Tuesday 21st May 2024

Richy's Blog

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Sunday 19th May 2024

St Mary-le-Tower.Not everything 'goes', even on a Sunday morning when we are naturally drawn to safety-first as it is more important when ringing for services to ring something well than to ring something complicated. It doesn't always go to plan though. This morning at St Mary-le-Tower  my arrival allowed for the Little Bob Royal they were about to pull off for could be upgraded to Maximus, which seemed reasonable and eminently achievable. I was handed the tenor rope and we set off, before for some reason it collapsed within a few changes. As we considered our options, a tug from Josh indicated that he needed the amenities and so I handed control of the heaviest bell in Suffolk to James Smith who in the meantime had also arrived and took my youngest son to do what he needed to do whilst they attempted the LB again. Before we had even got back to the bottom of the tower, the second piece had also collapsed though. Having climbed back up to the ringing chamber, the rope to the eighth was thrust in my direction amongst other band shuffling and finally we were successful!

Tuddenham St Martin. Grundisburgh.Mercifully the rest of the service ringing went much better with call-changes on twelve and Stedman Caters ahead of refreshment in Costa Coffee where we were joined by South-East District Chairman Stephen Christian clutching certificates for the SE Ringing Master Hal Meakin. 'Podge' - as Stephen is affectionately known - had earlier been ringing at Tuddenham St Martin with his predecessor in the role and now current Guild Chairman Mark Ogden, who the boys and I joined afterwards at Grundisburgh where I helped to ring Plain Bob Doubles and Grandsire Doubles on the back six of the county's lightest twelve. And had a conversation about anti-clockwise rings within our borders, present and lost.

Ruthie was collected from her choral duties in Woodbridge amongst the usual crowds for the start of the annual 10k race and then after a spot of lunch was off to Kettlebaston to sing with the Jubilate Singers for evensong at St Mary's church where a 9cwt three can only be chimed, whilst back here the boys had a water fight in the sunshine and I read CCCBR President Tina Stoecklin's latest blog.

Elsewhere other ringers were busier, especially back at St Mary-le-Tower where Claire Haynes was ringing her first quarter-peal on ten in the 1259 of Grandsire Caters - well done Claire!

Simons' Peal Band. Simons' Peal Band.Well done also to former Ringing Master at the 34cwt twelve in Ipswich Simon Rudd who has had an impressive weekend of Simon peal-ringing, with peals of twenty-three Surprise Major methods spliced with bands made up entirely of Simons, first on towerbells at St James Garlickhythe in London yesterday and then today in Birmingham at former Central Council President Simon Linford's pub The Woodman on handbells. Which prompted the amusing footnote to the 5152 at Gosport in Hampshire this afternoon!

Always great when ringing 'goes'!

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Saturday 18th May 2024

We were having one of those days of trying to be in two places at once. And if I do say so myself, I think we just about managed it!

As ever, the conflicting events involved us ringing and Alfie footballing. Indeed, they were exactly the same events as we found ourselves juggling twelve months ago as the Guild Striking Competitions and Alfred's team's end of season prize presentations were again held on the same day. Of course there's nothing that can be done about it and we really wanted to go to both, but it does present logistical challenges.

Falkenham.Felixstowe.We succeeded last year and on this occasion we were helped by geography as the ringing was being hosted in the South-East District with the six-bell competitions held at Falkenham and the eight-bell at Felixstowe, so we had the time to drop AJM off with his teammates on the way to the lovely easy-going light ground-floor ring at the church of St Ethelbert King of East Anglia in time for the draw very picturesquely done overlooking the River Deben. With the two teams we were ringing for very kindly allowed to ring early after the home team, Ruthie and I rang first for Pettistree and then on different bells for St Mary-le-Tower as Josh patiently waited outside before ourselves and Granny Kate dashed off to catch the end of a friendly match they were playing against the other under-10s team at the club, the presentations and a picnic.

The draw for the Guild 6-bell Striking Competitions being held at Falkenham. The draw for the Guild 6-bell Striking Competitions being held at Falkenham. Ringers gathering at Falkenham ahead of the Guild 6-bell Striking Competitions. Outside Falkenham church during the Guild 6-bell Striking Competitions.
At Falkenham

Meanwhile, back at the contest, a further five teams were ringing, lunch was had and the results were announced by the judges Sally Brown and Laura Parker, with Pettistree awarded the Mitson Shield and Bardwell the Lester Brett Call Change Trophy, ahead of everyone moving onto the seaside resort where we were able to rejoin them for the second-half of today's ringing competition. My wife and I were ringing for St Mary-le-Tower again, but this time we were at the mercy of a completely random draw and thus found ourselves drawn last, so there was a fair bit of waiting around for the other five teams to ring. Not that that was a problem, with plenty to occupy us. The town and its seafront is a couple of minutes walk from St John the Baptist church and whilst we didn't take advantage of that ourselves, the boys were taken down to the beach for an ice cream by their Granny after she'd rung for the South-East District. We meanwhile enjoyed the welcome refreshments being magnificently served by Lesley Barrell and Jacky Savage and chatting to some of the many ringing friends we are blessed to have as the sun shone and good ringing rang out from the 7cwt eight. I even got to do some timekeeping in a flashback to my Ringing Master days at these events!

Gathered for the draw at Felixstowe for the Guild 8-bell Strikingly Competition. Gathered for the draw at Felixstowe for the Guild 8-bell Strikingly Competition. Ringers at Felixstowe during the Guild 8-bell Striking Competitions. Ringers at Felixstowe during the Guild 8-bell Striking Competitions. Ringers at Felixstowe during the Guild 8-bell Striking Competitions. Ringers at Felixstowe during the Guild 8-bell Striking Competitions. Ringers at Felixstowe during the Guild 8-bell Striking Competitions. Ringers at Felixstowe during the Guild 8-bell Striking Competitions.
At Felixstowe

Eventually Mrs Munnings, myself and six others climbed the stairs to ring in what transpired to be a very good 224 changes of Grandsire Triples, with George Heath-Collins ringing particularly well in bonging behind. That it wasn't good enough to win is a testament to the standard of the competition generally, but especially The Norman Tower who won the Rose Trophy. Congratulations to them, Bardwell, our fellow Pettistree ringers and indeed anyone who participated today. Frankly if you are able to take part in a striking competition at all then you have already achieved something. Thank you to SGR Ringing Master Katharine Salter on running proceedings in what I know from personal experience is a tough gig and to the judges Laura and Sally on what we also know from experience is a long day. Having the six and eight-bell competitions on separate days in recent years seemed to go quite well, but I have to admit that having them both on the same day does seem to make them both a part of a much bigger occasion generally. Well done to the SE District and especially the Falkenham and Felixstowe ringers on their tremendous hosting.

Great Glemham.However, we weren't able to witness firsthand the results for the eight-bell being given either as Ruthie needed to be back and out to All Saints church in Great Glemham, home to a 13cwt gallery-ring five and the venue tonight for Illuminati's latest concert, whilst I was at home looking after the boys and reading The Ringing World, the latest edition of which arrived with us this morning. In amongst much other typically interesting content there was quite a fair bit of content from the county in there, with a piece from Little Cornard - where incidentally the L Martin Daniels Peal Tour was rounded off yesterday - about their Bell Sunday activities, whilst a photo taken by Charlie Apter of the church set against the backdrop of the Northern Lights was 'The image of the week' and the Woodbridge ringers had sent in a report on their recent outing to Cambridge.

All whilst between us we were in two places at once.

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Friday 17th May 2024

A quiet day on the ringing front for us and for Suffolk's ringers generally, at least judging by BellBoard. Even beyond our borders there wasn't anything particularly out of the ordinary, although still some impressive stuff.

Instead our evening was occupied with arranging a potential meet-up with a ringer once of this county for what will hopefully be a less quiet day...

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Thursday 16th May 2024

If you get a spare forty-seven minutes to listen to the interview with Ernest Ambrose recently added to the Archive page on this very website, I strongly encourage you to do so. Well about forty minutes for reasons I'll mention in a moment.

Lavenham.For this isn't just an interview with Ernest, fascinating as listening to the voice of a ninety-four year-old ringer from over fifty years ago speaking is in itself. That as someone born in 1878 he will have known characters from our rural county and indeed our ringing chambers who themselves experienced life far back into the nineteenth century blows my mind. This is also possibly the most wonderful snapshot I've ever come across of ordinary Suffolk ringing from a period when unlike today where even the most mundane ringing can be found on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and the like, audio and even visual records are at a premium. The interviewer Tom Howlett attends the 1972 South-West District ADM being held at Lavenham and you get introductions from ringers present, including the current SW District Secretary Christine Knight who must have been a mere child at the time! What follows is then the sounds of a district ringing event 1970s style, with Grandsire Triples, Stedman Triples and three leads of Kent Treble Bob Major heard including the good and not so good bits, the calls, detailed descriptions of who was grabbing hold for pieces and snippets of chat which on occasion the participants didn't seem aware was being recorded. Although once Tom had taken Ernest back to Sudbury and described how the ringer in his nineties had once cycled out to Lavenham to ring, the last six or seven minutes are taken up with Mr & Mrs Howlett singing to "use the tape reel up," it is well worth listening to every moment up until that point. I hope one day that this blog can offer a similarly fascinating insight into ringing within our borders from 2007 until whenever my ramblings cease, but for now enjoy this marvelous bit of history and indeed the other content on the Archive page.

Today's local ringing history seems to have been restricted to the various weekly practices that usually go on around the county on a Thursday but which ringers in fifty years time may be curious to look in on, whilst the visiting L Martin Daniels Peal Tour took in 5040s of Grandsire Triples and Merchants' Return Delight Minor on the 16cwt eight of Framlingham and 6cwt ground-floor six in Theberton respectively to add to the 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Major they rang at Grundisburgh yesterday.

Much for interested people to perhaps put aside some time looking back at in a few years time.

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Wednesday 15th May 2024

Pettistree.Standard Wednesday fare for us, as Alfie went to football training and then one of us went out to Pettistree practice.

On this occasion that was Ruthie where she rang much including Norwich Surprise Minor and called a course of Hexham Surprise Minor which apparently caused much confusion despite considerable checking beforehand that everyone knew that Hexham is sixth-place Surfleet! And there was chocolate from Jane Harper as she celebrated her birthday. All followed by a visit to The Greyhound and preceded as it usually is by a quarter-peal.

Standard Wednesday fare for Pettistree.

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Tuesday 14th May 2024

Ufford.Many ringing chambers have a ringers' prayer hanging up on their wall, an important reminder that most of the bells we ring are hung in churches and that their primary purpose of being there is to ring for the church. The one at Ufford prompted discussion before the weekly practice there this morning as to whether they are ever actually read these days. I imagine once upon a time saying the ringers' prayer was as much a part of ringing as getting the bells up and some of us present tonight had a memory of John Girt regularly reading the one at St Margaret's in Ipswich. However, apart from occasionally ahead of the St Mary-le-Tower Society of Change Ringers' AGM when it has been held in the ringing chamber and led by the vicar, I'm struggling to recall when I last heard one read out at ringing. (A prayer is said before service ringing at Wickham Market every Sunday. Ed.)

Ringers' Prayer in the ringing chamber at Ufford.It wasn't read out on this occasion either, although it did encourage me to actually look at it and it gave food for thought as we set about a session that saw Mary Leaming bonging behind to Plain Hunt on Five for the first time, a touch of Reverse Canterbury, Plain, St Martin's & St Simon's Bob Doubles spliced rung and some call-changes on eight called by myself in an atmosphere boosted by most in attendance having been part of winning bands at Saturday's South-East District Striking Competitions at Clopton. A good moment to remind people about the Guild Striking Competitions planned for this Saturday at Falkenham and Felixstowe, which I would encourage folk along to even if you're not in a team, as it is usually a lovely day out!

As I'm sure the ringers on the L Martin Daniels Peal Tour were having in Suffolk today where they rang a 5040 of three Minor methods at Kettleburgh and perhaps said a ringers' prayer beforehand.

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Monday 13th May 2024

Following my day of ringing Grandsire yesterday, you can imagine my delight when arriving at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening to be asked to ring in some... Grandsire Cinques. I did manage to grab the treble for that, but in case I hadn't had enough, there was more Grandsire Cinques (where I succeeded in nabbing the tenor behind!) and some of the Triples version on the front eight. Mercifully there was some other stuff rung too, including a touch of Cambridge & Yorkshire Surprise Royal spliced with Little Bob on a night when we were considerably short on numbers, with at least four away and another in a pub somewhere near Halesworth celebrating a family birthday amongst other absentees.

St Mary-le-Tower band photo from 1991. ASCY Peal Band-Sunday20240512.

There was still a decent crowd in the Halberd Inn afterwards though, with conversation including the observation that Mark Liebenrood rang his first first peal yesterday since the end of 1996. Mark was - and it appears still is - an extremely clever ringer, with the 5184 of Cambridge & Superlative Surprise Major spliced rung at St James Garlickhythe marking the centenary of the first peal of spliced Surprise Major rung to his composition and we were extremely privileged that he was a regular on the Ipswich ringing scene in the 1990s before he disappeared from ringing. Having commented on my blog last year how nice it was to see him back in ringing, I'm glad to see him back peal-ringing, as all of those in the pub who could remember him were. And as you can see from the photo from the peal in London and the band photo from the early 1991 that hangs in the ringing chamber at St Mary-le-Tower, he has barely changed either!

I was also glad to see another quarter-peal on handbells in Suffolk, this time of Plain Bob Major in Moats Tye. And a brace of peals were rung, albeit by the Lancashire Association on the L Martin Daniels Peal Tour as the first of Surprise at Troston was rung and a 5040 was rung at Hitcham of (you've guessed it!) Grandsire Triples on another day of Grandsire.

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Sunday 12th May 2024

Happy, ‘have-a-go’ handbell ringers on Bell Sunday (Image: Jill Apter). All ages had a go at handbells on Bell Sunday! (Image: Jill Apter).

Bell Sunday today. Wissett featured on 'Bells on Sunday' on BBC Radio 4 with an extract from the quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung on the 7cwt ground-floor six in a round tower in July 2022. The hymn 'Let bells peal forth' was sung at morning worship at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge. Little Cornard's ringers were holding 'have-a-go' handbell ringing and chiming for children. And at St Mary-le-Tower the new pealboard recording the 5042 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus we rang last May for the coronation of King Charles III was blessed in the 10.30am service.

New pealboard at St Mary-le-Tower which was blessed this morning.It was a service that myself and the youngest boys attended that saw the usual Sabbath morn ringing routine tweaked. Mason dropped off for work, we couldn't make it in time for the usual ringing and so we met those who did in Costa Coffee for refreshment before returning to the heaviest ring of bells in the county to bong behind for a quick blast of Grandsire Cinques ahead of the service with the board blessing, which came at its climax. The Reverend Tom Mumford got all us ringers present (plus Alfie and Josh) to the front and as he usually does spoke wonderfully about ringing.

The outlook from the south window in Stowmarket ringing chamber.Bell Sunday continued for us with making use of Suffolk's newest ten-bell tower as we went to Stowmarket to practice for the Guild's entry into The Ridgman Trophy, the ten-bell striking competition for territorial ringing organisations which border onto The Ely Diocesan Association, which essentially makes it an East Anglian contest. Despite the realisation that across morning and afternoon, two different towers, several pieces and nearly a couple of hours my ringing was entirely made up of Grandsire in something that constitutes some kind of ringing nightmare for me, this was a valuable session helped by Clare Veal's other half Alban Forster accompanying his girlfriend and the most extensive ringing Ruthie and I have done here since their augmentation on our third visit of the last month and a half. I also enjoyed the vibrant summery outlook through the south window of the ringing chamber!

Not everyone within our borders was ringing Grandsire though. A quarter-peal of Stedman Caters was rung at The Norman Tower for the good cause of the fortieth anniversary service for St Nicholas Hospice, whilst there were a brace of peals on the county's bells. One was the usual second-Sunday one at Aldeburgh, whilst the other was at Marlesford by the Lancashire Association. I had only noticed the other day that we hadn't had the usual visit from the L Martin Daniels Peal Tour, but it follows on from 5040s at Chediston and the now famous Wissett yesterday, so I imagine there may be more in the coming days!

And it's nice to see the county's bells ringing out on Bell Sunday!

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Saturday 11th May 2024

Clopton. The beautiful car park at Clopton!

Competition day.

For us that was at Clopton for the South-East District 6-bell Striking Competitions, having first dropped Alfie off for his own bit of competitive action as he and his teammates played their last match of this football season, watched on by big brother Mason. With Josh accompanying us, we then got parked up in the field behind St Mary-the-Virgin church overlooking the beautiful countryside of this part of the world in time for the draw for the ringing order.

South-East District Ringing Master Hall Meakin at the SE Striking Competitions at Clopton. Ringers at the South-East District Striking Competitions at Clopton.  SE District Chairman Stephen Christian, Secretary Liz Christian and Ringing Master Hal Meakin. Looking out from Clopton church through the porch and tower. Ringers mingling and picnicking in Clopton churchyard. The charming churchyard facilities. Anne & Paul Bray giving the results. Ruthie collecting the Cecil Pipe Memorial Trophy on behalf of Pettistree.

That draw conveniently put both our teams on early, with Pettistree on second and St Mary-le-Tower fourth, which meant that we could ring for both and then with the contest continuing Joshua and I left to pick Alfred and Mason up after the former's victorious match before returning to the 11cwt six for a picnic and the results. Either side of collecting our ten-year-old, I was able to enjoy the refreshments very kindly put on by the locals and the delightfully charming churchyard facilities, catch up with various ringing friends and take in the gorgeous weather in lovely picturesque surroundings, all to the backdrop of lovely ringing on nice bells.

Hollesley. Pettistree.

Well done to Hollesley on winning the David Barnard Memorial Trophy in the call-change competition, especially to the four members of the band still very early on in their ringing progression, some of whom it has been great to see growing in confidence at Ufford on Tuesday nights. And we were delighted to be part of the Pettistree band which won the Cecil Pipe Memorial Trophy in the method competition. I am conscious of ringing in two bands, which I feel should be avoided if possible, but we ring at both towers one way or another whenever we can and it is worth noting that if we didn't ring for both Pettistree and St Mary-le-Tower then there would've been four ringers unable to participate this morning and one less team entering. On this occasion it was particularly pleasing that that allowed Chris Garner to ring for the former and George Heath-Collins the latter. This is what these events are all about. Anne & Paul Bray from Essex were the judges and the former summed up it perfectly when she said that whilst there are elements of teams and ringers wanting to win, the main purpose of striking competitions is the experience to help improve bands and ringers and it was wonderful to see and hear how much ringers from our hosts, Otley and bellsashen Teaching Hub enjoyed this event.

Theberton. Halesworth. Yoxford.

I hope the same sentiments were experienced in the North-East District Striking Competitions this afternoon, where they had the same wonderful sunny, hot weather we had in another picture-postcard location with the 6cwt ground-floor six in the thatched church of St Peter in Theberton, once they got in after a mix-up between the keyholders! Following the announcement of the results from judges Chris Bassett and Tim Munt from Kent, well done to Halesworth on coming out on top and thus winning the Trevor Hughes Trophy, to Yoxford on winning the call change trophy and Reydon on claiming the Harry Archer Trophy for being the most improved band as half their team today weren't even ringing a year ago! Seventeen entries across two district striking competitions on the same day is impressive and hopefully it inspires more entries to the Guild Striking Competitions which are due to take place at Falkenham and Felixstowe in precisely a week.

Meanwhile, our afternoon saw AJM go round his friend's house for a birthday gathering, allowing me to read this week's edition of The Ringing World which arrived with us this morning. Bar the usual peal and quarter-peal reports there wasn't anything Suffolk-related in this issue, but still plenty of interesting content. And come the evening, Granny Kate had very kindly come round to look after the boys to enable Ruthie and me to go round to the nearby home of my wife's schoolfriend Verity and her wife Jade for food, drink and an introduction to their tiny, energetic, adorable puppy.

It was a fantastic night and we were even back in time to watch the results of this year's Eurovision Grand Final, where it was competition day for Europe's singers.

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Friday 10th May 2024

Everyone across the UK was marveling at the Northern Lights from their gardens and windows tonight it seems. Except for us. Not for the lack of trying. With social media and even our various WhatsApp groups awash with amazing photos of the beautiful natural phenomenon, we kept glancing outside, even standing in our back garden for a period, but it seems that although there was a definite greenish tinge to the otherwise darkened skies, the surrounding buildings and trees were blocking any meaningful view of it.

Meanwhile, not atypically for a Friday there was no ringing for us, but relatively unusually for Suffolk there was no ringing noted on BellBoard today from anywhere within our borders. Perhaps everybody was too busy gazing at the Northern Lights.

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Thursday 9th May 2024

St Mary-le-Tower.I awoke to St Mary-le-Tower making the news online and on the airwaves. Or Ipswich Minster as it has been named. Although I suspect most of us will continue to refer to it as St Mary-le-Tower! The title appears to have been bestowed upon the county town's civic church partly because it is a big and important church in the town, but also for the work that it has been doing in the community, especially since The Reverend Tom Mumford became the vicar there in 2021. Otherwise I'm not sure what tangible differences we shall notice, but it is clearly another bit of positive news in a positive week for the town which has already prompted talk of celebratory ringing on the ringers' WhatsApp chat!

No ringing for our household today with the focus on Ruthie practicing with her choral colleagues, the closest we got being the sound floating across the village of one of the three bells at Melton St Andrew's New Church being chimed on this Ascension Day.

Meanwhile, there are two striking competitions due to happen this Saturday, with the South-East District planning on holding theirs at Clopton in the morning and the North-East District theirs at Theberton in the afternoon. Please note the parking arrangements for the former in particular and consider entering a band to SGR Ringing Master Katharine Salter by Tuesday 14th and Friday 17th respectively for the Guild Striking Competitions planned for Falkenham and Felixstowe on Saturday 18th. These are such fun ways of enjoying ringing - they aren't professional sports events, so give it a go and see how you get on and even if you don't finish as high as you'd like then you'll hopefully have enjoyed meeting friends, making friends and listening to good ringing!

Today though there were a couple of quarter-peals rung in the county. One was at Brandeston, which must have been a very moving one as a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles was rung at Brandeston for Woolpit ringer Alastair McArthur by a band featuring friends and his father Chris. His passing was desperately sad news, but hopefully it is a comfort to his family that the ringing family has been paying tribute. That has even included a peal rung at Ambleside in Cumbria by a band that featured his fellow Woolpit ringer Nigel Gale and some of the biggest names in ringing, but I expect today's quarter is the most special.

The other QP within our borders was at Horringer where a 1280 of Falmouth Surprise Major - the second-place version of Cornwall - was rung for the first time (in this medium at least) by all the band. Well done to Sally Crouch, David Steed, Louise Whitehead, Lesley Steed, Ruth Suggett, Deborah Blumfield, Martin Kirk and conductor Stephen Dawson!

There's lots of good stuff going on in Suffolk ringing. God willing there is still more to come at Ipswich Minster.

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Wednesday 8th May 2024

We were unusually short at Pettistree for this evening's weekly practice. So short indeed that for the first time for a long time that I can recall there was not enough to ring Minor and we called it a night a few minutes early before nearly half the number present retired to The Greyhound. Still, in the absence of Mike Whitby, Mary Garner fashioned a very productive session that was especially useful for those up to trebling, ringing inside and/or bonging behind to Doubles, all following on from a successful pre-practice quarter-peal which was dedicated to Joan Peck. She was a villager initially against the bells, but who warmed to them thanks to the ringers - particularly Chris & Mary Garner - keeping the channels of communication open with her, letting her know about extra ringing and generally staying on friendly terms with her. A fine example of how to deal with complainants. "You've got better" was a quote attributed to her about the ringers, hence the footnote! And at the practice that followed that QP we had fun too as Elaine Townsend did her 'Grandsire thing' and there was much satisfaction with how Saturday's open morning went.

The Barn Owl Ring. The Millbeck Ring. The Folly.

It came on a strange night for us with Alfie not attending his team's football training due to an unfortunate coming together of his face and someone's knee whilst playing footy at school and there was something different occurring elsewhere in Suffolk ringing as the first peal was rung on The Barn Owl Ring in its current location, having had none rung on them in Shelland but fifteen in Claydon before then, eight of which I rang in. Congratulations to Mike Cowling on ringing his two hundredth peal for the SGR.

Elsewhere within our borders and featuring some of the same band, a quarter-peal of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods spliced was rung at Elveden, where as usual they had just the right number of ringers.

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Tuesday 7th May 2024

Ufford.Another productive practice at Ufford this evening. Or at least once we'd got started when I had to return home for the tower keys I'd forgotten we had.

When we had got underway, Margaret Weeks rang the treble to Cambridge Surprise Minor for the first time for months, Daniel Atkinson trebled to spliced St Martin's & St Simon's Bob Doubles and Mary Leaming rang call-changes on eight with confidence and control.

Meanwhile at Offton, another Suffolk eight-bell tower with a Tuesday night practice, the session was preceded with a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Major which was Caroline Goodchild's first of Surprise inside. Well done Caroline!

Hopefully the keyholder turned up with the keys on time!

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Monday 6th May 2024

A weekend of footballing celebration continued on this Bank Holiday Monday as the Ipswich Town men's team and the staff who helped them went on an open top bus parade through the town from the Portman Road stadium that should be hosting some of the world's best players and teams next season to Christchurch Park. Along with Granny Kate, Ruthie's sister's other half Chris and the boys' cousins, we decided to try and get a good spot at the latter, which we succeeded in doing and although it meant we were there for a couple of hours waiting, we were helped in passing the time with some glorious weather, music and a big screen relaying the parade's progress.

 The spire of St Mary-le-Tower poking up behind the Halberd Inn. St Margaret's in the background as Kieran McKenna is interviewed.

That progress unsurprisingly took them past the ring of six at St Matthew's on the same road as the ground - albeit at the east end of the church on Civic Drive rather than the west end where the tower is on Portman Road - as well as giving glimpses on the screen of the spire of St Mary-le-Tower and considerable prominence to the tower of St Margaret's where a 14cwt gallery-ring of eight hang, from about 1 minute and 53 seconds into an interview with the manager Kieran McKenna.

The team on their bus. Not long after that, the buses turned into the park to wild cheers and much flag-waving from the estimated 35,000 present there that added to what is thought to have been about 50,000 on the streets of the town centre. We got a wonderful view of them as they came past and got a good sight of them doing interviews and starting singalongs. Last year we missed the celebrations in the park as I was ringing a peal at All Saints in Sudbury as part of a busy weekend of ringing for King Charles III's coronation, so I was particularly pleased that we could be here today, especially as that the only way I can envisage another parade next summer would be if we won the Premier League or a trophy next season. The team's done some extraordinary things over the last couple of years, but that does seem a step (or fifteen or sixteen steps) too far!

The Exeter band.Meanwhile, the Bank Holiday typically saw a number of twelve-bell peals, most notably at Exeter Cathedral where John Hughes-D'Aeth impressively pulled in the 72cwt tenor there - the second heaviest bell in the world hung for change-ringing - to a 5044 of Stedman Cinques spliced with Bristol & Zanussi Surprise Maximus. Either pulling this tenor in or ringing that combination of methods are impressive in their own right, but doing both simultaneously is phenomenal.

Nothing noted on BellBoard from within our borders today, but I was later back in the county town and beneath the spire briefly glimpsed by the world on TV as I went along to the weekly practice on Suffolk's heaviest twelve. Practices on a Bank Holiday Monday can be unpredictable with us just as likely to be joined by a multitude of visitors holidaying or looking to ring here with their usual Monday practice cancelled as we are to meet with barely enough to make it worthwhile to ring. This evening it was somewhere in the middle pulling towards the latter. Not quite enough to do anything substantial on twelve, but an opportunity for much on ten, from George Heath-Collins building on his success yesterday by trebling to much Caters and Royal, David Lugg ringing some Stedman Caters and me calling some Cambridge & Yorkshire Surprise Royal spliced before we retired to the Halberd Inn which was still bedecked with flags and bunting for this weekend of footballing celebration.

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Sunday 5th May 2024

Following my acknowledgement in yesterday's football-heavy blog entry that my blog entries were getting very football-heavy, I don't intend to mention footy too much today. However, Saturday's success had its effect on today's ringing.

Primarily for me as having left the car in Ipswich before the match, almost certainly not being below the drink-drive limit following our celebrations anyway and no way of getting into town via public transport in time, I couldn't get to St Mary-le-Tower for morning ringing and with two young but tired boys after the excitement of twenty-four hours earlier, walking into Woodbridge to ring on the 25cwt wasn't practical, though Ruthie managed to join her choral colleagues for the service there after getting a lift from her Gran.

Additionally, a quarter-peal of Grandsire Caters rung on the back ten of Suffolk's heaviest ring of bells and Ipswich's civic church later in the day was dedicated to the town's professional men's team's promotion to the top flight, as well as being George Heath-Collins' first on ten. Well done George!

 Veronese mobile belfry.There were even congratulations for the Tractor Boys from Italy where twice past Guild Ringing Master Stephen Pettman and St Mary-le-Tower supporters Anne & Paul Bray were ringing on the Veronese mobile belfry at the Raduno of All Italy in Agnone.

Meanwhile, back within our borders, a 1280 of Yorkshire Surprise Major was rung at The Norman Tower, whilst the same number of changes was rung in Kent Treble Bob Major at Halesworth, which was a first quarter of TB Major for Erika Clarke and Sal Jenkinson. Well done Erika and Sal!

As mentioned though, no ringing for us, with another day of sorting stuff out and me (eventually) catching a train into Ipswich to retrieve the car, as yesterday continued to effect today.

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Saturday 4th May 2024

This is a ringing blog, honest. And I feel quite sheepish about the amount of football that has crept onto here recently. I suppose it does fit into my remit with this blog to show how an active ringer tries to fit the exercise in amongst other aspects of life and I am pretty pleased that although I can't be quite as active as I once was (when I started writing back in 2007 we were generally going together to four practices a week, I was in the middle of my busiest ever peal-ringing year and as Guild Ringing Master I was often at district events around the county), I am still able to get to three weekly practice nights regularly, as well as most South-East District events and have been able to keep my peal-totals ticking over.

Nonetheless, the last two or three years have seen Ipswich Town's fortunes gradually improve and Mason, Alfie and Josh's interest and enthusiasm increase and indeed coming along to Portman Road to watch the Tractor Boys has become a lovely family occasion. As my blog entries from this week will have alerted you (and again, apologies for the football overload), today saw all of that reach fever pitch.

Anyway, ringing blog and all that, so the long and short of it was that ITFC needed to at least draw against already relegated Huddersfield Town at Portman Road. We were there, 29,000 others were there, thousands of other fans from across Suffolk, the country and the world were in town simply to soak up the atmosphere. The world's media were there hoping to catch the moment a team earnt a spot in the most watched, most popular football league on the planet. Most footy fans worldwide were hoping that 'little old Ipswich' would go up rather than Leeds United, one of the big teams only relegated from the Premier League just last year, even a lot of our visitor's fans who weren't keen on their local rivals getting promoted. We won 2-0 to return to the Premier League for the first time in twenty-two years. Or 2,189 SGR peals. Cue massive pitch invasion, blue flares, eventually a trophy presentation, lap of honour and lots of noise. Incredible, memorable stuff.

Ruthie & me enjoy the two-pint glasses. The view from the Fanzone. About to start at Portman Road. The pitch invasion after the final whistle.

With it being a 12.30pm kick-off and Alfred's team playing away, our morning was a logistically challenging one. Ruthie and Joshua headed into town with Granny Kate and my wife's sister's fiancé Chris for breakfast at the Mermaid, the trains already packed with supporters making merry, the bars of the town centre heaving and apparently queues to get in them. Meanwhile, myself, Mason and AJM drove out to watch the latter narrowly lose but play a blinder and win player of the match before we drove into Ipswich, dumping the car and joining the rest of our party in the Fanzone just as the team coach arrived to a cacophony of noise and a blue fog of pyrotechnics and some beer in two-pint glasses. Afterwards, having realised that we were unlikely to get a drink in any of the heaving pubs in the town centre before our train back, we joined many others in grabbing some celebratory drink from a small local shop and having walked back from Melton railway station to home accompanied by just about every passing car hooting their horns in celebration, we made an unplanned trip to The Coach & Horses for a meal outside on a beautiful evening, where we were joined by the boys' Grandad Ron.

Woolpit.It all left no time for ringing (despite the request to ring the bells at St Mary-le-Tower for the promotion, we certainly weren't in any state to help out!), including the Pettistree open morning which nonetheless sounds like it was very successful with an estimated forty-to-fifty people through the doors. However, we did meet up with my brother and Norman Tower ringer Chris beforehand and for the celebrations post-match and briefly bumped into Debenham ringers Robert & Tom Scase on the way out of the stadium, whilst the 1320 of Ipswich Surprise Minor rung at Woolpit was dedicated to the Superblues' historic success today, neatly giving me something ringing and football related to report in this supposed ringing blog.

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Friday 3rd May 2024

St Mary-le-Tower's tower lit in blue. (by kind permission of St Mary-le-Tower)Lots of people are getting very excited about Ipswich Town potentially being promoted back to the Premier League tomorrow. As am I of course, but also anxious, nervous and slightly sick at the possibility that we won't do it. Nonetheless, it has been heartwarming to see the support being shown by the town and the county from all sorts of places and folk in the hope that it might help the team get over the line. A local school was having a 'Blue Day' which featured on a report on the BBC's national news coverage. Shops are decking themselves out in blue and white. And my favourite of all, the tower of St Mary-le-Tower was lit in blue this evening.

 Judith Raven with the knitted versions of her bandmates at Wissett. Knitted members of the band at Wissett. Wissett.

That said, I'm trying not to think too much about it for want of getting too excited or too frightened about it, not to mention that it is healthy to put it all into perspective. Whatever happens at Portman Road tomorrow, it is only football. Therefore, I was actually quite grateful for a day of work and the arrival of The Ringing World, which this week features on the back page Erika Clarke's photos of Judith Raven and her knitted models of her fellow bandmates from the recent quarter-peal at Wissett. Additionally, the 7cwt ground-floor six in a round tower is in a list of towers due to feature on BBC Radio 4's 'Bells on Sunday', with their turn planned for Bell Sunday on 12th May.

Tostock.Meanwhile, a 1320 of Beverley, Cambridge, King Edward and Surfleet Surprise Minor spliced was rung at the gallery-ring of Tostock. Which reading about helped distract me from getting too excited or terrified about tomorrow.

