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!