Thursday 25th April 2019
We are in the middle of Quarter Peal Week. This is a bit theoretical as far as the Scarning band is concerned, but maybe one day we will ring one. The last quarter recorded on Bellboard as having been rung here was in May 2011, by a visiting band from the Australia and New Zealand Association. Funnily enough we were contacted not long ago by a fairly local group of ringers requesting a peal attempt, but after consultation with our rector we sadly had to say no; there is a real risk of disturbing our neighbours. But a quarter? That might work out.
We have only one wedding on the list so far for this year, and don’t yet know if they will want bells. Last year there were two, and we rang for one of them. It seems that with the increasing popularity of ‘wedding venues’ church weddings are becoming less common year by year. This a pity because it reduces our opportunities to put on our best performance, and it also affects our meagre tower income. However, a brighter prospect is that we have two visiting bands in the calendar, one from north Norfolk and the other a roving group from nationwide and further afield, who seemingly have been doing an annual tour since 1950. Although obviously that won’t involve the local band we at least can look forward to welcoming some visitors and hearing some good ringing.
I am preparing a report for the Scarning Ringers AGM, and looking back over the last twelve months I am struck by how often I have written in this blog that attendance at practice or numbers for Sunday ringing were down because of illness or other commitments. The implication has been that this is the exception and that a full complement of ringers is the norm. In fact I am starting to feel that a full complement of ringers should be regarded as a rare event and that one should assume that there will almost always be a number of people absent. This brings me to the conclusion that for a six bell tower twelve active ringers is not too many, even if it might seem ambitious for a village band. We took on two learners in 2018, both of whom are still with us and doing well, and I hope that we can find another one or two before the end of 2019, to boost our numbers a little more.
Friday 19th April 2019
This has mainly been a week of simulator ringing, as Holy Week started on Palm Sunday and today is Good Friday.
On Tuesday we had a simulator practice during the afternoon as our youngest ringer is on holiday from school and it was a good opportunity for some extra rope time. He had his first proper go at Plain Hunt Doubles and made a creditable job of it. The software we use in the tower is Virtual Belfry and this has optional ‘ropesight flashes’ which briefly show a yellow dot over the bell you have to follow next [assuming you are using the graphics of course]. Some learners have found this a hindrance but in this case it was valuable as it enabled the TC to talk to him about speeding up and slowing down without having also to remind him which bell to look for. I have a feeling that he will soon move on from this stage; at the age of ten you learn fast. Meanwhile his mum rang rounds, first with the simulator and later with three other ringers, and is becoming increasingly confident. Other things rung were Plain Hunt Major, Cambridge Surprise Minor and Grandsire Triples, which nicely illustrates the beauty of having access to a simulator.
Our Wednesday practice was always destined to be ‘silent’ but as in the event there were relativley few of us we again used the simulator system rather than ringing all six bells. It was good that we also had a different set of people than the day before and we rang a variety of things, with a lot of socialising going on in the background.
One of the big items of news in the last week has been the disastrous fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, along with the Prime Minister, suggested that bells should be rung on Maundy Thursday as a gesture of solidarity with the French people. Our rector was happy with the idea and one of the band tolled the Scarning tenor for seven minutes at 7 pm yesterday.
Thursday 11th April 2019
How best to introduce someone to the arcane art of hunting a bell? That’s a rhetorical question so no answers please. Everyone I have spoken to has their own slightly [or radically] different way of looking at it.
Our youngest ringer has achieved pretty good bell handling, limited only by his small size, the weight of the bells and the long draft. He has been ringing Bistow Little Bob [hunting between lead and 2nds place] quite successfully on the simulator and knows the theory of plain hunt so this week was pencilled in as a bash at the real thing. Except that we didn’t quite have enough experienced ringers to offer him a strong band as well as someone to stand. So he had a go at shadowing someone ringing Plain Hunt Doubles on the simulator i.e. his bell was silenced and he mimicked the other ringer to get an idea of the changes of speed. Then later on we did Plain Hunt one change at a time with him on treble and in between times he stood behind and watched. Hopefully next week he really will have his chance, and then ideally he will get through the phase of ‘hunting by numbers’ fairly swiftly.
One of the longer-established members of the band had a go at Plain Hunt Major on the simulator whilst it was set up and made a decent job of it until he lost track. Why is it so much more difficult to count to eight and back than to count to six?
The youngest ringer’s mum had her first real experience at rounds on six, and made a good job of it, with just a little intervention here and there. So lots more rounds coming up while she consolidates and builds up her confidence.
It was a busy practice and one of those when our habitual two hours didn’t seem long enough to fit everything in. There is officially no more ringing now for a while, as we don’t sound the bells between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. In practice we plan a ‘silent practice’ on Wednesday of next week. As the clappers will be tied we aren’t actually ringing and will not be going against the spirit of the Holy Week silence.
Friday 5th April 2019
At Scarning the established practice is to ring on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays of the month. This is mainly an acknowledgement of the fact that we have a limited number of ringers available. Whilst it might sound a little unambitious, the other side of the coin is that we are not one of those bands who have a discussion each practice night to see if we will be able to ring on Sunday. We always ring when we are expected to, sometimes with help from Dereham ringers when we are short. There is a rather good arrangement here as Dereham’s service time is earlier than ours and it is possible to ring at both towers if you don’t hang about too long in between. So it is rare, almost unheard of, for us to call off a ring, even if once in while we only ring five bells.
Last week was a 5th Sunday, as well as being Mothering Sunday, and we had an enjoyable ring, supported by two from Dereham and one from Gressenhall, where there is no service on a 5th Sunday. We had another go at doing some longer sets of call changes and the striking settled down well once we got going.
On Wednesday there was a service for the primary school in the village. This was for the older children; the younger ones have a service of their own at Christmas. The school is too large for them all to come at once, and the 200 that did come filled the pews completely. There was no possibility of getting a band together on a weekday morning as most of our ringers were at work, but the TC rang the Ellacombe chimes, which did the job nicely, though the kids would no doubt have preferred to see six ringers than someone standing in the corner pulling cables. Although it was rather early for an Easter service it was the last chance before they broke up for the holidays.
Thursday 28th March 2019
Arriving at practice in daylight is always welcome in the spring. Our early start means we have been doing that for a week or two now, but of course we are still finishing in the dark. This weekend the clocks go forward and we will notice a big difference in the evenings.
We were expecting a very small turnout this week for practice. There are two away on holiday, one on a trip to head office in Brussels and one with man flu [his description, not mine]. But as often happens just about everyone else you can think of turned out, including five regular visitors, and we had a busy and enjoyable practice. The simulator period at the start ate into the time a little, as we wanted everyone who wished to, to have at least one go. Then it was a quick changeover to normal ringing. We had a go at plain hunt on 6, by request of one of the smaller ringers [age 11]. What rather surprised everyone was that he grabbed the tenor and turned it in pretty well. I had a nasty suspicion it was going to fall to me [not something I relish]. When I congratulated him he commented simply that it was easier to turn in than the Dereham tenor. Since that bell weighs 22 cwt. I suppose he was right, though at that stage words pretty much failed me for once. But it does demonstrate what we all know, which is that ringing a big bell is 90% technique, and if your handling is good enough your own size doesn’t need to be an impediment.
At the end of the practice we had a go at switching straight from rounds to reverse rounds, which is always fun. There are various names for this but I think of it as the ringing equivalent of doing a handbrake turn. We didn’t quite get it right but weren’t far off. In spite of being ‘just a bit of fun’ it is in reality quite useful as a training exercise and worth repeating now and again.
We have been refining our ideas for fitting rope chutes in the clock room. It doesn’t look as difficult or as expensive as we first thought, apart from one thing. This is that where the two ropes that are drawn across go down through the floor into the ringing chamber below there really needs to be a single pulley to stop the rope cutting a notch in the rope boss. We have one used pulley that will do the job perfectly well but will have to buy the other, which will be the biggest expense by quite a margin. But our feeling is that the job is worth doing properly.
