Two Visitors Makes for Grandsire Doubles!

We had a super practice last night. Our usual repertoire was rung, being call changes, Plain Hunt and Plain Bob Doubles, but there were thirteen ringers in the tower including Catherina and new visitor, Ruth.

A couple of our local ringers are away and any chance of Grandsire 5 is away with them, but as both Catherina and Ruth can ring it we ended the practice with a 120 (calling PSBS), and it was very nicely rung. This was followed by a very good ring down in peal.

During some other ringing, Josh was assessed for his level 2 certificate in the Learning the Ropes scheme which he passed. Now the hard work begins!!! He will be presented with the certificate next Thursday.

Overall it was a jolly good evening with new sweets opened during the notices and summer events announced.

Also this week, as it was half term, Josh joined our Wednesday morning tied bell practice. He came along with his grandad John. Afterwards we went up to see the old belfry. Here are Josh and John standing by the old No 3 bell.


Ringing for a Wedding

Saturday 20th May 2023 – ringing for the wedding of Martin and Maggie, the first wedding of the year for us. The bells were rung up in the morning and we all arrived in good time to sit quietly exchanging conversation as we waited patiently, watching proceedings in the church from the ringing room.

It was beautifully warm and sunny afternoon and a group of well-wishers gathered outside to await the bride who arrived on foot having walked the short distance from her home. The group was refreshed with glasses of sparkling wine which was a lovely treat.

At last it was our turn to take part in the ceremony and as the married couple left the church the bells rang out to Rounds and Call Changes by Julia, Josh, Sue, Tricia, Phillip and James. After a few minutes Sheila and Hazel arrived having sung in the choir, and after a ten minute ring they joined the team and Sheila called 60 on Thirds.

Josh ran down to see if the wedding party was still there and he reported that there were still loads of people. So we had a final ring, this time firing the bells superbly and then rang down.

It was Josh’s first wedding ringing, well done Josh; and reports from listeners said that it sounded very nice. Thank you everyone, a job well done.


Coronation Ringing

Wow! We have had a great weekend Ringing for the King. We started on Saturday the 6th May at 9.00am with general ringing for all our ringers when we were joined by some family members too. The ringing included Call Changes, Plain Bob Doubles, and we fired the bells.

On Sunday we rang for the service of celebration and on Monday the 8th six of us rang a quarter peal in the morning to round off the royal events. The link to a short viodeo of our ringing can be found here. This includes video or audio recordings plus photographs which were taken during the weekend.

The ringing room was decorated and certificates were presented to all the ringers. Special coronation badges have been issued to mark the event.


Spring Outing – 22nd April 2023

We arrange at least one outing every year to vist a few towers within about an hour’s drive. We decided on an early adventure this year, with an option for a second one later, and on this occasion we travelled to north west Essex. Tricia volunteered to organise the day and she and I and Sheila G met one day to study the map and plan a route. We decided on two towers before lunch and one in the afternoon.

The first port of call was Steeple Bumpstead, a 14 1/ 2 cwt six. Julia learned to ring here for the millennium when a band was trained up for the occasion. Sadly, there is no regular ringing there anymore and the ringing room could do with some TLC. The bells are quite nice and a good weight for a six.

From here we went on the Radwinter, a 12cwt eight. More signs of life here with a white board with plenty of blue lines. The ropes of Nos 2 and 3 go through shutes in the clock box but those who rang them managed perfectly. We rang a course of Cambridge S Minor on the back six, probably our best piece of ringing during the day.

Lunch was taken at the Coach and Horses PH at Newport. We enjoyed a relaxing time here and appreciated the good food. There were six handbell ringers in the group and during this break we rang Plain Bob Minor and Single Oxford Bob Minor.

The last tower was Newport, a ten minute walk from the pub. This church has a tall tower faced with stone and flint but its interior is brick. It was restored in 1858. The bells, also a 14 1/2 cwt six are a little awkward in a unique and interesting way. They are quite deep set and have long unguided ropes making good bell control essential. Some of our ringers rang only once but we did manage a course of Plain Bob Doubles as our last touch. There is no regular ringing here, possibly only one or two visiting bands a year. The ringing room is dusty and small pieces of detritus fall from the walls/ceiling when the bells are rung!

Although we didn’t ring on any bells that “we would like to take home” we had a very enjoyable day. It was interesting to briefly look around the churches and of course it is always fascinating to discover things in the towers and ring the bells, even if some are a little challenging.

Our grateful thanks to Tricia for organising the whole day and to the local people who met us and allowed us to ring their bells.

L-R: Steeple Bumpstead, Ringing at Steeple Bumpstead, The church interior from the rfinging room.

L-R: Radwinter, Descending the tower, the south porch.

L-R: Handbells at the pub, Newport church, door to the roof at the top of the spiral staircase at Newport.

Team Photo at Newport


Association Membership Certificates

During our practice on Thursday 30th March we proudly peresented membership certificates to Josh and Mirjam. Mirjam was elected as a member of the Ely Diocesan Association of Church Bell Ringers in November 2022 and Josh in March 2023.

The aim of the Association during the last twelve months was to elect 125 new members, it being its 125th anniversary. I hope that we can report success in this respect in due course.

During the practice we rang call changes and Plain Bob Doubles and worked on Plain Bob Minimus for some to consolidate counting places.

The pictures are of general ringing, Josh & Mirjam with their certificates and the Association badges: membership badge, centenary badge and 125th anniversary badge.


A Level 1 Certificate and Two more New Learners

Well, what a busy and exciting time we are having in the tower at the moment.

Josh has just achieved his level one certificate in the Learning the Ropes scheme. This is quite a tough call which covers all the basic skills required to safely handle a bell. Josh has worked hard and has also done a lot of research into ringing, often asking about specific aspects of the art. He is currently learning call changes and is generally consolidating his bell control. He has already started on level two by introducing additional ringing skills such as place making and dodging. Onwards and upwards Josh!

In the last two weeks we have been teaching two more new ringers. Siobhan and Steve are setting out on their journey of doscovery after being put in touch with us by the Association of Ringing Teachers. They had responded to the Ring for the King appeal for new ringers. As with many new ringers their first visit to the tower was an education in itself but we were able to explain a lot about bells and ringing, and they grasped the nettle and have completed two training sessions so far.

As we move into spring we are planning new ringing activities. Tricia is organising our spring mini outing in April and we are preparing for the coronation weekend when all our ringers will be ringing for the king.

Here are photos taken at practice on Thursday 16th March when we rang Grandsire 5, Plain Bob 5, and Call Changes. And of course there were sweets at half time!


Presentation to The Gransdens Society

The local history society, The Gransdens Society, invited us to give a talk about the bells on Tuesday 21st February 2023. It was a pleasure to be there and an excellent opportunity to describe the history of the installation and explain why we ring.

It was entitled “The Church Bells and Ringers of Great Gransden – a brief history of chime” and broadly covered the period from the 17th century to the present day but focussing mainly from the late 19th century.

We were able to show unique footage of the bells being rung in the 1990s as well as photographs of former ringers. A history of the bells was described, from their installation in 1658 and several recastings over the years to the rehanging in 2000. We talked about past ringers and how they served the church and ringing in their time. The photographs and videos brought the presentation to life and was rounded off by some change ringing on handbells, which most people had not seen practised before. We were pleased to answer many questions from the audience.

Sheila George expertly changed slides and showed the videos according to the script and Catherina Griffiths (St.Neots) joined us at the end to ring the handbells.

Many thanks to the Society for inviting us, we are always pleased to get into the public eye rather than be hidden away in the tower!

Links to two videos can be found here:

Virtual tour of the tower

Church bells during the 1990s


Farewell to Mirjam

Thursday 17th February was Mirjam’s last practice with us before leaving for mainland Europe. As many as possible attended practice to say farewell and wish her and husband Paul good luck as they move to Luxembourg.

Mirjam is a loyal and enthusiastic ringer having taken up the hobby this time last year. She was able to ring for the Jubilee and later took part in ringing for the funeral of HM QE2. She is a key member of the weekly “tied bell” group which meets on Wednesdays, and brings enthusiasm and encouragement to us all. She attained level 1 in the A.R.T. Learning the Ropes scheme and is beginning to study for level 2.

We’ll miss her determined participation and great company but wish her all the best and look forward to seeing her on ocassion when she returns to the UK.

The photos show the Thursday night band as we presented Mirjam with a momento, a jigsaw puzzle depicting the church and ringers.


Rev Rachel Visits – with Cake!

We had a really joyful practice on Thursday 9th February with plenty of laughter and ringing. On this occasion we were delighted to welcome our priest in charge, Rev Rachel, who wanted to thank us in person for all the ringing we do and how much she and the community enjoy it.