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Thursday 2nd May 2024

Congratulations to Lizzie Wood as she rang her first quarter-peal in the 1260 of Reverse Canterbury Bob, Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles on the lovely 11cwt ground-floor six at Chediston.

There was no time for me to do any ringing though or indeed pretty much anything else as I was undertaking poll clerk duties today. That meant I was at the polling station for sixteen hours, unable to leave, as I helped oversee the voting process for Suffolk's Police and Crime Commissioner election.

Outside St Mary's Parish Hall in Ufford on polling day. Ufford in the evening sunshine. Ufford church at the end of my day being a poll clerk.

On this occasion I was back at St Mary's Parish Hall in Ufford where I had done the same job last May and opposite where I had been just two days ago at the weekly practice at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This time I wasn't doing it with Christine from the village who was sadly at a family funeral, but the fact that she wasn't doing it and that the table we were sat at was on the other side of the hall from normal caused quite a stir amongst locals coming in to vote!

Instead I was with a lady called Emma who was (thankfully because it's a long day!) good company and we were kept surprisingly busy with an election which is apparently normally an election that has a very low turnout. As with last year, timekeeping was aided by the 13cwt tenor next door chiming on the hour, even if was in the knowledge that it was a couple of minutes fast and Ringing Master there and mother-in-law Kate Eagle was carrying out her usual role as Polling Station Inspector and very kindly killed two birds with one stone by making Ufford her first port of call and giving me a lift in.

Meanwhile Ruthie was again gallantly picking up all of the parental duties for which I am very grateful and she had certainly earnt the cup of tea I made her once Emma had kindly dropped me off at the end of a day that was long for us, but exciting for Lizzie Wood!

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Wednesday 1st May 2024

Suffolk's ringing in May got underway straight from the off with three quarter-peals rung in the county on the first day of this month. One on handbells in the garden of The Fox in Pakenham, one at The Barn Owl Ring in Norton and the usual pre-practice attempt at Pettistree.

We weren't contributing to any ringing today though as with an early start planned at the beginning of what is due to be a long, logistically challenging day tomorrow we chose not to join the session at the aforementioned ground-floor six in order to prepare, with the main highlights of my day being a farewell buffet at work for a departing colleague and taking Alfie to his football training.

At least others have got Suffolk's ringing in May underway.

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Tuesday 30th April 2024

I may not have been great company in recent days for which I apologise. Mainly because my cough is really, really annoying me now. But also because I have been more distracted than ever before by Ipswich Town. Following Saturday night, the Tractor Boys needed four more points from their last two games (with three points for a win, one for a draw) to be ensured of returning to the Premier League for the first time since 2002. The nerves have been unbearable at times and the excitement of what could happen mixed with self telling-offs for thinking too far ahead and nightmarish visions of worst case scenarios have been exhausting. Although that probably is the cough.

Ufford.This evening the first of those two fixtures was being played as ITFC played away at Coventry. There were plenty of options to watch it on TV, whether round Chris & Clare's, at a local pub or more practically with the children on a school night purchasing a Town TV pass to view it at home. However, with numbers short at Ufford for the weekly practice with Ringing Master Kate Eagle absent on this occasion, it seemed a good idea to distract myself from what could otherwise be a long night of following every kick of the ball.

Not that I was completely cut-off from proceedings with my phone on me, but the ringing offered pockets of ignorant bliss for a few minutes. And despite the low numbers it was a productive session. Mary Leaming rang Plain Hunt for the first time, Margaret Weeks continued her rehabilitation by trebling to a couple of courses of Plain Bob Doubles and Daniel Atkinson did some more Plain Hunt.

However, with just seven present which included Mary at a very early stage of her ringing progression and Margaret who has to take things easy with her recovery, it was challenging to eke out a full hour and a half practice and so we called it a night at 8.30.

By then the Superblues were 1-0 up and I couldn't resist listening to the commentary on BBC Radio Suffolk for a match where every minute seemed like an hour, as our hosts equalised and we then got what transpired to be the winner, meaning that we now head into Saturday's planned final fixture against Huddersfield Town at Portman Road needing 'just' a draw. Which is about as well as things could've gone tonight, but as I try to stop getting over-excited or thinking of worst case scenarios now may mean - cough or no cough - that I might not be great company over the next few days either. For which I also apologise.

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Monday 29th April 2024

The 'mousehole' in the back of the ninth box at St Mary-le-Tower.At the back of the box from which the ninth at St Mary-le-Tower is usually rung, there is a hole in the shape of a little doorway which looks a little like the mousehole in the sideboard you'd see on Tom & Jerry cartoons. It fascinated me as a little child when my brother Chris and I used to accompany Mum & Dad to Sunday morning ringing, long before we were gripped by the art, much as Alfie & Josh usually accompany me now and Mason did before. This evening at the weekly practice on the heaviest ring of bells in Suffolk, I found myself sat behind it and I was transported back to my childhood. Much has changed in that time of course. Memories of those sadly no longer with us came flooding back, ringing styles, voices, mannerisms and all, such as George Pipe, Adrian Knights and of course my father Alan. Ringers have come and gone. Peals rung, University attended. The internet. Ipswich Town promoted and relegated multiple times. Marriage, children, many different houses. Through it all, this ringing chamber has been a constant in my life like no other place apart from the house I grew up in. There has been the odd sprucing up, new ropes, new carpet and new pealboards, but pretty much it has remained the same in that time. The dizzying array of pealboards recording some of the most historic peals in twelve-bell ringing, the window benches, the boxes with the marks of the feet from ringers past worn into them. And that little 'mousehole.' I pray one day that I shall be an old(er) man looking at that hole and transporting myself back.

Indeed, most of us are privileged to ring in rooms and buildings marked by history and with that privilege comes the responsibility of looking after them, as our forebears would have done in the centuries before us and God willing our successors as caretakers will do in the centuries after us.

Tonight's session in the famous old ringing chamber that bore witness to two world wars, the arrival of the motor car, the passing and coronations of monarchs, many Prime Ministers and the first peals of various Surprise Maximus methods including Cambridge and Yorkshire, saw one of those who was a regular here when I was small and being fascinated with that hole returning as I was pleased to see Amanda Richmond ringing for the first time since her recent skiing accident.

Along with others who also bridge that span of time such as Diana Pipe and my mother Sally, this evening she helped those we hope will take ringing here into the future, such as George Heath-Collins who trebled to Grandsire Cinques being conducted by his fiancée Lucy Williamson. We also rang in some really nice pieces of Stedman Cinques and the aforementioned Yorkshire, whilst additionally a few leads of London No. 3 Surprise Royal was rung on a productive night of ringing. Although at one point a ringer had a coughing fit that meant they had to set their bell and hand their rope to someone else. It's not just me who is suffering from this long-lasting cough that is far more annoying to us suffering with it then it is to anyone around us believe me!

Earlier in the day, a quartet of talented handbell ringers from within our borders rang a quarter-peal of Kent Treble Major in Bury St Edmunds, whilst the highlight of our household's day pre-ringing was Alfie playing his first match for the school football team which is another potential (welcome, as anything for the boys is!) element to our Monday afternoon and evening before I get into Ipswich for ringing!

That said, before I left for there today, Ruthie and I got the chance to listen to a completely ad-hoc bit of ringing publicity as Past (and all being well and usual, future) Master of the College Youths Susan 'Swaz' Apter was stopped in the street for an impromptu interview by Catherine Carr, who seems to approach random people to ask where they are going for her rather appropriately named 'Where Are You Going?' podcast. On this occasion I don't think she could believe her luck when she asked that question to an unassuming lady carrying sticks and bags and got the answer "I'm going to ring the bells at St Paul's Cathedral!" In just a few minutes Swaz was able to impart a wonderful sense of the ringing family and particularly how they helped her through losing her husband Alan Flood and her cancer. And there is the sound of the famous bells ringing out afterwards as runners were being cheered on by spectators in the London Marathon.

Meanwhile, after ringing, another big crowd went to the Halberd Inn where I chatted with my Mum about how my old secondary school has been knocked down and completely rebuilt. Another reminder of the timeless nature of the ringing chambers we are privileged to ring in, 'mouseholes' and all!

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Sunday 28th April 2024

Earl Soham.More Suffolk coverage on BBC Radio 4's 'Bells on Sunday' as the 10cwt six of Earl Soham rang out to Cambridge Surprise Minor for all the world to hear. I'm assuming its from the quarter-peal rung there in 2022, but I don't know for sure. Either way, it's about three minutes of really well-struck ringing.

I was doing some ringing myself today, as the boys and I climbed the many steps to Woodbridge ringing chamber for me to help the local ringers ring the front six. Although to be fair they didn't really need me with a big crowd present, albeit not enough time and back bell ringers to ring the back two up. Still, it was pleasing to hear Meg talking of her recent visit to Carlisle where she actively sought out ringing and ended up ringing at the Cathedral there, doing something that I try to encourage all ringers to do as much as they can and taking advantage of the welcome that ringing and ringers offer.

Elsewhere in the county meanwhile, a 1282 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal was rung at The Norman Tower conducted by Guild Handbells & Mini-Ring Trustee Brian Whiting to his own composition with a band that included a number I suspect were responsible for that well-struck ringing on BBC Radio 4's 'Bells on Sunday'.

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Saturday 27th April 2024

OK, football numbers incoming, perhaps more than is justified in a ringing blog, but I'll try and keep it short.

Following Leeds United incredibly losing 4-0 last night, Leicester City have mathematically banked one of the two promotion spots to the Premier League automatically earned by teams finishing in first and second. Barring an incredible altering of the basis of maths, that means that the second of those spots is going to go to either Leeds or to Ipswich Town. Coming into today and thanks to yesterday's most unexpected result, it presented the Tractor Boys with a definite target. Get five points out of their last three games of the league season that are due to be played in the next week and they will have more points than our friends from Yorkshire (which includes some actual ringing friends) would be able to amount from their one remaining game. With one point awarded for a draw and three points for a victory, it meant that one win and two draws from our trio of fixtures would be enough.

The first of those matches was tonight, as 8pm on a Saturday was introduced to the list of strange kick-off times we've been subjected to as ITFC travelled to Hull City for a game being shown on the TV and hence the reason that we found ourselves round Ruthie's sister Clare's house joining her other half Chris, our nieces and Ufford Ringing Master Kate Eagle. These are indeed giddy times for all us Town fans who have endured a miserable couple of decades following the Superblues, with that nickname ambitiously applied for most of that time. Even more so for us with the boys enthusiasm off the chart and we're keen to take as much of it in whilst the going is good. This evening's thrilling 3-3 draw was a must-watch and at least gives us one of those five points needed, even if it was disappointing that we lost two of those points a couple of minutes from the end as a 3-2 lead for us was wiped out.

It also gave us a footballing bookend to a day which began with Alfie playing really well in goal for his team before a rather mundane few hours of household chores and the like, but no ringing.

Sudbury, St Gregory.Hopefully things were more interesting for the South-West District Practice at St Gregory in Sudbury, whilst further afield it looks like much fun was had on the Isle of Wight for an open day that had seen my Facebook feeds filled with excited tower grabbers making their way on the ferry over the last day or two. And things were definitely more interesting for Portsmouth ringer David Mattingley who is someone I've rung with on occasions (including a couple of quarters in Suffolk on tour when the ringing visitors stayed in my little pink cottage in Tunstall!) and I usually have a good time with socially when I see him, often at the National 12-bell Striking Contest. Some time ago he had decided that to mark his recent forty-first birthday he wanted to attempt a peal of the standard forty-one Surprise Minor methods on a 41cwt bell. That bell was the tenor at St Mary-le-Bow in London and the task is no mean feat. In its own right, it is a hard enough bell to ring on twelve, but on six where there is a lot more heaving around to get into place it is a huge challenge. Also in its own right, ringing the forty-one is far from simple. Combined it is a phenomenal achievement and indeed it is the heaviest peal of the forty-one yet rung. Additionally, for all that he is a superb ringer, David isn't a habitual ringer of big bells to peals in the sense of John Loveless, Andrew Mills, George Salter or Michael Wilby, so that achievement is all the greater. He had sent an open invitation for his friends to join him afterwards, including me and tempting as it was, a drinking session in the capital wasn't practical with our evening's plans. I did wonder if he got forty-one people to join him though!

For this blog, it also gives me some more suitable ringing numbers to impart.

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Friday 26th April 2024

Fancy taking on a role in the CCCBR? The PR Officer's role was being advertised by its former holder and now Central Council Deputy President Vicki Chapman today and is an increasingly important job for ringing's image generally. As with anything ringing-related though, I expect it can be fitted into one's life and not necessarily be as all-consuming as you may fear. Do take a look at the summary of the role and seriously consider taking it on or if there is someone else you know who might be suitable for it.

Lincoln CathedralMeanwhile, the latest edition of The Ringing World arrived with us and whilst there was nothing Suffolk-related in this issue - bar peals and quarters - I enjoyed reading the various pieces on the history of The Lincoln Diocesan Guild as it celebrates its 125th anniversary. The LDG is another of those ringing organisations close to my heart as it represents a part of the world that holds fond childhood memories from visiting Mum's sister Janet and her other half Mick, which nearly always involved a visit for Sunday morning ringing on the 23cwt twelve at Lincoln Cathedral (which they could see from their front window in one of their houses!), a fine building that appears on the front page of this week's RW. Some of the ringers we rang with on such occasions feature in the content inside, such as Jack Millhouse, Geoff Parker and Les Townsend.

Ashbocking.Due to go into a future edition of 'The Comic' is the 1440 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Ashbocking rung today, but there was no ringing from our household. I don't think we'd be great PR for the new CCCBR Public Relations Officer to work with!

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Thursday 25th April 2024

Today was a quiet one from a ringing perspective on a typically bell-less Thursday personally as Ruthie went to her choral practices whilst I willingly stayed at home spending time with the boys and then getting them to bed.

Not so for other ringers in Suffolk, with quarter-peals rung at Redgrave and Tostock. Well done to Georgina Inglis on ringing her first of Plain Bob Doubles inside in the former and to Dee Smith and Martin Kirk on ringing their first of King Edward Surprise Minor in the latter.

If all goes to plan, May should see busier days of ringing for us too. Unusually, it doesn't start with a South-East District event on the first Saturday as it usually would. Although last year they were held in June due to King Charles III's coronation, typically in May that day would be host to the SE Striking Competitions. This year though, Ipswich Town are due to play their final league match of this exciting season at Portman Road at the same time and as I have noted, there are quite a few SE members who can typically be found at the home games, including the District Chairman and Secretary!

Clopton. Theberton. Troston.

Therefore, it was decided to move the competition back a week to the 11th, which makes for a potentially busy day for ringing within our borders, as on the same day that teams from the SE District are planning on competing in the Cecil Pipe Memorial Bell Method and David Barnard Memorial Trophy Call Change Competitions at Clopton, teams from the North-East District are intending on challenging for The Trevor Hughes, The Call Change and The Harry Archer Trophies at Theberton, whilst in between the competitions (the SE's is slated for the morning, the NE's the afternoon), the North-West District have lined up their monthly Practice for Troston from 10am-noon.

If you still have the energy, the following day is penciled in as Bell Sunday and it would be great to get a good response to this from the county's ringers and to see plenty noted on the BB event set up for the occasion!

Falkenham. Felixstowe.

And then on the 18th, the intention is to hold the Guild 6-Bell and 8-Bell Striking Competitions at Falkenham and Felixstowe respectively. As with the venues the previous week, two light, easy-going rings of bells that I hope encourage lots of entries from across the county. They may be at the far end of the county for those in the west (as many of us near the coast can testify after gladly travelling out to Exning and Dalham for the 2009 competitions!), but they are right next to the A14 and the latter in particular easily accessible by rail. Kirton & Falkenham Village Hall intends to be open for refreshments down the road from the 5cwt ground-floor six whilst teams compete for the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy, whilst in the seaside resort the plan is for refreshments to be served in the Community Room at the church as teams challenge for the Rose Trophy and of course there will be plenty open nearby, including pubs!

Edwardstone. Offton. Offton.

A week later the South-West District hope to hold their Practice at Edwardstone (another light, easy-going ring of bells) from 7-8.30pm on Saturday 25th and the month is due to be rounded off with a Surprise Major Practice at another set of friendly bells, Offton, with proceedings set to run from 7.30-9pm on Friday 31st, whilst an event with a difference but still ringing-related is lined up for the previous Friday with a Wine Tasting by former SE District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson at Drinkstone Village Hall for the Bell Restoration Project at the nearby 11cwt six. Anyone who has watched Jonathan do one of these will know it is well worth attending if you can, so please do support it and in the process support a good cause!

Essex Association Southern District Open Day.
St Clements Church, Leigh on Sea St Mary, South Benfleet, Essex - geograph.org.uk - 339811

Meanwhile, looking even further ahead, the Southern District of the Essex Association today asked members via the SGR's Facebook page to put Saturday 13th July into your diaries as that is when they plan to hold an Open Day with more than twenty towers to visit from Leigh-on-Sea to South Benfleet.

There is potentially lots of ringing for ringers to enjoy over the next few weeks and I would encourage you to support as much as you can and avoid days as quiet as today has been for us from a ringing perspective.

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Wednesday 24th April 2024

As brought to my attention by past Guild Secretary Carl Melville on Facebook, today's date is one of those pleasing ones to those as nerdy as me on such things - 24.4.24.

And on it the SGR rang a 5040 at Gressenhall in Norfolk of Albanian Surprise Royal, which the much-missed Don Price of Reydon rang the first quarter-peal and the first peal of, as is mentioned in the footnote. It was also the 2200th peal for the now no longer immediate Past Peal Secretary of the Guild (twenty years after he left the position!) Alan Mayle and a one hundredth together for Mike Cowling and Rowan Wilson. Congratulations Alan, Mike and Rowan!

Pettistree.Also on this memorable date, a 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung at Pettistree and dedicated to the recent fiftieth wedding anniversary of tenor ringer Peter Harper and his wife Jane. Jane & Peter have been so supportive of ringing since they moved to the area seventeen years ago, leading things at the geographically isolated eight at Hollesley impressively, taking on roles in the South-East District and being strong supporters of the Guild, so I'm pleased to have seen this QP rung for them.

After taking Alfie to his football training and returning him home, I joined the practice on the ground-floor six which followed that quarter, where despite the absence of a number Surprise Minor regulars we still rang some spliced in amongst much else. Afterwards, I was pleased to have my first beer for a while in The Greyhound as I heard about the new Priest in Charge due to come here and to neighbouring Wickham Market, The Reverend Craig Shaw and his planned licensing on the evening of Wednesday 24th July, whilst tonight mother-in-law Kate and others were ringing the bells at Grundisburgh for the installation there of the Carlford Benefice's new Rector the Reverend Mark Cresswell.

I wonder what excitement might occur on 25th May 2025?

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Tuesday 23rd April 2024

The last few days have felt a little like the pandemic lockdowns, isolated away from the rest of the world. Except the rest of the world (including my household!) has been getting on with life and going out and about! Today though, I finally got to do things too.

That included going into the office at John Catt Educational for the first time since I fell ill, but also my first ringing in a week. Being a Tuesday, that naturally meant I was back in Ufford.

Ufford.On this occasion it was for the monthly Surprise Major practice that Ringing Master here Kate Eagle has been trying to get up and running. Successfully so on the basis of this evening as a sizeable though not overwhelming number gathered to ring on this 13cwt eight, including Linda & Nick Thomson from Cheshire who had been pointed in this direction by Richard Rapior - who was also here tonight - when they visited Aldeburgh's weekly practice yesterday. They were very useful for a repertoire of Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Superlative and Yorkshire, as well as them spliced and three leads of Bristol, with lots of good ringing.

There was more Surprise Major splicing going on across Suffolk at Offton meanwhile, where the session on the 8cwt ground-floor eight was preceded by a quarter-peal of five methods.
Hopefully they had a super night, as did I. I'm a bit conscious of my cough which I sheepishly explain has hung around for several weeks already, has been checked by a doctor and which was made worse by whatever I have recently suffered with, but I was delighted to just be out and about again!

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Monday 22nd April 2024

I'm not 100% sure what I've been laid low with over the last few days, other than it definitely wasn't Covid (I tested for that) and I've never felt so wiped out for so long in my life. However, God willing it appears to be improving and although I'm still coughing lots, I felt ready to work and ring again. My symptoms suggest it was flu-like though and so regardless of whether it actually was, I took up the NHS' advice and held off releasing myself into rooms with crowds of people and therefore undertook my employment from home and sent my apologies for St Mary-le-Tower practice.

As became apparent on the St Mary-le-Tower ringers WhatsApp group, I wasn't the only one not going to Suffolk's heaviest twelve this evening. One had a cold, another a "head/sinus thing", whilst a third had a painful sounding encounter with a dog through a letterbox! Hopefully plenty turned up to make up for our absences.

Beccles.Elsewhere in the county, ringing headlines were being made at Beccles where Marie Owen was ringing her first quarter-peal and Kate Bungay her first on a working bell in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles - well done Marie and Kate! Whilst in Moats Tye, QPs of Little Bob Royal and Plain Bob Royal were being rung on handbells.

Meanwhile, my family were being more active than me again, with Ruthie enduring a stressful though satisfying day at work, the boys going to school and Josh joining a classmate to celebrate their birthday, although the venue had to be changed after the star of the show's little brother went down with a sickness bug this morning. It's not just me being laid low at the moment unfortunately.

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Sunday 21st April 2024

An even better day today as I felt alright throughout without the aid of tablets. I still didn't feel I could or should go ringing this morning, but I left the house for the first time for days as I took Ruthie to playgroup as unusually she had to do some work and later dropped Alfie off at his classmate's birthday party and then picked them up again. Although being a football-loving bunch of partygoers the finish-time was unexpectedly delayed whilst they watched the FA Cup semi-final on TV!

Otherwise though, it was another day (a Sunday I think, although they've all started blurring into one another!) at home as I rested up watching the London Marathon on television as my wife went to church to sing. Although I only briefly heard a bell ringing at one point, there was lots of ringing in the capital and beyond for the event and at least two ringers that I knew with Cecelia Pipe and Fiona Wheeler both successfully negotiating the 26.2 mile-long course. And in my current state I was inspired by the energy of the 50,000+ runners, although not enough to consider doing it myself, particularly as some of them looked a little I've felt over the last couple of days by the end! Congratulations to all who ran though, especially Cecelia and Fiona.

Stowmarket.Well done also to Harriet Aves who rang her first quarter-peal of Minor today by trebling to the 1260 of Plain Bob rung on the front six of the 19cwt ten at Stowmarket where the Guild AGM was recently held.

Indeed, well done to anyone who got out to ringing today, unlike me. God willing I shall be joining you all again soon if I continue getting better.

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Saturday 20th April 2024

Today was the best I've felt for the last couple of days, but that is all relative and there was no way I was going to be getting up and about, with rest and recuperation the watchwords of the day.

Unfortunately that meant missing a full day of activity that I had lined up, starting with Alfie's football match which his team won to make the final of the competition they were playing in. Well done AJM and chums! I was very sorry to miss that though.

Clopton.As I was to miss the South-East District Practice at Clopton where there was cake, cuppas and ringing hoodies on a lovely six, with this event being held on the third Saturday rather than the first due to the Guild AGM being held then. It sounds like a good time was had however.

My wife and I were also due to ring for a wedding at Grundisburgh, so I was grateful to mother-in-law Kate Eagle for taking my place for what was apparently some really good ringing to be a part of the happy couple's big day. Although I did wonder if the congregation singing 'Stand by Me' and 'Lean on Me' was a premonition of how they expected the evening to pan out!

After very kindly popping home to check how I was, Mrs Munnings and the boys then went off with Kate to Clare and Chris' abode to celebrate our niece Anna's birthday which given the cool weather conditions ambitiously - but seemingly successfully - came in the form of a barbecue, all whilst I necessarily stayed at home, although I consoled myself with listening to and watching football going on across the country with no Ipswich Town match on this weekend.

And kept on eye on BellBoard with some notable performances rung including David Pipe and his sons Alfred & Henry who today completed a quartet of peals on handbells in Willingham over the Cambridgeshire border from us. In so doing they completed a set of all-the-work peals of each of the four regular Treble Dodging Minor groups (which collectively make up the 147 'standard' TD Minor methods) in twenty-four hours for the first time in hand, with three of them scored this side of last night.

Nothing from Suffolk, but there was a Guild peal rung beyond our borders as a 5019 of Stedman Caters was rung on the ten at All Saints in Loughborough in Leicestershire which was Alan Mayle's one hundredth peal with Mike Cowling and Andrew Stone - congratulations Alan, Mike and Andrew! Interestingly it is also already the second peal of Stedman Caters for the SGR in 2024 following on from the 5055 at The Norman Tower last month. That after it had been a decade since the previous one!

I'm pleased to see so much ringing going on, even if I can't take part in it.

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Friday 19th April 2024

Gosh, even after the heaviest night out I don't recall feeling as wiped out as I do at the moment! Probably because of (medical!) drugs I had moments of feeling OK today, but I didn't feel up to working, even from home. Indeed, I didn't really move much from bed or sofa all day.

It is frustrating as I can imagine that whenever I get back to work (God willing Monday, but I'll guess we'll see) that I'll have huge backlog to work through. Frustrating also to watch Ruthie having to carry out both our duties at home whilst I pathetically lay around. She has been a fantastic nurse!

Wissett.  Judith Raven with the knitted versions of her bandmates at Wissett. Knitted members of the band at Wissett.

Mercifully other ringers in Suffolk were able to be more active, most noticeably at Wissett where not only was the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles a first inside for Judith Raven, but she also brought along wonderful looking knitted versions of the band and allowed for one of the cleverest band photos I think I've seen! Well done Judith on both counts!

Elsewhere on a busy day of ringing in the county, well done to Norfolk ringing vicar Richard Turk on calling a quarter-peal of Bristol Surprise Major in the 1280 at Bardwell and congratulations to tenor ringer David Carter on the birth of his granddaughter. On a sadder note though, Alastair McArthur was again remembered with a QP, this time at Tostock with a 1272 of Primrose Surprise Minor and the 1320 of Stedman Triples at Ixworth was dedicated to the memory of church warden and ringer here David Reeve.

Meanwhile a lovely report of the Woodbridge ringers' 'Spring Ring' to Cambridge last Saturday now appears on the church's website, giving some great local PR, whilst I felt grateful that the latest edition of The Ringing World arrived with us today and helped gently occupy my ailing senses.

Although such is my illness that it feels like reading about ringing is the closest I'm going to get to the exercise at moment!

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Thursday 18th April 2024

I don't usually call in ill for work. In fact, without poring painstakingly through my blog entries (although I do like to read back some of my older entries as a form of nostalgia/interest/vanity) I couldn't tell you last time I did. Personally I feel such a fraud, even when I am genuinely poorly, perhaps going back to my days as a temp when if I didn't go to work I didn't get paid. Or maybe - just maybe - I'm a conscientious worker! It is particularly unlikely when these days one can work from home when feeling a bit under the weather.

Today though, I had to make that rare call. I'd been feeling cold and tired over the last day or two, but put it down to the unseasonably chilly conditions and that we'd had a disturbed night earlier in the week when our neighbour had (inadvertently I think) been playing music quite loudly until the early hours. This morning I got gradually worse until I wasn't really much use to anyone and so I finished work early and went straight to bed and didn't wake up until Ruthie and the boys got back.

Whilst I felt better by that point with my first meal of the day down me, I wasn't up to ringing, even if I was able to with my wife out practicing with her choral colleagues and thus me at home getting the boys to bed. Hopefully for different reasons, there wasn't anything on BellBoard in Suffolk or by the Guild either.

However, I did feel well enough to read the information recently released about travel to Chilcompton in Somerset on Saturday 15th June when it is due to host the National 12-bell Striking Contest Final. The 19cwt twelve is set in a village with no railway station, so they were announcing tickets for coach travel from Bristol Temple Mead for £12 return to be booked by 30th April. Except they already seem to have sold out. Don't let that put you off going down there if you fancy it though. A superb website from the local ringers for the event outlines camping details on the same page as the now sold-out coach tickets, whilst elsewhere on the site there are details of other nearby railway stations, bus routes and taxi firms, as well as more accommodation in the area. There are also details of where one should be able to find ringing on the Friday evening and a menu of the onsite catering.

Although I don't think I'm quite well enough yet for a chicken thigh bap and a side of guacamole!

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Wednesday 17th April 2024

A Wednesday with a difference. Josh was very excited about going on a school trip to Trinity Park along with lots of other schools in the area, whilst this evening Alfie was playing football, but instead of the usual training a friendly match had been fixed up. It was certainly a useful exercise for our goalkeeper son as shot after shot was put in his direction from a very talented opposition and although they were heavily defeated he made a lot of great saves, as well as some good passing, as is expected from the modern GK. He and his teammates also got to play in most weather conditions known to the UK as this evening we experienced sunshine, rain, hail and apparently a rainbow (it was behind me according to Alfred), all accompanied by the cold wind that has been prevalent over the last two or three days. Incredibly AJM imparted that he "sort of" enjoyed it!

They were perfect conditions for ringing in fact, but the under-10s fixture was later in the day than their training normally is and so there was no chance of either of us getting to Pettistree, where the weekly session was proceeded by a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor rung in memory of Woolpit ringer Alastair McArthur - our thoughts are with Chris and his family.

I imagine the practice that followed was productive and featured it's normal eclectic range of methods and was hopefully followed by a drink in The Greyhound on this Wednesday with a difference.

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Tuesday 16th April 2024

Practice at Ufford.Ufford this evening for another productive practice that myself and Peter Harper briefly ran as Ringing Master Kate Eagle needed to take a work call. It was a session that saw the usual learners from Bredfield and Hollesley continue their super progress as well as Anne Buswell calling a 120 of Plain Bob Doubles. Like so many others she doesn't call much, but as she showed tonight she is perfectly assured at it. Perhaps generally throughout ringing we ought to be sharing out the conducting duties more often.

Across the county at another eight-bell tower that practices on a Tuesday, the session at Offton was preceded by a quarter-peal as it regularly is. On this occasion it was a 1250 of Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Superlative and Yorkshire Surprise Major composed by the conductor Brian Whiting.

I expect they also had a very productive practice afterwards.

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Monday 15th April 2024

The towers of St Mary-le-Tower and St Lawrence in the evening sunshine today.Today was a fairly challenging day of weather with high winds and more rain, but as I arrived in Ipswich for the weekly practice on Suffolk's heaviest ring of bells, the towers of St Mary-le-Tower and St Lawrence were bathed in lovely evening sunshine as the front eight at the former rang out.

It was a nice start to a night where we were a little short on numbers, but still rang some Stedman Caters and Yorkshire Surprise Royal, whilst it was fun to have a go at London (No.3) Surprise Royal again.

And although we were missing some regulars, we welcomed back Graham Ridgway after a couple of months in New Zealand that also took in ringing in a show of how welcoming the ringing family is - how many other hobbies/crafts allow you to join in with a local group on the other side of the world in such a way?

Whilst we were ringing on one twelve, former Exning learner Jimmy Yeoman was achieving on another across the country at Birmingham Cathedral as he conducted a peal on that number for the first time. Not 'just' to Yorkshire or Cambridge like most of the rest of us who have called a peal on twelve (mine was the latter in 2006 with a straightforward Rod Pipe composition), but rather to a much more complicated composition from the famous son of Grundisburgh of Avon Delight, Bristol, Rigel and Strathclyde Surprise Maximus. Well done Jimmy on yet another impressive achievement!

Back here in his home county, a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major was rung on handbells in Moats Tye, which one imagines ought to feature in an edition of The Ringing World in the coming weeks, but the latest issue arrived with us today with an obituary for Jean Nixon, a lovely lady and ringer who I had the pleasure of ringing with on Rambling Ringers and regularly in Staffordshire when I lived and rang in the Midlands.

Nothing specifically Suffolk-related though and my efforts this evening won't contribute to any future content in the RW, but I still enjoyed it as well as joining my fellow ringers in the Halberd Inn afterwards. A lovely way to end an evening that began with those towers bathed in evening sunshine.

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Sunday 14th April 2024

Plans for the bottom of the tower at Woodbridge. Plans for the bottom of the tower at Woodbridge.
Plans for the bottom of the tower at Woodbridge

When we entered St Mary-the-Virgin church in Woodbridge this morning, we were greeted by a stand exhibiting proposed plans to improve the facilities in the church and at St Mary's House, which has hosted at least one South-East District ADM that I've been to. In the church itself the work seems to be around the north door and at the bottom of the tower which includes a toilet, hopefully offering this amenity for the ringers on Tuesday evenings, whilst I did wonder if a hatch or trapdoor was planned in case the bells ever need taking down and brought back. These are just proposals at the moment and I imagine it'll take quite a long time for it to happen if it does, but all being well not too long.

The plans prompted me to wonder how feasible it would be to lower the ringing chamber as a gallery ring to help make the ringers more visible and make it less of a climb, but of course we would also lose what is in my opinion the best view in Suffolk when ringing a bell as I believe it is ringing from the tenor box here and which I got to do today as all eight were rung again. The sound of the tenors ringing out over the Market Hill as they were when we arrived is a lovely sound and I'm glad to say happening more often as this band of many learners from the Platinum Jubilee and Ring for the King develop, I imagine benefitting further from their outing to Cambridge yesterday.

Following the service which we stayed for, it was then a fairly mundane afternoon of housework and shopping for us whilst others were being more interesting from a ringing perspective. There was a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor rung on the ground-floor six at Chediston and well done to Ann-Malena Webb, Betty Baines and David Webb on ringing their first quarter-peal of Rochester Treble Bob Minor in the 1320 rung at Redgrave. Well done also to the entire band who rang their and the Guild's first peal of Jowkin Surprise Major in the second-Sunday attempt at Aldeburgh and congratulations to two of the SGR's stalwarts Mary Dunbavin and Richard Rapior.

Mary was celebrating sixty years of peal-ringing, with the first of her now 1688 peals (thank you to Andrew Craddock and his superb Pealbase for that!) rung on 21st March 1964 at Higham Ferrers in Northamptonshire. She has always been so willing to help with a peal when she can - hence she is third in the list of ringers I've rung peals with at 189 - as well other aspects of ringing and been an important part of the second-Sunday peal attempts which have long been a beacon of high-standard peal-ringing in the county.

