Thursday 23rd November 2017
The weeks fly by and already arrangements are in place for Christmas ringing, particularly at Dereham, where there are a number of services for schools during the last two weeks of term, as well as three Christingle services and a midnight communion on Christmas Eve. Scarning doesn’t have that intensity of ringing in December but those who are available help out at Dereham when they can.
Remembrance Sunday has gone by, with its customary half-muffled ringing. We practiced half-muffled the Wednesday prior to the day, partly to ensure that the muffles would stay put (which they did) but also just because it sounds good.
With various people unavailable, last Wednesday was unusually quiet, and there were just six of us. But we had a good practice, and were able to work on what we wanted to without worrying about fitting everyone in.
This week’s Wednesday practice was also unusual as we had a talk about dementia awareness by someone representing the Alzheimer’s Society. This was well received by the band and we all learnt some things we didn’t know before. However it took up a good part of the evening and in what time was left we concentrated on call changes, as much as anything just to ensure that everyone had a good ring.
After one or two gaps recently when people were unavailable we start our simulator sessions again this week, and hope to keep them going over the Christmas period as far as possible.
Friday 27th October 2017
Our simulator work at Scarning continues on an ad hoc basis and whilst there are some weeks when we don’t do anything there are generally at least a couple of people available on a Friday, which is our usual day. There were four present at today’s session and the result reinforced my impression that learning to ring and progressing to more complex things is often a series of breakthroughs with periods between when there is little obvious gain. The in-between periods sometimes need some dogged determination to get through if the thing you are working on just isn’t happening but it all becomes worthwhile when it eventually comes together. Today was one of those days when things did seem to be coming together, and the four ringers, working on different things, all made some real progress and went home happy. Individual band members are often seeing more personal progress due to the simulator work than at our normal weekly practices. I don’t know whether that should be considered a good thing or not but it is certainly a fact.
Sunday 8th October 2017
Yesterday was the day of the Western Branch striking competition, which was revived last year after a lapse, and so this one was the second in the new series, run again by Mark Hibbard. This year it was at Gressenhall and Scarning entered a band in the call changes section. Sadly we didn’t perform as well as we would have liked, due at least in part to a combination of nerves and ringing bells very different to our own. They say that the taking part is what counts, and certainly it was good that we were represented. Nevertheless it was hard for those who were in the band to know that they didn’t ring as well as they might have done. The afternoon itself was a big success, with more entries than last year and a good number of new ringers taking part.
Monday 25th September 2017.
On Saturday we rang for our last wedding of the year. Looking at the list for our group of churches I see that there are three more at Shipdham and two for Dereham, one of the latter being on Boxing Day, which is rather unusual. No word on whether they will want bells though.
At our Scarning wedding there were a number of small children, all of whom were well behaved, but a number of them needed the toilet, both before and during the service. This is awkward as the church doesn’t have toilet facilities and the village hall, which is the only alternative, was in use. The parents had to take their offspring round to the north side of the church, where they could relieve themselves reasonably discreetly, but one poor mum had to deal with her small child with a potty behind the back pews. Really not ideal. Wouldn’t it be good if the Heritage Lottery fairy would wave her wand and provide a loo and kitchen in the bottom of the tower, with a ringing gallery above?
Friday 15th September 2017.
There are now two pictures from the Church Bike Ride on the gallery page. None of Abbi unfortunately since as official photographer she managed to stay the other side of the camera. Although this outing was to raise money, and not strictly ringing-related, we hope to do another cycle trip soon which will involve a tower grab and a pub lunch. A good way to combine three enjoyable activities.
At this week’s practice we had three learners, one of our own and two visiting. With only one teacher present it restricted the amount of time available for both the learners and the band, but it’s surprising what you can get done in two hours. And that included hot drinks and banana cake (Thanks Lou and Joe!).
Saturday 9th September 2017.
Last Sunday afternoon we rang for our penultimate wedding of the year, an unusual event since we had not previously rung for a Sunday wedding. As there was a morning service as usual and some band members also ring at Dereham it made a tiring day for those who were involved.
We have welcomed Mandy as a new learner in the tower and hope very much that she will continue to ring with us. She has come to two practice evenings so far and is making excellent progress.
Today was the annual Church Bike Ride and Walk day. Two of the Scarning band were able to take part, along with a member of the Dereham band and a non-ringing friend. We visited sixteen places of worship, including three chapels, and cycled just over thirty miles. We were raising money to be split between the Norfolk Churches Trust and a parish church of our choice (in our case Scarning of course). After the constant rain we rode through last year this year’s weather was much more pleasant, though there was a thunderstorm at one point, which we were fortunate to escape the worst of.
Thursday 17th August 2017.
At last night’s practice we had a smaller attendance than recently, though still plenty of people to have a good ring. We had a look at the call changes for the branch striking competition in October. It remains to be seen whether we will be in a position to enter a band but we hope to do so and will decide nearer the time. We also had a good session ringing plain hunt, and were able to give those who wanted it a bit more time than usual to settle in and work on their striking.
I hate to have to say it but the first Christmas date has appeared on the calendar, which is for the carol service. Our secretary has also started canvassing ideas for our Christmas party. What a shame we cannot just stop the calendar where it is for a while before we move into autumn.
Our new boxes have been signwritten and you will find a picture of them on the gallery page. This is not, I suspect, how they will appear in years to come as boxes are there to be used and have a hard life, but at least we have a record of how they appeared at the outset.
Tuesday 15th August 2017.
Yesterday evening a group of three from the band visited St. Peter Mancroft for their Monday evening practice. This came about following a presentation that Simon Rudd and Richard Carter gave at the last Western Branch meeting about the forthcoming development work in the Mancroft tower. They extended a general invitation to visit and see the existing historic set-up before it is changed forever.
We were there with a large group from Felmingham which, with a healthy turn-out of Mancroft ringers, made for an over-full ringing chamber. I can imagine that this may have been slightly irritating for some of the Mancroft band but if so none of them gave the game away and we received a warm welcome. We watched in awe as they rang Grandsire Cinques, Stedman Cinques, Bristol Maximus (I think), and then London Royal and some other things using ten bells. They were kind enough to allow us to have a go at ringing rounds on twelve, and I am pleased to be able to record that all three Scarning ringers mastered their nerves and rang competently.
The work at Mancroft doesn’t start until October so there remains an opportunity to visit, and as part of their PR drive the Mancroft band are encouraging this. You would need to contact them first though.
Monday 17th July 2017.
Simulator practice on Friday produced a mixture of frustration and success. It’s odd how learning to ring seems to present a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Wonderful when you finally have some success but it can be disheartening sometimes too. Persistence is a considerable asset.
On Saturday one member of the band took part in a 10-bell practice at Wymondham, in preparation for an inter-branch striking competition there. The general feeling reported back was that our branch had little chance of success, but nevertheless taking part is surely the important thing.
Sunday was a busy day. Four of the band started off with a service ring at Dereham. With their tower captain away working and a couple of other absences we had to shuffle around a bit but produced a decent result. Dereham’s newest service ringer coped well with her second service ring and their youngest managed confidently, ringing without his dad there for the first time. One of ours rang the seven for the first time and she came away delighted with it; although it’s a big bell it does seem almost to ring itself once you settle into a rhythm.
Then it was the Scarning service ring. Three christenings to be done during the service, two of them being the children of one large local family. The church was full and one or two stragglers were still arriving fifteen minutes after the start of the service. We had the usual problems hearing the bells over the hubbub but the band managed well and produced some ringing to be proud of. At one point we did a long stretch of Tittums and settled into such a good rhythm that it seemed a shame to have to stop.
Back at 1.30 pm for another christening service, this time a particularly special one as it was for Joel, the grandson of two of the band. And it was another good ring, with a bit of confusion right at the end, at which point we couldn’t hear and I don’t think anyone else was listening.
Thursday 6th July 2017
Another big gap since the last update here, and not so much because nothing has been happening but rather that too much has been going on.
Here are our new boxes, which had their first showing at last night’s practice. These were made partly because our youngest and smallest regular ringer is becoming too tall for the giant box he has been using and we couldn’t find a safe combination of our assorted collection of other boxes that would suit his height. The old boxes have now been removed. They were knocked together out of bits and pieces by John about seven or eight years ago as a temporary measure and have given excellent service. All being well the new set will give many more years of use.
We had apologies from four people last night, all of whom have family members who are unwell, and we wish them speedy recoveries. Consequently we expected a quiet practice. The reality was quite different and there was a variety of visitors, some old friends, but including Robert and his father Tony, who are on holiday from Devon and taking in a few practices whilst they are here.
We are now well into the wedding season. We have three at Scarning this year, but at Dereham they are lined up weekly through to the autumn and Scarning band members are frequently involved with ringing there. Two of us rang last Saturday for a wedding at Necton which, with the ringing the following day for service, was the last ringing there for several months. They are starting a major restoration project and Matthew Higby has already been to take the bells down. The Necton bells rang well enough, but the bigger ones were very hard work and no doubt the rehang will make a big difference. Someone asked if we were planning anything similar at Scarning but for the moment the answer is ‘no’. Whilst our bells would certainly benefit from new bearings and fittings they are not in a condition where it is a short-term priority. But no doubt the day will come…
Thursday 22nd June 2017
Oh, how the days slip past us! Here we are at midsummer already. However we have at least had some summery weather to get us in the right mood, and so far the Norfolk adage of summer being ‘two fine days and a thunderstorm’ hasn’t applied (though as I write it is just starting to rain!). Yesterday the social media was full of talk of bands cancelling their practices because of the heat. We went ahead with ours yesterday evening and in spite of a slow start had a good attendance.
The pace was noticeably less brisk than it usually is, and to be honest it was actually too hot to be doing anything very energetic. Our tower takes days of warm weather to change temperature very obviously but once it does so it retains the heat and we cannot open a window to let in the breeze. The practice was notable because everyone who was prepared to do so had a go at calling changes. Changing conductors mid-way through is challenging but useful in terms of getting the hang of working out the rope order and deciding what to do next. I think we will be doing more of this in the weeks to come.
Our ten-year-old Dereham regular rang plain hunt and call changes without his dad standing with him, for the first time, and is becoming increasingly confident both in knowing where he needs to be and in his bell control. It is worth noting here that he rang the treble for his first wedding last Saturday at Dereham, and several of the Scarning ringers were in the band, including one also doing her first wedding. The team received thanks and compliments from the bride and groom for helping make their wedding day so special. So people do listen, at least sometimes.
Thursday 1st June 2017
At last night’s practice we started off with some ‘whole pull and stand’ whilst there weren’t too many of us there. We all managed to do it, but never at the same time. After doing some call changes we had a go at moving from rounds into Queens or Tittums in one pull. Although this was ostensibly just a bit of fun it is useful for bell control and developing a sense of where you are in the order. As by this time we were in a frivolous mood we then tried switching from rounds to reverse rounds in one pull. By reverse rounds I mean the real thing, with the tenor leading off the treble. Slightly to my surprise we managed to do it passably well after a couple of attempts, the art of it being to be able to hold up for as long as needed, particularly the smaller bells. Later we worked on plain hunt on five one change at a time, another thing which is not normally done but has its value as it gives the ringer the time to look around, see which bells are where and what place they themselves are in. It went down as a fun evening and there was a lot of laughter but nevertheless we did some worthwhile ringing.
Saturday 27th May 2017
We now have a screen for our simulator set-up, which is far better than projecting onto the wall, partly since it produces a better image but also because on a sunny afternoon, yesterday being an example, we can move things around a bit to maintain a usable display. Having evaluated a trial version we are also now using Virtual Belfry instead of Abel as our simulator software since the graphics in the current version are significantly better and make working on ropesight in a useful way much easier. We got this pretty much sorted out yesterday afternoon and made some worthwhile progress with the subsequent ringing. For security reasons we don’t leave any of the equipment in the church, which means the gear has to be packed up and taken away each time, but it is well worth the effort. The final thing will be a foot switch, to enable the ringer to control the ringing, and if desired call touches, without someone having to do it from the keyboard. A friend has very kindly adapted an existing set of three switches for our use and the final job will be to get them set up to work with Virtual Belfry.