The place was bustling with enthusiasm. We started our evening with some Grandsire Doubles, followed by Rounds. Sheila then asked Rachel if she would like to have a go and explained that she could try the backstroke. After a brief demonstration by Josh, our youngest ringer, the rope was handed to her and in a very few moments she had almost mastered this excercise. She later said “…I enjoyed my little attempt, as inspired by Josh!”

Rachel had to leave us at 8.00pm but before doing so presented us with cakes to enjoy later (so as not to make the ropes sticky!)

A great evening was had by all and were very much encouraged and inspired by Rachel’s visit.


Tower Tour – Raffle Prize Redeemed!

One of the raffle prizes during our coffee morning in November 2022 was a Tower Tour, an opportunity to visit the church tower and explore the various rooms to see the clock and the bells.

Sheila and I met our visitors, a group of eight, and accompanied them to the ringing room where they could warm themselves from the chilly environs of the church. We decided to divide the group into two which made access to the upper levels easier. It also enabled everyone to see how a bell was rung from the ringing room and see it in action in the belfry, and on our CCTV.

In the ringing room, everyone was interested in our notice boards and striking competition certificates, and the two dimensional model of a bell was used to demonstrate how a bell works.

In turn, each group visited the clock room where the chiming apparatus was demonstrated. Then upwards to the belfry where No4 bell had been silenced and could be seen being rung, with our visitors at a safe distance.

The response from everyone was one of fascination as they saw the church clock and bells in situ for the first time. There were many questions! So much is unimagined from the outside!

Finally we asked them to sign our visitors book and a group photo was taken. We had a lovely afternoon, it was a delight to welcome everyone.


Start the Year with a Theory Session and Presentation of Certificates

The New Year is always a good time to plan for the new ringing season. We have had a break from tied bell practices over the Christmas period and its always good to start the new season with a theory session before we get back into the tower.

On Wednesday 18th January our first meeting was as Nutbells when we looked at the requirements for Level 3 and Level 4 stages in the Learning the Ropes training scheme. After establishing what everyone had to aim for we discussed and practised writing out Plain Hunt of 5 bells. This exercise was understood and some “informal” homework was set to write out a Plain Course of Plain Bob Doubles, just an extension to Plain Hunt, to be submitted in a week’s time when we will meet in the tower again.

Of course, there was a lot of chatter about other ringing topics and this was accompanied by coffee and shortbread. Our normal hour session was extended by 30 minutes but we rounded off the session feeling refreshed and challenged! Now for some hard work in making things happen – Level 3 and 4 certificates to be accomplished this year!

On Thursday 19th twelve of us met for practice. It was a chilly evening and thank you David for venturing across to the tower early to switch on the heaters. Sheila G kept us all busy, and warm, by scheduling in Plain Bob Doubles, Plain Hunt 6, Grandsire Doubles and call changes.

Sheila also included Rounds for Josh. Josh is a new young ringer we are teaching. He has had two lessons and is ringing backstrokes and handstrokes seperately. He is learning to ring up a bell. He had a go at ringing just the backstrokes to Rounds and achieved this with excellent results. This is the first time he has rung on open bells and an opportunity for him to try and pick out the sound of his own bell. He also rang the handstrokes in Rounds. His achievements were accompanied by words of encouragement and congratulations from the other ringers.

We were also very pleased to present level 2 certificates to Tricia and Julia, so our emphasis this year will be on Level 3 and Level 4, as well as Level 1 and Level 2 for Josh. Exciting times ahead!

Ringers were reminded about the Annual District Meeting on Saturday 21st to be held at Gamlingay. Our next ringing will be at practice next week, but with tied bell practice on Wednesday for all who wish to attend, when we will be working on bell control when dodging and striking accuarcy.


Ringers’ Christmas Party

Fifteen of us (ringers and partners) squeezed around the dining table on Thursday 5th January to enjoy a feast at our Christmas party. Everyone took their part in cooking, baking or otherwise providing a super three course meal.

The usual jollity of Christmas crackers, paper hats and poor jokes were shared as we enjoyed our time together, one of the few occasions when we aren’t ringing!

After dinner David thanked Phillip & Sheila for their work and encouragement during the year and presented them with a personalised gift – a jigsaw puzzle featuring fully muffled bells of Great Gransden. In reply Phillip thanked David and Sheila P for hosting the party and to everyone for contributing to the wonderful food; and for their loyal support through the year…oh! and don’t forget, ringing tomorrow at 6.15pm for the service of Epiphany!

We were then entertained by one of David’s quizes, resulting in two winning teams. Because there was only one set of team prizes they were awared to the losing team, accompanied by laughter and approval all round! Quizmaster rules!!!

A super evening all round!

Ringing for the Epiphany

On Friday 6th we rang for the service of the feast of the Epiphany. We had been asked to keep the Christmas lights on in the ringing room as part of the celebration.


A Year in the Life – Our Adventures during 2022

We held our last practice of the year on Thursday 22nd December and celebrated our ringing by presenting Mirjam with her Level 1 Learning the Ropes certificate. Mirjam’s certificate is the third this year for our ringers, others were for Julia, L1 and Hazel, L3.

In between ringing, which included 120 Grandsire Doubles, Call Changes and ringing Rounds with alternate bells at opposite strokes (!), we enjoyed mulled wine and biscuits. The dress code was Christmas jumpers and hats etc. and the decorated ringing room added to the occasion.

We have had an exciting and busy year. Our ringing and events have been summarised into a new promotional video entitled “A Year in the Life of Great Gransden Bell Ringers (and friends) 2022. We hope you will enjoy the video which can be found by following this link , its just 2 minutes 40 seconds long.

Finally, we would like to thank all our followers and supporters in the village and we look forward to ringing for you in 2023.


Ringing for Reflection

On Sunday 4th December Rev Rachel had arranged three 5-minute services of light and reflection in this season of Advent. We were asked to ring for ten minutes before each service. The church was illuminated mainly by candles which gave a different light and created a calm, peaceful atmosphere.

A small team of ringers was rostered for the occasion and during the services we watched quietly from the ringing room using torchlight to enhance the moment.

Some of the ringers attended the last of the services and others headed off to the Reading Room Night Cafe, where local Christmas crafts were on sale, refreshments served and live music entertained us. A lovely village event.


We enjoy a Day Out on our Mini Outing and Host the District Ringing Meeting

Our last foray of the year!

Thankfully we missed the torrential rain of Thursday and enjoyed a bright, dry but cool Friday 18th November visiting three towers in the Ely District for our Autumn mini outing.

Meeting at Bottisham first (6 bells, 11cwt) with an interesting access to the ringing room. Then on to Swaffham Bulbeck (8 bells, 10 1/4cwt) and their lovely ringing gallery with open views into the church. Lunch was enjoyed at The 5 Bells PH in Burwell where we enjoyed a leasurely lunch before the short walk to the magnificant church to ring (8 bells, 13cwt).

Our modest repertoire of Rounds and call changes, with touches of Plain Bob Doubles was successfully excercised, with only one or two false starts!

A good day was had by all. Many thanks to Martin Kitson, Lesley Boyle & Gareth Davies, and Dee Smith for allowing us to visit, and David Prest and Sheila George for being Ringing Masters.

District Meeting

A cool, dull, mizzly November day. “Will anyone come to the ringing meeting this afternoon?” “Will everyone decided to stay at home in the warm?” These were the questions Sheila and I asked each other as we made our way to the church tower.

Well, we needn’t have worried – ringers soon appeared. The heating went on in the ringing room and the bells were raised.

During the afternoon about 25 ringers from all parts of the district (inc. Ramsey, St.Neots, Gamlingay, Godmanchester, Fenstanton, Holywell, Huntingdon and St.Ives) took their turn, and the methods rung included Call Changes, PB5 & 6, Oxford TB, Cambridge, Ipswich & London Surprise minor, and St.Clements.

We rang until 4.00pm after which were served refreshing cups of tea with biscuits immediately before a short business meeting.

Great Gransden ringers were thanked for hosting the event and esp to Sheila George for providing the refreshments.

Another very enjoyable afternoon ringing.


Coffee Morning Success

Saturday 5th November, 10.00am. Everything is ready to welcome people to our coffee morning – the first time we have embarked on this type of fund raising and PR event.

The handbells have been laid out, the bunting is up, the perpetual overhead slide presentation is running, the kettle is on and we are keen to get going. It started with a trickle of people but soon developed into a steady flow ordering their refreshments.

The biscuit decorating table soon started to attract youngsters as did the handbells, which throughout the morning were rung by complete novices, under the tutelage of Sheila George. Two seasonal tunes had been selected to be rung, Jingle Bells and Good King Wenceslas, both providing gentle entertainment amongst the excited chatter of our visitors. Christmas cards were on sale (designed by Rebecca Banner).