Meanwhile, Richard was ringing his three hundredth peal on his local bells. Mr Rapior has long been a good Surprise Major ringer and in his three hundred in the tower where he is also Ringing Master he has rung countless different treble-dodging Major methods, but he is also a really nice guy, always polite, cheery and encouraging - I don't think I've ever heard him say anything critical about anyone! He is very modest too, which may be why he hasn't mentioned that according to Pealbase today's 5088 was also his five hundredth peal for the Guild!

My five hundredth peal for the Guild is the next peal-ringing landmark that I am due to reach with 'just' fifteen to go. Hopefully I'll get there, but I wonder if I'll reach that before Woodbridge's ringers get a toilet at the bottom of the tower!

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Saturday 13th April 2024

Without a match for Alfie and no ringing on that we could get to practically, it was the most leisurely of Saturday mornings for a long, long time. Indeed, I had a lay-in until 10.30am, which I can't remember the last time I was able to do! It allowed for a gentle perusing of Ringing Forums as prompted by my weekly email from them, although there was still no copy of The Ringing World to enjoy.

Bardwell.In theory we could've gone to the North-West District Practice at Bardwell, but we wouldn't have been able to spend enough time at the 11cwt eight before leaving again for our only engagement of the day, which was going to watch Ipswich Town's latest home fixture and the usual pre-match socialising with ringers. A meal was enjoyed with Ufford Ringing Master Kate Eagle at the Mermaid before bumping into Offton ringer Caroline Goodchild at the stadium and then having a drink with former St Mary-le-Tower RM Simon Rudd in the Fanzone.

Debenham.Simon was fresh from having circled the tower at Debenham to peals with the 5024 of Bristol Surprise Major he conducted from the second and followed the 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough with his journey back to Norfolk, but we delayed our return home for a special treat for the boys and to be honest us too! It is now usual for the ITFC players to very kindly sign autographs for and have pictures with fans waiting outside post-match, sometimes up to an hour and a half after the games finish. Such dedication is to be admired as I'm not sure that I'd want to hang around for an hour and a half after I'd finished work, but it means so much to the youngsters especially and the boys had been constantly asking if we could do the same. Frankly it is less appealing in the depths of winter, particularly when relying on someone else driving us back as we usually are, but in lovely spring warmth and early evening sunshine and with this likely to be the last opportunity of the 2023-24 season to do it, we gathered with hundreds of others outside the players' entrance to meet the footballing heroes, with thanks to mother-in-law Kate for hanging around for the boys to meet their favourites.

Everyone happy, we did go home eventually and enjoyed a leisurely evening to follow-on from that leisurely morning.

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Friday 12th April 2024

Well done to Mary Oliver-Barratt on ringing her first quarter-peal on a working bell in the 1260 of four Doubles methods at Great Barton, following on from her first QP at the same tower last year.

Framsden.Without even this week's edition of The Ringing World arriving with us, it also gives me something ringing-related to write about today bar it being precisely a month until it is due to be Bell Sunday and the tenuous link of celebrity ringer Timmy Mallett being mentioned on the radio and the even more tenuous link of the villagers of Framsden announcing their plans to reopen the old Doberman pub under its original name of The Greyhound, precisely six months after I mentioned plans to sort out the floor in the tower at St Mary's church may see all eight being rung there and potentially going hand-in-hand with the pub reopening!

Otherwise though, it was a quiet day from a ringing perspective with the main action being me picking mother-in-law Kate, the boys' Great Granny, their Grandad Ron and his sister up from Ipswich after a coach trip to the Netherlands and subsequently hosting Ufford's Ringing Master for a cuppa and tales of Holland.

Thank you to Mary Oliver-Barratt therefore on giving me something ringing-related to write about today and well done again!

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Thursday 11th April 2024

Theberton. Clopton. Falkenham. Felixstowe.

I noticed today that a link to the North-East District Striking Competition rules has been added to their page on this website and it is a timely reminder that all being well striking competition season locally is about to begin. Indeed, a month today the NE and the South-East Districts are both slated to hold theirs at Theberton and Clopton respectively and whilst I can't see mention at the moment on What's On about competitions in the North-West or South-West Districts, the intention is that just a week later the Guild 6-Bell and 8-Bell competitions will be reunited on one day for the first time for five years, with the planned venues being Falkenham and Felixstowe.

Pretty much every aspect of ringing seems to motivate grumbling from someone. Peals are too long for some. Quarters are too short for others. Outings involve too much travel for a number. Open days are the perfect breeding ground for bad ringing in the opinion of those who don't like them. Weddings don't pay enough for the time and effort required according to ringers reluctant to ring for such occasions. All have elements of truth to them I suppose, but without all these aspects then ringing would struggle to hold the attention of as many as it does.

Striking competitions also have their detractors and again I can see the reasoning behind their complaints. They just miss the point of what striking competitions are all about. Yes St Mary-le-Tower win a lot, but not as much as people think. There is some crossover of team-members, but again not as much is often thought, certainly as much as there used to be and only to help maximise the number of ringers who can take part - there's no point having five enthusiastic learners keen to participate but unable to because one of their regular fellow bandmembers is already ringing for another tower where they also regularly ring at. There will be nerves (even after all the ones I've rung in I still get a bit nervous when I set off in a competition piece), but they aren't scary occasions. Judges are there to judge what is the best piece of ringing but not the ringers - indeed the expectation is that they offer advice or 'constructive criticism' and are there to help. Indeed the whole experience is there to help and it has been wonderful to see new bands entering in recent years. Ultimately these aren't professional sporting events, they're just a fun way of getting folk to concentrate on striking and a good way of getting people together in an informal atmosphere. And this year on some really nice, easy-going bells. Please do enter a band if you can and enjoy the occasion!

Today was altogether quieter from a ringing perspective than God willing those days will be as a quarter-peal attempted at Horringer actually was too short as instead 216 changes of Stedman Triples were rung to celebrate yesterday's 93rd birthday of Don Kirk.

That was at least more than we were doing as I stayed at home with the boys whilst Ruthie practiced with her choral colleagues. Hopefully we'll get to practice some ringing too in the near future in case we're asked to ring in some of those striking competitions!

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Wednesday 10th April 2024

I still vividly recall a decade ago watching a tiny baby boy sleeping in his little green vest, twitching every now and then from our clinical, sterile environment looking out from Ipswich Hospital over the north-east of the town. Going from that moment straight to this, it seems difficult to equate that fragile being to the boy who turned ten today who has almost forged a life for himself. A popular character in the football team he plays in goal for, it appears also good at cross-country running and quick-witted, but kind-hearted. God willing it is a good foundation for him growing up to contribute positively to society and those around him.

 The cake Ruthie made for Alfie's birthday.His big day was celebrated with present opening, takeaway pizza and watching the film Wonka on TV before being rounded off in near-perfect style by going to watch Ipswich Town playing at Portman Road, the only thing letting the celebrations down being the 0-0 result against our visitors Watford. Still, it was a lovely day and a lovely evening out reminding us of how blessed we are to have all three boys who were together tonight.

A couple of ringers enjoying pre-match refreshment in the Fanzone.One thing Alfred hasn't taken to - yet at least - is ringing, but the exercise again noted his birthday as the quarter-peal at Pettistree was very kindly dedicated to him and although our attendance at the footy meant we couldn't make ringing on the ground-floor six, we were in the presence of ringers. Not mother-in-law Kate who couldn't make it on this occasion, but we met with my brother Chris and St Peter Mancroft Norwich Ringing Master Simon Rudd in the Fanzone pre-match and the latter at half-time on a day that Simon also rang in a peal of Cornwall Surprise Major at Henley.

And a day when we celebrated the tenth anniversary of that tiny baby. Happy Birthday Alfie!

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Tuesday 9th April 2024

The opportunity to be the talk of the fashion world presented itself today with the announcement of a new range of Suffolk Guild clothing. If you would like to be at the forefront of this movement for the ages then it is a relatively straightforward process that is just a few clicks away from this website!

There was no sharing of mine or Ruthie's fashion prowess in any ringing chambers today with Ufford practice cancelled due to a lack of numbers, but resident Suffolk ringers were busier beyond our borders. Phil & Liz Orme were particularly busy down in London, with not only a peal of Bristol Surprise Major at Spitalfields but also a quarter-peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus, Zanussi Surprise Maximus and Stedman Cinques spliced at St Paul's Cathedral and in North Yorkshire six Scases rang a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles on the 9cwt six of Scalby in celebration of Tracey and Mervyn's son Alex's wedding yesterday. Congratulations Alex!

Such ringing in the future might offer the opportunity to model the Guild's fashionistas!

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Monday 8th April 2024

St Mary-le-Tower.Across North America the most watched total eclipse of the sun was occurring, complete with live streaming so that we could all watch it as it happened. I find these things fascinating and I did take in the build-up, but I missed the actual eclipse as I needed to get into Ipswich for the weekly practice at St Mary-le-Tower.

I'm glad that I did too, with Lucy Williamson running the session for the first time and doing really well with quite a lot of regulars away due to work, pleasure and illness. As is so often the case when short on numbers though, that offered up opportunities. This evening those opportunities were particularly fruitful for George Heath-Collins, David Lugg and Sue Williamson as we rang Plain & Little Bob Royal spliced, Plain Hunt on Eleven and Stedman Caters (the last attempt of which was particularly well rung) amongst other stuff, including three leads of Bristol Surprise Major on the back eight which improved as it went along and was very enjoyable.

And it was all topped off by a drink at the Halberd Inn which was also very enjoyable.
Nothing to eclipse events in North America though.

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Sunday 7th April 2024

Each year I aim to arrange a peal on or near the boys' birthdays of an appropriate number of changes and/or methods and of course each year makes that increasingly challenging from a ringing perspective. Wednesday is the tenth anniversary of Alfie's birth and so I was looking for a 5010, ten methods or both. Last year, the three boys all got peals of an appropriate number of sixteen, nine and seven Surprise Minor methods for Mason, Alfred and Josh's birthdays respectively, with all three needing rearranging after initial losses in amongst the not inconsiderable time needed to arrange the twelve-bell peals I was arranging for the Guild's centenary, whilst the eldest's seventeenth birthday in January was best served in the circumstances by a 5040 of seventeen Surprise Minor methods, so ideally I wanted to do something else for this one. However, long-term planning during the football season has become extremely difficult, with AJM often having matches arranged at short notice and Ipswich Town's success meaning that fixtures are rearranged for TV coverage just a few weeks beforehand.

So it was with arranging one for Alfie this year. Weekends are usually best of course and I did briefly consider organising it for the Easter weekend, but notwithstanding how busy that got for us, it is tricky to arrange peals over a few days when often towers don't ring for some of it and many peal-ringers can get booked up for special attempts. Next weekend more football is planned at Portman Road and so this weekend long seemed ideal. Except for the local derby against Norwich. For all the anxiety that it would turn out just as it did turn out, amongst the current enthusiasm for the Tractor Boys I wanted to tune in for that and it was pretty much certain it would be moved for Sky TV. It was just to when and that wasn't confirmed until only a month ago. That didn't leave time to arrange anything too ambitious like ten Major methods spliced or a 5010 of Stedman Caters or Cinques or anything like that and so I immediately approached Stephen Pettman about what would be possible with a suitable length on eight and he came back with the idea of an Alliance method which due to the different length of their leads would fit in with a 5010 without any funny starts, amenable as I am to those too.

Grundisburgh.Therefore I set about organising a band, relatively confident that I could get enough from the large pool of great eight-bell ringers in Suffolk and just beyond, until it became apparent that unbeknown to me Ben Keating was also fixing up a peal attempt at Southwold! On top of that, I was aware of others who were going for a quarter-peal attempt at St Mary-le-Tower, but in the end - in an exhibition of the strength in depth of the county's ringing abilities - I had got a great band together at Grundisburgh for what turned out to 2 hours and 55 minutes of some super ringing as we successfully rang a 5010 of Yorkshire Alliance Major. As the name suggests, this is based on the Surprise method of the same moniker with the only difference being that when the treble gets to the back it does cat's ears (point eights, two blows in sevenths and another point eights) instead of dodge-lay-dodge which has the effect of taking the half-lead dodges out and reducing the length of the lead. Inevitably there was the occasional trip as people added taken out dodges, but they were immediately rectified and in between, the striking and rhythm was of a good standard. Mr P did a typically grand job of conducting, I got to ring round the front for a change and we had a drink in The Dog across the green, with The Turks Head closed (hopefully) temporarily.

Meanwhile, I was delighted to see that the peal at Southwold and QP at St Mary-le-Tower were both successful, as were the 1288 of Grandsire Triples at Halesworth and 1272 of Oxford Treble Bob Minor at Rougham and at Bardwell well done to Max Thomson, Marion Knight-Dixon and Wayne Thomson on ringing their first of Coronation and to Marion on conducting it on a busy day of ringing within our borders.

Earlier I had rung at the aforementioned heaviest ring of bells in the county for the morning worship and after refreshment at Costa Coffee picked Ruthie up from St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge to find her chatting with The Reverend Tom Mumford, the vicar from whence I had come! He had been to the service there as he was having a day off and I'm now looking forward to having a day off peal arranging!

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Saturday 6th April 2024

Suffolk Guild AGM Day. A day I have been approaching with a sense of dread.

Not due to proceedings in Stowmarket I hasten to add. Rather events just over thirty miles away in Norwich where Ipswich Town were playing their local rivals. It is a fixture the Tractor Boys haven't won since 2009 and we haven't won on their patch for eighteen years. Pre-children, pre-marriage, even pre-blog. I still hadn't become SGR Ringing Master since we last won in Norfolk. Even in this incredible season, we still couldn't win at Portman Road and today our record at Carrow Road continued with a disappointing 1-0 defeat.

Stowmarket.Still, as it has done so many times over the last twenty years or so, ringing provided a respite to the disappointment as we immediately set off from the home of Ruthie's sister Clare and her fiancé Chris where we'd watched the footy and headed towards the county's newest ten. Unfortunately not in time to ring on them though, with the service touch just starting as we arrived.

Members queuing for food at St Peter's Hall before the AGM. Tea in St Peter's Hall. Order of service. Tea in St Peter's Hall. Sitting down for the service.  AGM in St Peter and St Mary's church at Stowmarket. The top table at the 2024 AGM. Christine Knight speaks at the AGM.  A relaxing AGM for some!  Post AGM.

Nonetheless, we appreciated the lovely service led by The Reverend Richard Stretch and enjoyed the tea provided afterwards in St Peter's Hall, with a vast choice of tasty curries (I particularly enjoyed the pheasant one!), chilli con carnes, jacket potatoes and quiches followed by an array of scrumptious puddings that raises the bar for the South-East District who are lined up to hold the 2025 AGM on Saturday 26th April. Even the meeting back in St Peter and St Mary's church was pleasant as some of us relaxed on the sofas (some more than others!) at the back during what must surely be the shortest Guild AGM on record at less than forty minutes long in what was an extremely straightforward bit of business indicative of what I've long said about these occasions in the modern age when so much is already debated, discussed and dealt with online and via email beforehand. Those meetings of hours and hours from years gone by seem to be a thing of the past.

That's not to say that nothing was sorted. The Norman Tower won the St Edmunds' Clapper and it was announced that there is no SGR Social planned this year for various reasons, whilst the Guild Striking Competitions due to be held at Falkenham and Felixstowe on Saturday 18th May were advertised. Meanwhile, due to entirely understandable reasons, Katharine Salter intends to stand down as Ringing Master at next year's AGM, whilst this year Kate Gill's five years as Secretary came to an end, Chairman Mark Ogden officially gave up the role of Annual Report Editor as he warned he would at last year's AGM in Beccles and after an incredible twenty years in the job, Christine Knight signed off as Peal Secretary.

Thank you to Kate, one of those poor officers who were thrown into the unprecedented circumstances when the pandemic hit but helped guide the Guild through those uncharted waters, as well as being one of those who organised the superb Centenary Dinner last year. I think you can be extremely satisfied with your five-year stint Kate!

Christine also deserves much thanks for her service to the Guild over the last two decades. Peal-ringing is an important element of the Guild, giving a window to others both now and in the future looking back on what ringing is being is being done by its members, as well helping progress their ringing. Therefore, its recording and analysis is also important. More tangibly though, peal fees bring funds to the Guild, a charity organisation whose purpose is to support Suffolk's ringers and for which finances help them do that through grants for bell projects, training, events, etc. Collecting the peal fees then is important, but as someone who has often needed nudging to send them, I have been most appreciative of Christine's gentle and friendly reminders. Indeed, all but one of the fifty peals I have conducted for the SGR have required me to send fees to Mrs Knight, so if and when I call another one I imagine it'll feel quite strange sending them to someone else!

As it stands though, that someone else hasn't materialised yet as no one has volunteered or been put forward for the role, as is also the case for the Report Editor, although Treasurer Tim Hart is standing in as Peal Secretary and Mark will just hold his current roll for the moment. Hopefully people can be found for these important jobs in an organisation that I think does pretty well at filling vacancies when looking at other comparative associations, guilds and societies. You would have a lot of support, not least from Christine and Mark, so please do consider taking one of these roles up if your circumstances allow. Just leaving it to them to pick the pieces up isn't really an option with Christine having earnt her 'retirement' after two decades and Mark a very busy man, what with being the Chairman and Young Ringers' Coordinator for the SGR and is now heading up the CCCBR's new Ringing 2030 Environments workgroup, as outlined in Central Council President Tina Stoecklin's latest blog which appears in The Ringing World that arrived with us this morning. An edition also includes an extract from the 5th April 1974 issue about raising funds for repairing the tower at Bildeston and a lovely obituary to Muriel Page written by Robert Beavis with help from numerous others.

Muriel may have been appreciative that with more time to play with than expected after today's proceedings, we joined a sizeable crowd in going to The Walnut, an almost TARDISesque establishment with a beer menu. The perfect way to round the day off!

Elsewhere within our borders, a lost peal attempt at Horringer did at least spawn a successful quarter-peal of Bristol Surprise Major whilst at Rushmere St Andrew a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles was successfully rung.

However, the more astute of you will have noticed that despite attending the AGM we didn't actually manage any ringing, but that is just one element of the day which is mainly a fantastic opportunity to socialise with friends, which we did today before the service, during tea and then in the pub. Please do book the date for next year's and support an event with a bad name but which certainly isn't one to dread anymore.

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Friday 5th April 2024

Henley. Ringing at Henley at the South-East District Surprise Major Practice. Ringing at Henley at the South-East District Surprise Major Practice. Ringing at Henley at the South-East District Surprise Major Practice.

More Surprise Major focus this evening, on this occasion with the South-East District at Henley, where the refurbished gallery is - in my humble opinion at least - a vast improvement on what went before. The wooden balcony and frame that once separated the ringing chamber from the church is now completely glass and makes the ringing chamber light and airy and was a great setting for a session that saw me begin by standing behind to Jenny Scase ringing Bristol and then featured Superlative, Cambridge, Yorkshire and spliced, as well as Cornwall which saw Stephen 'Podge' Christian and me seamlessly swap, causing confusion for all concerned! Well done to SE Ringing Master Hal Meakin on another great practice.

Elsewhere in Suffolk meanwhile, there was a 1320 of eleven Doubles methods rung at Tostock and well done to all the band who rang their first quarter-peal of Single Court Bob Minor in the 1272 at Wissett. With some good Single Court Bob Minor focus.

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Thursday 4th April 2024

Alfie's day was memorable as he met one of the Ipswich Town players when men's defender Cameron Burgess visited the football holiday session that he was at. Not only did our son get to meet the Australian international, but he also got to chat with him and ask him questions (his favourite ITFC player is Leif Davis and his hardest match so far was Monday's for those interested) and even had his shirt autographed. Although it means he can't wash it now! Still, it made his day and it was very exciting for him!

Whilst Ruthie practiced with her choral colleagues this evening, it can't be said the day was as exciting for the rest of the household, with no ringing done by us and indeed there was none recorded on BellBoard from anyone in Suffolk or by the Guild.

At least Alfie's day was memorable.

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Wednesday 3rd April 2024

Pettistree.It's the Easter school holidays and bizarrely (or perhaps not as they're ours?) it has become a typical treat for the boys on Wednesday evenings during the holidays to go to Pettistree's weekly practice and particularly The Greyhound afterwards. Therefore, after Alfie had done football training we collectively travelled to the ground-floor six for a session that was short on numbers, including quite a few Surprise Minor ringers. Yet still London and a touch of spliced were rung as well as call-changes and Doubles of the Grandsire and Plain Bob varieties for John and Sam to treble and/or bong behind to.

Afterwards Alfred and Josh's wish was fulfilled as we popped to the pub next door with their Granny Kate and Hollesley ringer Sam, whilst the practice was preceded with a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung for one of our absentees Mary Garner.

Elveden. Hopton.That wasn't the only birthday being celebrated with a QP in Suffolk today though. Former Guild Chairman Brian Whiting's was with an impressive 1280 of eleven Surprise Major methods spliced at Elveden, whilst the birthday of outgoing SGR Peal Secretary Christine Knight and that of Anita Rose were marked with a 1312 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Hopton.

Meanwhile, ringing further afield announced good news from former Burgh ringer Annie Brechin as the peal of Lessness Surprise Major rung in Scotland - where she now lives and rings - at Alloa celebrated her engagement to Edmund. Congratulations Annie and Happy Birthday Mary, Brian, Christine and Anita!

All very upbeat news on an upbeat day, especially for our boys with their holiday treat!

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Tuesday 2nd April 2024

British Summer Time began over the weekend and definitely had an effect on the evening I experienced today as I went out to ringing practice for the first time since the clocks were put forward.

Ufford.Initially, whilst distracted - like just about every Ipswich Town fan today I imagine - by rewatching the highlights of last night's football at Portman Road and that final goal in particular, it caught me off guard that mother-in-law Kate and Susanne Eddis arrived to pick me up for Ufford practice in daylight, as I lost track of time. And having hastily got my shoes on and leapt into the waiting car, I got to the 13cwt eight to witness Daniel's attempt to take the ringing chamber clock off the wall so it could be changed in line with BST, only for it to somehow be flung halfway across the room! Doesn't time fly... No one was hurt and once it had been put back together - hands and all - we were able to continue with a productive session, especially for Margaret Weeks, who continued her recovery with her first proper ringing since injuring herself in December. Nothing too long, but instead short bursts, culminating in some Plain Hunt on Five.

It was also a useful hour and a half for Peter & Jane Harper's daughter Lizzie who was visiting her parents and joined her father tonight for some bonging behind to Plain Hunt on Seven and trebling to some Plain Bob Doubles, whilst we also rang a 120 of Stedman Doubles and a course of Norwich Surprise Minor only ended by a phonecall on the Ringing Master's phone that she thought might be for work but transpired to be her other daughter! There were also call-changes that briefly needed calling by colours instead of numbers! It was a fun night as British Summer Time gets going!

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Easter Monday 1st April 2024

April Fools' Day produced its usual array of suspiciously daft looking stories on what one social media commentator noted is the only day when we don't take everything online at face value. Bellringers came up with announcements throughout the morning with varying degrees of credibility, from reports that the Swan Tower in Perth which holds a ring of sixteen had twisted in record Australian temperatures, to plans to ring the twelve at St Albans Cathedral from the chancel with no rope guides to the much thought of ten at Abergavenny being augmented.

It was also Easter Monday, a day when peals on church bells return in numbers. Indeed, there were almost as many peals rung on church bells today as there had been over the previous four days combined. There are usually notable peals rung too and this year's Easter Monday was no different with a number that on any other day would be the clear headline act. Only just beyond our borders the longest ever performance on the bells of Great St Mary in Cambridge was rung with a 10300 of Stedman Cinques as part of the celebrations for the three hundredth anniversary year of the Society of Cambridge Youths, by a band that featured Suffolk links with a couple of Pipes and former Bures ringer John Loveless. Down in Winchester, a 5096 of Bristol Surprise Fourteen was rung at the Cathedral with one-time Exning learner Jimmy Yeoman on the second and elsewhere there were more peals of Stedman Cinques at the cathedrals of Worcester and St Paul's in London and also at Wimborne Minster.

There were no peals in our county, but there was a quarter-peal. Well done to Claire Haynes on ringing her first of Grandsire Doubles in the 1280 rung on the 9cwt six of Rushmere St Andrew!

At Portman Road today.We weren't contributing anything to a busy day of ringing though, not even at the weekly practice at St Mary-le-Tower. For as that was already underway, we were leaving Portman Road after another thrilling match and one of the biggest roars I've ever experienced here, with Ipswich Town beating one of the other four teams in this extraordinary promotion race, Southampton, with just about the final kick of the game. It topped off a lovely afternoon that began with our usual pre-match meal at the Mermaid with mother-in-law and Ufford Ringing Master Kate Eagle and continued onto the Fanzone where we were greeted by Offton ringer Caroline Goodchild working at the club and once I'd taken Alfie to First Aid for a grazed arm, we had a drink with my brother and Norman Tower ringer Chris and Norwich ringer Simon Rudd before a fantastic match in an incredible atmosphere.

Ipswich Town top of the league? It's no April Fool!

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Easter Sunday 31st March 2024

Easter Sunday is a special day and ringing plays a big part. Many towers have stood silent for the last seven days, with practices cancelled. Today, bells across the county broke that silence and rang out to mark the celebratory nature of today following the sombre days that preceded it. At Woodbridge the sound is further enhanced because throughout Lent they have been half-muffled, but this morning they rang out completely open and even better all eight were ringing. It is always lovely to hear all the bells here ringing and it also affords me the opportunity to experience what in my humble opinion is the best view when ringing a bell in Suffolk, looking down the River Deben.

Afterwards, the boys and I joined the service downstairs where the children decorated eggs and butterfly shapes before us adults then enjoyed a glass of Prosecco in St Mary's House ahead of a day where we popped round Ruthie's mother Kate's for more chocolate and then returned home for a roast dinner and some red wine.

Henley.Other ringers in the county were busier in the exercise though. The aforementioned Mrs Eagle had already rung in an early morning quarter-peal at Pettistree by the time we saw her and the boys' grandad Ron, whilst former South-East District Ringing Master Jenny Scase celebrated the fiftieth anniversary anniversary of her first peal with a 5050 of Plain Bob Major rung on the third at Henley - the same method, bell and tower that she rang on 31st March 1974 that also marked a notable moment in the county's history, Congratulations Jenny, who has been invaluable to ringing in the Guild, not just as SE RM, but also at Debenham where her energetic running of the practice is wonderful to behold! She has helped many ringers in this corner of the SGR.

However, the headline act in ringing within our borders was a first quarter-peal for Ricky Paterson in the 1260 of Grandsire Doubles rung on the 7cwt front six of the ten at Stowmarket, highlighting one of the benefits of augmenting a heavy eight. Well done Ricky on what I hope is the first of many!

It was a special landmark on a special day.

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Holy Saturday 30th March 2024

We finished our fleeting visit to the North-West of England with a welcome breakfast at the Red Lion across Swinton from our overnight accommodation of the local Premier Inn before we set off back to Suffolk. After our frustrating journey up the M6 yesterday, we decided to try another way back along the more picturesque M62 and then ultimately down the A1(M) and bar a considerable hold-up on the former just outside Huddersfield, it was generally a lot smoother trip than twenty-four hours earlier. It also allowed for new possibilities for our game of spotting football stadiums and towers with bells. Nothing for the footy-mad boys this time, but plenty for Ruthie and me, such as the 12cwt six at Darrington in West Yorkshire which is memorable for no other reason than it being the first tower of the 1995 Rambling Ringers Tour which is fondly remembered holiday of my youth and the 32cwt twelve of Grantham in Lincolnshire that we're yet to ring on but are apparently very nice and hang in a tall, distinctive spire-topped tower that I imagine can be seen for many miles around.

The boys were delighted to be back in time for the Gladiators Grand Final (as opposed to the less grand final that I must have missed) and Ruthie was pleased to have enough time to have a cuppa of tea and the opportunity to prepare for singing at Great Bealings this evening, but there was no time for ringing and nor was there any noted on BellBoard from the county we were returning to. Indeed, it was very quiet on BB generally with only three peals rung nationwide, all on handbells, but all in keeping with the numbers on previous Holy Saturdays, even pre-pandemic.

I don't think we missed too much ringing whilst we were travelling down from the North-West therefore.

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Good Friday 29th March 2024

Last Friday we were on the south coast, this Friday we were amongst the dark satanic mills and looming hills of the north-west of England.

Nothing to do with ringing this time, although there is a 25cwt ten, 6cwt and 17cwt eights in Blackburn where we found ourselves on this Good Friday. Instead all five of our household were here to watch Ipswich Town play the Lancashire town's men's football team for what was Alfie and Josh's first away match. The boys have been desperate to watch an away game, but tickets for the Tractor Boys' travelling support have been difficult to come by this season and so when the combination of a bank holiday fixture and late kick-off at a stadium where more away tickets than usual are available due to a smaller percentage of the home seats being filled allowed us the opportunity to get tickets, we felt we had to take that opportunity, despite the distance and logistical challenges!

One of those logistical challenges was when and how to travel there and back. The 5.30pm kick-off for Sky TV meant that it made sense to make the journey during the day, but also that any immediate return home would see us get back very late at night or even in the early hours of the following morning. Not desirable with young children. Some we knew were using the coaches laid on by the club, but those were of course coming straight back after full-time, so we decided against that, even if it would've taken the pressure of getting there off us. With works on the railways disrupting travel on the trains, public transport wasn't something we could rely on. Therefore, we chose to drive ourselves and book an overnight stay nearby for afterwards.

Thus started a long day which began with us leaving at 8am on a journey broken up only with a fuel-stop at Tesco on the edge of Stowmarket and a break for the usual things at Stafford services and accompanied with a game of spot the football stadium for the boys and spot the tower with bells for Ruthie and me. The former was sated with views of the grounds of Coventry City and Walsall, the latter with the familiar sightings of local landmarks like the towers of Elmswell and Woolpit either side of junction 47 of the A14, but also the be-spired tower of Ellington in Cambridgeshire and further spires at Denford in Northamptonshire and Coleshill in the West Midlands, whilst once through Spaghetti Junction, Aston provided a tick for both parties with Villa Park and the 24cwt twelve just yards apart and clearly visible from the motorway.

However, not unexpectedly, our travels were also accompanied with regular stoppages for traffic. Our SatNav suggested that we would arrive at our destination at about 12.30pm, but we finally parked the car outside the Golden Cup about twenty minutes walk from Ewood Park where the footy was being played (not quite the two minutes walk that the young chap obligingly taking payment for parking at the gate claimed it was!) at around 2.30pm.

Inside the stadium watching Blackburn Rovers and Ipswich Town.  The away Fanzone at Blackburn Rovers.
Ewood Park

Nonetheless, that was still in plenty of time for kick-off and gave us enough time to wander down to The Fernhurst where in a rather disorientating experience we were greeted by a pub full of ITFC fans and Greene King beers behind the bar! More refreshment was had in the away fanzone in the drizzle where we met up with some of Joshua's classmates and their parents (although unusually for a Town game these days, no other bellringers!) before watching the Tractor Boys win 1-0 to put them top of the Championship with a performance that wasn't their best and was incredibly nerve-wracking with the hosts having three goals disallowed!

In good cheer we exited and with the grey northern skies now black, travelled thirty miles to the Premier Inn in Swinton on the outskirts of Manchester where after a takeaway our tired family rested their weary heads.

On our travels up north before we passed the 14cwt six of Exning on the far western edge of the SGR, it was nice to hear the words 2 hours 38 minutes and 23 seconds into Wayne Bavin's show on BBC Radio Suffolk of the Right Reverend Martin Seeley the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and therefore President of the Guild about Easter. It was a welcome reminder of what this important weekend in the liturgical calendar is really about, but there was no ringing in the county on BellBoard to mark it.

Maybe there will be more ringing in Suffolk next Friday, whatever part of the country its ringers are in.

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Maundy Thursday 28th March 2024

Essex Association Ringing Master Andrew Kelso made national headlines today and even incurred the wrath of Nigel Farage. Many will recall that he judged the Suffolk Guild Striking Competitions with Brian Meads at Polstead and Lavenham in 2019 and he is a very good ringer, but it is in his role as the Medical Director at the NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board that he has been rather unfairly put at the centre of the type of controversy that could probably only have happened in the age of social media. For his 'crime' is to be a doctor warning that eating an entire chocolate Easter egg isn't very healthy and suggesting that people resist the temptation, but it seems he is now the epitome of the figurehead of the 'woke' left!

Josh's winning hamper!Hopefully no such headline-making from this blog and today's shouldn't enrage the right wing, left wing or any other wing as what God willing will be a lovely Easter weekend began with Josh winning a hamper in the seasonal raffle at school, me collecting Mason from his mum's and then picking Alfie and his classmate from another classmate's birthday party in Bredfield, whilst Ruthie sang for the Maundy Thursday Eucharist at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge.

A reminder of what this weekend is actually about rather more than chocolate eggs, whether you eat them whole or not!

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Wednesday 27th March 2024

Pettistree.When I arrived at Pettistree this evening, something had been suggested, as is quite often the case at the practice here. On this occasion it was St Augustine Bob Doubles. Now, despite ringing in a peal of 100 Doubles methods at Iken just over a decade ago (which was very much rung by the seat of my pants!), I'm not well up on the intricacies of this level of ringing with it's variations and different calls, so I'd never heard of it. I assumed it must be fiendishly difficult though judging by the concentrated faces and furrowed brows examining it's line on phones and paper, so I asked to see it too.

It transpires that it is Grandsire Doubles if you called a single at every lead, but of course this wasn't the major issue, although as we discovered in the trio of attempts at this across the session that does give scope for tripping people up. Rather, the trickier bit was applying the calls, which in this case was an Extreme, which is where the bells in first, seconds and fifths stay in place for two blows when it's called. The astute will recognise that this is what happens at a plain leadend of Plain Bob, but when you throw in what happens immediately either side of the leadend it isn't as simple as it sounds!

All of which highlights the rich tapestry of ringing. Not everyone has the opportunity to ring stuff on twelve or even spliced Surprise Minor or Major, but four determined inside ringers with someone who can plain hunt on the treble can give their brain a bit of a workout!

That wasn't all we rang of course, with the usual eclectic range from call-changes for Catherine to a touch of spliced Minor before Hollesley ringer Sam Shannon and Suffolk Guild Chairman Mark Ogden enjoyed a drink in The Greyhound and even serenaded a birthday cake on the adjacent table!

