

Great Glemham.For a brief period of my life I was extremely familiar with Great Glemham. Over a three-month period when I first joined my current employers John Catt Educational in May 2008, the company was based at the village's old school house. After years of working in depressing and generic industrial estates and town centres here and of the crowded areas in the sprawling metropolis of the West Midlands, I couldn't quite believe how blessed I was to have miles of countryside to explore on my lunchbreak and would often go for walks in the surrounding fields and up to the church of All Saints where the 13cwt five were then a ground-floor ring, whilst occasionally we went to The Crown.

Bar the odd visit to ring on what is now a gallery ring, once JCEL moved to new offices in Woodbridge later that summer (which we have subsequently also moved out of in a sign of how much has changed during my lengthy service with them), I have barely been back. Yet today we found ourselves in this community for the second weekend running, as following on from Ruthie singing at the church eight days ago, we were at the pub this afternoon.

We were here to celebrate the seventieth birthday of Bill, the father of my wife's sister Clare's other half Chris, a nice chap and popular judging by the way the beer garden was packed with family and friends, which included Pettistree regular Hilary Stern who we had been socialising with last night! Children-friendly archery and darts and a lovely BBQ were enjoyed, as was an Ipswich Town cake at an event sandwiched between ringing at St Mary-le-Tower in the morning and the afternoon.

Accompanied by the boys and Mrs Munnings throughout, with choral duties forsaken due to the party, the earlier ringing was for the morning service and followed by refreshment at Costa Coffee, while the later session was a focus on Yorkshire Surprise Maximus. Such practices can be really useful. With ringers at various stages of their ringing progression on Monday nights, we can't do too much of this without sacrificing valuable learning time for those not yet ready to ring Surprise Maximus, so ringing such as that carried out this afternoon allows for a concerted go at this for those in need of more practice at it. By inviting ringers it also means we can be sure of having enough there prepared and able to ring it and on this occasion we invited some of the ringers from Chelmsford Cathedral, a mutually beneficial arrangement which will hopefully help both bands.

With the boys having had packed lunches in the ringing chamber whilst we rang, we retired outside the Halberd Inn for a drink, whilst elsewhere in the county there was a 1260 of Plain Bob Triples rung at Halesworth which was Erika Clarke's first quarter-peal on eight inside - well done Erika!

That was the only QP noted on BellBoard today from Suffolk. It is also seven years since one was last rung at Great Glemham. Perhaps we ought to arrange one for there next weekend as we refamiliarise ourselves with the village!

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Saturday 1st July 2023

Today felt both relaxed and busy at the same time. Much happened but we were able to take our time on it all.

Kettleburgh. Brandeston.Even if Josh had decided he wanted to go to football training, we still should've had enough time to get to our next destination without too much worry, but that he decided not to gave us even more leeway to get to what was now our first engagement of the day. That was Kettleburgh for 11am as part of the South-East District Ring & Walk Tour and although we couldn't make ringing at the other end of the walk at Brandeston and we had to leave earlier than intended due to one of the boys needing facilities that St Andrew's church didn't have, we hope we were still of use. Not least in ringing in young Clem Day's first blows of Cambridge Surprise Minor, which he learnt solely on the walk over from Brandeston. Well done Clem!

Ringing at Kettleburgh. Ringing at Kettleburgh. Ringing at Kettleburgh.

It was nice just to ring here though, in this lovely isolated spot where the churchyard can be reached between two typical Suffolk cottages. They are a nice little gallery-ring six, easy to ring and a joy to visit. I'm just sorry we couldn't stay longer!

Still, again this freed up a little extra unexpected time ahead of our next next destination - the boys' school. For this afternoon was their summer fair and three hours of the usual sort of thing of tombolas (the boys won sweets and I won a dubious looking can of beer that is more likely to be used in stew than be drunk!), bouncy castles and face painting, as well as pony rides, dancing and football skills, whilst some of the parents enjoyed the 'saloon'!

Ufford.Not me though, as once Ruthie had sung at a wedding in Woodbridge, we then met up again to ring for a marriage ceremony at Ufford. This was on the front six, which isn't ideal as it sounds awfully mournful for such an occasion, but needs must with uncertainty remaining over the clock chime mechanism next to the tenor. And we produced some good ringing. 'Only' call-changes with a band that could have easily rung methods even up to Surprise Minor, but I'm always of the belief that for the only ringing that we (usually) get paid for, quality of striking usurps complexity, especially as the public very rarely notices what we are ringing.

Guests at the wedding enjoying their champagne afterwards in Ufford.Just as well, as the wedding party spent longer than normal outside afterwards with champagne being offered outside to guests and so we gave them a good burst of all the old favourites like Queens (135246), Tittums (142536), Exploded Tittums (342516) and Kings (531246) before eventually leaving an hour after we had arrived to ring them in. And at least we weren't ringing for the wedding mentioned on social media where the bride arrived a staggering 75 minutes late. Although it can be a little frustrating, I don't begrudge a little lateness, as is the tradition. Indeed, we usually factor it into our plans when ringing for someone's big day, but I think if it gets that late then it isn't really fair on everyone there. We don't know the circumstances behind this abnormal tardiness, but it of course makes it difficult for the ringers, organist, choir, vicar and indeed for those involved in the other aspects of the day later on.

The ringers circle in Chris & Mary Garner's garden.Indeed, if the bride we were ringing for at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary had been similarly late then we wouldn't have been able to ring the newly married couple out as even with them being admirably on time we still only had less than an hour-and-a-half to get back home to ready our household for going out to the home of Chris & Mary Garner which this evening they were celebrating forty years of living in. As usual, their hospitality was magnificent with a wonderful spread and plenty of drink soft and alcoholic available, as people from all aspects of their life braved the occasionally chilly weather in their lovely garden. That of course included many bellringers, but also the late John Banks' daughter, who incredibly recognised us from when we rang a peal at Horringer for her father's one hundredth birthday in 2007.

WoolpitMeanwhile, whilst there was a 1259 of Grandsire Caters rung at The Norman Tower for the ordination services at the Cathedral, the headline act in the county was Juliet Griffiths ringing her first quarter-peal at the first attempt in the 1320 of Doubles at Woolpit. Congratulations Juliet!

Hopefully it was as relaxing for her as our day was for us!

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Friday 30th June 2023

Photo.It looked very familiar. I could tell it was Suffolk. And the unusual east end that was at the forefront of the photo made me think I ought to bring it to mind more readily. My first brief thought was that it was Melton Old Church, before closer attention instantly rendered that implausible, even before the likelihood of a redundant church with just one bell would feature on the front cover of The Ringing World. In the end I had to look inside to find out. The same with Ruthie when I showed her it later. Our reactions were of equal levels of frustration at our lack of observation, but to be fair to us we usually approach it from the opposite direction!

Tostock. Wissett. That was the only reference to the county that I could find in this week's edition which arrived with us this morning, bar the performances that appeared in the peal and quarter-peal columns, but there were some more from today that should appear in future issues. One was the second 5040 of Plain Bob Minor rung on handbells in Bacton for the Essex Association this week and which was Jeremy Spiller's 1800th peal. Congratulations Jeremy!
That success was accompanied in Suffolk by a brace of quarter-peals with lots of firsts. Eleven firsts from twelve ringers in fact, as all bar one were ringing their first of Single Oxford Bob Minor in the 1260 at Wissett and the entire band their first of Castleton Delight Minor in the 1296 at Tostock. Well done to (deep breath!) Erika Clarke, Sal Jenkinson, Keith Dennis, Peter Lock, Philip Gorrod, Andrea Alderton, Lesley Steed, Maureen Gardiner, David Steed, David Howe and Stephen Dawson.

And well done to Lesley Barrell on her photograph getting on the front cover of The Ringing World, which of course was...


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Thursday 29th June 2023

On the Suffolk Guild's Facebook today, Jacky Savage reveals that there will be no ringing at Felixstowe on Friday 21st July when the weekly practice would've normally have taken place and no Sunday service ringing two days later. It also offers an update on a couple of weddings where ringers are wanted for at Rushmere St Andrew. Good news is that they have enough for the one penciled in on Thursday 10th August but at the time of writing this need two more for the ceremony planned for Saturday 15th July. Please contact Paul Sharples - either via FB or his email link on this website as tower correspondent - if you can help.

I'm a big fan of this way of communicating to the Guild. Not everyone is on social media, but there are 411 members on there and it would be great to have more. However, it would also be great to have more doing what Jacky and Paul have done, communicating instantly to hundreds what once would've taken many emails, phonecalls and even letters. It would be especially useful if shared when practices and events are cancelled, but also when something is going ahead, such as a practice. Let's take advantage of the type of platform we could only have dreamt of a couple of decades ago!

The printed word is still valuable of course, as The Ringing World demonstrates. One of the many magazines that get left at addresses in the village is 'In Touch' and the one that has arrived with us this week looks back at how previous coronations were celebrated in Woodbridge, with George VI's in 1937 apparently marked "by church bells ringing at 6.30am." I'm not sure the local residents would be very happy if the 25cwt eight was rung so early for any occasion now!

Haughley.I expect that the quarter-peal at Haughley was rung at a more social hour, but there was no other ringing performances from the county reported on BellBoard. Or indeed on the Suffolk Guild's Facebook page.

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Wednesday 28th June 2023

Two events due to happen in July highlight the lifetime of fellowship and activity that ringing can offer.
One is planned for Saturday 8th in York as youngsters and their supporters intend to gather for the Ringing World National Youth Contest. Sadly there is no Suffolk representation, although encouragingly there seem to be more young ringers appearing around the county. However, the huge numbers of teenage and younger ringers that attend this occasion represent a hopeful future. And following on from last weekend's National 12-bell Striking Contest Final that again saw a considerably youthful vibe, it seems that striking competitions are engaging the youth of the exercise. All the more reason to encourage the medium here in Suffolk in my opinion.

Debenham. At the other extreme, those of more mature years should be celebrated too. After all, in many cases they are the ones who have been keeping the exercise healthy, evolving and progressing it over decades and gifted a platform for those younger ringers to build upon and of course still offer help and advice to those coming through. In other cases, they are a celebration of an art that can be picked up and enjoyed from almost any age. Our county does indeed celebrate them, every year on the second Wednesday of July, at Debenham with Veterans' Afternoon. In 2023, that falls on the 12th with the plan being ringing on the 21cwt ground-floor and cups of tea from 2pm and food from 4.30pm. Even if you don't perceive yourself a veteran, please do consider popping along to this really pleasant event as support from all ages is always appreciated. Equally, if you know a mature ringer who might like to meet up with longstanding friends and might need a lift, then please do think of helping out, again if you are able.

Kettleburgh. Brandeston. Elmsett. Rumburgh.

This highlight of the ringing year within our borders, is just one of a number of get-togethers in the Guild and its districts penciled in for next month. Indeed, the intention is for it all to get underway from the 1st with the South-East District Walk & Ring at the nice sixes of Kettleburgh and Brandeston and through the beautiful countryside between them, on what the weather forecast suggests should be warm but not roasting hot temperatures - pretty much perfect walking conditions. Towards the end of the month, the South-West District plan on holding their monthly practice on the 22nd from 7.30 to 9pm at the 3cwt five of Elmsett. In between, the Bungay 8-Bell Practice is lined up for the evening of Monday 10th, whilst the North-West District hope to take their outing just over the Cambridgeshire border and back into Suffolk at Exning two days earlier on the same day that a an extremely interesting afternoon at Rumburgh is planned. Places are limited to twenty on the latter, so do please contact North-East District Secretary Kate Gill if you want to find out more.

For all that is hoped to come in July, there was plenty going on in the county and for the Guild on this late June day. A peal of Yorkshire Surprise Royal was rung for the SGR at Walthamstow in Greater London, whilst congratulations are due to Ian Culham on ringing his 275th peal for the Essex Association in the 5040 of Plain Bob Minor on handbells in Bacton, whilst Ruthie rang in a quarter-peal of twelve Surprise Minor methods at Pettistree before joining the practice afterwards and then having a drink in The Greyhound with her mother Kate and the Garners. The fellowship and activity of ringing being enjoyed by my wife and others.

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Tuesday 27th June 2023

It was another day of watching children throwing rubber javelins and running as following on from Josh's sports day yesterday, it was Alfie's today. Watching his was even more overdue, as having missed his first one in 2019 when we all went away to celebrate Ruthie's thirtieth birthday thinking that there would be plenty of opportunities to watch him participating, 2020 was obviously cancelled, 2021 was held but parents weren't allowed to watch and 2022's was cancelled because it was in the middle of last summer's record-breaking heatwave right at the end of term when there was no time to reorganise it. Even an attempt to rearrange it for the start of this schoolyear was unsuccessful due to the hardened state of the playing field after the previous hot, dry months. Along with Joshua's efforts twenty-four hours earlier, today seemed a long time coming. And it was worth waiting for as Alfred's 'Team South Africa' came third!

As with Monday, I had taken the day off work, knowing how much these things can overrun, giving me plenty of time during the rest of the day to read the current edition of The Ringing World which arrived this morning and featured our recent peal of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at Grundisburgh, a report on Rowan Wilson's impressive challenge of cycling round one hundred Suffolk towers and a beautiful picture from Graham Downing of a couple of Chediston's old wheels being used in a pergola (there's a word I never expected to use in my blog!) for climbing roses.

I also had the time to read the newest issue of Tower Talk, the ART newsletter whose Editor is Bardwell's Ruth Suggett and includes articles from Ipswich learner Fiona Smith that recounts her ringing for the coronation, as well as the Guild AGM and the South-East District Striking Competitions on pages 6 and 7 and Ruth's fellow Bardwell ringer Marion Knight Dixon talks of her ringing for the coronation and winning the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy with her home tower at the Guild Striking Competitions on page 9.

Time was even available to watch the report 19minutes and 55 seconds into ITV News Border's evening programme about the rehanging of the 17cwt four (reputedly the heaviest four hung for change-ringing) at Brough in Cumbria.

Ufford.And after all that I still found the opportunity to do some ringing as I joined the practice at Ufford where Margaret Weeks got some good focus on ringing inside to touches of Plain Bob Doubles and Daniel Atkinson did brilliantly at picking up the bell taking him off lead, which has long been an issue for him! Additionally there was some Ipswich Surprise Minor on the front six with the tenor still out of action, whilst there was also some amusing chatter about being unable to hear bells over loud music at weddings after some of the band recounted their experience of ringing for one at Tunstall on Saturday! Rushmere St Andrew also came up in conversation, but I expect there are several other examples within our borders where ringing chambers are open to the church and/or right behind the organ which can make ringing for marriage ceremonies difficult.

Without the need to ring at them though, I have been delighted to spend the last couple of days amongst the noise of primary school sports days!

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Monday 26th June 2023

We did something for the first time ever today, as five years after Alfie started attending primary school, we finally got to watch one of our boys participating in a sports day. I had watched Mason many years ago, but following the pandemic which blighted the boys' early schooling and then the cancellation of last year's due to the record heat, this was the first chance for both Ruthie and me to watch one of his younger brothers as we were spectators as Josh took on a number of activities as part of 'Team Jamaica'. He came quite last in the egg and spoon race but was cheered on by the crowd cheering his name and actually did really well in many of the other challenges, such as the football dribbling and the standard running whilst balancing a beanbag on his head! And whilst his team also finished last overall, the position wasn't the point so much as the taking part and enjoying themselves at that age.

Coddenham. Troston.

What is more, we enjoyed watching it all too, but we also enjoyed both having the day off, taking in breakfast at The Coach and Horses in Melton whilst elsewhere in Suffolk a 1312 of Kent Treble Royal was rung on handbells in Moats Tye and a 1280 of Suffolk Surprise Major was rung at Coddenham. However, most notable of all was Jane Watson ringing her first quarter-peal at the first attempt with the 1260 of three Doubles methods at Troston. Congratulations Jane!

I did some ringing too, attending the weekly practice night at St Mary-le-Tower, where a big attendance saw Erin & Stedman Cinques and Cambridge & Yorkshire Surprise Maximus rung before most of us retired to the beer garden of the Halberd Inn. Which was definitely not a first.

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Sunday 25th June 2023

Today revolved around Ruthie singing as she was understandably in demand for her wonderful voice, whilst we weaved it all into our usual Sunday of ringing and getting Mason to and from work!

St Mary-the-Virgin,  Woodbridge. Melton New Church. Great Glemham.

Three churches and three audiences benefitted from her abilities, starting with her usual commitment to St Mary-the-Virgin church in Woodbridge where beforehand I rang upstairs and met another of the latest recruits Lavinia, with the total number joining them over the last year or two almost doubling their band! It's great to see.

A quick bite of lunch and we were off to our local, St Andrew's 'New' Church in Melton where sadly there is only a rather mournful sounding 10cwt three dating from around 1499 from Brasyers of Norwich, so there was no ringing. There was a marvelous concert by  Martlesham Brass though, as my wife and her choral colleagues interspersed with some pieces. Brass bands aren't really my thing, but I always think there are lots of similarities with ringing and so I have some empathy with them and actually it was a rather pleasant way to spend another roasting hot afternoon as we cooled down in this church. And there was afternoon tea afterwards too!

Pretty much immediately after we'd finished there though, my wife had her third costume change of the day and we whisked her off to All Saints church in Great Glemham, home to a gallery-ring of five. No ringing here either, partly because there wasn't any going on, partly because we merely dropped Mrs Munnings off with her fellow Illuminati singers and went back home, conscious that the boys probably didn't want to sit in a church for another hour and half listening to music, especially as it was the same repertoire as we'd heard when we watched her over the coronation weekend, magnificent as it was.

Besides, having popped down the local park where we had a game of football with one of Josh's classmates and her younger siblings and father who we bumped into down there, we returned and got to listen to the last three or four songs from outside. Despite the churchyard being a building site due to the drainage work that the concert was helping raise funds for, it was absolutely lovely to her some beautiful voices (Ruthie's included!) wafting out of the church and onto the warm summer's evening air, daylight still bright and all in an extremely picturesque setting with cottages on one side, the church on another and views of the rolling countryside in another direction. All in all it was a very enjoyable day.

Others in Suffolk were busier in the exercise though, most notably at Whepstead where a quarter-peal of St Simon's, St Martin's and Plain Bob Doubles conducted by Joshua Watkins.

Nice to report some ringers' days revolving around ringing rather than singing!

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Saturday 24th June 2023

Cathedral 2 (3542672756) For much of today, the sound of Sheffield Cathedral's 34cwt twelve resonated throughout our house. Obviously not due to some audacious theft of their bells, but rather we were watching Matthew Tosh's magnificent live broadcast of the National 12-bell Striking Contest taking place of them. Our preference would be to have been up in South Yorkshire, listening to some top quality twelve-bell ringing with a few drinks whilst chatting to friends. However, today we did the next best thing as we listened to the feed of some top quality twelve-bell ringing with a few drinks, whilst communicating with friends there. The main difference was that we did that whilst doing the washing, sorting clothes, loading the dishwasher, feeding the children and even playing a bit of football in the garden.

It's not the same as being there of course, but we enjoyed spotting familiar faces in the crowds on the broadcast and through social media, with Matthew carrying out interviews with participants, organisers, judges and others who were important to the success of the event. That included some Suffolk connections. Claire Roe, who learnt to ring at Walsham-le-Willows and along with her sister Sarah Monk ran the Suffolk Young Ringers Group at Tostock when I was Guild Ringing Master and as manager at Welbeck Abbey Brewery was overseeing the booze and was one of the first to be interviewed just 43 minutes and 28 seconds into the 8 hours 32 minutes and 30 seconds long programme. Former Exning learner Jimmy Yeoman was in one of the interviewee chairs early on too, courtesy of his team Birmingham ringing first, featuring 1 hours 35 minutes and 20 seconds in following their test piece and also for a bit after the next team Cambridge had rung, whose eleventh ringer Phillip Wilding acknowledged his time regularly ringing at The Norman Tower in his post-ringing interview which starts at 1 hour and 55 minutes.

Interspersed between the genuinely fascinating interviews and scans across ringers getting beer, chatting and listening to the ringing inside and outside the Cathedral on the deckchairs supplied, was the actual ringing. From what we heard, until the Cumberland Youths rang as the sixth team of the day, I thought Bristol - including former ringers from this county George Salter and Molly Waterson - had rung the best, better even then the Brummies who intimated themselves that they had rung below their admittedly sky-high standards. For me, the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths then produced what I thought was the finest version of the half-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus that all the bands had to ring.

