The programme of ringing meetings for the year followed the pattern of the last few years. This included five full meetings with two ringing sessions, tea and service, two evening meetings with one ringing session, a barbeque, a striking competition, an all day outing and a mini-outing with picnic.
In February we visited Haddenham and Wicken, with a handbell session before the tower bell ringing. In March we rang at Chatteris and Somersham; after some varied ringing at Chatteris, there were just seven ringers at Somersham so we concentrated on Reverse Canterbury Minor which was a new method to almost everyone.
This year, the outing was held in April, instead of October, to see if more ringers were able to attend. Philip Bailey arranged a good selection of towers in the Milton Keynes area, including the recently augmented and overhauled 10 at Olney. We had a delay in gaining access to Embleton, the second tower, but everyone could enjoy the sunshine and read their copies of Striking Features which the editor had ready for distribution. By chance, the whole outing arrived at the same pub at Woughton-on-the-Green, opposite the church where we were due to ring next, and were able to sit at large tables in the garden for our lunch. The day was completed by the light eight at Downs Barn, and the heavy six at Great Linford. Aided by the favourable weather, an April outing was deemed a success and will be a feature of next year's programme as well.
The May meeting fell on May 1st, and was an evening meeting at Isleham. There was a handbell session before the main meeting, with plain hunt on 6 and 8 for those new to handbell ringing. The special method for the meeting was May Day Doubles (Plain Bob with a Pinks single as the bob) which we rang several times to give everyone a go at ringing the Pinks single.
The AGM of the Ely DA is hosted by each district in turn, and this year it was our turn. The service, lunch, AGM and eight bell inter-district striking competition were all arranged at Burwell on the May Day bank holiday, with ringing at Stretham, Soham and Fordham before service ringing at Burwell. Hosting the AGM requires significant organisation, and it was a combined effort by many people in the district, all coordinated by Dee Smith. Most of the Ely District team for the striking competition were heavily involved in catering or organising for the day, and, just before it was our turn to ring, one ringer was heard to say 'I can't even think about Plain Bob Triples now'. The Ely District last won the striking competition in 1996 but, when the judges announced the result, we found that we were the winners, beating the Cambridge District by one point
A separate report describes our district striking competition, held at Rampton in June.
In July, as has been a regular feature of the district programme, Roger and Rosemary invited us to Shrublands House in Fordham for a barbeque and to draw the prizes for the Grand Draw. The weather was kind to us again and we enjoyed a very pleasant evening in their shady garden. At the time, we did not know that this would be the last district event at Shrublands as Roger and Rosemary have now moved to a smaller bungalow in Fordham. We wish them every happiness in their new home and would like to thank them very much for hosting so many successful district events at Shrublands in recent years.
The August meeting was held at Soham with evening ringing only. It was a little disappointing that we only had seven ringers, and so could not take advantage of ringing all 10 bells, but we had some good ringing on the front 6 and provided some useful practice for those who were present.
The mini outing was held in September and visited our three and four bell towers, Lolworth and Conington, ending at Hilton in the Hunts District for some six bell ringing and a picnic on Hilton village green. Attendance at the September meeting is always reduced by holidays and weddings, but with the aid of visitors from Leicestershire and the Cambridge District we made our mark in these towers which we do not often visit as a district.
The October meeting started slowly at Ely but ended with some good 8-bell ringing, and enough people continued to Chippenham where we rang mainly doubles methods. In November, at Willingham, we were pleased to welcome some of the new ringers from Chatteris making their first outing away from their home tower; Chatteris held a tower open day in May and gained several new recruits who have already featured in the local press and in the Ringing World. The Chatteris ringers scored another new tower in December when they joined us at Swaffham Bulbeck, where we also welcomed new ringers from Burwell on their first outing.
We have continued with eight-bell practices on the third Saturday evening, preceded by a quarter peal attempt by an invited band. We completed quarter peals of Cambridge Surprise Major, Double Norwich Court Bob Major and Plain Bob Triples with attempts at Rutland Surprise Major, Plain Bob Major and Grandsire Triples. There has also been a training morning at Chatteris, to focus on plain hunt and beginning Plain Bob Doubles, and some London Surprise Major practices followed by successful quarter peals for many of the participants.
Thanks to all who have made this a successful year for the district: to the ringing masters for making the ringing enjoyable and useful for us all; to the district officers and committee members for their hard work; to all the incumbents for use of their bells and for taking the services; to the local ringers for welcoming us to their towers and providing wonderful teas; and to our district ringers and visitors for turning up and supporting the district events.