Thursday 25th May 2017
Practice evenings are surprising occasions sometimes. At the beginning of yesterday evening’s there were four of us and knowing that we had three people away and another with a painful shoulder I started thinking of things we could do with a limited number of ringers. But in ones and twos people kept arriving and every time I thought the last one had appeared someone else came in through the doorway. Finally we had fifteen people, including two we hadn’t seen for a while. It was a jolly evening, with a lot of social going on in between the ringing. We rang plenty of call changes, some Plain Bob Doubles and also had another go at ringing plain hunt by changes i.e. calling one change at a time. This can be more of a challenge than it first appears, partly because you have to remember to do two changes in the lead, and secondly because the fact of doing it one change at a time doesn’t reduce the need to make the changes cleanly and accurately. It does seem to be useful for developing a sense of ‘place’ as after each change you can think where you are in the order and have a look around to see who is ringing before and after you. And the evening’s final bonus was walking home in daylight, which is always good during the short period of the year when it happens.
Monday 15th May 2017
The 2016 NDAR Annual Report has just been distributed. Unfortunately the entry for Scarning contains a number of mistakes. The correct version of the information, as it was sent off by our tower secretary, therefore now appears in the ‘About’ menu section of this site.
Friday 5th May 2017
On Wednesday we held our AGM in the church, with the rector in the chair. Some may feel that having a constitution and an AGM with the election of officers is rather formal for a band of village bellringers but we believe that it is worthwhile. One obvious point is that it enables us to demonstrate to our rector, to whom we are responsible and by whose permission we ring, that we are managing our affairs in an organised way. With the understandable concerns over safeguarding and with health and safety, it is well to have rules and procedures in place to deal with problems should they arise and to know who is responsible for what. In addition, our understanding is that where grants are being applied for, for a refurbishment project for example, many funding organisations like to see evidence that the band is managing its affairs properly, and in particular that it keeps account of its finances.
Be that as it may, the fact is that we held our AGM, and that like all good AGM’s it was short and not contentious. All four of the existing officers were prepared to stand for another year and were re-elected unopposed. Our funds are healthy but it was pointed out that during the next few years we are likely to have to replace our ropes and that we should manage our resources in such a way as to have funds available when the time comes. The tower captain commented that whilst he was happy to stand for another year and was still full of ideas and enthusiasm, that tower captains, like ropes, do need replacing occasionally and that the band should perhaps bear this in mind too.
Sunday 30th April 2017
Today was the fifth Sunday of the month, when the service at Scarning is a lay-led ‘Songs of Praise’. This morning was noteworthy because Alan, who led the service, made his theme the bells and their significance as a call to worship. Having had a good ring beforehand, eight of the band and two visitors from Dereham were able to stay for the service and several were involved reading prayers and a poem and giving the congregation a bit of the history of the bells and ringing generally. Two of the hymns were traditional ringers favourites, which are commonly sung at the services for branch quarterly meetings, and so the whole service had a ringing feel to it. It was wonderful for the bell ringers to be honoured in this way and it was clear that our efforts are appreciated and are very much a part of the life of the church.
Friday 21st April 2017
This week our congratulations go to Sarah, who has rung her first quarter peal, on the treble at Gressenhall. This comes less than twelve months after her first service ring and is the result of a great deal of hard work and attending many practices. Well done Sarah! We now have three members of the current band who have rung at least one quarter peal and we look forward to the fourth.
Sunday 9th April 2017
This Wednesday was one of those evenings when for diverse reasons a number of people were unable to come to the practice. Having only five ringers present we decided to use the simulator, though the subsequent arrival of another three people altered the picture somewhat. Anyway, by that point we were set up and running and we all had a good go. Some who hadn’t used the projected graphics before were able to get used to the experience, and enjoyed doing so.
On Friday afternoon we aimed to carry on where we left off on Wednesday evening, but a couple of things held us up for a while. The first was that there was a funeral service going on in the church so we discreetly made ourselves scarce for a while until everyone had gone. The TC had been told, and even wrote it on the whiteboard, but then simply forgot about it. Then having made a slightly late start we had problems with the laptop and projector. This was very frustrating considering that we had six lovely bells just waiting to be rung and needing no technology whatever. Just when we were giving up hope Sian arrived and got everything working and we had a good session, though a rather shorter one than we had intended. The technical problem amounted to the fact that for reasons best known to Microsoft you need to start the laptop before plugging in and turning on the projector. Lesson learnt.
Wednesday 5th April 2017
First of all, a reminder that we will not be running a Wednesday practice on 12th April as, in common with most other towers, we do not ring the bells during Holy Week. We will not be ringing this Sunday so after today’s practice the next ringing will be for the service on Easter Sunday.
Last Friday evening we held one of our periodic extra practices, which are designed to help people move on from call changes and plain hunt ‘by numbers’. These are restricted to members of the band and invited helpers in order to keep numbers manageable. So as to avoid potential annoyance to our neighbours we tie the clappers and use the simulator system. With the presence of some more experienced helpers who form the framework of a strong band learners can ring one at a time and make better progress than during a normal weekly practice. One unexpected benefit, at least as far as I am concerned, is that because the sound from the speakers is clearer than that from the real bells and the volume can be adjusted to suit, it is easier to hear the ringing and it tends to improve the striking. Also our 5th bell is magically no longer odd-struck! This session was slightly different from previous ones in that we spent considerable time working on plain courses of Grandsire Doubles, for two people who wish to learn the method and others who benefited from trebling for something other than Plain Bob Doubles. Dean also made excellent progress ringing PBD inside before retiring hurt with a painful back. A good evening and our thanks are due to Mark, Sue, Paul and Geoff for helping out.
Sunday 26th March 2017
Not only has our spring clean happened but spring has also happened, and we have had some beautiful days, albeit with our customary Norfolk north-east wind, which felt at times as though it had arrived direct from Siberia. And with the spring comes putting the clocks forward, which is not traumatic unless you have been out somewhere the night before and need to be at the Dereham tower for a 9 o’clock ring. We did the job, but it is perhaps fair to say that it was with a little less elan than normal. By the time we regrouped to ring at Scarning we all appeared to have fully woken up and we rang well for a large congregation as there was to be a baptism as well as it being Mothering Sunday.
The other newsworthy item this week is that we have a projector to use with our simulator. A small step for mankind but a giant leap for the Scarning Bellringers. We had been talking it over for a while, and had had a test run with a borrowed machine, but having decided that we would never really know how useful the facility would be unless we tried it we took a deep breath and bought a projector. The setting up and test flight was on Friday afternoon and evening and without going into great detail I think I can fairly say that from here onwards the simulator without graphics is going to be a bit like a car without an engine. Our activities on Friday allowed those of us who could be there to do little more than get acclimatised to ringing with a group of teenage sextuplets projected onto the wall opposite but it was clear that the potential for the band is huge. It will allow us to do everything from teaching learners, working on specific skills like ropesight or listening, through to mastering new methods before inflicting them on an unsuspecting band. As you will have gathered by now I personally am completely sold on simulators. Just as a violinist who plays in an orchestra will want to practice on their own, so a bellringer needs to have the facility for practice time on their own. The object, and the real pleasure, is ringing with the band but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to practice separately when you want to.
Sunday 19th March 2017
Well, the spring clean finally happened. The steeple keeper along with three assistants spent Saturday afternoon doing a thorough muck out in the tower and it looks the better for it. We did leave a certain amount of material in various holes in the flint walls on the basis that it was probably listed debris and therefore would need a faculty before cleaning it away. It sounded a plausible excuse at the time.
It goes without saying that this is filthy work, and the need to wear a dust mask at all times makes things less pleasant. Dean, owing to his height and long legs, found the process of cleaning in and around the bell frame more awkward than the rest of us. He commented rather aptly that it was a bit like letting a giraffe loose in the belfry and for the time being I am stuck with that image in my mind.
One unexpected thing that came to light was that there are large numbers of over-wintering ladybirds up there, hiding in crevices and under odd bits of board. There is a photo of a small selection of them in the gallery, which shows a number of slightly different types. Evidently ladybirds with different colours and spot configurations are happy to be sociable. There is also in the gallery a picture of Dean and Sian, taken when all was done and they were both about to head home for a shower.
Having done the belfry and clock room, we had assumed we were more or less done but were surprised at just how much dirt had accumulated on the stairs. We almost left it for another day but Sian volunteered to do this final job and then we just had to cart away the sacks of dirt and debris before heading our various ways to clean ourselves up and drink a lot of tea.
Sunday 12th March 2017
My apologies to any of you who check this blog periodically and have been wondering if your faithful correspondent has nodded off. In fact amongst other things I have had a rather virulent virus. It happens to us all from time to time but having a week-sized chunk effectively removed from your life is never welcome. But enough whining, what else has been going on?
Well, lets start with a couple of things that relate to Dereham but concern us at Scarning. The first is that a stay broke on the 3rd bell at Dereham whilst one of the Scarning ringers was putting it up last Sunday. This bell has recently been heavily used for teaching and it sounds as though the stay was just looking for an excuse to break. Even when the brain says ‘let go’ the body doesn’t always react instantly and the result was bruised fingers and rope burns. Thankfully the person concerned wasn’t going to let something like that spoil a Sunday service ring, so she took another bell and they rang on seven. This was just one of those things that happens sometimes, and you could inspect the belfry every day of the week and still miss the problem. It did, however, offer a timely reminder to all of us that you absolutely must drop all your loops before the bell reaches the balance point.
The second Dereham-related matter is that Jayden, who is nine years old and has been learning with his dad for a little over three years, rang the treble for service without anyone standing with him for the first time on the morning of the stay incident. He did the same this morning, when I was able to be there, and he made a very competent job of it. Congratulations Jayden, I suspect that you have a wonderful future of ringing ahead of you (and I hope at least some of it will be at Scarning!). In recent weeks he has benefited from some intensive coaching from his dad Chris, Paul Edwards and Mark Hibbard and the results are plain to see.
Last Saturday was the annual Association 6-Bell Training Day and two Scarning ringers were down to attend. Your correspondent was one but having got the lurgy was unable to go. However Sarah had a wonderful day and came home able to ring confident touches of Plain Bob Doubles. Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke she did a couple of 120’s on the simulator at our Friday session, so our hearty congratulations are due to her. She has been ringing for only a little over a year so this is good progress by anyone’s standards. Not only is it good news for Sarah who, like Jayden, has years of enjoyment ahead of her, but it is equally good for the band. Her hard work and the progress she has made will improve the overall skill level of our group and give us correspondingly more scope to help others get on.
The church Quinquennial Inspection is due in May and now that the date is confirmed the next thing on our maintenance agenda is a major spring clean, which we have been threatening to do for months, so that everything looks good when the architect visits. We also have a replacement rope pulley that needs fitting and that, too, should happen quite soon.
Wednesday 22nd February 2017
Yesterday we tried out the graphics in our simulator software to assess their usefulness both for teaching and for more experienced ringers. This involved borrowing a digital projector and screen to project the ‘moving ringers’ screen in Abel at a size big enough for a ringer to use as a realistic aid to ropesight.
The projector wasn’t a particularly powerful one; I couldn’t see the spec. anywhere but it cost about £100 so it wasn’t professional grade. In spite of this the image, in daylight on an admittedly dull day, was plenty bright enough for our needs, though a decent white screen helped. We had to tweak the strike point for the simulated ringers to match that of the real bell but that was all.
Three of us Scarning ringers had a go, as well as Mark from Gressenhall. Obviously it’s a different experience from ringing with real people, but nothing one couldn’t quickly adapt to. All of us are at different skill levels and after a minute or two were quite at home. Mark finished off with a course of Cambridge Minor and pronounced it ‘fantastic’, which summed up how the rest of us felt.