Surprising to me and indeed many others (including those from the UK's second city!) therefore that Birmingham came out on top just ahead of the SRCY and that Bristol finished fourth below Melbourne, who deserve considerable congratulations. The team from Derbyshire benefit from their central geographical location I'm sure, as well as their relative proximity to Birmingham, but that they consistently qualify for the final (2008 is the last time they failed to do so) and then also often feature high up the positions (today was their fifth top-half finish) in a competition usually dominated by bands from the big cities is a huge achievement and one that I hope can inspire teams from The Norman Tower, St Mary-le-Tower and maybe even Grundisburgh in the distant future.

Despite the surprise at the placings, it has to be said that no one will have been listening closer to the ringing than Chief Judge Ben Carey (who Ruthie and I enjoyed sitting opposite at the wedding reception of Philip Saddleton and Anthea Edwards back in 2009) and his eminently expert judges Lucinda Woodward and David Dearnley, especially compared to us as we flitted about with everyday life whilst we listened!

So, very well done to Birmingham and former Suffolk ringer Jimmy Yeoman who continues his 100% success rate in this contest. Also, well done to Matthew Tosh and his team on producing this broadcast that helped people like us feel like we were there and congratulations on ten years of providing this now invaluable service. And well done to Sheffield on what seems to have been a hugely successful job of hosting. From the acapella singers led by the Dean of Sheffield the Very Reverend Abigail Thompson (who also produced a welcome quoting songs from local bands like Def Leppard and Pulp that I would've been delighted to write on this blog!), to the stewarding, to the refreshments and everything else. Particularly for those up north who may have missed out on Guildford last year due to distance and the train strikes that mercifully weren't held this weekend, it was great to see it hosted there, especially also as of course it had been due to be held there in 2020 before you-know-what scuppered that and everything else.

Band ringing the quarter-peal at Sweffling. (Taken by Pippa Moss) With hundreds of some of the most active ringers in the country soaking up that event, unsurprisingly there wasn't as much on BellBoard as there usually is on a Saturday, but what there was heavily featured Suffolk ringing within our borders and beyond. In Essex, a Guild peal was rung at Saffron Walden of Yorkshire Surprise Royal, but the headline act from a Suffolk ringing perspective was undoubtedly at Sweffling, where Suzanne Stevens rang her first quarter-peal since being told whilst seriously ill in June 2021 that she wouldn't ever ring again and indeed her first since December 2018, when she also trebled to a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at the same tower and with an almost identical band. Well done Suzanne, glad to see you picking up where you left off!

Meanwhile, our day started off with football training for Josh where we also bumped into my old drinking buddy and former bar manager at The Green Man in Tunstall, Toby and his wife Amy and their children including my Goddaughter Maddie, with their little boy Oscar also playing football there in a sign of the shifting sands of time!

Some things never change though, such as Birmingham winning the National 12-bell Striking Contest! Congratulations again to them!

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Friday 23rd June 2023

As is usually the case the day before the National 12-bell Striking Contest, my Facebook feed has today been filling up with photos of ringing friends travelling to the venue, arriving at their accommodation and sharing the views from their rooms, and of course in the pub with other ringers, including Suffolk residents and Norman Tower regulars Liz & Phillip Orme. On this occasion of course, the competition is in Sheffield and the Friday night tavern was The Fat Cat and with the social media being overseen by Estella Haynes (another of the encouragingly large cohort of young ringers, many of them of whom I haven't really met, but have often rung with their parents!) there was lots appearing on the socials periodically throughout the day. It again firms up my belief that striking competitions are amongst the best way of engaging with young ringers, as well as non-ringers.

There was clearly quite a party going on in South Yorkshire, but we were having a party ourselves back here, as we went round to the home of Ruthie's sister Clare to celebrate her eldest daughter Katelynn's birthday with a BBQ on another gorgeous hot, light summer's evening. Which was lucky as with a paddling pool there were a lot of soaking wet children (and some adults!).

Ashbocking. It didn't involve any ringing, but others in the county were making up for our absence as the first ever quarter-peal of Anything Bob Minor (which should give those who are brave enough to visit a tower and say they can ring "anything" when asked what they can ring something to think about!) was rung with the 1260 at Ashbocking. It was also Clem Day's first of Minor, so well done Clem and best wishes for the forthcoming fifteenth anniversary of your birth!

Ipswich, St Matthew. Another slightly older (by ninety years!) birthday was being celebrated with ringing within our borders, this time with a peal at St Matthew's in Ipswich for Freda Smith who rang there and is believed to be the oldest member of the Guild currently. Happy Birthday Freda!

I can't comment on how much partying will accompany these birthdays, but I know from Facebook that there is a drink or two being had in Sheffield tonight!

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Thursday 22nd June 2023

If you're still wavering about travelling up to Sheffield for Saturday's planned National 12-bell Striking Contest Final, the photo on the competition's Facebook and Instagram profiles of many, many casks of ale being tapped in readiness for hundreds of thirsty bellringers may convince you to get up to South Yorkshire at the weekend!

Polstead. However, if you can't make it that far but still want to take in competition ringing, don't forget that the South-West District Striking Competition is also due to be held on Saturday from 3pm at Polstead, still giving you enough time to listen to Matthew Tosh's live broadcast from up north. Hopefully a big entry will be providing a sound that will float across this beautiful village and although there probably won't be as much beer as up in Sheffield, The Cock Inn isn't very far away in the village!

Nothing as exciting from a ringing perspective for us though, with the excitement of our day coming from Josh who has had his first tooth come out and means the tooth fairy should be visiting overnight!

Bardwell. There was ringing excitement elsewhere in the county though, most particularly at Bardwell, where there was much for treble ringer Deborah Blumfield to celebrate and Louise Whitehead was ringing her first quarter-peal of Lessness Surprise Major. Congratulations to Deborah and her family and well done Louise!

Meanwhile, on a less exciting, but also important ringing note, the draft minutes from this year's AGM at Beccles are now available to read on this very website, which hopefully allows people who were present to catch up with issues discussed on that sunny April day two months ago. And also gives one something to read on the way up to Sheffield to drink some of that beer!

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Wednesday 21st June 2023

When the idea of a Suffolk Day held on the day of the UK calendar with the most daylight hours was initially mooted, I can imagine that today is the kind of day they envisaged in a perfect world. From the first light over the UK's most easterly spot of Ness Point in Lowestoft at 3.39am, wall to wall sunshine and hot temperatures enabled events across the county to be held without disruption in high spirits.

Offton. Ringing did its bit too, at least at Offton where a 5184 of Suffolk Day Delight Major was rung, as advertised on BBC Radio Suffolk twenty-four hours earlier and also happened to be Brian Meads' 2000th peal, apparently nonchalantly mentioned by him afterwards! Congratulations Brian, who although from Essex is always willing to help in peals here (and indeed anywhere) if he can.

I was pleased to do some ringing for the occasion as well, as I rang the fifth to the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree, which - perhaps appropriately on the day we celebrated the county almost halfway between the two places - was of London & Norwich Surprise Minor spliced. This was what was lost in last week's attempt and it is easy to see how, with the change of direction also accompanied by a bob on most occasions and indeed we did have a false start before we then set off on a QP that was probably brisker than we would've wanted in the heat, but a relatively good effort nonetheless.

In the churchyard during Pettistree practice. In the churchyard during Pettistree practice. Pettistree church after being in the pub.

The session that followed was also good, with plenty of handling practice for Katharine and Doubles for John Horsnell and Sam Shannon, whilst there was some spliced and much Surprise Minor including Bourne and some more London, as well as some Stedman Doubles as we all periodically enjoyed the sunbaked churchyard. before Sam, the Garners and myself retired to the beer garden of The Greyhound, the sun still lighting the big skies here almost to the end of a glorious Suffolk Day.

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Tuesday 20th June 2023

21st June has long been set aside as Suffolk Day. In that time it has given ringing in the county a fair bit of positive PR and it has already this year as St Edmundsbury Cathedral Events Officer James Stark was interviewed 1 hour, 43 minutes and 30 seconds into Luke Deal's BBC Radio Suffolk Breakfast Show about what they plan to be doing for the big day tomorrow. A couple of minutes later at 1 hour, 45 minutes and 52 seconds into the show, mention is made of "their" ringers, who intend to ring a peal of Suffolk Delight Major at Offton (I was initially intrigued when they said they were ringing at Stowmarket!) tomorrow.

Iken.Hopefully there'll be more publicity for the art tomorrow, but there was plenty going on within our borders today as four quarter-peals and a peal were rung. The peal was a visiting band, albeit with Andrew Stone on the treble and former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd on the sixth as a 5024 of ten Surprise Major methods spliced was rung at Elveden, but the quartet of quarters were local bands and with achievements notched along the way. Emily Thompson gets two (three if you count a first at a five-bell tower!) as she rang her first of more than one method in the 1260 of Doubles at Iken, whilst she was one of three ringing their first blows of Winchester College Bob Minor, along with Mike Cowling and conductor Joshua Watkins. Well done Emily, Mike and Joshua.

Ufford at the end of the practice from the ringing chamber. That band also rang QPs of St Clement's College Bob Minor at Hacheston and Cambridge Surprise Minor at Parham and whilst I wasn't as active as that, I did do some ringing as I went to the weekly practice at Ufford, where the tenor is still out of action with the clock chime mechanism broken. It was still a useful session on the front six, with Margaret Weeks in particular doing really well trebling to Cambridge Surprise Minor and then getting 'miss and catch' right for the first time when ringing down the treble, an achievement met with much cheering and applause! And having not got a picture last week, I took a photo of Ufford in midsummer at the end of ringing on another lovely evening.

God willing it'll be equally nice tomorrow for Suffolk Day.

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Monday 19th June 2023

Good to see another handbell quarter-peal rung in the county, not unusually for these days rung in Moats Tye.

St Mary-le-Tower.In the band was David Stanford who later joined us at St Mary-le-Tower's for the weekly practice, where numbers were still relatively low but much better than last week. It allowed for a wider repertoire from call changes on ten and twelve through to Cambridge & Yorkshire Surprise Royal spliced and Stedman Cinques before we retired to the Halberd Inn beer garden for a drink. With the end of England's men's football team's 7-0 win over North Macedonia on the big screens around us, the main topic of conversation was the planned venues for The Ridgman Trophy and the National 12-bell Striking Contest in 2024 and even 2025, with the 2023 version of the former having just happened in Towcester and of the latter due to take place at Sheffield Cathedral on Saturday. Don't forget that if you can't make it to South Yorkshire yourself, look out for Matthew Tosh's planned live broadcast of the event on the competition's YouTube channel. For the record the intention is to hold the Ridgman Trophy in 2024 at Biggleswade in Bedfordshire on 8th June and in 2025 at Boston in Lincolnshire on 21st June (Suffolk Day, so wouldn't it be appropriate to win it?) and the National 12-bell Striking Contest eliminators next year at Bristol St Stephen, Portsmouth and Reading on 23rd March and the final at Chilcompton in Somerset on 15th June (moved forward from the usual weekend to avoid clashing with the Glastonbury Festival), and then the next year at St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol on 28th June.

That is of course all very, very far into the future, so for now well done to the county's handbell ringers for another quarter-peal in hand.

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Sunday 18th June 2023

I expect it was the same for many others, but there was a time when I couldn't imagine me ever being a parent. Arguably I was barely able to look after myself let alone be responsible for moulding and guiding young lives. Today was my seventeenth Father's Day as an actual Dad and now I have almost forgotten what life was like making decisions without having to consider the lives of those I've helped bring into the world, from important decisions about mortgages and boilers to less important ones, such as whether I ought to ring that peal I've been asked in! It isn't easy as any parent will tell you, but I am grateful everyday for Mason, Alfie and Josh and try to show it in the peals I arrange for their birthdays every year, as well as in other ways of course. Ultimately, Ruthie and I just try to get on with our lives as best we can without upsetting others and hopefully making the lives of others all the better for having met us and even though we won't and don't always manage that, we hope to instill that attitude into the boys. It's what we do everyday and it can sometimes feel relentless. Whilst we don't expect or ask for thanks for it (after all, it was our choice!), it is nice on Mothering Sunday and today to be looked after and asked what we want to.

Me enjoying a drink at the Woodbridge Regatta. My Father's Day gifts.

For me on this occasion, that involved wandering down the River Deben to the Woodbridge Regatta and a couple of drinks before coming back home for a barbecue. And lovely it all was too. Despite the threat of thunderstorms the sun shone as we meandered through the various stalls, to The Longshed to see the progress of the building of a replica of the Sutton Hoo royal burial ship, the boys got their faces painted and we paid a first visit to The Boathouse for a pint. Along the way we met friends from all aspects of our local life, like work, school, church and of course ringing, with Pettistree ringers Pippa Moss and Mike Whitby, Campsea Ashe Ringing Master Glenys Fear (and a very energetic dog!) and Ipswich learner Fiona Smith among the vast crowds. I even got to see my eldest son, which was nice on a day that he was working.

Having got back to our abode, we also managed to get our BBQ in before the rain eventually came, with my wife very kindly taking everything on whilst I sampled some of my gift of bottles of beer from The Old Felixstowe Brewing Company. Very nice and interestingly we knew nothing about them until Mrs Munnings came across them at the Suffolk Show recently, emphasising the power of a presence there - hopefully the Guild can do something again there one day.

Earlier I had been on the usual Sunday morning ringing route, although we were very short at St Mary-le-Tower's where there was only enough to ring the front eight. Still, most of those present made up a decent crowd at Costa Coffee afterwards and before my youngest sons accompanied me to Grundisburgh where with Ringing Master Stephen Pettman absent, Mark Ogden guided the six ringers there through touches of Plain Bob Doubles, Grandsire Doubles and some Rounds and Call Changes on the back six.

Elsewhere in the county meanwhile, Father's Day was marked by a quarter-peal of Double Oxford Bob Minor at Rougham which also celebrated my brother Chris' father-in-law Stephen Munford's birthday. Happy Birthday Stephen!

There was also a QP of Bristol Surprise Major rung at The Norman Tower for Evensong, a 1280 that I hope was a nice way to spend Father's Day for the dads in the band!

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Saturday 17th June 2023

I took a trip down a hazy memory lane today. Towcester was once a very familiar place to me when I was part of the Birmingham ringing scene as there were close connections between the two. The Wilbys and John Thurman of the former were regulars in the latter less than fifty miles away and I often found myself there for occasions that involved a fair amount of booze, as well as ringing. Their Friday night practice and the pub afterwards was a great starting point for weekends that sometimes included peals, such as in the summers of 1999 and 2000, the later one being part of a double-header that also took in a 5040 of Bristol Surprise Royal at Taylors Bell Foundry Tower in Loughborough when they were still a ten. Local pubs were frequented, I attended the Towcester Summer and Christmas Dinners as many Birmingham ringers did. When in the area on Rambling Ringers, it was natural for some of us to go along there for their weekly session, followed of course by a visit to their regular drinking haunt and when the National 12-bell is held there it is even more a must-go event.

Until today though, I hadn't been for quite a few years. On this initially overcast and occasionally showery summer Saturday, I was here for The Ridgman Trophy, the ten-bell striking competition for territorial ringing organisations that border The Ely Diocesan Association. When we arrived this morning, the Suffolk Guild had won it the last two times running and indeed, due to the pandemic, no other team had won it for four years and therefore in this decade. Could we win it for a third year in a row for the first time in our history?

Just getting a band there felt like a minor victory. For one understandable reason and another, sorting a team for this was a bit last minute, with my mother Sally very kindly agreeing to step in as she was coming anyway and a couple of others saying they'd ring this week. No practices, not even sure of which bell we were ringing, we weren't prepared. Yet in what I believe shows the strength in depth we have in the county, we ascended the stairs to ring the Richard Allton composition of 216 changes of Plain & Little Bob Royal spliced, with a pretty decent band more than capable of doing a good job. However, we struggled, with the odd missed dodge in the Little and added dodges in the Plain firing out one of our practice pieces and nearly bringing our test piece to its knees in between some reasonably good ringing. Descending the stairs again, we figured we weren't going to win and indeed felt we should feel fortunate not to come last due to our middle implosion.

 In the ringing chamber at Towcester waiting to ring in the Ridgman Trophy. In the garden of Chantry House in Towcester at the Ridgman Trophy. In the garden of Chantry House in Towcester at the Ridgman Trophy. In the garden of Chantry House in Towcester at the Ridgman Trophy.  In the garden of Chantry House in Towcester at the Ridgman Trophy.

As we stood in the garden of Chantry House opposite though, the red stone tower of St Lawrence literally towering over those enjoying the refreshments laid on by the locals and the sunshine that had pushed away the drizzling rain and grey clouds that had accompanied our two hour journey to the middle of the country, it became obvious that we weren't the only ones suffering from the same issues and indeed the Bedfordshire Association fired out completely having produced what was the best ringing I heard all day. Indeed, speaking to Richard later, he jokingly claimed his composition was probably the winner today!

Therefore, having also enjoyed a pint in the beer garden of The Plough Inn just a few yards down Watling Street from Chantry House and still within view of the tower and sound of the bells with Colin Salter, Hal Meakin and Guild Chairman Mark Ogden, I joined a sizeable number of others in the church for results not entirely sure where we would finish, other than not last due to Bedfordshire's unfortunate blowout. One of the judges Andrew Wilby's humourous comments on the ringing confirmed that we almost certainly wouldn't be making it three in a row, comparing our ringing to a jam sandwich (two crisp pieces of bread either side of a sticky bit in the middle) and complimenting us on the quality of our chords... When his wife Joanne stepped forward to give the results, I was relieved to have finished a respectable fifth out of seven.

Results of the Ridgman Trophy being given in Towcester church.Above us were a number of success stories too. Cambridge University Guild were chuffed with fourth, whilst having spoken with Chris Woodcock and South-East District Ringing Master Jenny Scase's sister Janet Clarke and her husband Stephen from The Lincoln Diocesan Guild earlier, it was clear they weren't too confident, so they were understandably pleased with their joint highest positioning and only their third second-place finish in the competition. Ultimately though, the biggest congratulations go to our neighbours the Essex Association who were deserved winners by quite a distance. Well done Essex!

Most importantly of all though, it was a fabulous day out and I caught up with lots of ringing friends and acquaintances not already mentioned to varying degrees, such as Nick Elks, Andrew Kelso, John Loveless, Sue Marsden, Stephen Stanford and CCCBR Public Relations Officer Vicki Chapman and her husband Colin, amongst others. Many thanks to David and Gill Sparling who very kindly looked after the boys whilst I rang and to our hosts for their magnificent hospitality. I've always said how difficult this event is to hold. Teams know in advance when they're ringing and so unlike other striking competitions there are more people coming and then going, but they seemed to have just the right amount of refreshments available. Particular thanks though to Mr Ogden for taking the children and me to the contest and bringing me back, at least after a brief scare when it came to time to leave when he couldn't find his car keys! Whilst I'm at it, thank you to those who offered to find us a way home before Mark found his keys!

We even made it back in time to see Ruthie before she went out for a work colleague's fortieth birthday celebrations that involved her first ever experience of an escape room at Escape Ipswich and drinks and food at Vodka Revolution in our county town. That was the reason why she wasn't present with us in Towcester today, with the timings too tight to be sure of doing both, but she enjoyed her night immensely. As I enjoyed my day of going down a hazy memory lane.

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Friday 16th June 2023

Cathedral 2 (3542672756) No sooner had I highlighted my mild surprise that there hadn't been much noise about the National 12-bell Striking Contest Final due to be held at Sheffield Cathedral in eight days time, then along comes a marvelous website for the event set up by the hosts! As with Guildford's last year, it is full of all the information you should need if you intend on going, from drink (including free tea and coffee) and food to travel and information about the bells and the teams lined up to take part, as well as the timings already shared. For those planning on going up on the Friday, there is ringing scheduled at Dore from 7.45-9.15pm and Rotherham (please email malcolmst@blueyonder.co.uk if you do plan on attending) from 7-9pm, and space has been reserved at The Fat Cat, whilst there is a list of Sunday morning ringing. I would certainly encourage people to make a weekend of it all if you can.

Tostock.A piece on it also appeared in this week's copy of The Ringing World, which arrived with us this morning and which we had a read of before we had a couple of beers ourselves, at home whilst watching England's men's football team winning 4-0 in Malta on the TV with the boys, but there were no pubs or ringing for us on this Friday night. Elsewhere in Suffolk others were ringing though, with quarter-peals rung on handbells in Sudbury and on the 5cwt gallery-ring six at Tostock, the latter of which was the first of Wragby Delight Minor for the entire band. Well done all! And well done to Deborah Blumfield on ringing her first QP of Berwick Surprise Minor yesterday at the same venue.

From Sheffield to Tostock, there is no surprise that ringing is still making lots of noise, one way or another!