Earlier, either side of Alfie's football training I dropped Ruthie off at St Mary-the-Virgin church in Woodbridge and then picked her up for an extra choir practice in anticipation of what is planned to be a typically busy Easter of singing, all of which meant that as is the norm these days we couldn't ring in the pre-practice quarter-peal attempt of Ipswich Surprise Minor on the aforementioned ground-floor six.

The Barn Owl Ring.Unusually that was lost, but there was ringing some ringing success in the county today as a 1344 of Plain Bob Major was rung on The Barn Owl Ring in Norton, which notably was the first time that Simon Rudd had double-handed to a QP on towerbells. Well done Simon on what he said was quite a stressful task!

Although presumably not as stressful as ringing St Augustine Bob Doubles.

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Tuesday 26th March 2024

No practice at Ufford as it's Holy Week and so instead my evening was one of hunting for Easter eggs in Tesco and it looks like it was very quiet in Suffolk ringing today generally.

Stowmarket.God willing April ought to be busier, not least on Saturday 6th when Stowmarket is due to host the Guild's AGM Day. If you would like to ring in a quarter-peal before proceedings then please fill in the form on this website or contact Neal Dodge by email or via 07941 505 831 and if you would like the hot tea then please contact Jo Beever by email or 07773 392 979 before next Tuesday. Meanwhile, open ringing on the county's newest ten is planned from 2-3.30pm, followed by Evensong in the church, whilst the business meeting itself is due to be held at 6pm after the tea in the Church Hall. Please do come along and support it if you can. As usual I'm not going to make the meeting out to be exciting, but the easy, instant communication almost all the members and officers now enjoy, the taking of reports as read (unless of course something needs raising from them) and proposing and seconding ahead of the day of those up for election should mean that we no longer get a repeat of the marathon slogs that these once were many years ago. I hope as many members as possible are able to join in to participate in the democracy of the organisation that they pay a subscription to. Above all, it is a reason to get friends together.

Normally the first Saturday of the month would be a South-East District event, but sensibly they are moving theirs this month. Indeed, although I usually tell SE members to keep the first Saturday clear if possible as that will always be when their district ringing will be on, it is the first of three SE events that are penciled in for a different Saturday, with the (SE) Striking Competition moved to 11th May on account of a large proportion (I can think of nine or ten at least) of those involved potentially being at Portman Road for Ipswich Town men's team's last home match of their league season and the outing in July planned for North-East Essex slated for the 13th. This month there are also a trio of SE events lined up, including on the eve of the AGM when a Surprise Major Practice is planned to be held at Henley, whilst precisely three weeks later the intention is to revisit the 8cwt eight for another Kaleidoscope Practice and the Saturday before it is hoped to hold a practice on the easy-going six at Clopton from 10.30am-12.30pm.

The only other event noted on What's On for next month is the South-West District Practice intended to be held from 7-8.30pm on Saturday 27th at St Gregory in Sudbury, hoping to follow-up another apparently well-attended practice held at Kersey last Saturday whilst we had been in Portsmouth for the National 12-bell Striking Contest eliminator. On 15th June the plan is for the final of the contest to be held at Chilcompton in Somerset and its rural nature means that there are fewer amenities to hand. Therefore, they are asking that if anyone is planning on attending that they let them know by filling in a form that can be found on the event's website, along with a form for anyone who would like to help them host it by volunteering.

All being well then, not all days in the coming weeks need be as quiet as today!

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Monday 25th March 2024

Holy Week is traditionally a week when many church bells go silent. Various towers find something else to do, such as transferring their practice to a mini-ring or running a handbell session. St Mary-le-Tower's ringers usually use the opportunity to have the annual spring-clean of the famous old ringing chamber, but I've never actually gone along, even when I was Ringing Master here. In a house frequented by three boys who often cause a mess almost as soon as we've tidied, cleaning at home is quite the chore, so making a near twenty-mile round trip to specifically clean somewhere else after a day at work was hard to justify when money was tighter and/or it required leaving the Ruthie at home with the boys. Additionally, I am frankly rubbish at cleaning and so I've long suspected I would be more in the way than of any help.

A busy ring chamber at St Mary-le-Tower as the band spring-cleans.However, I do recognise the need for it to be done and for people to go along to do it and so when the important St Mary-le-Tower Society of Change Ringers AGM was cannily arranged for this evening, it would have been churlish not to head into Ipswich early to offer my help clutching a cloth and some disinfectant like someone unsure what drink to bring to a party. What greeted me as I arrived with Rosemary Caudle and her feather duster was a huge number of people already busying themselves in just about every conceivable nook and cranny of the room with polish and dusters, with people up ladders and climbing over the window seats. As I'd imagine, I was more a hindrance than a help and it justified my decision not to specially make the journey in previous years as I spent much of the time wandering around looking for things to do. That said, I did help to hang some of the pictures back up and it is wonderful to see how as a collective we care for our ringing chamber and that some do this every year! Like many reading this, I have been to hundreds of ringing chambers nationwide and by no means are all as fortunate to have such dedication to their upkeep.

The new pealboard. In the 'Stables' at the Halberd Inn preparing for the AGM.I was also pleased to see the new pealboard in the flesh following its collection from Southampton over the weekend. It records the 5042 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus we rang here last May for King Charles III's coronation and the intention for the vicar Reverend Tom Mumford to bless it at a service on Bell Sunday on 12th May was one of the items discussed after the spring-clean at the meeting chaired by Tom tonight in the 'Stables' at the Halberd Inn.

Much else was also discussed of course. Former regular on the 34cwt twelve Adrian Knights was remembered, with Ralph Earey perceptively commenting that Arnie would've appreciated having a ringers meeting in the pub! New bandmembers were elected, a revised constitution was robustly but politely and civilly debated, an update on the training bells project given and Peter Davies was deservedly given thanks and a gift for the invaluable work he does quietly and without fuss. Most notable was that Colin Salter has felt that he has had to step down as Ringing Master after twelve months. Circumstances, responsibilities and demands change rapidly when your Colin's age as most of us can testify, so it is entirely understandable, but it is a pity as he was doing much good, including the recent focus on Bristol Surprise Maximus , which I hope we can continue. Fortunately for us, David Potts is happy to step back into the role he only left last year, albeit just until the next AGM and he will be ably backed up by Ian Culham as Tower Captain and the good team of officers we are blessed to have here at the heaviest ring of bells in Suffolk.

Elsewhere, it was noticeable as it usually is every Holy Week how many quarters and peals were rung on private rings and handbells rather than church bells and that included within our borders where the only ringing noted on BellBoard was at Moats Tye where a QP was rung in hand of a 1376 of Plain Bob Major composed and conducted by Brian Whiting.

It is another excellent way for ringers to spend this Holy Week.

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Sunday 24th March 2024

A long journey when going away can seem quite an adventure with the anticipation of getting to your holiday at the other end and especially after yesterday's daylong frivolities, excitement and yes, beer, today could've been quite a long chore as we attempted to make that long journey back.

However, having decided to turn this into a family weekend away, this bright and sunny Sunday was the perfect way to recover from Saturday's excesses, beginning with a leisurely breakfast and then a swim with Kate and the boys in the pool at Langstone Quays Resort. Bags packed, we departed our lovely accommodation of the last couple of nights, paid a visit to Ron's daughter Rosie and her family at their home and then headed back to Portsmouth.

Portsmouth Cathedral from the boat. A ring of 6 in the Submarine Museum! A couple of ringers eying up where to put a mini-ring on the submarine! Spinnaker Tower (no bells!) and HMS Warrior.

Our ultimate destination was the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, a fascinating place that included a tour of a decommissioned submarine (which as you would expect is a cosy experience which would probably be the most inappropriate place to do handbell ringing!) and was reached from the Dockyard via a boat trip that allowed views of the city skyline which included the distinctive shape of the Cathedral Church of St Thomas of Canterbury where we were twenty-four hours earlier.

Eventually we did set off home after a lovely day of being a tourist and although it didn't involve any ringing we returned to a county where there was quite a bit of ringing, with four quarter-peals rung. Happy Birthday to Erika Clarke and well done to her on ringing her first QP of Grandsire Triples in the 1288 at Southwold, whilst a 1282 of Cambridge Surprise Royal was rung at The Norman Tower and 1260s of Minor and Doubles were rung at Rougham and Troston respectively.

Nice to read about those at the end of a Sunday that turned out better than it could've done!

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Saturday 23rd March 2024

Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral, HampshireIf at any point leading up to Ipswich's entry today into the National 12-bell Striking Contest in the eliminator at Portsmouth Cathedral anyone had asked me if I would be pleased if we got all twelve ringers together, were drawn to ring first, produced a reasonably good half-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus and didn't finish last, then I - and I suspect most of our band - would have emphatically said yes!

After we'd enjoyed a nice breakfast in the restaurant at Langstone Quays Resort overlooking a beautiful sunny scene across to the UK mainland and had very kindly been dropped off by Kate, Ron and the boys on their way to a day at the Dockyard, we were pleased to gradually meet up with nine others from the band, with the twelfth James Smith reassuringly messaging us via the band WhatsApp group to inform us that despite his train out of Waterloo breaking down, he was on his way. Having suffered the blow of an injured Amanda Richmond for our third entry in a row, it felt a bit of a win already to get everyone down there!

Gathered for the draw at Portsmouth Cathedral. Gathered for the draw at Portsmouth Cathedral. Draw being made. Ringing order at the Portsmouth Cathedral eliminator whilst representatives from each team gather just to the right.

At 11am, the busy chatter of ringing friends from across the country reunited was reduced to a hush as Tom Mack from the competition committee, Peter Sheppard of the local band and the Cathedral's Dean the Very Reverend Dr Anthony Cane approached the microphone in front of the big screen that was to relay images and sounds of the bells ringing. Introductions were made, safety measures imparted and then the draw for the ringing order was made, where the second part of my dream scenario was completed. Ringing first isn't really the very best position to ring, with setting everyone off quite daunting, going in cold straight from getting there not the ideal preparation for some and a perception that the judges' ears will be picking up faults more eagerly, although that latter negative is minimal if at all existent, especially when helped by the technology now available to them to ensure close finishes are not affected by any judging fatigue. However, any spot in the first three is far, far preferable to ringing in the last couple of slots as we did at The Norman Tower a couple of years ago, at least from a social perspective. An early start means that one can relax for the rest of the day and enjoy the ringing, company and beer.

Waiting on the gallery to go up and ring. The view from the gallery. Waiting to go upstairs to the gallery ahead of ringing. The ringing chamber at Portsmouth Cathedral. A view from the high seas! The next band waiting in the gallery to ring In Portsmouth Cathedral listening to the ringing. In Portsmouth Cathedral listening to the ringing.

With James having arrived after his difficult journey in, we gathered as instructed behind the welcome desk and were led up to the galley and then after a wait of a few minutes with our start time still a little way off, up to the ringing chamber. Usually all teams are offered the opportunity to visit the competition venue to practice in the weeks leading up to the contest, but it was decided this year that no teams would be given that chance, apart from the hosts of course. I can understand the reasons behind it, which include the environmental aspect and the potential of putting teams who would have to travel long distances (such as York in our group today) off from entering. The pre-competition visit is always something that I always enjoy, a day trip out that usually builds up the anticipation and it did mean that for most of our band we were stepping straight into an unfamiliar environment to compete. Likewise, although the 24cwt twelve here aren't any more oddstruck than you would expect at any ring of twelve, they are oddstruck in different ways to what we're used to at St Mary-le-Tower, as well as being noticeably lighter. We needed to hit the ground running, identifying any issues quickly and adjusting as we went along. Of course, this is simply what we have to do in any other striking competition that we enter, from the South-East District Competitions to The Ridgman Trophy and it was the same for all the teams, again bar the hosts. Besides, we still had a quarter of an hour to practice before we had to get into the test piece and we used that time to focus on the first lead, being brought round by Little Bob, before we gave the signal of the two trebles ringing two whole pulls and set off on our test piece, the result of which was - bar a brief kerfuffle I found myself involved in towards the end - a continually improving piece. Another tick for the dream scenario.

???? The bar looking predictably busy! ??? ?? ?? ?? ?? ??

Obviously we had to wait several hours for the final piece of that scenario to be realised, but once we greeted the Oxford band who followed us, we set about enjoying the hospitality on offer. And what hospitality! The locals are to be congratulated on their superb hosting of a challenging event. There was food and drink aplenty, as well as nearby pubs, a play area for the numerous children present and lots of information imparted via their website and an informative programme handed out on arrival. It was fantastic to catch up with familiar faces, such as Andy Blacklock, Alison Edmonds, Simon Edwards and David Hull from the York band, as well as Robin Hall from Oxford, Liz & Stuart Hutchieson and Anthony Cotton from Melbourne, Simon & Rebecca Ridley of the Cheltenham band, David Mattingley from the hosts who was serving at the bar (I spoke with him a few times!) and once of Suffolk Louis Suggett who was ringing the tenor for Wimborne, whilst I only got the chance of the briefest nods and greetings to people like one-time Ipswich ringer Ian Mills and Pealbase founder Drew Craddock who spoke at the SGR's 90th Anniversary Dinner in 2013. Meanwhile, it was lovely as always to spend the day with our bandmates during this shared experience, especially hearing the amusing tale of SE District Ringing Master Hal Meakin being "abandoned" in Southampton yesterday after he'd knocked on the wrong door to collect the latest addition to the impressive collection of pealbards on the walls of St Mary-le-Tower's ringing chamber.

Eventually the ringing came to an end and a short while later the judges John Fisher and our fellow Rambling Ringer Andrew Mills approached the microphone, by which point the boys and their grandparents had joined us after a fun day exploring The Mary Rose, HMS Victory and HMS Warrior. First up John gave comments which were positive about everyone, with the gist of ours being that it was a measured piece that set the tone, something I think we ought to be very pleased with.

After the comments, Andrew stepped up to give the results and this is where that final piece of that pleasing scenario fell into place, as we were placed eighth out of nine. Obviously we would've loved to have qualified, but although our success in the 2022 competition showed what we capable of, it usually takes time for bands to get established in the contest and so progress has to be our main aim at the moment. Although not qualifying when last time we did qualify doesn't sound like progress, when one considers where we came from, I think it is definitely helping our progress. Pre-pandemic and when we started preparing for the the 2020 contest that never happened, it was almost a running joke that when we rang Stedman Cinques it rarely came round and Surprise Maximus wasn't a regular occurrence. Now it is really unusual if we don't ring both on a Monday night and often on a Sunday morning and ring it well. As with striking competitions on all numbers, local, regional and national, the idea is that it isn't just those who ring in the competition who benefit, but rather that it filters down to everyone else they ring with. I believe that has certainly been the case at St Mary-le-Tower over the last five years.

Interesting too that 'Millsy' commented that he believed that all the ringing was better than that at the final at Surfleet in 2003 that he judged, which shows how far the competition has taken twelve-bell ringing generally as well as ourselves, which ultimately is the main aim of striking competitions rather than dividing teams into 'winners' and 'losers', along with being a jolly good day out. Hopefully we will continue our progress with an entry into the 2025 contest, because I believe it is doing us a lot of good and is a great advert for twelve-bell ringing (and general ringing) in Ipswich and Suffolk. Well done to Colin Salter and Ian Culham on leading us there and to all who rang and rang with us in our preparations, as well as our childsitters!

We weren't far behind Wimborne, with potentially the only difference being that slight kerfuffle, but the tension was gradually ramped up with Cheltenham and York placed sixth and fifth respectively, before the two favourites the Cumberlands and Melbourne were announced as finishing in first and second. That left just our hosts Portsmouth who had never rung in a final and who were in only their second entry or five-time finalists Oxford to be revealed as the third team to qualify for the 2024 Final due to be held at Chilcompton on Saturday 15th June, a tense moment broken by the announcement of the home team qualifying for their first ever final! Memories of Bury St Edmunds two years ago came flooding back as I could imagine how they were feeling. Congratulations Portsmouth, who are now penciled in to join Bristol who qualified on their home bells along with St Paul's Cathedral and Cambridge (in the process knocking out 2019 winners Exeter) and from the Reading eliminator Birmingham, the College Youths and Guildford (who just beat our friends from Norwich) in that final planned for eighty-four days time.

After our eliminator, many were sticking around to socialise in the Cathedral and I imagine pubs, restaurants and maybe even trains were busy later with convivial bellringers into the evening, but we were returning to Hayling Island for our own socialising as we met with Ron's daughter Toni and her other half, first at their place and then at the Bay of Bengal for a curry.

It was a lovely way to round off a lovely day that went as well as we could've hoped for.

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Friday 22nd March 2024

Ruthie and me on the car journey down south!Today covered around 170 miles, a morning of work, much packing, a trip to school and a hotel meal, ultimately in the name of ringing, but not involving any ringing.

Tomorrow is when the three eliminators for the National 12-bell Striking Contest are scheduled to take place. One in Bristol, one in Reading and one in Portsmouth, where Ipswich are lined up to compete, with Ruthie and me one of the twelve ringers penciled in for the band. When the subject of looking after the boys for the weekend was first raised with mother-in-law Kate, she very kindly agreed, before then coming up with an even better idea. For the boys' Grandad Ron's daughter Toni works at Langstone Quays Resort on Hayling Island just alongside the coast from the city and it's 24cwt twelve at it's cathedral we are due to ring at on Saturday, so the suggestion was that we made a family weekend of it by staying there.

Therefore, having carried out my half-day employment at John Catt Educational, helped my wife pack and then went to school with Mrs Eagle to meet Ron and collect Alfie and Josh, we journeyed down to the south coast.

We arrived in reasonable time - appropriately driving past the scene of our last foray into the competition Guildford Cathedral along the way - for a journey taking in the Friday rush hour which allowed us to arrive at our accommodation in a relaxed fashion to be greeted by Toni, a bottle of fizzy and a couple of chocolate muffins for the boys, which was very kind and very much appreciated and all followed up by that meal in the hotel restaurant, where we were joined by Ron's other daughter Rosie and her family.

Meanwhile, other members of the band were arriving in Portsmouth at various accommodation, some via collecting a pealboard for St Mary-le-Tower, before a number of them met for a curry. Let's hope we aren't ringing first tomorrow...

Back in Suffolk, well done to young Clem Day on ringing his first quarter-peal of Primrose Surprise Minor in the 1272 at Ashbocking, whilst further afield my attention was drawn to Geoffrey Brewin's one thousandth peal which he rang today at St John in Bedwardine in Worcester. When I lived and rang in the Midlands I rang seven peals with Geoffrey. Nothing extraordinary, but they were all peals that compared to a lot of the more complicated, full-on peals I was ringing in Birmingham at the time were quite relaxing attempts mainly in the Stourbridge area and whilst I can't claim to have known him well, I'm pleased to have contributed towards his landmark total, even if to a very small extent. Congratulations Geoffrey!

Even so, I'm not convinced his day covered as much as ours!

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Thursday 21st March 2024

Bardwell. © Martin Kirk.Happy Birthday to Rowan Wilson the Guild's Chairman up until last year's AGM (reminder - this year's is due to take place at Stowmarket on Saturday 6th April and names for tea need to be in to Jo Beever via email or on 07773 392 979 by Tuesday 2nd April), whose significant anniversary of her birth was celebrated today with a 5060 of Birthday Delight Major at Bardwell.

It wasn't the only performance celebrating milestone birthdays which were recorded on BellBoard from the county today, as the quarter-peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Horringer was dedicated to the seventieth birthday of Sally Crouch and sixtieth birthday of Deborah Blumfield's partner Peter.

No ringing for anyone in our household for the first time this week though as Ruthie focused on singing as she usually does on a Thursday, whilst I found myself booking accommodation and trying to work out ways to get there.

All of which is very exciting for us, but not as active as celebrating the milestone birthdays of Rowan, Sally and Peter!

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Wednesday 20th March 2024

About a year ago I noted that a number of the entries on this website for towers with four or more bells were without photos. I didn't expect much change to that twelve months on, with all them places where the bells were unringable, not to be rung or not hung for change ringing and therefore less likely to be visited by Guild members, so I am impressed to see that the entries at Burgate and Stuston have subsequently been updated with photos taken by Martin Kirk. Thank you Martin!

Holbrook. © Richard Munnings.This came to my attention as today I was adding to the photo gallery as I found myself at the Royal Hospital School in Holbrook, where a 21cwt five are hung dead in the distinctive tower at the centre of this huge independent school. It was too good an opportunity to miss.

The reason Ruthie and I were there wasn't for photography though, pleasant as a spot of that would be down the picturesque Shotley Peninsula, even on this grey, drizzly morning. Rather we were there to support Alfie as he and others represented his school at a cross-country event involving dozens of primary schools from across the area over the vast grounds of this famous institution. Split into separate school years as well as boys and girls races, Alfred and three fellow classmates joined well over a hundred runners in his race alone. Although AJM qualified for the second year running for this event and enthusiastically throws himself into most things he tries (although sadly not ringing yet), it won't surprise many to discover that our family doesn't have a particularly strong aptitude for running. Imagine then how chuffed and happy we were for him when he came in nineteenth after a 1.3 mile long race! Quite rightly he was very pleased with himself and we were delighted to be able to witness it having been unable to come along last year.

Stutton church tower from the grounds of the Royal Hospital School.Along the way we passed the six in the village, whilst it was interesting geographically to see how close the six at Stutton are to where we were, with the tower poking over the top of the neighbouring woodland as we furnished ourselves with refreshments ahead of the racing.

Later in the day my wife was ringing at another six as she went along to Pettistree's weekly practice, which was preceded by a quarter-peal of Bourne Surprise Minor and followed by a drink in The Greyhound for Mrs Munnings. It is worth noting that there is a session planned for next Wednesday, but being Holy Week most practices are due to be cancelled, such as St Mary-le-Tower's on Monday. Therefore, the usual warning to check before you travel out lest you have a wasted journey and before you assume ringing isn't on to just make sure in case somewhere is short due to your absence!

Perhaps with your extra spare time you could take some more photos of those towers that need them on this website!

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Tuesday 19th March 2024

Ufford.Surprise Major was very much the focus for me this evening, as the second monthly Surprise Major Practice at Ufford took place. Ruthie went along to the first one in February and came back effusive in her reporting of it, so I was grateful for the opportunity to go to this month's, especially as it was again extremely productive. Bristol, Cambridge, Lincolnshire, London, Rutland, Superlative and Yorkshire were all rung, as was a touch of spliced, in the main rung well with many cobwebs blown away and progress made under the guidance of Kate Eagle with a crowd present large in number but not overwhelming.

Great to see everyone too and to hear about a successful Aldeburgh ringers' outing in Essex on Saturday and one local ringer's recent visit to Mountain Warehouse which was very amusing!

A lovely atmosphere perfect for some Surprise Major focus.

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Monday 18th March 2024

Munnings Little Delight Major and Dolphin Bob Major were two methods rung in peals and named specifically for the occasions they were rung for. Neither have been rung since they were pealed in 2014 for Alfie's birth and 2022 for Lesley Dolphin's retirement respectively, mainly because of that specificness. The former is unlikely to be rung again unless for something related to our family, the latter in the unlikely circumstances someone feels the need to ring for any aquatic mammals.

Horringer.Sally 70 Treble Place Major may get rung more often. Although a year too late to use for my mother Sally's seventieth birthday, there must be other Sallys whose seventieth birthday could be celebrated in the future with this new method. Regardless, it is fitting that it was named in honour of Sally Crouch reaching that landmark today in the peal rung at Horringer for the occasion, appropriately making up the length to a 5070 on bells she is synonymous with. Every time I have been here for a ringing event, the hospitality and welcome has been wonderful, with Sally front and centre of it and of course she oversaw the replacing in 2016 of the old eight here which was the subject of much gentle ribbing (not least from me!) with the lovely new octave they now have. She is a lovely lady who has done much for ringing here, including bringing her children to the exercise! Happy Birthday Sally.

Congratulations also to Stephen Pettman who completed a 'Pealbase circle' of the tower, having only previously rung the fifth as the the third of the back six to a peal of Minor just before Christmas 1973. In the process, he also completed the circle as conductor. Unusual but nice to see this twice Past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild away from the treble for a peal!

My ringing today wasn't as notable to the wider world, but the weekly session at St Mary-le-Tower this evening was the last opportunity to practice the half-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus that the Ipswich band are due to ring at Portsmouth Cathedral on Saturday in the National 12-bell Striking Contest. Therefore we tried to get as many of the band together for a couple of attempts at it amongst the other 'usual' ringing. On this occasion we didn't quite get everyone, but our numbers did include Ruthie, who thanks to her mother Kate and her dog Merlin looking after the boys was able to come out with me tonight. We could've gone for a drink afterwards too, but we decided against it for various reasons, including bracing our livers and bank balances for our intended weekend plans!

Which at the moment don't include ringing Munnings Little Delight, Dolphin Bob or even Sally 70 Treble Place Major.

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Sunday 17th March 2024

Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral, HampshireThis afternoon was the final opportunity for the complete band to practice for Ipswich's intended entry into the National 12-bell Striking Contest at Portsmouth Cathedral in six days time, as the twelve of us gathered at St Mary-le-Tower for four attempts at the planned test piece of half a course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus in an hour-and-a-half session. And although due to user error Hawkear failed to record our first two pieces to fully back this assertion up, it was very productive with some really good ringing. Thank you to Ruthie's mother Kate who looked after Josh whilst we rang and Alfie went to a classmate's birthday party at Framlingham College. She deserves as much thanks for helping us in our preparations as those filling in when team members couldn't ring.

Many will now know that in a freakish coincidence we will be without Amanda Richmond again due to a broken leg and our thoughts are with her, but beyond praying that everyone stays well and makes it to the south coast as we enter those nervy last few days when anything going wrong with our preparations are amplified, our hopes are to put in a good effort on Saturday. Our eliminator group is incredibly hard, with it likely that regular finalists Melbourne, Oxford and the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths will be metaphorically battling it out for the top three positions that will qualify for the final lined up for Chilcompton on Saturday 16th June with one-time regular finalists York whose fourth-place finish last year on their return to the contest with an extremely good band will probably encourage and motivate them for this year, whilst the hosts and Hursley from just twenty miles away will be the most familiar with the bells. Many outsiders would probably and understandably imagine that if all goes as planned that we would be competing with the two local Hampshire teams and relative newcomers Cheltenham and Wimborne Minster (who have only entered the contest three times between them before this year) to be the 'best of the rest', but as we showed a couple of years ago you never know!

Of course the same could be said for the other eliminators, which on paper at least are far harder to predict than our group, for different reasons. Our neighbours in Norwich should be in with a shout of qualifying from theirs at Reading where the Ancient Society of College Youths and Birmingham - the two teams who have won the competition more than anyone else - will most likely take the top two spots. Four teams - our friends from north of the River Waveney, Guildford, Sheffield and Towcester - have been in the final in recent years and could take that third spot, but who knows? Perhaps outsiders Chester or (and?) the hosts Reading might cause an upset. Probably not, but again you never know!

Meanwhile, the eliminator at St Stephen's in Bristol will see at least two regular finalists miss out as the hosts, Cambridge, 2019 winners Exeter, Leeds and St Paul's Cathedral will compete for three spaces, possibly with Southwark and Worcester at a stretch and at an even greater stretch Stockton-on-Tees. My gut instinct on that is Bristol, Cambridge and Exeter winning through, but I'm not Mystic Meg!

Hopefully it'll be fun finding out, especially in Portsmouth and we'll always appreciate support from Suffolk and to that end if you are planning on going down there then the local band's website for the occasion is well worth a gander. However, if you can't make it to the south coast city then please do consider supporting the South-West District Practice at Kersey between 3 and 4.30pm.

Today though, my ringing began at Woodbridge participating in call-changes on the front six of this 25cwt eight before joining the morning worship which we were ringing for, but there wasn't anything else reported on BellBoard from within our borders.

At least it gave twelve of us that opportunity to practice for the National 12-bell Striking Contest.

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Saturday 16th March 2024

For a Saturday morning, today started in quite a leisurely fashion. Bright sunshine poured into our bedroom to wake us earlier than normal, but gently, introducing a light, warm tone to the room after months of the grey coldness that one expects of a British winter. They were pleasant conditions to have a read of Ringing Forums, prompted by the weekly email from them, with my attention taken by the subject of when - or if - you should stop recruiting. Last year's 'Ring for the King' on top of recruitment for the Platinum Jubilee a couple of years ago means that some places have been absolutely inundated with new learners. A wonderful position to be in, but the question was sensibly raised by someone who was concerned that their tower couldn't cope with the numbers, which is an understandable concern. Anyone involved with teaching children at school will tell you that it is easiest to teach in smaller classes and of course one-on-one is absolutely ideal. Well, two-on-one taking safeguarding into account, but you get my gist. Oversized classes see smart pupils lost amongst the efforts of teachers swamped by sheer numbers and more likely distracted by those who need more help. Personally, I believe this is where organisations like the Suffolk Guild can be a great help, offering a network of ringers and events to help potentially swamped teachers. If you are struggling then don't hesitate to contact your Area Rep, District Representative on the Recruitment & Training Committee or any of the officers that you feel confident getting in touch with. Contacts can be found on this website and/or in the brand new Annual Report which should be finding its way to you in printed form or can also be found on this website.

Two Ringers at Portman Road.My relaxed morning reading about ringing soon gave way to a day that didn't include any actual ringing as instead football took over for this Saturday as we watched two fixtures that saw each of the teams we were supporting score six goals. First up was Alfie and his teammates in lovely springlike weather before we then headed on to Portman Road via The Mermaid for food ahead of watching Ipswich Town put the same number of goals past their visitors Sheffield Wednesday. A bit of unplanned clothes shopping in nearby Sainsbury's for one of the boys put paid to us joining Norwich ringer Simon Rudd in the Fanzone pre-match, but we did catch up with him at half-time on a day that for him began with a quarter-peal at Ampton.

Meanwhile, whilst we were watching the Tractor Boys move back into second in the Championship league table (for now), history was taking place in Stowmarket as the first peal on ten was rung there with a 5040 of Plain Bob Royal was successful in 3 hours and 19 minutes. Another significant landmark for this project and a good moment to remind folk that the Guild AGM is due to take place there in three weeks time on 6th April and that names for the hot tea to Jo Beever via email or on 07773 392 979 need to be in by Tuesday 2nd April.

I couldn't tell you if that Saturday will begin in as leisurely way as this Saturday though.

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Friday 15th March 2024

Last week's edition of The Ringing World didn't arrive until Monday, quite a bit later than normal and I didn't get the chance to read it until the first lunchtime of this working week. This week's arrived so early this morning, that I'd got the opportunity to begin taking in its contents before I'd even started work. Apart from in the peal and quarter-peal columns there isn't anything Suffolk-related that I've spotted, but again plenty of interesting stuff, especially around ringing done for the recent International Women's Day.

As far as I'm aware, there was nothing happening today within our borders today that is likely to end up in any future editions of the RW. No quarters, peals or ringing of any sort reported on BellBoard and not atypically for a Friday we weren't adding to that either. Instead we enjoyed an impromptu takeaway curry round at Ruthie's mother Kate's house and taking in Lenny Henry presenting Comic Relief for the last time, an event that was at least marked by some with quarter-peals, all different in their own right. One was a fairly standard, traditional performance with a 1260 of Plain & St Simon's Bob Doubles at Ashford in the Water in Derbyshire, another was of Cambridge Surprise Major by occasional St Mary-le-Tower ringer Ollie Watson on his own with a simulator on The Millgate Dumbbell in Aylsham north of the Norfolk border, whilst the third was of Plain Bob Doubles on the simulator at Crondall in Hampshire using sampled animal sounds. Barking.

All being well I'll see them in future editions of The Ringing World, whether they arrive early or late.

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Thursday 14th March 2024

A couple of items have been added to this website's What's New section this week.

One is the draft minutes of last month's North-East District Quarterly Meeting held at Sweffling. There's nothing exciting in there, but if you have the time and inclination it enables one to keep up with what's going on around the Guild if one can't always make it out and about.

The other was the adding of 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 to the Quarter Peals Analysis, which makes fascinating reading as of course it covers a time of restrictions and our subsequent recovery. Indeed, looking back further, last year was basically up to pre-pandemic levels of quarter-peal ringing, both in terms of numbers of quarters rung, numbers of ringers ringing them and those calling them, as well as a considerable upturn in numbers of venues rung at, albeit a drop in the numbers of different methods rung. And we now have the added bonus of a thriving handbell scene where back in 2019 there was practically nothing at all. An interesting read.

They were certainly an interesting read for me as Ruthie went to choir practice at the end of a day which started for us with watching Alfie's assembly at school that saw him walking round one his classmates holding up an inflatable moon in an entertaining performance.

Talking of entertaining performances, there were a couple of notable peals rung beyond our borders today, although not far beyond in one case and involving a Suffolk resident and a couple with family links to our county. That was the 5141 of Stedman Caters at Great St Mary's in Cambridge with a composition composed by Jadd Virji (a clever young chap who has done a fair bit of ringing in our county too) with the courses called in the order of Pi on this Pi Day (3.14, using the American order of dating). Clever stuff, conducted by David Pipe whose father was of course Rod Pipe who learnt to ring at Grundisburgh before becoming a ringing superstar, whilst David's son Henry was also in the band, as was Norman Tower regular Phillip Orme.

That wasn't the only noteworthy peal of the day though, as in Reading at the handbell centre of the universe of Redlands Road, the first peal of Stedman Septuples in hand since 2001 was rung, with lots of firsts in the band.

Nothing on BellBoard from Suffolk though. Thank goodness for this website's What's New section then.

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Wednesday 13th March 2024

Congratulations to former Reydon learner Philip Moyse who last night was elected to the Ancient Society of College Youths, a development confirmed to me by the emailed minutes I got this morning, as all ASCY members signed up to receive them get. Of course Cumberland Youths within our borders may be expected to boo and hiss pantomime style at this moment, but I'm sure everyone here will be pleased for this lovely young chap who has represented the county so well, both down in Southampton where he was at university and became Ringing Master of the Southampton Universities Guild and more recently in Bristol, home of the exiled Suffolk ringer. I'm sure he agrees that he got a superb grounding in our county with some great teachers in the North-East District, but he has certainly earnt his election to one of the elite international societies since.