As borrowing equipment isn’t practical in the long-term Dean is now on the trail of a second-hand projector that he knows of. My feeling is that use of this graphics facility should be incorporated in our weekly simulator activities. Given a bit of thought and planning it would be a marvelous aid to teaching, and for more experienced ringers the opportunities it offers for learning new methods are obvious.
Thursday 16th February 2017
This week’s practice followed on from the last one in the sense that we concentrated on whole pull plain hunt, and it began to sound a good deal more tuneful than our early attempts. We will continue to work on this, both as something worth ringing in its own right and also as another approach to helping with ropesight. Similarly, our Plain Bob Doubles showed more confidence and accuracy, with the learners acquitting themselves well. Jayden, with help from his dad, has been working hard on his technique in the last few weeks and the results are clear. He did some very creditable treble ringing and led the front three bells down at the close of the practice.
As this year’s church meeting has been fixed for 12th March we are going to ring on that Sunday, which we would not otherwise do. Since we will also ring on Mothering Sunday it means that, all being well, we will ring on all four Sundays in the month, the first time that we have done so.
Tuesday 13th February 2017
‘Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new’
Thursday 9th February 2017
Another raw winter evening in our cold tower persuaded two people to make what was probably a sensible decision to give it a miss for once. We hope to see them next week. Another three were unavailable for other reasons but nevertheless with a couple of welcome visitors from Necton and our regular Dereham friends we had a good attendance and a worthwhile Wednesday practice.
After a bit of a warm-up (literally!) we moved straight on to whole-pull plain hunt, which is something we had never attempted before in our tower. The results were interesting and encouraging. Some of the seasoned method ringers found it quite difficult as they are so used to moving on every blow. I have seen the same thing elsewhere in a very experienced band when they decided to ring whole-pull Grandsire Doubles half-muffled for Remembrance Sunday. They tried it at their practice a few days before and it sounded truly beautiful except that after a while someone would inevitably go wrong. Doing two blows in every position just didn’t come naturally. Meanwhile, back in Scarning, one or two of the less experienced found the exercise quite useful, including Andy who, though arguably barely ready for plain hunt, found it possible to get round in whole pulls whereas normal plain hunt would certainly have been a frantic and confusing process with little benefit to anyone. Anyhow, we had fun and made some progress and I think we will return to this in future weeks.
We also rang some Plain Bob Doubles, as we have been doing increasingly frequently recently. The progress in terms of better striking and increasing confidence is clear. Dean had an all-too-brief go inside with Geoff standing behind, and hopefully he will get another turn next week, with some work on the simulator in the meantime.
Sarah mentioned after the practice that it was exactly a year since she started started learning, and as she is now ringing plain courses of Plain Bob Doubles she has made good progress. This is the result of a lot of hard work during those twelve months and she has also benefited from the expertise of Mark and our other friends at Gressenhall. Not everyone has the flexibility in their work and home life to be able to practice two or three times a week but but for those who are able to, the progress is correspondingly quicker.
Wednesday 1st February 2017
At last week’s practice we had an unexpected visitor in the form of Mark Hibbard, tower captain at Gressenhall. It was one of those evenings where more or less everyone who might come along decided to do so and we numbered nineteen people. But with the presence of Mark and our other experienced ringers we were able to work on ringing the treble for Plain Bob Doubles as well as having a go on the inside, plus call changes, plain hunt, making places and dodging. It was a busy and productive evening.
On Friday we had one of our regular simulator sessions and, it being a cold, damp night, two of us had the sniffles and seemed to be going around with a hankie more or less permanently in hand. Someone suggested that there was an outbreak of ‘Tower Nose’, which seemed rather appropriate.
On Saturday afternoon we had a well-attended outing in the company of some of the Dereham ringers, and visited three local towers before having an early supper in the pub. It was an enjoyable afternoon and you will find a short report about it elsewhere in this section.
Thursday 19th January 2017
Suddenly we seem to be most of the way through January and the days are lengthening. It hasn’t got any warmer though, and there was certainly a feeling on Sunday morning and at our practice last night that cold hands, thick clothing and stiff ropes don’t make for the best ringing.
Last night at practice we had an unusual number of people absent, but with those who were able to be there and some visitors from Necton and Dereham we had a useful evening. One of our visitors was a learner who is keen to get as much rope time as she can in order to speed up her progress and we were able to give her some one-to-one tuition during the session.
We also tried out something new, or at least new to us, and this was a call change aid. The aim is to help learners and anyone who isn’t confident about call changes both to see how they work and to have a go at calling some whilst not ringing.
The photo shows a steel clipboard with some numbered fridge magnets and a grid marked out on a laminated sheet of paper. The magnets represent the bells and the numbers in the middle are the places. Listed at the bottom are some of the more musical sequences for six-bell ringing. It makes it easy to swap pairs of bells around and keep track of where everyone is supposed to be. Several people conducted some call changes using this device and I am optimistic that it will prove a useful tool.
Saturday 31st December 2016
Our activities at Scarning are over for another year. Several of our members will be helping the Dereham band ring out the old year at midnight, but the rest of us will next pull a rope in 2017.
Since the last update here we have rung for the Scarning Christingle and carol services and a number of the Scarning team have taken part in Dereham’s busy schedule, including ringing for midnight communion on Christmas Eve and the Christmas morning service. Thanks are due to them in particular for their dedication.
Under the ‘The Way I See It’ menu heading you will find my personal round-up of Scarning’s experiences during 2016, and I will not write any further about that here. It simply remains for me to wish everyone good ringing, health and happiness during the year to come.
Tuesday 13th December 2016
One very obvious feature of ringing at Scarning is that we are at ground level and open to the nave of the church. This has disadvantages as it means a long draft, and with elderly bearings on the headstocks the bells need a confident hand to ring well. It also means that a boisterous congregation, such as for a wedding, can make the bells very hard to hear. At these moments we generally revert to ringing rounds and rely on ropesight to keep us in order.
But congregations like to see the bellringers at work and we like being a part of what is happening rather than out of sight halfway up the tower. And of course for those who have reached an age where dark, uneven spiral staircases are a potential hazard our ease of access makes a big difference.
This morning was one of those occasions when being open to the church is a real joy as it was Scarning school’s Christmas service. The children arrived in buses as it is too far for the younger ones to walk from the other end of the village. Two coaches brought the first half of them and then went back for the others and we rang as they arrived and continued until the children were seated in the church. The youngsters clearly enjoyed hearing the bells ringing and were fascinated by what we were doing, such that at times they were nearly all turned around in their pews to watch.
The bells evidently add to the sense of occasion for small children, and perhaps for adults also, but of course it’s far more than that. Our service ringing should be a call to worship and I like to think that we also help foster an impression of a place that is alive and welcoming, rather than quiet, dark and solemn. I nearly put ‘warm and welcoming’ but that would be stretching the truth a bit, in mid-December. Thanks to the fact that some of us are retired and one band member was working a late shift we put together a band of five and enjoyed the occasion just as much as our young congregation did.
Saturday 10th December 2016
Our Wednesday practice this week was done using the sensors and sound system and we enjoyed two hours of ringing without any technical problems. Our neighbours must have thought we were having a night off. Some people are finding it distinctly easier to hear the bell sound coming from the speakers than that produced by the bells themselves, which is quite diffuse by comparison. This seems to make good striking easier to achieve, and there is less tendency for the treble bell to be swamped by the boom of the tenor, as the volume of all the simulated bells appears relatively consistent.
The Wednesday practice was in effect a trial run for Friday evening, when we held a special session for those wishing to progress from plain hunting. Some more experienced ringers had agreed to come along to help and so it was unfortunate that at the last moment two of them had to pull out as they were unwell and a third had another unavoidable commitment. However we still had enough to allow us to ring Bob Minimus and Cloister Doubles, and thanks to the experience of Mark Hibbard, from Gressenhall, we had a very useful evening with progress made by all the participants. This seems to be a potential way forward for a mixed-ability band like ours and we hope to repeat the practice in January with another session of intensive work on ropesight and the rudiments of method ringing. As, in due course, band members bring their added skills into play during normal Wednesday practices it should make it much easier to help new learners progress.
Monday 5th December 2016
At the Western Branch AGM on Saturday 26th November Andy was proposed and elected to NDAR membership, having recently done his first service ring. Congratulations Andy. This brings us up to eleven active service ringers at Scarning, which is the most we have ever had. With Sian, Sarah and Andy we have been able to put forward three people for NDAR membership this year, and their contribution to the band is greatly appreciated.
Also at the AGM both Sian and Sarah were proposed and elected to the Western Branch committee. New people with fresh ideas are always welcomed and they will both certainly make a valuable addition. Tim was re-elected and will continue editing the Great Western.
For several years the Scarning bell ringers and friends have enjoyed a Christmas dinner at the beginning of December at the Windmill in Necton. We have been well looked after there but this time we decided to do something different and so last Saturday twenty-four of us had a Christmas party in Scarning village hall. Tricia did the organising with the other ladies in the band and they also produced the food. We brought our own drinks and after the meal were treated to a variety of entertainment, ranging from the thoughtful and seasonal to the simply hilarious. A lot of hard work went into this event, which was a big success, and so thanks are due to all those who helped.
For those members of the band who participate in things at the Dereham tower, ringing for the local schools Nativity services starts in earnest this week. Suddenly the Christmas season is almost upon us.
Friday 18th November 2016
A full turn-out of the Scarning folk, plus our friends from Dereham and those from Necton who would otherwise have gone to a cancelled Holme Hale practice swelled our numbers again on Wednesday. Providing tea, coffee and biscuits for such a big crowd is quite a task for Trish, who fits this in between spells on a rope, which is after all what she comes for. We are grateful for her efforts, and also those who help her. As you would expect it was a busy practice and not easy to give everyone as much ringing time as they might have liked but we got a lot done and it was an enjoyable evening.
On Friday a replacement cable kindly provided free-of-charge by David Bagley sorted out the niggling problem we have had with one of our simulator sensors and a good session ringing all the bells in turn revealed no further problems. We have used a redundant hifi system to replace the computer speakers we were previously using and it has transformed the ringing experience as we are now getting far better quality sound. A full silent practice is next on the agenda to let everyone enjoy the final result.
Monday 14th November 2016
At last Wednesday’s practice we fitted the muffles and rang the bells half-muffled throughout. The intention was to concentrate on rounds and a few call changes but we did move onto Plain Hunt and Bob Doubles, which sounded fine. At another local tower they ring ‘whole pull’ plain hunt for Remembrance Sunday, which sounds very effective but oddly enough proves confusing even for some experienced ringers and needs a run through beforehand. That may be something we will look at in the future.
Amy, who has started at Dereham, again attended our practice and got on very well. She subsequently did her first service ring at Dereham for Remembrance Sunday after seven weeks of learning, which is a very good achievement.
Our own Remembrance ring went well and we stuck to our established practice of simply ringing good, steady rounds. We also do eleven whole pulls on the tenor as part of the short ceremony outside the church at the war memorial. This is a slightly anxious moment as there is always the possibility of miscounting or failing to stand the bell at the right time. However all was well.
Monday 7th November 2016
This week congratulations are due to Dean, who rang his second quarter peal on Sunday evening at Gressenhall. This was on the tenor, the methods being spliced Plain Bob Doubles, St. Simon’s Doubles and St. Martin’s Doubles, in about 46 minutes.
Work on the simulator set-up continues, with everything now operational apart from some odd behaviour from the tenor sensor, which we are in the process of diagnosing. We hope to get the bugs ironed out in the next few days. We did have a simulator session on Friday though, when we were able to ring all the other bells apart from the tenor, and this enabled Dean and Sarah to practice covering, ringing the 5th. Tim had a go at Plain Bob Doubles on the 2nd, which seemed easier than using the treble, so we were all very encouraged in spite of the misbehaving tenor sensor.
Sunday 30th October 2016
It was a special morning for the Scarning band today as Andy did his first service ring, so our congratulations to him on reaching this important point in his ringing career. We now number eleven ringers, which in all but exceptional circumstances ensures sufficient people to cover our service ringing commitments and also to make our practices worthwhile and enjoyable.
