District Secretary's report for 2015

One significant feature of 2015 has been ongoing building projects at Burwell, Swaffham Bulbeck and Stretham. At Burwell, the floor of the ringing room has been moved up by about 1 metre, so there is now an extra room beneath it and a new kitchen and toilets in the base of the tower. At the time of writing, in December, the back six bells are back in action and the trebles will be available, with improved rope runs, when the clock is replaced in the tower. At Swaffham Bulbeck, the ringing room has been improved by creating two flights of stairs, and using the window sill as a landing. This means that there is more room behind the ropes for the 5th and 6th bells, and the rope for the 6th bell has been moved towards the window to give a better rope circle. At Stretham, as part of setting up the Ringing Education Centre, minor repairs and improvements were made to the belfry stairs, and of course the REC started operations and has been formally opened.

The year started with our Annual District Meeting at Fordham in January. As the final stage in the commemorative quarter peals which were rung in 2014 for Rosemary Palmer and Colin Johnson, Dee Smith presented Roger Palmer and Sue Marsden with handsome books containing details of all the quarter peals, with photos of the churches and some of the bands, and letters of thanks for the charity donations. Dee thanked everyone who took part for their enthusiasm, and said that it was a privilege to be involved in the enterprise; Roger and Sue thanked everyone for ringing, and for the thoughts behind it, and the meeting thanked Peter Binns for the excellent presentation books.

In February we rang at Longstanton. With the aid of visitors from the Cambridge and Wisbech Districts, from Essex and from Surrey, we achieved some good ringing on eight bells and provided some useful practice for ringers who do not often ring on this number.

The March meeting was at Willingham and Over, with a short extra business meeting at Over. At the ADM we had anticipated that a grant from the District Fund would be required at Stretham towards the repair of the belfry steps; this grant, coupled with a loan to enable a structural survey for the planned augmentation to go ahead promptly, was proposed and approved. This was an example of the District Fund ‘filling in the gaps’ of the main Association Bell Restoration Fund. A grant for the repair of the steps had been made from the BRF, but the amount had to be limited because the work was not on the bells themselves, and a BRF grant towards the survey had been applied for, but we were able to provide an immediate loan to meet the timescale of the structural surveyors. It is worth noting that any proceeds from District meetings and other events go to the District Fund, which is then available to support any reasonable ringing related activity within the Ely District.

In April, Sue Marsden arranged an excellent tour for our District outing, visiting six towers on the border between Suffolk and Norfolk. And the whole thing was sufficiently local that ringers could come and go to allow for other commitments.

The AGM and 8-bell striking competition for the Ely DA were held on the first Saturday in May, hosted by the Huntingdon District, In the striking competition at Bluntisham, the Ely District team rang Plain Bob Triples and were placed second, with the Huntingdon District, ringing Grandsire Triples, placed first. Our District striking competition took place at Cottenham a week later. We welcomed the Ely DA Young Ringers, who provided a band for each section, resulting in four bands in the Method section and five bands in the Called Change section. Judges Alan and Marj Winter congratulated all the bands on entering, and noted that they enjoyed listening to almost all the ringing. Experience on the bells proved decisive, and the Cottenham band, with the same ringers in each section, won both trophies.

Our June meeting was an evening mini-tour to Wicken and Chippenham in our district, and included Freckenham in Suffolk. We were joined by members of the Suffolk DG, who were pleased to have the chance to ring at Freckenham. June also saw the visit of the Kilifi ringers to Cambridgeshire, as part of an intensive training programme towards ringing simple methods and teaching other ringers. The Kilifi ringers visited Rampton in our district, and found the bells of a very similar weight to their own bells.

For the District Barbeque in July, we specially invited the Young Ringers and their families. There was ringing at Millcroft Campanile in the afternoon and the Maplestead mini-ring was available during the Barbeque itself. Our invitation was enthusiastically accepted, particularly by the Longstanton young ringers, who made good use of the swimming pool. Also in July, the Ringing World National Youth Contest was held in Oxford. We congratulated the Ely DA Young Ringers on achieving a B grade and being placed equal fourth in the called change bands, with special congratulations to Ben Edwards and Rachel Frost from our District.

The August meeting, held at St Mary’s, Ely, suffered from reduced numbers due to summer holidays, but we still managed to ring methods on all 8 bells, and support a new ringer on her first visit to this tower. By this time, the Stretham Ringing Education Centre had been functioning for a few weeks and it was officially opened by Mike Petty on 15th August. The occasion was celebrated with speeches, handbells and cake. Also, what is believed to be the first quarter peal in the variation Stretham REC Doubles was rung at Stretham. This is Reverse Bob Doubles with a plain lead of New Grandsire as the bob, and the quarter was jointly conducted by all the ringers.

The September meeting also suffered from holidays, and other problems. The first tower was Swaffham Prior, where ringing went well. We had been going to ring at Swaffham Bulbeck but, although the new stairs were in place, they were not varnished and ringers were only allowed up to the ringing chamber if they removed their shoes. This seemed impractical for a district meeting, so we opted to go to Fordham. Unfortunately, arrangements to leave the church open after an earlier event failed and ringing was delayed while a key was retrieved.

In October, we visited our 10-bell tower at Soham, followed by Isleham. During the year, monthly Ely DA 10-bell practices have been held at Soham, often preceded by a quarter peal attempt. We managed a quarter of caters on one occasion, and this was a first on 10 for one of the ringers. One quarter of triples was a first quarter for the tenor ringer, and a quarter of Stedman Doubles was a first in method for Simon Smith who had attended a training course on the method at the Stretham REC a few days before. A promising quarter of Plain Bob Major was terminated abruptly when the clapper fell out of the 8th bell, damaging the slider as it fell. Thanks to Alan Winter for arranging and running these practices.

October also saw the Ely DA quarter peal day, hosted by the Huntingdon District. Ten members of the Ely District took part, among a total of nearly 50 ringers involved in the 14 successful quarter peals rung during the day. Congratulations to all involved, and especially to the Landbeach ringers who achieved a first on 6 (David Waterhouse), a first on 8 (Roger Gooding) and a first quarter ever (Sarah Alexandra).

We ended our year with meetings in November at Rampton and Oakington and in December at Histon. Also in November, Dee Smith, as Education Officer for the District, arranged and ran a 5 and 6 bell training session at the Stretham REC, focussing on plain hunt and simple methods, and she hopes that this will become a regular feature.

Apart from our monthly District meetings, other practices have continued during the year. It is pleasing to note that the groups of young ringers have made excellent progress. Ten young ringers from Longstanton were awarded their Learning the Ropes level 1 certificates in March, and they have progressed to ringing rounds together and learning plain hunt. At Swaffham Bulbeck, the young ringers are now an important part of the band. The Millcroft group has made steady progress during the year, culminating in a first quarter peal for four of the young ringers at the end of December. We have also contributed to the Central Council’s FirstPeal2015 target of 300 first peals during 2015; congratulations to all who have helped the 5 first pealers ringing in our District: 4 at Cottenham in two peals of doubles during November, and 1 at Histon in a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major at the end of December.

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.

Janet Garnett