It was good to welcome everyone, and we met a lapsed ringer who we hope will visit us on a Thursday evening practice session.

Our thanks to everyone for supporting our endeavour either by visiting or donating cakes and raffle prizes which helped us raise £270 for our tower fund. In this case raised specifically to pay for our new laptop for the training facility and towards handbell insurance.

This was a really good PR opportunity for ringing, and an excellent morning! Thanks to the team for their hard work, David and Sheila Prest, Hazel Pettit, Tricia Williams, Julia Smith, Sue Taylor and Sheila George.

n.b. all photos of young people are published with permission from their parents.


Golden Wedding Anniversary Celebrations

Sheila and Phillip George were married in Great Gransden church on 7th October 1972. They rang for their own wedding and then a quarter peal band took over ringing 1260 Plain Bob Minor before attending the reception.

Phillip ringing the tenor and Sheila the treble immediately after their wedding.
Standing: Chris Corby, George Bonham, John Griffiths, David Howell.

Fifty years on the 7th October 2022 they rang another quarter peal. This time with another couple celebrating their Golden Anniversary on the same day.

Quarter Peal band 7th October. Phillip & Sheila were joined by Catherina, James Gamble (right) and John & Cass Boocock who were also celebrating their Golden Wedding Anniversary

On Saturday the 8th there were further ringing celebrations when a date touch of 1972 changes was rung, this time including daughter and son in law Rebecca and Mark Banner, and two of our ringing friends Catherina Griffiths and Naomi Laredo. The method rung was Cambridge Surprise Minor.

Fifty years on after ringing the date touch.
Back: Phillip, Rebecca, Mark. Front: Catherina, Sheila Naomi.

The Queen is Dead, Long Live the King!!

The Queen is Dead, Long Live the King!!

What happens in the bell tower?

After eleven days of mourning Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, bell ringers everywhere will be “getting back to normal”. The muffles will be taken off the clappers and stored ready for our next act of remembrance as our memories of recent days tarry for a while.

During the last week or so we have rung at specific times in the process code-named Operation London Bridge, the guidance on “what to do” when the sovereign dies. Of course, it started as Operation Unicorn because the queen died in Scotland. Although the queen died on the 8th September (D-Day), D-Day was actually assigned as the 9th.

Ringers everywhere were mobilised at short notice and many rang on the 9th at midday to honour Her Majesty. In Great Gransden, as with many other towers, the bells were rung fully muffled but with the tenor “open” at backstroke, meaning that it had only one muffle on the clapper. Tower captain Sheila George organised the ringers so that everyone had equal opportunity to experience this unique and exciting type of ringing. Fully muffled ringing is reserved to mark the death of the sovereign.

Accession is instantaneous. As soon as Queen Elizabeth II died, Prince Charles became King Charles III. Although in mourning, the country had to mark the accession. Proclamations were made, first in London on the 10th September and a day later in the provinces, where Royal guidance advised us to ring on Sunday 11th from 4.00pm, and the Gransden ringers did so, ringing on open bells in celebration.

The days following the proclamation continued with end to end “mono-tely”, as ordinary life seemed to be on hold and there was an endless commentary on tv by many presenters saying the same things time and time again! The “Queue”, as it became known, to Westminster Hall where Her Majesty was lying in state was several miles long and could be seen from space! Ringers continued marking the queen’s death with muffled ringing, and in Great Gransden there was eagre anticipation of our next special ringing as emails were exchanged to coordinate the team.

Monday 19th was our final act of remembrance. We rang from 10.00am for 45 minutes. Once again Sheila had organised us and the bells were rung almost continuously. Finally, at 10.45am the tenor was tolled for 15 minutes until the start of the funeral service of Her Majesty.

It has been an extra-ordinary week and an honour to have taken an active part in this moment of our country’s history.


Catch-up, and Planning for a Busy Autumn!

The evenings are drawing in, the weather is a little cooler and the butterflies are begining to search out sheltered places to hibernate. The ringing room is a favourite place for them and we will find them now all through the autumn and winter. If they emerge whilst we are ringing we gently encourage them to seek a cooler, darker part of the tower.

We have started a new season and have exciting plans for the coming weeks. We have a few quarter peal attempts coming up in September and October, a training day, and in November we are hosting a district ringing meeting. We have a fund raising coffee morning in November too and we are looking forward to an autumn mini outing. Check out our calendar for these. Reports will follow of course.

Our most recent community ringing was for the church fete which took place on Saturday 27th August. It was held in the garden of Rectory Farm, immediately adjacent to the church. We received several compliments on our ringing. On this occasion we rang call changes to a touch called Saucy 5, which was conducted by Sheila George.

The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers has posted a link to a very useful online document. It is called Belfry Upkeep and it comprehensively describes maintenance of bells, fixtures and fittings. I have added a link on the Safety Inspection and Maintenance page of this website. I shall check that I have everything covered in my own schedule of checks.

Although the year is far from over as autumn settles in I find myself reflecting on recent months, what we have achieved together, and I am continually looking for ways to engage with our wonderful community. I have been looking for inspiration for a new promotional video and have made some test videos to check feasibility of my ideas. It is very much work in progress at the moment so patience is the key word!

I have also started to write an account of the bells and ringers of Great Gransden from the late 1890s. I have quite a lot of material but am discovering that writing a factual, but most importantly an interesting history is quite challenging. Sheila G is helping in the geanealogy department and I am spending a lot of time thinking! This is going to take a while to complete so I might post interim updates as I go along!

As I research this and start writing, new ideas come to mind. They are sometimes a distraction because the doors which they open are just as exciting. Today, during my work on this project, I remembered that somewhere I have some videos of the bells and clock before the restoration in 2000. Fortunately I had the files transferred to a DVD in 1995, and lo and behold it was in my office drawer. I have transferred the files to the desktop PC, so at least there is a back up for these important, unique historic films. Now I have to decide what I can use from them to create a short video to upload to YouTube. More news on this later.

Our website doesn’t have many email subscribers. My regular blogs summarise what we are doing and I hope they make for interseting reading for non-ringers too. Please encourage others to #subscribe, there is no obligation and there will be no emails except one occasionally to say that something has been posted. Comments can be left if you wish.


Visit to St.Neots including a Tower Tour

Some of our ringers had expressed an interest in ringing at St.Neots, our 10-bell, 29cwt neighbour. Knowing that access to the bells and top of the tower was easy I made arrangement with tower captain Alban Forster for us to visit one Friday evening.

Through mutual agreement we decided on the 19th August and we were welcomed by Catherina Griffiths who escorted us whilst giving an interesting history of the clock and the bells. We were able to go into the belfry and then on top of the tower where panoramic views of the town and beyond could be enjoyed and photographed.

Afterwards, we went back down the turret stairs into the ringing room where we received a warm welcome from local ringers, including the vicar, the Rev Paul Hutchinson. There were also a couple of visitors, including one from Wymouth. I was invited to run the practice, which I was pleased to do, and we were able to make good use of the bells by ringing Rounds, call changes, Grandsire Triples, Plain Bob Doubles and a course of Cambridge Surprise Minor.

Most of our ringers had not rung there before and found that St.Neots bells are quite different from our small six at Gransden, but they rang very well, enjoying the new experience.

Our thanks to Catherine for meeting us, to Rev Paul for allowing us to tour the tower and the local ringers for their support during the evening.


First Visiting Team for Three Years!!

We usually welcome two or three bands/teams every year when they request to ring our bells on their outings to churches in the area. The last group was on the 20th September 2019. Covid intervened and so it has been almost three years since we have had that pleasure, but on Tuesday 16th August we were very pleased to greet ringers from Swaffham Bulbeck on their “mini” outing.

Gransden was the first tower and the company included several ringing friends. We were particularly pleased to see Maggie who had wanted to ring our bells during the Jubilee weekend open ringing session, but she missed the opportunity by just a few minutes.

The ringing included call changes, Plain Bob Doubles and Stedman Doubles and they finished with an excellent ring down in peal.

Their next stop was Bourn which is an 8-bell tower, and we understand that they had a very good lunch at the Stove!

They were our 104th band of visiting ringers since our records bagan (25th August 1970), and we hope to receive many more in the years to come.

The photo shows some of the ringers, with resident tower captain Sheila ringing the treble (on the left).


Annual Tower Clean-Up

The annual tower clean-up is not a very interesting event in our calendar but it is an important one.

We are fortunate that since the tower restortation in 2000 effective bird proofing is in place which prevents most of the dirt associated with towers from entering. However, we still get a lot of twigs, leaves and dust accumulating in parts of the old belfry. Some of this finds its way down the tower into the other rooms but generally speaking they are acceptably clean all year round.