The remaining sensors have been fitted in the belfry and tested, and ties made up for all the clappers. During the next few days we will set up the delays in the software so that the simulated ringing is as close as possible to the real thing and then we can use the system fully. One intriguing question is whether to set up the fifth bell in Abel so that it is slightly odd-struck like the bell itself or make it sound normally. The final detail, though actually quite an important one, will be to find a better quality speaker set-up than we currently have. As our old laptop has Bluetooth we may be able to place a speaker where we want it without running wires all over the place.
Thursday 27th October 2016
Another action-packed Wednesday practice this week. An accident on the A47 in the usual place meant traffic being diverted through the village for most of the evening and it was hazardous crossing the road to get to the church. We welcomed Frank and Tricia back from their holiday. Some people were unavoidably absent (does the Norwich Beer Festival count as an unavoidable absence? I suspect it does) but Lou and George came along, plus our Dereham friends, and in the end it was a question of how to fit in everything that we wanted to do. Amy continues to make rapid progress, having a good first go at ringing a bell part-way up and then down again, and then an excellent first attempt at ringing down under Paul’s guidance. We rang some plain hunt on six for Dean and Sarah, which is the first time I can remember us doing this at Scarning, and considering we had two ‘learners’ in at the same time it went very well. It seems a useful way of giving people a different aspect of plain hunt, and a new challenge, even if they aren’t imminently going to have a go at ringing minor. We also rang a couple of plain courses of Plain Bob Doubles at Tricia’s suggestion, which didn’t go perfectly but left us looking forward to the next attempt. Sian rang some good plain hunt doubles and made a valiant, and largely successful, attempt at covering, but was hindered by the other bells being somewhat erratic. One of the first tasks when we have a sensor on the tenor will be to give those that want it some practice at covering on a big bell.
The other news is that the painting work in the tower is finally complete. Dean, Tina, Sian and Sarah finished off what needed to be done last Saturday, and Dean’s excellent photo of the result is on the Gallery page. The next tasks are to fit the sensors to the remaining five bells that haven’t got them, to complete our simulator set-up, and then have an autumn spring-clean in the belfry and clock room. This should take place in the next few days.
Thursday 13th October 2016
I was talking to a ringing friend not long ago and mentioned that at one practice I go to at another tower they always seem to need one more experienced ringer to do what the tower captain had hoped. She said to me ‘Tim, every practice night has at least one ringer too few to do what they hoped. This is one of the laws of nature’. There seems to be some truth in that, and with the dearth of new ringers coming through, the situation is not generally improving. At a practice I went to earlier this week there were sufficient people and we rang touches of Grandsire and St. Simons doubles and had a lot of fun with Original doubles with rapid-fire bobs and ‘Funny Bob Doubles’, which was new to me.
I had some fears for our Scarning practice on Wednesday as we had a number of people unavailable for a variety of reasons. However, John was back in the mix with his bruised/cracked ribs now comfortable enough to allow him to ring. He has also done a fine job of fitting new locks on our cupboard doors in the ringing chamber and completed this at the start of the practice. Paul came along from Dereham and what could have been a rather quiet evening turned out to be very useful. We concentrated largely on call changes, with one brief foray into plain hunt. Different people had a go at making calls and getting back to rounds once the order had been mixed up, and it was light-hearted as well as instructive. We also practiced spotting what position we were in in the order. So it was a good practice, though it goes without saying that we look forward to the return of those who weren’t able to be there.
Sunday 2nd October 2016
At this week’s practice we welcomed Amy, who has started learning to ring at Dereham. Although this was only her second go she made excellent progress and was ringing both strokes by the end of the evening, with just a guiding hand on the sally to keep things steady. We all hope very much that she continues to learn at Dereham, where she will be a welcome addition to the band, and that she visits us whenever she is able to do so. Andy continues to progress and this week was working on the arcane business of ringing up and down. He is ringing rounds and call changes with increasing confidence and his first service ring is not far off.
On Thursday the steeple keeper and assistant had another painting session and finished wire-brushing and undercoating all the metalwork in the belfry. This took a surprisingly long time but after nearly three hours of skinned knuckles, bruised knees and some mildly profane language, everything metal, and some things that weren’t, had had a good coat of oxide paint. The aim now is to get a team of four people up there to give it the final coat of gloss before the days get too dim. A two hour session should do it and then we can all breathe a sigh of relief. This will also enable the tower captain to get on and fit the remaining sensors for the simulator, which he is itching to do.
This coming week we lose two band members cruising the Mediterranean, one off to South Korea on a work trip, and at the end of the week another going away for a few days walking. We also still have John out of action with his ribs gradually mending, so our numbers will be rather reduced. Even so this should still leave us with six ringers and with the support of our Dereham friends we will carry on as normal.
Saturday 24th September 2016
On Wednesday evening, apart from doing some good ringing, we presented Frank with a small gift to mark his 70th birthday, which is this Sunday. Naturally there were cakes!
After getting some expert advice, our loose bell bolt was cut out and replaced with a new metric one, complete with locking nut and a tapered washer (to allow for the camber inside the bell). Although we fretted slightly about it, it wasn’t a difficult job once we got on with it and the result was good. As ever, we are indebted to our friends at Norfolk Fasteners, who didn’t bat an eyelid when asked for a tapered washer, and charged us £1 for the whole lot.
As a result of getting the treble bell sorted out we were able to have our now-regular Friday simulator session, and as usual there was a good deal of earnest discussion about technique as well as as much rope time as everyone wanted. The relaxed nature of these sessions and an atmosphere in which we can stop to discuss problems and how to solve them makes a good complement to our Wednesday practice evenings.
This morning we welcomed visiting ringers from Swaffham Bulbeck and Bottisham, in Cambridgeshire. Their more experienced ringers rang some touches of minor and they made good music on our heavy old bells. The newer ringers found them challenging, but soon got to grips with it, and I heard some well-struck rounds towards the end of their ring. They were a friendly group and it is always a pleasure to receive visitors.
Sunday 18th September 2016
This week a productive Wednesday practice, at which we welcomed Paul back from California, was followed by a simulator session on Friday, when everyone made progress and went home feeling they had achieved something. We were missing two band members, one through illness and the other following a nasty fall and we look forward to them both being back to full strength.
On Saturday the steeple keeper and four assistants got on with painting the steelwork in the belfry. Most of it already having had an undercoat, it is now getting a top coat of high quality gloss, which ought to see it through many years of service. In between the chatter and laughter we got a surprising amount done and emerged with the evidence of what we had been doing on our hands, arms and in some cases, faces! It must be good paint because I still haven’t managed to get it off my arms. There is more to do but one session to brush down and undercoat some inaccessible bits that got missed the first time around and then a final one to complete the gloss will finish it off. Photos to follow in due course.
In the process of doing the paint work a loose bolt was discovered on one of the headstocks. Loose not because it had come undone but because the original leather washer inside the bell had broken up and disappeared, leaving a small clearance for the bolt to move up and down. It isn’t a serious matter but it is a good thing it was found as it needs prompt attention.
On Saturday evening two Scarning ringers went to the branch quarterly meeting at Gressenhall. As is generally the case these days the turnout was small, but I am pleased to be able to record that in spite of our various commitments we almost always manage to send one or two people along. There were enough present for some enjoyable ringing after the meeting and those who didn’t make it also missed some wonderful cakes.
Monday 12th September 2016
Our busy week passed without incident and we were complemented on our ringing for the wedding the previous Saturday, which always helps make the effort worthwhile. Nevertheless it was an unusual amount of ringing, particularly considering that some band members rang at two or more practices as well as for the Heritage Open Days and the Harvest Festival. A couple of dedicated souls also fitted in a simulator session along the way. When our visitors, from Southwold, invited some of the band to ring with them on Saturday afternoon the offer was delicately turned down as no one had enough energy! There is a separate page under ‘What’s Happening’ all about the Norfolk Churches Trust ‘Bike Ride and Walk’ day, and the bedraggled cycling party arrived back at base in time to help Trish and Tricia welcome the Southwold ringers, who numbered fourteen and had had a good day, though some of them found our bells challenging, coming as they did as the last tower of their outing.
Sunday 4th September 2016
This week we had another productive and well-attended Wednesday practice, though without the tower captain, who absconded for the evening. Saturday was our final wedding of the year at Scarning, and quite appropriately saw some of our best service ringing to date. The good ringing we produced this morning for Sunday service reinforced the impression that our standard continues to improve across the board. Unfortunately for the wedding party yesterday it started to rain just before the bride arrived (a few minutes early!) and the poor girl had to shelter in the porch. It was still pouring at the end of the ceremony and the guests disappeared very quickly.
During the week to come we have our practice on Wednesday, ringing for the Heritage Open Days on Thursday, and for our Harvest Festival on Friday. On Saturday four of the band are taking part in the Norfolk Churches Trust’s annual bike ride and walk. We aim to visit all the churches in the benefice, plus a couple of extras which are en route, a distance of about 27 miles. Then during the afternoon we have visiting ringers. So Scarning will again be treated to more than its usual amount of ringing during the next seven days.
Sunday 28th August 2016
Yesterday was another busy day for the Scarning tower and people living near the church were treated to an unusual amount of ringing in one day. In the early afternoon there was a wedding and we rang before and after, as we always do. The standard of ringing was good, though it started to feel like hard work towards the end as it was warm in the ringing chamber and there didn’t seem to be much air movement. Saturday 27th August was also the NDAR Open Ringing day and Scarning church was open for ringing from 18.50 to 19.50, being the penultimate tower on the list, the last one being Kings Lynn, St. Nicholas. Five of the Scarning band turned out to welcome the visitors and offer refreshments and there was a total of 24 ringers. They rang a variety of things ranging from call changes and plain hunt doubles through to Cambridge Surprise Minor and Double Oxford, and at a generally high standard. It was a good attendance considering that I suspected that many would skip Scarning and go straight on to Kings Lynn.
Sunday 21st August 2016
The NDAR Western Branch striking competition was held yesterday at Watton and we entered a band in the call changes section. Two of the Scarning ringers also joined a ‘Gressenhall & friends’ band to compete in the method ringing class. I think it is fair to say that we didn’t expect to win the call change category and this proved to be the case. But we competed with enthusiasm and learnt from the experience. Gressenhall and friends came second in the method ringing class, beaten by a very impressive Watton band. It was an enjoyable afternoon and good to see a turnout of nine red Scarning shirts, including three who weren’t competing but came for moral support. The preparation for the competition proved useful and has appreciably raised the standard of ringing amongst those who took part. We were only able to have one dedicated striking competition practice as it was difficult to find times when we could all be available, but at least two or three would have been beneficial.
Saturday 20th August 2016
The repair work in the tower has been completed. We have some very smart steps leading from the clock room up to the belfry, which replace the old ladder. The access hatch at the top has been tidied up and a trapdoor fitted so that, once up there, it can be lowered and it will be safe to walk around without having to negotiate the hole. Another big hole (large enough to fall through) which was where the clock weights used to hang, has also been boarded over and some missing boards within the bell frame have been replaced. Although for the majority of the congregation of the church this work doesn’t have any practical significance, for us bell ringers it is an important improvement which will make it safer going upstairs to do maintenance or to tie the clapper on one of the bells. We hope that eventually we will also have some lighting, particularly on the stairs, which are very dark even in daylight, but that is for the future. There are some photos on the gallery page so you can get an idea of what has been done.
Thursday 18th August 2016
Our practice this week was marked by the return to ringing of Tricia, our tower secretary. Tricia has been out of action for some while following an operation but rang last night with no apparent discomfort and we welcome her back to the band. It has been frustrating for her to have to sit on one side for such a long time and not be able to take part.
Other than that the practice was dominated by thoughts about the Western Branch Striking Competition on Saturday. This has been revived after a lapse of several years and Scarning has entered a band for the call change section. At one point there was doubt as to whether the competition would go ahead as the number of entries was small, and this is clearly something that the branch will need to review in due course.