Thursday 21st March 2019
Yesterday evening we welcomed our vice tower captain back. Not that she’s been away anywhere but she has had an enforced twelve month break from ringing due to ill health. So at the practice she had a short and tentative go and all seemed well. She hopes in future weeks to build up to full strength and get back to where she was a year ago.
This rest of this week’s news is partly a continuation of last week’s. Steeple keeper and TC have finally completed the work cleaning and re-greasing the bell bearings, and there was enough time on Tuesday afternoon for a thorough check of everything else at the same time. At the ringing on Sunday and again at practice yesterday evening it was clear that the bells do go better as a result. The difference is subtle but it’s there. In particular I thought that the 5th went like a top last night. Rachel, who is in the early stages of learning to follow another bell, seemed to find the 3rd easier to keep going, which she has struggled with, and young Owen made a decent job of ringing the 4th in rounds for the first time. So the evidence seems to be there and it was worth the effort. I think the steeple keeper will want to check the bearings again in six months and then monitor the situation on a yearly basis. The very experienced person who advised us initially says he cleans and re-greases the bell bearings at the towers he looks after every couple of years.
So what next for maintenance? One thing is an overhead light in the belfry. This will be something we can hang from a handy beam and plug in as required, so we don’t need an electrician. The other thing that really does need doing is to fit rope chutes/slap boards, call them what you will, to the front bells, particularly the 2nd and 3rd. The ropes for these two bells run very close to the flint wall in the clock room and are gradually being shredded where they catch the wall. This has clearly been the situation for decades and it’s surprising that nothing has been done before now. In addition the 2nd in particular can be a handful for an inexperienced ringer as the rope tends to flap. It’s less pronounced on the treble and 3rd but still there. So we are looking at our options. More later.
Also yesterday evening we celebrated the 50th birthday of one of the band with cake, savoury items and Prosecco, and had a jolly little soiree. The ringing was curtailed a bit, but what there was, was fun and we started off with our now regular short simulator session.
Thursday 14th March 2019
The first bit of news this time is belfry-related. Way back in November, Steeple Keeper and TC started cleaning and re-greasing the bell bearings. This was achieved without lifting the bells, which would have needed a faculty. We simply removed the top half of the bearing housing and the end cap and worked with it in situ. You cannot get to the bottom half of the rear of the bearing this way but we were able to scrape out a mass of sticky black grease, clean up and dry with white spirit, paint brushes and industrial wipes and then lightly re-grease before reassembly. Anyway, we did the tenor and things came to a halt. Steeple Keeper became busy with work, TC had a prolapsed disc as a result of imagining that he is 40 years younger than he really is, then Christmas, cold weather etc. etc. So this week we had another go, and in one good but gloriously messy session did another 7 bearings. We now have 3 left to do, namely the two on the treble and one side of the 2. Then it’s on to the next thing on the list.
Bearing in mind [teehee] that the aim is to improve the ‘go’ of the bells just a little, we were eager to see whether we had made any difference to the situation at yesterday evening’s practice. In the event that didn’t happen. We had the smallest turnout of ringers that we have had for a long while and there were too few to make it worth ringing all the bells up. I don’t think Scarning has suddenly become unpopular, it’s just how it goes. We have one ringer away on hols, one with an injured knee, one was watching the Liverpool game on the TV, one at his grandson’s 2nd birthday party, and so on. We had the simulator set up for the start of the practice anyway so everyone present had a go or two at whatever they wanted to and we packed up just a little earlier than normal. A good session and the simulator avoided what would have been a decision to all go home again. As is pointed out now and again the village no longer has a pub so clearing off for a pint wouldn’t have been an option either.
Part of the practice included a discussion about ringing treble for Grandsire Doubles. The question was asked whether it is possible to predict which bell will take the treble off the lead after a call, i.e. Which is the new hunt bell? Although some will be outraged that anyone could think of asking such a thing, on the basis that it is tantamount to cheating, I think it’s perfectly legitimate. Method ringing to me is about using all the information available to you. If some of that information includes a thorough understanding of the way the method works then that’s fine with me. Anyway, for what it’s worth there is a rule, which is that if it’s a single it will be the same as in Plain Bob i.e. the bell that you take off the lead will take you off the lead and become the new hunt bell. If it’s a bob it will be the bell you ring over at hand stroke in 3rds place when the call is made.
Tuesday 5th March 2019
I have a reasonable amount of experience of visiting different practice evenings and observing how they are run. Some are brilliant, a few wouldn’t fit with the verb ‘run’ at all, they just seem to happen, and most are between the two. However, like many I have limited knowledge of how other towers operate their service ringing, other than for weddings and the occasional funeral, which are special cases. Several of the Scarning ringers, including myself, do ring regularly on Sundays at Dereham. It is possible to ring there and get back to Scarning in time, and who would willingly turn down the chance to ring a gorgeous heavy eight?. But ringing at other places is a rarity as you can only be in one place at a time.
What we ring, and for how long, on Sunday mornings at Scarning is dictated by the people involved, how many are present, and to some extent by the nature of the bells. So that means no method ringing as that isn’t our thing. Kaleidoscope ringing is a possibility, and one that we are actively working on, but otherwise it’s call changes, like most towers I would guess. If we are in the fortunate position of having more ringers than bells then we rotate around to make sure everyone gets a fair go. Finally, some people, due to age or specific medical factors, cannot ring for extended periods, so the person leading the ringing needs to take account of that. What it all adds up to is typically three shortish sessions of call changes with a rest/changeover period between. Ringing down generally takes place after the service.
This Sunday, by virtue of who was there and what they wanted to do, we were able to fit in a longer spell of call changes, which ran for a little over 15 minutes. It was a sequence we often do, but we did the changes at longer intervals, allowing the ringing to settle between each call and the next, lingering a little longer at the more musical changes than the ‘transitions’. The result was good ringing and some happy ringers. Anyone regularly ringing quarter peals and peals will perhaps feel that a quarter of an hour is barely time to get warmed up, and I wouldn’t argue with that. It is, however, long enough for the rhythm to settle and to allow the ringers to enjoy what they are doing and get the best out of it.
The other thing that happened on Sunday wasn’t directly bell-related, but is nevertheless relevant. This was the unexpected news that our rector, Sally Theakston, is resigning after 10 years service in the Dereham benefice. This suggests that, as these things go, we are likely to be without a rector for a while. This is generally known as an ‘interregnum’, which I thought was just for kings and queens, but which clearly extends to the church. Unfortunately our excellent curate is also coming to the end of her period of service and will be moving on. As the recruitment and training of a curate is the responsibility of the rector it seems a new curate will only come after we have a new rector. None of this directly impacts our ringing, but in the second half of the year things may not run as smoothly as hitherto. Our current rector has been very supportive of the ringers within the Dereham benefice, which includes Scarning, Shipdham, Swanton Morley and Beetley, and we will be hoping that her replacement will take the same attitude.
Thursday 21st February 2019
Can it really almost be March? I don’t know whether to be pleased that spring is quite evidently in the process of springing upon us or sorry that almost two months of 2019 have disappeared without me really noticing.
In the tower things have continued, as they do, and we are making progress in our various ways. Last Sunday, in the absence of the TC, the ringing was good, and the previous week when he was there, not so good. Hopefully the two are not linked!
For this week’s practice we knew that one of the band would be absent with a heavy cold and another was uncertain. Two regular visitors also weren’t going to be there so we set the simulator up for the the start of the practice. The idea was that at six thirty [we start early], when there are frequently too few ringers to make a band, people could do individual work on their own things. As and when there were enough people we would revert to normal ringing, which is what happened. I have made the decision to do this regularly more than once in the past and not followed through. I think the reason many simulators don’t get used enough is the process of setting everything up, particularly in our case where the ringing chamber is ground floor and accessible during the day and we cannot leave laptops, screens and so on lying around. But it is worth the effort, even if it’s just for a half-hour of ringing, and our motorbike tyre silencers are far quicker than tying the clappers off as we used to. Ultimately a dedicated dumbbell would be a big help but that would be a rather long way down the list of priorities as things stand.