I always start at the top of the tower in the old belfry which involves squeezing inside the old bell frame accompanied by Henry which works continuously as we move from bell-pit to bell-pit. This area takes about four hours and then we move down to the new belfry which is a slightly easier environment to access. This is two hour stint making sure that the bell frame is swept and the floor vaccumed. The challenge here is stepping over the clock wires and again it helps to be a contortionist.

Then, down to the clock room. This is quite an easy room to clean and takes about an hour but there are still pinch-points to negotiate and of course Henry needs to be moved around and lifted into certain less accessible places.

Finally, the spiral staircase, so Henry has to be carried to the top and working backwards we clean each stair tread, window reveal and the walls. This is another 30 minutes or so.

I usually clean during August and this year the tower has been a relatively cool place to work as we endure the prolonged heat wave. I work over the course of about a week and take photos of the completed work. At the end of it all Henry gets a wipe down with a damp cloth and his bag is replaced (again), and he’s then ready for his general duties during the year.

Cleaning the tower serves two purposes. Firstly, an annual thorough clean prevents any long-term accumulation of detritus which could damage the bell installation and clock (we are maintaining about £80,000 worth of equipment), and secondly it is a opportunity to inspect everything, especially the bells to make sure all the fittings are secure and safe to use.

We occasionally take visitors to see the belfry and clock room and it is important that they see it in good condition and well looked after.

My photographs this year include some graffiti. It can be found in one of the window reveals in the sprial staircase and reads EE 1687. Who’s are these initials? They are possibly those of Edward Elwood. He was one of the churchwardens at that time. It is known that the tower was restored in 1686 and there is a lead plaque on the top of the tower with his and his co-churchwardens’ initials, NL (Nicholas Livett) with the same date. We also know from the churchwardens accounts of that time that Edward was a carpenter and did occasioanal work to repair the clock and the bells. We will never know for certain if it is his graffiti, albeit a year after the tower repairs, it is amongst many names and dates in the tower. Every time I visit I feel that I am walking through history!

Well, that’s the hard work done for another year, the next major work is servicing the clock in December.


Ringers and Singers Safari Supper

After record temperatures earlier in the week Gransden Ringers and Singers (bell ringers and church choiristers) were able to enjoy their annual safari supper on Friday evening relaxing in each others gardens. We have held this event for several years, there being a close link between the tower and the choir.

As dusk drew near the endless chatter continued although croquet had long been abandoned and Sheila George welcomed everyone, which included non-ringing/singing partners, thanking our hosts for opening their gardens. She also presented David and Sheila Prest with their jubilee badges, (designed by Rebecca Banner).

We finally left in almost darkness realising that even at the end of July torches are a useful accessory!

With thanks to Sheila for organising us, still in a climate of Covid challenges!


Letter from the Palace!

After our celebratory ringing from 2nd – 5th June I wrote to Her Majesty on behalf of the ringers congratulating her on the occasion of her platinum jubilee. I receieved a reply this week and was please to be able to take the letter to practice on Thursday to show the ringers.

This co-incided with the receipt from Rebecca of our jubilee badges which Sheila had ordered for all the local ringers who had taken part during the jubilee weekend.

We were also very pleased to see Alasdair and Julia making a fleeting visit to the village.


Another Tower Visit and Ringing for the Revellers

Thursday 30th June gave us an opportunity to ring at Bourn for our practice. The church was being used for a dress rehearsal of the Revellers Time Travel performance scheduled for the 1st to 3rd July. Rather than cancel the practice we popped across the border to Bourn and were greeted by long term ringing friend Elinor, who is the tower captain.

Together with one other local ringer we managed to ring all eight bells to Rounds and we also rang the back six to Plain Hunt, Plain Bob Doubles and call changes.

It was a cool evening with rain showers but the bright sky gave a summery feel. The tower west door was open allowing the fresh air to breeze in. All our ringers managed very well, especially considering the much longer rope draft, it being a ground floor ring.

The Tower
The Team
The Ringing Room

Ringing for the Revellers 1-3 July

We’ve been busy this weekend, ringing for four performances of the Time Travellers, written and presented by The Revellers, the village amdram group.

The production was a series of playlets presented in nearby locations with the audience promenading between scenes. Many of the playlets were based on the history of the village, when among other things we learned about someone (top secret) who worked at Bletchley Park during WWII, a previous vicar the Rev James Plumptre (1812), and a particularly nasty character, local gambler and ne’er do well called Billy Whitehead. We also heard of the great fire, caused by a spark from the smithy’s forge, and how our school has developed across the ages (this performed by some of the children).

We were invited to ring for 20 minutes before each performance and mosts of our ringers were able to take part over the weekend. Sixty on thirds was called expertly on each occasion by Sheila G which conveniently fitted into the time allowed, and we sometimes had a small audience in the church as they were readying themselves for the show!

Three of our ringers, Sheila and David Prest and Hazel Pettit were also among the actors.

We received an acknowlegedment in the programme for our ringing as well as complimentary tickets for the other ringers, which we were delighted to accept.

Another splendid weekend of community spirit, good PR, and we had some cracking ringing!

The Church from Rippington Manor
The Sunday Ringers
Hazel, David and Sheila in Costume

Hazel Achieves Level 3

It was a long time coming but finaly Hazel has achieved her level 3 certificate in the Learning the Ropes Scheme run by the Association of Ringing Teachers.

The pandemic put a hold on everything and this was the reason why Hazel was not able to complete this level. Level 3 requires two quarter peals to be rung, one on the treble to a doubles method, and one on the tenor to a doubles method. Allowances are made if the tenor is too heavy for the ringer and this was the case at Great Gransden, so Hazel was able to completed the stage by ringing a second quarter peal on the treble, which was also to commemorate the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

The level 3 certificate came through this week and we presented it to Hazel at our practivce on Thursday, and here she is displaying it, with Phillip looking on, together with a grouop photo with the other ringers muddling themselves into some sort of order to get in the frame!


Ringing at Peterborough Cathedral

We had arranged to visit Peterborough Cathedral on 23th March 2020 but the pandemic lockdown stopped all social interaction the week before and we had to postpone. Two and a bit years on and we were able to re-arrange our trip and we agreed a date with Peterborough, Monday 13th June 2022.

Ten of us were able to go, including Georgia’s sister Ella, visiting from Australia, and Mirjam our new ringer who is still at the learning bell handling stage.

We arrived in good time and congregated at the west door of the cathedral with two other visitors. Helena Thorpe, our host and ringing master, greeted us and led us into the building with instructions to sign in before we entered the spiral staircase.

It is over 100 steps to the ringing room but the stairway is wide with a good hand-rail so it was quite an easy climb. The last part is a walk on a wooden platform over a vaulted ceiling and then into a passage which surrounds the ringing room. Twelve ropes, tidy ringing circle and a tenor of 21cwt.

The bells were up, from the Peterborough Guild’s AGM at the weekend and we were immediately invited to ring in 3s and 4s, first on eight and then ten bells. Touches of Grandsire Caters and Little Bob Major were rung afterwards and we were then invited to ring all twelve in similar groupings.

Everyone managed the bells very well, ringing relatively slowly to allow for all twelve bells to ring. In some of the ringing we were aided by local ringers, perhaps giving a little advice if needed, as this was a new experience for most of us, but I was confident and went off to take photographs. Everything was fine!

As the evening went on more time was given to change ringing. A half course of Cambridge Royal preceded excellent touches of Erin Caters. The weather was warm as the sun became lower in the sky and several of us ventured onto the nave roof walkway to admire the view and hear the bells immediately beneath the tower.

The experience enjoyed was not only in the ringing, it was being inside a part of the cathedral not generally seen by the public, and meeting the cathedral ringers who were very welcoming.

A final group photograph outside rounded of a lovely evening and we drove home full of achievement and inspiration. Our thanks to the cathedral ringers and especially Helena Thorpe for leading us through the evening.

A great job done, well done everyone!

A video recording our visit can be found here https://youtu.be/5-Ze03RPrNI


Platinum Jubilee Success

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II platinum jubilee has been a success nationwide and no less in the Bluebell benefice where the Gransden ringers have taken an active part. We rang the bells on each of the days from 2nd to 5th June with a different ringing activity on each day.

On Thursday 5th we opened the village celebrations by ringing “60 on Thirds”. This is a set piece of call changes from Devon and was ably conducted by Sheila George, our tower captain. After this we welcomed some visitors from other towers and continued with open ringing for a further hour with a short break for refreshments.