We have a busy few weeks coming up, with some weddings to ring for, the Heritage Open Days ringing, the NDAR Open Day, and two visiting bands. There is also the Western Branch quarterly meeting at Gressenhall. You will find all the details in the calendar section.
Our work with the simulator continues and we are beginning to see the benefit. We have started running a session separate from our normal practices as the healthy numbers we generally have on a Wednesday evening makes simulator ringing impractical. It has been difficult to identify a suitable fixed day and time for a separate simulator practice as many of our band members work full time and we all have busy lives. So it is likely to move around on an ad hoc basis in order to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Finally, work is in progress to make good some holes in the belfry floor and install some new steps with a trap door at the top. It’s looking good so far. Photos to follow.
Wednesday 3rd August 2016
There is still time to register for the NDA Open Day, which takes place on Saturday 12th August. Towers will be open for ringing across central Norfolk, from Yarmouth Minster to Kings Lynn St. Nicholas. There are specific time slots for each tower so that a dedicated grabber, for a fee of £12, could ring at twenty five towers across the county over a twelve hour period, progressing from east to west. Our local area is well represented and the list includes Scarning, where we will be open from 18.50 to 19.50. The other towers available nearby are Shipdham, Reymerston, Yaxham, Mattishall, Lyng, Swanton Morley, Beetley, Gressenhall and Dereham. Contact Betty Baines on 01379 643293 or email@example.com. You can buy tickets on the day at the morning towers and probably the first few afternoon ones.
Monday 25th July 2016
After another very well attended practice last Wednesday we finished the week on Saturday with a half-day outing. I’ll put up a separate short report about this during the next few days, but the trip was to Gimingham and Southrepps, and resulted from the connections we have with David and Christine Roper. David used to be Team Vicar at Scarning and is now in charge of the Southrepps group of parishes.
Also during last week we carried on with our work on the simulator, and all those who used it made progress. An interesting thing that arose was that one band member, who was finding it difficult to keep their place either in the treble position or inside, found it easier in sixth place, and in fact it was the breakthrough they were looking for. Another two people found the same thing. I felt that this shouldn’t make too much difference, but clearly I was wrong! Jayden from Dereham, who is nowhere near big enough to ring our 14 cwt. tenor, had great fun on Friday evening on the simulator covering for plain courses of Grandsire Doubles, his first experience of method ringing. His dad rang a very competent touch of Plain Bob Doubles inside; the first amongst us to do it and a demonstration that it is indeed possible!.
Friday 15th July 2016
This week we had our largest ever practice, with nineteen people there. There was no particular cause for this other than that an almost complete attendance of Scarning ringers was added to by most of the people who regularly or occasionally visit us arriving on the same evening. All went well and everyone even had a hot drink and a biscuit at half-time, though it did rather stretch our catering department. In such circumstances it starts to become difficult to ensure that everyone has a fair go but we were helped by the fact that we started at 6 pm on the simulator, ran it until 7 pm, and then continued through to 8.30 pm with normal ringing. Even so it was possible only to offer a short go on the simulator and it is evident that for anyone wanting to make some real progress it needs to be done at another time, which is what we are beginning to do. We ended the evening with a reasonably competent touch of Plain Bob Doubles. ‘So what?’, I hear you say; but we often don’t have sufficient experienced ringers to attempt a touch of anything so for us it was a good way of rounding off the practice.
Sunday 26th June 2016
On Saturday there was a Western Branch quarterly meeting at Great Bircham. Three Scarning band members were able to go and one had a brief ring. The bells at Great Bircham are unusual in that they are a ring of five with an anticlockwise rope circle. This offers ample scope for confusion but proved to be quite manageable when it came to actually having a go. The tower is also one of those where there is no void between the belfry and the ringing chamber, so the bells sound extremely loud. No excuse for not being able to hear your bell! The most notable thing about the meeting from the Scarning viewpoint was that Sian and Sarah were proposed and elected to membership of the NDAR, so we offer our congratulations to them. They are proving to be enthusiastic and loyal ringers and have already become an indispensable part of the band. Andy continues to make good progress and we look forward to being able to propose him for membership as well, as soon as he has done his first service ring.
Thursday 16th June 2016
Last night at practice the band as a whole had a chance to try their hand at ringing with a simulator. One or two had not done this before but everyone got on well and enjoyed it. Given the number of people we generally have on a Wednesday running a whole practice on the simulator would restrict the amount of ringing that people could do, so it is likely that we will have a half hour or so of simulator time each week before the main practice, and seperate sessions at other times on an ad hoc basis. Those for whom this was a new experience found that it wasn’t as scary as they thought it might be. We were impressed that Chris, from Dereham, was able to ring Plain Hunt Doubles straight off without having done it before on a simulator. We also realised that young Jayden rings by ear and not sight, and if anything seemed to find it more straightforward than ringing with the band.
Monday 13th June 2016
The news this week is that Scarning now has a simulator. Thanks to donations from two anonymous individuals, to whom the band is very grateful, we have been able to purchase a six-bell interface and a single sensor for the treble bell. With the laptop and software already owned by TC and some speakers scrounged from his niece’s boyfriend (thanks Ashley!) we are up and running with a single-bell system. The point about putting in a six-bell interface box is that we can add more sensors as and when we feel the need. We have no immediate requirement to run silent practices so this isn’t a high priority, though there are other benefits also from having sensors on all the bells.
Three of us had an initial session on Saturday afternoon to get a feel for it and to become more familiar with the Abel software and were delighted with the experience. The next step will be for the band to discuss how best to integrate the simulator into our regular activities. My limited personal experience at towers that have simulator systems is that there is a split between those that use them regularly and find them a valuable part of what they do, and those that rarely or never make any use of them. Clearly the Scarning band needs to be in the first group.
Sunday 5th June 2016
When Radio Norfolk dropped in on our flower festival during their Sunday Treasure Quest two weeks ago one of their people met Frank, a founder-member of the band. Frank is our ex-tower captain and continues to ring regularly in spite of suffering from Parkinson’s disease. He has written two books of poems about life, Parkinson’s and living in Scarning and set many of them to music, which are available on CD. Sales of the books and CD’s have raised well over £3000 so far for the Parkinson’s charity and Scarning church and Frank is currently at work on the next volume.
Anyway, having met him, Radio Norfolk contacted Frank and asked if he would like to appear on the Anthony Isaacs show this morning to tell them more. The slot was at a quarter to eight and Frank gave an excellent explanation, amongst other things, of how activities requiring the combination of manual dexterity, strength and mental agility are very important in slowing the progress of Parkinson’s disease and maintaining the best possible quality of life. Naturally bell ringing is a very good example of such an activity. There wasn’t time to talk about bell ringing as such but Scarning church got some good mentions and the publicity is always useful. All being well Frank will make a few more sales as a result.
Friday 27th May 2016
Last Sunday there was no morning service at Scarning owing to the flower festival, but there was a visit by Radio Norfolk, which provided some welcome additional publicity. The festival finished that afternoon and we rang for a 6 pm service which concluded what were a very successful three days.
Our practice this week looked like being a fairly quiet affair as several people were unavailable. However, we welcomed Andy back after a break of several weeks owing to personal commitments. He just carried on where he left off and is now ringing alone quite confidently, and should soon be ready to ring rounds. We were also pleased to see three of our occasional visitors, Pam, Lou and George. They joined in with gusto, in spite of the bells being a little heavier and more difficult than they are used to. George rang several of the bells up, including the tenor, which impressed us as he is quite young and not very heavy. He also had a ring on all the bells, but had to admit defeat with the tenor as he simply isn’t heavy enough to set it going. A happy evening with lots of laughter.
Saturday 21st May 2016
This Wednesday we held our AGM, and as the church was busy with preparations for the flower festival it took place in the village hall, chaired by the rector. Like all the best AGM’s it was a straightforward affair, with nothing contentious to report. The 2015-16 tower officers were all re-elected unopposed and the team remains as follows; Tower Captain, Tim Farnham; Vice Captain, Trish Harlow; Secretary and Treasurer, Trica Foreman; Steeple Keeper, Dean Ward. We also formally adopted our constitution which, all being well, we will never have to refer to, and heard reports on the year’s activities from tower captain, treasurer and steeple keeper. It’s been a busy year and I won’t report in detail on everything the band has done, which in any case has been recorded in these blog entries. It will suffice to say that the band is in excellent shape, with two new members waiting to be proposed for membership of the NDA at the next quarterly meeting and the third still in the learning phase but hopefully not too far behind.
Following the meeting we planned a shorter-than-normal practice session but when we found that the ringing chamber was full of flowers, tables and tea-making things and the church full of people preparing their displays it was obvious that there would be no practice. The flower festival takes place every two years and is a big event for Scarning church so on this occasion giving in gracefully was certainly the best policy. Had the tower captain thought about it in advance we could have had a hand bell session in the hall but in the event we called it a day and headed for home.
Sunday 1st May 2016
This morning Sarah rang for her first Sunday service; our congratulations to her for a job well done. She has only been ringing since February and I think she must hold the record at Scarning for the shortest time taken from first lesson to ringing for service. We were also thankful for the presence of Chris, from Dereham, as with one band member recovering from surgery and three having other commitments we would otherwise have been a bit tight for numbers.
Sian and Sarah bring the number who are potentially available for service ringing up to ten, and we have Andy progressing fast, who we hope will be the eleventh. This is particularly pleasing as the band is now reaching the size needed to allow for absences without being short of ringers.
Sunday 24th April 2016
Our secretary/treasurer and treble ringer, Tricia, one of the founder-members of the Scarning band, has just had a significant surgical operation and will be out of action for the time being. We all wish her a speedy and complete recovery and look forward to her taking a rope again very soon.
Yesterday morning the Scarning band rang for St. George’s Day and for the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Due to Tricia being in recovery and others committed elsewhere we rang five bells rather than six. However the shortage of ringers gave Sarah the chance to ring her first rounds other than on a practice evening. She acquitted herself well and it clearly will not be long before she joins the band for service ringing on Sundays.
In the afternoon Dean and Tim took part in a quarter peal of Plain Bob Doubles at Gressenhall. This was the first quarter peal for both of us and also the first rung by members of the current Scarning band, and so it was a memorable occasion. It was organised and conducted by Mark Hibbard, and Stephen High, Gill Page and Claire Willetts made up the remaining members of a good, strong band to help us on our way. We are grateful to them for making it possible. In spite of our collective fears the ringing was tidy, though certainly not faultless, and I think it is fair to say that both of us are looking forward to doing another.
Sunday 17th April 2016
Yesterday we rang for our first wedding of the year at Scarning. We have six on the list for 2016, running through to September, though not all have confirmed that they would like the bells to be rung.
The day was wet and chilly and not what you would hope for, even for a spring wedding. We started half an hour before the service, with only a churchwarden, the rector and a photographer to be seen. At a little over a quarter of an hour before the service there was still practically no one in church but we were told not to worry as the congregation had chosen to stand outside (in the cold and damp!). Sure enough, a couple of minutes later they all came in together and for a while the hubbub, added to the sound of the organ, meant that we were ringing entirely by eye and trusting that our striking was adequate.
In fact the striking was fine, and we rang at a good pace. It was a confident and capable performance and we got some compliments later from people who hadn’t been in church but who heard the ringing. One of the band said how good it was to do a longer ring than we normally ever do on practice evenings or even for Sunday services, and it’s true that it gives everyone a chance to settle down and enjoy it. Perhaps we should do some more longer rings in the future when the occasion permits.
Thursday 14th April
After a lot of discussion the steeple keeper and tower captain finally this week got on and did a small piece of maintenance on the 2nd bell. This involved removing the badly worn rope pulley block and fitting another in its place. Having prevaricated endlessly and looked at the problem from every possible angle the job itself went entirely to plan, a test ring on Tuesday showed no problems and at last night’s practice the band had a chance to try it and give their opinion. All was well; no drama, nothing revolutionary, the bell simply does what it should, without the obvious roughness that we were getting previously via the rope, and the slightly worrying knocking sounds that you could hear if you rang the bell on its own. Bearing in mind that at one point we wondered if the headstock bearings were starting to fail this is a good result. The pulley was a used one, in good condition, that we had in stock. Other than that costs were minimal, thanks to Mark Haller at Cenor Industrial Supplies, in Dereham, who very generously donated most of the bits and pieces we needed, and Norfolk Fasteners, who were also very understanding on learning that what we wanted was for the church. We are also indebted to Simon Adams of John Taylor & Co. who pinpointed the problem and gave us some practical advice on how to proceed.
