This year, Ely District ringers have been involved in ringing outside our district, and for national and Associaton events, as well as our usual programme of local ringing meetings.
Eight ringers from our district visited London for the Ringing World Centenary Day on 26th March. Several of us went first to tour the Whitechapel Bell Foundary and then planned a route to ring at some of the Central London towers which were open on the day. We all made our way to Westminster to arrive in time for a quick look round the Abbey before the celebratory Evensong, attended by probably the greatest number of ringers who have ever been in one place at one time. Chatteris ringer Colin Johnson’s name was first out of the hat in the ballot to ring on the Westminster Abbey bells after the service, and he rang the treble to a touch of Grandsire Caters. Those of us with Maximus tickets followed the crowd into the Central Hall, Westminster for tea and cake, and were treated to a unique and record-breaking performance of 100 changes on 24 handbells, specially composed by Philip Earis.
For our regular ringing meetings this year we experimented with some different formats, including two towers in the afternoon followed by tea, and a single tower with a longer period of ringing where this is possible.
Our February meeting, at Landbeach and Cottenham, gave an early indication of the success of the two tower format – we had 22 ringers taking it in turns to ring the 4 bells at Landbeach, and then 30 ringers managed to get into the Cottenham ringing chamber at one time. Numbers were reduced for the March ringing meeting, which started at Doddington and then went to March, but this did coincide with the installation of the new Bishop of Ely and eight ringers were involved in ringing a quarter peal at Ely St Mary starting when the new Bishop left the Cathedral.
Also in March, Dee Smith organised an outing to Suffolk in place of the usual 8-bell quarter peal attempt. This was specially planned to visit Rev. Stephen Earl who had recently left Burwell to become Rector of Lavenham. We started at Preston St Mary, which is a very pretty village and a joint benefice with Lavenham, then we had lunch in Lavenham itself with a little while to look round this medieval wool town before ringing on the sonorous bells high up in the tower. We were well aware that the town was full of visitors on this fine Saturday afternoon, so we had to make a good job of ringing here. The final church, St Gregory’s in Sudbury, was another complete contrast in an urban setting; the start of our visit overlapped with the end of a local practice so we were able to help the locals ring on all eight bells.
An outing for the April meeting had been well supported in 2010, so Philip Bailey, as our ringing master, planned an April outing to Lincolnshire for 2011. This was an interesting day, with the additional benefit of fields of daffodils in full bloom. Everyone agreed that the eight bells at Long Sutton, which we visited first, were the best bells of the day. The first two towers after lunch – Holbeach and Pinchbeck – presented complementary challenges.We ended the day at Crowland Abbey, with its famously long draught and ingenious cable rope guides, but discovered that the problems were mostly psychological and, given reasonable handling, the bells could be rung to a good standard.
As is usual, the AGM of the Ely DA was scheduled for the first Monday in May, May 2nd in 2011, and the inter-district 8-bell striking competition was held at Bluntisham in the morning. Three teams took part, and Ely came a close second to Huntingdon with Cambridge placed third. This was followed by ringing and service at Ramsey, with lunch and the AGM at Bury, then several members of the district took advantage of the opportunity to ring on the 3 bells at Bury. The Cambridge District invited us to a joint meeting during 2011, to be held at a tower close to the district boundary, and this was arranged for Fen Ditton on their usual meeting day of May 14th, to give us all a little time to recover from the extra ringing for the Royal Wedding and the AGM. At Fen Ditton we started with a handbell session, mainly sitting outside in the churchyard, then a sociable tea in the church with tower bell ringing afterwards.
The striking competition for Sunday Service bands in the Ely District was held at Chatteris as the June meeting. The judges were Richard and Jane Hough from Huntingdon – they were impressed by the standard of ringing and congratulated all the bands. In the Call Change section, Histon were placed first with Chatteris second. In the Method section, there was a very close result; Over were placed first, followed by the scratch band then Histon and Chatteris.
For the July meeting, Dee Smith arranged four quarter peals during the day; these were all successful and included a first quarter peal for Roger Blount at Burwell. In the evening we had a meal and quiz at the Arkenstall Centre in Haddenham. With 11 members and a quiz master, we arranged ourselves into two teams for a close-fought battle over 10 rounds. It was noticeable that some questions caused both teams to guess the same, wrong, answer. At the end of the 10th round the scores were level so we agreed to leave it at that and not attempt a tie-break.
In August (at Oakington) and September (at Wicken and Stretham) we held evening meetings, to allow for wedding ringing earlier in the day. Both meetings were well-attended with a good variety of doubles and minor methods rung, and refreshments served from the convenient kitchen in the base of the tower at Stretham.
The October meeting followed the standard two-tower format of last year’s meetings, with ringing and harvest festival service at Over and then tea, short business meeting and evening ringing at Longstanton. With the help of visitors from Norfolk and the Cambridge District we were able to ring half courses of Bristol Surprise Major, as well as Plain Bob and Cambridge Surprise Major, and Plain Bob, Grandsire and Stedman Triples. Also in October, the Ely District hosted an Association quarter peal event with tea and a meeting in the Oakington church hall. Nine quarter peals were attempted, of which seven were successful, and Association members enjoyed ringing with, and chatting to, members from other districts.
In November we visited Soham and, with 12 ringers present, we were able to ring Plain Bob Caters and Little Bob Royal, as well as methods on 8 and call changes on all 10 bells. We then went to Isleham where several local ringers joined us for plain hunt, doubles and minor methods. The last meeting of the year was at Histon and started with a handbell session. On the tower bells, and with the help of visitors from Sussex and the Cambridge District, we rang Yorkshire and Bristol Surprise Major, Double Norwich and the usual Triples methods.
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 and enthusiasm; to all the incumbents for use of their bells; 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.