Our youngest ringer had a go at being tenor on the simulator, ringing the actual treble bell. He started in rounds and when he seemed to be coping with that I set him off on plain hunt doubles, simply telling him to stay in last place. He did this surprisingly well and at the end said that he just tried to follow whichever bell was last. I am not sure whether this was by looking [we project moving ringers onto a screen], listening or both but it was an encouraging result. His mum, who is ringing one-to-one and working towards ringing rounds with the band, also showed obvious progress. On Monday she went to a learners session at MRDC and came away with new confidence. She hopes to go on alternate Mondays and I am sure this will be a big benefit to her.
Once we got going on the real bells we rang call changes [always worth working on as that is what we do for service ringing] before moving on to plain courses of Plain Bob Doubles. A good practice.
Monday 4th February 2019
It has been a fairly quiet couple of weeks, hence no update here. But things have been pursuing their usual course without unwonted dramas, and that is generally a good thing. The weather, as everyone else in the country may have noticed, has been cold and the opinion in the tower is that the bells ring less well at very low temperatures. I am at a loss to say whether this is actually the case. People certainly ring less well when they are cold, and though our new heater has made the ringing area much warmer than it was, those not ringing, who typically are sitting around the font or standing in the nave, frequently get chilly between rings. But bearings are subtle things. Back in the autumn we cleaned and re-greased the bearings on our tenor bell, removing a mass of black grease in the process. The bell did seem to go a little better afterwards, which surprised me for one, as I had assumed that a 14 cwt. bell would have enough momentum to make such things relatively unimportant. So maybe cold grease in bell bearings affects the go of the bells, at least initially. We hope to clean the bearings on the other five bells in the course of the next month or so, and perhaps that will help, though by then we might be into some warmer weather, or at least have the prospect of it.
Two of our band members have been taking advantage of the training programme at Mancroft, and our youngest ringer has now been to three learner sessions, the most recent specifically aimed at young ringers. I have yet to hear how he got on at the last session but he is enthusiastic about the general set-up there and the experience will help him. His mum hopes to attend some of the Monday morning sessions in due course. Meanwhile, one of our longer-established ringers did a Plain Bob Doubles day workshop at MRDC not long ago. It was well organised, well attended but didn’t help her as much as she had hoped. However she has since spent some time analysing the structure of the method and that, along with her developing ropesight skills, has enabled her to ring some respectable plain courses at Scarning and another local tower. On balance I personally have to conclude that the workshop was therefore a success, but it does point to the difficulty of taking a group of people and getting them started with method ringing in the course of a single day. When discussing things like ropesight everyone has their own viewpoint, and advice given is often conflicting. So day courses should no doubt be seen as part of a programme of development and not a quick fix. This is one reason why the NDAR’s annual Training Day, traditionally held in March, has been dropped this year, probably for ever. The need seems rather to be for regular, ideally monthly, sessions targeted at specific areas [plain hunt, doubles methods, minor methods etc.]. This along with visits to other practice nights where the necessary skills are present, and encouraging established ringers to support towers where help is needed, may help bands like ours to improve their level of skill in a way that otherwise would be difficult to achieve.
Tuesday 22nd January 2019
Our injury and illness woes are not over. One of our stalwarts has a bad back and is off ringing for the time being. As one who has been struggling with a back problem for two months I know that this can be very debilitating. It means we currently have six ringers fit, able and available. Not bad, you may say, but when you allow for the inevitability of not everyone being free on every occasion it means we don’t have as many ringers as we would like. However, with one person in the process of learning her basic bell handling, a couple of new people potentially interested in getting involved and the hope of seeing some of our walking wounded back again things could turn round very quickly.
Meanwhile last Wednesday’s practice was a quiet one, exacerbated by the fact that two were absent with bad colds. But you can always do something worthwhile and we had a good session, with everyone getting plenty of rope time. Likewise Sunday also saw us struggling to make a band and we rang on five. However the standard was good and our youngest and newest band member, who I am pleased to say seems to use his ears as much as his eyes when ringing, did particularly well. Although ringing five of a ring of six never sounds quite right it is a good number for a learner who is still refining their bell handling, as it’s easier to hear your own bell and what the others are doing.
Incidentally, our youngest ringer should be going to one of MRDC’s regular open sessions this coming Saturday. Anyone who listened to the BBC Light Programme [now Radio 2] in their youth, or whose parents did, will recognise that Saturday’s ‘Ring Something Simple’ is a reference to a long-running show called ‘Sing Something Simple’ which was on for over 40 years and didn’t finish until 2001. If previous MRDC events are anything to go by this Saturday should be very worthwhile, the training bells are easy to ring and there will be lots of expert help on hand.
Thursday 10th January 2019
One problem that goes with the early start time of our practices is that visitors, even regular ones, tend not to be there right at the start. In any case the first half-hour, from 6.30 to 7 pm, is really prioritised for learners and there can be either a lot going on or very little, depending on who is around. Yesterday evening our two learners were away and we spent most of that first thirty minutes chatting. Then some more people arrived and suddenly we were in business. We did a couple of lots of call changes, more for warming-up purposes than anything else, and then went on to other things. The ‘other things’ were some plain hunt, followed by Reverse Canterbury and finishing up with Plain Bob Doubles. Reverse Canterbury is a normal item on the menu in many towers but for us it is a new thing, and it wasn’t familiar to some. The good thing about it, of course, is that it’s so similar to Plain Bob, and provided the 3rd and 4th bells get their start right it’s easy enough to ring a plain course. We’ll tackle the bobs another time. One of the band, who is getting to grips with Plain Bob, rang it on the 3rd before switching to the 5th, which was unfamiliar to him. Even though you are ringing the same thing from a different start this can be a challenge and it underlines the importance of not sticking rigidly to one bell. Once he’s had another turn or two we’ll try a touch unaffected. Another of the band will shortly be attending a Plain Bob Doubles course at MRDC and it will be interesting to see how this works out. I think that courses of this sort will be a regular thing there and it could be a valuable way of bringing new skills back to our own tower.
Thursday 3rd January 2019
Well here we are in 2019, just when I was beginning to get comfortable with 2018. We didn’t hold a practice yesterday evening, which would have been our first one of the year, but it looked as though there wouldn’t be enough people around to make it viable. Back to normal next week.
In the wider ringing fraternity I suspect that 2018 will be recorded as the year of Ringing Remembers. The public interest in the 100th anniversary of the armistice at the end of the First World War included an unusual amount of publicity for bellringing, and the drive to recruit a symbolic 1400 new people to replace those who died in World War One ultimately produced nearly double that number. We did our bit and although leafleting the whole village initially produced no obvious response we were joined a few weeks later by a family who were interested in learning. Dad soon found that his work commitments made it impractical but we hope he may have another go in due course. Mum and youngest son persisted and both are doing well and are a welcome addition to our numbers. Rachel had to take a break for personal reasons but has started learning again and we look forward to having her ringing rounds with the band soon. Owen has showed enormous enthusiasm and has progressed surprisingly well. He is our first recruit to register for ART’s Learning the Ropes scheme and should soon complete Level One.
Rachel and Owen aren’t the only ones to have made progress this year of course, and although on a week-to-week basis one doesn’t see huge changes it becomes obvious looking back that our ability as a band continues to improve, and it reflects a good deal of effort and persistence, particularly amongst those who have been able to take advantage of the simulator in addition to normal practices.
It hasn’t all been good news though, and we have several band members who have been unable to ring for extended periods of time, some due to relatively minor health problems and some with things that are rather more serious. But even the seemingly trivial things produce the same result if it means you cannot participate in the ringing. However the positive thing is that we are all still part of the band and those who are able to are ringing when they can and those who aren’t are very much in the loop. We look forward to having them back soon.
It has been a quiet year for weddings, even for Scarning, and we rang for one ceremony during the summer, with a second one not wanting bells. We did, however, ring for a royal wedding, as did towers all over the country, and of course on 11th November. Our branch of the NDAR held a quarterly meeting at one of our Wednesday practices in June as an experiment and it attracted a good turn-out. As usual some who are unfamiliar with our bells found them challenging, which always makes us feel better about our own efforts, but it was a successful evening and others are planned for 2019.