Pettistree. My ringing today wasn't elite by those standards and nor does it set out to be so, but I was at one of the best six-bell practices in Suffolk as I managed to circle the ground-floor six at Pettistree on their practice night, even after arriving typically late having also taken in Alfie's football training beforehand. My efforts in circling highlighted the eclectic range possible here, starting with trebling to and calling a touch of Stedman Doubles, albeit one that took three attempts to get going whilst the ringer of the fourth tried to figure out their start. Stedman does that to you! After that I rang the second in some call-changes next to learner Catherine Bacon, then the third to some Cambridge Surprise Minor for Bredfield ringer Vince Buckman to treble to, whilst I later pulled the tenor in to the same method for the same purpose. I called a course of Hexham Surprise Minor from the fourth and rang the fifth to some Grandsire Doubles conducted by Elaine Townsend, whilst I also had the pleasure of ringing the fifth (which unusually is actually the heaviest bell in the tower) to a touch of several Minor methods of the Surprise, Plain and Little varieties spliced.

That followed on from the usual pre-practice quarter-peal which this week was changed at the last moment from Coldstream Surprise Minor to Beverley, Cambridge, Durham, Ipswich, Surfleet and York Surprise Minor spliced due to illness meaning one of the original band couldn't ring. That six Surprise Minor methods spliced was merely the fallback speaks volumes of the quality of the ringers here.

One of those was Mike Cowling, who earlier in the day rang in a Guild peal of Biddenham Surprise Major at Leiston, dedicated to Adrian Knights and particularly his thirteen peals at the tower where he rang his first peal of Major and which included one in today's method.

The band all followed their 3 hours and 13 minutes of ringing in the pub and I followed my evening's ringing in a hostelry too as I joined the Garners, Sam Shannon and mother-in-law Kate Eagle in The Greyhound.

Perhaps Philip Moyse was in a pub somewhere too, celebrating his election to the College Youths.

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Tuesday 12th March 2024

An email was sent out to members from John Girt today via the Guild's email network, informing us that St Margaret's church in Ipswich will be closed for a fortnight after Easter. That means that the usual Tuesday evening practice on the 14cwt gallery-ring eight won't be happening on the 2nd or 9th April.

As far as I'm aware they had their session tonight though, as did Ufford where I went for lots of trebling practice for Hollesley learner Mary Leaming and we rang a course of London Surprise Minor. Meanwhile, Margaret Weeks did a little bit of chiming on the treble to gently ascertain how much her recovering arm can take.

Hopefully we can continue to help her in that recovery on Tuesdays at Ufford, where you will be most welcome on the 2nd and 9th April if you usually go to St Margaret's!

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Monday 11th March 2024

Suffolk has a new quarter-peal conductor! Well done to Sylvie Fawcett who achieved this landmark by calling the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Thornham Magna in what is hopefully the first of many.

That and the handbell quarter of Plain Bob Royal in Moats Tye should appear in future editions of The Ringing World, but the latest issue arrived with us this morning. Slightly later than usual, but still full of interesting pieces, which this week featured a report on the recent Sheffield University Guild's Annual Dinner including the peal that I mentioned at the time which Past SGR Ringing Master Tom Scase rang in, but also a QP at the city's Roman Catholic Cathedral where five and six were rung by former ringers of our county Claire Roe and Tom Britten respectively.

Luckily I had the opportunity to read it during my lunchbreak, as after work things were typically hectic feeding the family, guiding homework time and doing the groundwork for bedtime before getting out to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice where we again ran through half-a-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus which is the intended test piece for the National 12-bell Striking Contest we are planning on competing in at Portsmouth Cathedral in just twelve days time and then rounded off as usual with a drink at the Halberd Inn.

Meanwhile notices brought our attention to the fact that Felixstowe's weekly sessions are moving from Friday to Wednesday and from Claire Haynes that her son Tristan Shaw had just rung his first quarter-peal of Surprise inside in the 1272 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at The Mount Without in Bristol. Indeed, it is the latest in a long line of achievements since he began ringing with the University of Bristol Society, taking his first quarters of Grandsire and on eight and his first peal and in the process became the fifth consecutive generation of his family to ring a peal, Well done Tristan!

And well done Sylvie, Suffolk's newest quarter-peal conductor!

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Sunday 10th March 2024

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there, especially the ringing ones. Hopefully you were all royally treated! We certainly tried our best with the mothers in our life today.

For the boys and me that began at home of course, as we treated Ruthie to a cup of tea and - at Josh's suggestion - toast in bed with cards and gifts at the beginning of the day and rounded it off with takeaway fish 'n' chips at teatime.

In between, we celebrated another of the ringing mums in our family, as my wife and her sister Clare treated their mother, former South-East District Ringing Master and current RM at Ufford Kate Eagle to tea and cake at Garnetts Gardens located between the sixes of Hacheston and Parham, whilst in turn her mother Janet was also treated in surroundings that were still pleasant even on a very wet day.

From there, our carload travelled down to Ipswich to see my mother and former holder of various SE District roles Sally for a cuppa and biscuits, complete with flowers and more cards, as we aimed to show our appreciation to all the mothers in our family.

Other ringers in the county were marking Mothering Sunday with the 1260s of Grandsire Triples at Bardwell and The Norman Tower, the former also celebrating Ruth Suggett's birthday, whilst the seventieth birthday of Julie Hughes was celebrated with the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh which was a first of Hackington Surprise Major for the Suffolk Guild and all the band bar Mary Dunbavin, who had previously rung the Yorkshire-above construction in 2003 at Lower Beeding in West Sussex. Well done to the rest of her bandmates and Happy Birthday Ruth and Julie!

Weybread bells were also ringing out today, at least across the airwaves of BBC Radio 4 as they featured on 'Bells on Sunday' with a 3 minutes and 10 seconds extract of the QP there from 20th July 2022. A longer version of the recording from Mike Cowling can be listened to on the tower page of the 9cwt six on this website.

Bedfield.And I was ringing too, albeit not to the same extent as the above performances. Still, I managed to help out St Mary-le-Tower where numbers were short and we got some bad news about one of our bandmembers, before refreshment at Costa Coffee that included a nice chat with Diana Pipe about the bells at Bedfield that mean so much to her and then ringing at Grundisburgh where I occupied a bored Alfie by getting him to search out the pealboards for the names of myself, his mum and his Grandad Alan, as well as the board disguised as something else...

It was a little fathering win on a day for the mothers. For all that Mothering Sunday has been jumped upon and rebranded in the name of commercial opportunism, it is a lovely chance to focus our efforts as a household on my wife who makes us laugh, makes us tick and helps guide us away from silly boy mistakes! My hope is that the boys grow up to be happy, kind people who hopefully make the lives of those they come across better and our best chance of achieving that is by working as a team. To that end, I am eternally grateful for having Ruthie on my team!

Happy Mother's Day Ruthie and to all you mothers, especially the ringing ones!

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Saturday 9th March 2024

Precisely a year ago Alexander Holroyd published a new composition, at 18,720 changes the shortest one to feature all the work for every bell of the 147 standard Treble Dodging Minor methods. At the time I commented in my blog that quite a few ringers would probably be eying up attempting it and funnily enough, exactly twelve months on some of those that I had imagined attempted - and scored - an arrangement of the composition in a handbell effort in Yatton in Somerset, with one of the band being a ringer with much Suffolk ringing ancestry before him, Henry Pipe. A phenomenal feat of concentration.

That took 6 hours and 42 minutes, which although not as long as it would take on towerbells (I imagine that too is being contemplated!) still took up much of what was also a busy day for me. They would have been well underway as Paul Norris' Surprise Major/Royal outing was getting going on the far side of the country at Lowestoft, the most easterly ring of bells on the British mainland. Whilst the latest Pipe generation of ringing superstars was continuing his substantial efforts with fellow bandmates Lucy Warren and conductor (and arranger of the composition) Alan Reading, Paul and a crowd that also included my mother-in-law Kate Eagle and our youngest son Josh moved on to Pakefield where despite being further west than the previous tower is a lot closer to the sea!

At The Swan in Gillingham.Meanwhile, about an hour south of there, myself and Ruthie were watching Alfie playing for his team in a match fixed up after I'd agreed to join Paul's outing, which on this occasion was because it was a cup match that by its nature was arranged at shorter notice than most fixtures. Sadly they were knocked out of this particular competition, but he and his teammates seemed relatively happy with their performance and so having dropped his mother off at home to prepare for a big evening, he and I made the trip to The Swan Motel in Gillingham where we were meeting his gran, younger brother and the rest of those on the outing for a meal. All along, the band in Somerset were still going, although when exactly they finished isn't quoted, other than it was definitely done by 3.57pm when it was put up on BellBoard.

Ringing at Beccles. Ringing at Loddon. Ringing at Loddon. Ringing at Loddon.

They may well have still been going as we made the short mile-long journey back into Suffolk to Beccles that ridiculously was just long enough for Ipswich Town to concede two injury-time goals to lose 2-1 in Cardiff, and possibly as we started ringing on the 25cwt ten where along with the Surprise Major which was the main focus of the day, we also rang Grandsire Caters and some Yorkshire Surprise Royal. With that time logged on BB in mind, they were certainly done by the time we began ringing at 4pm in Loddon after we'd gone back over the Norfolk border and where the outing was rounded off with some London Surprise Major on the 10cwt ground-floor eight. Even though I could only make the afternoon, it was thoroughly enjoyable. Thank you for arranging it Paul!

Whilst we were doing all that, other ringers within our borders were also busy, particularly at Wetherden. Happy Birthday to Serena Steggles' mother Gwendoline and Tower Captain on the 11cwt six Basil Hart, occasions which were celebrated with a 1290 of Grandsire Doubles.

After my ringing, it was back down the A146, A145 and the A12 (via an impromptu diversion around the other side of the Glemham Hall estate after something seemed to have brought traffic to a halt on the main road) for a spot of tea and Gladiators (the temptation to pull a treble off by saying "ringers, ready!" increases each week!) before heading off to St Mary-the-Virgin church in Woodbridge to support and enjoy my wife's big evening. That big evening was her singing with the Illuminati Choir in front of a packed church that included quite a lot of ringers. The boys and I sat next to Chris & Mary Garner, whilst there were other (albeit former) Pettistree ringers present in the form of Daphne & Rob Rose. It was great to see Grundisburgh ringer Ruth Symington, who we discovered used to sing with the Illuminati Choir and lovely also to see local ringers Michael Barrett and Alison Wintgens there. Such were the numbers of people in attendance (and bellringers in particular I would suggest!) that they ran out of wine! Hopefully lots of money was raised for the Colchester & Ipswich Hospitals Charity who they were fundraising for in memory of their fellow singer Ian Kegel. Well done to Ruthie and her choral colleagues on an absolutely wonderful evening of singing.

And well done to that band in Somerset on ringing that composition!

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Friday 8th March 2024

Weybread.Fridays aren't the busiest in our household from a ringing perspective and this was no different. There wasn't even a copy of The Ringing World to give our day some sort of ringing context. And there was no ringing in Suffolk noted on BellBoard to report on. God willing though, Sunday should be different as even if we have no ringing to talk of (and hopefully we will!), at the very least it is planned that the sound of bells from within our borders are due to appear on national (and indeed international) airwaves, with an extract from the quarter-peal of July 2022 on the 9cwt six of Weybread set to be the subject of 'Bells on Sunday' on BBC Radio 4 at 5.43am, although these days with BBC Sounds one doesn't have to get up that early to hear it!

For today though, whilst Ruthie went out to a meal with workmates following a staff meeting, the action was elsewhere as International Women's Day was celebrated, including with ringing.

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Thursday 7th March 2024

Saturday 6th April is due to be a big day for Ipswich Town supporting members of the Suffolk Guild and today saw two separate and significant developments related to both of those elements of the day.

Firstly, 3pm was when the away match of the 'Old Farm Derby' between us and Norwich City was scheduled for, but it was always pretty certain to move due to policing requests and SKY Sports. It was also expected that it would be moved to an early kick-off, as it always is, with the reasoning being that it leaves less time for fans of these rivals to get drunk beforehand, although that then is often bizarrely negated by allowing local pubs to open earlier. The only question mark was whether it would be early on the Saturday or Sunday. Today, we discovered it is now penciled in for 12.30pm on the Saturday. Personally the Sunday would be easier logistically, in theory allowing us to watch the fixture on television with no time constraints afterwards. However, having it at Saturday lunchtime makes a crowded day even more crowded...

Stowmarket.For that is also when it is planned to hold the Guild AGM at Stowmarket. Whilst recent history against Norwich suggests we shouldn't tune in to watch the football, in this exciting season it will be hard not to and I expect the boys in particular will be pretty insistent that we do, so God willing we'll sit down (and hopefully stand up lots too!) to take that in. Which would make it impossible for Ruthie or me to join in the quarter-peal attempts being lined up - please do fill in the form or contact Neal Dodge if you would like to ring in one - and may preclude us getting there in time to ring on the new ten, but all being well we can make it for the service, hot meal (for which names need to be in to Jo Beever via email or on 07773 392 979 by Tuesday 2nd April) and then the AGM afterwards. And who knows, maybe a cheeky pint.

Today's main development (for me anyway, as I missed it yesterday!) regarding the AGM though is that this year's Annual Report is now available to read online. Perhaps one day we will only be able to read it online and take it to the AGM to refer to it via one's phone/VR goggles/watch, and even going back to when my brother and I lived at home with Mum and Dad it seemed daft that every member got a free copy which meant that four were unnecessarily kicking round the house, but this year you should be able to get hold of a printed copy before 6th April to take to the meeting. Well done to Report Editor (and SGR Chairman!) Mark Ogden and all who have helped him on a packed edition that covers a significant year for the Guild.

Going into the Annual Report for this year should be the quarter-peal at Redgrave, which was a first of London-below/Norwich-above Surprise Minor method Rossendale for Paul Norris. Well done Paul and to his wife Sandra who earlier in the day rang her first of Kent Treble Bob Minor in the 1320 at Bressingham over the Norfolk border, whilst keeping up the cross-border theme, a peal was rung on handbells for the Norwich Diocesan Association on this side of the River Waveney in Bacton.

For us though, it was a day of no ringing. And no football. All being well, that won't be the case on 6th April.

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Wednesday 6th March 2024

Everything has to run pretty smoothly for us on Wednesday evenings in order to fit getting Alfie to his football training, tea eaten and one of us out to Pettistree practice all straight after a day at school and work. If it doesn't then we don't usually get out to the latter and so it was tonight as time just ran away from us. It was nice to spend some time in with Ruthie after a couple of late nights already this week, but it's always a pity to let our friends down at the ground-floor six a couple of villages over from us.

The Barn Owl Ring.Still, as well as them, others were busier in the exercise, especially in Norton where the eight once housed in Shelland and before that Claydon was being well used today in its current guise as The Barn Owl Ring, with a 1260 of Grandsire Triples and 1344 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung.

Presumably things ran more smoothly for them!

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Tuesday 5th March 2024

Gressenhall.Today's 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Royal for the Suffolk Guild at Gressenhall is noteworthy in itself, but especially as it is already the sixth peal for the SGR in 2024 of Caters or above. As far as I can make out, it is more (far more in most cases) than rung by this date in any other year this century and I imagine the highest proportion of peals by this part of the calendar, coming out of sixteen peals in total. If we rang them at that rate in 2023 we would've rung forty-five peals of Caters or higher and in 1988 when the SGR recorded its highest ever peal total of 211 we would've scored seventy-nine. We actually rang twenty-seven and twenty-two in those respective years. It's great to see, a big achievement in an area predominantly made up of five, six and eight-bell towers. Long may it continue.

Neither Ruthie or I were contributing to those totals ourselves today, nor indeed to ringing at all in fact. Rather, Mason and I went to watch another exciting fixture at Portman Road involving Ipswich Town's men's football team whilst my wife stayed at home with his younger brothers for takeaway with tonight's proceedings running too late on a school-night for them. That meant no Ufford for me and indeed for anyone, with numbers low anyway and Ringing Master Kate accompanying myself, my eldest son and sister-in-law Clare's other half Chris to the Mermaid for a pre-match meal and then on to the stadium, but as usual we still met Norwich ringer Simon Rudd for a pint in the Fanzone before kick-off and on this occasion my brother and Norman Tower ringer Chris sat with us for the game that ended 3-2 to the home team, a result to be celebrated.

As is the Guild's peal-ringing on ten and twelve bells.

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Monday 4th March 2024

Whether it was yesterday's forlorn attempt to ring Woodbridge's tenor up right, pulling the 35cwt twelfth in at St Mary-le-Tower to a quarter-peal or both, lots ached today, especially my arms!

St Mary-le-Tower.They were still aching when I got to the aforementioned twelve in Ipswich for the weekly practice this evening, accompanied by former Guild Secretary and current Membership Secretary Mary Garner who was primarily coming along for a spot of SGR business with some certificates, but was also keen to top up her twelve-bell ringing and to that end she was appreciative of a night that for her included Grandsire Cinques, whilst there was also some nice Stedman Caters and then Cambridge Surprise Maximus to finish the session off before a large number of us retired to the Halberd Inn for refreshment and socialising.

By which time, I'd finished aching!

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Sunday 3rd March 2024

I think I am getting old. Obviously older. But this morning I felt old. Not necessarily because of the exploits of young ringers with surnames like Haynes, Hull, Pipe and Salter whose parents I used to ring with when they were considered young and up and coming. Or at least young. Rather on this occasion it was me attempting to ring the tenor up right at Woodbridge. In the not-too-distant past, I was able to pull it up on my own. Not easily, but then you probably wouldn't expect that with a 25cwt bell. On my own though nonetheless. This morning though, with Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth there with their son Jonathan bolstering numbers, Pete got up the seventh as I began my ultimately futile attempt to get the eighth up solo. By the time he had finished on his 16cwt bell, it was clear I was floundering and he very kindly stepped in to help. I say help, as once we'd got it going it was mainly him, but I was still fairly out of puff. There were very kind and encouraging words about it being harder with the wooden clapper shaft now in the bell and the bells being half-muffled for Lent making it harder to hear it striking and making it more obvious that it was going up wrong, but I'm fairly sure that it was down to me not being as young as I once was!

St Mary-le-Tower. Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral, HampshireIt wasn't ideal preparation for my task this afternoon either, as I was pulling in Suffolk's heaviest bell hung for changing-ringing to a 1346 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at St Mary-le-Tower, part of our continued preparations ahead of our intended entry to the National 12-bell Striking Contest eliminator at Portsmouth Cathedral in three weeks time. In line with all other entrants apart from the hosts, we haven't been to the competition venue to practice, which usually builds the anticipation for this event, but as plans for band meals over the weekend and travel arrangements to the south coast were being made I have to admit to a few pangs of excitement!

Having dropped the boys off with my mother Sally who was very kindly looking after them as their parents rang, we were also able to give fellow bandmember Lucy Williamson a lift as we happened to drive past her, which meant that with conductor Colin Salter waiting for the end of the service in the church to get the key to the ringing chamber, there were quite a few of us already there in plenty of time! It put us in a relaxed frame of mind for the attempt ahead, but ours was just one of five quarter-peals rung in the county today, with the most notable coming at Stowmarket. Although 'just' on eight, it was significant for being the first on the bells since they were returned restored, rehung and augmented last year, as well as the first of Triples inside for Chris Davies, who along with Alan Moult and Mark Steggles was one of three ringing who spent many hours installing the bells. Well done Chris!

Elsewhere within our borders, a no-show from one of the band meant that the Plan B of Plain Bob Minor with cover and the second missed out was implemented for the QP at Halesworth, the visit of the Bishop of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich - and therefore the President of the SGR - the Right Reverend Martin Seeley to Mendham was marked with the same method and some of the same bandmembers on the 10cwt six and a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung at Redgrave.

Long Melford.Meanwhile, a superb article appeared on the BBC's website about the incredible number of youngsters learning to ring at Long Melford, which includes four newly elected to the Guild. A brilliant bit of PR and great to see so many young ringers thriving, not just at the 15cwt eight of Holy Trinity church, but across the county. God willing they can all get together and there may even be a band entered in the Ringing World National Youth Contest in the near future. More importantly, I hope this is just the beginning of a life of enjoyment in the art for them all.

And it should be a long time before they are too old to single-handily ring Woodbridge tenor up right!

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Saturday 2nd March 2024

Pleasing to see the peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus rung at St Mary-le-Tower this morning after I had been asked earlier in the week if I could ring when one of the original band had to drop out. Normally I would jump at the chance, even if I do have no idea what the Friends and Associates of Perky Society is. However, as readers will probably be aware, Saturday mornings usually see Alfie playing for his football team and so it was this morning. It means a lot to us to encourage our children in what they do and for Alfred that sees us trying to watch as many of his matches as possible and I think it means a lot to him too for us to be there watching. Still, I would always feel a little guilty at not being able to accept such a request, so well done to the band in Ipswich on their 5040 rung in 3 hours and 24 minutes and congratulations to Toby Bence on ringing his one hundredth peal.

It wasn't the only ringing in the county on a busy day in the exercise within our borders though. Indeed, it wasn't even the only peal as a 5055 of Stedman Caters was rung at The Norman Tower - home of the champions of East Anglian twelve-bell ringing, which reminds me that there is also a report on the recent George W Pipe 12 Bell Competition in this week's edition of The Ringing World - and was Suffolk Guild Treasurer Tim Hart's first in the principle as conductor. Well done Tim on a very impressive achievement, one which most of us couldn't even contemplate!

There were also quarter-peals rung. Quite a few actually. Five in fact, with four rung by the same band with a couple of helpers, with an abundance of achievements for North-West District Ringing Master Joshua Watkins as he conducted his first QP of Cambridge Surprise Major with the 1344 at Felixstowe and completed his first of Bourne Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Tuddenham St Martin and along with Ben Keating and NW District Chairman & SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge was one of three ringing their first blows of Portsmouth Bob Minor in the 1260 at Burgh, which was also the fiftieth different tower in the county that Josh had rung a quarter on, whilst they also rang Cambridge Surprise Minor at Falkenham. Well done Josh, as well as Ben and Neal! Meanwhile, a quarter-peal of Double Oxford Bob Minor rung at Woolpit in memory of one-time ringer on this 8cwt six former local GP Dr Edward Cockayne.

South-East District Practice at Sproughton. South-East District Practice at Sproughton. South-East District Practice at Sproughton. South-East District Practice at Sproughton.
South-East District Practice at Sproughton

We did some ringing too though, as this afternoon we went to the gallery-ring six of Sproughton where my brother Chris & I learnt to ring and where the South-East District were holding their monthly practice, themed as 'Anything But Bob Doubles.' Ringing Master Hal Meakin kept on brand and ensured there was no Plain Bob Doubles, which opened up opportunities for more interesting but still similarly simple stuff such as April Day Doubles, which is PB but with Grandsire singles.

Downstairs, with the ringing going on in the background, there was a jovial atmosphere over cake and hot drinks, whilst much fun was had watching someone who shall remain nameless trying to set the treble at backstroke to the accompaniment of much cheering from down in the church and then a raffle that at one point it seemed only Hal had entered! And it was lovely to see young Elizabeth Goodchild elected to the Guild - congratulations Elizabeth. Her presence was part of an attendance that had a wonderfully vast age-range from a geographical spread from Debenham to Hollesley, Copdock to Pettistree and all sorts of stages in their ringing progression. Great to catch up with those who I rang with here regularly in my youth, like Simon Curl, but also with those newer to the art from places such as Bramford and Henley. A fantastic couple of hours out.

As was what followed, although the only ringing connection was that we joined Ufford Ringing Master Kate Eagle for a family gathering at her mother's along with my wife's cousins Freddie and Poppy and her sister Clare and her household. It was a lovely way to finish a day that started in perfect fashion for us and the band who rang the peal at St Mary-le-Tower.

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Friday 1st March 2024

Suffolk's ringers featured in some superb content that I read today.

First up, well done to Bardwell Ringing Master Ruth Suggett on another brilliant edition of Tower Talk, the newsletter for ART which she is editor of. It features ringers from within our borders, including youngster Max from Ruth's home tower and Bramford ringers Amanda and Kate, but I was hugely encouraged to yet again see so many upbeat stories generally from learners, especially so many youngsters. I could relate to Emily Hall's tale of learning to ring in a ringing family and I was truly warmed by how Tatiana Hlembitska went from fleeing the war in Ukraine to learning to ring at Doncaster Minster. All well worth taking the time to read - well done Mrs Suggett!

Meanwhile, The Ringing World arrived with us this morning, complete with an obituary of Arnie Knights from Simon Rudd and David Sparling which was broadly the wonderful eulogy they gave at his funeral, while the 'Image of the Week' was the great photo taken through the gate of the band who rang the peal at Leiston in memory of him.

Earl Stonham.Of course, that I was able to do so much reading after a day at work also meant that there was no ringing of our own to report today, but there was from others in the county as a handbell peal was rung for the Guild of St Cuileáin in Sudbury, whilst the ninetieth birthday of former Worlingworth ringer Jill Westrup was celebrated with a quarter-peal of three Doubles methods at Earl Stonham, where her son Malcolm was ringing the tenor. The FNQPC was missing their usual conductor and Past Ringing Master of the SGR Tom Scase on this occasion though, as he was busy peal-ringing at Bolsterstone in South Yorkshire as part of the Sheffield Universities Guild of Change Ringers' annual dinner weekend.

However, the headline act nationally was Susan Sawyer ringing her 10,000th QP in the 1282 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at St Mark's in Exeter, rung on the same bell in the same tower she rang her first quarter. I have no idea where this sits in the records for most quarters rung (I assume its not the most as she doesn't claim it), but it is very impressive. I hope to read about it more in depth in the future.

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Thursday 29th February 2024

Such a rare date feels like it ought to seem special or significant somehow, but today's quadrennial occasion was fairly typical of any Thursday from this winter for our household. Wet and without any ringing as Ruthie went to her choral practices, once we'd been to Josh's parents evening at school. I even had a look back at previous 29th Februarys and although I rang a peal in 2000 and my then fiancée was in a quarter-peal in 2012 on the same day that the Suffolk Guild last rang a peal on 29/2, my blog entries show I haven't done any ringing on any of the four 29th Februarys covered. Make that five after today.

Barrow.Others were busier, with a couple of special birthdays, references to 'date ticks' and special ringing openly done because of or for 'Leap Year Day', whilst the eighteen peals rung is far above the usual number for a normal Thursday. And although not referencing the date, there was a quarter-peal rung in the county as a 1260 of Buxton Bob Minor was rung at Barrow celebrating conductor Joshua Watkins passing his medical school finals. Congratulations Josh!

There were also other notable things occurring today. On the day it was announced he had died, photos appeared on the Bellringers Facebook page of Hairy Biker Dave Myers having a go on the Maypole Bells near his home at Rodmersham in Kent a few years ago. Here within our borders, Dad's Army actor Ian Lavender's funeral was held at Woolpit where he lived, although I don't know if the 8cwt six there were rung for it. And today Neal Dodge shared a form for anyone who wishes to ring a QP on Guild AGM Day on Saturday 6th April, which could be a great opportunity for many and is more of a guarantee of numbers than simply having open towers, as much as I enjoy those. If you can't open the form then please contact Neal and ring a quarter for the SGR's showpiece event.

It won't be a rare date, but God willing it will be a special day.

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Wednesday 28th February 2024

Ruthie went out Pettistree this evening, which once the boys were in bed allowed me to be productive and do my basic awareness safeguarding training. It has to be said that I've been much slower than I should've been in doing this, with me never having the time to do it when I remembered about it, but it is really important and is something that all ringers should be doing. It isn't intended to inconvenience you, nor to vet you as safe, but rather to protect you and others by making you aware of potential situations when safeguarding procedures need to be put into place and how to set those procedures into motion, who to speak to, etc. There is even a section for bellringers which serves to further reiterate that ringing and ringers are as much a part of this as all the other elements of the church.

Pettistree.My wife's evening at the nearby ground-floor six was apparently also productive with some Cambridge Surprise Minor and spliced and was rounded off with a drink in The Greyhound before her mother Kate brought her home after she had taken her once Mrs Eagle had had her takeaway fish 'n' chips at ours between ringing the pre-practice quarter-peal of Northumberland Surprise Minor and returning for the session that followed.

It was a productive evening for all of us.

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Tuesday 27th February 2024

There is a lovely article on the East Anglian Daily Times about Sunday's rededication of Stowmarket's bells, with some good photos and all well worth a look, and which I did look at whilst Ruthie went out to Ufford for a Surprise Major practice this evening.

Ufford.This is a new initiative aimed at rectifying the downturn in regular, everyday Surprise Major ringing around here since the return from pandemic restrictions, which follows on from the South-East District Surprise Major Practice held on the same eight a month ago. Tonight's event was invite-only, not for any sort of elitist reasons or to exclude anyone, but just because when arranging something on a smaller, more local basis it is the best way to ensure enough turn up and also not so many that individuals don't get the opportunity to focus on what they're learning and is essentially the same as similar, successful sessions run on this 13cwt eight up until ringing on towerbells was halted nearly four years ago.

On this occasion much was rung including Bristol and London on what sounded like a successful hour and a half and hopefully just the beginning of a successful fixture, even if it is unlikely to make the local media like Stowmarket's rededication.

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Monday 26th February 2024

Polstead. Stowmarket. Horringer. St Margaret. Debenham. Grundisburgh. Offton. Sproughton. St Mary-le-Tower.

Happy Birthday to mine and Chris' mother Sally, a stalwart of ringing in Suffolk since she moved here from Northamptonshire to marry our Dad Alan forty-eight years ago. I've said it before many times, but it is worth reiterating, she is someone we could do with more of in ringing, a good ringer willing to travel and support events and help out, sharing her knowledge of the art with others just starting out. She was at Polstead for the South-West District Practice on Saturday and at Stowmarket yesterday. A fortnight earlier she was at Horringer for the North-West District Practice, seven days before that at St Margaret's in Ipswich for the South-East District Practice, her home district which she attends almost without fail every month. Debenham, Grundisburgh, Offton, Sproughton and St Mary-le-Tower all benefit from her presence week in, week out. Quite frankly, she is invaluable, before we even get onto her special place as a mum and nan.

Today she was treated to lunch by my younger brother at The Beagle in Sproughton and then to a drink and a packet of crisps by her ever-generous older son at the Halberd Inn following another weekly session on the county's heaviest ring of bells supported as usual by the former SE District Secretary, as we rang Stedman Cinques and Cambridge Surprise Maximus with the visiting North-West District Ringing Master Joshua Watkins.

It came at the end of a busy day of handbell ringing within our borders too, with a peal rung for the NDA in Bacton and two quarter-peals of Royal in Moats Tye, with a 1296 of Little Bob and 1260 of Plain rung. Congratulations to Rowan Wilson on ringing her one hundredth QP in hand in the latter.

And Happy Birthday Mum!

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Sunday 25th February 2024


Not many dedications or rededications have been in the making for quite so long as Stowmarket's. It has been well documented how long the actual work has taken from the moment the bells were taken out pretty much precisely four years ago, just weeks before the pandemic shut everything down and set in motion a series of misfortunes that held up a job that should've taken months to the extent that it was only last year that the bells returned augmented.

However, during this afternoon's rededication led by The Right Reverend Mike Harrison the Bishop of Dunwich, the vicar at St Peter and St Mary the Reverend Michael Eden pointed out that Winston Girling - the man who instigated this project and drove it through - had raised the issue of replacing the wooden frame with him around two decades ago. Indeed, former SGR Chairman Winston himself also spoke and described how water was coming through the old spire when he was first taken up to the bells here as he started learning in the 1950s, an issue that encouraged deathwatch beetle and ultimately led to the weakening of the frame and the bells becoming hard-going and making this project necessary.

Ringing on the ten at Stowmarket at their rededication. Ringing on the ten at Stowmarket at their rededication. Screen relaying the bells and ringers during Stowmarket's rededication. Ringing at Stowmarket at the rededication of the bells.

All of which made a special occasion even more special as members from across the Guild including Ringing Master Katharine Salter gathered to celebrate the new, easy-going ten that Ruthie and I finally got the opportunity to ring, when after the service we did something that we couldn't do last time we were here several years ago as I rang a treble that didn't even exist back then and my wife rang the ninth in a tower that has always only had eight bells when we rang here previously. I recall speaking to Winston many years ago trying to encourage him to put a twelve in here, but I'm glad he went for ten, as it gives us a much needed easy-to-ring and easy-to-get-to ten in the centre of the county at a time when our other tens are either hard-work, restricted and/or right out on the edge of our borders. There are already plans afoot by the North-West District to make the most of this new resource in its midst by holding ten-bell practices and they also give the locals a light front six to make it easier to teach learners, not to mention the new rope guides which help too! Well done to all involved with this project.

The spread at St Peter's Hall in Stowmarket following the rededication of the bells.Once we'd rung once or twice more (which for Ruthie included some Grandsire Caters) we made our way across the churchyard to St Peter's Hall where the most fantastic spread had been put on, instantly perking up our previously reluctant companions Alfie and Josh! It bodes well for when this very venue is due to host the Guild AGM on Saturday 6th April.

Northampton, All Saints.Beyond our borders but perhaps appropriately whilst we celebrated Suffolk's newest ten, a ten-bell peal was being rung for the SGR as a 5040 of Lincolnshire Surprise Royal was successfully completed in Northamptonshire on the 17cwt ten of All Saints in the centre of the county town.

Grundisburgh.Meanwhile, my ringing for the day began at St Mary-le-Tower where we were very short, but climaxed our service ringing with a nice touch of Stedman Triples on the back eight. In contrast, after our usual post-ringing refreshment at Costa Coffee there was such an abundance of ringers at Grundisburgh that all twelve were rung. Primarily that was due to the presence of Jonathan Williamson and Amanda Richmond who were there to support Ipswich learner Fiona who was keen to ring there as her grandfather and brother of Cecil 'Jim' Pipe had rung there, but at such a relatively early stage of her progress she was understandably slightly nervous about just rocking up without familiar faces. She did brilliantly, as did Clopton learner Sarah, especially with a big crowd present that included three Past Guild Ringing Masters, two former South-East District RMs and the current SGR Chairman, before Ruthie and I later joined many other District and Guild officers past and present at that Stowmarket rededication long in the making.

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Saturday 24th February 2024

I did something for the first time this morning. In the week that we sadly lost its composer Andrew Johnson at the age of just 57, was I calling his bobs-only composition of Stedman Triples? Maybe pulling in the tenor at Liverpool Cathedral? Or enjoying ringing the eleventh at St Mary-le-Tower to a touch of Grandsire Cinques?