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Thursday 15th June 2023

There are just nine days until the National 12-bell Striking Contest Final is due to be held at Sheffield Cathedral. For what is the biggest striking competition and arguably biggest annual event in ringing, there has been surprisingly little coming out about it. Last year there seemed to be information about the big day at Guildford Cathedral appearing on a daily basis at times, with a steady trickle of bits and pieces that were either useful or whetted the appetite or both for several weeks.

Perhaps its because we're not in it this time round that there doesn't seem to be much on the 2023 edition in Yorkshire, but even searching the contest's website and social media channels on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube I can't find anything about the occasion penciled in for 24th June, bar an appeal for a couple of people to be responsible for the social media on the day and to do the write-up for The Ringing World, as well as confirmation that Matthew Tosh intends to cover the whole event with his excellent live broadcast, whilst there is a brief rundown of timings buried deep within BellBoard's Diary.

Polstead. Still, if all goes to plan there should still be a big crowd, possibly even up to a thousand and if you aren't going to the South-West District Striking Competition at Polstead on the same day, I would encourage you to go along if you can, either for the day or even to make a weekend of it and take in the magnificent atmosphere of the occasion. Even though there are no Suffolk bands taking part this year, going on the band line-ups from the eliminators in March there should be ringers formerly of this county ringing. Twenty-five times winners Birmingham must be favourites again and I imagine will have former Exning learner Jimmy Yeoman in their ranks looking to win his second contest. Bristol have never won it but have quite a lot of second and third-place finishes over recent years and so I expect will be poised to challenge if the Brummies slip up and may have former  Grundisburgh ringer Molly Waterson and St Mary-le-Tower band member George Salter in the team. Cambridge are in a similar position, albeit they have won it four times in the past. If they go with the same team as qualified from Hursley two and a half months ago, they will have former Norman Tower ringer Phil Wilding in the band along with current Bury St Edmund regulars and county residents Liz and Phil Orme, as well as the Pipe contingent who of course have strong family links to our county. Many ringers from within our borders will be members of the College Youths or the Cumberland Youths who ought to both challenge for the Taylor Trophy and of course will have their own 'battle' going on regardless of whether they win overall or not. There will also be high hopes for 2019 winners Exeter, although they only came eighth in Surrey when they defended their title twelve months ago, whilst Leeds will be keen to see what they can do having been forced to pull out before the eliminators in 2022 and Melbourne are in their thirteenth straight final and are capable of achieving very respectable results in this competition. St Paul's Cathedral are also past winners, so can't be discounted and with home advantage, the hosts will be hoping to beat their best ever finish of fifth that they achieved when this occasion was last held here in 1996.

Either way, if you do go along, you should hear lots of top class twelve-bell ringing from some of the best ringers in the world. As far as I can tell, there are no rail strikes planned for the day, which ought to make the venue very accessible with it being only a ten to fifteen minute walk from the railway station and I imagine plenty of accommodation in or near the city. Beer is due to be served in the Cathedral from 11.30 just after the draw, with nineteen real ales and four ciders lined up and food will apparently be served in the Forecourt, including bacon and vegan sausage sandwiches planned to be served between 9.30 and 11am.

No such excitement for us today from a ringing perspective, but excitement came from another place as I sat in on Alfie's class along with the parents of his peers and we were invited to help them make ice cream! We may have to try it at home!

There was ringing going on within our borders though, with a peal rung on handbells for the Norwich Diocesan Association in Bacton, whilst a Suffolk Guild peal was rung beyond our borders with a 5024 of Bristol Surprise Major rung at Kelvedon in Essex almost a century on from the SGR's first peal in the method at Leiston. It was also Christine Knight's 700th peal, a well deserved landmark for the Guild's Peal Secretary. Congratulations Christine!

I wonder who congratulations might be offered to in nine days time at the National 12-bell Striking Contest Final? I assume we will hear more about it by then!

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Wednesday 14th June 2023

This evening was the first time this year that either of us were ringing in the pre-practice quarter-peal attempt at Pettistree. Cue the first Wednesday QP loss on this ground-floor six in 2023!

Not that Ruthie could be held responsible anymore than any of the band as the attempt of London and Norwich Surprise Minor was always going to be a test and unfortunately it proved to be that a few hesitations and resulting mistakes brought it to its knees on this occasion. They wouldn't be an achievement if they were always successful.

However, nice as it is to score these, their main point is to make sure there is a ready-made band for the practice afterwards and it certainly seems to have done that, with London & Wells Surprise Minor spliced and Bourne Surprise Minor rung, as well as Plain Bob Doubles for Helen Ellerby and John Horsnell, Plain Bob Minor for Vince Buckman and more handling focus for Katharine.

My wife rounded off her evening out with a drink at The Greyhound where Chris Garner was able to give an insight into the hanging of the new ten at Stowmarket where he had been helping out all day. It's getting close now!

Otherwise though, it was a quiet day on Suffolk's bells, at least according to BellBoard where it wasn't only Pettistree where they weren't getting a quarter-peal.

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Tuesday 13th June 2023

Another hot and sunny day and another lovely light, warm evening of ringing.

This time it was at Ufford with a view of the picture-perfect village in the late sunshine. Although perhaps ironically I didn't take a picture, mainly because I was busy ringing or standing next to those ringing. With the 13cwt tenor still out of action due to the broken clock chime mechanism right alongside it, it was front six ringing only, which meant lots of focus on trebling to Plain Bob Minor for Daniel Atkinson and ringing inside to touches of Plain Bob Doubles for Margaret Weeks, as well as courses of Ipswich and Norwich Surprise Minor for her to treble to.

Meanwhile, it was moving to see that the Nottingham University Society of Change Ringers ringing half-muffled for their fellow students who were among those killed in the attacks in the city in the early hours of the morning, with a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the front six of the 16cwt ten at All Saints.

Also beyond our borders but on a happier note, congratulations to Paul Bibilo who last night rang his 500th peal at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham, in the process circling the tower for an incredible twenty-fifth time to twelve-bell peals. This 31cwt twelve is the very epicentre of arguably the best ringing scene in the world, where standards are set extremely high and I feel privileged to have rung forty-one there myself, twenty-one of them with 'Bibs'. To reach five hundred at such a venue is something else completely though. And even though the circling of the tower may seem frivolous, it can be taken as a sign that he has been trusted to ring anywhere in a tower where all my peals came between the fourth and tenth. I have spent many an hour socialising with Paul (often following peal attempts lost and scored at St Philip's!) and along with Jonathan Healy (who also rang in yesterday's 5025 of Stedman Cinques) he was an obvious ringer to approach when I selected judges for the first Guild Striking Competitions that I oversaw as Ringing Master, when they were held at Monks Eleigh and Hadleigh in 2007. Additionally, he is due to be married (sort of!) into a Suffolk ringing family when his other half Gillian's daughter Rachel marries George Salter, so I'm sure I'm not alone in sending congratulations to Mr Bibilo from this county!

Meanwhile, back here, well done to Jonathan Iles on ringing his most methods in the 1260 of Doubles at Huntingfield, whilst there was also a practice at another rural eight in Suffolk, this one preceded by an impressive quarter-peal of five Surprise Major methods spliced. I expect Offton was also looking picture-perfect on this lovely light warm evening of ringing.

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Monday 12th June 2023

St Mary-le-Tower at 9.30 this evening. I love this time of year when the weather is as hot and sunny as it is currently. The light evenings are maximised with the air still warm and daylight plentiful even after one finishes ringing at 9pm. It all made for a very pleasant drink in the beer garden of the Halberd Inn following the weekly practice at St Mary-le-Tower, but it perhaps also put some off joining us up the tower, as after a bumper crowd last week we were very short tonight.

So short that we finished a few minutes early, but it was a useful session for Janus van Helvert who got lots of rounds on ten as I arrived (which involved most of us being moved one bell along each time by a typically energetic Amanda!) and George Heath-Collins got plenty of experience on the heaviest bell in Suffolk hung for change-ringing, as well as some Plain Bob Doubles inside. Kent Treble Bob Royal didn't go so well, but we rang a nice touch of Plain Bob Major on the back eight and finished with Plain & Little Bob Caters spliced.

During the notices, Amanda was able to share the exciting progress of the faculty for the training bells that it is intended to put up the tower and should mean that fundraising can begin imminently, as well as the less exciting report of her involvement with the meeting of the committee of the National 12-bell Striking Contest on Saturday night.

Philip Gorrod and Trevor Hughes with the Trevor Hughes Trophy on Saturday. (taken by Julie Hughes)Meanwhile, I should correct my reporting of the North-East District Striking Competitions over the weekend as the Patricia Bailey Shield has been retired and given to Halesworth as the tower who have won it the most, and replaced with the Trevor Hughes Trophy which has been made by Andy Owen of Beccles and looks a wonderful reward for the winning team! Lovely as well to see Trevor himself was there.

I was delighted to hear about what sounded like a fantastic occasion from one of the judges Jonathan Williamson, as we sat having a drink outside on this beautiful hot, light summer's evening.

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Sunday 11th June 2023

Today would've been the 78th birthday of mine and Chris' father, Alan. He hasn't been forgotten since he died in 2020 of course, but days like today bring him the forefront of our minds. It was because of this that I found myself in the churchyard at Sproughton on what has apparently eclipsed yesterday as the hottest day of 2023 up to now, accompanied by Ruthie, Mason, Alfie and Josh to leave some flowers at his grave. Despite a forlorn search for water with the butt at the bottom of the tower where he did so much of his ringing being empty after a long dry spell, it was a surprisingly peaceful scene with even the two youngsters not quite as energetic in the heat and following a late one last night.

Being on that side of Ipswich and mindful of the emotions such a date might elicit, we also visited father's sister Marian and of course my Mum Sally for an afternoon of mainly ringing talk, all much enjoyed.

Earlier in the day I had been ringing at Woodbridge before descending the many stairs to the service in the church afterwards whilst across in Bury St Edmunds, Julian & Pat Lees, Jenny Croft and Ben Keating were ringing their first quarter-peal of Erin in the 1295 of Caters at The Norman Tower.

I'm sure Dad would've been pleased to see so many achieving in the exercise he so enjoyed.

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Saturday 10th June 2023

Conceivably, we could have been at Inveraray in Scotland with former Halesworth ringer Maggie Ross attempting a peal on the 41cwt ten as part of a weekend also consisting of walking, climbing and drinking. The peal was sadly lost about 1 hour and 55 minutes in due to a broken rope, but I expect we would've really enjoyed the weekend as a whole in good company and in a part of the world we haven't explored. However, it wouldn't really have been one for the boys (especially as it would've involved taking them out of school) and although I'm sure any of our childsitters would've happily agreed to look after our children and even taken them to and from school yesterday, we felt it might be a big ask when we are already asking a lot of them during another busy year of ringing for both Ruthie and me.

Special practice at Pettistree. Besides, we actually rather enjoyed how we ended up spending today in roasting sunshine and in the company of the children, starting with a special practice at Pettistree this morning. This was set up to give Wickham Market ringer John Horsnell and local learner Katharine concerted focus on trebling to Doubles and handling respectively, the type of which simply isn't possible at the weekly session on Wednesday evenings when there are so many ringing needs that need to be accommodated. Both seemed to find it useful and my wife and I found it very satisfying to genuinely help learners, as well as to have a quick blast of spliced Minor at the end for the helpers.

The view from inside Grundisburgh ringing chamber today. The view from inside Grundisburgh ringing chamber today. The view from inside Grundisburgh ringing chamber today.

Today's weather was fantastic for weddings and there seems to have been a number of them going on. Mike Cowling said he was ringing for one at Aldeburgh and my mother Sally was contributing to the soundtrack for one at Sproughton. Come the afternoon and we were at Grundisburgh to ring for one and quite a big one at that, with twelve ushers, seven bridesmaids, two page boys and a Labrador on the list of credits in the order of service booklet! Hopefully we produced ringing they felt was worthy of the occasion either side of the ceremony where we sat out in the churchyard in the beautiful wedding on the hottest day of the year thus far. It really was a wonderful scene, sat outside with the sunshine bathing a village that was a hive of activity with a hidden gardens trail, as well as a plant sale on the picturesque green. St Mary the Virgin church stood amongst nature in full bloom and much of it wild, whilst the boys attempted to throw their hats across the path leading up to the little wobbly red brick tower. The only downside was the ringing chamber window is still boarded up, making the inside very dark and much hotter, as well as much more difficult to spot the bride arriving! Especially with our young lookouts nonchalantly reporting that "a woman in a big white dress went in earlier" when we enquired (just in time it proved) if she had arrived so we could stop ringing.

Metfield. Amanda Richmond presenting the Call Change Trophy to Richard Rapior of Aldeburgh. Jonathan Williamson presents the Pat Bailey Shield to Philip Gorrod of Halesworth. North-East District Ringing Master Philip Gorrod presents Metfield with The Harry Archer Trophy.

Meanwhile, it was also lovely weather for a striking competition and the North-East District were holding theirs at Metfield, with St Mary-le-Tower ringers Amanda Richmond and Jonathan Williamson judging and Halesworth winning the Pat Bailey Shield in the method contest, Aldeburgh the Call Change Trophy and the hosts were awarded The Harry Archer Trophy for the most improved band, which I've always thought was a wonderful innovation! Congratulations to all three teams and as with last week at Barham in the South-East District, to all who entered.

Likewise to all who entered the National Call Change Competition at Moseley in Birmingham a week ago, which was won by Kingsteignton, as reported in this week's edition of The Ringing World which arrived with us in the post this morning. It is an issue that includes a review of The Voice of the Church on the back cover by the Right Reverend Nigel Stock who was the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and therefore President of the Suffolk Guild during my time as Ringing Master of the same organisation. I always found him most supportive of the Guild, so it comes as no surprise to see him doing this review and his glowing reference to the exercise.

Our day was rounded off with an entertaining evening of watching the Champions League final on the TV. Not so much for the match itself as that was quite dull, but because of the interaction between the three brothers. Alfie and Josh may be fully fledged Ipswich Town fans, but like many boys of their age they 'support' a Premier League team too and also like many of their peers that team is currently Manchester City and so they were cheering them on, whilst Mason goaded them by getting behind their opponents Inter Milan! In the end the younger two were happiest although their elder sibling didn't seem to mind, even switching allegiances in the final minutes.

And we were ultimately pleased to have spent the day with them.

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Friday 9th June 2023

CCCBR President Simon Linford's latest blog entry was shared on their website today and again it provides information in an entertaining fashion in about 1,000 words.

Of particular note is the playlist of 'Ring for the King' TV coverage on the Central Council's YouTube channel, which he points readers in the direction of and as we all know features ringing in and ringers from Ipswich very heavily!

There is much more in his jottings, but I'll let - and indeed encourage - you to read those yourself!

Tannington.I read it on a typically quiet Friday from a personal ringing perspective, but elsewhere in Suffolk ringers were actually ringing rather than reading about ringing as a quarter-peal was rung at Tannington on the eve of the planned wedding of Emma Washer and Joe Westrup, with the intended groom having been a ringer, including a quarter-peal at Debenham in 2008.

It may not be as informative or entertaining as Simon Linford's, but I'm pleased to offer my best wishes to Joe and Emma through my blog.

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Thursday 8th June 2023

Richy's eBells. By the measure of my previous frequency, it has been quite a while since I last had a go on the eBells that Tim Hart very kindly sent me in 2021. Opportunity and time arose this evening though to blow the cobwebs off them and try and pick up from what I'd been doing previously. I impressed myself with my attempts at ringing Yorkshire Surprise Major on 7-8, where at least both bells course each other. Lots of attempts came to grief, but even in the ones that collapsed I was confident of where I was and striking reasonably well until the moment of implosion!

Elsewhere things were even quieter, at least judging by BellBoard, which indicated that only four peals were rung worldwide today. Ringing was being actively undertaken in our house though, at last!

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Wednesday 7th June 2023

It was a busy day of ringing in Suffolk today, with a peal and three quarter-peals rung on the county's bells on this summers day.

Poslingford.The peal was rung on the 8cwt five of Poslingford and was a special one for Ian Culham and Paul Bray who were ringing their one hundredth peal together, rung in a village that they both have family connections to.

Horringer. The Barn Owl Ring. Pettistree.

Meanwhile, the QPs included a 1376 of Suffolk Surprise Major at Horringer, 1312 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major on The Barn Owl Ring in Norton and a 1274 of King Edward Surprise Minor at Pettistree rung prior to the practice, which I joined. It was great to see Gill Adam and Lesley Barrell from Falkenham there again, as well as Lesley's brother Bob as we rang much from Plain Hunt on Five and Plain Bob Doubles for John Horsnell to spliced Minor that included Cambridge, Ipswich and Surfleet Surprise amongst other methods, whilst we also rang London.

Nice also to join Chris and Mary Garner in The Greyhound for a drink afterwards where we lamented that the vicar here the Reverend Leslie Siu is taking his last service on Sunday before he and his young family move to Hong Kong, which sadly also means that Wickham Market will lose Leslie's son Daniel who has been learning to ring on the 12cwt six at All Saints. I suspect the situation there makes it unlikely, but perhaps one day we might see him at the forefront of a busy day of ringing in Hong Kong!

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Tuesday 6th June 2023

St Margaret.Life has been quite busy since it first aired on Sunday morning with ringing, pubbing, barbecuing and working, but this evening I finally found the time to listen to 'Bells on Sunday' on BBC Radio 4 which this weekend featured an extract from the peal of Dordrecht Surprise Major rung at St Margaret's in Ipswich over last year's ringing weekend in memory of twice-Past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild David Salter. As you would expect from the band on this nicely restored 14cwt gallery-ring eight the ringing is really good, a joy to listen to.

Earlier in the evening, I had been ringing at another similarly weighted eight in the county as I went to Ufford's weekly practice, although with something up with the clock hammer mechanisms that are necessarily close to the tenor wheel, Ringing Master Kate Eagle was being understandably cautious and so we only rang the front six. However, with nine present, that still allowed much to be done with standers behind for those who needed them, as learner Mary rang call-changes on the first occasion she had rung anywhere other than her home tower of Hollesley and we rang Grandsire Doubles, Plain Bob Minor and Cambridge Surprise Minor for her fellow ringers from the glorious 16cwt eight Daniel and Margaret and new home to the David Barnard Memorial Trophy. There is an incredible number of learners coming through there, especially when one considers their geographical isolation and smaller pool of people living nearby to recruit from.

Meanwhile, I also spotted that Bell Sunday 2024 is being earmarked for 12th May and although CCCBR Public Relations Officer Vicki Chapman herself points out that its inaugural outing this year was probably overshadowed by ringing for the coronation just the weekend before, the hope is clearly to establish this as a fixture in the ringing and liturgical calendar and she gives a link to resources so that bands can hopefully do more next year!

God willing there will also be more ringing as good as that exhibited on 'Bells on Sunday' at the weekend!

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Monday 5th June 2023

St Mary-le-Tower.It was a busy evening at St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice. At its peak there were twenty-three present at varying stages of their ringing progression, which meant much was squeezed in, from rounds and call-changes on twelve to shorter pieces of Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus to allow us to fit as much in as possible.

We also had a visit from Essex Association Ringing Master Andrew Kelso who had only been on BBC Radio Suffolk 2 hours and 5 minutes into Luke Deal's Breakfast Show being grilled in his role as the Medical Director on the Integrated Care Board of Suffolk and North East Essex NHS, which I thought he handled pretty well!

Most of us also retired to the Halberd Inn afterwards for refreshment, whilst earlier in the day there was not one but two quarter-peals on handbells in Bury St Edmunds with a 1312 of Kent Treble Bob Major and a 1344 of Plain Bob Major, the former of which was the one hundredth QP in hand for Past Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters. Congratulations Jed.

It seems like it was a busy afternoon ahead of our busy evening.

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Sunday 4th June 2023

The day didn't start well.

Sunday mornings are usually quite hectic at the best of times, as we cajole the boys through breakfast, getting dressed and their various whims and requests in a tight timescale between everyone getting up and then leaving the house, particularly when I am trying to get out to ringing at St Mary-le-Tower where proceedings begin at 8.45am nine miles away, as I was today. So I didn't need one of the hinges of a cupboard door in the kitchen to come off. These are really awkward doors anyway, which lift up rather than open out and which couldn't be left as it was, but if I was to do a rehanging job or even to take it off, it would require more than the one spare hand I had and frankly more time than I had too and so I taped it up until we finally got the chance to take it off later in the day.

By that point I had been to St Mary-le-Tower with the boys, where I rang in some Stedman Cinques, had a hot chocolate in Costa Coffee, helped man the back six at Grundisburgh for the morning ringing and then returned later with Ruthie for what was actually quite a significant peal.