Another big thing for us was that we held our first ever tower open day in July. In spite of some misgivings and having no idea how much interest we would get, on one of the busiest Saturdays of the summer, we were surprised at the number of people who did come along. We offered a guided visit to the bells, lots of information on display boards, lovely refreshments and a ‘taster session’ in the afternoon. We have yet to decide whether and when to repeat the exercise but I have little doubt that we will do it again, though not necessarily this year.
A vital, but largely unseen, area where we made progress in 2018 was in the belfry. Apart from the normal running repairs and maintenance we did a number of other things including replacing a broken clapper on the tenor bell. We also fitted a new rope pulley on the 5th, and have one or two more that will need doing in due course. A new ‘handrail’ was fitted on the stairs, made of a length of tug-of-war rope, and in December, as part of a general upgrade in the church, we got an overhead radiant heater to keep us a little warmer in the winter. After a long time thinking about it we finally got round to putting the Ellacombe chiming apparatus back in working order and have used it regularly since on the Sundays when we don’t routinely ring for service. The thing that probably had the biggest impact in the ringing chamber, other than the new heater, was that Sian and Dean removed a big hump in the floor and relaid the pamments to leave a level surface. Apart from being a real nuisance the hump was a significant trip hazard and getting rid of it was well overdue.
Another job that has been a long while at the planning stage is to clean and re-lubricate the main bell bearings. We were shown a way of doing this without the complication of lifting the bells and did the tenor towards the end of the year. This appears to have improved the ‘go’ of the bell; nothing dramatic but nonetheless it’s significant. We aim to do the others soon as part of a campaign to make a lot of small, inexpensive improvements in the belfry, including tightening the bolts on the bell frame. All being well this should put off the need for a major restoration for the foreseeable future, which brings me onto one thing that certainly will be expensive.
A maintenance job which is gradually approaching is the replacement of the ropes. They have life in them for a while yet but we are now seeing obvious wear in the tail ends. Although new ropes would make a huge hole in our finances there is, we hope, a big hidden benefit. It appears that fitting a different type of rope, which is generally known as ‘Dyneema’ should reduce stretch to the point where it is no longer a significant factor. This could be a very big thing for us, with our heavy bells and long draft, and I am looking forward to the time when we can do the job, in spite of the cost.
So that’s a summary of 2018 for the Scarning band. It was a busy year and I have left some things out and probably forgotten some others. I look forward to 2019 with optimism and a certain amount of excitement. I hope we can complete our maintenance programme, though whether that will include new ropes remains to be seen. It will be good in due course to see our missing band members back to full health and on the end of a rope. This year should be an interesting one for Rachel and Owen as they continue to learn new things, and ideally we will find another recruit or two as well. Our numbers are fine compared to many bands but we can accommodate a few more yet and it’s always positive to have some new people coming along.
Thursday 20th December 2018
Sadly we now only have one more ring at Scarning this year, which will be the Christingle service on Sunday. As your correspondent isn’t able to take part in that I won’t be able to tell you at first hand whether we were brilliant or rubbish. Actually if we were rubbish I wouldn’t tell you anyway, and in reality it’s not likely to be the case as our ringing has been increasingly confident and consistent in recent months.
The two items so far this week have been Scarning school’s service on Tuesday and the carol service on Wednesday. For the school service, which was at 9.30 a.m., we were unable to put a band together as some were at work or school and two of our members are still unable to ring for health reasons. But the Ellacombe apparatus saved the day and the children got a rendition of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ as they arrived. They seemed to enjoy it, though a couple of the adults were heard to say that the bells didn’t seem as loud this year. The children sang beautifully and it was a pleasure to stand at the back and listen to them.
Yesterday evening’s carol service went well too, with good ringing and plenty of ringers, boosted as we were by three Dereham ringers and one from elsewhere, and we were in the wonderful position of having to rotate people round to make sure everyone got a fair go. The ringing was good, though towards the end we couldn’t hear it due to the hubbub from the congregation and the organ playing. On occasions like this we are reminded that people in the village do appreciate our efforts and arriving at church to the sound of the bells is way better than being greeted by silence.
Although not strictly relevant here I will record that several of the band have been helping at Dereham for their many school services, and there are a few more to go yet. Unlike some years when at times the ringing has been on four bells or even scrubbed altogether this year there have almost always been eight ringers, and some of the ringing has been really rather good, and a joy to take part in. Rung well, and at a good pace, the Dereham bells sound magnificent.
In the likelihood that this will be the last blog post here until 2019 I will take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and peaceful Christmas.
Thursday 13th December 2018
Halfway through December and the commercial Christmas frenzy is in full flow, with exhortations arriving by all means of communication to acquire the essential stuff that we hadn’t realised was essential. Meanwhile our ringing remains a blissfully commerce-free area, unless you have given in to the need for a Ringing World diary. And also, although barely midway through the month, we have had our last Wednesday practice of the year. Next week practice will be replaced by ringing for the carol service and after that we really are into Christmas.
Yesterday evening we had ‘nibbles’ and delicious alcohol-free hot punch (thank you Tricia!) which added a hint of festivity to the occasion, along with a lot of adding envelopes to little piles around the font waiting for people to spot them and pick them up. And we had some good ringing too, particularly from the two youngsters present. Owen had a creditable first attempt at making places. I suspect that he was slightly mystified as to why you would need to do this but we’ll get to that bit in due course. Paul also ended the session with a bit more ringing down tuition and Owen will soon have another big and important tick in his Learning the Ropes logbook. Meanwhile Jayden, on being asked what he would like to do, said ‘Plain Bob Doubles please’, so that’s what we did. He took the 2nd and did a good job of finding his way through three plain courses without any prompting. This is a big hurdle for someone of his age and I suspect that his progress from here will be limited only by the opportunities he has to try new things out. It’s also a big plus for the band as although he isn’t a Scarning ringer, he is a regular visitor with his dad and so we now have another ‘inside’ ringer to help with our own efforts. He also volunteered to have a go at calling some changes whilst ringing the tenor, as you do, standing on a stack of boxes to bring him up high enough to do it. Oh, to be young and fearless [rather than in late middle age and somewhat nervous, before you ask].
One ringer who didn’t have such a good evening was our postman, who was suffering from a cold, too many early mornings and overwork, and eventually decided to save himself for another occasion. Unfortunately, at this time of year we don’t just send each other Christmas cards but order umpteen essential things online, which all have to be delivered. As the parcels won’t go through a letterbox and folk often aren’t at home it adds enormously to a postie’s workload. I think he will be glad when Christmas Eve arrives, which of course it very soon will.
Thursday 6th December 2018
A bit of a gap since the last update here, during which time your correspondent has been struggling with a painful back. I am not sure that that constitutes an adequate excuse but nevertheless it is part of the reason. Last week’s practice went off well without the TC’s presence, demonstrating, if it were necessary, that no one is indispensable. Likewise Sunday service ringing, with support from our Dereham friends.
Last night’s practice started rather quietly, as we have a number of people away or unwell. But that wasn’t such a bad thing as the first job was to put up and decorate the Christmas tree that the ringers provide each year for the church. There is a big tree at the top of the nave but ours has a special place near the north door and is the first thing you see when entering the church.
We also used this period when there weren’t enough of us to ring all six to have some fun doing Plain Hunt on five using people rather than bells. To do this you stand in a line and need to be able to do what is normally called a do-si-do. Anyone who has ever done any country dancing will know what one of those is. Actually you do half a do-si-do each time to move yourself into a new ringing position, as you face the direction that your bell is moving in, if you see what I mean. A full do-si-do would be a dodge [and potentially a double dodge if you did it twice] but we will save that potential mayhem for another time. Anyway the demonstration of what a bell does when it hunts seemed to click with a couple of learners and was fun for all concerned, though the tenor did look rather bored standing in the same place the whole time and went off after a while to do something more productive.