Our two most recent learners, Sarah and Andy, continue to make startlingly good progress. Sarah is ringing rounds increasingly confidently and working on listening to her bell and Andy is now ringing a bell unaided, with instructor there to lend a hand when needed. Work commitments have taken Sian away from us for the time being but we look forward to her return and know that she will continue to make solid progress when she rejoins us.
There is a new item in the Training Notes section about the art of listening when ringing.
Monday 4th April
Please note that due to unavoidable circumstances we have rescheduled the Scarning Bellringers AGM. It will now take place on Wednesday 18th May at 18.30, to be followed by the practice evening. The original date of Wednesday 20th April will be a normal practice evening.
The TC attended a very well organised Western Branch workshop afternoon at Gressenhall on Saturday 2nd April and two more of the band will be at another this coming Saturday, also at Gressenhall. These two sessions were offered as a follow-up for those who went on the NDA Training Day and were very quickly filled. However we hope that further sessions will be arranged and open to all as there seems to be a need. Certainly at Scarning, it is difficult for band members to make progress into method ringing from within our own resources and friendly, informal afternoon events like this, particulaly if held locally, are a valuable way for all of us to improve our skills.
Easter Sunday 27th March 2016
Today Sian rang for her first Sunday service and all went well. It is easy for established ringers to tell a learner not to worry about doing their first ring on the basis that it will be just the same as on a practice evening. In fact it is bound to be a slightly nervous occasion, particularly in a church like Scarning where the ground floor ringing chamber is open to the nave. There were big smiles as we congratulated her on achieving this significant goal. It is good to have another person available for our service ringing and Sian is a valuable addition to the band.
Being Easter Sunday this morning was a happy occasion anyway and those who stayed enjoyed the service and the coffee and simnel cake afterwards. The service was more special than usual, however, as our bell ringing poet, Frank, has written an Easter hymn and we sang it for the first time this morning. It was greatly appreciated and I have a feeling that we will be singing it on future Easter Sundays.
Our practices resume this Wednesday and our 6:30 pm start means we will be able to arrive in daylight for the first time in several months.
Thursday 24th March 2016
On Wednesday of last week we welcomed a new learner to Scarning. Like some of our other ringers, Andy lives practically a stone’s throw from the church so perhaps it was a matter of ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’! Either way he seemed to enjoy his first go at ringing and we hope he continues the learning process and becomes an established member of the band.
As it is Holy Week we had no practice this Wednesday evening. However, we haven’t been entirely inactive. On Monday Dean, with with a couple of helpers, dropped the clapper out of the 5th bell and replaced the washer, the old one having more or less disintegrated. We also loosened the clapper on the treble and realigned it as it was striking very slightly out of true. The next maintenance job on the horizon will be to replace the rope pulley block on the 2nd bell, which is in poor condition and affecting the ringing of the bell. This will be done at minimal cost as we have a spare pulley block which, although used, is in good condition.
On Thursday we had a silent practice session using two tied bells, which we felt contravened neither the spirit nor the letter of not ringing during Holy Week. This was for our learners rather than the whole band. Sian wanted to spend some time ringing up and down and our newest learner, Andy, worked on the two strokes and is already beginning the process of putting them together. It was a worthwhile session and good progress was made.
Tuesday 15th March 2016
It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of David Fowler, who passed away on the morning of Sunday 13th March at the age of forty nine.
David was a former tower captain of the Dereham Company of Ringers, and relinquished the post when he was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus some three years ago. He was a fine ringer and a talented and sympathetic instructor, who taught a number of beginners at Dereham, and played an important role in the development of the newly-formed Scarning band.
David was a regular visitor to Scarning and continued to come occasionally to our practices even when he could no longer manage the stairs at Dereham. He was a close personal friend of several of the Scarning ringers and always a good friend and supporter of the band.
Rest in peace David. We will remember you.
Friday 11th March
Last Saturday three of the band went on the Association Training Day. Two were on one of the Plain Hunt Doubles courses and came back feeling they had accomplished less than they had hoped. So at this week’s practice we went back to a theme we were pursuing a week or two ago and rang some minimus. This time the ‘learners’ rang the treble and we rang Bob Minimus instead of Plain Hunt. Our regular treble ringer stood with them for guidance and moral support. All those who wished to do so had a go and the general feeling was that this approach was helpful, in that having one less bell to look for when hunting makes a huge difference. Somewhat to my surprise the more experienced ringers enjoyed it too, since although Bob Minimus comes round very quickly you are always just about to do the next piece of work and it does keep you on your toes. We hope to continue with this in weeks to come when we have sufficient experienced ringers present, with a view to moving on to ringing on the inside. Having looked at the Diagrams book it occurred to me that there are other minimus methods, Single Court for example, which are not difficult and which would add interest and variety.
Our beginners are doing extremely well and we will really have to stop calling them beginners. This week and next, as both have other commitments on our practice evening, they are attending practices elsewhere, by arrangement with the tower captains. Apart from maintaining progress the experience of ringing in other towers with different bells and a new set of faces will be very valuable.
As in many towers the upper levels of ours are something of a mysterious and unvisited area for most people who are not ringers. We have some safety concerns in relation to ours and the Scarning PCC have taken a very positive and helpful view of our request to have one or two of the most obvious matters attended to. So in the near future we should have a new set of steps between clock room and belfry with a trap-door at the top, and the large hole in the belfry floor (big enough to fall through) where the clock weights used to run will be boarded over.
Thursday 25th February 2016
February has been a good month, with well-attended practices in spite of some evenings when the church has been very chilly. Two of the band are becoming increasingly confident at conducting call changes and we have had some fun mixing the bells up and then sorting them out again. We are also working on kaleidoscope ringing, with a view to introducing this into our service ringing.
Sian is now ringing rounds increasingly confidently and will soon be ready to ring for her first Sunday service, which will be a happy occasion for us all. We also welcomed Sarah to the band this month and are delighted to have another enthusiastic learner amongst us. She has had her first few sessions and is making excellent progress.
The calendar page has been updated and includes details for Easter ringing. There will be no service ring on Palm Sunday and no practice the following Wednesday, which falls during Holy Week. You may also notice that the Scarning Bell Ringers’ AGM will be on Wednesday 20th April at 18.30, followed by our normal practice.
Saturday 6th February 2016
Here is an unashamed plug for the Great Western, which as you probably know is the newsletter for the NDA Western Branch. Having recently agreed to act as editor I now have a particular interest in encouraging people to read it! There is a direct link in the side bar. You can also sign up to get an email message whenever a new issue comes out. If you follow this link Newsletter Notifications it should take you to the right place.
Thursday 4th February 2016
At this week’s practice we rang some plain hunt minimus. This was partly due to force of circumstances as we don’t always have as many experienced ringers with us as we would be ideal. However it has the added benefit that there are fewer bells to look for and we made some progress with ropesight that I hope to pursue in future weeks. The object would possibly be to move on to bob minimus rather than pursue the doubles route immediately, but that decision can wait until we need to make it. Two band members will be doing the plain hunt doubles course at the Training Day so we will want to build on their experiences from that day.
The Scarning bells have recently been inspected by Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Although our steeple keeper is on the ball and we didn’t anticipate any big problems this was the first expert inspection of the bells and ancillary fittings since ringing restarted at Scarning about five years ago. Although we haven’t yet seen the written report the tower got a clean bill of health, albeit with some suggestions for work that could be done as and when possible.
The calendar has been updated to show our practices and service ringing over the next few weeks but with the addition of some NDA and Western Branch events later in the year. It might also be worth reminding everyone that this year is the Queen’s ninetieth birthday. The actual day is Thursday 21st April but the information we have from the CCCBR is that ringing has been requested for the weekend of the monarch’s official birthday, over the period of 10th to 12th June, and particularly between midday and 2 o’clock on Sunday 12th. No doubt we will be given further guidance nearer the time.
Friday 15th January 2016
Last September we rang for the wedding of a young woman from the village, well known to us all, and her fiancee, who came from Wendling. The ceremony had been brought forward because she was terminally ill and there was considerable doubt that she would be with us long enough to wait for the date originally planned.
Today we had the sad task of ringing the bells for her funeral. The church was full to the point where people were standing in every available corner and the first mourners had already arrived when I got there to ring up nearly an hour before the service. We rang half-muffled, and as is our custom simply rang slow, dignified rounds and I am pleased to say that we achieved an excellent standard. Even at such a sad time as this there is a satisfaction, a pleasure even, in knowing that you have helped to mark the occasion in the way that has been our tradition for hundreds of years. Rest in peace Donna.
Sunday 10th January 2016
So here we are with another year ahead of us. We have had our first practice of 2016, at which, amongst other things, our learner Sian rang rounds for the first time and young Jayden showed excellent accuracy in leading without apparently looking at the tenor. We have lots of hopes and plans for the year ahead and if you visit this column from time to time I’ll keep you abreast of what’s going on.
We have a provisional list of weddings for the year and at this stage Scarning has five, which is about average, or possibly one or two up on some years. Our first is in mid-April and they run through to September. I notice that Dereham’s first of eleven is this month and they run through to early October.
Our peal records now hang proudly in the ringing chamber, framed in two parts. It’s over fifteen years since the last peal was rung at Scarning and there is no immediate prospect of adding to the list. However two of the band hope to ring a quarter peal (elsewhere) during the first half of 2016 so perhaps a realistic target would be to ring a quarter on our bells from time to time.
Wednesday 23rd December 2015
This will be the final update for the year. We have done our last two rings, which were the for the Christingle and carol services. Both of these went well, particularly the carol service, where in spite of the big congregation and the many distractions we managed a good standard. Three of the Dereham ringers joined us and as things were going nicely we departed from our normal practice of ringing down before the service and did it after, which worked well.
My review of the year is now in the ‘The Way I See It’ section.
Finally, best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. Don’t forget that our practices resume on Wednesday 6th January.
Thursday 17th December 2015
On Wednesday morning we rang for a service for the children of Scarning school. There are too many pupils for all of them to fit in the church so it was the younger ones who came, brought by bus as it is too far to walk. We rang as they got off the buses and walked into church. Once they were all inside the volume of noise from their chatter was such that we couldn’t hear our bells at all and just rang by eye. However it brought smiles to our faces to be ringing for a church full of excited children rather than a few rows of sedate Sunday worshippers. This was the first time the school has held such a service in recent years and we rather hope it will be repeated as our efforts seemed to be appreciated.
Wednesday evening was our last weekly practice for 2015. This was a fairly lighthearted affair with our work on bell handling and ropesight put to one side until after New Year. Ringing finished early and we had drinks and nibbles to round things off. Thanks to everyone who contributed food and drink.
We still have Christingle and carol services to ring for at Scarning and some of our ringers are involved in the ringing at Dereham, but nevertheless in ringing terms 2015 seems to be galloping towards its close. I’ll put up a review of the year when we get a bit nearer to 2016 but meanwhile the Scarning band of bell ringers wishes a peaceful and happy Christmas to one and all.
Thursday 10th December 2015
Our peal records are now complete! You will see that we have full details of all eleven peals recorded on the Scarning bells since they were augmented to six in 1932, including what was rung and who the ringers were. There are one or two illustrious names, including Nolan Golden.
Grateful thanks are due to Peter Woodcock (tower captain at Shipdham) for offering to find what we needed, and to Kenny Frostwick (tower captain at Blofield) who had access to the records and dug out the data.
Having collated the peals into a notebook and put them up on the website I hope the next step will be to display the records in the ringing chamber. In a perfect world this would be on a series of peal boards, or one great big one, but for the time being we may have to content ourselves with a series of framed printed sheets. Watch this space!