Call Change Team: 1. Georgia Yarrow, 2. Julia Smith, 3. Christine Morton, 4. Sheila Prest, 5. Phillip George, 6. Sheila George (c)

There were four visiting ringers, Sue Marsden (Peterborough St.John), Becca Glazier (Thriplow), Diane Thomas (Catworth) and Ella Yarrow, Georgia’s sister visiting from Australia.

On Friday 3rd we held our Tintinnabulation event. This was an open invitation to all parishioners in the benefice to come along and chime the bells. It was open to young and old and we welcomed 66 visitors. This included a photographer from the Cambridge News and we were featured in the newspaper that evening. We also received wider advertising from an inteview with Radio Cambridgeshire the previous Monday when Phillip explained what we had planned.

As well as tower bells we set up our handbells so that people waiting to go into the ringing room could be supervised in playing simple tunes, namely Twinkle Twinkle and the national anthem. Smaller toy bells were provided for the youngsters.

Refreshments were served by some of our local ringers who also acted as meeter greeters and crowd controllers! They did an excellent job and everyone had a brilliant time.

Helpers on the day: Tricia Williams, Julia Smith, Mirjam Van Sluis, Sheila George, Phillip George, Sue Taylor.

Saturday 4th was reasonably straight forward. We had planned a quarter peal in the afternoon to officially mark the platinum jubilee. But this was a red-letter quarter peal too for Hazel Pettit, Sheila George and David Prest. By ringing this quarter Hazel achieved her level 3 in the Learning the Ropes scheme, David rang his 50th quarter peal and Sheila her 900th, of which 700 have been of tower bells and 200 on handbells. Well done everyone!

Ringers were: 1. Hazel Pettit, 2. Catherina Griffiths, 3. David Prest. 4, Naomi Laredo, 5. Phillip George (c), 6. Sheila George. The method was Plain Bob Doubles and it was rung in 44 minutes.

Our thanks to Catherina and Naomi for ringing with us on this special occasion.

Back: David, Phillip. Front: Hazel, Catherina, Sheila, Naomi

Sunday, the last day in our ringing jamboree. It started with service ringing at 10.15am. This was general ringing for the service of Pentecost and Jubilee Thanksgiving. At the end of the day we rang our showcase piece, 70 call changes rung between 19:52 and 20:22 representing the years Her Majesty has been on the throne.

Timing was critical, to start exactly on 19:52 and “stand” exactly on 20:22. In between, the call changes had to be made at regular intervals and to do this they were called every 5th whole pull. This allowed some rounds at the beginig to settle the ringing and a few minutes at the end.

One of the highlights of our ringing over the four days was at the end of this ringing when a spontaneous cheer by all the ringers rang out as everyone stood first time, and we shared hugs and high fives in celebration. The bells were left “up” for effect – no ringing after 20:22, to be rung down the next morning.

We learned afterwards that several people had come to the church to listen, one gentleman not believing that the bells were rung by people, until he had looked in the church!

Ringers were: 1. Sheila George, 2. Sue Taylor, 3. Tricia Williams, 4. Sheila Prest, 5. David Prest, 6. Phillip George (c)

Back: Phillip, David. Front: Tricia, Sue, Sheila P, Sheila G, proudly displaying jubilee medals.

In the planning of our ringing we included all our ringers in at least one event and most were involved with two or more. All our ringing has been published on BellBoard.

Mirjam, our newest recruit also rang with us in the open ringing on the first day and and helped with the Tintinnabulation event. We clocked up a total of twelve hours in the tower. The team worked superbly together helping our visitors and enthusiastically promoting ringing. All our ringing was a high standard and very enjoyable.

We had advertised our ringing schedule widely in the Bluebell Benefice and the support was in thanks to this. The jubilee event organising committee generously gave all our ringers a jubilee medalion as a token of their aoppreciation of our contribution to the weekend. We thank them for this gesture.

With jubilee mugs, medals and chocolate we have ended the weekend tired but thrilled to have taken such an active part.


Platinum Jubilee Plans and Preparations

We have a very busy week leading up to and including the Platinum Jubilee weekend. We will be ringing on each of the four days and all our ringers plus guests will be taking part. All our ringing will be dedicated to mark the jubilee celebrations and will be recorded with photographs on this website and on social media.

Wednesday 1st – Carry out final check of the bells (although this is done weekly). We’ll be decorating the ringing room with bunting and flags and making sure we are ready to welcome our visitors over the weekend. We’ll ring the bells up ready for Thursday ringing.

Thursday 2nd – 10.00am the bells will ring out to call changes, rung by some of the local team. This is a “performance piece” and will be recorded on the national database “BellBoard”. At 10.30am we will will host open ringing for anyone in the area to enjoy. In the evening we will hold our usual practice from 7.30pm. We will then ring the bells down ready for Friday.

Friday 3rd – 10.00am the tower will be open to all visitors to chime the bells. This will be a unique opportunity for non-ringers to chime a bell by gently pulling the ropes, and hearing what it sounds like from the ringing room. Local ringers will be on hand to guide and help. Photogarphs will be taken of the event as part of the Bluebell Community jubilee records.

Afterwads, the bells will be rung up in readiness for Saturday.

Saturday 4th – 2.00pm – A quarter peal of Plain Bob Doubles will be rung by local and invited ringers. This is a performance piece too. The bells will be left up ready for Sunday.

Sunday 5th – 10.15am we will be ringing for the special jubilee service at 11.00am. In the evening at eight minutes to eight until twenty two minutes past eight (19:52 to 20:22) the local team will ring 70 call changes especially composed for the occasion. This ringing will close the village celebrations. This is also a performance piece. The bells will be left up.

Monday morning 6th – the bells will be rung down and the jubilee decorations removed from the ringing room.


Ringers’ Annual General Meeting 2022

Maundy Thursday is the tradition date for holding our AGM. There is no open ringing during Holy Week and although the date varies year on year we find it a convenient time to meet socially as well as to transact our business. After Covid, for the first time in two years we were able to meet in person and, as usual, Nutbells was the venue.

Light refreshments are ready for the ringers at Nutbells

We welcomed our new ringer, Mirjam (Miriam), and Georgia introduced us to her new baby, Finley. Apologies were recieved from Julia, Christine and Alasdair.

The statutory agenda items were quite quickly dealt with. Minutes, reports and accounts having been circulated beforehand to save time and we only had to approve them at the meeting. David’s (Deputy T/C) report, summarising our activities during 2021, can be found here.

Sheila G (T/C) commented how much everyone’s support if valued, for without it there would be no ringing. The ringers enjoy their time in the tower and were very happy to re-elect Sheila as T/C, David as Deputy T/C and Phillip as Secretary/Treasurer. It is worthy of note that this is the 50th year Sheila has held this office and we congratulate her on this length of service and her accomplished leadership during that time.

The main discussion was about our ringing plans for the year. A wide variety of ideas had been put forward. One of the main events is our four-day ringing jamboree for HM Queen’s platinum jubilee from the 2nd to the 5th June, when the bells will be rung on each day. Details will be advertised locally. Other plans are to visit St.Neots (10) and Peterborough Cathedral (12) and hopefully, in the autumn to visit the Mancroft Ringinging and Discovery Centre in Norwich.

We will investigate inviting Scouts, Brownies and year six pupils to visit the tower as part of our PR work. And continuing in the PR theme, we hope to hold an interactive coffee morning in the autumn to raise money for our bell fund.

In November the Huntingdon District ringers will hold their meeting at Gt Gransden and we will host a training module (basic conducting) in October for the Association training day.

Plans are all well and good, but the proof will be in them coming to fruition. Needless to say, they will be reported here in due course.

L-R: Sheila P, Georgia, Tricia, Mirjam, David, Phillip, Sheila G, Hazel, Sue


Ringers Visit the REC and Silent Practice Means Exactly that! And a New Recruit Tries her Hand at Ringing.

A sunny spring afternoon and seven Great Gransden ringers visited Stretham (Cambs) to ring at the Recruitment and Education Centre, or REC for short.

Kindly hosted by the REC management team we spent two hours practising our Plain Hunt, Plain Bob and Grandsire Doubles, in a dedicated session aided by volunteer ringers from other towers to support our endeavours. The half time tea break included some special cake! which refreshed us for the next ringing session.

It was really nice to have the opportunity to ring on different bells, lighter than ours, and to appreciate the different handling qualities. Our thanks to Dee Smith, the REC manager, and Lousie Dobson, the REC administrator for making the ringing arrangements and to the several ringing helpers who assisted our “improvers” and added stability to the ringing, making our afternoon most enjoyable and successful.