Once we got going we had a good practice. There were increasingly accurate call changes from our youngest ringer and a visiting learner and we had another go at ringing Plain Bob Doubles without a cover bell. The latter was simply because we didn’t have enough people but it didn’t work out too badly and the striking was certainly no worse than we have achieved with the tenor in use. In fact one ringer, who is still learning PBD [we did plain courses] said he found it easier to listen to the striking with one less bell in play and at our usual sedate pace. I started wondering whether this might be a useful exercise and not just something for when there was no other choice. Being confident ringing PBD without the tenor could be the precursor to moving to Bob Minor, and is perhaps more beneficial than reverting to Minimus. But that’s still over the horizon.
The Christmas onslaught of ringing at St. Nicholas in Dereham has begun, with nativity services for all the town’s schools, a carol service and no less than four Christingle services on Christmas Eve, when they usually get around 1000 people in all. There is also ringing for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day, which we don’t do at Scarning. Those of the Scarning band who can do so are participating in all this, particularly for the school services on weekdays when some ringers are at work, or at school and it is mainly the retired folk who are able to help.
Thursday 22nd November 2018
We had a little celebration at last night’s practice, which means cake instead of biscuits or sweets with our hot drink. Our most senior band member has his 80th birthday today. Congratulations John, your dedication and willingness to turn out for service ringing week-in-week out is appreciated by all the band.
Although the practice itself was a fairly low key affair we worked on some useful things, including making places, and had a slightly wobbly attempt at ringing PBD without a cover. To be fair, we succeeded with the latter, it was just that the rhythm wasn’t as good as it might have been. But it was a useful exercise nonetheless, and worth repeating even when we have enough ringers to provide a cover bell.
The other notable thing at the practice was that our youngest band member stood his bell ten times in a row at hand and back stroke, which as any Learning the Ropes ringer will know is needed as part of your Level One. I don’t know who was more surprised, Owen or his teacher, but it was a good effort and he got a well-deserved round of applause. A couple of important things remain to be ticked off, namely ringing up and down. These aren’t the easiest of things to master but he has made a start and I suspect that Owen will get there sooner rather than later.
The other bit of news is that steeple keeper and TC had a go at the bearings on the tenor bell on Tuesday. ‘Had a go at’ means removing the top part of the bearing casings and the front covers, cleaning out the mass of thick black grease inside with paper towel followed by white spirit and paintbrushes, lightly re-greasing and reassembling. This isn’t quite as thorough as lifting the bell and getting proper access all round the bearing but it doesn’t need a faculty and provided a bit of common sense is applied isn’t a particularly technical job. We were intrigued to see if it altered the ‘go’ of the bell for the better and the answer was an unequivocal ‘yes’. The difference isn’t dramatic but it is perceptible and the the bell doesn’t seem to run out of momentum towards the point of balance to the extent that it used to. Having taken a deep breath and done one bell we hope to do the other five in the near future. This is all part of a drive to make cheap or cost-free incremental improvements which ultimately should add up to a big difference in how our bells ring. The final part of the scheme will be to replace the ropes with Dyneema ones, which should be practically stretch-free, and we are advised that this is likely to have a big impact. But that’s a little way off yet and we will have to accumulate some more funds first.
Thursday 15th November 2018
Anyone wondering why three blog posts have appeared here in the space of four days can relax; I can’t keep this output up for very long without running out of things to say.
Yesterday evening’s practice was another good one. I think everyone ‘had a go’ at something and we kept at it right through to the end so no one should have felt deprived of rope time. Our youngest ringer is doing the Learning the Ropes scheme and we are picking off items in the checklist for his level one. We have reached the point where the main things we need to deal with are ringing up and down and standing at hand and back stroke. In the push to get as much practice time in as possible ready for 11th November, ringing up and down had been pushed to one side. But it is now becoming a priority and shouldn’t cause too many problems. We all had a go at standing at hand and back last night and Owen went on to stand at hand stroke eight times in a row [he needs to be able to do ten]. This was a very good effort and we will be pursuing this in future weeks. Back strokes will be more of a challenge and we may have to provide him with a box or further lengthen the rope on his bell.
We rang a couple of touches of PBD, the second of which admittedly went wrong just before it came round, but we were nevertheless all happy with our progress. Right at the end of the practice we tried some plain courses of Grandsire, with reasonable success, and I hope this may become a regular thing, perhaps along with Reverse Canterbury. As ever, we are heavily dependent on our regular and occasional visitors, without whom these thing wouldn’t be possible, but with their support our own skills are gradually improving.
The church has its new heaters, including one in the ringing chamber, which was handy last night, even though it wasn’t particularly cold. The area between the back pews and the tower arch, which is where people tend to be when they aren’t ringing, is a space which isn’t well covered by the heaters, they being aimed principally at warming those sitting in the pews. Whether this will be a difficulty for us in very cold weather remains to be seen. Of course it may provoke a renewed enthusiasm for doing as much ringing as possible, if the tower proves to be the warmest place. We’ll soon know.
Tuesday 13th November 2018
You will now find a link in the sidebar to a video of the Scarning bells being rung, including the bells themselves in action. This was filmed specially for us by Richard Polley, and it featured at our open day in the summer.
Monday 12th November 2018
We did it in style. ‘We’ being just about every ringing tower in the country, including some where the bells are classed as ‘unringable’ but were chimed anyway. But yesterday was an important day for everyone, not just bell ringers. A day to remember those who died and to celebrate the end of the First World War, and also of resolving to work always for peace so that we don’t endlessly repeat the mistakes of the past.
The Ringing Remembers campaign seemed, to me at least, to start rather slowly, but it steadily gained momentum as the weeks and months passed. The target was to recruit 1400 new ringers to take part in the ringing on 11th November, to symbolically replace the 1400 who died in the Great War. In the end the number registered was over 2600, which I suspect rather surprised those who planned the recruitment drive.
I am delighted to say that at Scarning we did our bit. We have two Ringing Remembers recruits and they both rang yesterday; Owen unaided, which is a wonderful achievement for a youngster who has only been learning a few months. Rachel was able to take part also, and did backstrokes while someone else did the handstrokes, which is entirely within the spirit of the thing. We hope they both have long and rewarding ringing careers.
We were sad that three members of the band were unable to ring due to ill-health, and I know that they would all have dearly loved to have taken part. But we wish all of them a speedy recovery and a return to ringing very soon.
Our programme for the day followed that of many other towers. We rang rounds, half-muffled, before the morning service which, as always, sounded sublime. We always toll the tenor as part of the ceremony at our war memorial [eleven whole pulls]. After the service we rang down, removed the muffles and rang open at 12.30. Finally we rang for a third time at 19.05, as part of the ‘Battle’s Over’ initiative by Bruno Peek, which made a fitting end to a momentous day.
Sunday 4th November 2018
By way of a PS to my post yesterday, I can confirm that our new young ringer has now done two service rings, the first yesterday afternoon at Dereham and the second at our tower this morning. This morning proud parents and grandparents were there to watch and he made a very capable job of it. This is a good achievement for a ten-year-old who hasn’t been learning many months and it is equally gratifying for the band to be able to welcome someone new into our number. His mum has started learning too, and we look forward to her first service ring in due course.
Saturday 3rd November 2018
It’s a while since I wrote anything here. That’s not because nothing has happened, and at least partly because I have been occupied with other things.
Our youngest ringer is, all being well, going to take part in his first service ring at Scarning tomorrow [of which more later] but is also hoping to ring at St. Nicholas, Dereham today for the annual NDAR Songs of Praise service. So we hope he will achieve two service rings in one weekend.
One of the things that most, or probably all, ringers do in the early stages of learning is to over-pull, particularly at times of stress and even when they need to be ringing quicker. Pulling less at such times becomes second nature but is counter-intuitive at first for many learners. Stronger ringers, particularly those ringing lighter bells, find that they can overpower the bell by sheer muscle power and are able to continue over-pulling on both strokes whilst keeping reasonable time. Eventually most start to find it getting rather hard work and learn to back off a bit. That was certainly my experience.
