District Secretary's report for 2017

We started the year by welcoming the ringers of Bottisham to the Ely District. Bottisham church is part of the Anglesey Benefice with Swaffham Bulbeck and Swaffham Prior, and the ringers already operated as a joint band, so the Bottisham ringers requested a transfer from the Cambridge District. This was approved by both ADMs, and by the General Committee, and we are pleased to say that the Bottisham ringers are now fully integrated into the Ely District. The Ely District also acquired the other two churches in the benefice – Stow cum Quy with its unringable 5, and Lode with its single bell in a turret, hung for chiming.

At the ADM in January 2017, I reported that the District Committee had spent some time discussing the importance of District meetings and how to encourage ringers to attend them and make them a success. As a result, we have announced a special method for most meetings and, when appropriate, we have held a short theory session before the ringing to help ringers get to grips with the special method. We also announced the District Tower Challenge for 2017 to see who can visit the greatest number of District towers during the year. Loyalty Cards were much in evidence during the first couple of months of the year, but interest seemed to wane after that. At the ADM in 2018, Geoff Grayton was announced as the winner of the Challenge, visiting 19 of the 27 ringable towers in the district. Geoff was presented with a certificate, and a token for his Ely DA membership in 2018.

The most successful result of our special method strategy for ringing meetings was probably in February at Histon, when the ringing chamber was full of ringers listening to the theory of ringing Bristol Surprise Major, and then putting it into practice with a variety of short touches and full courses. In March we rang at Soham and Isleham, with the special method of Grandsire on 5, 7 and 9 bells. Several people noted that we had things the wrong way round, as we started with Grandsire on 7 and 9 at Soham, and then ‘progressed’ to Grandsire Doubles at Isleham, but this had the advantage that, by the time we got to Isleham, people were happy with the method and could have a go at calling touches.

In April, Sue Marsden arranged an excellent outing. We visited five very different towers, including the new 10 at Biggleswade, and survived a near-lockout at Sandy. The date was 1st April, so April Day Doubles was an obvious choice for the special method.  We rang this several times, with lots of called changes to give everyone experience of the various bells, and Grandsire Caters and Plain Bob Royal at Biggleswade.

Our District striking competition was held at Oakington as our May meeting. Judges David and Cecilia Pipe had a ring on the bells before the competition started, and noted that, while the bells are a challenge to ring well, there was some good ringing during the competition. They thanked everyone for an enjoyable evening. There were six teams in the Call Change section. Cottenham were placed first, and awarded the Don Murfet Memorial Trophy. Longstanton were second, followed by the combined band from Swaffham Bulbeck and Bottisham, then bands from Oakington, Stretham and Over. In the Method section, the Scratch band were placed first, with Over second, followed by Longstanton and Cottenham. The Ely District Shield is awarded to the highest placed tower band, so the Shield was awarded to Over. Cottenham were awarded the wooden spoon. Thanks and congratulations to all involved, especially to the judges for their helpful and positive comments, and to the committee for the excellent refreshments and for seeing that the evening went smoothly. Congratulations also to the Stretham team who won the Coastal Places quiz running during the evening.

Our June meeting was at Burwell, where all 8 bells are now back in action. The rope runs for the two trebles are much improved following the relocation of the clock, and the positions of the ropes for the two tenors are adjusted to give more space in front of the new wall. The ringing meeting was followed by a very enjoyable barbeque in the churchyard, with excellent catering provided by the Burwell band. The July meeting was at Swaffham Bulbeck, so our ringing masters took advantage of an evening session on 8 bells to focus on calling touches of Stedman Triples. The theory session introduced us to some useful options, and then we were encouraged to put them into practice with a supportive band. This session also provided some good practice at ringing the tenor behind. The August meeting at Rampton suffered from holidays and other competing events, so we concentrated on plain hunt and plain bob doubles to suit the ringers who were there.

In September we enjoyed evening ringing at St Mary’s, Ely, with Double Norwich as the special method and fish and chips in the churchyard afterwards (fortunately the weather was fine). In October we visited Longstanton and Swavesey with Stedman Triples as the special method again, this time with a theory session on knowing whether to go in quick or slow. With the aid of visitors from Towcester and Derby Cathedral, we were also able to ring surprise major methods, including 8-spliced. Our November meeting visited the 6-bell towers at Stretham and Wilburton. The planned ‘special method’ of calling plain bob minor was extended to involve everyone in calling something. So the results included: calling changes from outside the circle; go and stop to plain hunt; touches of Grandsire and spliced surprise minor. The final meeting of the year was at Fordham; this included called changes, Plain Bob and Grandsire Triples, and we had just the right ringers for Superlative Surprise Major and a touch of 8-spliced surprise major.

In addition to the monthly District meetings, Dee Smith, as Education Officer, has arranged a monthly 5 and 6 bell practice at Stretham. Dee thanks everyone for their support; she says that the sessions are much appreciated by the students, and enjoyed by the helpers as well. The ringers at St Mary’s, Ely, are continuing an 8-bell practice on the second Friday of the month, often with a special method. An Association 10-bell practice has been held at Soham on the third Monday of each month; thanks to the Association vice-president Alan Winter for arranging these practices.

We have also taken part in Association events. The Association 8-bell striking competition was held at Meldreth in May; the Huntingdon District, ringing Grandsire Triples, were placed first and the Ely District, ringing Cambridge Surprise Major, were placed second. The Ridgman 10-bell striking competition was held at Great St Mary’s, Cambridge, in June; the Association band, including two Ely District ringers, was placed first. The Ringing World National Youth Contest was held in Birmingham in July. The Fen Tigers of the Ely DA rang in the Call Changes category and the band included three ringers from the Ely District. They rang at Harborne to qualify for the final, and in the final at St Paul’s were placed second in their category with a B grade.

Overall, the District Committee have been pleased with the ringing meetings held this year. Introducing special methods and holding some theory sessions has given a focus to the ringing, while not detracting from the usual aims of giving everyone the chance to practice what they are working on at present or to try something that is not available at their usual practice nights. The ringing masters intend to continue with special methods and theory sessions in 2018.

And finally, I would like to thank everyone who has 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