Today was the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day marking the surrender of Japan and the end of the Second World War. To mark this occasion, some of the band met at the church this morning. After ringing up, Duncan tolled the tenor for a few minutes until 11 O’Clock, when we observed 2 minutes silence to remember the fallen.
Then Stephanie, Keith, Peter, and Duncan rang rounds and call changes for the 15 minutes allowed under COVID-19 prevention measures, before ringing down. Graham provided instruction and support.
This evening was fairly well attended as Keith and Stephanie were back from their holiday (albeit somewhat jetlagged having flown in from Kuala Lumpur the day before). Duncan, Jeremy, and Rachel were also present as were Graham and Vinni.
After ringing up (attempting to ring up in peal on the front 4, followed by the 5 and 6) we did some rounds and call changes to warm us up. We then moved to Mexican Wave and plain hunt practice on 4 and 5 for Duncan, Stephanie and Keith. This went quite well with 2 novice ringers hunting at the same time.
We did several goes through ringing Mexican Wave with very few problems before moving to “Dodgy Places Mexican Wave” which was challenging, but fairly successful.
After that we did some more Plain Hunt practice with Stephanie, Keith and Duncan practicing on different inside bells, and then did dodging practice with pairs of bells constantly dodging with each other (so, 1&2, 3&4, 5&6).
We then rang down in peal (or attempted to) and went to The Castle to discuss the practice.
We had a few of the regular band missing this evening due to illness. Graham, Duncan, Keith and Jeremy attended with Vinni and Simon joining us to help.
We started with practicing ring up in peal, followed by a brief attempt to do plain hunt on 3 bells before Vinni and Simon joined us. We then rang rounds and call changes and some Mexican Wave.
To give Jeremy and Duncan some practice moving around in a more complex method, we then practised Whitefield. In this training method, Simon and Vinni (on the 1 and 4 bells) plain hunted whilst Duncan (on the 2 bell) made places to firsts position and back, and Jeremy (on the 3 bell) made places to fourths position and back. Keith covered on the 5 bell to give Duncan a common reference when he was leading.
Keith then did some hunting from the treble to a more complex method.
We then finished by attempting “Dodgy places Mexican Wave”. This is a variation on Mexican Wave where each pair of bells dodges before and after making places. As this was a complex and unfamiliar exercise Graham, wisely, decided to do the exercise on each pair of bells individually, allowing the band to settle back into rounds before calling the next pair of bells.
We then rang the bells down in peal and went to The Castle for a well-earned drink.
This morning the band went on an outing to ring at a couple of the local towers. Graham, Sue, Keith, Stephanie, Wendy, and Jeremy attended.
The first tower we visited was St. Mary’s in Shinfield. St. Mary’s Church is an ancient church which has been a place of worship since 1069. The current bell tower was rebuilt in 1664, originally with 3 bells, but with an additional 3 bells added in 1722, 1730, and 1803. The tower building has visible cracks in it, and has been reinforced with iron bands and tie rods.
There are 6 bells at St. Mary’s, rung from the ground floor (Dove’s Guide). The bells were down when we arrived and were let in. We rang up and then performed rounds, call changes and some plain hunting.
Although the bells were not particularly heavy, we found them to be fairly hard work compared with most other towers we have rung at. It was suggested this might be due to the bells being mounted on smaller wheels than normal.
The second tower we visited was St. Bartholomew’s in Arborfield. St. Bartholomew’s Church is a relatively new building, having been constructed in 1862-1963. However, the bells are mostly considerably older than the church (the oldest being cast around 1399) as they were originally in the old church building which was in a nearby location, now part of Arborfield Park, and which was demolished in 1862.
St. Bartholomew’s also has a ring of 6 bells. These are rung from the first floor with an entrance to a spiral staircase at the front of the church (Dove’s guide).
The bells were down when we arrived, so we started by ringing them up, followed by more rounds and call changes, some Mexican wave, and some plain hunting practice for those who could.
The St. Bartholomew’s bells were mostly comfortable to ring, although the 5 bell seems to drop very easily if you don’t pull the back stroke quite hard, and the resonance of the 5 bell could be felt quite strongly on her rope even after she had been stood. The tenor is rung from what appears to be a slightly precarious position, right at the top of the spiral staircase which means, in practice, the ringer is best orientated towards the 7 bell rather than looking directly into the centre of the ring. For those sitting out, the tower noticeably moved when the bells were ringing. The bells also, famously in local circles, have an unusual sound and aren’t particularly in tune. Dove’s guide indicates that the 1 and 2 bells might not be well tuned, which probably explains how they sound.