But if you are quite small and ringing heavyish bells, over-pulling becomes a real hindrance and you soon have to learn not to do it. There is a benefit to this in that your lack of physique teaches you to refine your handling to the point where you can handle a big bell with the minimum possible effort. One of our young ringer’s contemporaries at Dereham, who is a little bigger physically and has been ringing a lot longer, can now make a very good job of ringing the 22 cwt tenor there, which at that age is practically the equivalent of having Superpowers. So I hope that our young man, and the various youngsters at Dereham, who are also learning on heavy bells, will turn an apparent hindrance to their advantage and ultimately develop the smooth, economical style that we all aspire to.
People used to say about the Scarning bells ‘If you can ring there you will be able to ring anywhere’. I dislike that idea, which is grossly unfair to our bells, as they go way better than they used to. Nevertheless it is true that our bells are more challenging than those in many other towers but it is my belief that learning to ring them well is excellent training for any ringer who aspires to develop the technique to be able to go to a strange tower and ring without being nervous about how the bells will handle.
Monday 22nd October 2018
Our Wednesday practice was another good one, as has generally been the case recently. Apart from our own ringers and regular visitors we had one unexpected visitor and also Nikki Thomas, NDAR General secretary, who came along to help out and show support. The result was a particularly productive couple of hours and it showed what a difference can be made by the presence of an extra highly motivated teacher.
Friday was the day of the Harvest Festival service at Scarning. There was also a ceremony to dedicate our new flagpole. We had some doubts about whether we would have enough ringers but with help from two of our Dereham friends all was well, and we had some enjoyable ringing. We would normally have rung on Sunday too, but with a selection of people unavailable this one really did look impossible and the decision was made, reluctantly, to miss it.
Monday 15th October 2018
Last Wednesday, at least partly provoked by recent low numbers at practices, we set the simulator up and ran it until a little after 7 o’clock before reverting to a normal practice. It gave time for some one-to-one tuition on a silenced bell while others used the simulator itself. Although it was rather brief it has some advantages over holding a session on another day, when people often aren’t available, and I think it will be repeated. Things were made easier because we now have motorbike tyre silencers on the clappers of the front three bells, which are far quicker to deal with than tying the clapper off as we have previously done.
The other bit of news, which may be of little interest to the outside world but is a big deal to us, is that we have finally sorted out the hump in the tower floor and relaid it level with spare pamments. ‘We’ being mainly Dean and Siân, with a bit of help from the tower captain. The relaid area now shows up the unevenness of other parts of the floor but short of relaying the whole thing there’s nothing to be done about that. However the finished job is a huge improvement on what was there before, which was sufficient to be a trip hazard. Another tick on the ‘to-do’ list. Have a look in the gallery for a couple of pictures.
Thursday 4th October 2018
Last Saturday the NDAR held a striking competition at South Walsham. This is a revival of something that had lapsed in recent years. Quite late on it seems to have been re-branded as a ‘Ringing Festival’, which I thought was a good idea. Although striking competitions are supposed to be all about having fun, some ringers are put off by the idea of introducing a competitive element into things. Even though this was still a striking competition at heart, emphasising the social aspect can only have been a good thing. Either way it was a successful afternoon and will no doubt be repeated. One person from Scarning took part in a band made up mainly of Gressenhall ringers and although they came third out of four in their section there was so little between the first three bands that it was a very creditable result.
Western Branch has its own striking competition on 20th October, using the newly-restored Necton bells. Again, we will not have sufficient people available to field our own band but we are hopeful that at least one ringer will be there to wave the flag for Scarning.
Meanwhile we continue to have rather select but nevertheless very useful practices on Wednesdays, though we anticipate that attendance will return to normal levels soon. Last night there were just five of us but undeterred, we carried on and rather enjoyed ourselves. Our youngest ringer in particular is at the stage where he needs lots of rope time, and that was exactly what he got. He was able to work on call changes, leading and his style and striking and ended the evening by ringing rounds on five without someone standing with him, which was the first time. His first service ring is already planned and he and his mum will be ringing with us for the Remembrance Sunday commemorations on 11th November.
Thursday 20th September 2018
We are in the midst of the secondary holiday season that begins when the schools go back. This generally involves anyone without school-age children. Currently six of the band are away on holiday [three couples] and one travelling for work. Knowing that this week’s practice would be short of people but being reluctant to cancel we set up the simulator instead. In the end we had five ringers, which wasn’t bad in the circumstances, and rang various things from rounds through to Bob Minor, all using the simulator. Our youngest ringer is getting the hang of call changes and this is a good way of moving him around in the knowledge that the virtual band are all totally accurate.
Last Sunday’s service ring was also looking a bit doubtful at one point but with the help of three of our Dereham friends all was well and the ringing was good. This Sunday’s congregation will be serenaded with the Ellacombe chimes and the following week there is no ringing at Scarning as there is a single service for the whole benefice at Dereham. And by that time we will be emerging into October and our wanderers will have returned from their travels.
Monday 10th September 2018
The second of the two initial young ringers practices at Dereham built on the progress made the previous week. Although there is a way to go before some of these youngsters can ring confidently without assistance Mark hopes to fit in two more sessions before November and they will have their local weekly practices in the meantime.
Things at Scarning continue to jog along and the last two practices have been very productive. There is an optimum point where you have just the right number of ringers and a sufficient level of skills and we seemed to be almost at that level. Nevertheless we will be missing various people at different times over the next three weeks or so and it will be good to be back at full strength in October.
Last Saturday was the annual church ‘Bike Ride and Walk’ day and three Scarning ringers took part, accompanied by one of the Dereham ringers and a non-ringing friend. We had a good day, and stayed dry in spite of rain being forecast, visiting twenty places of worship including some chapels. One of the highlights was Barnham Broom where Tower Captain and Steeple Keeper were allowed to go up to see the newly restored bells. They look very good and will soon be re-dedicated and back in use. I think they may feature in a future band outing. We saw few others who were obviously taking part in the cycle ride and opinion later, on social media, was that support for this event is gradually tailing off, though I believe nationally it continues to raise a significant sum of money. Just as significant as far as we were concerned was that it was a fun day out and we are already talking about plans for next year.
Monday 27th August 2018
Last Saturday there was a young ringers practice at Dereham, the first of two planned. The immediate idea is to try to put together a band of youngsters to take part in the ringing for the Association Songs of Praise service on Saturday 3rd November. Beyond that I think there is a feeling that it would be good to give the younger ones a chance to ring together regularly rather than only with the mainly elderly (at least from their perspective!) folk at weekly practices. Our youngest ringer attended and got on very well, ringing the front four bells, all of which are heavier than he is used to, and he had a successful go at leading for the first time.
At the end of this week two of the Scarning band go away for a long holiday which will mean they are absent for the whole of September. We have some other holidays coming up during the month and there is every sign that we will be rather thin on the ground for a few weeks. But we will do our best, and will fulfil our ringing commitments one way or another, as we always do.
Friday 17th August 2018
The Ellacombe apparatus had its first serious use at last Sunday’s communion service, one where we wouldn’t normally provide a band. It provoked favourable comment from the congregation and left the tower captain with the vague worry that people might find they prefer it to normal ringing, which wouldn’t do at all!
A regular visitor commented on Wednesday how difficult it had become to pull off the 5th bell, making us suspect that its banana-shaped stay is a recent development. We still cannot see any weakness or cracking in the stay but may have to either replace it or fit a block in the slider runner as the bell is now rather too deep-set for comfort.
Wednesday’s practice was one of those when everything seems to be just right. Not too many or too few there, and enough skills to let everyone have a go at what they wanted to do. If only it were always like that!
Wednesday 8th August 2018
Last Saturday the band rang for one of only two weddings at Scarning this year. There is another towards the end of August but at this point we are told that bells will not be required for that one. The day was hot, and came at the end of a very warm week. Scarning church takes a long time to warm up but retains the heat once it penetrates. The wedding band put in a good, solid performance in what can best be described as adverse conditions, with the temperature and lack of air movement making it tiring work. In addition a church full of happy, talkative people and the organ playing in the background makes for a lot of noise and for much of the time the ringing was done solely by ropesight, with no question of hearing your bell. The effort was appreciated though, and as one person put it, a summer wedding in an English country church wouldn’t be complete without bells. Amen to that.