No, none of the above and indeed nothing to do with ringing at all. In fact anyone who reads this blog regularly (anyone?) will quite rightly suspect that as it was happening on a Saturday morning that it was football related. Currently at under-10s level, Alfie and his teammates play seven aside matches for twenty-five minutes a half, with no offsides and foul throw-ins taken again under guidance rather than punished, the total focus being on player progression and development rather than winning. That last aspect won't change much if at all next season when our son and his peers are due to be playing at under-11s level, but much is planned to change, with nine aside games, bigger goals, bigger pitches, longer matches, throw-ins and the like much more strictly adhered to and offsides now implemented. Which means they will need what many will still call linesmen but are now called assistant referees. Today, with no fixture booked, the coaches arranged a friendly between the clubs' two teams at current under-10s level with under-11s rules, meaning they needed two volunteers from the assembled onlookers to be assistant referees and I wasn't fast enough to hide!

Seriously though and whisper it, I quite enjoyed it, although I hope I don't have to do it every week and I was glad not to have to do it in front of 30,000 partisan fans at Portman Road this afternoon, where mercifully I was a mere spectator as Ipswich Town beat Birmingham City 3-1 following the usual pre-match meal and drink at the Mermaid with my family and mother-in-law and Ufford Ringing Master Kate Eagle.

Polstead. Ipswich, St Margaret. Sproughton.

Although there was no Simon Rudd, with him away at a practice for Norwich's planned entry into the National 12-bell Striking Contest and no brother Chris, there was still a packed stadium with lots present and it sounds like it was a similar tale at Polstead for the South-West District Practice where a frankly fantastic turnout of fifty-six included five who are thirteen years or younger and eight new members were elected. It sounds like it has been a tremendous start to 2024 for the SW and the same can be said for the South-East District, as outlined by Secretary Liz Christian in an email sent out to members a couple of days ago reporting on the recent practice at St Margaret's in Ipswich (well done to Caroline Goodchild and Jenny Scase on being worthy winners of the Bake Off with their Millionaire Shortbread and Chocolate Date Krispies respectively!) and highlighting the plan to hold the next Practice at Sproughton in a week's time from 2.30-4.30pm. Thank you for the plug too Liz!

Pakenham. Kersey. Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral, Hampshire

That practice on the easily accessible gallery-ring six that I learnt to ring on is the start of what is hoped to be a busy March of ringing on Suffolk's bells and for Suffolk's ringers, with two separate events penciled in for the following Saturday at Pakenham from 10am-noon for the North-West District and two hours after that is planned to finish, the North-East District intend to begin their ringing over the Norfolk border but just twenty-five miles away at the 22cwt eight of Redenhall. Meanwhile, the next opportunity for the South-West District to continue their great start to the year is due to be on the ground-floor eight of Kersey from 3-4.30pm on Saturday 23rd, which should be more practical and probably more useful to support than Ipswich's intended entry in the National 12-bell Striking Contest eliminator at Portsmouth Cathedral on the same day, as much as any familiar faces from Suffolk to cheer us on would be most welcome!

That final event was advertised in The Ringing World which arrived with us this morning, along with the other eliminators lined up for Reading and St Stephen's in Bristol, whilst Haverhill's ringing vicar Max Drinkwater wrote 'Thought for the Week'. And there were lots of ringing firsts. Although none from me.

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Friday 23rd February 2024

Drinkstone. Henley. Ashbocking. Tostock.

As mentioned earlier in the week, this evening was a busy start to what is planned to be a busy weekend of ringing-related events in Suffolk, with Neal Dodge's talk in Drinkstone and Kaleidoscope ringing in Henley, a 1260 of Doubles was rung at Ashbocking and well done to Clare Gebel on ringing their first quarter-peal of spliced and to Maureen Gardiner on her first of Kent and Oxford Treble Bob Minor spliced, all in the 1272 at Tostock.

No ringing for us though, as instead we were hosting non-ringing friends Charlotte and Gregory and their daughters - our Goddaughters - Ava and Bea for an evening of hot dogs and booze. God willing we should be getting some ringing in too over this busy weekend in the exercise in the county.

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Thursday 22nd February 2024

They're not exactly exciting and I wouldn't suggest it if you have something more entertaining to do like the dusting or eating breakfast, but the committee minutes on this website can be interesting. I expect if we ever had another lockdown (please no!) or for whatever reason you had nothing to do for a while, looking back at them over the years could make a fascinating insight into the SGR's history, going more in depth than the Annual Reports and highlighting projects proposed but which never happened.

I don't have time for that, but this evening, with Ruthie at her choir practices and the boys put to bed following a few late nights this week, I did take a moment to read the minutes added to the pages for the Recruitment and Training Committee and the General Management Committee in recent days. There is some stuff I've heard about, but also quite a bit I hadn't, so I read them with great interest. Great to hear in the R&T minutes about new recruits at Haughley, but also noticeable that it highlights the need for more teachers. Exciting to read of the expansion of the Felixstowe simulator, funded by the Golden Bottle Fund. There is good and bad news in the North-West District where new ringers have been recruited for the new six at Westhorpe, but that practices at Bacton had stopped. although this was back in November, so hopefully things have started up there again. Also uplifting to see that the Sole Bay Teaching Hub on Saturday morning has been helping large numbers in the North-East District, whilst it is noticeable that like us in the South-East District they too are looking to reinvigorate eight-bell ringing. Meanwhile the GMC minutes have a diverting section about the proposal to increase grants and to my mind the debate on the Guild's handbells is an encouraging sign of members' progress on handbells over the last few years.

Ixworth. Image: Martin KirkThat I've dedicated so much of today's blog to this may indicate to you that it was an unexciting day from a personal ringing perspective and you'd be right, but others were having a more notable Thursday in the exercise on another wet day as a quarter-peal of Rutland Surprise Major was rung at Ixworth.

No time for them to read committee minutes today I expect!

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Wednesday 21st February 2024

Not unusually for this extremely wet winter, it barely stopped raining all day, to various degrees.

Pettistree practice tonight.It had reduced to a fine drizzle by the time I was stood outside watching Alfie's football training, but I was still relieved that ringing is by and large an indoor pursuit as we all went to Pettistree's weekly practice later in the evening, half-term again affording the opportunity for Josh, Alfie, Ruthie and me to go out together again. That allowed my wife and I to do plenty of ringing on a busy night for Ringing Master Mike Whitby with enough present to ring Surprise Minor of the Berwick, Bourne and Norwich varieties to follow on from the quarter-peal of Cambridge beforehand, but also lots of learners too, including someone who has just moved into the village having handling lessons and Helen from Aldeburgh, who had come along with the Ringing Master there Richard Rapior.

Much to the delight of the boys after missing out on Monday night, we were even able to finish our night at The Greyhound along with Granny Kate, the Garners and Chris McArthur, where it was dry. In a weather sense at least.

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Tuesday 20th February 2024

No practice again at Ufford this evening, this time because it was a night of footy and quite a one at that, as the high-flying Tractor Boys were unexpectedly put through the wringer by bottom club Rotherham United who surprisingly took the lead in the first minute and then after Ipswich Town had been 3-1 up got it back to 3-3 with a penalty in injury time at the end of the game, only for the boys in blue to win it 4-3 with the few remaining seconds left after that! After that, I might look even more aged than usual next time you see me!

As is the norm on these occasions, although there was no ringing involved for us, there were three ringers in our party that went to the Mermaid for our pre-match grub and in the Fanzone before kick-off we met my brother and Norman Tower ringer Chris and Norwich St Peter Mancroft Ringing Master and former holder of the post at St Mary-le-Tower Simon Rudd, fresh from helping our friends north of the border host the George W Pipe 12 Bell Competition so successfully on Saturday, whilst Offton ringer Caroline Goodchild was briefly spotted as she went about her work for the club.

Nothing else was reported from Suffolk's bells on BellBoard either on a seemingly quiet day for the exercise in the county. Although not all because of the football.

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Monday 19th February 2024

St Mary-le-Tower.There was a rare treat for me in our current circumstances, as I was accompanied to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice this evening by Ruthie, Alfie and Josh. My wife tries to come here at every opportunity afforded, such as Sunday mornings if she isn't required for choral duties and the special monthly practices, but usually Monday nights are impractical for her to get along to. As with other midweek evenings out, only one of us can normally go out as the other has to stay at home to look after the boys who need to be in bed early in readiness for school the next day and understandably Ruthie doesn't feel particularly happy about driving into Ipswich town centre at night on her own and so typically its just me ringing on Suffolk's heaviest ring of bells on the first night of the working week. However, with it now being half-term and the boys old enough to come out without being too much trouble, she decided it was a chance to come along to a session that - before Alfred got too old to just carry up there - she used to go to every week.

Unfortunately, even with Ruthie present we were just one short of attempting more Bristol Surprise Maximus, with illness on top of those on holiday reducing our numbers, including Ringing Master Colin Salter who unfortunately but sensibly left before we got there as he wasn't feeling great. Nonetheless, despite the lower-than-usual numbers we still managed Cambridge Surprise Maximus amongst much else, before others retired to the Halberd Inn whilst we travelled home, the pub unsurprisingly unable to let children in after 8pm. Much to Alfred and Joshua's considerable disappointment!

Ixworth.It all capped a busy day of ringing in the county, with the most notable coming at Ixworth where North-West District Ringing Master Joshua Watkins rang his first quarter-peal of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods spliced. Well done Josh! And in Bury St Edmunds there were a brace of quarters of Plain Bob on handbells with a 1376 of Major and 1260 of Royal.

A not so rare treat for them!

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Sunday 18th February 2024

Ruthie was in Wingfield this evening. Not to ring the 13cwt ground-floor six which were most recently pealed in 2022 and rung for the big events since, but rather to sing with the Jubilate Singers, the third different choir for her in-demand voice. They are what my wife compares to a scratch striking competition band who come together on a monthly basis to sing choral evensongs in churches around Suffolk, with dates planned for Kettlebaston and Tostock this year, amongst others. It is wonderful to see, especially as she enjoys singing so much.

Whilst Mrs Munnings was dodging puddles to drive up there and back and no doubt producing a beautiful noise in between, the boys and I had wandered up to her mother Kate's where we were very kindly treated to tea and more pancakes, this time in the company of the boys' cousins, their mother Clare, her fiancé Chris and the children's Grandad Ron, with Ruthie eventually joining us.

Meanwhile, a quarter-peal of Grandsire Caters was rung at The Norman Tower, the home of East Anglia's newest twelve-bell champions, whilst earlier I rang the treble to a couple of pieces on the front six at Woodbridge for the morning service that I then attended whilst Alfie and Josh celebrated Chinese New Year with junior church.

Drinkstone. Henley. Polstead. Stowmarket.

Looking ahead, next weekend is planned to be even busier from a ringing perspective, starting from Friday evening when Guild PR Officer and North-West District Chairman Neal Dodge is due to give a talk to help publicise the Drinkstone Bell Restoration Project at the Village Hall, whilst at Henley a South-East District Kaleidoscope Practice is scheduled 7.30-9 on the same night and should be a really useful event. The following day the South-West District intend to run their practice on the lovely ground-floor six of Polstead from 3-4.30pm and on Sunday there is a big event as the dedication of the county's newest ten at Stowmarket is penciled in for 2.30pm. Please do support what you can.

We hope to do so if we can fit it in around Ruthie's in-demand voice!

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Saturday 17th February 2024

Unusually for a Saturday these days, it was ringing all the way. From dropping the boys off at their Granny and Ufford Ringing Master Kate's early this morning to arriving back at past 10pm from a meal out, our day was shaped by the exercise.

The early start was necessary because we needed to be at St Peter Mancroft in the centre of Norwich by 10am for the draw to determine the ringing order for this year's George W Pipe 12 Bell Striking Competition, with both Ruthie and me ringing for Ipswich as we competed with Chelmsford and Waltham Abbey from Essex, fellow Suffolk competitors Bury St Edmunds and our hosts from Norfolk to try and retain a trophy we'd won for the previous two years.

Gathered in the church for the draw. View from the tenor box at St Peter Mancroft. In the Octagon at St Peter Mancroft.

Thankfully we made it in time not just for the draw, but also for a cup of tea and bacon roll and to instantly start catching up with ringing friends from across the region, as well as our teammates before discovering that we were to ring first, in complete contrast to last year at Chelmsford Cathedral when we rang last. It meant that we were to be the standard setters and I think we set quite a high bar with our ringing of the test piece of Grandsire Cinques, with Sue Williamson in particular doing really well in a stunning but daunting ringing chamber. From the tenor box that I was ringing from next to the window into the church, the view was incredible but unnerving!

Watching the video feed in the church.  The ringing chamber from the church.  The ringing chamber from the church.

What followed after us was a fairly dramatic day of high quality competition ringing, with a further couple of hours of twelve-bell ringing, practicing, test pieces, signals and even an 'intruder' as the rope to the treble used for the light ten slipped from it's hook behind the tenor, swung across the ringing chamber and eventually stopped right alongside the tenor ringer Mike Clements during the early stages of the home team's test piece. All watched on a live feed at the bottom of the tower and directly from down in the church and culminating in our very own James Smith and Neil Pasmore from Writtle delivering results that saw just four percentage points between the top four and a very decent showing even from the team placed fifth, which on this occasion was Waltham Abbey. Well to them and indeed all who entered, especially our friends from the Norman Tower who came out victorious by a single point!

Neil Pasmore and James Smith with the results. Tim Hart collects the George W Pipe Trophy on behalf of the Bury St Edmunds band.

Well done also to Ian Culham, whose brainchild this competition was and who continues to put so much into arranging it every year so that twelve-bell bands and ringers across the East of England have the opportunity to compete on twelve bells when they might not ordinarily get that chance and subsequently helping their ringing on higher numbers. Thank you Ian.

Similar sentiments to Norwich too, who continued a fine tradition of magnificent hosting at this event. The refreshments were fantastic, with the Octagon at the far east end of the church a wonderful gathering point for participants and hangers on to relax.

Ruthie at the Lamb Inn.Not that our entire day out was at St Peter's. There was a brief bit of shopping and a less brief visit to the Lamb Inn where we met with fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringers in the beer garden in relatively pleasant conditions, but it was the efforts of those who organised and hosted the event that really made our day. Thank you to them all. Make a note of Saturday 15th February 2025, when the competition is due to break new ground and head to Hertfordshire for the first time, with the venue planned to be the new twelve of Bishop's Stortford.

That wasn't the end of our ringing-related Saturday though, as once back in Suffolk and having picked up the boys from a day out with their Gran where she'd very kindly taken them to West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village, there was a relatively quick turnaround to glam ourselves up for the Pettistree Ringers Annual Dinner this evening. I say glam ourselves up, as this is a really informal, laid back occasion and tonight's venue epitomised that perfectly as we converged upon the Lion Inn in Little Glemham, a pub that serves great food at good value and from whom we've only ever received friendly, welcome hospitality, today included.

Mike Whitby with Mary's Monthly Plate whilst making his speech at the Pettistree Ringers Dinner. Elaine Townsend being awarded Mary's Monthly Plate by. Mike Whitby at the Pettistree Ringers Dinner. Mary Garner making her speech at the Pettistree Ringers Dinner.

Logistics meant that as a family we were sat across two tables, with Alfie, Mason and myself joining Mike Cowling, the Harpers, Mike Whitby and Pippa Moss for a convivial evening that concluded with brief speeches from Mary Garner and the aforementioned Mr Whitby who then presented Mary's Monthly Plate to Elaine Townsend. Famously this is actually given out annually at the dinner, awarded to someone that Mike and Mary agree has made tremendous progress, showed dedication to ringing on the ground-floor six and/or made an important contribution there. Elaine certainly falls into that category, turning up every week despite a hectic family life to call touches of Grandsire Doubles and ring inside to various Surprise Minor methods, whilst also helping out whenever she can for any additional ringing when called upon. She is also an approachable port of call for learners and always willing to impart what she can to help them. Well done Elaine, very much deserved!

Thank you to mother-in-law Kate Eagle for organising it and to the many others there for their superb company, but eventually it was time for that late departure at the end a very enjoyable day of ringing-related activity that began early.

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Friday 16th February 2024

The church of SS Peter and Paul, Forncett St Peter - geograph.org.uk - 1363364A quick glance at the front cover of The Ringing World which arrived with us today got me wondering if the round tower was in Suffolk, but having not been able to place it an inspection of the inside front cover revealed it to be Forncett St Peter in Norfolk where a 13cwt six hang. It also gave a mention of our county and our 38 round towers, but otherwise the only time ringing within our borders features is through the quarter-peal and peal columns, including the peal at Campsea Ashe we rang for Mason's birthday recently. Nonetheless, another superb edition with lots appearing from tales of people young and not as young learning to ring to a report on Nicola Turner's five thousandth peal.

Leiston.There should be another Suffolk peal appear in a future issue soon though, as today a 5120 of Bristol Surprise Major was rung at Leiston in memory of Adrian Knights by a band of his friends who had all rung at least one hundred peals with him. That band, those who could've also rung and those who have passed away make for impressive reading and underline just what a good ringer Arnie was, as you don't ring that many peals with ringers of that calibre otherwise.

No such activity for us, with even our night in restrained with an early start planned for tomorrow morning, leaving us with plenty of time to 'Guess Where the Round Tower Is'.

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Thursday 15th February 2024

Thanks to a spot of forgetfulness that meant we suddenly realised we should've been somewhere else when one of the boys asked when we were going out (not ringing related, although as others will testify that too has happened before!) and Ruthie not having to go to one of her regular choir practices, we had a bit more time for our Valentine's Day meal than yesterday when it was actually Valentine's Day.

It left no time for ringing and indeed it was a quiet day on the county's bells generally, at least where BellBoard was concerned.

15th February hasn't always been thus. When looking through the late Bill Butler's excellent 'On This Day' on the equally excellent Pealbase as I sometimes do, I noticed that it was the date that John Mortimer, Philip Moyse, Alex Tatlow, Joshua Watkins, Carmen Wright and Zoe Wright all rang their first peal in 2009, 2010 and 2018, a notable glut of local first pealers. After a few moments, I realised that they all coincided with the Suffolk Guild Peal Week and felt quite chuffed that I reintroduced it during my time as SGR Ringing Master. I imagine they all would've rung their first peal at some point, but I'm pleased that SGRPW presented them with the opportunity to get started.

Although if I was in the middle of organising Guild Peal Week at the moment, I'm not convinced we would've had time to have that Valentine's Day meal.

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Wednesday 14th February 2024

It may have been Valentine's Day, but it is also Ash Wednesday and so there was no significant celebration of the occasion for us, as Ruthie rehearsed for and sang at the Ash Wednesday service at St Mary's in Woodbridge whilst Josh and I watched Alfie at his team's football training and I then listened on the radio to Ipswich Town's tremendous away win.

All that also meant that we missed Pettistree's weekly practice, but there was the usual quarter-peal rung beforehand, which on this occasion was a 1272 of Westminster Surprise Minor celebrating the birthday of regular John Horsnell who it appears later brought scones for the event!

Another birthday which was being celebrated by Guild members was that of Roger Palmer of Fordham, a good friend of Suffolk ringing. The eighty-seventh anniversary of his birth was marked by the 5040 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal rung at Braintree in Essex, scene of the Guild's first Ridgman Trophy victory in twenty-seven years in 2021. Notably, it also means the SGR has rung more peals than by this point last year, which is impressive considering the amount of peal-ringing being done in 2023 for it's centenary.

And at Bardwell, well done to Max and Wayne Thomson on ringing their first of Sixty on Thirds.

Christ Church, Southport - geograph.org.uk - 1369456Meanwhile, I had a very nice email from Woodbridge Ringing Master and former Guild Secretary and PR Officer Bruce Wakefield after he read about Sunday's peal of Knotty Ash Delight Major at Aldeburgh, pointing out that he pulled the tenor in to the very first peal of it, at Southport in Merseyside in 1969. That it was conducted by the late Keith Walpole prompted me to recall that I rang a couple of peals with Keith on Lundy Island in 1999, even staying overnight at his on the way down, whilst Bruce recounted a handbell attempt lost due to Keith's then girlfriend trying to get his attention! He was a nice chap, but sadly passed away in 2007.

With it being Ash Wednesday, it is also the start of Lent and therefore a reminder that much important to ringing is due to follow. Holy Week should round it off and although there is apparently no written liturgical rules for it to be so, that means that many church bells will fall silent that week. If the normal order of things is followed, during the week beginning 25th March practices will be cancelled or moved to handbells or mini-rings or other activities undertaken, so please do check before you go out to a practice that week. Similarly, please don't assume that a practice isn't happening, as some usually do continue ringing during that week.

Stowmarket.Easter is then an important weekend with extra services that often require extra ringing from Maundy Thursday through to what is generally considered the most important date in the Christian calendar on Easter Sunday. And then the following Saturday, as in all bar the odd occasion it long has been, the Suffolk Guild AGM is planned to be held, with this year the new ten at Stowmarket and St Peter's Hall across the churchyard penciled in as the venue for proceedings, as indeed they were a decade ago.

Perhaps I'll take Ruthie along to that to make up for not doing much on this Valentine's Day...

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Tuesday 13th February 2024

No practice at Ufford this evening as a sizeable proportion of regulars were at a Shrove Tuesday event and so appropriately the Ringing Master Kate Eagle took advantage by making pancakes. It was at the request of her youngest grandson Josh who when out with her on Saturday kind of invited himself - and us - round to hers tonight for this seasonal feast. Thank you Kate for indulging him. And us.

Ufford, Cambridgeshire.There was ringing at an Ufford today, with a peal rung on the 11cwt four in Cambridgeshire and there was proof of ringing elsewhere in Suffolk with a pre-practice quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor rung at Offton.

Drinkstone.Additionally, an email was sent out to Guild members from Nigel Gale today advertising a talk by SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge entitled 'Ringing the Changes', due to be held at 7pm on Friday 23rd February at Drinkstone Village Hall to help publicise the Bell Restoration Project for the village's 11cwt six. However, if you can't make that, there is also a South-East District Kaleidoscope Practice booked in at Henley for the same evening, so there's plenty to do that night if you can make either of those!

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that there is no regular practice at Ufford planned on the next Tuesdays. Though its got nothing to do with pancakes.

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Monday 12th February 2024

St Mary-le-Tower.Tonight's practice at St Mary-le-Tower was an extremely satisfying one, one where it was felt considerable progress was made for a single session. Partly because of our practice of the test piece touch of Grandsire Cinques we are due to ring at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich on Saturday for the George W Pipe 12 Bell Competition, where the 10am draw will be preceded and accompanied by bacon (and I suspect vegetarian options too) rolls and of course plenty of other refreshments nearby. Probably our best attempt at it yet.

Partly also for the well-rung piece of Stedman Cinques that Abby Antrobus and Sue Williamson rung excellently in. A big step in something that even the most experienced ringers can - and do - have occasional trouble with.

Partly too because both Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus were rung, the latter better than the former admittedly, with a stray treble causing issues in that! In big part though because having been asked to look at Bristol Surprise Maximus for this evening, we rang it very well, with more available to stand behind and others unable to be there who could've rung. All regulars or local. With the progress made in the method at The Norman Tower, it is incredibly encouraging for Suffolk ringing and shows what we can do within our borders. Although the Little Bob Maximus to bring it round proved we do have a little blind spot there!

Afterwards a big crowd retired to the Halberd Inn where a variety of subjects from marathon running to the late, great Peter Border came up, whilst earlier in the day a quarter-peal of Kent Treble Bob Royal in Bury St Edmunds was scored. Which I imagine was also extremely satisfying.

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Sunday 11th February 2024

Sundays have been particularly busy for Suffolk's bells and Suffolk's ringers in recent weeks and today followed that pattern, with another brace apiece of quarters and peals and more achievements.

Troston.One of the main headlines will be Ruth Suggett conducting a peal for the first time in the 5040 of five Treble Dodging Minor methods at Troston. Ruth does so much to engage and teach others in the exercise, so it is always nice to see her achieve something for herself. Well done Ruth!

The other headline is Clopton Ringing Master David Stanford ringing his first quarter-peal of Surprise Major in hand in the 1280 of Yorkshire rung in Ipswich. My rather stilted efforts on eBells over the last two and a half years has only reinforced my admiration of those who are able to ring handbells to this standard, and David is another who does much for others in the art, so well done Mr Stanford too!

Well done also to the entire band in the 5024 of Knotty Ash Delight Major rung at Aldeburgh this afternoon on ringing their first in the method, which was also a first for the Guild and well done as well to Sue Slaven of the Little Cornard band on doing her first service ringing this morning. There was also a QP rung at Rougham, whilst Ruthie was delighted to report that all eight were being rung at Woodbridge as she arrived to sing for the morning worship, as was also mentioned on BellBoard.

I was pleased too, but I wasn't there to hear it firsthand as I was ringing at St Mary-le-Tower where the boys and I nipped into the ringing chamber between some aborted rounds and the touch of Grandsire Cinques that was meant to follow it before I pulled the tenor into the couple of leads of Cambridge Surprise Maximus we could fit in and then after refreshment at Costa Coffee at Grundisburgh. We were missing the Ringing Master Stephen Pettman at the county's lightest twelve as he was down south for the Christening of his and Liz's great nephew Jacob - which was celebrated with a peal at Long Ashton in Somerset yesterday - but still managed some Plain Doubles and call-changes on eight under the guidance of SGR Chairman Mark Ogden.

That was the sum of my ringing today though, with an afternoon of playing football with Josh instead, along with my wife and me going out to get Valentine's cards, romantics that we are, but The Norman Tower ringers were at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich preparing for the George W Pipe 12 Bell Competition with a quarter-peal of the method planned for the test piece, Grandsire Cinques. This highlight of the calendar is due to take place on Saturday with a 10am draw for the ringing order. Please do consider coming up to support the Suffolk entries if you can or even simply to enjoy the occasion in a city that for all my pantomime dislike of its football team is a lovely place to spend a day for ringers and non-ringers alike, especially with the sound of good twelve-bell ringing in the background!

Woolpit. Drinkstone. Bardwell. Elveden. Ixworth.

Meanwhile, a quarter-peal was rung yesterday - but only added to BB today - at Woolpit in memory of local resident Ian Lavender, the actor who played Private Pike in Dad's Army which was filmed in many places along our border with Norfolk (for those interested there is a website that pinpoints most of the filming locations) with bells, including near the village he ultimately made his home and Drinkstone, as well as places like Bardwell, Elveden and Ixworth, although none of those community's churches or bells feature in the show. Bells did appear in one scene in typical TV style, ironically purporting to be at a church which was represented by All Saints in Honington where there are only three bells that are swing chimed. Lovely to see this famous and popular adopted son of the county remembered in his community by ringers to add to other performances rung in memory of him, nearly all in East Anglia.

Lovely too to see Suffolk's ringers keeping busy on this Sunday!

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Saturday 10th February 2024

Two of Suffolk's ringers feature prominently in the third part of Pealbase's Andrew Craddock excellent analysis of peal ringing in 2023 in the latest edition of The Ringing World which arrived with us today. One is Alan Mayle who appears on the list of those who have rung the most towerbell peals on tenors, with only Richard Alton, Michael Mears, Claire Roulstone and Alan Regin having rung more than him. Even when taking into account the weight of tenors rung, the former Peal Secretary of the Guild comes in eighth with a 'Row Tons' score of 163,178 (apparently reached by multiplying the tenor weight and number of changes) impressively putting him in between Michael Wilby and Alan Reading.

Meanwhile, the SGR's Handbells and Mini-Ring Trustee Brian Whiting is at number seven of those who have rung the treble to the most towerbell peals, having rung thirty-four last year. Well done Alan and Brian on representing the county on the lists!

Neither Ruthie nor I was contributing towards appearing in 2024's analysis or indeed any ringing however as football took up much of our day, first with Alfie's team playing - and winning - this morning before we raced straight off into Ipswich to watch the Tractor Boys draw with their visitors West Bromwich Albion 2-2 in thrilling fashion in another lunchtime kick-off for the TV cameras. That meant that there was no way we could get to the North-West District Practice at Horringer which was on at the same time and whilst in theory we might have made the North-East District Ringing Meeting at Sweffling, it didn't seem overly practical with the timings, reluctant children in tow and an event twenty miles away! Still, as usual we did see ringers at Portman Road as we met up for drink in the Fanzone before the match with mother-in-law and Ufford Ringing Master Kate Eagle after she had very kindly taken Josh for a brunch of pancakes as Mason, Ruthie and I watched Alfred, my brother and Norman Tower ringer Chris and Norwich St Peter Mancroft Ringing Master Simon Rudd. And Joshua and his Granny heard ringing from St Mary-le-Tower on the way in which transpired to be ringers from Waltham Abbey on an outing in the town.

Nothing noted on BellBoard from within our borders or for the Guild though. Not even from Alan Mayle or Brian Whiting.

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Friday 8th February 2024

Reading CCCBR Tina Stoecklin President's most recent blog entry led me to fill in a survey as part of the consultation on the process of what traditions should be made an 'intangible cultural heritage' as part of the UK joining the UNESCO Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. In her blog, Tina is encouraging readers to fill in the survey in light of ringing's ambition to be registered as part of the United Kingdom's cultural heritage, so I did.

Tostock.Meanwhile, the first quarter-peal for the Denes High School (Lowestoft) Society since 1978 was rung on handbells in Beccles remembering J Barry Pickup by a band all taught handbell ringing by him and at Tostock Stephen Dawson was wished the best for an intriguing sounding birthday weekend with a 1260 of Doubles!

For us though, there was no ringing as I took that survey and read Tina's blog instead.

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Thursday 8th February 2024

Apart from getting an absolute soaking from a passing car driving through a puddle in the type of incident I thought only really happened in sitcoms, there was nothing especially notable about today from a personal ringing perspective.

Horringer.Not so for other ringers within Suffolk, as a handbell peal was rung for the NDA in Bacton, whilst at Horringer the quarter-peal of Double Oxford Bob Major was a first in the method for Sally Crouch, Martin Kirk, former North-West District Ringing Master Maureen Gardiner and her immediate successor Josh Watkins. Well done Sally, Martin, Maureen and Josh and Happy Birthday for Friday to Stephen Dawson.

Orford.I did listen again to the extract of ringing from Orford that featured on 'Bells on Sunday' on BBC Radio 4 at the weekend and really is a very nice bit of ringing to listen to as I found myself transported to the church with the familiar sound of an eight I have rung regularly on, including seven quarters and four peals. Do take the time out to immerse yourself in it if you're looking for a relaxing 3 minutes and 19 seconds.

Otherwise though, the dragged out process of getting the boys to bed via homework and every delaying tactic they could think of (we do love them, but this is an exhausting routine!) whilst Ruthie was choral practicing meant that I didn't get the chance to have a go on my eBells. At least I was dry though.

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Wednesday 7th February 2024

Alfie has had a small injury which prevented him playing in his team's match on Saturday and this evening meant he couldn't go training. Pity as that was, it should at least have made it easier to get out to Pettistree's weekly practice, but somehow it still ended up being a big rush with getting the boys and ourselves fed, encouraging them to do their homework and then eventually on the path to bed.

Showing how difficult it is to get to the cobwebs in Pettistree ringing chamber!I'm glad I managed to get to the ground-floor six though, with a handful of Surprise Minor regulars absent. Nonetheless, we still managed Cambridge and London during a session that also included discussion on how difficult it is to get to the cobwebs high up in the ringing chamber, was preceded by a quarter of Norwich and followed by myself and the Garners having a drink sat by the bar at The Greyhound as we chatted about geese, pheasants and the busy diaries us ringers have!

The pre-practice 1272 next door wasn't the only QP in Suffolk today either, with former member of the first Wednesday quarter-peal band Adrian Knights remembered by them with a 1282 of Pudsey Surprise Major at Gislingham, whilst at Elveden the birth of James and Jenny Croft's granddaughter was celebrated with a 1280 of eleven Surprise Major methods spliced.

Haverhill.Meanwhile, it was lovely to see an article on SuffolkNews about Haverhill's former Tower Captain Gordon Adams' ninetieth birthday and the peal rung there on Sunday. Great PR for the exercise and good to see Gordon getting deserved recognition.

Thankfully there weren't any injuries preventing them from scoring Sunday's peal or today's quarters!

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Tuesday 6th February 2024

Ufford.Following the range of emotions experienced yesterday, there was something reassuring about the normality of today. Back to work after John Catt Educational had very kindly given me the time off for Arnie's funeral and ringing at Ufford for the weekly practice. We were a bit short after some who said they were coming then couldn't, but it was still a productive session that featured Plain Bob Minor for Vince to ring inside to and Treble Bob Minor for Daniel to treble to, as well as some London Surprise Minor for a little indulgence.

Meanwhile, back at Offton, Adrian Knights was remembered with the pre-practice quarter-peal of five Surprise Major methods rung on this ground-floor eight. A spot of reassuring normality.

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Monday 5th February 2024

It was a rather sombre day. News of King Charles III's cancer diagnosis understandably shocked many, whilst the passing of Ian Lavender - who played Private Pike in Dad's Army and was the last surviving member of the original main cast - saddened me as a big fan of the show filmed mainly along the Norfolk-Suffolk border and felt like another bit of my childhood lost. Mainly though, the tone of the day for myself and lots of ringers from Suffolk and beyond was set by it being the day we said farewell to Adrian 'Arnie' Knights at his funeral. Yet this was to be a welcome upbeat note on a sad day.

Service sheet from Arnie's funeral.

You always hope that funerals serve to transition one from grief to fond recollection, allowing one to celebrate having known the family member or friend you have just lost rather than mourn their passing. Today's did that, certainly for me and I hope - and think - it did for others too. Most of us hadn't seen him for years, mainly because dementia had cruelly robbed us of the Arnie we knew and loved and in the end his ability to remember friends of decades and so to an extent it had been too easy to forget what he had been like, I'm ashamed to say. With the amusing tales, his wonderful dialect and quick wit recounted heartfeltly and movingly by his close friends David Sparling and Simon Rudd, my memories of him suddenly came vividly to life. Even from my youthful days pre-ringing being taken up St Mary-le-Tower with my brother Chris by our parents, I remember thinking he was like no other ringer I'd ever encountered. The way he spoke, the way he looked, his dress sense. He looked different and sounded different, but in a truly likable way. I remembered the sixty-two peals we rang together, including most of my early successes on Cinques and Maximus, mine and Ruthie's first together and the peal we rang of Plain Bob Major at Leiston a century on from one rung by the famous Bailey brothers, with Arnie ringing the same bell as his ringing tutor Ernest - known as Sid - had rung in the 1911 success. He was a superb ringer, in my opinion one of the best this county has ever produced, who ringers in Birmingham used to ask after when I rang there and who was highly thought of in the Cumberland Youths, that he was a member of for fifty years.