Silent Bells

Preparation for our visit to the REC has been the weekly tied bell/sim practices on a Wednesday when we silence the bells and use the simulated sound. The laptop PC which drives Abel and into which the sim is plugged, has failed. So the for the last two weeks we have had no sound at all and have had to “mime”. Nevertheless, we have still been able to practice dodging and general bell control.

A visit to the PC doctor confirmed that the laptop could not be repaired and plans were afoot to replace it with a “new” scond hand one. Then up steps Christine who has offered one of her old ones which she is getting rid of. It is hoped that after Easter she will be able to clean the machine and let us trial it to see if it will be fit for purpose. In the meantime we’ll borrow another one, and having purchased a serial port adapter we hope to be up and running in time for next Wednesday’s practice.

New Recruit

Although there are nine of us who regularly ring we always need new recruits. Not everyone can be there all the time so enough ringers are needed so that we can always ring all six bells,

The periodic email to Touchbase went out in early March and it was thought, as usual, that no-one would come forward. Then, out of the blue, Mirjam (Miriam) contacted me to say that she was very interested and could she find out more. She joined us for our practice on Thursday 17th March and, full of enthusiasm came back the following Wednesday for her first lesson in bell handling. Result!!


A Full Peal is Rung and the Clock is Repaired!

In good times i.e. pre pandemic, we usually ring about 8 quarter peals every year at Great Gransden. We have rung three so far this year and hope for many more in the coming months. But peals are a different matter. They take nearly three hours and require a different level of stamina and mental agility. The last rung here was in 2015 on 28th November. This was Phillip’s 350th peal and completed extents in methods in readiness for a peal, elsewhere, of 41 spliced Surprise minor.

It was no surprise to receive a request from Sue Marsden to ring a peal here, this year. She had previously indicated that she would like to ring one on the re-hung bells. Her only previous peal at Gransden was 9th October 1999, the last peal on the bells before re-hang. The pandemic had stopped all ringing and as we are now getting back to normal, Gransden was near the top of her list.

Sue, and her selected ringers, had intended to ring 41 spliced but decided to ring just seven methods (an extent of each), and this was successfully achieved in 2 hours 52 on Saturday 26th February. The last two minutes can be heard by following this link .

The village were advised of the ringing, as we do for most of our “extra” performances, and several people commented on how much they had enjoyed the sound drifting over the village.

The sun setting during the last half hour of the peal on 26th February

In late September 2021 the clock hour striking mechanism failed. This was due to a faulty sprocket which had become mis-aligned. The Cumbria Clock Co visited and concluded that a new sprocket needed to be manufactured, and that it would be January before the work could be completed.

January came, and nearly went, but there was no sign of the clockmaker. A communication apologised for the delay and said it would be March. And so, March it was! Two engineers turned up on Wednesday 2nd and set to work replacing the faulty part. Several hours later the work had been successfully completed. Clock hour strike and chimes are now back in full working order and at ringing practice on Thursday the bells were rung down in time for the nine-o-clock chimes. We are back to normal!

The new sprocket tightly secured to the hour strike drum

I musn’t forget to mention the special “half-time” sweets this week, courtesey of David and Sheila P, bringing them from their recent trip to Belgium. Very more-ish and impossible to eat only one! Here is a photograph of some displayed in a circle. Very appropriate for bell shaped chocolates!


A Date Touch, and Thinking Ahead!

During the excitment of our quarter peals at the beginning of February we already had plans to ring a date touch on 22nd February. This date was chosen because it has all the two’s 22 02 2022, and it would be appropriate to ring 2022 changes on that day.

And so, on Two’sday 22nd Feb the ringers met and we set off on our longer than usual length of ringing (1 hour 7 minutes). The ringing started with 582 changes of doubles (Plain Bob and Grandsire) which was followed by 1440 chages of Cambridge S Minor. We had some good ringing and as always, were happy to be successful in our endeavours. We dedicated the ringing to Naomi’s mum Hilary, who celebrated her 91st birthday on this day. It was also the 30th date touch on the bells, most of which have been on New Year’s Day.

L-R Naomi, Phillip, Catherina, Sheila, Mark and Rebecca

We received some lovely feedback from this ringing. Nancy said how lovely it was, and that when she had spoken to others around and about the village they said how nice the ringing sounded and how calming it was.

We are continually improving in our Call Changes, Plain Hunt and Plain Bob Doubles. Catherina comes along to our practes when she can and this is a great help. At practice this week we had an additional visitor – Christian Burrell, who is one of the Hunts District ringing masters. This gave us a spare person and Phillip was able to stand behind and guide our improvers more effectively.

Tied bell practices are focussing on Plain Hunt and calling Call Changes. We are scheduled to visit the Stretham REC (Recruitment and Training Centre) on Saturday 26th March. We have requested training on Plain Hunt and Plain Bob Doubles, so our preparation now will help us get the best out of the REC when we visit.

Also this week, Tricia asked Catherina if she could visit St.Neots to ring. The answer, of course, was yes! I think we should arrange some tower visits now that the Covid restrictions are off!

Phillip raids the sweet tin whilst the ladies have a ring!


Red Letter Weekend of Ringing!

We have just completed the third performance piece of ringing arranged from 5th to 7th February 2022, involving twelve different ringers.

On Saturday 5th we rang a quarter peal of Cambridge S Minor which was our (Sheila and Phillip George) 250th on the bells. We also rang our first quarter peal on the bells together, which was on 10th June 1972. We drafted in some family members and long-term ringing friends to complete the band for this auspicious event, and after an excellent ring-up in peal had some very nice ringing which took 50 minutes. https://bb.ringingworld.co.uk/view.php?id=1488925

Back: Mark, Catherina and David. Front: Phillip, Sheila and Rebecca

Sunday 6th was the platinum anniversary of th H M Queen Elizabeth II accession to the throne. There have been at least 796 performances across the UK and worldwide celebrating this magnificant achievement and Gransden Ringers were included. Six local ringers rang an especially composed touch of 70 call changes. https://bb.ringingworld.co.uk/view.php?id=1490085

Back: David, Phillip. Front: Hazel, Sheila, Tricia and Sue

Our final piece of ringing was on Monday 7th. We had arranged this initially for Rebecca Glazier, ringer from Thriplow, to gain experience in trebling to doubles. Rebecca started to learn ringing in late 2019 but the pandemic put all “in person” learning on hold until in recent months. She has had several practices at Gransden and has rung tenor behind to a few quarter peals in her home tower.

The ringing today was Plain Bob doubles and Rebecca rang very well to a very enjoyable quarter peal. https://bb.ringingworld.co.uk/view.php?id=1490731

The main footnote to this quarter peal was “In memoriam Dr. Francis Jackson CBE, (2 Oct 1917 – 10 Jan 2022), organist and composer, who served as Director of Music at York Minster for 36 years. Uncle in law of Catherina.”

Dr Jackson’s funeral was at York Minster last week and as he was much loved uncle in law to Catherina we dedicated this quarter peal to him.

L-R Sheila, Naomi,, Catherina, Becca, David, Phillip

Getting into the New Year

Our weekly practices are well supported and enhanced by daytime sim/tied bell sessions to help improve bell control, during which we practise dodges, calling changes and ringing up and down in peal. There is also a lot of theory and the whiteboard usually gets covered in lines and numbers! We also keep an eye on the Learning the Ropes progress books for everyone and I’m please to announce that Julia has passed her level 1. (certificate and presentation to follow).

The latest Covid guidelines by the Church of England have been issued, which come into line with government regulations about restrictions, which are now being eased. So called Plan B ceased on the 27th January and it is no longer mandatory to wear masks in public areas. Plan B made an exemption for bell ringing (and similar activities), which are classed as excercise, and/or that take place in non-public parts of a building.

The CofE and CCCBR continue to recommend caution when ringing in enclosed spaces and we are mindful that whilst we can ring with no legal restrictions, ventilation and hand sanitising still contributes to keeping us safe. Our risk assessment has been modified to reflect the latest guidelines.

We have several ringing events planned in the tower during February, some of which were postponed from Christmas, and these will be reported in due course. They include three quarter peals and a full peal!

Thinking further ahead, we have made enquiries about visiting the Stretham Recruitment and Education Centre (REC). We hope to attend ringing sessions with more experienced ringers who can help us with Plain Hunt, Plain Bob and Grandsire. This will probably take place over several sessions, all on a Saturday, and we expect to be visiting during March.

We have recently received some lovely comments about how much people enjoy hearing the bells on a Thursday evening. Let’s hope that our ringing continues to reach everyone and that we are able to interest some in joining our team. And, as ever, we are grateful for the encouraging support of Rev Rachel.

Here is a photograph of the ringers at our practice on Thursday 27th January 2022. Thanks to Catherina for visiting from St.Neots (and for checking the bell fund accounts while she was here!)