The Norman Tower. St Mary-le-Tower. Grundisburgh. St Peter Mancroft The church of St Nicholas, Great Yarmouth - geograph.org.uk - 2350653 Cmglee Great St Marys

Primarily I had arranged this afternoon's attempt as part of my intended Suffolk Guild Centenary project to ring peals of Maximus at three twelve-bell towers within our borders and those in the Ely and Norwich Diocesan Associations that our towers were split between before the formation of the SGR in 1923, with the hope being that there is at least one first in each one. February's at The Norman Tower saw five firsts and April's at St Mary-le-Tower was the first time that Past Ringing Master of the Guild Amanda Richmond had conducted a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus.

This afternoon's 5044 on the county's lightest twelve was a first of Cambridge Surprise Maximus for Hal Meakin just a few weeks after he'd rung his first of Yorkshire Max, but it transpired it was the first of Maximus for some in the band since pre-pandemic and indeed my wife's first at this level for a decade since we rang in a 5030 of Little Bob Maximus that also appears to have been the last peal of Maximus rung at Grundisburgh.

Many will say that is because they aren't very rewarding on twelve and once we had finished our 3 hours and 2 minutes of ringing there were a host of understandably mocking WhatsApp messages flashed up on my phone comparing sitting out in the sun on another gorgeous afternoon of weather and ringing a peal in the little wobbly red brick tower. After all, especially with the window still boarded up awaiting a planned replacement, there may have been times that all of us in the band might have considered we'd rather be out in the sun.

However, good ringing is possible on these bells. I've heard it and I've been part of it and although it wasn't quite up to the standard of some of those pieces, there was a concerted period where the ringing did trip along nicely on bells that are hard to hear and strike on twelve and where ropesight can take a bit of time to be picked up, especially with some inexperienced on twelve and some quite rusty at it. Ultimately, I'm glad we went for it and scored, especially as at this time of year and in such nice conditions, there was still time afterwards to sit in the beer garden at The Turks Head in Hasketon (where the 9cwt ground-floor six are currently out of action whilst work in the church blocks the way into the ringing chamber) and then back to mother-in-law Kate's where she had very kindly been looking after the boys and had put on a BBQ for us, sister-in-law Clare and her family and the children's Great Granny. Thank you Kate! We even had time to wander home still in warming daylight and take that cupboard door off.

Whilst all that was happening, others in the county were also ringing, with quarter-peals of Doubles, Grandsire Triples and Grandsire Caters rung at Troston, Halesworth and St Mary-le-Tower respectively.

Generally it seems the day went better for Suffolk ringing than it started for us!

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Saturday 3rd June 2023


After more research - for which SGR Chairman Mark Ogden deserves considerable gratitude - into the number of peals rung for the Suffolk Guild across its one hundred year history, it seems that is the total reached with Thursday's 5076 of Bristol Surprise Major at Felixstowe, not 9,998 as thought at the time. Instead, the arbitrary but significant 10,000 landmark appears to have been reached with whichever of the 5040 of Plain Bob Minor rung on handbells in Ipswich or the 5100 of Grandsire Caters at Writtle in Essex finished latest on Monday. I suspect it is the latter, as it seems unlikely that the 3 hours and 32 minutes of ringing completed on the 31cwt ten south of the River Stour was completed by 12.23pm when the two hours in hand was submitted onto BellBoard. Things may yet shift again as there is so much room for error from decades of paper records and laxer record keeping over thousands of peals, but if that is the case then congratulations to the band who rang at Writtle and appropriately includes a former Peal Secretary, two past Chairmen and a one-time Ringing Master.

Meanwhile, congratulations are due also to just about everyone involved in what must be considered a near-perfect example of all that is good about striking contests, as the South-East District Competitions were held at Barham this afternoon, with many misconceptions knocked on the head.

For a start, St Mary-le-Tower didn't win. And there is a new name to add to the Cecil Pipe Memorial Bell for the method competition, as Debenham came out on top, albeit jointly with Pettistree. Congratulations to both teams, the latter of which Ruthie and I were delighted to be a part of. Congratulations also to Hollesley who won the David Barnard Memorial Trophy for winning the call-change contest with a band that included young Josh who was ringing at somewhere other than his home tower for the first time, just three months after taking the exercise up, so particular congratulations to him!

The draw. The draw. The ringing order. Listening to the ringing from the churchyard. Listening to the ringing from the churchyard. Some of the Pettistree ringers. The trophies - the David Barnard Memorial Trophy on the left, the Cecil Pipe Memorial Bell on the right. The tea being enjoyed in the hall. Our table at tea. Jeremy Spiller giving the results. Jeremy Spiller giving the results. The winning Debenham team. Robert Scase of Debenham and Mike Whutby of Pettistree either side of the judge Jeremy Spiller. Peter Harper of Hollesley collects the David Barnard Memorial Trophy from the judge Jeremy Spiller.

Josh was one of many who were ringing in their first striking competition. I counted twelve when SE Ringing Master Jenny Scase encouraged all the debutants to stand before the results were given out in the church, which may be one or two out either way, but is still mightily impressive and hopefully gives encouragement to those put off or have been put off by the perception they may not be good enough to ring in such an event. Especially with the call-change element (which I believe is part of the North-East District and South-West District competitions due to be held at Metfield in a week and Polstead on Saturday 24th June respectively and definitely of the Guild six-bell competitions), if you are good enough to ring call-changes unaccompanied without any issues, then you are good enough to ring in a local six-bell striking competition. And of those I spoke with, none of them seemed to find it the unpleasant, highly-charged elite event that I have heard many describing striking competitions to be. There were nerves, yes (as there always are for me) and beforehand maybe even a little stress, but most seemed to take the occasion for what it was - a fun afternoon out ringing bells in a different way with the gentle jeopardy of the results. Amongst the many first-timers, there appeared to be exhilaration, joy and satisfaction, with lots of smiles. Bramford's team and supporters turned up in team shirts and brought drink to celebrate just being there and that would've been appropriate for all, as it was great to see them make their first entry for years, as well as other new teams such as the hosts Barham & Henley and Ipswich St Lawrence and other relative newbies Clopton. There seems few if any aspects of ringing that enthuse new ringers and non-ringers more than striking competitions (it is the only ringing that our boys are dragged around to that they really take any interest in at the moment), which will be something they can understand more than quarters or peals and I hope more bands will use this medium to encourage their early-stage learners in the future as today's seems to have done.

As is often used as a complaint of striking competitions is that some ringers ring for multiple bands and there were some ringers ringing for more than one team this afternoon, my wife and I included, but only to allow for the participation of as many ringers as possible and it was still kept to a minimum, as the vast numbers milling around in the sunbaked churchyard from the draw onwards and in the hall attached testifies.

Another reason that appears to put potential competitors off is the fear that they will get criticised and belittled by a fierce judge, but that is frowned upon to the extent that it doesn't really happen. On this occasion, Jeremy Spiller was constructive in what he said and humourous too, putting everyone at ease, as he usually is when I've seen him judge striking competitions. He was even able to joke about getting interrupted by one of the female competitors nearly getting changed next to him before realising he was there!

All in all it was a wonderful occasion on lovely bells in a great, isolated location with all the facilities one needs (bar a pub I guess!) in the same place. The weather was hot and sunny, the boys enjoyed watching the FA Cup Final thanks to Granny's phone and their parents enjoyed catching up with friends and meeting new ones. Our hosts provided lots of great food and constant refreshment for all ages (ours weren't the only children there) and ultimately the event succeeded in its two main purposes of producing good ringing in a fun atmosphere and bringing ringers together to socialise and learn. Thank you to all who made it happen and congratulations to all who took part.

One of the Bramford ringers I spoke to also made an interesting comment about how the Suffolk Guild Centenary edition of The Ringing World a few weeks ago had made them realise how much there is still to do in ringing and there is more evidence of that in the current issue which we got our first chance to read between arriving back from my mother Sally's where she had very kindly put us up overnight and heading out to Barham after lunch. A North American band's project to ring a peal of the 'standard' forty-one Surprise Minor methods that brought back memories of a similar project here in Suffolk a few years back. Celebrations for the ninetieth birthday of Les Townsend who I know from years of going to Lincoln Cathedral where he was Ringing Master whenever we visited my late Aunt Janet and her other half Mick in the area. Bell Sunday. Saffron Walden's Great Ringing Day. Other striking competitions. Quarters and peals. And the report of Woodbridge's recent spring outing appears on the back page.

Meanwhile, Ed Hynard was remembered with a 1320 of St Clement's College Bob Minor rung at Woolpit, with Ed having taught the treble ringer Astrid Gale.

There were no further peals to add to the 10,001 we already have though.

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Friday 2nd June 2023

In what seems to be becoming a welcome biannual tradition, most of the St Mary-le-Tower band went for a curry at Maharani on Norwich Road this evening. Having left the boys with my mother Sally who had very kindly agreed to look after them and put us up overnight so we could have a few beers, we walked into Ipswich for the usual pre-curry drinks in the beer garden at the Halberd Inn with Colin Salter and then the Brays, Culhams and our organiser tonight Hal Meakin and his fiancée Josie who most of us were meeting for the first time.

St Mary-le-Tower ringers curry. (Copyright Hal Meakin)
St Mary-le-Tower ringers curry
© 20323 Hal Meakin

As usual we then wandered to the curry house for another superb meal, where we were typically well looked after, Colin had to reluctantly make a speech and conversation veered from children to new houses and even occasionally ringing. Superbly organised - thank you Hal!

As is also usual, a handful of us continued on to St Jude's Brewery Tavern nearby and a pint out the back there before we made our way back to my mother's for the night, whilst in Earl Stonham a quarter-peal was rung. Something which is a little more than a biannual tradition.

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Thursday 1st June 2023


Peal band with Adrian Knights.

That's the number of peals the Suffolk Guild is up to following today's 5076 of Bristol Surprise Major at Felixstowe, being of course the annual peal rung for the birthday of Adrian 'Arnie' Knights. He is a popular character and one of the best ringers this county has produced, hence why this is such a fixture in the Guild's peal figures, typically rung to a composition by his good friend Brian Whiting of an appropriate length, with this year being his 76th birthday. Ruthie rang in his 58th birthday peal in 2005 and I in his 59th the following year and both of us were privileged to ring in the one for his 60th, all with Arnie himself, but sadly he is too ill these days to ring in them. Still, it was nice to see he was able to meet with today's band.

Nothing as active for us on a Thursday typically taken up by work and my wife's choral practicing, so at least others are notching us closer to SGR peal number 10,000.

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Wednesday 31st May 2023

It was a busy day for the younger two boys on this half-term Wednesday.

Primarily they spent it at The Suffolk Show which it won't surprise people to discover featured a lot of football, as they visited the Ipswich Town tent to play each other at football pool, meet Crazee the mascot and get autographs from and have their photo taken with former players Matt Holland and Simon Milton.

Later, they both went to Alfie's footy team's weekly training session, which as it was the final one of this season had an end-of-term vibe about it that saw much of the coaching exchanged for a mass children-vs-adults match. Despite being 4-0 down at one stage, the youngsters came out victorious with a 7-4 win, with Alfie making some good saves and Josh getting involved with the occasional tackle and pass in a chaotic game!

As seems to be becoming a school holiday tradition without the pressures of them getting through a school day tomorrow, they then completed their evening with a trip to Pettistree practice and a drink in The Greyhound afterwards.

For most of this they were accompanied by their mother and for the day at Trinity Park also their cousins, Aunty Clare and her other half Chris, Granny Kate and their Great Granny to also take advantage of the usual free samples from the food tent, the odd pint for the adults, see the animals from Easton Farm Park and watch the horses and carriages in one of the show rings. Josh even rode a horse elsewhere on the showground.

With Ruthie joining a work-related webinar at home, it was happily down to me to take the brothers to football training, with my contribution to the losing team being my usual of randomly running around and occasionally hoofing the ball away.

Pettistree. Once my wife had finished her online business, we then made the short journey to the aforementioned ground-floor six as a family for a session where us parents were able to help out with much from Plain Bob Minor to spliced Minor and to witness Mike Whitby's signaling to the watching Vince Buckman when he was trebling (as requested by Vince) in Cambridge Surprise Minor that eventually finished with Mike blowing Vince kisses (not requested by Vince!). Although short of a handful of regulars, we benefitted from the visits of Joanna Crowe from Grundisburgh, David Stanford from Clopton and Jill Adam & Lesley Barrell from Falkenham, all of whom it was wonderful to see.

Beforehand, a 1272 of Durham Surprise Minor was dedicated to the ringer of the fourth and Guild & South-East District Chairman Mark Ogden's birthday (number of changes not related!), who very kindly brought cake (which the boys appreciated!) for the occasion. That was one of two quarter-peals rung in the county today, the other being rung on The Barn Owl Ring in Norton, the eight that was previously The Millbeck Ring in Shelland and before that The Folly in Claydon.

This evening's ringing at Pettistree was followed by the normal plea from our sons to go to the pub and so after much arm-twisting we obliged by taking them over to the ancient inn next door to the church of St Peter and St Paul where it was nice to sit down and catch-up on what had been a busy day. Especially for the boys.

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Tuesday 30th May 2023

We didn't do any ringing today, but there were a couple of messages shared around the Guild for occasions planned for the coming weeks.

Barham. One is quite immediate as it relates to the South-East District Striking Competitions due to be held at Barham on Saturday, as the deadline for teas has been extended until Wednesday, primarily due to a spelling mistake in the email link to SE Secretary Liz Christian from What's On. If you haven't booked a tea therefore, you still have a chance, but get in quick!

The other was a request on the Guild's Facebook page to help for ringing at a wedding booked for Saturday 17th June at Southwold. It is only for ringing afterwards, which is expected to be from around 2.30pm, but is worth £25 a rope, so if you fancy helping out, earning a bit of money and enjoying an afternoon by the seaside then please let Julia Johnson know via the details shared on the FB post.

Also shared on the same page is a video of the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich - and therefore President of the SGR - the Right Reverend Martin Seeley blessing the ten bells of Stowmarket this morning as this project reaches what God willing will be its conclusion soon.

Metfield. Additionally, there is a link to the agenda for the North-East District Striking Competition and Quarterly Meeting penciled for Metfield on Saturday 10th June. underlining just how short and straightforward the meeting ought to be, so please don't be put off from attending by that aspect of what will hopefully be a fun afternoon!

Meanwhile, I enjoyed having a look at 'On This Day' on the superb Pealbase, as I occasionally do and on this occasion it revealed that on this date exactly twenty-five years ago two methods named after local locations made their debut in the peal columns in peals rung in the county. One was of Framlingham Surprise Major which was rung on the 16cwt eight in the town it was named after and conducted by David Salter, albeit for the Oxford Diocesan Association. It was subsequently rung for the Guild at the same venue in 2015. The second was of Little Glemham Little Surprise Major and rung on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower as part of the Guild's seventy-fifth anniversary celebrations, and featuring my brother Chris. An interesting snapshot of Suffolk ringing from the past.

Nice to see ringing in the present too though, as Offton ringer Kevin Hohl was fittingly remembered with a quarter-peal at his home tower before the weekly practice, something that he often did down the years.

For us today though, half-term has begun, which meant that the boys were invited to a birthday party in Campsea Ashe and the normal weekly routine was altered, but it enabled us to keep up with the Guild's communications.

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Monday 29th May 2023

When I think of Kevin Hohl, I think of sunny Tuesday evenings at Offton practice and the BBQs at the Whiting's abode on hot July Sunday afternoons. Obviously it wasn't all sunshine, but he was a constant in those hazy, happy memories, a gentle voice of encouragement as my brother Chris and I made our first concerted steps into Surprise Major ringing in our youth and usually with a beaming smile. He seemed reassuringly ageless and a positive presence and a really good ringer at that. Certainly when I first started ringing regularly on the 8cwt ground-floor eight that was his home tower, the ringing was of a high standard and he was a big part of that, a regular in the pre-practice quarter-peals that often included spliced Surprise Major. His death on Saturday, announced today filled me with much sadness. Sadness at another character of my youthful ringing days gone of course, but mostly for another good guy gone and mostly for his lovely wife Janet and their family, as well as the ringers at Offton.

There is already ringing dedicated to him, as today's peal of Grandsire Caters at Writtle in Essex was rung in his memory, one of two peals rung for the Suffolk Guild today, with the other rung in hand in Ipswich on the centenary of the first handbell peal rung for the SGR, in Lavenham on 29th May 1923 in the same method in the early days of the organisation. These two successes on 29th May 2023 have taken it to 9,997 in total.

Not that we were taking part in any ringing on this third bank holiday Monday of May as instead I took a whole load of stuff down to the rubbish dump and we welcomed our friends and near neighbours Verity and Jade for our first barbecue of the year.

It was an absolutely wonderful occasion, but our thoughts were also with Kevin and his family, especially Janet.

RIP Kevin and thank you for those sunny memories.

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Sunday 28th May 2023

Ness Point. We were in the far east today. Well, far east of Suffolk, and indeed the far east of the UK's mainland, as we travelled up to Ness Point in Lowestoft. Unlike the other famous geographical extremities of the country like John o' Groats and Land's End which are found in spectacular, beautiful surroundings, this is set to an extremely ugly backdrop, with the only access by road through a typically imposing and unwelcoming industrial estate, but we weren't there as tourists. Rather, we had gone there on this windswept afternoon to greet our friend and Alfie's Godfather Nick at the climax of a mammoth cycle ride from the Welsh coast to this drab but significant location to raise money for Royal Papworth Hospital Charity. Obviously its not expected as very few reading this will know him, but in case you are minded to support this worthy cause, his JustGiving page can be found by clicking on here. It is a phenomenal achievement and we felt privileged to be there as he completed his epic (and painful!) journey.

Sproughton. Whilst we were up there, others in the county were ringing on a busy day for the art within our borders. Four quarter-peals were rung, with the headline being William Herbert ringing his first in the medium as he trebled to the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Sproughton, the second to do so this month on the bells that my brother Chris and I learnt to ring on. Well done William!

Bardwell. Well done also to Marion Knight-Dixon who rang her first away from cover in another 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles, this time at Bardwell, whilst the same number of changes in the same method were rung at Pettistree, with both rung in memory of Ed Hynard. Meanwhile, bucking the theme of the day, a 1346 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus was rung at The Norman Tower.

The framed report of Woodbridge's coronation ringing. I did do some ringing today as well as I joined the band at Woodbridge for morning ringing, where they also put up their framed copy of the BellBoard report from their ringing for the recent coronation. This is something that should be very simple for anyone to do (merely go to the entry on BB, click on the yellow symbol that says 'Generate Coronation certificate' when you hover over it and then print) and I would certainly encourage bands who haven't already to do the same as those at the 25cwt eight of St Mary-the-Virgin I rang with today. Whether you be in the far south, north, west or east.

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Saturday 27th May 2023

Alfie's football team's season may have finished, but there is still training on Saturday mornings for Josh, whose love of the game seems to be at an all-time high. Lay-ins might remain a dream and weekend ringing may still be complicated over the summer months by this, but as with Alfred it is a joy to see him enjoying something so much and to be fair on this occasion it was in hot sunshine and we didn't have any ringing lined up anyway.

Instead, ours was another day of sorting out the garden with the lawnmower out again and there was still the opportunity to read the latest issue of The Ringing World, which arrived with us today and features a letter from one-time Bures learner John Loveless writing in saying how much he enjoyed the recent Suffolk Guild 'takeover' edition and the notice for the Central Council AGM due to be held on Saturday 2nd September in The Hold in Ipswich was published. I was also drawn to the obituary of fellow Rambling Ringer, superb ringer and all-round great company Mike Pomeroy.

Clopton. Cavendish.Others were doing actual ringing nearby meanwhile, as the lovely six of Clopton were rung for a wedding, whilst hopefully the South-West District had a good turnout at Cavendish  for their monthly practice this evening.

God willing we'll successfully juggle some ringing of our own with football in the coming weeks.

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Friday 26th May 2023

Polstead.I was very sorry to learn of the death of former Polstead ringer Ed Hynard via the footnote to today's peal at Bures. Ed is yet another of those experienced ringers from my ringing youth who it fascinates me to think lived and rang through a different age of Suffolk life who has recently passed, before he moved to the Channel Islands.

It was poignant that the peal was arranged to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of Evelyn Reeve's first peal, rung on the same bells when Ed pulled the tenor in and it was lovely that Evelyn joined the band afterwards for a photo. And it was also the Guild's 9,995th peal.

That peal wasn't the only ringing from the county noted on BellBoard today, as the FNQPC rang a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Ashbocking, but there was nothing so active from a ringing perspective from us as we dealt with an unexpected issue and then welcomed Ruthie's sister Clare and her other half Chris who happened to be passing on the way back from the pub.

Instead, our ringing thoughts were mainly with Ed Hynard and his family. RIP Ed.