Once we had finished, we headed to the Bull in Barkham for a well deserved drink and a meal, and to discuss the day. All in all everyone enjoyed visiting and ringing at the towers and it was deemed a success.
We started the session by practicing ringing up in peal. We then rang rounds and call changes on the front 6.
We followed that with Plain Hunt practice and more call changes.
We then did Mexican wave (places).
Then the more experienced ringers rang Plain Bob Minor on the inside bells with Keith hunting on the treble.
Jeremy needed more practice on the place making, whilst rest preferred to practice dodging, so we “spliced” Mexican Wave with double dodging Mexican wave, which worked surprisingly well.
Then we rang down and went to the pub.
This morning’s service was a combined service with Twyford, so some of the Twyford ringers joined us for ringing.
To start with Graham, Sue, Keith, Jeremy and Simon were the only ringers, so we rang up bells 3-7 in peal, and Simon rang up the 8. We then rang call changes on the 3,4,6,7 and 8. These were chosen as they form a major pentatonic scale which sounds quite nice.
Shortly after we started ringing, Matthew and Freddy from Twyford joined us, and we rang call changes on 6, alternating with Plain hunting on 5 with Keith practicing on the Treble.
We then rang down all 6 bells in peal.
Jeremy’s son had joined us to watch. We made good use of the recently set-up belfry video camera to show him what was going on.
This evening Graham led Keith and Louise in some simulator training.
The 3 bell was muffled and the 4 tied. Louise rang up the 3 under instruction from Graham, and Keith rang up the 4. Louise and Keith then both practiced ringing in rounds to improve striking and bell handling. Louise significantly improved her scores from previous sessions.
Keith then practiced Plain Hunting on 5 bells from both the treble and from the 5 bell, whilst Louise continued to practice rounds and work on her technique.
We also had the opportunity to review the bell recordings which Keith previous made, loaded into Abel. It was agreed that they probably sounded a bit shrill.
This evening’s practice was a fun and productive session. Graham, Sue, Keith, Stephanie, Wendy, and Louse were the early attendees and we started with practicing raising and lowering the bells in peal. This was partly to help with general raising and lowering technique and bell control.
Soon after this we were joined by Jeremy, Vinni, and Rachel. We rang some rounds, mainly for the benefit of Louise, our relative beginner, but also to develop listening and improve striking amongst the rest of the band. Louise is improving rapidly and is close to the point where she can take part in call changes, which she is looking forward to.
We also practiced some call changes as the band felt we hadn’t done that for a while and were a bit rusty, particularly Jeremy who had missed a lot of the practice sessions due to other commitments.
We then rang some Plain Bob Major, with Graham, Vinni, Sue and Rachel on the inside bells with Keith covering and Stephanie on the treble. This was a great exercise as Rachel was keen to practice Plain Bob Doubles, and it gave Stephanie a chance to exercise her hunting skills on a more complex method.
We rang more rounds and call changes later in the evening, and another attempt at Plain Bob Doubles. Then Keith practiced Plain Hunt on 5, although Graham and Vinni cheekily started to mix up the 4 and 5 bells.
Then we rang down and headed to The Castle.
We also had the opportunity to review the CCTV camera as some of the band, particularly Graham the Tower Captain, hadn’t seen it working. This is still in the temporary position, although it does give a fairly good view of the 3 and 4 bells.
A few people were away this week including Graham, the Tower Captain. Simon and Vinni were there looking after Stephanie, Keith, Wendy and Louise.
We got a chance to check out whether the CCTV camera position was suitable and how well the night vision worked. It all seemed very satisfactory, so now we need to experiment with mounting positions and to make the installation more permanent.
We attempted to ring up in peal followed by rounds practice, primarily for Louise (although it’s good practice for all of us). We then made a few attempts at plain hunting, which didn’t go that well with two learners trying to hunt at the same time. We then did some more rounds and decided to cut the practice a bit short as everyone was feeling tired, so we finished by an attempt to ring down the bells in peal which wasn’t perfect, but is improving.