Ladies Band L-R: Sheila G, Sue, Hazel, Chris, Catherina(St.Neots), Tricia

2021 End of Year Summary

2021 has been a slightly more “normal” year than 2020, the latter being spent almost entirely in lockdown due to the Covid pandemic. Covid social distancing restrictions were eased on Monday 17th May 2021 but we were only allowed a maximum of six ringers in the tower and we had to sanitise our hands and wear face coverings. We also needed to make sure we had all doors and window opened to improve ventilation.

We returned to the tower immediately, starting with tied bell practices using the simulator, and making sure that everyone had an opportunity to ring over the following few weeks. This helped us get back into ringing. We recommenced open ringing in early June and by July there was no restriction on numbers which made our ringing much easier to organise.

Since June we have rung for 14 services and practiced on 23 occasions. The average attendance has been 7 ringers (including an occasional visitor) and it is pleasing to have this support.

We have also had 18 simulator practices which continue to be a valuable time for extra practice and theory. The sim has certainly come into its own in the last 2 years, enabling more bells to be rung and supporting our learning. A total of 19 quarter peals have been rung on it this year.

One quarter peal was rung on open bells, the first since March 2020, and we have rung four lots of 120 call changes, celebrating marriages and births.

We had plans for ringing over the Christmas period but decided at the last minute to postpone most of them because of the sudden emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid which is highly infectious and which, we felt, put us at higher risk. However, plans have already been made to carry out this ringing in the New Year.

We have ten resident ringers, but as with all towers not everyone can be there all of the time, so we need to continue to use social media and word of mouth to make our presence known so that we can increase our team and grow in experience.

A team photo taken in August was the only time we were mostly all present. It is included in a design for a jigsaw puzzle which represents our group in 2021, surely a landmark year, but we are looking forward to an even more successful 2022 with many exciting objectives to be achieved.

Ringers 26th August 2021. Photo taken during our practice
Jigsaw puzzle representing Gransden Bell Ringers

A Busy Ringing Week

It is Sunday 14th November 2021 and we have been ringing half muffled for the service of Remembrance this morning. We were able to ring all six to call changes. We also rang half muffled for practice on Thursday the 11th when nine ringers took part. The quarter peal attempt earlier in the day was unsuccessful but we rang for over half an hour which itself was good practice. Many thanks to Becca Glazier of Thriplow for coming over to ring at the last minute due to illness of one of the band.

Here is a clip of the ringing during our practice session.

The muffles had to come off on Friday when we rang in celebration of the forthcoming marriage of Michael Prest and Adrienne Brayman. Michael is a former ringer at the tower and he, together with brother Martin and parents Sheila and David made up two thirds of the band with Sheila and Phillip George completing it. We rang 120 call changes which took 24 minutes with very good ringing throughout. Details can be found here.

Ringig for Michael and Adrienne’s wedding. L-R Sheila G, Phillip, Michael, Martin, Sheila P, David

On Wednesday we held the usual weekly tied bell/sim practice. We are currently working on bell control and practising dodging to help with this. There is always a lot of theory at these sessions and the white boards come into their own when it comes to explaining up’s & down’s and in’s & out’s.


Plans for November 2021

Ringing at the moment is a bit like a spluttering engine, one moment it is running and the next it suddenly stalls, and this is all beyond our control. We have had to cancel one tied bell practice and two ringing practices due mainly to our brush with Covid and the need for different individuals to stay away in the interest of everyone’s safety. This, coupled with holidays, has left us with a minimal number of ringers.

However, we are optimistic and are preparing for ringing in November which will hopefully include a half muffled quarter peal on the 11th, following in the evening by further half muffled ringing for practice. On Friday the 12th we are ringing on open bells to celebrate the wedding of one of our former ringers, and on Sunday 14th the muffles will be on again for the Remembrance service.

Normal practices and tied bell sessions will continue for the rest of the month and on the 28th we will be ringing for the Advent carol service.

All in all it should be a good month for ringing as long as we can keep clear of the virus, and this is proving to be more difficult just now! See our calendar for ringing times.


Progress or Just Catch Up!

We had a good practice last night (Thursday 15th Oct) and welcomed Catherina who had come over to ring with us. Hon T/C delegated the running of the practice to David and he organised us to ring call changes, plain courses of Grandsire and 120’s of Plain Bob and St.Martins. A ladies band was selected to ring call changes.

Tricia rang the tenor a couple of times to call changes and Plain Hunt on 5, which was good experience and learning for her. St.Martins was rung for the first time since lockdown and dusted off a few cobwebs.

As usual sweets at half time accompanied the notices, and this week a reminder of the emergency evacuation procedure in the event of a fire or other catastrophe.

We are gradually catching up from where we left off in March 2020 but it will be a while before we are completely up to speed again, but it is progress. Our striking needs attention!! Midweek tied bell/SIM practices are heping with bell control & the theory of change ringing. We are now looking at “wrong” working and are doing a lot of dodging practice. Ringing up and down in peal also features. The SIM is a real benefit to the tower. Everyone is welcome.

Thanks to David for running the practice at the drop of a hat, testament to our teamwork and support from all the ringers.


Tower Captain’s Workshop

What does this mean? Well, its not like my garden shed with lots of tools and equipment where we manufacture tower captains, although it would be useful sometimes to have them ready made. The role of the tower captain is multi faceted. The TC (or Ringing Master) needs to be able to organise the ringing and although this may sound straight forward enough it involves a lot more than that, especially when managing ringers who you may not know.

Sheila and I attended this TC workshop on Saturday 2nd October. It was one of six workshops organised as part of the Association’s training day and this particular one was held at Swaffham Bulbeck. The session was attended by eight ringers, some of whom had many years experience in this role, and others who had only recently been appointed.

We were there as helpers and were able, with the other experienced TCs, to guide others through decision making processes when deciding what to ring, placing ringers on particular bells, appointing a conductor and giving positive feedback to ringers as required.

As well as a lot of interactive discussion we had some practical ringing sessions where some of the skills were put into practice which helped consolidate the learning.

Swaffham Bulbeck is off the A14 just pasty Anglesey Abbey. The church is flooded with light and houses a ring of 8 bells with a tenor of 10 1/4 cwt (520 kg). The bells are rung from an open gallery which has fine views of the church interior, and there are kitchen and toilet facilities. Many thanks to the SB ringers for allowing us to use the bells.

It was a great afternoon, good to meet some ringers for the first time and good to ring on eight bells!

Ringers attending the workshop
Swaffham Bulbeck Church. Interior of the church looking east

A Broken Clock, and the Mystery of History

Time moves on, that inextricable link bewteen one moment and another, creating memories and our history.

The church clock signals the time for us minute by minute, the dial on the north face of the tower assuring us (if we care to glance up) that we are on time, or late, or that life goes on as normal; and on the hour the clock mechanism springs into action to strike the tenor bell, signalling the time of day.

But, we now have a problem! The winding mechansism for the hour strike failed last week, entangling cables and with chains slipping off winding gear. We are unsure as to the cause of the problem and have assessed that it is best to ask the clockmaker to attend to rectify this.

For the time being the clock will continue to show the time but there will be no hourly or three hourly chimes. We hope that we can fix the problem very soon!

Still writing on the them of time, we were delighted this week to welcome to the church Mr & Mrs Robert Livett. Robert is the direct descendant of Nicholas Livett who was churchwarden here in 1686. Robert has carried out extensive searches into his family history and wanted to visit the church where his ancestor had worshipped and who lived in the village 335 years ago.

I was able to give him some relevant history of the church and took them both into the ringing room to see the church from there, and where I was able to chime old No3 bell, which Nicholas would have heard when he was alive.

What a wonderful continuity of history?


Just keeping in touch…

Its been a couple of weeks since I posted any news and this very rainy and wet day has prompted me to post an update.

We have done a lot of ringing since the church fete, which was much appreciated by Rev Rachel in her email to me afterwards thanking the ringers for their “…wonderful heralding of the fete!” We are very grateful for her support and encouragement.

Since then we have rung the 120 call change composition a further two times. On the 6th September it was to acknowledge the achievements of the olympics teams, and came the day after the paralympics closed. We mentioned especially Will Hipwell, born and bred in Lt Gransden, for his part in the Boccia squad in the paralympics. On the 10th September we rang in celebration of Martin Prest’s marriage to Katie, on the following day in GG church. Michael Prest also rang and David and Sheila P made up the family four with Sheila and me completing the band. Both Martin and Michael are former ringers at the tower.