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Thursday 25th May 2023

As it stands, June is due to be a month of striking competitions. On the day that many mourned the news that Tina Turner died yesterday, it is tempting to say ringers will be travelling River Deep, Mountain High to be The Best. Whilst there might be a Proud Mary Garner if Pettistree were to win at Barham on the edge of Nutbush City Limits (Ipswich has been called worse!), these are - as I often point out - not primarily for the 'glory' of winning and heroic ringing performances. We Don't Need Another Hero. They are simply a different way of getting ringing friends new and established together, a chance to focus on striking in a fun way.

Barham.That is certainly the case for the South-East District Striking Competitions planned to be on Saturday 3rd (on the same day as the National Call-Change Competition at Moseley at Moseley in Birmingham) at the aforementioned Barham, which like Troston last week are an easy-going, light six recently added to the the local ringing scene, but are also ground-floor for those who prefer that. Just a mile off junction 52 of the A14 on the western side of Ipswich, it is a pretty straightforward place to get to by car and once there you have pretty much everything you need close by. The church itself has facilities that if its really dreadful weather mean that you don't have to go outside from the moment you get there if needs be, whilst just half a mile away there are the shops of Claydon, as well as the pubs of The Crown (if you're into Hungry Horses) and The Greyhound, whilst a mile from the church is The Sorrel Horse Inn.

Metfield. Unfortunately there isn't a pub in Metfield where a week later it is intended to hold the North-East District Striking Competition, although I really should point out that the superbly named Sir Alfred Munnings is in the next village of Mendham! And directly opposite the 9cwt six that teams plan to be competing on is the Village Hall where the tea, results and their short Quarterly Meeting are penciled in to happen. The NE's USP in this respect is that there is a practice period ahead of the competition for the participating teams, which on this occasion has been slated for 2 to 3.30pm and I think helps make this an even more relaxed occasion.

Polstead.On the 24th meanwhile, the South-West District are intending on holding their striking competition at Polstead, the lovely ground-floor six in a wonderful location that many will have enjoyed ringing for the Guild Striking Competitions in 2019 and where The Cock Inn is just up the hill on the delightful green!

With all three competitions, lots of teams are welcome, whether ringing call-changes or a method and indeed are all the better for a hefty number of entrants. At this level they are flexible and laid back events.

Spectators are also welcome to listen and have tea, with names for the former needing to be sent to Secretary Liz Christian by Monday 29th May and the invitation for attendance is extended to two striking competitions beyond our borders. One should include Suffolk representation as the Guild hopes to win The Ridgman Trophy for a third year in a row as this ten-bell contest goes to the Peterborough Diocesan Guild who plan to host it at my favourite twelve, Towcester on the 17th. This is a place that knows how to host a ringing event as I have experienced many times, so ought to be a great occasion for anyone going along, whether they are ringing or not. And although there is sadly no involvement from within our borders, the National 12-bell Striking Contest planned for Sheffield Cathedral seven days after that, this is the ultimate day out for ringers not actually ringing!

Looking even further ahead into July, the Ringing World National Youth Contest is lined up for Saturday 8th in York and is becoming a huge occasion for the youngsters that God willing are the future of the exercise.

Hopton.There are other ringing events due to be held in the county next month though, with the intention being to hold the North-West District Practice at Hopton on the 10th between 10am and noon and then two days later the Bungay 8-Bell Practice from 7.30-9pm. Then of course there is Suffolk Day on 21st June, which has generated so much positive publicity for the art locally and I hope it can again this year.

Before May even finishes though, there is much going on within our borders currently, with a quarter-peal of Reverse Canterbury Pleasure & Plain Bob Doubles rung at Redgrave and of course work continues apace to hang the ten at Stowmarket, with a video showing the building of the frame there part of my viewing today.

Otherwise though, it was a quiet day ahead of what God willing will be a busier June of striking competitions as bands attempt to keep the roll-ups Rollin'.

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Wednesday 24th May 2023

Pettistree. It was a lovely evening to watch Alfie's football training and also to attend Pettistree practice. The west door was open allowing sunlight and birdsong to enter the ground-floor ringing chamber as - despite arriving late due to my previous engagement - I participated in an eclectic rang of methods from Plain Bob Doubles, St Clement's College Bob and London Surprise Minor, as well as some 'simple' spliced that also featured Beverley, Cambridge and Ipswich Surprise, the latter of which was the method rung in the pre-practice quarter-peal.

Gislingham.That wasn't the only performance on Suffolk's bells recorded on BellBoard today as the Guild rang its 9,994th peal with the 5152 of Westerfield Surprise Major at Gislingham and I imagine that 2 hours and 58 minutes of ringing was followed by refreshment of some sort in a pub, as was my ringing tonight when I joined the Garners and Ray Lewis in The Greyhound for chatter about holiday homes and the work at Stowmarket over a pint. It was a lovely evening for that too.

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Tuesday 23rd May 2023

Stowmarket's eight were removed from the tower of St Peter and St Mary in February 2020. It feels a lifetime ago, a different world and in so many respects of course, it is. A lot has happened since then and largely because of that the project to have them returned as a ten has taken so much longer than expected. At times it feels like it has been going on forever.

The bells arriving at Stowmarket. The bells arriving at Stowmarket. The bells arriving at Stowmarket. One of the bells being brought to the tower door at Stowmarket. Girders going in up the tower at Stowmarket. The ringing chamber at Stowmarket at the moment.

Well, today that forever project has taken a significant step towards finally being completed, as the bells returned on the back of a lorry extremely skillfully maneuvered through the tight turns around the church! Suffolk Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge has provided numerous superb photos of their arrival and lifting of the girders and frame up the tower and there are others on the Facebook profiles of both the SGR and Stowmarket Bells. God willing we'll all have the chance to ring on them in the coming weeks and months.

Offton.Just eight miles away down picturesque country lanes meanwhile, a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Triples was rung at Offton ahead of the practice on the 8cwt ground-floor eight that imparted best wishes to local ringer Kevin Hohl well, which I'm sure we all do.

And further afield, well done to former Halesworth ringer Maggie Ross who rang her first peal of the 'standard' forty-one Surprise Minor methods with all-the-work (where all the bells do all the bits of all the methods, thus the need for 5760 changes) in the success at Shottesbrooke in Berkshire, which brings back lots of happy memories of our ultimately successful attempts to ring a peal of the forty-one here in Suffolk with Maggie in the band a few years back.

Nothing as exciting for us as though. The weekly practice at Ufford was cancelled, but we wouldn't have been able to make it anyway as Ruthie had a choir meeting in her role as their secretary. Still, hopefully soon we'll get the chance to ring on those bells which arrived in Stowmarket today, three years after the eight left.

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Monday 22nd May 2023

St Mary-le-Tower. There was quite an eclectic range of ringing at St Mary-le-Tower's practice on this light spring evening. Ringing Master Colin Salter was unfortunately held up at work, but with tower Secretary Ian Culham more than ably filling in we rang much on twelve, including rounds call-changes and Plain Hunt on Eleven through to Cinques of the Erin (with very loud calls needed for one slightly deaf participant!) & Stedman varieties and the Maximus forms of Cambridge & Yorkshire Surprise before we retired to the Halberd Inn, leaving a small group debating who was going to get the Mitson Shield inscribed, whilst in the pub the conversation veered from cats and dogs to the depth of the well we were sat around to Alfie's trophy win from the weekend. An evening of an eclectic range of conversation, as well as ringing!

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Sunday 21st May 2023

Suffolk ringing did well out of BBC Radio this morning.

Stowmarket.As I prepared to head out for morning ringing, I was delighted to hear the voice of North-West District Ringing Master Maureen Gardiner 2 hours, 9 minutes and 35 seconds into Sarah Lilley's show on the county's Beeb radio station speaking about the project to augment the eight at Stowmarket to a ten, something we could do with, especially in its central location. This has been one of the unluckiest bell projects I can recall, especially within our borders, mainly due to the pandemic with the first lockdown in the UK hitting just weeks after the bells were removed for what was meant to be only three months, but Maureen was on the airwaves to inform listeners that they are due back in the coming days after more than three years and it is intended that they are rung again in their new form next month. Good luck to all involved and well done on some more great PR Maureen!

Cretingham.Meanwhile, broadcast earlier but listened to by us later in the day, the 7cwt ground-floor six of Cretingham was on Radio 4's 'Bells on Sunday', with an extract from the Bourne Surprise Minor rung in the quarter-peal rung there on 15th June last year. Another wonderful bit of exposure for the county's bells on this famous feature.

The Mitson Shield and certificates at St Mary-le-Tower. In between listening to these two bits of broadcasting, I was doing some ringing of my own as I went to St Mary-le-Tower to ring, accompanied by the boys, where the Mitson Shield and certificates were sat on the table in the middle of the ringing chamber following yesterday's success.

The boarded up window at Grundisburgh. After refreshment at Costa Coffee, we then made our way onto Grundisburgh where ringing peaked at call-changes on the back eight but where the main focal point was the boarded up window, which also drew observation online after a photo of it appeared on Facebook. There isn't anything to worry about though, as apparently it is just being replaced as a project to replace the windows in the church generally, but it did feel very odd ringing behind it!

From there we picked Ruthie up somewhere near St Mary-the-Virgin's in Woodbridge as the Market Hill and surrounding roads were taken over by the annual 10k run around the town, listened to Cretingham bells and then did nothing more exciting than popping to Dobbies to get plants and where we bumped into Ipswich ringers Mary & Roger Whittell doing similar!

St Mary-le-Tower. Things were more interesting elsewhere though, where George Heath-Collins followed up ringing in his first ever striking competition as part of St Mary-le-Tower's other team which came a creditable fifth in amongst a field of very good bands in yesterday's striking competitions with his first quarter-peal on eight away from covering on the tenor in the 1260 of Grandsire Triples on the front eight at his home tower, which also saw fellow local ringer Sonia Docherty ringing her first on eight altogether. Well done George and Sonia!

Both bits of The Ringing World. That was rung for the recent coronation of King Charles III, but is too late to appear in the special edition of The Ringing World dedicated to the historic occasion of just over a fortnight ago and which we read today. It comes in two parts. One which lists all the ringing done, county by county, with Suffolk pleasingly taking up three pages of general ringing, quarters and peals, the other on various articles and stories behind a lot of the ringing, including Philip Gorrod's accounts of the considerable quarter-pealing efforts of the North-East District.

The Great Barton band 2011. The Great Barton band 2023.
The Great Barton bands twelve years apart!

We were reading it today having not had the opportunity when it arrived yesterday with it being so busy, but there are still uplifting stories to take note of from the morning on the wonderful bells of Troston, including Great Barton finishing second, twelve years after coming seventh in the call-change competition for the Lester Brett Trophy, with four of the band having competed in 2011 at Nayland. An example of the good striking competitions can do and I hope it encourages lots of other similar bands to enter next year's competitions, which if the normal order of the things is maintained should be in the South-East District on Saturday 18th May 2024.

Another good news story from the proceedings of twenty-four hours ago was that of Evelyn Reeve ringing with her daughter Claire Free and granddaughter Megan, highlighting the lovely way the exercise can bridge the generations.

All very newsworthy, although I don't think there was much space left on the airwaves for more Suffolk ringing!

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Saturday 20th May 2023

It's not often that we win two trophies in a day in our household, but that's what occurred today.


Personally I was just delighted by the turnout for the Suffolk Guild 6-Bell Striking Competitions at Troston this morning, which had looked like being a bit of a damp squib at the start of the week when SGR Ringing Master Katharine Salter revealed there were only five entries for an event that in the past has attracted seventeen teams. To have eleven bands present is a great credit to our members rallying to Katherine's call for more participants, especially from the western districts who provided seven of the teams and although it was a pity that there was no one from the North-East District it meant that this still had the feel of a true countywide occasion. There was a little more of ringers doubling up than is usually desirable and the Pettistree band needed to call on the official reserve of Colin Salter, but it was understandable on a Saturday hot on the heels of a busy few weeks of ringing in a busy year of ringing for the Guild, with the 9,993rd for the organisation being rung in Kettering, others on holiday, still others with a houseful of non-ringing visitors, and I imagine others working, as well as illness. The important thing was that a highlight of the Guild's calendar was able to go ahead with lots of people taking over this tiny village on an absolutely gorgeous day of blue skies and hot sunshine (albeit a strong, cool wind). Ringers of a wide range of stages of their ringing progression were able to take part in a wide open competition that in the end was all just a bit of fun. Hopefully it was beneficial and enjoyable for all and there were certainly lots of smiling faces.

And this newly rehung ring of six are an absolute delight to ring. Light and easy-going which helped with a high standard of ringing throughout and when Ruthie and I rang for one of the St Mary-le-Tower teams second in the running order, it was completely joyful. We pulled off, rang a course of Cambridge Surprise Minor at a brisk pace that felt entirely comfortable and left feeling buoyant, very pleased with what we had just rung. And all those involved with the project to get this 5cwt gallery-ring up and running should also be very pleased.

A playing field full of ringers' cars! Gathered in Troston church for the draw. Gathered in Troston church for the draw. Gathered in Troston church for the draw. Katharine Salter's Ringing Master shirt.  Outside Troston church listening to the ringing. The ringing order.

The entry of the other band that my wife and I were ringing for was less straightforward. Pettistree have long entered this competition and indeed won it three times, but a huge chunk of the band were unable to ring for various reasons. After Mrs Salter's plea though, I felt I ought to try and get something together from the ground-floor six. I had hoped to get a full band and on top of ourselves, mother-in-law Kate Eagle and Guild Chairman Mark Ogden, I was grateful to Chris McArthur for agreeing to join, but sadly I was unable to find a sixth, hence why we had to use Colin as the official reserve, as indeed any team can do. Circumstances also meant that Mrs Eagle was still on her way as we approached the fourth slot that we'd been drawn to ring in. Not that this was a massive problem. As I've stressed numerous times before, these are laid back occasions and flexibility is abundant when dealing with volunteers and friendly competition and so with the Bardwell band already present in the sunbaked churchyard, we made a simple swap with them with the blessing of their ringers and Katharine and by the time the fifth slot came round Kate had arrived with the boys' cousins in tow and we climbed the ladder to have another go on these wonderful bells, this time to a couple of courses of Plain Bob Minor and another very satisfactory piece of ringing.

Troston Village Hall. Outside Troston church listening to the ringing. Some of the Pettistree band signing the book after ringing.

Our ringing for the day done, we made our way to the wonderful village hall, which in such weather was a bright and uplifting venue and a marvelous suntrap outside for a cuppa. It has to be said that our hosts were magnificent - thank you to Troston and the North-West District.

Frankly we could have spent all day there, the sound of the bells in the distance, chatting with friends and meeting new ones and tucking into the BBQ that followed, but we had another engagement and another opportunity for silverware that we needed to be back for and so we wandered back to the parking area set aside for us ringers on the playing field and headed homewards early. This time it was for Alfie at his team's end-of-season presentation, when the trophies for the choices for player of the year from the coaches, supporters and fellow players are awarded. We'd attempted to manage Alfred's expectations, mindful that all his teammates had done remarkably well through the cold winter, often on pretty atrocious pitches and that it was usually those who score the goals who win such awards, so it was all the more joyful when he was announced as the winner of the trophy from his teammates! Well done AJM!

Afterwards some of us parents of those in the team who are also in the same class at school met up in the beer garden of The Cherry Tree in Woodbridge, where in that warming sunshine us adults could enjoy a couple of drinks whilst the children all played together in the only playground at a pub in the town, before we wandered home.

 The Bardwell band who won the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy. The St Mary-le-Tower band who won the Mitson Shield. Presentation of the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy. Presentation of the Mitson Shield.

Whilst we were sunning ourselves with an ale, news came through to us from Troston that we too were winners with the St Mary-le-Tower band coming out on top in the contest for the Mitson Shield according to the judges Deborah and Penny Thorley. Congratulations to our bandmates and also to Bardwell who won the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy. Indeed, congratulations to all who took part and in the end made it such a tremendous day. A reminder also for everyone to save the date of the 2024 competitions, which are due to be held in the South-East District on SATURDAY 18TH MAY. None of us can guarantee being there of course and we know more than most currently that life can interrupt even the best laid plans, but please do note it and try to keep it free and try aiming now for entering a band. God willing we hope to be there, although (lovely as it would be!) I don't know that we can expect our household to be as successful as today!

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Friday 19th May 2023

Tostock.Well done to the band at Tostock who were ringing their first blows of Charlwood Delight Minor in the 1320 rung on the 5cwt gallery-ring six, whilst in Meldreth over the Cambridgeshire border, Blaxhall tower correspondent Mike Cowling was ringing with one-time Bures learner John Loveless in the peal of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods spliced for the Ely Diocesan Association.

Nothing as interesting for us, although Mason was able to give us the lowdown on his first week of GCSE exams.

Well done to him on his hard work and well done to the band at Tostock.

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Thursday 18th May 2023

The message on the Suffolk Guild's Facebook page from Ringing Master Katharine Salter that there is now due to be ten and possibly eleven teams competing in the SGR 6-Bell Striking  is good news and with this perhaps there might be even more, especially for the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy. It is worth noting that this is a morning event that won't take up the whole day and there can be flexibility with when your team is drawn to ring if you need to be anywhere else afterwards or beforehand.

Katharine isn't the only one who has been trying to encourage entries for striking competitions though, with CCCBR President Simon Linford using his latest blog to confirm that there are eleven teams booked in to ring in the inaugural National Call-Change Competition penciled in for Moseley in the West Midlands on Saturday 3rd June, amongst much other interesting content. Well worth taking the time to read it (more so than this one!).

Old Newton. God willing this Saturday is a busy and fulfilling day from a ringing perspective (and hopefully other perspectives too!), but today was less so, although it was pleasing to see that the 10cwt five at Old Newton were rung for the local primary school's Ascension Service in the churchyard, helping make today a more positive day for Suffolk ringing.

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Wednesday 17th May 2023

Both Ruthie and I got to go out tonight. Me to Alfie's football training on a really pleasant sunny evening and my wife to Pettistree where she was my representative as we try to put a team together from there for Saturday's Suffolk Guild 6-Bell Striking Competitions. Five ringers who could have rung are unable to due to holidays, guests and peal attempts and after asking round and not finding enough, Mary Garner and Mike Whitby understandably came to the conclusion that the 2008, 2012 and 2019 winners wouldn't be able to enter a band. Whilst disappointed I didn't think much more of it until SGR Ringing Master Katharine Salter revealed how low the turnout was and so with Mary and Mike's blessing I thought I would try and get a team together to boost the numbers. We're not quite there yet, but with the help of Mrs Munnings at this evening's practice we nearly are and I hope others across the county are also doing all they can to put a team together.

Katharine isn't the only one struggling to get something organised. Due to circumstances beyond his control caused by all the various crises around like the war in Ukraine, unrest in France and high prices, Stephen Pettman announced today that he will have to cancel his biannual ringing trip to Italy in autumn. His intention is to try again next year when hopefully enough of the aforementioned will have settled down. Watch this space!

Pettistree.Meanwhile, there was a quarter-peal rung on handbells in Bacton, whilst an apparently productive session at Pettistree was preceded by a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor to celebrate Jane Harper's recent 75th birthday, a good moment to thank her for all the help she has given to local, district and Guild ringing, and Ruthie joined others in The Greyhound afterwards for a drink. Which was a nice way for her to round off her night out.

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Tuesday 16th May 2023

As we approach what should hopefully be the Suffolk Guild's 10,000th peal, there has been some tireless work going on behind the scenes led by new SGR Chairman Mark Ogden to ascertain the exact number rung since its formation a century ago. It is far from easy. Especially before the days of instant recording of peals through BellBoard and before it Campanophile and therefore easily and quickly rectified mistakes, errors were made in printed form with corrections not instant and therefore raised elsewhere that have to be searched out, if they were corrected at all. As if to underline the ease in which past peals can remain recorded in the wrong place through decades, Pealbase - where Andrew Craddock has incredibly recorded peals going back over one hundred years, so errors will occur until pointed out to him - already has us having reached number 10,000 with Sunday's 5024 at Aldeburgh, but after much investigation and in lieu of Drew updating PB, that is in fact our 9,992nd.

This was revealed through email correspondence with Mark which was the only ringing-related feature of my day, with Ufford practice cancelled on this occasion and after a busy couple of weeks that saw quarter-peals and/or peals rung in the county on every day for sixteen days running, today was the second day running when neither were recorded on BellBoard.

We'll have to wait a bit longer to get closer to the Suffolk Guild's 10,000th peal.