The other item of news is that our maintenance drive continues. The cords for the Ellacombe chimes have been replaced and the system is fully operational. We anticipate using it on a regular basis. In addition we have fitted a new rope pulley box to the 5th bell, the old one being rather the worse for wear. We will find out this evening whether the bell goes better as a result but the new pulley runs very sweetly. The stay for the 5th was rubbing against the slider runner, and with the aid of a small wedge in the socket we persuaded it to move a little in the other direction so that it has some clearance. This particular stay has also warped so that it has an obvious curve in it. It has been there for a long time by the look of it, but a detailed inspection showed no obvious flaw or weakness and it just means that the bell sets a little deeper than would be ideal. For the moment the steeple keeper will just be keeping a close eye on it. The next big job will be downstairs, where a large lump in the floor is, with the permission of the PCC, to be levelled and re-laid with pamments. Watch this space.
Monday 30th July 2018
On Saturday we held our open day, our first ever. It was a bright and breezy day after the recent hot weather and there was a steady stream of visitors from ten o’clock until four. The period up to two o’clock was devoted to visits to the belfry, which took the form of a guided tour rather than just encouraging people to go up and take a look for themselves. From two o’clock there was a ringing ‘taster session’, and even with two teachers to give people a go on a bell there was a queue waiting patiently for their turn.
Throughout the day there were visual displays, including written materiel about the church, the bells, ringing in general and so on, accompanied by lots of photos. We had a quiz and also a ‘guess the weight of the clapper’ competition. There were also two videos running, one of which was of our own bells being rung, which was made for us by the talented Richard Polley. And of course there were refreshments available from start to finish.
All the band were on hand to help, explain and demonstrate and people seemed genuinely interested in bell ringing and fascinated to have the opportunity to go up to see the bells. It was a long and tiring day and a good deal of preparation went into it. However our feeling afterwards was that it was well worth the effort, not just in encouraging new ringers and in the boost to our bell maintenance fund but the less tangible benefit of giving the public an insight into a subject that they often know little about.
Thursday 19th July 2018
This week the steeple keeper and tower captain had a look at the Ellacombe apparatus in the tower, which has lain idle for a number of years. The idea is to be able to use it when needed for Sunday services where we haven’t got a band. After re-mounting one of the hammers on a new piece of timber it worked well, and sounded good. Then one of the ropes broke and had to have a temporary fix. Clearly the whole lot will need renewing before the system gets very much use. Dean discovered afterwards that the slider bar for the treble fouls the hammer for that bell when the bell is set at hand stroke. So that will need sorting out too, but with a bit of luck it will be easily fixed.
Yesterday evening we had one of those practices where just about everyone who could do so turned up. The presence of eighteen people, whilst welcome and fun, does make it more difficult to work on specific things so the order of the day was to make sure that everyone, learners included, had a fair go.
Thursday 12th July 2018
This Wednesday’s practice coincided with England playing Croatia in the semi-finals of the World Cup. To hold the practice or to cancel? As we had one or two were were not intending to watch the game we went ahead, but set up the simulator in case we didn’t have enough people to ring all the bells. Things started quietly enough and we did individual simulator work but in the end we had six ringers and had some fun with different people having a go at calling changes. Sadly when we got home we found that England were on the brink of losing, though the general opinion the day after seems to be that a young and relatively inexperienced squad performed better than expected and acquitted itself well.
Saturday 7th July 2018
On Wednesday evening our steeple keeper and tower captain went up to to the belfry before practice to measure up for a replacement piece of wood for one of the hammers on the Ellacombe chimes to be mounted on. Whilst up there they discovered that the pivot for the treble bell slider had dropped off the bell frame, where the screws used to fix it (decades ago presumably) had rusted through and given way. The slider was still in its runner and the score marks on the floor at the pivot end suggested that it had been rung like that. There was no question of doing so once the problem had become apparent so we rang the back five for our practice. That was fine in most respects and we had some fun with plain hunt minimus as well as call changes and rounds. Unfortunately our smallest learner, who usually rings the treble, had to ring the second which, though the same weight, is significantly more difficult. But he was up for it and enjoyed the experience. Two other ringers, who are only able to manage the treble, were deprived of a ring altogether, but they took it in good heart and will be able to carry on as normal next week.
Yesterday steeple keeper and tower captain went back up and re-fixed the pivot with new plated screws and all being well that’s another job we won’t have to revisit. Attempts to grease the clapper pivot on the fourth were less successful and it looks as though the clapper will have to be dropped out to clean the pivot up and re-lubricate it. Sometimes the belfry reminds me of an old car. As soon as you get up to date and everything is running smoothly another minor problem inevitably crops up. But, like an old car, the beauty of it is that most repairs and maintenance can be carried out without expert intervention, provided you use common sense and know when to ask for help.
Tuesday 3rd July 2018
The theme for last week’s practice was video, as a friend of the band came along to do some filming of the bells being rung to create something to show off at our Open Tower day. This involved going up into the belfry whilst the bells were being rung, under very strict conditions of course, and our ringing activities for the evening revolved around the needs of our videographer. In fact everyone had plenty of ringing and the preview of the results of the filming suggest that the effort was well worthwhile as we will have a very professional piece of video all about the Scarning bells in particular and ringing generally. The video will be running at the open day so if you want to know what can be achieved with some talent, a bit of know-how and a cooperative band, come along and find out!
Saturday 23rd June 2018
We had an unusual practice this week as it was combined with a Western Branch quarterly meeting. The meeting is traditionally held on a Saturday but is often poorly attended, it being a busy day for many people. This was the first time the branch had tried an evening meeting combined with a regular weekly practice and it seemed to work well. The emphasis was on it being a practice, with the meeting a fairly short affair at the end. We had a good turn-out and one of the best attended meetings for a while. As is often the case, some of the visiting ringers found our bells a challenge, particularly when turning in the tenor for a touch of Bob Minor! Our band provided hot drinks, sandwiches and cakes, which were available throughout the practice, and this was certainly appreciated. A busy and successful evening, though I think we will be happy to get back to doing our own thing next Wednesday.
Monday 28th May 2018
Another week goes by and here we are on the brink of June, and with fine late spring weather, the odd thunderstorm notwithstanding. The all-too-short season of going home from practices in daylight is upon us.
At this week’s practice we again devoted considerable time to our learners, who are all making good progress. After a spell when we haven’t seen any entrants it is lovely to have some new faces around. In particular our youngest, age ten, is doing exceptionally well and already ringing unaided under Paul’s expert eye. On Friday those who had particular things they wanted to work on were able to do so at a simulator session and in between the general talk and catching up some good progress was made, which will stand the band in good stead for the future.
As part of our general desire to improve what we have at the tower and also in preparation for our open day in July, we now have a thick piece of rope to act as a handrail on the tower stairs. This replaces an old bell rope, which did the job but was too thin to be able to hang onto easily. We also have a hand sanitiser dispenser to go on the wall in a discreet position; another of those little things that would be useful in any ringing chamber.
Sunday 20th May 2018
There cannot be many people in the country who were unaware of the royal wedding yesterday, regardless of whether or not they approved of the excitement it created. Although there was no official guidance issued for bell ringers we felt we should mark the occasion. Timing our ring to coincide with the couple coming out of the chapel after the ceremony proved easy, partly because we had the coverage coming through on someone’s phone but also because the timings given out in the media were accurate. The bride and groom walked down the aisle at 13.05 precisely. Evidently Meghan Markle didn’t feel it appropriate to be ‘fashionably late’, as it is sometimes described. With the wedding season beginning let us hope other brides follow her example. Anyway, to get back to the point, we had a good ring, the first lot of changes for Harry and Meghan and the second (Queen’s of course) for the monarch.
Sunday 13th May 2018
The main item of news this week is that the band had its AGM before the weekly practice on Wednesday. Like all good AGM’s it was short and not contentious. The same four officers were re-elected for another year and we carry on with our usual enthusiasm.