Wednesday 9th December 2015
There has been a small change to our ringing calendar since the last update. The Scarning Christingle service will now start at 4.30 pm on Sunday 20th December (rather than 4 pm). We will therefore ring up at 3.45 pm.
On Saturday 5th December we held our Christmas dinner at The Windmill at Necton. Twenty four people attended, including ringers from Dereham as well as Scarning, their partners, and our rector Sally and her husband Michael. We have been holding this event at The Windmill for a number of years now and a good time was had by all.
Those of us who are available are helping out with ringing for schools services at Dereham in the period before they break up for the Christmas holidays, in addition to our normal commitments. The children coming for their Nativity services do seem to appreciate having the bells rung for them and although the Dereham TC and secretary sometimes struggle to put together a full band I am sure the effort is worthwhile.
Sunday 29th November 2015
The calendar has been updated through to the New Year. Please note in particular that our final Wednesday practice of 2015 will be on 16th December and we will have a little less ringing than usual, followed by Christmas drinks and nibbles (contributions appreciated!). There will be no practices on 23rd or 30th December and we will begin again on Wednesday 6th January 2016.
The NDA AGM at Dereham went well, with an attendance similar to previous years. We had some fears that Scarning, hosting the afternoon ringing prior to the main activities at Dereham, might be somewhat overlooked. However our worries were groundless and there was a good turnout of about 20 people, who rang call changes, Plain Bob Doubles, Little Bob, Grandsire and Plain Bob Minor. I think it is fair to say that some folk found the bells harder to ring than those at their home towers, and certainly heavier, but the standard of ringing was generally excellent and everyone had a good go and enjoyed themselves.
The Scarning band has been participating in a series of bell handling training sessions at Dereham, in conjunction with the Dereham ringers. This has been ably led by Mark Hibbard, Tower Captain at Gressenhall, to whom we are very grateful for his hard work in putting it together and presenting the sessions. Mark has concentrated on basic handling and techniques and everyone, including the more experienced band members, have found this useful and enlightening. We were surprised during the first session to find that a substantial majority of the twenty-odd participants had at least one significant handling fault, and this applied to the experienced ringers as well as the relative beginners. It seems that old dogs do occasionally need to learn new tricks!
5th November 2015
Our new muffles have arrived, and will have their first use this Sunday for the Remembrance service. We are very pleased with the quality of manufacture and everyone admired the splendid embroidered bag they came in. They will certainly give us many years of faithful service. You can see a photo of them on the gallery page.
At last night’s Wednesday practice there were enough experienced ringers to allow us to do plain courses of Bob Doubles with a learner on the treble and someone to stand with them. This is worthy of note because we rely on help from our Dereham friends (and other visitors) for this and it isn’t possible unless we get enough of them there all at the same time. Tricia, our usual treble ringer, sat patiently while those who are ready to learn to hunt a bell by place rather than coursing order did a couple of plain courses each. Meanwhile our experienced ringers had to ring one plain course after another with barely time to catch breath as we wanted to fit everyone in. An alternative would have been to let Tricia ring her treble bell and put the learners on the inside but trebling is a gentler introduction which allows the ringer simply to concentrate on hunting without the complications of dodging and making places. We got there with just enough time to ring down before the curfew and hope to repeat this very soon.
1st November 2015
As I mentioned in my last post we were recently asked to toll a bell for a funeral at Scarning. The request was for the bell to be rung before the funeral, until the coffin was ready to come into the church, but not after. I spoke to two of the churchwardens and they couldn’t remember this happening during their time. My feeling, and certainly that of those I spoke to, was that this is a dignified and elegant way of marking a funeral, and personally it surprises me that it isn’t done more often. As funerals almost invariably happen during the daytime on a weekday it is far easier to find someone who can ring the tenor bell than a whole band, at a time when people are at work or have other commitments. I started as soon as the first mourner or two arrived, about twenty minutes before the service, and continued until someone popped their head between the curtains and said ‘ten more pulls please’.The ringing itself obviously wasn’t difficult but consistently bringing our 14 cwt tenor on its stiff old bearings up to the balance but not beyond wasn’t so easy. We fitted one of our ancient muffles and unfortunately it was a rather thin one so the back stroke didn’t sound hugely different to the hand stroke. However, we already have a new set of muffles on order and hope to have them before Remembrance Sunday so this particular problem should soon be a thing of the past.
29th October 2015
At yesterday evening’s practice we got talking about ‘The Nine Taylors’ by Dorothy L Sayers in relation to old customs of tolling bells for the deceased. This arose because we have been asked to toll the tenor for a funeral at Scarning, something that has not been done during the five or six year existence of the current band. More about that later, but in the meantime I thought I would re-read the novel, and whilst it is neither news nor an event I would like to quote the first paragraph of Dorothy L Sayers’ foreword to the book, which is very well put:
From time to time complaints are made about the ringing of church bells. It seems strange that a generation which tolerates the uproar of the internal combustion engine and the wailing of the jazz band should be so sensitive to the one loud noise that is made to the glory of God. England, alone in the world, has perfected the art of change-ringing and the true ringing of bells by rope and wheel, and will not lightly surrender her unique heritage. Dorothy L Sayers.
Certainly not if the Scarning ringers have any say in the matter anyway!
22nd October 2015
We were a bit short of people again at this week’s practice, with one unwell, three away on holiday and one travelling for work. However with support from our Dereham friends we had a good evening. We spent some time looking at the mysterious art of ringing up and down in peal, under the expert guidance of Paul. I think this is something that we will continue to work on in the weeks to come.
Those familiar with goings-on at Dereham or who follow these notes will probably be aware that the simulator system there is fully functioning again. A small group from the Scarning band has had a couple of exploratory sessions using the simulator and we hope to make use of it in future on an ongoing basis to enable all of us to develop our skills and work on specific problems. We are very grateful to the Dereham ringers for allowing us to do this.
I have updated the calendar section, which now runs through to the end of the year. I haven’t had official confirmation of these dates but if anything changes I will advertise the fact here. It still seems a little early to be thinking about Christmas but it is approaching fast, whether we like it or not.
Prior to Christmas, however, you will see that the NDAR Western Branch AGM and meeting is being held at Scarning and Dereham on Saturday 28th November. Dereham is hosting the AGM, service, tea and evening ringing and Scarning church will be open for ringing during the afternoon. I don’t have the exact times confirmed but it will probably be from 2.30 pm. This is a chance for us to show our tower at its best, and with a good turn-out of ringers. Our steeple keeper has been quietly working away at some minor maintenance jobs to ensure that everything is as good as it can be on the day. Don’t miss it!
5th October 2015
Last Friday we had our Harvest Festival service at Scarning and there was a full turn-out of our ringers for the occasion. As this service is one of the more popular of the year there was a good congregation, which was increased by seventeen Danish visitors, all intrigued to see traditional full-circle ringing in progress.
Sunday was one of those days when it just happens that people have other commitments, and those Scarning ringers who were available went to Dereham to ring six bells for a later-than-normal service and then dashed back to Scarning, where we put in a creditable performance on five.
On Saturday two Scarning ringers had a very enjoyable day on the Swanton Morley outing. On the strength of this I have included a report about it, with some pictures, which you may find interesting. You will be aware that our outing and theirs were on consecutive Saturdays. Next year we hope to coordinate our activities a bit better. One possibility would be to run a Scarning/Dereham outing in the spring if Swanton are content to continue to do theirs in the autumn.
28th September 2015
Our outing on Saturday 26th went well and I think everyone had a good time. I have put a few words and some photos in the ‘What’s Happening’ section to replace the advance info about the outing that was there. I have also added some of the photos to the gallery.
25th September 2015
The time of our Harvest Festival service on 2nd October has changed slightly. The service will now begin at the later time of 7.30 pm and so we will ring up at 6.45 pm. There is a reason for this, which I will explain. Over the last two or three years the Dereham benefice has been developing relations with a group of parishes in Denmark and a party of Danish clergy are visiting us in October. They arrive on the day of Scarning’s harvest service and the time has been put back by thirty minutes so that they will be able to take part. There will be seventeen of them and with the good congregation that we usually have for the Harvest Festival it should be a joyful occasion. It is likely that some of our visitors will not have seen English-style full-circle ringing at close quarters so our position at ground floor level and open to the main body of the church will be interesting for them.
13th September 2015
Well, that’s all for weddings in 2015, at least as far as us Scarning folk are concerned. There are three more at Shipdham but I think the other churches in the benefice have completed their timetables also. Yesterday’s wedding was a very local and very special affair and all the more special because it included a baptism. It was a pleasure and a privilege for us to be there to ring and to take part in the service. Apart from our normal service ringing the next thing on the horizon is the Harvest Festival on 2nd October, and then a little further off we have Remembrance Sunday on 8th November. And after that there’s…. but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!
5th September 2015
The Scarning band rang for its penultimate wedding of the season today, the final one being on Saturday 12th September. It was a good, solid ring by all concerned and as always, pleasing when we do it with a completely ‘home-grown’ band. Tina took the 5 bell, doing her bit to dispel the myth that only men can ring the bigger bells. Both she and Fiona have recently had a go on the tenor, commenting (quite rightly) that once you get it going it’s a lovely bell to ring.
27th August 2015
I think we may be breaking a record of some kind here as I am able to announce the date for the bell ringers’ Christmas Dinner. We will be returning to The Windmill at Necton on Saturday 5th December at 7 for 7.30 pm. Although you might think August is a little early to be announcing such things there is, of course, a good reason for making the booking in good time, as the Windmill is justifiably popular and we are likely to be a large group. Sample menus are available from Tricia and over the coming weeks she will be taking names and deposits for what is sure to be a wonderful evening. Don’t miss out!
The date for the Harvest Festival service at Scarning church has been finalised and it will be on Friday 2nd October. Service at 7 pm and ringing from 6.30 pm.
At our Wednesday practice this week we welcomed a new face in the shape of Sian, who lives just around the corner from the church and has been hearing the bells for the last five years. She was bribed and coerced by the combined efforts of Frank and John into coming along with a view to learning to ring. A case, maybe, of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’! She seemed to enjoy the experience and we hope to see her again next week. Welcome, Sian.
23rd August 2015
At last Wednesday’s practice we had slightly depleted numbers, which is not unusual at this time of year when people are on holiday or busy with other things. However we took advantage of the opportunity to work on a couple of specific things. Firstly we continued our efforts to improve listening skills by ringing ‘facing out’. The second thing we did was to practice starting off in rounds. This was the result of a band member pointing out that it often seemed to take us four or five whole pulls to settle down. Our efforts at improving this were surprisingly effective and we put this to good use when we rang for a wedding on Saturday. Although the combination of a hot day and the volume of noise from the organ and congregation made for difficult conditions at times, we had an excellent ring and received several compliments afterwards on our efforts. So ‘well done’ to all involved.
Although not directly relevant to Scarning I cannot resist mentioning that the simulator system at St. Nicholas, Dereham, which has been out of action for some time, is now working again. It needs a bit of tweaking to get things just right but it opens up all sorts of possibilities and I am sure that the Scarning band will be able to take advantage of this facility in the weeks and months to come.
14th August 2015
On Wednesday of this week several of the Scarning band rang for a mid-afternoon wedding at Dereham. The ringing was good and we did a lot of it, and as it was a warm day we were all hot and tired by the end. Slightly to my surprise three of our Scarning people had the beginnings of blisters on their hands by the time we finished. Our practice followed on not very long afterwards and in order to give the five weary wedding ringers a break we decided to devote part of the practice to hand bells. Our amateurish efforts resulted in a lot of laughter and confusion but it seemed that taking a different approach to ringing plain hunt or more complicated things could actually be very useful. I think we will have further sessions on hand bells with the idea of working initially towards ringing plain hunt and then plain bob. I hope that by breaking out of the habit of using the coursing order to plain hunt ‘by numbers’ and gaining a thorough understanding of the structure of Plain Bob Doubles we might make the transition to doing these things on the tower bells less daunting. Watch this space!