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Monday 15th May 2023

St Mary-le-Tower. A rare Monday without a bank holiday was offset with the overwhelmingly spring-like conditions on my drive out to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice this evening. As the sun shone brightly, the vibrant colours either side of the country lanes I was navigating stood out magnificently and upliftingly. I am truly blessed to make this journey on evenings like this.

Once at Suffolk's heaviest ring of bells, the ringing was worthwhile coming out for, from the call-changes that are hopefully helping the learners present tonight to the Erin Cinques, Stedman Cinques and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and with daylight still hanging around as we left the ringing chamber, it was nice also to have a pint in the Halberd Inn to round the evening off.

It was a lovely Monday evening out, bank holiday or no bank holiday.

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Sunday 14th May 2023

Having mentioned yesterday about fitting ringing around Alfie's activities, it was the turn of Mason today.

Woodbridge.It was for different reasons though, again willingly undertaken and actually more straightforward. For my eldest has got a job at a local café, his maiden voyage into the world of paid employment and having made a great impression on his first day on Monday he was in for what is due to be his usual shift on Sundays. Normally when we have him at ours for the weekend, he comes with his younger brothers and me on the ringing circuit in Ipswich and Grundisburgh on the Sabbath morn as we would've done this morning, but with the boy needing to get to work at 9.30 it made sense to go to St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge for ringing and church as we typically do on every other Sunday and drop him off on the way.

The photo due to go on the wall at Woodbridge from their coronation ringing. So it was today and with the sixteen-year-old gainfully working we continued on to our destination for Ruthie to sing and me to climb the stairs with the boys to ring and where there was a wonderful example of the joy that ringing for the coronation has brought to bands across the county. Peal boards are due to go up in ringing chambers such as St Mary-le-Tower, quarter-peal certificates likewise at other places and I imagine there will be towers similar to here at Woodbridge who will be putting photos from the event up on the walls, a snapshot of the history of the band to go with the many others. If possible, please do make sure that you put something up to record when your tower's bells rang out for this historic occasion.

Well done to the entire band who rang their first peal of Quito Delight Major in the second Sunday peal at Aldeburgh which was another performance dedicated to King Charles III's crowning, but it was also Bell Sunday and although nothing was mentioned in the service we stopped to in Woodbridge, I hope it formed part of services elsewhere. It was certainly mentioned in footnotes to ringing across the country and indeed here in Suffolk with the ringing at Barham and the 1282 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at The Norman Tower, with the latter also one of three quarter-peals rung to round off what looks to have been an extremely successful North-West District QP Fortnight. Well done to Claire Free on ringing her first of Triples in the Plain Bob at Bardwell in one of them and to Mark Steggles and Neal Dodge on respectively ringing and conducting their first of Stedman in the 1260 at Great Barton in the other and indeed to all who contributed to the twenty-four quarters rung since the 29th April, which I make included seventeen firsts.

Nothing as noble from us, although we were achieving in a different field. When our bathroom door became unhinged, broken beyond repair and we had to take it off, thus depriving our household privacy in what should be one of its most private rooms, we were forced to do something we'd never done before, nor even considered - putting a new one on. Thus our afternoon mainly consisted of us being out and about purchasing a fresh door, bringing it back in the car, finding out how to fit a handle and hinges, fitting the handle and hinges and then of course hanging it, a lengthy process for us (especially as it was mainly my wife undertaking the bulk of the work due my lack of practicality!) only broken up by me taking the two youngest children out to pick their elder sibling up from work.

Meeting his boss and co-worker, it transpired that Mason had had another great day in the kitchen in what was described as "his natural environment." Well worth working ringing around!

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Saturday 13th May 2023

Combining Alfie playing football on Saturday mornings and ringing for us has been a regular logistical challenge over the last few months. We have tried to keep them free as much as possible because we really enjoy watching him and more importantly he enjoys playing immensely, but it has become very apparent that whilst ringers book ringing into their diary weeks and even months in advance, under-nines football is done a lot more on the fly. Occasionally we've had to make some largely impractical arrangements to ensure that Alfred can play for his team when fixtures have been organised on a morning we thought was spare, but his season finished last weekend and so for the first time for a long time I arranged a peal attempt for a Saturday morning confident that we wouldn't be missing AJM playing or having to make complicated arrangements to ensure he can play whilst we fulfilled commitments we'd made to other ringers.

Having underlined the long term planning that usually goes into organising ringing though, this morning's attempt at St Matthew's in Ipswich was hastily arranged, even by my standards, but unavoidably so. Mainly that was because it was for Ipswich Town's promotion which was only secured a fortnight ago further down Portman Road, but also because having lost Alfie's birthday peal at Rushmere St Andrew the day after (which itself was arranged later than I would usually like to go for it), I was also keen to get this before the anniversary of his birth on 10th April disappeared too far into the distance.

Ironic then, that even this peal attempt wasn't arranged at as short notice as another fixture for Alfie's team, which was fixed-up for this morning only after they'd completed their match last Saturday and meant that in fact we did need to make arrangements for him to get there in our absence. His Granny Kate had very kindly agreed to look after the boys with Ruthie and I both ringing, but it was an added logistical element and a pity that we did miss a match after all.

Ipswich, St Matthew. Therefore, having collected the keys off keyholder Matt Thomas who was still (quite rightly!) buzzing from ringing his first quarter-peal in the success at his home tower on Thursday and had been incredibly helpful really quickly right down to finding parking for us, a group of Town fans gathered at this 10cwt six for a celebration of the Tractor Boys and of a Tractor Boy. Of course, in keeping with the previous birthday peals for my sons when I aim to get an appropriate number of changes and/or methods, we rang nine Minor methods and whilst the choice of which ones was primarily down to what the band knew, but I am pleased to say sprinkled with links to the successful footy season just finished, tenuous as some were. There was Ipswich Surprise obviously, whilst we rang Cambridge Surprise and Double Oxford Bob, with Cambridge United and Oxford United both teams we beat on the way to finishing second (albeit the latter are the last team to have beaten us in the league, way back in January). We also rang Buxton Bob, predominantly due to its similarity to St Clement's College Bob, but coincidentally we also beat the team from the Derbyshire town in our relatively successful FA Cup run this season.

The pealband at St Matthew's minus Mark Ogden who was taking the photo.I was pleased that we were successful in what was a no-frills, safety-first affair, but was really well rung in 2 hours and 45 minutes in a performance that even the birds just outside the window seemed to be enjoying, on what I always find an enjoyable little ring of bells that many will recall from the Guild AGM in 2019. Get well soon to Podge who was the unfortunate Ipswich fan who had to drop out yesterday, but thank you to Guild Chairman Mark Ogden who although not a Town supporter was happy to help out and take the group picture of the rest of us above the 'We Are Backing the Blues' sign hanging on the churchyard railings at the bottom of the tower.

Mark also joined my wife and me at the Mermaid just up the road where we were being reunited with the boys and their Gran, as well as their cousins, Mrs Munnings' sister Clare and her other half Chris and Grandad Ron, whose recent birthday we were there to celebrate with a meal.

Meanwhile, Claire Free and Josephine Beever were ringing their first quarter-peal together in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Fornham All Saints during the North-West District QP Fortnight, whilst we topped our day off with watching the Eurovision which was for the first time Alfie and Josh stayed up to watch. Well, most of it for the latter.

Troston. It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday, as God willing next Saturday it'll be nice to spend it with lots of teams and Guild members at Troston for the SGR 6-Bell Striking Competitions. A reminder to please put a team in if you can for what should be a superb social occasion in lovely surroundings, with a light, easy-going newly rehung ring of bells with a BBQ due to be held in what is forecast to be lovely weather.

Unless another match for Alfie is arranged between now and then, we plan to all be there!

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Friday 12th May 2023

Today wasn't quite as relaxed as intended.

At lunchtime I picked up a message from someone in the band for a peal attempt lined up for tomorrow saying they were feeling unwell and now couldn't ring. It is among the peal arranger's worst nightmares, especially with just twenty-one hours until pull-off, which included an afternoon of work, a quarter-peal attempt immediately after and of course a night's sleep. It didn't bode well for a few leisurely drinks at home this evening! Still, they had given me as much warning as could be expected in the circumstances and so I knocked off a couple of emails before my lunchbreak was finished and hoped that by the time I I finished the quarter that I might have a replacement for the morning.

Although straight after work and needing to be finished by 6pm for the official opening of the village's Arts Festival, the QP at Ufford shouldn't have presented too much of a logistical issue, tight as it was. After all, with the boys already left with their great-granny, it was just a short journey of about a mile-and-a-half and a few minutes drive from our departure point of Melton. Even taking into account that the normal route is closed (one of many at the moment it seems) and due to be for the next five or six weeks, we had planned an alternative route via Bromeswell. Except as we got to The Unruly Pig, we joined an unexpected queue. Only a few cars long, but it didn't move and just ahead a van was partly blocking the road with a group of cyclists standing alongside. God willing nothing serious had happened, but when someone began standing in the road stopping the traffic we decided it was probably time to turn around and try a different way. Inevitably we met the world, his wife and their tractor coming the other way before we finally got to our destination, parked up and dashed into the ringing chamber at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and with the other four members of the band being ready to ring, we immediately launched into the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles on the back six. Although at a necessarily brisk pace to squeeze our efforts in, it was actually quite nice to concentrate on the ringing whilst also observing the busy scene outside, including many people who appeared to stop and listen. Great as well to see later on their website that the ringing was advertised as part of the festival.

Successfully rung, I checked my emails to find that my initial enquiries for a stand-in for tomorrow's peal had understandably been met with polite and apologetic negatives and so I rattled off some more emails, left Ruthie and Kate in The White Lion opposite, collected the three boys via the various road closures and works and returned for a drink with my wife and mother-in-law and with my fingers crossed for at least one yes to my urgent request.

I needn't have worried. Once home, I was greeted with two positive replies and so mightily relieved I was finally able to relax for the evening, including for Simon Rudd's weekly virtual pub.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, there was more ringing for the coronation, with general ringing at Burgh and four further quarters within our borders, which included another first quarter-pealer as Michelle Pearce made her debut in the medium with the 1260 of Grandsire Doubles on the 11cwt ground-floor six of Yoxford where ringing recently took place for the Guild's Centenary AGM. Congratulations Michelle!

Also, well done to Jim Watts on ringing his first QP for approximately thirty years (BellBoard says his last one was in 1985!) by bonging behind to Plain Bob Doubles at Wissett, whilst there was also a quarter at Rumburgh. And although not for King Charles III's big ceremony, what is believed to be the first handbell peal in Sudbury (though only second peal this week overall!) since 1916 was rung.

Troston. It was another great day of ringing in the county and hopefully there will be another one at Troston for the Guild 6-Bell Striking Competitions in eight days time. A new ring of bells for most and apparently a lovely, easy-going one at that, in a beautiful little village with all the amenities that a collective of ringers and hangers on should need, including a pub that looks like it serves a range of ales that looks like it will be open over lunchtime. Not to mention a park for children and wonderful surroundings to go for a walk in on what the weather forecast says ought to be a warm sunny day.

However, SGR Ringing Master Katharine Salter is very low on teams at the moment, which threatens to make this a very sorry occasion. There are various reasons why towers don't enter bands and most of them are misplaced. Some consider that they aren't good enough, but that's missing the point of striking competitions (at this level at least), which are intended (and usually are) to be a fun way of getting ringers together to ring. Additionally, the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy means there is the chance of silverware for anyone. Essentially, if your band can ring reasonable call-changes together and you are able to be in Troston on Saturday morning, there's no reason not to enter, providing your ringers fit into the rules, which are deliberately not onerous.

Others worry about criticism and even humiliation at the hands of strict judges looking over their glasses in disapproval at them, as if these are some sort of exam. This simply doesn't happen and is strongly discouraged. Indeed, judges often enjoy the chance to share encouragement and general advice, with individuals never mentioned apart from the occasional nod to especially good ringing.

You may think that this contest doesn't apply to you as you don't ring at a six-bell tower, but it is important to remember that these competitions are for six-bell bands, not six-bell towers. Over the years, Grundisburgh, St Mary-le-Tower and The Norman Tower have entered bands despite being twelve-bell towers, whilst eight-bell towers such as Debenham, Halesworth, Lavenham, Offton, Stowmarket and even the Wolery have entered teams, amongst others. On occasion, Pettistree has put a team into the Guild Eight-Bell Striking Competition despite being a six-bell tower, so in theory there's not anything stopping five-bell towers like Badingham, Fornham All Saints, Iken or Poslingford entering if they have bands!

First and foremost, this is a social occasion amongst friends established and new, some fun, but is at its best with plenty of teams from around the county, so please do speak to your band members and send an entry to Katharine as soon as possible and names for the BBQ to PR Officer Neal Dodge by Tuesday 16th May. The locals have put in a heck of a lot of effort to welcome the Guild to their village, it would be a pity if only a handful appreciated it.

I'm hoping that it goes to plan in the end and it is more relaxing than today!

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Thursday 11th May 2023

Whatever your thoughts about the coronation of King Charles III (and the Guild's Facebook page highlights there are varying degrees of enthusiasm or lack of just within our organisation!), it has certainly been great for ringing and ringers generally. 'Ring for the King' has provided a superb recruitment boost, rare towers have been rung at and there have been lots of firsts. Today, much of that was much in evidence, especially the latter, as six had firsts in the quarter-peals within our borders. Well done to Claire Whiting at Bacton, Matthew Thomas & Kate Hepworth at St Matthew's in Ipswich and Peny Conway at Redgrave on ringing their first quarter-peal and to Sue Merriam on her first inside in the success at Wickham Skeith and Erika Clarke for her first on eight in the Plain Bob Triples at Wilby, whilst there was also a 1320 of Beverley Surprise Minor rung at Tostock and this year's L Martin Daniels Peal Tour of the area continued with a 5040 at Theberton.

Not so much activity for us on the ringing front, although ours was still an active household with work, school and singing. And trying to keep up with all the ringing for the coronation!

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Wednesday 10th May 2023

Brome. With the coronation weekend been and gone, I suppose I thought ringing for it might quieten down, but if anything it picked up a bit in Suffolk today with three quarter-peals and a peal rung within our borders for Saturday's ceremony. The peal was at another rare peal-tower, Brome, where the first in the medium since 2011 was rung. Well done to Neal Dodge on his most  methods and variations as conductor. Meanwhile, well done to Tess Blower & Jonathan Iles on ringing their first QP of Minimus and Philip Gorrod & Chrissie Pickup on their first of Reverse Canterbury Place Minimus in the 1272 on the 2cwt four of Ringsfield and to Paul Wetherell who followed up his first quarter just a week ago with his first inside when he rang the fourth in the success at Sweffling, whilst there was also a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles rung at Barsham.

All of these should appear in the special coronation edition of The Ringing World which I believe is due to appear in the 19th May issue, but for today I took in last week's which arrived with us in this morning's post and which featured a piece on the Central Council AGM which is due to be held in Ipswich over the first weekend of September. The main development recently has been the change of venue from the Town Hall to The Hold for the meeting, but the weekend as a whole isn't just for CC Reps. There will be ringing and events for all to take part in, so do keep an eye on the CCCBR website's page on the event.

Once I'd returned from Alfie's first warm football training session for months, there was just time to read the RW before it was sent on its way to Pettistree with Ruthie for the practice this evening, which was preceded by a quarter-peal of Stedman Doubles, one of a number of non-coronation related performances on the county's bells on this spring Wednesday, with the other two QPs rung by our visitors from the North-West of England as they rang St Clement's College Bob Minor at Polstead and Plain Bob Minor at Stutton, the latter of which was very personal to Sally Starkey of the band.

Additionally, there was another SGR peal rung with the 5152 of Isle of Ely Delight Major at Henley, which along with the aforementioned 5040 at Brome I make brings the Guild's totals to 9,991. We'll soon get to number 10,000 if we continue at the rate set by the coronation weekend.

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Tuesday 9th May 2023

Ingham. Coronation weekend is over, but not ringing for the coronation. Not just nationwide, but here in Suffolk. Somehow after her efforts yesterday, Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter managed another peal today in the 5040 at Ingham in the first rung on the bells since 1963, whilst there were also quarter-peals of Plain Bob Doubles at Oakley and two Doubles methods at Thornham Magna, the former for the North-West District Quarter-Peal Fortnight, the latter for the Ladies Guild.

Neither of us were doing anything for Saturday's historic occasion today, but I was participating in the art as I joined a healthy number of others at Ufford's weekly practice where a very loud thunderstorm greeted Elaine Townsend and proved quite distracting whilst we were ringing, but which ultimately proved a useful session for Daniel Atkinson, Margaret Weeks and newly reelected councilor James Mallinder that saw Grandsire Triples and Norwich Surprise Minor rung amongst much else.

Meanwhile, it has been wonderful looking at the SGR Facebook page and seeing all the photos and links to ringing from the weekend, with ringing at Bardwell, Barrow, Bredfield, Dalham, Copdock (interesting to see a glimpse of the view from the new ringing chamber floor there!), Falkenham, Felixstowe, Fressingfield, Holbrook, Horringer, Ipswich St Clement's, St Lawrence's, St Mary-le-Tower & St Matthew's, Ixworth, Long Melford, Tattingstone, Whepstead and Woodbridge. Encouraging also to see so many new faces and youngsters.

It was quite a weekend for Suffolk ringing and I'm glad to see it continue into today.

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Monday 8th May 2023

Another Monday, another bank holiday.

And another day over the coronation weekend, another peal.

Sudbury, All Saints. Getting the back three down at Sudbury All Saints. The pealband from Sudbury All Saints.

It is a long time since I've rung three peals in four days, but I can safely say that there were others that came away from All Saints in Sudbury with me this afternoon that will have felt more tired than me! Any 26cwt eight is a big job to peal and even more so to ring all in. Even more so again on bells that aren't regularly rung. Indeed, although there was a quarter-peal rung here last month, the ringing on Christmas Eve had been the first on this octave for three years. There had been no peal here for a decade since Brian Whiting rang his 800th peal when he knocked behind to a 5040 of Grandsire Triples for the sixtieth anniversary of the UK's last royal coronation. That in turn had been the first since 1955, which was the last time that the tenor had been turned in. Until today that is, when Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter pulled it in to a 5056 of Cambridge Surprise Major. A peal here is a real rarity and one of Major a massive achievement, especially for the tenor ringer and indeed all those ringing round the back. Please do like this on BellBoard, because those on the back four put in a phenomenal effort, particularly Katharine who provided a masterclass in managing such a bell over three and a half hours. Additionally, well done to Hal Meakin on ringing his first of Cambridge, an achievement well deserved for a young chap who has been a welcome addition to the Ipswich ringing scene since moving to the area recently.

I was prepared to ring a big 'un, having had a large bowl of porridge and a banana and felt OK to put a shift in, but having rung the tenor up and it being less than forty-eight hours since I'd rung the eleventh at St Mary-le-Tower for 3 hours and 27 minutes, I was relieved that there were others more able and willing to ring one! Nonetheless, although disappointed to miss the Ipswich Town promotion party in Christchurch Park which of course had only just been organised but sadly for exactly whilst we were ringing, I felt privileged to have rung in this and was also glad of the tea and biscuits very kindly supplied by the locals afterwards.

St Mary-le-Tower. Come this evening and I was further impressed to see Katharine and her son, ringer of the sixth in our peal and St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Colin at the weekly practice, albeit very understandably avoiding the back bells, which were largely designated to myself and Ian Culham who also rang round the front this morning! Despite it being a bank holiday and therefore slightly short on numbers with some regulars away, we still rang Erin Caters, Stedman Caters and half a course of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, as well as call-changes on twelve for our learners.

On this occasion I decided to pass on going to the Halberd Inn as Ruthie and I have been rather like passing ships for much of this weekend, as I imagine it might have been for the relationships of other Suffolk ringers as it was rounded off by another busy day of ringing in the county. There was one more peal on the L Martin Daniels Peal Tour as a 5040 was rung at another rarely-pealed tower Monks Eleigh, scene of my first SGR Six-Bell Striking Competition (another tenuous reminder that names for teas and dietary requirements to Neal Dodge by Tuesday 16th May and entries for bands to Katharine Salter for this year's at Troston on Saturday 20th May) as Guild RM in 2007, but only two peals this century before today. However, there was also another Guild peal rung, with a 5042 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus, which along with our success in Sudbury takes our total totals to 9,988 by my understanding. We appear to be getting very close to number 10,000!

Again though, there were plenty of quarter-peals too. Five in fact, although the one at Barham was also rung by our visitors from the Lancashire Association. In the other three, well done to Sal Jenkinson and Peter Lock on ringing their first of Southrepps Doubles in the 1260 on the 12cwt ground-floor five in the detached round tower of Bramfield and to Andrea Alderton, Neal Dodge, David Howe, Lesley & David Steed and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first blows of King Charles Delight Minor in the 1320 at Great Finborough, whilst there was also a QP of Plain Bob Minor at Chediston and a QP of Doubles at Wickham Market.

