District Secretary's report for 2018

The main feature of the latter part of 2018 has been ringing for the 100th anniversary of the Armistice in 1918, which added to the usual ringing for Remembrance on and around 11th November. Preparation started early, with the announcement of the Battle’s Over tribute: a nationwide Day of Commemorative Events planned for Sunday 11th November 2018. The events included Ringing out for Peace at 19:05, to follow the Last Post at 18:55 and Beacons of Light at 19:00. In addition, to commemorate the 1400 bell ringers who died in the First World War, the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, together with the Big Ideas Company and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, launched the Ringing Remembers campaign to recruit 1400 new bell ringers. As November approached, we were also told that HM Government was encouraging muffled or half-muffled ringing for the 11am Act of Remembrance followed by open ringing at 12:30 to align with the processions and marches in celebration of peace.

To support these initiatives, in the Ely DA, we intended to ring 100 rows (i.e. 100 blows from each bell) at as many of our towers as possible during the weekend 10-11th November, and to include Ringing Remembers recruits in the ringing wherever possible. As local plans developed, it became clear that the most important consideration for each band was to support their churches and communities and ring half-muffled or open as and when appropriate. In the event, we rang at 17 of our District towers during the weekend of 10-11th November, and included 8 Ringing Remembers recruits. There was half-muffled ringing for Services of Remembrance, open ringing for the national commemorations at 12:30 and 19:05, and ringing for other local events including unveiling a plaque at Landbeach and lighting a beacon at Chatteris. Congratulations to all involved in what was a busy, memorable and successful weekend, and we hope our Ringing Remembers recruits continue to enjoy their ringing.

Within the Association, Sue Marsden has been arranging ringing to mark the 100th anniversary of the deaths of ringers at towers in the Ely Diocese who were killed during WWI. This year, in our district, the lives of ringers at Cottenham, Sutton and Wilburton have been marked with quarter peals and a peal, and the year ended with a peal of Ely Surprise Major at St Mary’s, Ely in memory of all Ely Diocesan Association ringers killed in action.

Other district activities have continued during the year. We have enjoyed visits to towers in the other three districts of the Association. In April, Barbara Le Gallez arranged an outing to the Wisbech District which was attended by around 25 ringers, including visitors from the Wisbech district and from further afield. The outing included ringing on the newly refurbished bells at Elm, the 10 bells at Wisbech, the two eights at Downham Market and Stow Bardolph, and finished with a long climb up the tower to ring the 6 bells at Fincham,. In July we held a joint meeting with the Huntingdon District, ringing at Swavesey, Fenstanton and Hemingford Grey, and in September we joined the Cambridge District in ringing at Bottisham, Horningsea and Fen Ditton. Finally, in November, we rang at Somersham in the Huntingdon District before continuing to Chatteris. Other ringing meetings during the year have visited towers in our own district, including some towers that we visit only occasionally. We went to Soham in February, to Chippenham and Isleham in March, to Stretham and Landbeach in June, and to Rampton and Over in October. We finished the year in December by ringing at Longstanton, where reordering is due to start in January. There is already more space at the back of the church as the organ has been sold and removed, and we were shown the plans for the two-stage building works which include a new ringing chamber on the first floor.

On the first Saturday In May, we hosted the Ely DA AGM and inter-district 8-bell striking competition. The striking competition was at Swaffham Bulbeck, with general ringing at Swaffham Prior, ringing and service at Burwell and tea and meeting at the very well-appointed Reach Village Centre. In the striking competition, Cambridge and Huntingdon districts both rang Grandsire Triples and were placed first and second respectively; Ely District rang Cambridge Surprise Major and were placed third. The sun shone, with the result that the judges almost got sunburnt sitting in the garden next to Swaffham Bulbeck church, and the day resulted in a very pleasant tour round the fen-edge villages.

Our District striking competition was held on the second Saturday in May, on the back 6 at Histon. Judges Rowan Wilson and Jed Flatters thanked the district for the invitation to the striking competition, and for an enjoyable evening. They congratulated everyone on taking part, especially those for whom this was their first striking competition. Jed remarked that he remembered being extremely nervous before his first few striking competitions, but that entering such competitions really is a useful way of focusing on, and improving, the striking of a band. There were five teams in the Call Change section. Stretham were placed first, and awarded the Don Murfet Memorial Trophy. Cottenham were a close second, followed by bands from Oakington, Over and Willingham. In the Method section, Over were placed first, with Cottenham again a very close second and the band from Bottisham and Swaffham Bulbeck placed third. All bands rang Plain Bob Doubles. The Ely District Shield was awarded to Over; Bottisham and Swaffham Bulbeck were awarded the wooden spoon. Thanks and congratulations to all involved, especially to the judges for their helpful and positive comments, and to the Histon ringers for the excellent refreshments. Congratulations also to the Stretham team who won the English Places quiz running during the evening.

Still with striking competitions, in the Ridgman Trophy on 16th June at St Peter, St Albans, the Ely DA band included one member of our district and were placed second to the ‘home’ band of the Hertford County Association. In the Ringing World National Youth Contest held in London on Saturday 7th July, the Fen Tigers included five members of our district and, ringing in the Method contest for the first time, were joint winners of their qualifier at St George in the East and came joint 5th in the final at St James, Garlickhythe. And, of course, on Saturday 23rd June the final of the National 12-bell Striking Contest was held at Great St Mary’s in Cambridge. In addition to the competitors and officials, this involved a small army of local ringers and supporters, many of them wearing specially designed Cambridge blue shirts, to meet and greet, make and serve refreshments, staff the beer tent, maintain a litter patrol and so on. It was very pleasant to be part of the crowd listening to the excellent ringing from the Senate House lawn.

In addition to the monthly District meetings, Dee Smith, as Education Officer, arranged monthly 5 and 6 bell practices at Stretham in the earlier part of the year. 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, continue with an 8-bell practice on the second Friday of the month, and welcome visitors to this practice in particular. An Association 10-bell practice has been held at Soham on the third Monday of each month; thanks to Alan Winter for arranging these practices which are much appreciated though we have not managed much 10-bell ringing this year.

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 to our district ringers and visitors for turning up and supporting the district events.

                                   Janet Garnett