Last week someone commented that the jargon used by ringers can be very confusing to a learner, or sometimes even to someone with more experience. With that in mind I have put a glossary of ringing terms under ‘Training notes’. I don’t claim that this is complete or definitive but it might help as an occasional reference point. If anyone spots any errors or omissions please let me know. Thanks!
5th August 2015
Dean and Tim have completed the planned work in the bell chamber and upper room by having a clear up. Two hours of sweeping and brushing, including in and around the bell frame, resulted in two sacks of dust and debris and two filthy cleaners. It was worth it though, and the tower now looks fairly presentable. I think the last big clean-up was about three years ago and it is clearly a job that ought to be done annually, which I think will be the case from here on. While we were up there we fixed some safety barriers in place to screen off a gap in the bell chamber flooring .
2nd August 2015
Saturday 1st August saw our summer social for the Scarning and Dereham ringers and their families, hosted very generously by Frank and Tricia. We ate and drank well, and caught up with all sorts of chit-chat. One of the highlights of the evening was a little game involving two springy rods each with a sort of cup on the end. The object was to pass a ball from one cup to the other, which needed a steady hand and a delicate touch. Needless to say the ladies beat the gentlemen comprehensively, though there may be a re-match if the men can get some practice in first.
Our friend Peter from Shipdham is doing some research on our behalf and is putting together a list of the peals rung at Scarning since the bells were augmented to six in 1932. This should have complete details of what was rung and who the ringers were. In due course I hope to put this on the website and also have something on the wall in the ringing chamber. Peter is old enough to have known many of the ringers personally so I hope also to obtain some biographical details about them.
Our ringers’ outing will take place on Saturday 26th September and we will be visiting four towers in the Broadland area. Full details will be posted here in a few days but if you want to know more ring Tim.
The church has some very smart new curtains behind the altar in the chancel, around the organ seat and across the tower arch in front of our ringing chamber. The previous curtains screening off the ringing area were very elderly and not very attractive and the new ones are a huge improvement.
12th July 2015
This isn’t strictly relevant to bell ringing but here is a photo of the Bishop of Norwich with the rector and two churchwardens after the recent re-dedication service in the church.
2nd July 2015
Scarning church has recently had some major restoration work carried out, at a cost of approaching £200,000 and taking around nine months from start to finish. On Tuesday 30th June there was a re-dedication service at the church, led by the Bishop of Norwich. This was the first time the bishop had visited Scarning. Naturally we rang the bells and it was an important occasion for the village. The heat, the hubbub from the congregation and the awareness of important people being present made it something of a challenge but we came through well. During the evening someone told me that Bishop Graham is himself a ringer but I didn’t get a chance to ask him if it was true. It would have been good to invite him along to a practice night, even if the chances of him coming were a bit slim!
After a gap of some weeks due to health concerns John was back ringing with the band this week, which was excellent. He will be taking things steadily but it is good to have him ringing with us again.
On Wednesday during our practice we took advantage of the light evening to take a photo of the band outside the church porch. I wonder if we ought to frame it and hang it somewhere for posterity. If it survives that long I can imagine a future generation of ringers looking at the photo and wondering who these people were and how good their ringing was.
28th May 2015
On Wednesday 27th May we held our AGM, chaired by the rector. We have had a successful twelve months, without missing any commitments for service ringing and with well-attended and enjoyable practice evenings. Our modest bank balance continues to grow gradually, though we are only too well aware that a sudden need for a new rope or two (for example) would make a serious hole in it. In common with many (probably most) towers we need more ringers and one of our key targets for the next year will be to increase the size of the band by at least two members.
There were some changes following the election of officers. Frank and John, who have been tower captain and steeple keeper respectively, have decided to stand down after over four years fine service. They, and our two other stalwarts, Tricia and Trish, were thanked by all present for their continuing dedication to the band. Tim was elected tower captain to replace Frank and Dean will be steeple keeper in John’s place. Trish and Tricia continue as vice captain and secretary/treasurer (much to our collective relief!). Frank and John remain active members of the band but have simply decided that this was an appropriate time to take more of a back seat in the running of things.
The AGM was followed by a productive practice, notable for Dean having his first go at Plain Bob Doubles on the inside and young Jayden ringing treble for some very creditable rounds.
28th April 2015
Painting the steelwork in the belfry is finished at last, and very smart it looks. The regular visits up top have included a detailed inspection of the bells, and whilst all seems to be basically in order three of the bells were found to have loose clapper bolts. Two have been successfully tightened and one looks as though the clapper needs to be taken out and re-fitted with a new washer, which we hope to do in the next couple of weeks.
Friday 8th May is the 70th anniversary of VE Day and the day after is Liberation Day, the anniversary of the end of the German occupation of Jersey at the close of the Second World War. Towers all over the United Kingdom have been asked to ring at 11 am on Saturday 9th May to mark this anniversary and we will of course be taking part. The regular monthly village coffee morning takes place on that day also, so we might even have an appreciative audience!
9th April 2015
The painting work in the bell chamber continues under the watchful eye of our resident dove. Meanwhile two of the band have been shown by Alan the basics of looking after the church clock. This is to enable us to make minor adjustments to the time on a weekly basis whilst there are a number of us present for practice. I don’t suppose many church clocks are totally accurate and the Scarning one ideally needs a minor correction once a week to keep it right. Alan tells us that he has been looking after things for forty years and so, unlike us, he knows the idiosyncrasies of the mechanism. But with his guidance we hope to relieve him of some of the routine work.
At our practice this week we were delighted to see Tara, who visited us before Easter, and who is keen to learn to ring. A slightly nervous apprentice ringer had some tuition from a slightly nervous apprentice teacher, but both made a good effort at appearing calm and went home feeling more confident than they arrived. We look forward to seeing Tara again. We have another learner, a youngster who comes from Dereham with his dad most weeks, and he, along with everyone else, put in some good, solid ringing to make a most enjoyable practice evening.
1st April 2015
Two band members recently had another productive maintenance session in the belfry and four of the headstocks have now had a coat of paint. All being well the next afternoon, after Easter, will see the other two done and a start made on the remaining steelwork. During yesterday’s effort the painters were watched by a collared dove, which sat quietly on its nest for two hours waiting for the noisy humans to go away and leave her in peace. How she feels when the bells are being rung I can only imagine.
Scarning has the benefit of two experienced and very able instructors who have taught a number of new ringers and provide expert help for practice evenings. However both have other commitments and are often not able to be with us. To add some depth to our tuition arrangements one of our members has just done a short instructor’s course with the object of filling the gaps where our existing teachers are not available. Our aim is to continue the steady progress made by the band and to attract some new recruits in the weeks and months to come.
12th March 2015
Continuing the housekeeping theme, this week saw the beginning of a programme to rub down and repaint the steel work in the bell chamber, having first got approval from the church Fabric Officer for what we proposed to do. This involves wire-brushing off all the loose rust and flaking material and repainting with two coats of good quality red oxide metal primer. This will be followed by a general sweep up and vacuum cleaning session. When it’s complete we’ll put up a photo of the result.
Since replacing its stay some while ago the 2nd bell has been a little deep-set; not impossibly so but it’s potentially off-putting for someone who has chosen to ring a lighter bell to have to give an almighty heave to set it going. Last night our steeple keeper produced a beautifully made little block of ash which will be used to stop the slider going quite so far over when setting at hand stroke. It may need adjusting for size so that we don’t go from one extreme to the other, but we hope to fit it next week when we have people available to go up the tower.
The tower captain and secretary recently put together a small piece about the Scarning ringers which went into the current issue of the parish magazine. At last night’s practice we had a visitor who had seen the item and decided to come along and find out about learning to ring. She enjoyed the experience and we hope to see her again. We already have another person who aims to start learning quite soon and so we hope that, without being over-ambitious, the Scarning band will end 2015 a little larger than it started.
8th March 2015
Now here’s something I didn’t know. Those of us who go up into the Scarning belfry from time to time are aware that there is evidence of a fire in the timbers under the bell frame. This is not enough to be a structural problem but is obvious nonetheless. We didn’t know when this fire happened but felt it might have been a long time ago since no one had ever mentioned it. Yesterday I found out what happened. It seems that in the 1960’s something was being done in the belfry by Whitechapel Bell Foundry. One of their employees was a pipe smoker and while he was up there managed to set fire to the straw, sticks etc. on the floor that the birds had carried in. The fire was serious but was put out before any major damage happened. The person who told me about this said he felt the bells had possibly been removed at that point, so maybe they had been taken out to have the bearings replaced. There are two morals to draw out of this; firstly, don’t smoke your pipe when you are up the bell tower, and secondly, a bit of housekeeping now and then is a good idea.
5th March 2015
There were one or two apologies for absence at this week’s practice; one watching the football (they lost), one playing table tennis (haven’t heard how he got on) and one unwell, who we all wish a full and speedy recovery.
In spite of this there were enough for a good evening. Someone suggested we try ringing ‘facing out’ as a way of improving our listening. Panic is certainly the wrong word to describe the reaction but it’s fair to say there was some nervousness; those who had never done it before were sure they would find it extraordinarily difficult, and those who jolly well should be able to do it were anxious that they might mess it up. We did the exercise one at a time with the remainder of the band facing in as normal and everyone managed really well, including from the treble position, and there were a lot of relieved smiles at coffee break. The general opinion was that ringing without looking at the other ropes was not nearly as difficult as expected. One person made the interesting comment that in some ways it was easier as it was less distracting.
Several of our ringers were at the Dereham practice earlier in the week, where there was an intensive session ringing plain hunt on seven bells (both with and without cover bell). That too had a favourable response, with the feeling that even if you weren’t going to do it on a regular basis the experience was nevertheless valuable when going back to plain hunting on five.
26th February 2015
It may seem a long way off but Easter is just around the corner. So here is advance notice that there will be no ringing at Scarning during Holy Week, i.e. from Palm Sunday 29th March. There will therefore not be a practice on Wednesday 1st April. We will be ringing at our usual time on Easter Sunday, and Wednesday practices will resume on 8th April.
This week saw some minor maintenance of the ‘stitch-in-time’ variety carried out in the belfry by the steeple keeper and a couple of helpers, and as usual the opportunity for a general inspection to make sure all was well. That was followed by an excellent practice with a good turn-out of Scarning ringers plus four of our friends from Dereham and one from Shipdham. We worked on call-changes, making places, plain hunt and plain bob doubles.
15th February 2015
On Saturday 7th February there was a service at Shipdham church at which the Bishop of Lynn licensed Gill Wells as Team Vicar Designate for the Dereham and District Team Ministry. Shipdham and Bradenham are becoming part of the Dereham group of churches and Gill will be serving as part-time vicar with particular responsibility for those parishes. The ringing towers within the benefice now comprise Dereham, Scarning, Shipdham and Swanton Morley plus Beetley on an occasional basis. We already enjoy excellent relations with the Shipdham ringers and Peter Woodcock, their tower captain, is a regular visitor at Scarning, where his experience and expertise are valued. Gill Wells and her husband Bernie are both bell ringers and doubtless they will contribute to the already fine standard of ringing at Shipdham. They will have a warm welcome at Scarning when they are able to visit us.
7th February 2015
The ringing chamber has just received a bit of TLC and it looks a lot smarter than it did. It’s surprising what a coat of paint can do. Many thanks to all who helped. All being well the next step will be to put down some matting on the floor. The existing floor surface is cold in winter, damp and rather uneven in places. The pamments mustn’t be covered up with anything permanent but it seems that some kind of woven rush matting, which will not trap moisture underneath, will be acceptable. Watch this space!
At some point in the fairly near future it seems that the interior of the church may be redecorated. When that happens maybe there will be something in the budget for some better lighting and permanent heaters. We can but hope!
Our practice on Wednesday 4th February had to be cancelled as a number of ringers are currently unwell. This is regrettable, and very unusual for Scarning, but we should be back in action this coming Wednesday, 11th February, and for service ringing on Sunday 15th February.