And my mother Sally reported on an enjoyable Debenham outing where she rang at Monewden, Cretingham and Monk Soham and the Aldeburgh ringers also had an outing.

Another busy bank holiday of ringing.

Another busy coronation weekend day of ringing.

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Sunday 7th May 2023

After yesterday, today was always going to feel a little quieter for us and so it was.

The later service at St Mary-the-Virgin's in Woodbridge meant that our morning was slightly more leisurely to usual, ahead of what was to be my only ringing of the day. It was nice though, not only ringing with the new recruits who seemed upbeat following their ringing here twenty-four hours earlier, but also showing what we do to one of Alfie and Josh's friends from school and her mother, as well as a fellow Rainbow Guide and her mater ahead of their participation in the service afterwards.

Regrettably it was a service the boys and I were to miss, as in an unfortunate clash of timings, we'd offered to host Ruthie's sister Clare and her other half and fellow Tractor Boy Chris to watch Ipswich Town's final match of the 2022/23 season and their last fixture in League One (hopefully forever!) after four long years on the TV. Although the main job of promotion was achieved last weekend, there was still a chance that we could win the overall title with the right results today with all the matches in our division kicking-off together at noon. However, the right results weren't forthcoming, including ours as we drew 2-2 away at Fleetwood Town, but we all enjoyed watching it in a relatively relaxed mood.

Band at Sproughton. Elsewhere in Suffolk though, other ringers were busier, albeit not as busy as on coronation day. There was still too much to list out here, but again it makes for wonderful reading, with lots of photos too. And there were also lots of quarters and peals rung on the county's bells. Indeed, there were five of the former and three of the latter, with the headline act being Tristan Shaw ringing his first quarter-peal in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles with his mother Claire and grandfather Geoffrey both ringing too and Ralph Earey calling from the sidelines. Congratulations Tristan!

Band at Troston. Band at Ixworth.

There were other achievements too. Well done to Claire Free on ringing her first QP of spliced in the 39 minutes of Plain & Little Bob Minor at Troston and to Dominic Parkes on his first on a working bell in the success at Worlingham and congratulations to Andrew Holland on circling the six of Tostock to peals in the 5040 rung as part of the L Martin Daniels Peal Tour for the Lancashire Association. Meanwhile, there were also quarter-peals of Plain Bob Major and four Doubles methods rung at Halesworth and Rougham respectively and peals of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Horham and Plain Bob Triples at Ixworth for the Guild.

It was clearly not as quiet as yesterday for everyone.

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Saturday 6th May 2023

There doesn't seem to be quite the same enthusiasm for today's coronation of King Charles III as there has been for other big royal occasions in recent years. Generally nationwide there have been far fewer street parties organised and there isn't anything large arranged like we had even for the Platinum Jubilee last year, but its perhaps that the historic ceremony in London on this rainy Saturday has followed on so soon from that celebration of his mother's long reign and of course everything around her death in September that people seem a bit 'royaled-out'.

Nonetheless, it was the day of the UK's first coronation of a monarch for seventy years and ringing was most definitely doing its bit, to the extent that BellBoard was basically not functioning for a few hours due to the sheer weight of reports of ringing.

Ringers at Ufford. The peal band outside St Mary-le-Tower.

That included at Ufford where Ruthie ran the ringing in her mother's absence (although Mrs Eagle did manage some ringing at Holmfirth in West Yorkshire where she was today) and also at St Mary-le-Tower where I was ringing the eleventh to a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, a 5042 that saw Hal Meakins, Lucy Williamson and her father Jonathan ring their first peal on twelve. They did really well too, especially as before this afternoon they had only rung 27 peals between them and Hal hadn't even rung one on ten! Well done all three of them.

The band from Bungay in the pub with their 'Gotch.'As you would expect, that wasn't the only ringing in Suffolk today and as with previous big royal events there is simply too much general ringing to list here, but it makes for uplifting reading on BellBoard. More manageable to report are the peals and quarters, with the L Martin Daniels Peal Tour again accounting for the other peal rung within our borders as they rang a 5040 of seven Minor methods at Wissett and they also rang a 1440 of two Minor methods at Rumburgh. That was one of six QPs rung in the county, with Plain Bob Minor rung at Blythburgh, Plain Bob Doubles at Kersey and St Clement's College & Buxton Bob Minor at Woolpit, whilst there were first quarter-peals for Esther Knight at Beccles and Simon Crisp at Bungay, the latter of which also saw the ringers' 'Gotch' taken to the pub for the first time in living memory! Congratulations Esther and Simon!

Ruthie and her Illuminati colleagues at St Mary-the-Virgin's in Woodbridge.Our household's ringing took place during a packed day that began with Josh and me taking Alfie to his team's match whilst their Mum rang at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and ended with the boys and I watching her sing for Illuminati at St Mary-the-Virgin's in Woodbridge. This is something I've wanted to do ever since my wife began performing with them, but it hasn't been logistically practical with the children. However, with this one on our doorstep during this long weekend of celebration, a later than usual start in the morning planned and the promise of cake at the interval, I thought it was a good opportunity to take the youngsters along and I'm glad we did. Mrs Munnings and her choral colleagues were wonderful as they took us through music of times ancient and modern and places far and near in pitch perfect fashion, during a concert that at times could've been being performed in this beautiful church at any point over the last few hundred years. And the brothers behaved impeccably and were fully deserving of their cake at "half-time." Although it did mean forsaking the promise of a pint from The Reverend Tom Mumford at the Halberd Inn post-peal in Ipswich, in order to collect Alfred and Joshua from their Nana who had very kindly looked after them whilst I rang (thank you Mum!) and get them home and fed in time to go out again.

Troston. We still managed to watch the coronation itself and on the radio journeying back from football beforehand and then on the way out to mother's after, the bells of Westminster Abbey sounded marvelous pre-service and post-service with a peal of Cambridge Surprise Royal rung by a band that featured Norfolk ringer David Brown and also long-time ringing friend Alban Forster, who some might recall judged the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions at Hasketon with his father Chris back in 2010. A timely though tenuous reminder that we are just a fortnight from when this year's competitions are due to be held at Troston - please get your entries in!

For today though, the county's ringers were doing a great job of celebrating the coronation, even if many others didn't seem fussed. Well done Suffolk's ringers on doing their bit!

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Friday 5th May 2023

According to BellBoard, there have been ringing performances dedicated to the coronation of King Charles III as far back as New Year's Day with a couple of pieces at Potterhanworth in Lincolnshire, but this weekend is naturally when the most ringing is planned, with most ringers intending on doing at least some general ringing and at multiple towers over the next three or four days.

That includes us, beginning with this evening's peal at Pettistree. This could've been either Ruthie or me to ring in, but after a typically demanding day at work with dozens of little children for my wife, it was me who made my way straight to this ground-floor six after work. Pity as it was for Mrs Munnings not to ring, I was pleased to participate in what turned out to be a really good 2 hours and 37 minutes of ringing, especially considering the distractions of a big and quite lengthy thunderstorm outside and a bloom of ladybirds inside! The former gave us initial concern when we thought the flashes of lightning was the flickering of lights and an indication that the power was about to go off, whilst at first we thought the rumbles of thunder was somebody trying to get in. Good focus from the band meant that we maintained a decent standard throughout and a thoroughly satisfied band retired to The Greyhound.

Well, most of them anyway, as having not seen my better half yesterday apart from leaving her in bed in the morning and then rejoining her at night (she reassures me that she did get up in between!), only briefly saying hello to her this evening betwixt my return from work and departure for ringing and possibly not seeing much of her at all tomorrow, I felt I ought to go home so we could spend some time together!

Monewden. Aldeburgh. Leiston. Tostock.

Others may have faced similar dilemmas on a busy day of ringing in the county that God willing is the first of many busy days of ringing in the county, with four quarter-peals and another peal also recorded on BB within our borders. L Martin Daniels' 40th annual peal tour for the Lancashire Association that usually comes to this part of the world was responsible for the other peal as they rang a 5040 of Doubles at Monewden, whilst Kevin Mossop was ringing his first on eight in the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Aldeburgh, North-East District Ringing Master Philip Gorrod was ringing his 50th QP with Guild Membership Secretary Mary Garner and 100th with Peter Lock in an identical performance at Leiston, the entire band were ringing their first of Terling Surprise Minor in the 1293 at Tostock and the Friday Night Quarter-Peal Club (FNQPC) rang Doubles at Earl Stonham. Congratulations to Philip, Mary & Peter and well done to Kevin, as well as to Astrid Gale, Andrea Alderton, David & Lesley Steed, David Howe and conductor Stephen Dawson at Tostock.

It is hopefully just the start of a good weekend of ringing for the coronation.

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Thursday 4th May 2023

That early start I mentioned at the end of yesterday's blog was because today I was being a poll clerk for a second time and needed to be at St Mary's Church Hall in Ufford by 6.30am for the local elections. As luck would have it, mother-in-law Kate is a polling station inspector and so was able to make the hall opposite the 13cwt eight where she runs the ringing her first port of call and in the process drop me off and introduce me to Chris, the lady I was to spend the following sixteen hours with in a building those who attended the South-East District ADM in December will be familiar with.

My workplace today. My view for the day! Ufford church today. Same view as back in December, but with a few more leaves in the way!

It was a lovely way to spend the day in many ways, in a peaceful location where the only sounds that really interrupted that peace besides Chris and me nattering were the distant clickety-clack of the trains on the Ipswich to Lowestoft line and the tenor being chimed by the clock on the hour. There was a brief awkward moment when an art class turned up expecting to use the hall, but with the weather quite pleasant they took that outside and generally the turnout was steady without being overwhelming, before we packed up and Chris very kindly dropped me off near home.

Thurston. Great Barton. Southwold.

Whilst I was doing that, Mrs Eagle was traversing the polling stations of the Wickham Market ward and Ruthie was taking on all the parental duties, the North-East and North-West Districts were quarter-pealing, the former as part of their coronation ringing, the latter as part of their Quarter-Peal Fortnight. Well done in particular to Sally Veal on ringing her first of St Martin's Bob in the 1260 of three Doubles methods at Thurston, but also to all who took part in QPs of Plain Bob Minor at Great Barton, two Doubles methods at Reydon and Plain Bob Triples at Southwold.

I hope they didn't have to get up too early for their ringing!

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Wednesday 3rd May 2023

This morning on Luke Deal's BBC Radio Suffolk Breakfast Show, as I was readying the boys for school, he was reporting on complaints about what was perceived by some to be a noisy cockerel in Framlingham, despite the lady who owned it giving away free eggs from her chickens. The main bugbear appears to be the early time that it started (as cockerels are prone to starting early), but the vox pops that garnered reaction from other residents in the town were overwhelmingly supportive of the bird and its owner with reasoning that we are used to using in defence of ringing against similar complaints. Mainly that there had been a cockerel there for years (probably - it was intimated - long before the complainant moved in nearby) and that before people do invest in a new home they really ought to do their research about the noises, smells and the like that they are likely to encounter on a regular basis. Bells weren't mentioned in the report, but were in the comments that followed, again in a supportive tone. It is a good sign that most of those we ring amongst believe that longstanding noises like bellringing should be respected, but it is also a warning to be prepared to get complaints, however unjustified they may be.

Hopefully the public of Suffolk are still of the same mind following a busy day of ringing in the county, with seven quarter-peals rung within our borders.

Mendham. Metfield. Theberton. Saxmundham.

Four of those were for the North-East District's celebrations for the coronation, with 1260s rung at Mendham, Metfield, Theberton and Saxmundham, where Paul Wetherell was ringing his first quarter. Congratulations Paul!

Elveden. Hitcham. Pettistree.

Meanwhile, a 1312 of Double Dublin Surprise Major at Elveden was added to the North-West District Quarter-Peal Fortnight, a 1280 of Turramurra Surprise Major was rung at Hitcham and a 1320 of Bourne Surprise Minor was rung before Pettistree's weekly practice, a practice I joined after Alfie's football training and a spot of tea.

Despite only being there for an hour or so, I'd like to think I contributed to a session that included Cambridge Surprise Minor for Suzanne Stevens to reacquaint herself inside to and London Surprise Minor for Hilary Stearn, whilst fellow Ipswich Town fan Sam Shannon and I reminisced about Saturday!

For once though, I didn't go to The Greyhound afterwards as I am due a very early start in the morning. Indeed, so early, it may even be too early to catch Luke Deal's Breakfast Show to see if there have been any developments with that cockerel.

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Tuesday 2nd May 2023

Ipswich, St Lawrence. Two days after it first aired, we finally got to watch Sunday's edition of 'Love Your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh' and in particular the piece on ringing for the coronation. Starting at 56 minutes and 15 seconds in, they go to St Lawrence in Ipswich and interview Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter, but also show ringing being done by several familiar faces on the oldest complete five in the world hung for change-ringing. No ringing from eponymous presenter of the programme who has - as he mentions on the show - rung since he was eleven and indeed has even rung a quarter-peal, but this was great PR for the art, as well as for the charity who run the café at St Lawrence.

We watched that after Ruthie had returned from the weekly practice at Ufford, but that was all the ringing our household could muster, useful as I imagine her presence was at the 13cwt eight. Although my interview with Rob Dunger aired on Felixstowe Radio, 1 hour 44 minutes and 20 seconds into his show.

BUxhall.Not so elsewhere in Suffolk though, as a lovely tribute was paid to Betty Steed at Buxhall by her son's, daughter-in-law and grandchildren with a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung after her funeral and service of thanksgiving for her life.

Wenhaston.Meanwhile, another quarter-peal was rung within our borders at Wenhaston with a 1260 of Doubles for the coronation. Which is giving us lots of lovely ringing PR to watch!

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Monday 1st May 2023

Ipswich seems to be the go-to place for national ringing publicity at the moment! Hot on the heels of yesterday's piece on 'Love Your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh' (which we still haven't had the opportunity to watch, as will become apparent!) and the publicity for 'Ring for the King' a few weeks ago, this evening ringing from St Mary-le-Tower appeared on 'The One Show' on primetime BBC1 in a piece that starts at 59 minutes and 15 seconds into the programme. It was only for a few seconds and didn't seem entirely proportionate to the effort needed to get ringers in between 5 and 5.30pm to be filmed (by themselves at that), but combined with scenes from other ringing chambers from across the UK, it is more invaluable PR for the art. Well done to all concerned.

One of the mounds at Sutton Hoo. Woodbridge from the top of the viewing tower at Sutton Hoo. The tower of St Mary-the-Virgin is just to the left of centre.
Sutton Hoo

We couldn't be there or at the weekly practice later in the evening on this Bank Holiday Monday, because we were at The Coach & Horses celebrating Ruthie's sister Clare's birthday, whilst earlier in the day we went to Sutton Hoo under my Chris and his wife Becky's National Trust membership, which was very kind of them. It was a lovely day to explore an attraction that is almost literally on our doorstep, but which we don't go to enough, especially as I am a big history fan. All the old favourites like the exhibition and Edith Pretty's house were explored, but also the viewing tower which is new since we last visited and gave us fantastic views across the Suffolk countryside to Felixstowe docks, Ipswich Hospital and over Woodbridge, including the tower of St Mary-the-Virgin with its 25cwt eight. And of course the café was used! A wonderful way to spend time with all the boys and Ruthie, as well as my brother and sister-in-law - thanks guys!

Heveningham. Huntingfield.

Meanwhile, quarter-peals of Doubles were rung at Heveningham and Huntingfield as others in the county were more active in the exercise than we were.

However, although we didn't ring or get to see 'Love Your Weekend ', I did do a bit of ringing PR myself, which all happened very quickly and was very ad hoc. For in between Sutton Hoo and the pub, I replied to a message on the Guild's Facebook page from Felixstowe Radio presenter Rob Dunger asking about ringing for the coronation. Within minutes I found myself a quiet corner (not easy on a bank holiday in our house!) by a bedroom window and was doing an interview with Rob over the phone, which I believe is due to be broadcast tomorrow.

I'm glad to provide some ringing publicity beyond Ipswich!

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Sunday 30th April 2023

If everything went like a dream yesterday, much didn't go to plan today, certainly from a personal ringing perspective.

Not unusually for a Sunday morning that involves chivying children along, I was running late for ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and then Josh needed to be taken to the facilities, which meant I only got to contribute to a couple of pieces of call-changes on twelve either side of taking him down to Church House, before we retired to Costa Coffee for post-ringing refreshment.

The boys and I then went on to Grundisburgh where actually things were better than planned as more people turned up than Ringing Master Stephen Pettman was expecting. Ten in fact, which allowed for much on the back six including Cambridge Surprise Minor and call-changes on ten before we picked my wife up from St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge.

Rushmere St Andrew.From there though, plans went awry again as once we'd dropped the boys off with my mother Sally, Ruthie and I headed to Rushmere St Andrew for an attempt at Alfie's birthday peal, with a plan to ring nine Surprise Minor methods. Arranging the boys' birthday peals this year has been logistically tricky with so much ringing going on for the Guild's centenary and the coronation, so it was frustrating that this blew up after nearly two extents, four methods in and some very good ringing, which means trying to reorganise it in the coming weeks.

With the boys in the park with their Nan and not much enthusiasm for a quarter-peal attempt, the band decided to go for a leisurely drink, but even this didn't go to plan. The nearest pub we were aware of was Lattice Barn and so once we were sure everyone knew how to get to it from the 9cwt six we'd been ringing on, we headed there, only for five us to arrive to find it up for sale and currently closed. If you fancy taking it on, then there are details here! We identified that the next nearest public house was a few minutes walk away and once our sixth band member had caught up we wandered down to The Brickmakers Arms, which despite the less than picturesque location, had a pleasant, light snug that we had to ourselves to put the world to rights!

Elsewhere in Suffolk, ringers were having better luck as a 5040 of Doubles was rung at Great Barton and there was a 1290 of Grandsire Doubles rung at Rougham in memory of Elizabeth Teverson who I was very sorry to hear had died.

And further afield, a certain Mary S Garner was ringing in a 1260 of Doubles on the 9cwt six of Farmborough in Somerset with local ringers and exhibiting one of the exercise's main USPs that is the welcome that ringers pretty much anywhere give to other ringers, wherever they're from and no matter how well they know them.

For us, having picked the three brothers up from my Mum's (thank you Mum!), we returned home to be hosts for the second night running, as bridesmaid from our wedding and Ruthie's best friend Fergie came round for a meal, a game of Harry Potter Cluedo and entertainment from Alfred and Joshua pretending to be newsreaders! It was another lovely evening.

Ipswich, St Lawrence.Meanwhile, although we haven't had the chance to watch it yet, do take the time when you can to watch today's episode of 'Love Your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh' on ITVX which features a report apparently about 56 minutes in from St Lawrence in Ipswich about the ringing there for King Charles III's big ceremony. At least it sounds like that went to plan!

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Saturday 29th April 2023

On Saturday 25th April 1992, I was at Long Melford for the Suffolk Guild AGM as Ipswich Town earned promotion to what was then the new Premier League with a 1-1 draw at Oxford United. My brother and I were season ticket holders by that point thanks to the generosity of Uncle Eric - husband of Dad's sister and former ringer Marian - but he didn't go to away games and as youngsters we had no means of getting there! Although I was outside playing football, my father Alan apparently stood up in the hall to congratulate the Town on their promotion in an attempt to pierce through the tedium of a meeting that I expect probably went on a lot longer in the days before much was debated and resolved via social media and email throughout the year, proposers and seconders sourced ahead of proceedings and elections generally done en masse. I was also less than a fortnight from ringing my first peal, when I trebled to a 5040 of Minor at Ashbocking.

On Monday 29th May 2000, I was at Wembley with my brother Chris to watch the Superblues earn promotion to the Premier League. We were both students at university in the Midlands and still youthful at nineteen and twenty-one years old. As I sit here currently on 645 peals, this celebration fell between my 128th and 129th peals which were a 5016 of Stedman Cinques at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham and 5314 of Cambridge Surprise Sixteen at St Martin's across the UK's second city which was the first in the method on towerbells. That day, with our parents away and thus depriving us of anywhere to stay in our town of birth, we resisted the temptation to travel back to Suffolk to celebrate and instead enjoyed a quiet drink back in Dudley where despite the occasional congratulatory comment, no one else was particularly fussed about our success.