However, he was also fantastic company, as we were reminded this afternoon. As mentioned he was quick-witted and also very intelligent, something that probably caught those with misconceptions of the Suffolk accent off guard at times, but always a joy to spend time with. To echo and paraphrase part of Simon's tribute, life didn't get much better as a young ringer than sitting in an ancient Suffolk pub over a pint, listening to Arnie. I couldn't claim to be his contemporary as others could and who can tell some marvelous stories about quarter-peal tours, National 12-bell Striking Contests and peals at towers around the country with him, but it was a privilege to ring with and know him.

Offton.It was for all these attributes and more - such as his respectfulness, helpfulness and caring nature - that Offton church was packed out with people from around the county and beyond to celebrate a confirmed bachelor (he was on the treble for a pealband of bachelors placed in descending order of age in a 5040 rung at Sproughton on Leap Year Day in 1992!) who was an only child and that there were many others such as my wife who would've liked to have been there but couldn't. It was important to give Arnie the send-off he deserved, but it was also an opportunity for deserved recognition to be given to Brian Whiting and Amanda Richmond for all they did for him in his final years. And the spontaneous singing of The Farmer's Boy by the congregation as the coffin left the church with a bellrope atop was incredibly moving.

Beforehand the ringing on the ground-floor eight where he rang so much was as you might expect with not just the quantity but quality of ringers present, which included John Loveless, Linda Garton, Jim & Yvonne Towler, Steve Day and a huge proportion of Suffolk's finest. Personally I was delighted to pull in the tenor to a course of Cambridge Surprise Major, ring some Double Norwich Court Bob Major and conduct a touch of Grandsire Triples which was the final piece before the service began, whilst during it David, Amanda, Simon & Brian rang three leads of Kent Treble Bob Major and afterwards a prearranged band rang before a huge crowd retired to The Limes Hotel in Needham Market where more memories were imparted and a montage of photos and videos featuring Arnie was projected on the wall. I was so glad to have gone.

Me when I got my Dad's Army t-shirt in 2014.Having taken my mother Sally there and took her home, I met up with her again at St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice this evening, where I felt I ought to wear my 'Stupid Boy' Dad's Army t-shirt that I got for my birthday in 2014 and which on the very same day I wore to The Ramsholt Arms when my wife very kindly took me out for lunch and Ian Lavender himself walked in! Although I couldn't match the colour coordination of Hal Meakin and Ollie Watson, I felt I ought to wear it on an evening that also saw much ringing, including the now usual Stedman Cinques and Cambridge Surprise Maximus and if you want to practice your Bristol Surprise Maximus then the intention is to ring that next Monday.

Meanwhile, it was announced that the St Mary-le-Tower Society of Change Ringers website is now up and running thanks to the efforts of George Heath-Collins and Hal and looks great, whilst some may be interested to know there is an 'Ipswich Bells' Facebook page now too! All following on nicely from yesterday's blog theme!

After ringing I went for a quick drink at the Halberd Inn, but I have to admit I didn't stick around for long, feeling slightly drained and subdued after a long, sombre day.

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Sunday 4th February 2024

Today is apparently the twentieth birthday of Facebook. Not directly ringing related, but of course it has become a very important tool of communication for ringers and the Suffolk Guild. Many a cancelled practice, upcoming event or news of a ringing friend has been shared to hundreds immediately via the SGR's page and entire pealbands have been formed purely though the medium. Along with email, this website, even maybe my blog and now WhatsApp (Twitter or X or whatever it's called this week doesn't seem to have caught on in the same way in the ringing community, despite being of a similar vintage to FB), ringers in this county and the Guild can communicate at a speed and on a scale that not all that long ago would've seemed incredible to us. It all seems a far cry from even 'just' back to when I started ringing when getting news out to members or organising something required numerous phone calls, letters, newsletters and plenty of patience!

On this Candlemas Sunday, the Guild's Facebook page was particularly active. Norman Tower ringer Ben Keating shared a picture of Lavenham's old frame and asked if anyone had a plan of the church, Jason Busby asked if anyone could ring at his home tower of Halesworth for a funeral on Tuesday and Pettistree Ringing Master shared some photos from yesterday's South-East District Practice at St Margaret's in Ipswich.

There was still time for actual ringing too, which for me began with helping ring the bells at Woodbridge where the exercise was amusingly being compared to ballet dancing and wrestling pythons, before I attended the service where Ruthie and her choral colleagues were singing under their new Director of Music for the first time on a Sunday.

My wife later joined me at St Mary-le-Tower for a practice at the test piece of Grandsire Cinques for the George W Pipe 12 Bell Competition due to be held at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich on Saturday 17th February, which served its purpose as we got used to the touch and improved piece by piece, which was borne out by the Hawkear results we studied as we went along.

Haverhill.Meanwhile, it was another busy day of ringing in the county with two peals and two quarter-peals rung within our borders. One of the peals was done and dusted before I'd even got out of bed and rung by a visiting band (although you may have heard of one or two of them!) as a 5040 of forty-two Treble Dodging Minor methods spliced was rung on handbells for the Society of Cambridge Youths in Risby, with the John Warboys composition thus rung in hand for the first time. An intense weekend for conductor Henry Pipe in particular who can't have had much of a turnaround from spending much of yesterday ringing in that record success in Northamptonshire at Towcester. Just fifteen miles away in Haverhill, a more local peal was being rung as Cambridge Surprise Minor was scored in 2 hours and 55 minutes in a celebratory effort that marked former tower captain Gordon Adams' ninetieth birthday, the eightieth anniversary of the first peal on this 12cwt six and the recent birth of the fourth ringer Reverend Max Drinkwater's daughter Delia. Congratulations all!

Buxhall. Halesworth.Elsewhere, the headline act was Mark Consadine's first QP, rung in the 1260 of Doubles at Buxhall, whilst a quarter of Plain Bob Triples was rung at the aforementioned Halesworth. Well done Mark!

Plenty to put on Facebook there!

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Saturday 3rd February 2024

This morning went pretty much as planned for the South-East District Practice and bake-off.

For us personally though, this morning was version 3.0.

St Margaret.As has been well documented in my barely legible jottings previously, Saturday mornings usually see Alfie playing a football match. However, his team hadn't got a fixture planned for today and so we had been looking forward to a small lay-in before attending the SE's February event at St Margaret's in Ipswich at a leisurely pace. Come Tuesday though and we were informed that a friendly match had been set up for our son and his teammates. I've also mentioned how difficult it is to balance the long-term planning that ringing usually requires with the last-minute arrangements that often accompany youth footy and on this occasion it suddenly made our plans to get to the 14cwt gallery-ring eight in the county town more challenging. Still, we had worked out that if all went to plan we should be able to get to some of the proceedings in the church next to Christchurch Park once Alfred's game had finished.

When we got up this morning to discover AJM complaining of muscle pains and not looking overly mobile however, our plans changed again as he clearly wasn't in a position to play. You know it's bad when Alfie can't play football! It meant that the morning was again free to attend all the ringing, but of course one of us needed to stay at home to look after the patient. Ruthie volunteered for that role and Josh leapt at the chance to join me for cake and the promise of a trip to the park afterwards!

St Mary-le-Tower.Arriving in Ipswich and walking in, we were met by the sound of the twelve of St Mary-le-Tower ring out as a peal was being attempted in memory of Adrian Knights. Wafting across the town centre, they added a joyful noise to the bustling sounds of traffic and the like in a busy area, but in the main they couldn't be considered intrusive, more constant background music as people went about their lives. They also gave a rare opportunity to hear two rings of bells in the town going at once and I tried to capture that with a video from St Margaret's churchyard with the end of some rounds on the eight and then as a single bell tried to set, the distant sound of the 5042 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus continuing from a few streets over.

Me taking a photo of Liz Christian taking a photo of me at St Margaret's during the South-East District Practice. Some of those at the South-East District Practice at St Margaret's enjoying the cake. Ringing at St Margaret's for the South-East District Practice. Meeting sat the end of the South-East District Practice at St Margaret's. Ringing at St Margaret's during the South-East District Practice. Familiar faces at St Margaret's during the South-East District Practice (taken by Mike Whitby).
South-east District Ringing

Having entered St Margaret's, Joshua and I were greeted by a big crowd, some up in the ringing chamber about to ring, others downstairs watching, mingling and/or eyeing up the delicious looking cakes. Great to see so many there, from longstanding stalwarts like John & Shirley Girt to others completely new to me like the learners from Henley, whilst Ringing Master Hal Meakin guided ringing that included much from Call-Changes to Stedman Triples and lots in between. And it was tremendous fun trying the baked goods on offer over a cup of tea and chatting to people there. All rounded off by a short meeting and election of a new member, the nearby peal just about audible, even inside the church.

Afterwards our youngest son was delighted to get to go to the park and roll down hills, the sound of the 3 hours and 35 minutes of ringing on Suffolk's heaviest ring of bells still going, as they were as we walked back to the car, although presumably they must have been pretty close to finishing by that point.

It was brilliant to see that was scored, but it wasn't the only performance from within our borders which featured on BellBoard, on a busy day of quarter-peal achievements. Particularly so for North-West District Ringing Master Josh Watkins who rang his fiftieth QP as conductor in the 1260 of St Clement's College Bob Minor at Higham, as well as his twenty-fifth in the medium with David Steed. He rang his first of Norwich Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Preston St Mary too and his fiftieth quarter with Sally Crouch in the 1344 of Plain Bob Triples at Stoke by Nayland. Congratulations and well done to Joshua, David and Sally and also to Jill Apter on her first of Minor in the Plain Bob rung at Stratford St Mary!

Towcester.Meanwhile, you might have thought that the peal at St Mary-le-Tower sounded like it went on for a long time as we went about our morning with it as a continuous backdrop, but it was only about half the length and time of the 10032 changes of eleven Maximus methods spliced rung in 6 hours and 42 minutes at Towcester today. This is the longest peal of variable treble spliced Maximus, which is where the treble rings all the work - all of the line of all of the methods - along with all of the other bells. It is an impressive achievement from a band of some of the world's best ringers who are used to impressive achievements.

Hopefully it all went as planned too!

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Friday 2nd February 2024

It was a typically quiet Friday evening in for us, our only ringing-related occurrence being the arrival of The Ringing World.

Earl Stonham.A future edition should feature today's quarter-peal at Earl Stonham, whilst ringing within our borders is due to appear in a different medium with a part of the peal of Ambridge Surprise Major rung at Orford over the ringing weekend to remember twice Past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild David Salter a couple of years ago due to be the subject of this weekend's 'Bells on Sunday' on BBC Radio 4.

God willing something to look forward to listening out for on what should hopefully be a busier day of ringing for us.

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Thursday 1st February 2024

Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral, HampshireRecent years have taught us not to assume things go to plan, but as we ticked into February today with winter feeling like its been going on for years rather than months, I couldn't help but consider that next month the clocks are due to go forward to British Summer Time, God willing ushering in arriving at evening ringing practices in the light and eventually leaving them and even the pub afterwards with the sun still out.

It seemed a good time to be reminded of a much anticipated ringing event that is also slated to happen towards the end of March, as further information was released on the National 12-bell Striking Contest's website about the eliminators planned for fifty-one days time, including ours at Portsmouth Cathedral. As always we would be appreciative of support from anyone who fancies a day or weekend away on the south coast and if that is your intention then today's info includes tips, guidance and advice on transport, parking, food, drink and the like, as well as the intended schedule for proceedings at the cathedral. Apparently more will appear on the local ringers' website soon too, so keep an eye out on that!

For all the excitement of what the next few weeks could potentially bring though, I have no intention of wishing my life away and today was very much one to appreciate in the moment as Ruthie and I attended Josh's class assembly at school. Lots of adorable memories were created as he and his peers spoke Spanish and initiated a quiz that involved guessing which instruments go with which animals in 'Peter and the Wolf'. Our son spoke his lines loudly and clearly and seemed very pleased with himself, as were we!

Other ringers were taking advantage of what Suffolk's bells were offering in the here and now, most notably at Horringer where all the band were ringing their first blows of St John the Baptist Bob Triples in a quarter-peal of the method. Well done to them all, Happy Birthday to Jo Crouch and North-West District Ringing Master Josh Watkins and congratulations to the Reverend Max Drinkwater and his wife Charlotte on the birth of Delia.

Whilst I can't help but dream of brighter spring days then, there is plenty to enjoy right now thank God!

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Wednesday 31st January 2024

Pettistree. Cretingham. Campsea Ashe.

Occasionally the Pettistree band gets into a 'method of the moment'. A few weeks ago, following the Boxing Day peal at Cretingham, Kirkstall Delight Minor was rung at the following practice and then the next week in the pre-session quarter-peal. Seven days ago we rang Allendale Surprise Minor on the ground-floor six ahead of Sunday's peal at Campsea Ashe that Mary Garner and myself were ringing in. Tonight, the practice was preceded by a quarter-peal of the method only differentiated from Fryerning and Westminster by the frontwork and later it was also part of a touch of spliced.

By that point the tenor ringer of the earlier 1272, Kate, had collected her dog Merlin and on the way back to ringing very kindly picked me up too, with Ruthie a little under the weather and work to do and so as well as that spliced I was able to ring in plenty of other stuff from Bourne Surprise Minor to Stedman Doubles to rounds on six for learner Catherine. There was cake to celebrate Chris McArthur's birthday too and with The Greyhound now open again following its usual January break, there was also post-ringing refreshment here for the first time for a few weeks.

God willing it won't be as long before we're back. Who knows what the 'method of the moment' might be by then?

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Tuesday 30th January 2024

Ufford.A number of Ufford's Tuesday night regulars were unringable this evening. Hollesley's Margaret Weeks was present and her arm now out of it's cast, but she isn't ready to ring yet, whilst others were away ill, but with Alan McBurnie again there and almost now a regular himself, we still managed some Surprise Minor of the London and Norwich variety along with lots of trebling practice for Daniel Atkinson to Doubles and Plain Bob Minor.

Elsewhere at another Tuesday night eight-bell practice, a quarter-peal was rung beforehand at Offton to celebrate Janet Sheldrake's significant birthday - Happy Birthday for tomorrow Janet! I'm glad you were ringable for it!

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Monday 29th January 2024

Offton.Many will be aware already I'm sure, but next Monday is due to be the funeral of Arnie Knights and a reminder and further details were shared by his good friend Brian Whiting via the Guild's email and Facebook page. It is due to be held at Offton - where he did so much of his ringing - at noon, with ringing on the 8cwt ground-floor eight from 11am beforehand, whilst ringing afterwards will only be done by a pre-arranged band. Brian would also be most appreciative if you could let him know if you intend to attend.

Before then though, we were reminded during the notice's at St Mary-le-Tower's practice that this Saturday the South-East District is planning on holding it's monthly practice just a few hundred yards away at St Margaret's on Saturday morning, complete with a fun Bake Off. Even without the bake off, this is an event that I hope that all who can attend will attend. These occasions allow members from towers across a large area to join together to achieve more than they might be able to just at their home tower, as well as meet others that might be able to support them, not just in the SE, but all being well a week later at Sweffling in the North-East District and Horringer in the North-West District and then on the 24th at Polstead in the South-West District.

The power of these was apparently fully evidenced on Saturday at Lavenham for the SW's January practice and from where I have heard many glowing reports from those who went along! And no wonder, as forty-nine attended with three new members being elected, including one who is eleven years old and another who is thirteen, all guided by new South-West Ringing Master Richard Knight. A great start to 2024 for the South-West District and generally from all the districts from what I've heard.

Mention of the SW is also a good moment to mention that their new Secretary Christine Knight is planning on stepping down as Guild Peal Secretary after an incredible twenty years in the role at the AGM slated for Saturday 6th April at Stowmarket, whilst Kate Gill's five years as SGR Secretary is due to finish at the same meeting. Please do give thought to either taking on one of these roles or who might be able to.

Today though, there was a handbell peal rung in Bacton for the Norwich Diocesan Association and the aforementioned weekly session on the county's heaviest ring of bells where Ben Keating again joined us and hopefully got plenty out of a practice that included Grandsire Cinques and Cambridge Surprise Maximus as we continue to prepare for our intended entries into the George W Pipe 12 Bell Competition and National 12-bell Striking Contest in Norwich on 17th February and Portsmouth on 23rd March respectively. We also rang some Stedman Cinques before we retired to the Halberd Inn where we enjoyed conversation with family and friends over a drink. Something that Arnie would've definitely have enjoyed!

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Sunday 28th January 2024

It was a busy day of ringing in Suffolk, with my contribution to it beginning at St Mary-le-Tower for service ringing, where on this occasion we were joined by Ipswich blasts from the past Sue McCouaig and Helen Carter. We now usually see Sue on Rambling Ringers, but she used to live locally and ring at St Margaret's, whilst Helen worked in the town for about eighteen months and rang on the county's heaviest twelve regularly a few years ago. Sadly I didn't get the opportunity to catch up with either of them as the former left before we finished ringing and the latter was sat at the other end of a typically large turnout for post-ringing refreshment at Costa Coffee, but they helped us man the twelve this morning and it was nice to see them back here.

Campsea Ashe.The boys and I continued onto Grundisburgh where I helped them to ring on the back eight of the county's lightest twelve, before meeting up with Ruthie again following her choral duties and then being given a lift out to Campsea Ashe by her. For it's that time of year again when I attempt a peal to celebrate Mason's birthday, which has always been of a number of changes and/or methods corresponding to his age and with it being his seventeenth birthday yesterday we were going for seventeen Surprise Minor methods on this lovely little gallery-ring six. And I'm glad to report that despite a false start of just over ten minutes when I realised I had missed a lead each of York and Durham out, that we not just scored but produced 2 hours and 34 minutes of really nice ringing on nice bells. I rang in the last peal on the old four back in 2010, but this was my first on the six and it is mildly surprising to me that before today there had only been seven peals rung on them in the thirteen years since their augmentation and only four of those had been for the Suffolk Guild, with the last one being in 2019. Even taking into account the pandemic, it seems odd that such a nice, still relatively new ring of bells are so underpealed. Glenys Fear the tower correspondent here was very pleased that a peal was being rung on them, leading me to suspect there isn't a major issue with them being pealed from a local perspective, so perhaps this will be the first of more regular attempts, within reason.

Afterwards, Simon Smith and myself enjoyed a drink in The Duck afterwards, where we were joined by my wife and the boys following their afternoon in the park, but our 5040 wasn't the only ringing within our borders today. Well done to Juliet Griffiths on ringing her first quarter-peal inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles rung at Tostock, which was also Stephen Dawson's first of the method from the treble. Meanwhile, there was also a 1254 of Grandsire Cinques rung at The Norman Tower and quite a bit of ringing of fewer changes was noted on BellBoard with a lost QP attempt of Grandsire Triples at Southwold dedicated to former Tower Captain and Steeplekeeper John Uden, 540 changes of St Clement's College Bob Minor at Buxhall, Melancholy and Call-Changes rung at Glemsford for Candlemas and service ringing at Woodbridge all recorded for posterity on a busy day of ringing in Suffolk.

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Saturday 27th January 2024

I expect it is something most parents feel, but the first time I held my children after their birth, I also held certain dreams and aspirations for them. Primarily it was for their good health and happiness, but there were also some mildly selfish hopes, one being that they would grow up supporting Ipswich Town and coming to their matches with me. When each of the boys were born it was akin to a very cruel wish for a lifetime of misery, but over the last couple of years or so we have made some wonderful memories watching the Tractor Boys together as a family, as the best team to represent the town and county for decades have blown away countless opponents in entertaining style.

Ironic then that on Mason's seventeenth birthday today, when the expectation for his big day was that ITFC would win comfortably at Portman Road in the fourth round of the FA Cup against an opposition from a level where no team had reached the fifth round since my year of birth in 1978 and were four divisions below us, that the visitors Maidstone United produced one of the biggest shocks in the competition's history to win 2-1. In a strange way it was a privilege to be a witness to something that will almost certainly go down in football folklore and gave their fans an experience that they would never expect following a club of their size, but it did put a bit of a downer on my eldest's birthday.

Still, I hope he still enjoyed his day, from opening his cards and presents to his bacon butty watching Alfie and his teammates winning their football match to his evening back at his mother's, as we enjoyed our day, that surprising result aside.

That included our usual pre-match pint with Norwich ringer Simon Rudd on a day that ended for him at the St Peter Mancroft Annual Dinner and sadly began for some of his fellow ringers there with an unfortunate lost peal attempt of Stedman Cinques. Not the first of its kind and almost certainly not the last!

Rumburgh.Another of the hopes I had for all three boys was that they would grow up to enjoy bellringing, but whilst all of them have dabbled to varying degrees and God willing one day they may do it seriously, none have taken it up and nor would we ever pressure them to do so. Mercifully though, there are still others enjoying the limitless opportunities that the exercise can offer one, most notably today at Rumburgh where former tower captain at this lovely little ground-floor six Ian Harris was remembered with a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor by his son Jason and granddaughter Georgia, the latter of whom was ringing her first ever quarter-peal.

Well done Georgia, congratulations Maidstone United and Happy Birthday Mason!

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Friday 26th January 2024

The Ringing World arrived with us this morning and featured a fair bit of Suffolk related content. That included the Guild as one of the leading peal-ringing organisations in Andrew Craddock's easy to understand but thorough analysis of peal ringing in 2023, which suggests that generally throughout ringing the number of peals, number of those ringing them and number of first pealers rising, with the first still down on pre-pandemic levels, but the middle pretty much on par and the latter better.

Church of St James GarlickhytheMention is also made of Adnams in an article about how many of the breweries are still open which have methods named after them and are included in Philip Saddleton's peal composition of twenty-three Surprise Major methods which was composed in the 1980s but only pealed for the first time recently, at Garlickhythe in London last month and then again twelve days ago on the same bells with the same band. Adnams Surprise Major on its own is pretty hairy, let alone ringing it spliced with twenty-two other peals!

Henley.Also starring was a repeat of an ABC of 'Do-It-Yourself Bell Maintenance' from a RW of half a century ago about the efforts at Henley to rehang their bells, written in entertaining style by then Ringing Master of the 8cwt eight and the Suffolk Guild Howard Egglestone.

Ringing at Ufford this evening. Ringing at Ufford this evening.
Ringing at Ufford this evening

I didn't know Howard well, with his time here preceding my early active years in ringing and our paths only crossed occasionally subsequently, but from what I did know I'm fairly sure he would applaud South-East District Ringing Master Hal Meakin's proactiveness in launching his bimonthly Surprise Major practices, the first of which was held this evening. I'm pleased to report that it was a huge success, with over twenty ringers crammed into Ufford's ringing chamber and a number benefitting from an invaluable and - in recent years - rare opportunity to ring at this level. Much was learnt, including that I don't know fourths place Pudsey! Still, I consoled myself with a drink in The White Lion post-ringing.

Westhorpe ringers and friends at Taylor's. (Neal Dodge) Westhorpe.Earlier I had been delighted to see that the Westhorpe ringers had enjoyed their trip to Taylor's in Loughborough yesterday where they watched one of their bells being cast and found out more about the process at this famous bellfoundry, whilst after we'd been out my attention was drawn to the new website for the National 12-bell Striking Contest Final due to be held at Chilcompton in Somerset on Saturday 15th June. If you are planning on going along to what is the biggest annual day out in ringing, it is well worth taking a look, especially as this year's venue is more rural than most others previously.

I imagine that there should be more updates in future editions of The Ringing World, hopefully along with more Suffolk content!

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Thursday 25th January 2024

Blythburgh.Some of the acts for this year's Latitude Festival due to be held in July at Henham Park were announced today. As people were getting excited by the prospect of Duran Duran, Kasabian and Nile Rodgers amongst others playing at the site just a couple of miles from the 10cwt ground-floor six of Blythburgh in (hopefully!) warmer times, I have to admit to casting my mind ahead to the potential of summer ringing events. God willing striking competitions, outings, Rambling Ringers, listening to bells in sunbaked churchyards in picturesque villages. Even in these mild-for-January temperatures, such times seem a long way away and I suppose they are. Indeed, as if to ram that home, the immediate focus on planned ringing events was on February today as the monthly What's On email to Guild members was sent out.

It is of course the shortest month of the year - albeit a day longer than normal this time - but there is intended to be quite a bit squeezed in involving Suffolk's bells and Suffolk's ringers. Saturday 17th is when many of the county's ringers are set to compete at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich for the George W Pipe 12 Bell Competition, with the contest open to the three twelve-bell towers within our borders and although as far as I'm aware there is no entry from Grundisburgh, there are entries planned from St Mary-le-Tower and the Norman Tower, joining teams from Essex and Norfolk.

St Margaret.In the county meanwhile, the intention is for the South-East District to hold their monthly practice on the first Saturday as usual, this time on the gallery-ring eight of St Margaret's in Ipswich from 10.30am to 12.30pm, complete with a just-for-fun bake-off, which members had an email about from SE Secretary Liz Christian that also reported how successful this month's at Hollesley was. This should be a fun occasion on a easy-going ring in a location accessible not just by car but public transport.

Sweffling. Horringer.There are also biscuits and cake lined up for Sweffling for the North-East District Ringing Meeting slated for a week later in - with all due respect to St Margaret's which is set in quite a pretty part of the county town next to Christchurch Park - is in a much prettier location and easier to park at, whilst the same can be said for the North-West District Practice penciled in at Horringer from 10am to noon on the same day.

Polstead. Lavenham.Meanwhile, the South-West District plan to hold their practice on the lovely six at Polstead (to continue to sound like an advert for Suffolk tourism!) in wonderful surroundings on the 24th and indeed they are still due to run their January practice this Saturday at one of the county's most famous landmarks, Lavenham. It always feels such a privilege to climb up to this vast famous ringing chamber to ring on the 21cwt eight, so do try to get along, especially if you have never been before!

Stowmarket.To round next month's events off though, there is a very special occasion as the ten at Stowmarket are set to be dedicated at 2.30pm on Sunday 25th, one of the biggest projects in Suffolk for many years and one that many of us have followed closely. For that and all the ringing above I hope as many ringers as possible can support as much as they can.

The Norman Tower.However, no ringing for us today, not unusually for a Thursday where the most excitement was Charlie our cat chasing a poor mouse around our dining room. Elsewhere in the county there was ringing action though, as a quarter-peal of Bristol Surprise Major rung at The Norman Tower.

There is still ringing to enjoy at the moment, even if it isn't as warm as we hope it will be in the summer!

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Wednesday 24th January 2024

Pettistree. © Mike Cowling.Despite a delicious tea cooked up by Ruthie (pasta, mushrooms, garlic and butter seeing as you asked, but don't expect a photo) beforehand, I finished my evening out feeling quite pekish. From talk of birthday cake at Alfie's football training (as if I haven't had enough in recent days!) to Pettistree's weekly practice looking at the menu for the ringers' annual dinner due to happen soon, to mention of haggis with Burns Night scheduled for twenty-four hours later and Guild Chairman Mark Ogden recounting when he took on - and succeeded at - a spicy eating challenge following a peal at Oakley a few years ago, I could sense my tastebuds tingling! With The Greyhound still shut for one last night for its usual January break, there wasn't even the opportunity to sate my appetite with a bag of crisps afterwards!

We did talk about ringing too though, with Mike Cowling telling us about how disorientating it was ringing in the peal at Horringer earlier today with Brian Whiting not on the treble and that his homework for tomorrow was learning the New Bob Doubles family and we did some actual ringing as well. Allendale Surprise Minor was practiced ahead of a planned forthcoming peal attempt, a touch of London Surprise Minor with singles was entertaining, I called a touch of Plain Bob Minor from the treble and there was a new learner having handling lessons, with is encouraging.

Framsden.Before all of that, a quarter-peal of Bourne Surprise Minor was rung, whilst the aforementioned 5056 of Six Mile Bottom Surprise Major wasn't the only peal rung in Suffolk today as a 5087 of Cambridge and Muriel's Pineapple Ginger Surprise Major spliced was rung at Grundisburgh. Arranged as a thanksgiving for the eighty-seven year life of Muriel Page, it also celebrated the seventieth anniversary to the day of her first peal, rung at Framsden of Cambridge Surprise Major.

I'm sure today's performances were well rung, but I hope they weren't too hungry!

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Tuesday 23rd January 2024

Ufford.Fizzy and cake at Ufford. Me enjoying my fizzy at Ufford. Fizzy and cake at Ufford.

Happy Birthday to Susanne Eddis, who chose to celebrate the occasion by joining us at Ufford practice this evening. Even better, she brought cake (iced and jammed by her, but made by her other half Pete) to eat and fizzy to drink! Thank you Susanne!

We did do some ringing too, from plenty of call-changes on eight for Mary Leaming, Plain Hunt on Seven for her fellow Hollesley learner Daniel Atkinson and Plain Bob Minor inside for Bredfield ringer Vince Buckman, whilst Alan McBurnie led some rounds on eight rung to changing speeds to replicate Plain Hunt on Eight and there was even some Ipswich Surprise Minor and Stedman Triples rung.

It is also a timely reminder that South-East District Ringing Master Hal Meakin is due to run a Surprise Major Practice here on Friday night, open to all looking to "practice or perfect" their Surprise Major, for what is planned to be the first of regular bimonthly sessions. This first one is intended to focus on the 'standard' eight. Since restrictions on ringing were lifted two and a half years ago, Surprise Major has been a more difficult thing to come across, so please take advantage of this opportunity if you can.

I can't promise cake and fizzy though.

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Monday 22nd January 2024

St Mary-le-Tower.The reader(s?) of this blog will be aware of the regular choice we have between ringing and football, especially since watching Ipswich Town has become frequent, but one actually allowed me to do the other this evening. For the Tractor Boys' fixture away at league leaders Leicester City had been moved from Saturday afternoon to 8pm today so the game could be showed to the nation on TV. A ridiculous time for a kick-off and even more so considering it was changed after some fans had already made travel and accommodation plans for the weekend and of course it meant that for me personally it clashed with the weekly practice at St Mary-le-Tower. In the ideal world we would watch it on the tele with the boys and indeed we were invited to Ruthie's sister Clare's where her and her fiancé Chris have Sky Sports which the match was shown on, but it was too late on a schoolnight for Alfie and Josh and it would've seemed unfair for either one of their parents to go out to watch the contest leaving the other one at home childsitting.

Therefore, I did what I normally do on a Monday night and went into the county town to ring where the only announcement in notices was that ITFC had gone a goal down, before we retired to the usual haunt of the Halberd Inn where the match was being shown, thus allowing me to watch the second half, something I wouldn't have done if I hadn't gone ringing on Suffolk's heaviest ring of bells first. What is more, mindful that this large group of Monday night regulars didn't have anywhere to sit in a busier than usual pub, the bar staff very kindly opened the 'Stables', a separate room apparently used for the social event here when The Central Council visited in September, which we had to ourselves and where they also put one of the big screens on to show the footy. That allowed those of us interested to follow the game and enjoy Town's last minute equaliser and also converse with our friends, whilst those not concerned with proceedings at the romantically named King Power Stadium just over a hundred miles away were able to sit in ample space and relative peace (probably more than normal in fact!) for their post-ringing refreshment.

Earlier in the day one of our fellow drinkers, David Stanford, had rung in the first Guild peal on handbells of 2024 which was rung in Bury St Edmunds with a 5056 of Plain Bob Major rung in 2 hours and 28 minutes. Good to see the SGR's handbell peal totals up and running for the year!

Meanwhile, despite a number of Surprise Maximus regulars being missing for various reasons, the actual ringing at tonight's session at St Mary-le-Tower featured Cambridge and Yorkshire, as well as Little Bob Royal and Maximus for George Heath-Collins to ring inside to, Stedman Caters and the touch of Grandsire Cinques lined up to be the test piece for the George W Pipe 12 Bell Competition. A reminder for those who fancy a day out that this is due to take place at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich on Saturday 17th February. When mercifully we don't have to choose between ringing and watching Ipswich Town.

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Sunday 21st January 2024

Woodbridge.Service ringing at Woodbridge this morning was a positive experience with well-struck rounds on the front six that prompted talk of striking competitions, which is the type of talk I love to hear! All the six-bell striking competitions in Suffolk have a call-change element which makes them accessible to more bands and importantly gives focus to towers, further motivation to progress and something fun to look forward to. Please do keep an eye on What's On for venues and timings and in the meantime save the dates for your district contest and/or the Guild one slated for Saturday 18th May and encourage your band to put an entry in.

Apart from our primary purpose of ringing for worship on the Sabbath, the main focus of the county's ringers today seems to have been quarter-pealing with a 1300 of Doubles rung at Redgrave and 1260 of Minor at Rougham with a healthy sprinkling of methods and good wishes imparted between the two of them. Get well soon to Chris Davies' grandson Tom, congratulations to Betty Baines on the birth of her great granddaughters and Happy Birthday to former ringer Ted Williams.

Our afternoon was less active from a ringing perspective as rather we found ourselves in various depressing warehouse-type shops doing mundane though necessary shopping, wishing we were all at a striking competition somewhere instead!

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Saturday 20th January 2024

Much to our surprise, following a night of centigrade temperatures in the minus figures and warnings yesterday evening to the strong likelihood of the contrary, Alfie's team's football match went ahead this morning, albeit the sound of the studs thudding on the ground suggested it was still pretty hard! It was bracing watching from the sidelines too, although the bacon butties, hot drinks and an exciting match helped warm us up.

I don't know if the cold was also a factor in the lack of quarters or peals in Suffolk and/or for the Guild reported on BellBoard and it seemed unfortunate on a Saturday afternoon when we actually had the time to do some ringing that there wasn't any within our borders advertised, but I was pleased to read about lots of other ringing going on across the countryside and particularly in memory of two giants of the exercise who I had the privilege of knowing on the anniversary of their deaths.

One was John McDonald of Birmingham who I spent much pleasurable time in the company of when I used to ring in the UK's second city, who died twenty years ago. He was a superb ringer and conductor, but also an immensely entertaining character. Most of my ringing with him was done on the eight at St Chad's Roman Catholic Cathedral and particularly attempting to peal Martin's Triples, a fiendishly tricky method with a number of different types of calls which took regular (sometimes weekly!) attempts from just after I started university in September 1997 until it was finally scored in February 1999, about halfway through my course! Generally the protocol would be to turn up in hope rather than expectation, ring a few attempts and retire to the Gunmakers Arms down the road (if it was on the same night as some of us were supposed to be at St Martin's-in-the-Bullring's practice we had to ensure we were ringing when we thought then Ringing Master David Pipe would've been driving past, so we could say we were absent ringing rather than simply imbibing in the pub!), where John would hold forth, just as he would after Sunday morning ringing too. Tales were regaled with great gusto and theatricality such as when he thought he was going to die following a peal at Abergavenny and how he would've pleased to go to the sound of that glorious ten! And he was responsible for the famous ringing quote that when a ringer moved from Brum to London that the ringing in both cities improved. Whilst I also remember fondly putting the muffles on at St Chad's at his request for a pint and a fiver, which those who have rung there will know is a terrifying experience. Worth it for time spent in his company though.

