District Secretary's reports

Ely District Secretary’s report for 2020

Well, the year started normally enough. Our February meeting was at Soham and we made good use of the 10 bells with called changes, plain hunt and methods on 10 to cater for the various ringers present. The ringing was followed by refreshments in the church, and a brief committee meeting. 

On 5th March, we had the sad news that David Gilbert had died. David was tower captain and steeple keeper at Burwell for many years; rounds and call changes were rung at Burwell in thanksgiving for his life, and Dee was able to attend the funeral. Our meeting on Saturday 7th March was planned as a morning meeting to see if that was popular. We visited Stretham so that attendees at the regular Saturday drop-in session could join a District meeting and ring on the bells open (not via the simulator). The news was already ominous, with concern about whether the virus could be spread via bell ropes. But we had a good session, and catered for all levels of experience.

Then on 16th March government guidance was issued to avoid any “non-essential” travel and contact with others. The District practice at Soham went ahead that evening, and we were relieved to complete a quarter peal of Plain Bob Minor with cover. After some rapid communication by email and phone, the District committee agreed to suspend all District ringing until further notice. At this stage, we hoped to get back to ringing later in the year, but of course the first national lockdown followed on 23rd March.

By the 23rd April, Dee Smith, as RATO for the Ely DA and our Education officer, was able to provide a summary of lockdown bell ringing activities. This included the very popular Cambridge District webinars, and drop-in Q&A and social sessions. At this stage, Ringing Room was up and running, and the Stretham REC was experimenting with adding Ringing Room ringing to its drop-in social events. The Stretham REC sessions, held three times a week, soon became a useful hub, with a good nucleus of regulars and other people joining for a few sessions to get to grips with Ringing Room and then setting up their own sessions. In June, Lesley and Dee promoted virtual handbell ringing, and it became possible for small groups to ring handbells together outside. A quarter peal of Plain Bob Minor was rung in Roger Palmer’s garden in Fordham. 

Our District meeting in July was held via Ringing Room, using the Ely Cathedral virtual tower; monthly district meetings have continued in this way for the rest of the year, also using Bottisham and Burwell Ringing Room towers to correspond with our original programme for 2020. July saw further relaxation of lockdown and the start of service ringing, which required discussion between the Central Council, the Church of England and Public Health England. Ringing was permitted for 15 minutes at a time, with a separation of 2m between adjacent ringers (unless they were from the same household) and the Central Council provided comprehensive and helpful guidance on keeping everyone safe. Service ringing did start at some towers in our district, where services were held, the incumbent was in agreement and the layout of and access to the ringing chamber were suitable.

On 1st August, the 7th was tolled at St Mary’s, Ely to mark 50,000 UK deaths due to Covid-19, in memory of Jon Reed who had died unexpectedly in March, and in preparation for service ringing the following day. Ringing was also permitted to mark the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day on Saturday 15th August, and bells were rung at Burwell, Cottenham and St Mary’s, Ely. Six ringers met at Landbeach on 21st August to ring Plain Bob Doubles with one handbell each – three of the ringers had learnt the method via Ringing Room.

A survey of ringing in the district was requested in advance of the Ely DA AGM, to be held via Zoom in October, and the following was reported at our District meeting on 12th September

An Association quarter peal of Plain Bob Triples was rung via Ringing Room on 17th October, and this included 5 ringers from our district.

In November, a second national lockdown caused service ringing to cease, but tolling a single bell was permitted for Remembrance Sunday on 8th November. In our district, a bell was tolled at Burwell, Ely, Landbeach and Swaffham Prior. The lockdown ended, but was soon replaced by almost equivalent restrictions. However, with a relaxation of restrictions on Christmas Day, four members of one family rang at Swaffham Prior, a single bell was rung at Landbeach and the front six were rung at St Mary’s, Ely.

Thank you and well done to everyone who has kept in touch, and taken part in any ringing activities this year. Let’s hope for better things in 2021.

Janet Garnett 

District Secretary's reports for other years are available in the Archive