Today though, I was at Portman Road to witness the Tractor Boys earn promotion by beating Exeter City 6-0 in a town centre that was absolutely buzzing. Even better, I was alongside my wife and my three sons who absolutely loved it. Josh was relieved that he hadn't quite opened his bag of popcorn when everyone leapt excitedly to their feet for our second goal and spent much of the match singing "stand up if you're going up", whilst Alfie's football knowledge surpasses even mine and lapped it all up. Both in their relatively short time have seen ITFC winning more than not, so perhaps most pleasing was having Mason (who is also very knowledgeable about the beautiful game) there who being much older than his younger brothers has seen so much dross in this stadium that it's impressive he has stuck with it to experience this marvelous moment first-hand.

Scenes from Portman Road. Scenes from Portman Road. Scenes from Portman Road. Scenes from Portman Road.
Scenes from Portman Road

More than thirty-five years after the first Ipswich match I watched, promotions have been far and few between and my life and ringing have been in very different circumstances with each one, but the sheer joy is something that hasn't changed. The entire occasion was memorable, from getting out of the car to the sound of "Blue Army" being hollered out on the breeze on a remarkably warm, sunny day. Walking though town, past St Mary-le-Tower and St Lawrence, blue shirts and smiles were everywhere. We arrived down Sir Alf Ramsey Way at the same time as the players' coach turned up to a huge, noisy crowd with blue smoke filling the air from flares and we enjoyed a pint in the Fanzone whilst the younger boys had their face painted. Inside the ground, the noise and atmosphere was incredible, the noise as the first few goals went in was immense and afterwards - once a discouraged though celebratory pitch invasion was cleared - the party was tremendous fun as the players, staff and their families came out for a lap of honour. Slipping away eventually, we walked back through the town centre as cars honked their horns in celebration, large crowds drank beer and sang outside pubs bedecked with blue and white balloons and people walked around with even bigger smiles. It was all a lot different to the AGM at Long Melford in 1992 or a quiet Dudley in 2000!

Before all of this I had taken Alfred to play in goal for his team and afterwards we returned home to host Ruthie's schoolfriend Verity and her wife Jade for a meal on what was a fantastic day, but it didn't leave any time for ringing. We did see ringers at the footy though, with Offton ringer Caroline Goodchild working at the stadium as usual and Simon Rudd joining us before kick-off having rushed straight from ringing in an SGR peal of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at Wymondham Abbey in Norfolk, which was Joan Garrett's 500th peal and Mike Cowling's 200th. Congratulations Joan and Mike!

Back within our borders, it was a very busy day of ringing, particularly for the North-West District Quarter-Peal Fortnight where four success are recorded on BellBoard. Well done to Zoe Wright on ringing her first QP on eight inside and indeed her first touch of Plain Bob Triples in the 1344 at Gislingham and her first of Single Oxford Bob Minor in the 1260 at Wickham Skeith and congratulations to Neal Dodge and Mark Steggles on ringing their 25th together in the former and to Ben Keating on ringing his 100th in the medium in the latter. Meanwhile, the first quarter-peals since 2013 and 2016 were rung at Thrandeston and Yaxley respectively.

Beyond the NW, a quarter was rung at Rushmere St Andrew as part of their celebrations for the coronation of King Charles III. I might now need to think about arranging some celebratory ringing myself for Ipswich Town's long overdue promotion!

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Friday 28th April 2023

Bramford. Earlier in the week, there was some more great publicity for Suffolk ringing in the local media, as the county's BBC radio station visited Bramford to speak with the ringing vicar there the Reverend Eric Falla, their Ringing Master John Doy and the wonderfully bubbly group of learners there, who started in order to ring for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, but have since also rung for her passing and are now planning on ringing for the coronation of her son. However, they have also thrown themselves into this special art of ours, ringing quarter-peals, coming along to St Mary-le-Tower and attending the Guild's Centenary Dinner, so I'm glad they got to put their enthusiasm across on the airwaves, even if the presenter did get rather fixated with the whole rising to the ceiling stuff! Good work guys.

Ruthie and I listened to that at the start of another leisurely Friday night in that also took in Simon Rudd's virtual pub where attendees experimented with wine-glass-placing and new Guild Chairman Mark Ogden updated us on the new band at Tuddenham St Martin where he had just been.

Meanwhile, the latest edition of The Ringing World arrived featuring a photo from Norman Tower ringer Ben Keating on the front cover and a review of The Voice of the Church, a book written by ringing clergy including Haverhill's Max Drinkwater.

Hopefully this too can be good ringing PR.

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Thursday 27th April 2023

Hopton. Well done to Deborah Blumfield, North-West District Chairman David Steed, ART Tower Talk Editor Ruth Suggett, NW District Ringing Master Maureen Gardiner, conductor Lesley Steed and Guild PRO Neal Dodge on ringing their first quarter-peal of Painswick Surprise Major in 1344 at Hopton.

It was welcome on a day when there was little else to report from a countywide or personal ringing perspective, but as April draws towards a close and May due to arrive shortly, there are busier days planned for next month. Of course, much of that revolves around the coronation of King Charles III slated for Saturday 6th and with their usual first Saturday slot already taken by an occasion that ringers intend to mark in so many places and so many ways, the South-East District instead have the ambition of getting all their bells being rung over the weekend. I imagine similar aims exist in the other districts too, but May isn't just about the historic ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

A week after the planned celebrations, the North-West District have their monthly practice penciled at Gislingham between 10am and noon and a fortnight after that the intention is to hold the South-West District Practice at Cavendish between 7.30 and 9pm.

Troston. Sandwiched between those events, it is intended to hold the SGR 6-Bell Striking Competitions on the newly rehung six of Troston. More details have been released, including timings and a map of the village. The 10am draw hopefully gives plenty of time for teams to get to this relatively central location to the county, whilst the map reveals that parking is at the playing fields at the western end of the small community on Livermere Road, with the church on the eastern side where it is important to note that there should be no parking on Church Lane. In between sits the Village Hall where it is planned refreshments and a pre-booked BBQ will be held and right in the centre is the village's pub The Bull, which looks a vibrant location and says it is open from noon. Please do book your lunch (along with any dietary requirements) at the hall to Neal Dodge by Tuesday 16th May and get your team entries to Ringing Master Katharine Salter ASAP! God willing, it should be a lovely day in a new part of the Suffolk ringing world.

Also worth noting is Bell Sunday on 14th, where the focus is hoped to be on bells in the church. Do speak with your vicar about it if you haven't already.

All being well then, much to look forward to in May, but well done to Deborah, David, Ruth, Maureen, Lesley and Neal on achieving in April.

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Wednesday 26th April 2023

Today, we did something unusual for a Wednesday evening. We stayed at home. As ringers, we are - in my very humble opinion - privileged that on any nondescript weekday evening, we have a multitude of (typically delightful) places where we can decide to simply go to and join friends and sometimes make friends. Whilst many others are simply marking time at home watching TV, we could be enjoying a fine bit of ringing, learning something new or succeeding at that method we've been striving to ring well. Or finding out about the lives of others from across the area and even beyond. And more often than not topped off with a drink in the pub afterwards.

However, things have got rather busy this year. In part that is due to an increase in ringing activity for the Guild's centenary celebrations and the planned coronation of King Charles III, but also Ruthie taking on the secretary's role with the church choir on top of her usual Thursday night choral practices with them and Illuminati and Tuesday nights at Ufford, where it has been satisfying to contribute towards the progress of Daniel Atkinson and Margaret Weeks in particular. It means that we are out for four nights of the week, which in itself is not a problem. After all, as I have already implied, it is better than just sitting at home trying to find something to watch on the TV.

For my wife and I though, we can rarely go out together, especially during termtime, as one of us needs to stay at home to look after the boys and with Mrs Munnings normally having early starts at work in the morning, it can mean we often don't see much of each other from one weekend to the next, especially once you add in various activities for the children. Therefore, after I'd returned from taking Alfie to football training, we took our time over tea and spent some time together, trying to work out who the murderer in Endeavour was!

We're not planning on making a habit out of it. Both of us enjoy our ringing and my better half in particular enjoys her singing and I'd like to think we are useful when we go out, but on this occasion they hopefully didn't miss us on the ground-floor six, where they already had a good band in place before the weekly session even began, as another quarter-peal of King Charles Delight Minor was rung.

Orford. Two of the band who had rung in that 1320 had earlier rung a peal as well, with new SGR Chairman Mark Ogden ringing in a 5040 of seven Surprise Minor methods at Tendring in Essex and Mike Cowling in a 5088 of Clare Surprise Major at Orford for the Suffolk Guild.

As much we enjoyed our unusual Wednesday evening in, I hope they enjoyed their usual Wednesday out!

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Tuesday 25th April 2023

I have to confess to be mightily distracted at Ufford practice this evening. Not whilst ringing, which I managed to focus enough on, but in between I don't think I was particularly dazzling company. For Ipswich Town were playing away at Barnsley, one of the very few teams still mathematically able to beat the Tractor Boys to the top two positions in League One that guarantee promotion to the Championship. It should have been an extremely difficult match against a team who had won their previous nine home fixtures and if I'm honest it had been playing on my mind a little over the last couple of days. Lose or draw and things would get very tight between the four extremely good teams vying for those top two places. Win, and we'd only need to win one of our two final games.

Therefore, between touches of Plain Bob, St Simon's Bob and Grandsire Doubles, as well as a plain course of Cambridge Surprise Minor during another productive session of ringing, my head was firmly buried in my phone as I tried to keep track of proceedings in the industrial Yorkshire mining town nearly 200 hundred miles away from the picturesque, peaceful village full of quaint old cottages basked in spring evening sunshine, constantly switching from the BBC football site to Facebook to WhatsApp to the Those Were The Days website. For much of the practice, the news from the game was tense, the score still at 0-0 and then as we reached half-time, the phones of myself and mother-in-law and Ringing Master Kate Eagle - who was also keeping a close eye on proceedings up north - both started going berserk with messages. Town had scored two within the previous couple of minutes and with the score remaining at 2-0 as the treble and tenor were rung down at the end of practice, we left the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary more relaxed than when we arrived and despite ITFC missing a penalty as my wife's mother dropped me off at home, another goal from the boys in blue meant it was a happy, happy night for all Ipswich Town fans.

Higham. Ours wasn't the only ringing going on in Suffolk either on quite a busy day on the county's bells, with quarter-peals of Cambridge Surprise Major and Plain Bob Doubles rung at Offton and Yoxford respectively, whilst former Guild Peal Secretary marked the fiftieth anniversary of his first peal by ringing a 5040 at the same tower, Higham. Congratulations Alan!

Hopefully he wasn't too distracted!

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Monday 24th April 2023

An unexpected addition to the normal order of things during the period between returning from work and going to St Mary-le-Tower meant I was even later than usual to the latter. For when Ruthie picked the boys up from school this afternoon, she suddenly remembered that they had been invited to a peer's leaving party at Play2Day in Martlesham, an engagement that we'd both forgotten in amongst football fixtures, choir meetings, afterschool clubs, peals and the like. As a result, I had to make an unplanned trip to pick them up and tea was happening when I'd usually be leaving for Ipswich, but the boys had a good time and I still got to the weekly session on the county's heaviest ring of bells to ring in a couple of half-courses of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and a touch of Erin Cinques, amongst much else. Lovely also to congratulate Colin Salter on his tremendous efforts in the London Marathon yesterday, with him bringing his medal to the ringing chamber. There's still time to donate!

Even with a handful of regulars away, there were plenty there to more than make up for my absence at the beginning, with some more learners, as well as familiar faces Rosemary Caudle and Stephen 'Podge' Christian, as well as York ringer formerly of this band, Tina Sanderson, with many coming to The Halberd Inn for refreshment afterwards, where the complicated logistics of teaching all the learners around the town and eating was highlighted by watching Amanda Richmond and Jonathan Williamson trying to arrange the next few days of teaching!

In many respects, it was a pleasingly busy evening, if unexpectedly so, but I did have some time over lunch to read the latest edition of The Ringing World, with one letter congratulating the Guild on its special Centenary edition last week. Do please contact SGR Ringing Master Katharine Salter if you would like a copy of that special edition. This issue also includes Central Council President Simon Linford's most recent blog, which again makes for entertaining and interesting reading and shows how much is going on in ringing currently. Well worth a read to keep up with it all!

Glemsford. Hopefully this blog is equally useful for the same reason on a local level and on that note it is nice to report that the bells of Glemsford were rung to mark a new chapter in The Glem Valley United Benefice as they rang out for the Induction and Installation of its new Rector the Reverend Mary Styles. And in a spot of late reporting, congratulations to David Steed and Neal Dodge on ringing their two hundredth quarter-peal together in the 1260 of Double Oxford Bob Minor rung at Tostock on Friday, in an unexpected addition to a Monday blog entry.

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Sunday 23rd April 2023

4 hours and 43 minutes.

3 hours and 35 minutes.

Not peal-times, but times achieved by two peal-ringers in today's London Marathon. Namely St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Colin Salter and his older brother and former Ipswich ringer George, who impressively completed the 26.2 mile course around the capital to raise money for Blood Cancer UK in memory of their father and twice Past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild David and their uncle Martin. They should be really chuffed with themselves, not just on doing something that many - ourselves included - couldn't even contemplate, but also smashing their £4,000 fundraising target. As I write this, they are up to £4,920 and there is still the chance to donate if you are willing and able.

George Salter on the TV! Along with many others we enjoyed following their progress and even spotted George on the TV coverage amongst the 48,000 runners, but that was only after we'd been to the morning worship at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge where Ruthie sang in the choir and I rang beforehand, in the process meeting their latest learners Darren and Sheila. Additionally, having met many of them on the train into Ipswich yesterday, I was delighted to hear that their Spring Outing to Norwich had gone well!

Sudbury All Sasints. Although I had to pop out of the service to drop Alfie off at his classmate's crazy golf birthday party at Ufford Park, that was pretty much it for the rest of the day in terms of anything interesting from us, as we stayed indoors out of the torrential rain, but elsewhere in the county there were a brace of quarter-peals of Grandsire Triples and Cinques at All Saints in Sudbury and The Norman Tower in Bury St Edmunds respectively. Well done to Ben Keating on ringing his first of Cinques in the latter.

Meanwhile, it has been pointed out to me that whilst I was right to give credit to Mike Cowling and Brian Whiting for their parts in the superb Guild Centenary Exhibition, I ought to point out that a huge amount of time and effort was put into its preparation by SGR Librarian Abby Antrobus. Like Mike and Brian, she deserves thanks for putting this together for us.

And the Salter brothers deserve many congratulations on their efforts in London today.

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Saturday 22nd April 2023

It was a fantastic day in our household and for Suffolk ringing.

Alfie's team won, Ipswich Town won and there were three peals rung for the Guild.

Cambridge - Church of St Mary the Great -2020-08-17 Minster Church of St Nicholas, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk St Peter Mancroft The Norman Tower. Grundisburgh. St Mary-le-Tower.
Cambridge, Great Yarmouth, Norwich, Bury St Edmunds, Grundisburgh & Ipswich

Impressively the peals were all rung simultaneously, including one I had organised. That was the 5042 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus that I pulled the tenor into at St Mary-le-Tower and the latest that I had arranged with the ultimate ambition being to ring peals of Maximus for the SGR in its centenary year at the six current twelves that would've been in the Ely Diocesan Association and Norwich Diocesan Association when Suffolk's towers and ringers were split between them before the formation of the Guild a century ago - Cambridge, Great Yarmouth and Norwich in our neighbouring counties and Bury St Edmunds, Grundisburgh and Ipswich within our borders. Ideally I'd like some firsts in each one and we started well at The Norman Tower a couple of months ago and continued this morning with our 3 hours and 26 minutes on the heaviest ring of bells in the county, as Past Guild Ringing Master Amanda Richmond conducted her first in the method on twelve - well done Amanda! Well done also to new SGR Chairman Mark Ogden who was ringing his first peal of Maximus for thirty-two years!

The entire band retired afterwards to The Halberd Inn where we were joined by Ruthie and the boys after they'd been at Alfred's match and also David Stanford and Abby Antrobus to meet up with the former's brother Stephen, after David had rung the fourth at Debenham for the 5008 at Double Norwich Court Bob Major which marked the one hundredth anniversary of the Guild's first peal on eight, rung on the same bells to the same method and composition.

Meanwhile, the trio of peals for the Guild today was completed with a 5080 of Rutland Surprise Major at The Norman Tower to celebrate the eightieth anniversary of Barry Dixon's birth, with the birthday boy ringing his first peal in the method and thus completing the 'standard' eight in the medium. Well done Barry and Happy Birthday!

Once back from the pub though, our day was one of relaxing, or at least as much as any ITFC fan can on a Saturday afternoon, although even this was eventually laid back as the Tractor Boys won 3-0.

Sadly, beyond our borders the attempt at 25,000 changes of Bristol Surprise Royal at St Thomas in Oxford which would have been the most in the method was lost a few hours in, but I'm happy to report that in our household and for Suffolk ringing, it was a fantastic day.

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Friday 21st April 2023

Us Munnings' are blessed in our circumstances, but apart from an extraordinary run of quiz victories when they were regularly held online and usually had no prizes, we rarely win anything. It was a pleasant surprise therefore when Alfie won £10 at the boys' school's bingo night this evening on a fun night for them, their peers and us. And all for a good cause as the event was raising funds for the school.

No ringing for us though, nor in Suffolk generally (at least noted on BellBoard), so therefore it is worth mentioning another couple of events planned for the relatively near future on what God willing will be busier days for the county's ringers. Two months today is penciled in as Suffolk Day and in previous years it has given the art locally tremendous publicity, so please do put some thought in to doing something for the occasion at your tower and let Neal Dodge the SGR Public Relations Officer know for the local media, if and when they ask.

Troston.Meanwhile, yesterday marked a month before it is intended to hold the Guild 6-Bell Striking Competitions on the rehung six at Troston and therefore a good time for my annual rant about why you should enter a band. As ever, these aren't professional sporting events and in the scheme of things the result really doesn't matter, although it does add a different element to a ringing occasion. However, if the result does matter to you, then there has been enough evidence that any team on the day is capable of winning, especially in the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy. Ultimately though, these are intended as a way of focusing on striking, having fun and socialising with friends, often in a lovely rural location, with this year having the added bonus of a tower grab! Please do consider putting an entry in, even if some have to ring in more than one team to allow others the chance to ring in a team.

It isn't the winning that matters, but it would be nice to get another Munnings winner!

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Thursday 20th April 2023

I got the opportunity to read the Guild Centenary Exhibition on this very website today, having not got the chance at Beccles on Saturday. If you haven't already, do take the time to read, because it offers a fascinating insight into the SGR's history, imparting lots of information, but not so much to swamp you, put together in an easy-going approachable fashion decade by decade, with photos from AGMs, news cuttings, reports, newsletters, etc. Well done and thank you to Mike Cowling and Brian Whiting for their efforts in putting this together.

Whilst that looks back on the last one hundred years, there is understandably a lot of attention on a big event that is planned to happen in the next few weeks, as King Charles III is due to be crowned at his coronation in Westminster Abbey at 11am on Saturday 6th May, only the third coronation of a British monarch in the time of the SGR. Of course, ringing is focusing a lot on this and not just through the phenomenally successful 'Ring for the King' recruitment campaign. Just in our household, we are lined up to participate in three peal attempts across the weekend, as well as some general ringing at Ufford, whilst there is also ringing slated for a special service at St Mary-le-Tower on the Friday evening and we have been invited to ring at Woodbridge first thing on the Saturday morning before the 11am ceremony starts in London. Meanwhile, child-sitting arrangements are being worked around our child-sitter's own busy ringing schedule!

There is obviously much else happening on Suffolk's bells to mark the occasion, with the South-East District hoping to get all the district's bells ringing for it, an ambition that I imagine is also harboured by the other three districts and there is additional information available on the Central Council's website that members may find useful, including a link to the occasion's BellBoard event page to upload performances onto, whether that be peals, quarters, general ringing or even just chiming.

Additionally, I was delighted to see ringing's national efforts noted relatively prominently on an information page about the coronation on the BBC News website, albeit right at the bottom.

God willing it should be a memorable few days for the exercise, but it was less so today, at least in this county and personally, as Ruthie took the minutes for the St Mary's Church Choir AGM as their secretary and the boys and I celebrated their cousin Anna's birthday round her abode. Fun as that was though, I doubt it'll make any future exhibitions on the history of the Suffolk Guild.

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Wednesday 19th April 2023

Robert Rolph receiving his 50 years membership Guild Certificate from Rowan Wilson. It's three years late due to it being awarded on one of the AGMs held on Zoom and it subsequently getting lost in transit, but congratulations to Lakenheath ringer Robert Rolph on receiving his fifty years Guild membership certificate from now former SGR Chairman Rowan Wilson. Such service is to be celebrated and particularly for those like Robert who have helped keep ringing going in that far flung corner of Suffolk.