I didn't know the other ringing legend remembered today, Roger Bailey, to quite the same extent, but I still have many fond memories of him, as many in our county will have done. With family locally he usually joined us at St Mary-le-Tower for ringing on Christmas Day morning for many years and he also rang in the SGR's first - and thus far only - peal on fourteen bells at Winchester Cathedral in 2008, but he was known throughout the world of ringing as a talented composer, conductor (he conducted 1,254 peals) and ringer, as well as another entertaining character much missed.

Meanwhile, there was a truly inspirational peal rung at Worcester Cathedral, where Christopher Phillips became the first person with Parkinson's Disease to ring a peal on a bell weighing over 40cwt in the 5007 of Stedman Cinques.

Our afternoon was less inspirational, but I wasn't desperately upset to stay in the warm with a drink after that cold start to our day!

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Friday 19th January 2024

This week's edition of The Ringing World again arrived ready to be read over a Friday night drink and again was an interesting read. There wasn't a huge amount of Suffolk related content, although as usual the annual report on the Keltek Trust's activities over the previous twelve months makes mention of bells in our county. On this occasion they bring up the cancellation of the project to put a ten in at Combs, but also the two bells they have provided for the augmentation of Fornham St Martin from six to eight.

However, I enjoyed ten-year Josh Crutch's article on his presentation about the exercise at school, which coincided with today's announcements of events planned for 2024 for the Young Change Ringers Association. This is the organisation open exclusively to ringers up to thirty years old (I just miss the cut-off...) and I would certainly encourage the increasing number of young ringers that I have noticed within our borders over the last year to join if they haven't already. Sadly (as is so often the case with the Ringing World National Youth Contest) the events lined up don't actually go anywhere very near to us, but I hope that doesn't put youngsters from here at least saving the slated dates (all of which are Saturdays) of 6th April for an outing to Nottingham, 6th July for the RWNYC which is due to be held in London, 21st September for an outing to Leeds and 23rd November for a training weekend in Oxford.

The boys are in the correct age bracket for this, but although they have all dabbled to varying degrees none of them have yet fully taken up the art and certainly weren't intending to start on this freezing January evening. And to be fair to them, neither Ruthie or I were doing any either.

It's a good job we had The Ringing World to read.

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Thursday 18th January 2024

There were quarter-peals of eleven Doubles methods at Horringer and of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung on The Barn Owl Ring in Norton today and just over the Cambridgeshire border Henry Pipe - who of course has strong ancestral links to Suffolk - impressively completed ringing a handbell peal of Stedman Cinques on every pair of bells by ringing 5-6 to a 5009 rung in Ely.

Neither Ruthie or I managed any ringing though, as instead post-work we were celebrating the birthday of her sister Clare's fiancé Chris at their abode, although there were three ringers present with us and mother-in-law and Ufford Ringing Master Kate.

We had fun though. I hope those ringing in Horringer, Norton and Ely also had fun.

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Wednesday 17th January 2024

Pettistree. © Mike Cowling.There's lots of illnesses of various types doing the rounds at the moment, as one would probably expect for a cold January in the UK. At both mine and Ruthie's work people have been or are off poorly, numbers at Alfie's football training were depleted and at Pettistree this evening it led to the cancelling of the weekly Wednesday quarter-peal and meant that mother-in-law Kate Eagle was running the ringing at the practice. As well as plenty of Doubles focus for John Horsnell and Sam Shannon, there was also Surprise Minor in the form of Cambridge and London despite the absences, as reported by my wife who had gone along too.

Meanwhile back at home, I finally took the opportunity to ring my eBells again. Being their first outing for some time it was only a gentle reintroduction on Minor as I rang a couple of courses of Plain Bob - including on 3-4 - and one of Cambridge, all of which was a bit rusty, but nonetheless satisfactory. And at least it was unaffected by ringers of the other bells being ill!

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Tuesday 16th January 2024

Ufford.Another fun but productive evening at Ufford. Although there weren't quite as many as last Tuesday, there were still enough to ring lots of Triples including Grandsire and Plain Bob for Daniel to treble to and Stedman for the band as a whole, whilst Bredfield ringer Vince rang Plain Hunt on Seven for the first time as well as inside to touches of Plain Bob of the Doubles and Minor varieties and Alan McBurnie hauled St Martin's and St Simon's Bob from the depths of his memory banks for a touch of mixed Doubles.

Meanwhile, despite there being no babysitting to do on this occasion and still in a cast and therefore unable to ring, Margaret travelled over with her fellow Hollesley ringers before their Ringing Master Peter Harper tried to leave with the fifth rope under his coat at the end of a fun but productive evening!

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Monday 15th January 2024

For several years now, this Monday has been dubbed 'Blue Monday', supposedly the most depressing day of the year. Whilst those opposed to Sizewell C may agree as the construction phase for that particular project was announced to have begun and thus kickstarted about a decade where getting to ringing at places like Leiston and Theberton may become more challenging, the good news is that Blue Monday is largely tosh, something dreamt up by holiday firms in an attempt to encourage folk to book their trips away to hotter climes. Additionally, mental health charities are attempting to use it as a positive in order to promote their worthy cause, whilst I'm pleased to say that our day was remarkably upbeat.

Indeed, having just got into the ringing chamber at St Mary-le-Tower to sit in on a reasonably rung touch of Grandsire Cinques complete with plain leads (so no bobs or singles called in those leads), it struck me that we were already doing better than last Monday! Even more so when it was followed up by a decent half-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus, one of two rings of this at the weekly practice tonight. Despite first me and then my mother Sally having rope issues that saw us miss our sallies to much amusement and then much more amusement respectively, most of what was rung was of a relatively high standard that I imagine the majority of provincial twelve-bell towers would be quite pleased with, from those pieces of Surprise Maximus to George Heath-Collins ringing inside to Little Bob Maximus very well. All carried out in a jovial atmosphere that belied how depressing today is meant to be.

That continued on into the Halberd Inn too, where a suggestion that George should put himself forward as a Central Council Rep was countered with his hilarious disapproval of the CCCBR's logo!

No, today didn't strike me as a Blue Monday.

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Sunday 14th January 2024

St Mary-le-Tower.With the ringing for morning service at St Mary-le-Tower returning to the normal 8.45-9,30 today after the previous three Sundays going back to Christmas Eve running an hour later, numbers were at a healthier level as those who normally ring at other towers afterwards were able to join us again. As well as giving the ringing chamber a renewed vibrancy, it allowed us to ring on twelve throughout, including some Cambridge Surprise Maximus, not something anywhere near every twelve in the country can achieve on the Sabbath morn.

Those high numbers continued on to post-ringing refreshment at Costa Coffee, but sadly the same couldn't be said for Grundisburgh for ringing for the Rector Katrina Dyke's final service before she moves to Somerset for family reasons. Unfortunately we 'peaked' at call-changes on the finest nine in the village, but at least we were able to make a noise for a vicar who has been here only a relatively short while but has been supportive of the bellringers throughout The Carlford Churches which also includes the sixes of Ashbocking, Burgh, Clopton, Hasketon and Otley.

My Guild Centenary Certificate.And whilst there I was also very kindly handed a Guild Centenary Certificate by SGR Chairman Mark Ogden, which was for my first peal of spliced Surprise Maximus. This was a superb initiative which seems to have encouraged a huge amount of endeavour and progress throughout 2023, particularly with first quarter-pealers and I'm chuffed to have one too!

With a warm glow I then headed to Woodbridge with the boys to pick their mother up from her choral duties at St Mary-the-Virgin before a quiet afternoon from a ringing perspective as instead we played one of Alfie's new board games and my wife put a new storage unit up, but elsewhere in Suffolk ringers were busier in the exercise. Well done to Hal Meakin on ringing his first of Pudsey Surprise Major in the first second-Sunday peal of the year at Aldeburgh, whilst there were quarters of Grandsire Triples and Caters rung at Bardwell and The Norman Tower respectively.

We did get the opportunity to listen to ringing from the 1260 of Single Oxford Bob Triples rung at Coddenham in March 2022 though, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4's 'Bells on Sunday' today. And Ruthie was grateful for a lift part of the way to church this morning from Elaine Townsend, who was on her way to ringing at Rushmere St Andrew and highlighting what a busy time Sunday mornings are for bellringers, and why the timing of ringing is so important.

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Saturday 13th January 2024

St Matthew.As Ipswich Town's men's team has become more successful, the kick-off times of their matches are getting increasingly varied, mainly for the benefit of the TV cameras. The next home fixture that is due to kick-off at 3pm on a Saturday - the traditional time for UK football - is on 24th February, by which time it will have been nearly three months since our previous 3pm Saturday game at Portman Road. With our attendance at the stadium just down the hill from the 10cwt six of St Matthew's now a near essential family day out, it makes committing to and arranging ringing increasingly difficult. Now when asked about ringing in a quarter or fixing up a peal attempt, I find myself inspecting the television schedules along with when Alfie's team are playing, the boys have been invited to a party or Ruthie is singing in a concert. Although I'm aware that I've never been great at brisk responses, please bear with us - we are usually trying to work out ways in which we can say yes!

In recent times we've been to matches beginning at all sorts of times, but today's between the Tractor Boys and Sunderland was a new one as we gathered for a 5.30pm start. Right across teatime for the boys and eating into both the afternoon and evening with equal lack of consideration, but did at least allow for a more leisurely period between Alfred's match this morning and our spectating at PR, both of which saw victories for the teams we were cheering on. Despite me missing ITFC's equaliser whilst I used the facilities (and was greeted with a roar of celebration from most of the 29,000 present as I departed them!), it left us looking back on today with a warm glow on a cold day.

That was as much to do with our usual meal at The Mermaid with mother-in-law and Ufford Ringing Master Kate and my wife's sister's fiancé Chris and meeting up with Norwich ringer Simon Rudd for whom the later kick-off had allowed him time to take on a peal attempt at Cambridge Great St Mary which was unfortunately lost after 2 hours and 25 minutes.

Hopefully they were more successful at the North-West District Practice at Ixworth which of course we didn't have the time to go to today, but we hope to get to future ringing events. Depending on what time Ipswich Town are kicking-off.

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Friday 12th January 2024

No ringing again for this household, although that is perfectly normal for us on a Friday with the usual schedule of getting the children from school and Mason from his mother's added to on this occasion with Alfie going round a classmate's for tea. However, there was plenty of ringing to read about.

This week's issue of The Ringing World arrived with us this morning for example and features a lovely obituary for former Rushmere St Andrew Tower Captain and one-time Pettistree ringer Hilary Mann, written by another former Rushmere St Andrew Tower Captain James Smith.

It is an edition that also includes the peal of Grandsire Cinques rung at Grundisburgh on 30th December and plenty of other interesting stuff like a sensible reminder for those with clock hammer mechanisms and the like when letting visiting bands ring your bells and CCCBR President Tina Stoecklin's blog, which interestingly doesn't seem to be on the Central Council's website yet, so if you want to read it then get a copy of the RW!

Meanwhile online, there is a great article on Loughborough and particularly Taylor's which incorporates quotes from fellow Rambling Ringer Jim Crabtree and Andrew 'Oggy' Ogden - who I know from my days ringing in the Midlands and some in Suffolk will recognise as he regularly visits the county on behalf of the company - appears in a photo.

Whilst I was reading about ringing, other Suffolk ringers were actually ringing. Bardwell ringer Ruth Suggett rang in a peal of Lessness Surprise Major for the Cumberland Youths at North Creake in Norfolk, whilst here within our borders, well done to Clare Gebel on ringing her first quarter-peal of Oxford Treble Bob Minor in the 1320 at Tostock and Happy Golden Wedding Anniversary to Val and Steve Hewer, the former of whom was a regular participant of otherwise Suffolk-based performances on Ringing Room when ringing on real towerbells was restricted. And a QP of Doubles was rung at Brandeston in memory of Muriel Page in the week of her funeral.

All of which God willing should give me plenty to read about on one of those ringing-less days.

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Thursday 11th January 2024

An even quieter day than yesterday on the ringing front for our household as neither Ruthie or myself rang anywhere, with my wife choral practicing and me looking after the boys at home.

Still, elsewhere in Suffolk other ringers were more active, with a handbell peal of seven Surprise Minor methods rung in Bacton and a quarter-peal of Lincolnshire Surprise Major successful at Horringer.

God willing we'll have busier days of ringing in our household soon.

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Wednesday 10th January 2024

No ringing for me today, but rather admiring ringing I read about whilst Ruthie went to Pettistree practice after I'd watched Alfie and his teammates training.

That practice was preceded as normal with a quarter-peal, which on this occasion was a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor that celebrated the abundance of birthdays at this time of year for local ringers past and present. My wife enjoyed her evening, even if there was no pub afterwards with The Greyhound now closed for its traditional January closure.

Earlier in the day a 5076 of Bristol Surprise Major was rung at Felixstowe, a bit of which was recorded and shared on the Guild's Facebook page and which was rung in memory of Adrian Knights who died last month aged 76. It is the latest of a number of ringing performances dedicated to him which also includes a 5000 of Bristol Surprise Royal rung on Sunday at Tanfield in the county of Durham on the East meets West Peal Tour which Arnie was a participant on from 1973-1978 and a timely reminder that his funeral is due to take place at noon on Monday 5th February at Offton.

Meanwhile, even earlier in the day then that lovely sounding 2 hours and 41 minutes of ringing on the Suffolk coast and just beyond our borders at the other end of the county, the Pipe family - who of course have roots here - were amazing the ringing world again, this time with 29520 changes of the forty-one Surprise Minor methods on handbells in Willingham, with an extent of each one. Which meant that even before I'd woken up they'd done 5 hours and 20 minutes more ringing than I managed all day!

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Tuesday 9th January 2024

Ufford.Ufford's ringing chamber was a busy one tonight. With Pippa Moss, Hilary Stearn and significant-minus-one birthday boy Mike Whitby (I seemed to recall I'd made this comment about him before and it appears I did precisely a decade ago when we were also at a practice at Ufford!) present, we were able to ring Cambridge Surprise Major with some sitting out who could also ring it. Meanwhile despite having a broken arm and being unable to ring, Hollesley ringer Margaret Weeks still came and was useful for looking after little Jonathan who had very kindly brought his parents Pete and Susanne along. Additionally Mary Leaming's progress continues with assured call-changes on eight and Daniel Atkinson got to treble to Plain Bob Minor and Plain Hunt on Seven with his choice of standers behind. All on a typically jovial evening.

Like I said, it was a busy ringing chamber.

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Monday 8th January 2024

St Mary-le-Tower.Ringers versus Grandsire Cinques. Or more particularly our old nemesis the plain lead. That was the battle at St Mary-le-Tower practice tonight and Grandsire won. Three attempts fell before we climaxed the session with a bob course instead, called by David Stanford who was the conductor with the best record this evening, having already conducted a pretty decent touch of Stedman Caters which was the best piece of the night. In fairness we were missing a few regular Surprise Maximus ringers, but even though we still impressively managed an attempt at Cambridge Surprise Maximus (although sadly that also came a cropper on this occasion), we didn't do as well as we could and should've done with the talent at our disposal. Perhaps it's because we're in that sluggish, downbeat gap between New Year optimism and when everyone fully gets back into the groove. Or perhaps it was just one of those nights.

If ever post-ringing refreshment was needed it was tonight as most of us retired to the Halberd Inn to pick ourselves up with a ringing playlist and memories of the ringers float at the Ipswich Carnival in the 1990s. And readied ourselves for more battles with Grandsire Cinques!

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Sunday 7th January 2024

Mum's photo on the back of The Ringing World.When I spoke about this week's edition of The Ringing World, I very remissly forgot to mention that the back page features a stunning winter photo from Framlingham, taken by none other than my mother Sally!

It is a fantastic picture, but not one I had a chance to discuss with her about as she wasn't at St Mary-le-Tower this morning. That was because as with the previous two Sundays of New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve the ringing on Suffolk's heaviest twelve there was no service at 9.30 and so we were ringing for the 10.30 service again, thus clashing with ringing at Mum's home tower of Sproughton. Although it also meant that I was able to go along having dropped Mason off for work when usually I wouldn't have time to, it meant that we were a little short on numbers, with Ralph Earey presumably also unable to come along due to the clash with the 8cwt gallery-ring six I learnt to ring at and I expect the different timings probably made it impractical for others too. Nonetheless we still managed plenty of ten-bell ringing which was particularly useful for George Heath-Collins to treble to Grandsire Caters and Little Bob Royal before most of us retired to Costa Coffee for post-ringing refreshment where I heard first-hand from South-East District Ringing Master Hal Meakin about yesterday's Practice at Hollesley. Along with the photos shared on Facebook by Mike Whitby, I got the impression of a successful session, despite (or probably because of!) our absence.

The boys and I returned to the civic church of the county town with Ruthie for Ipswich's latest practice for our entry into the National 12-bell Striking Contest. In a change to the norm, there will be no practices on the competition bells before the eliminator. I can certainly understand the logic of this move. Increasingly in recent years there have reservations raised about the travelling involved in going to a practice from the other side of the country from the perspective of the cost and also environmentally. In our eliminator, travelling down to Portsmouth Cathedral is a long distance which is doable in a day, but the merits of going down there for an hour and a half's ringing before coming straight back are dubious without us also arranging ringing somewhere else to make it worthwhile. Even more so for York who are also in our group. And in the eliminator due to be held at St Stephen in Bristol for Stockton-on-Tees. Especially when one has to then travel back down there a few weeks later. It is an eminently sensible decision, even if I do enjoy the trips out to the competition venue which help whet the appetite and are also an important part of the preparation, allowing for one to gauge any quirks and foibles and to familiarise one's self with the surroundings before the big day. At least it will be the same for all the teams, bar the hosts for whom of course it is impractical and undesirable to prevent ringing on their own bells!

Although we may seek to ring at other venues, it also means that our focus is on practicing on our own bells and whilst we endeavour to ring the test piece of half a course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at practices and on Sabbath mornings and indeed usually do manage it on a Monday night, we have to do that in amongst the other ringing that needs doing on those occasions. Therefore these Sunday afternoon sessions are vital and whilst it wasn't our finest ninety minutes following on from the Christmas and New Year ringing that has rightly seen less attention on this and more on getting bells rung at odd times, and meant cancelled practices which saw a fair amount of rust, as well as injury affecting one ringer resulting from some rock climbing gone wrong, it was still great to get back to it. We haven't got as much practice lined up as a couple of years ago, but we were playing catch-up then due to the break from ringing and we are also sensible in our expectations in seventy-seven days time. Despite qualifying in 2022, that's not something we can expect at this early stage of our return to ringing's biggest striking competition, especially with such a big and tough group. Our main aims are to go there and produce some good ringing and enjoy the occasion. Those were also our aims last time and its not to say we won't qualify, but I don't think we need to be getting too stressed about practices that don't go well. Keep familiar with the test piece, fix what we can and hopefully ultimately enjoy ourselves on 23rd March.

I imagine reports and photos will appear in a subsequent issue of The Ringing World. Who knows if there will be any Munnings photos in that, but I'll try not to miss them this time!

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Saturday 6th January 2024

Last year was a fantastic year for Guild twelve-bell peals with fifteen rung. As far as I can make out, there has never been more peals rung on twelve for the SGR in one calendar year, with only 1988 and 1999 able to match it. Much of the record-equaling twelve months of Suffolk twelve-bell ringing was fueled by it being the Guild's centenary year, with myself and Andrew Stone beginning to arrange twelve-bell peal attempts unwittingly simultaneously for a significant 2023.

It seems unlikely that we'll match last year's totals on twelve, but we're already one up in 2024 compared to the same date in 2023 as a 5070 of Grandsire Cinques was rung at The Norman Tower today and a significant one too as it celebrated Joan Garrett's 'significant' birthday. Joan is always good company when in the ringing chamber and socialising post-ringing and an extremely reliable and good ringer and this peal highlights her popularity too. Happy Birthday Joan! Congratulations also to Jed Flatters and Alan Mayle on ringing their 100th peal together and well done to Craig Gradidge and Ben Keating on ringing their first one on twelve. A brilliant effort all round.

That wasn't the only ringing achievement in the county though on this first Saturday of 2024 though. Well done also to Astrid Gale on ringing her first quarter-peal of Oxford Treble Bob Minor in the 1272 rung at Woolpit, whilst there was also a 1260 of Doubles at Elmsett, 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Little Cornard and over the Essex border at Wormingford a QP of Plain Bob Minor for Evelyn Reeve's 85th birthday by a band featuring her daughter Claire Free.

Hollesley.Disappointingly however, I didn't make any ringing, although not for the want of trying. I had hoped to make it to the South-East District Practice at Hollesley this morning, but Alfie and his football teammates were also playing their first fixture after their Christmas and New Year break. The two events overlapped in timing, but if we got away promptly from the footy and traffic played ball, we could theoretically have made it to one of the finest eights within our borders for a decent chunk of ringing. Unfortunately neither of those things happened and although we could've got there before the end, it would likely have been in time to ring down, so we got as far as home (which was on the way) and decided it sensible to go no further. If the football started half an hour earlier and/or the ringing half an hour later (or in the end probably just ten or fifteen minutes) it would've been worthwhile, but in the end it wasn't to be! It was a pity, as on a bright sunny winters day it would've been lovely to travel over to the coast and after the Christmas break see ringing friends again and it is my hope to get to more SE events this year, so to fail at the first attempt was deflating.

However, Alfred's match was more important and I was absolutely delighted to witness a cracking contest that his team won with some great saves from the boy including a fingertip one that defied his short stature! Tis the stage we are at in life and these are precious memories, and he was quite rightly chuffed with his efforts. Still, God willing there is always next month's practice at St Margaret's in Ipswich due to be held on the 3rd.

I wonder how many twelve-bell peals the Guild will have rung by then?

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Friday 5th January 2024

1st April this year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Local Government Act of a couple of years earlier coming into force and changing the shape of the county. Not massively it has to be said, with a handful of villages near Great Yarmouth moved to Norfolk (with only the 10cwt three of Bradwell changing counties), although apparently the original plans of moving Colchester within our expanded borders and shifting the Cambridgeshire border for our neighbours to the west to encompass Haverhill and Newmarket were changed between 1972 and 1974. Nonetheless, half a century on it was deemed worthy enough to announce the precise centre of the 'new-look' Suffolk, or more correctly the centroid, with the plan being to plant a tree there. This morning that place was announced and I did wonder if it might end up in a place with a rarely pealed ring of bells. In the end though, it transpires to be somewhere that doesn't even have a church, let alone a ring of bells - Middlewood Green. And the nearest ring of bells is the unringable five of Little Stonham, with the closest ringable bells for change-ringing being the popular gallery-ring six of Earl Stonham. Perhaps peal-arranging minds have already turned to the 1/4/2024, which is Easter Monday...

Christmas decorations squeezed away!That said, there's still a way to go to Easter, with the twelve days of Christmas only just finishing today, which signaled the taking of down of the decorations, everything which has taken a large proportion of space in our living room over the last month now squeezed into a small cupboard, ready to God willing come out in another eleven months. Quite nice also to see a lot of houses in Melton and indeed our street were leaving it until twelfth night to take theirs down too.

Even so, I found time to read this week's copy of The Ringing World, which whilst not much stuff from within our borders is included features a history of the Peterborough Diocesan Guild on their one hundredth birthday which was of huge interest to me as I spent much of my ringing youth at PDG events when visiting my grandparents in Thrapston.

Meanwhile, as well as the ringing events planned for Suffolk this month including a Surprise Major Practice at Ufford penciled in for the evening of Friday 26th, there is a similar practice being set up for the following morning between 10.30 and midday at East Harling. Which is currently in Norfolk.

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Thursday 4th January 2024

Richy's eBells.I do need to get back to eBell ringing, something I came as close as anything to making a New Year resolution. This evening though, various domestic issues took over, meaning I'd not managed to even get out the pair Tim Hart kindly sent me a couple of years ago, let alone ring anything on them before Ruthie returned from choir practice.

Church of St James GarlickhytheIt seemed equally quiet elsewhere in Suffolk judging by BellBoard, although there will have been practice nights of course and Guild PR Officer and North-West District Chairman Neal Dodge conducted and sent in a performance to BB at St James Garlickhythe where he rings regularly in London, congratulating tower captain Dickon Love on receiving his MBE recently.

Meanwhile, it is worth reminding folk to pay their Guild subscriptions if they can, which strictly speaking are due on 1st January. Of course it's not obligatory, unless you want to ring peals for the SGR, but it would help the Guild's coffers as it aims to help support its members and their towers if as many people as possible could pay as promptly as possible. Finances are tighter currently, as we all know, especially if you are financing a family of five as we are! However, £20 is barely more than most rounds of drinks these days and certainly far less than membership of golf clubs or football teams and of course even less than that for those in full-time education or over seventy years of age (or even those over 80), so I hope it is affordable for pretty much everyone. It would certainly help a lot of volunteers dedicating time and effort in the Guild's name to help other ringers, whether through bell projects, training or whatever.

Worth every penny in my opinion, but it can't guarantee that I'll always get the opportunity to ring!

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Wednesday 3rd January 2024

Ixworth.Following South-East District Secretary Liz Christian's email yesterday encouraging people to support the Practice planned for Saturday at Hollesley, her counterpart in the North-West District David Everett today sent a similarly well-worded encouragement to join the NW's practice due to take place at Ixworth a week later. He is also asking for names and menu choices for the meal that is intended to follow at The White Horse in Beyton. These are such useful events if used to their full potential, offering opportunities for those at any stage of their ringing progression to progress which they might not get in their own tower and for experienced ringers to meet those who could help their own ambitions who may otherwise go unnoticed. There may be a potential Jimmy Yeoman or George Salter out there who is currently unable to exploit their skills because all the band around them can ring is Plain Bob Doubles or similar. These are the sort of occasions that can help all concerned, providing all who can support these events do so.

To a certain extent, Pettistree offers a mini-example of what such events can do, as ringers join us on a Wednesday night from well beyond the village's boundaries. Tonight, John Horsnell from neighbouring Wickham Market, Helen Ellerby from Grundisburgh, Sam Shannon from Hollesley and Hilary Stearn from Aldeburgh came along in order to progress or cement what they can do, whilst we also did some spliced Minor, something that I always enjoy getting the chance to do when I come here. There was also some Bourne Surprise Minor, which after it initially faltered and had to be restarted allowed me to call "go Bourne again." Although the lack of a third attempt prevented me from calling "go Bourne three."

Pealboard at Pettistree.Beforehand, whilst Ruthie and the boys went along to the return of Alfie's football training, I was very kindly given a lift by Pippa Moss and Ringing Master Mike Whitby so I could ring in the pre-practice quarter-peal, which this week was of a method which has become very familiar to me since I learnt it in a tipsy haze on Christmas Day evening in readiness for its inclusion in the Boxing Day peal at Cretingham, Kirkstall Delight Minor. It was a decent 1296 of a construction that is helped by a Cambridge-above-the-treble work but just enough on the front to keep you alert, preceded by a brief bit of nostalgia in this first week of a new year, with it being commented that Guild Chairman Mark Ogden was ringing the treble as he did for the first peal on the restored bells in 1987, recorded on a board in the ringing chamber.

That wasn't the only QP rung on Suffolk's bells today though, with a 1285 of the still (just!) seasonal method of Ba Humbug! Surprise Major rung at Bardwell for the 85th birthdays of Evelyn Reeve and Ian Holland and a 1280 of eight Surprise Major methods spliced at Horringer. I suspect a little imbibing will have been carried out following those, but although The Greyhound was opened ahead of its usual January closure between the 8th and 24th, with my lift heading straight home and me wanting to rest my liver a bit more following a typically testing festive period for it, I returned home straight after ringing.

Perhaps there will be more drinking opportunities after ringing at some district ringing events.

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Tuesday 2nd January 2024

It was back-to-normal day. Except it wasn't completely normal.

On this ninth day of Christmas, decorations are still up in a lot of houses and so there still feels a slither of festivity around the place.

However, it was also my first day back at work, but this didn't go well initially as I had password issues that eventually transpired to be down to me. Perhaps unsurprisingly having not been at work since 14th December! I was soon underway though!

And this evening the practice at Ufford was cancelled just an hour before it was all set to go as Storm Henk whipped up the winds to frightening speeds and flooding occurring throughout the county and not unexpectedly other towers with Tuesday night sessions also erred on the side of caution and called off their intended ringing. The Suffolk Guild's Facebook page listed Bramford, Holbrook and Offton's announcements, but I suspect they weren't the only ones staying at home when they would've otherwise gone out. A pity, but entirely understandable.

Another thing announced on the Facebook page is that Adrian Knights' funeral is due to take place at Offton at noon on Monday 5th February. As always, if you know someone who might like to go but aren't online, then please do let them know the details and if you are planning on attending then please contact Brian Whiting.

Hollesley.In the meantime, hopefully the weather will improve ahead of Saturday's planned South-East District Practice at Hollesley, especially as the SE Secretary Liz Christian sent out a wonderful message to members via the SGR's email list (ask Webmaster Chris Garner for more details of how to receive emails this way) encouraging people to come out to this fine 16cwt eight.

She says;

Just an extract from her email which sells the District's ringing - and for other districts too - perfectly in my opinion. Please do support it and/or your district's events if you can.

Parham. Easton.Meanwhile, another couple of quarter-peals rung on the county's bells yesterday appeared on BellBoard today, with a 1320 Kent Treble Bob Minor rung at Parham and the same length of Disley Delight Minor rung at Easton which was a first in the method for Maureen Gardiner, Neal Dodge and Stephen Dawson. Well done Maureen, Neal and Stephen. Some things are definitely back to normal!

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New Year's Day 2024

Hollesley.It may not be the Suffolk Guild's Centenary Year anymore, but God willing there is still plenty to look forward to over the next twelve months. This Saturday's planned South-East District Practice at Hollesley is due to kick-start what is hoped to be a packed programme across all four Districts and for the SGR itself. The Guild Striking Competitions on six and eight are both penciled in for Saturday 18th May in the SE District, but before that the intention is to hold the AGM on Saturday 6th April at Stowmarket where the dedication of the augmented ring of bells is slated for Sunday 25th February in another big date for the county. And it would be great for the Veterans Day usually held at Debenham in July to get a big turnout when it is held for the first time since since the passing of its instigator and organiser for many years Muriel Page.

Beyond our borders, but if all goes to plan still featuring ringers from here, the Guild will hope to regain The Ridgman Trophy that we won in 2021 and 2022 but lost to our friends from the Essex Association last year, when the 10-bell striking competition for territorial organisations bordering onto the Ely Diocesan Association is due to be held at Biggleswade in Bedfordshire on Saturday 8th June and after our absence in 2023, Ipswich has again entered the National 12-bell Striking Contest hoping to repeat our feats of two years ago when we go to Portsmouth Cathedral where we have been drawn to take part in the eliminator there on Saturday 23rd March and before that we hope to defend the George W Pipe Trophy on Saturday 17th February when the intention is for East Anglia's twelve-bell bands to gather at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich. Support at any, two or all three of those events will always be appreciated and should be great days out!

There aren't any big royal occasions to ring for this year as things stand, but bands of all stages of their ringing progression may want to consider ringing for Bell Sunday due to happen on 12th May, Suffolk Day in the diary for Friday 21st June and/or St Edmund's Day which all being well will be celebrated on Wednesday 20th November, whilst for those keen on collecting ringing dates, don't forget that there is a 29th February on the calendar in 2024!

Suffolk's ringers were marking the New Year today though, with a date touch of 2024 changes of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung at Offton, which was one of twelve similar performances rung across the country and world on this Monday. It'll be a dedicated band who goes for a date touch in the year 4999. Meanwhile, Arnie Knights was remembered with a 1276 of Gainsborough Little and Plain Bob Major in Moats Tye on his handbells. Hopefully just the beginning of another successful year of ringing in the county.

Personally and from a non-ringing perspective, I pray for the boys to continue their progress in education, work, leisure and character, but also for good health and that we are able to continue giving them a platform for all of that, with the generous help of family and friends. If we are as blessed as we have been in previous years we should be in for a great year.

That year started where we finished last year, at the home of Ruthie's sister Clare and her other half Chris after they very kindly put us up overnight. Indeed, thus far we have spent most of 2024 at theirs as we chose not to risk driving anywhere until very late following our unusual overindulgences last night and into the early hours of this morning and were treated to lunch and joined them in a takeaway either side of watching Ipswich Town on Town TV beginning their 2024 in exactly the same way as they ended an otherwise thrilling 2023 as they drew 0-0, this time away to Stoke City. After years of following them through many bleak, depressing years, it seems utterly incredible to think they stand a very decent chance of being a Premier League team before this year is out, although today's result is the latest of a generally poor run of results, at least by their recent high standards and suggests that we have our work cut out to ensure that the likes of Erling Haaland and Mo Salah will be treading the Portman Road turf next season.

It was a low-key though not disastrous way for the footy to start, but at least my start to ringing this year was better, with my first participation in the art for 2024 being bonging behind to a touch of Stedman Caters at the weekly practice at St Mary-le-Tower on a very wet night outside. That Stedman was one of a number of pieces on ten with not quite enough on this occasion to ring anything too advanced on twelve, although as well as a decent bit of Yorkshire Surprise Royal there were some call-changes on twelve, Grandsire Cinques and two courses of Little Bob Maximus, with Ringing Master Colin Salter switching around eight & nine and ten & eleven to produce some different music in one and Tristan Shaw ringing the treble to the other one for the first time, in fine fashion it has to be said. Especially following the helpful warnings of an "unpleasant surprise" when pulling off!

Following our productive session, some retired to The Cricketers with the Halberd Inn closed tonight, but I have to admit that following last night I couldn't face any more alcohol and fancied an earlier return on this occasion. Perhaps I will feel like more at some point as I hopefully enjoy what all being well will be a year of much to look forward to.

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The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Suffolk Guild of Ringers.