We have rung the 120 on three occasions now, and eight of our ten regular ringers have now completed this. And this secular ringing brings me to the point…. Church bells are no only to be rung for church services, although that will remain a key objective for ringers. Bells are loud instruments and can be used to advertise and celebrate all sorts of other events too. Bell ringing is an art, a science and a sport and we should be encouraging and training people to continue this centuries old activity.

The first bell ringers didn’t use to ring only for church services. They rang for local, national and civic events for which they were paid. Ringing developed in our major towns and cities where men rang for excercise. It was a sport to them and they often rang in competitions. By the late 19th century the church was concerned about the arrangement that ringers had (and singers in the west gallery by the way, who were also paid), and belfry reform was introduced which tied ringing in with worship in a closer way than ever before.

This was fine at the time, and into the 20th century. Even up until the mid century the link seemed to be inextricable. Then, something began to change. Church congregations slowly dwindled and young ringers bacame more difficult to find. Ringing in many churches declined, and is still declining as we try to find a solution to the recruitment problem.

But, ringing is not in decline overall and there are many young ringers now taking on the challenge of learning change ringing. New teaching techniques developed by the Association of Ringing Teachers is raising the profile, and technology in and out of the tower is making ringing much more relevant and interesting.

Above all, modern communication helps us all to keep up with ringing achievements and developments in the UK and throughout the world. And “communication” is a key word. We should be letting our communities know when we ring and why we are ringing. We should maintain a tower social media page and a website to reinforce our message that ringing is successful and enjoyable. We should build and maintain close links with our churches (PCCs and incumbent) to support their mission and help them to understand our goal in building change ringing as a nationally recognised activity which benefits the church and whole community.

We have been doing this in the Gransdens for some time and will continue to build on our strengths and presence in our village. Thank you to everyone for your support.

Further reading, which prompted my writing this update, and which details at length the history of change in church bell ringing, can be read in Michael Foulds paper written in 2015, called Change Ringing in the Future


Ringing for the Church Fete

We are always on the lookout to ring for village occasions. On Saturday 28th August we rang for twenty minutes before Great and Little Gransdens’ church fete, which was held next door in the Old Vicarage garden. Call changes greeted villagers as they gathered to enjoy a traditional fete with preserves, cakes, books, plants and bric-a-brac for sale, and a chance to win on the bottle stall and in the grand draw etc. etc.

Live jazz entertained the throng as the sun eventually broke through, and guests enjoyed teas in a shady part of the garden; and some commented on how much they enjoyed the bells.

Well done ringers – good job done. We were pleased to be part of the fete, which raised over £2800.

A full album of photographs can be found by clicking on the image.

On arriving at the fete after ringing

Annual Tower Clean Up

The annual tower clean up took place this week. This involves thoroughly cleaning each room starting at the top in the old belfry and working down. It is arduous work at times necessitating squeezing into tight spots, especially in the old belfry where access to the bell frame is limited.

The opportunity is taken to carry out an inspection of the bell and clock installation to make sure that everything is in safe working order. Annual cleaning is important because although we have effective bird proofing during the course of a 12 month quite a lot of dust and small debris is blown into the tower. Regular cleaning also maintains the fabric of the church.

Negotiating a squeeze point in the old bell frame
Cleaned pit in the old bell frame
Old belfry after cleaning
Belfry after cleaning
Floor of the belfry, also tricky to negotiate due to clock wires

First Quarter Peal for 18 Months

Ringers met today to ring a quarter peal on Great Gransden bells. This is the first quarter peal on the bells for eighteen months (9th March 2020), such a long gap whereas we are usually ringing about eight quarters every year, but the Covid pandemic prevented us from ringing very much until now.

It was lovely to meet up with ringing family and friends and we rang a very enjoyable and creditable quarter, being 720 of Single Oxford Bob Minor and a 564 changes of Plain Bob Minor. The ringing took 45 minutes and two minutes of the ringing be heard by clicking this link. It is the end of the Single Oxford and the change over to Plain Bob.

The ringing was very good throughout and we were pleased to be able to slot back into ringing so easily after such a long wait!

The quarter peal band L-R:
Sheila G, Catherina Griffiths, Phillip, Naomi Laredo, Mark Banner,
Rebecca Banner

120 Call Changes rung for the first time!

Monday 2nd August, the ringers meet with a little apprehension. We are to ring 120 call changes (the extent on 5 bells), which will take about 25 minutes. Most of us haven’t rung for any longer than 10 minutes since Covid restrictions have been eased, and so are a litttle out of practice.

The bells are already up from Sunday’s ringing, so that saves us a job, but it takes us a few minutes to settle into some reasonable rounds, and we had to start again after a few minutes of ringing because someone forgot to switch on the digital recorder!!

Off we go again, and all went well with changes being called approximately every 3 whole pulls, and the extent took 24 minutes to complete.

We were pleased to be able to mark our ringing as a celebration of the birth of David and Sheila Prest’s grandson, Dylan William Brayman Prest on 28th July 2021.

Follow this link to hear the last two minutes of our ringing.

The call change band L-R: Sheila P, Tricia, Phillip, David, Alasdair, Sheila G.

Ringers attend Societies’ Fair

Saturday 24th July 2021

Happy ringers with the mobile bell
All ringers received a sticker

A super Saturday afternoon at the Gransdens’ Societies Fair featuring about 20 village organisations. From bowls club to tennis; from singers, guides and golf, to childrens’ club and horticulture; something for everyone.

The bell ringers were there too, inviting people to ring the Ely Association’s mobile bell. Fifteen people from age 7 to ??? had a go and all were able to ring within a few minutes, the younger ones needing a little extra help, but some coming back later for more practice! Every participant was issued with a complulsory “I rang the mobile bell” sticker; greatly appreciated by children and graciously accepted by adults!We were encouraged to receive many comments about how much people enjoyed the sound of the bells and although we didn’t gain any new recruits our presence at the fair was educational and enjoyable.

Thanks to the Ely DA for loaning the bell, the orgasnisers of the fair for giving us the opportunity to get out into our community, and to all our ringers who helped fly the flag. It was a great day!


Sunday 18th July – Preparing for Easing of Lockdown

We rang the front five bells this morning because it was rather warm, and although it was still relatively cool at 9.15am it was warming up quickly in the mini heatwave! We rang call changes with the 5 in.

Lockdown will be eased on Monday 19th July and the latest CCCBR comunication confirms that all social distancing is off, mask wearing is not complusory, and length of time ringing is up to us. The House of Bishops has issued guidelines and comments and it will be up to individual parish priests and churchwardens as to what, if any advisory measures are put in place.

A copy of the CCCBR statement has been circulated to our ringers and we will discuss this on Thursday 22nd at our practice. Meanwhile, a new risk assessment is being drafted.


Website feedback, practice night and mobile bell

Thanks for the feedback on the website so far. I have made some amendments and tried to pick up on typos. Please continue to let me know if you spot any errors (and encourage others to sign up for the updates!).

We had an enjoyable practice on Thursday, with eight in attendance (excellent!). This meant that, due to Covid regs, two had to wait downstairs while the others rang, but there were plenty of volunteers so that everyone had several rings. We continue to ring call changes only and usually for about ten minutes at a stretch, but the quality of the striking is pretty good and I hope were all enjoying it.

As we expect to have all Covid restrictions lifted on 19th July I have set aside Wednesday 21st and Tuesday 27th as possible dates to ring 120 call changes as part of our stamina building initiative. Ringing will last about 30 minutes. I think we will only have enough ringers for one team at the moment, so we’ll decide on the date soon.

I am collecting names for attendance at the Societies’ Fare on the 24th July and although several of us are involved with other village organisations I hope there will be plenty of opportunity for everyone to ring the mobile bell.

Association Mobile Bell

We are ringing the SIM next Tuesday 13th at 10.00am, and there is a normal practice on Thursday at 7.30pm. Dont’ forget that we have a calendar on the website which I hope will always be up to date with ringing events.


Ringers and Singers, and Website Design

On Friday 2nd July we held our annual Ringers and Singers safari supper when members of the church choir and the ringers visited three different venues around the village. We had a very relaxing and pleasant time in the balmy evening sunshine, taking the opportunity to explore our hosts’ beautiful gardens. We all met together for the sweet course where some enjoyed a game of croquet until poor light stopped play, but our social chatter continued until well after dusk.Thank you to our hosts for opening their gardens, to Sheila (photo credit) for organising us, and to everyone for their great company.

Photo credit to Sheila George

I have done more work on the website design, creating and adding a site logo which heads each page. The idea is to present a modern look for bell ringing which will be attractive for visitors and new ringers.

I have introduced a QR code to new advertsing posters for church and other notice boards. The code can easily be scanned with a smart phone camera and takes the reader to a 15 second clip of the bells ringing. The website is gradually taking shape and we hope to launch it in the next couople of weeks.