The practice itself was a quiet affair, with several people missing due to other commitments or injury. My impression is that we are not alone in experiencing this, judging by the notifications for cancelled practices that keep appearing. Maybe it’s a seasonal thing. But the practice was livened up considerably by some potential new ringers, a family of three. They had to sit through our AGM but then they were shown the bells, met everyone and had an initial go, the youngest on the treble and mum and dad on the third. We hope very much to see them again next week.
Our Sunday ringing today turned out better than we expected. It looked as though we would be very short of ringers but two of the Dereham band offered to help out and one from Gressenhall came along also, as ironically their service ring had been cancelled due to lack of numbers. We were thankful for the support and rang decent call changes on six and then when John, who had already rung at Dereham, needed a break we did some quite tuneful ringing on five, missing out the second.
Thursday 3rd May 2018.
Our new clapper has been collected from John Taylor & Co at Loughborough and fitted to the tenor bell. It had its first ring at yesterday evening’s practice and it was good to have all six back in action. The general impression was that the new clapper produces a clearer sound than the old one. The ball on the old clapper was very worn and struck the bell over a larger area than the new one. Or maybe the dynamics of the new shaft are different. Either way we are pleased with the result and grateful to Taylors for their quick service.
Note that we will not be ringing on Sunday 6th May, which we normally would. Instead we will be ringing on the two subsequent Sundays, 13th and 20th May.
Next Wednesday, 9th May, is our AGM at 18.30 in the church. All welcome. Our practice evening will start immediately after the meeting.
Saturday 21st April 2018
Spring has finally arrived! In fact this week has seemed more like summer at times. It is still colder inside the church than outside but nevertheless the arrival of warmer weather does make practices more comfortable. Talking of which, our practice this week was on tied bells using the simulator again, as we are still without the tenor clapper. We had a good session and amongst other things are working hard to get people comfortable with ringing treble for Plain Bob Doubles as a precursor to having a go inside. We have one band member about ready to make the leap, maybe next week. Meanwhile the tenor clapper and pivot have been dropped off at John Taylor & Co in Loughborough. We decided to go for a new clapper but the old one was needed to get the dimensions and weight correct and the pivot wanted attention anyway. All being well the new clapper assembly will be collected at the end of the month and be fitted very soon after.
Saturday 14th April 2018
Whilst we wait for some firm costs and proposals for our clapper problem there are other more routine matters to be attended to. So yesterday afternoon the steeple keeper with some assistants did a thorough check of all the bells and mechanisms, revealing just one small job to be done. We also adjusted the rope lengths by re-tying them at the wheels, thus moving the wear point at the garter hole to a new place on the rope. Just as relevant was that it brought all the sallies up to a consistent height as one or two of them were rather low. The final job was to alter the lengths of the tail ends accordingly. This caused a certain amount of hilarity as (following detailed instructions from the tower captain) the tails were all shortened by precise amounts only to realise that they should have been lengthened. After a bit of trial and error, and four ringers of differing heights trying each bell, we finally got to a point where felt we had an optimum length for each tail end. This left no time for a simulator session, which had been the hope, but that will have to wait until next week.
Thursday 12th April 2018
The topical news today, unfortunately, is that the shaft of the clapper on our tenor bell has broken. It has snapped off just below the pivot in a place where it previously broke and was mended. This seems to be the standard place for a cast clapper to break. The initial advice we are being given is that a normal welded repair is probably a waste of time as the heat does something to the structure of the cast iron, making a subsequent failure more likely. The alternatives would be either an expert repair at a bell foundry or a new steel clapper. The latter may prove cheaper. So for the time being ringing for Sunday services will be on the front five and practice evenings will be with tied bells and the simulator. Watch this space for further developments.
In spite of the problem with the clapper last night’s practice went well once we had tied the bells and set the simulator up. With help from Paul, Aaron, Chris and Jayden we rang lots of call changes and some tidy Plain Bob Doubles. Three of our injured ringers had a very cautious go on the lighter bells and hope to gradually start getting back into it over the coming weeks.
Sunday 1st April 2018
Our leaflet distribution has been done, with about 1100 put through letterboxes in the village and a hundred or so in hand to go in the church and village hall. A further 400 leaflets are being distributed in Gressenhall and Beetley. In principle any interest should come back to us via the PR company which is running the Ringing Remembers campaign on behalf of the government, so it may be a while before we find out whether we have made any impact. Watch this space!
This week has been Holy Week, when there is traditionally no ringing done. In fact we had a simulator session instead of our Wednesday practice, so we were able to get together and work on some things individually without breaking that tradition or upsetting anyone.
Today being Easter Sunday we did, of course, ring. Some of the band started off at Dereham, which on a trial basis has a later service time of 10 a.m. This meant moving straight from there back to our own tower to prepare for ringing at 10.30 for our 11.15 service. Some regretted the lost opportunity for a coffee or some breakfast between the two rings and others felt it was better than kicking their heels for the extra half hour that there normally would be. It remains to be seen if this will be a permanent arrangement, but it is certainly still possible for members of our respective bands to ring for both services.
The ringing at both Dereham and Scarning went well, at Dereham helped along by a couple from the north-east, down for a few days holiday, who turned out to be excellent ringers. At Scarning, with support from two of our Dereham friends, we had a good ring and the largest congregation since Christmas.
Monday 26th March 2018
As you will no doubt have spotted, unless this is your first visit to this site, it has had a change of style, and I hope it will have more impact than previously.
Following some contact with the PR company handling the Ringing Remembers campaign, and the CCCBR, we are now in possession of a supply of the official tri-fold leaflet, which aims to recruit new ringers nationwide. We are in the process of leafleting as many as possible of the households in Scarning and all being well this will be complete by Easter. It will be interesting to see what level of response we get over the next few weeks.
Tuesday 20th March 2018
The band is suffering from an unusual amount of illness and injury at the moment, and this is putting pressure on those who remain available for ringing. We have one ringer with a fractured shoulder, and another with an ongoing shoulder problem which is receiving physio but taking a long while to heal. A third band member has damaged ribs, which make ringing painful and will also take time to mend properly. One has a painful back, but is carrying on regardless and finally, one has been in bed with flu. I should perhaps point out that none of these ailments and injuries were the result of ringing activities! But we wish them all a quick return to full health and strength. This has put us in some difficulty on the last two Sundays, on the first of which we rang four bells and the most recent one we managed five, and briefly six, with some help from two of our Dereham friends. The approach of Holy Week, when we don’t ring, will prove useful timing, and following this week’s practice the next ringing will be on Easter Sunday (no practice on Wednesday 28th March). This last Sunday, with snow and freezing conditions, I think even our depleted number of ringers equalled the numbers in the congregation, and some spring-like weather will be welcome for a number of reasons.
Wednesday 7th March 2018
If you have been wondering whether your correspondent has left the country, the answer is ‘yes’ but only temporarily and I am back. You should now find the calendar section of this site up to date and all being well the flow of news and events will resume.
One of the things that is current with ringing generally and also with the Scarning band is the ‘Ringing Remembers’ campaign to recruit 1400 ringers nationwide to symbolically replace the number killed during the First World War. The Scarning band is possibly best described as ‘jogging along’ in terms of numbers at the moment. We have enough members but one or two new people wouldn’t go amiss. How one goes about recruiting new ringers is, of course, an ongoing problem. An item in the Scarning parish newsletter in February has so far produced no obvious result and we may have to be creative if we wish to do anything other than simply wait for someone to turn up. In the past word of mouth has possibly been our most successful recruitment method but once you have spoken to all your friends and family it’s difficult to know what to do next other than accost people in the street. Nevertheless we hope to recruit at least one new ringer this year so if you are reading this as a potentially interested newcomer, or know someone who might like to get involved, don’t hold back!
Friday 22nd December 2017.
At Scarning we have now done all our ringing for 2017 as we don’t ring for the midnight communion service on Christmas Eve out of consideration for our neighbours. There is no service on Christmas Day, and none on New Year’s Eve, though some of the band will be ringing at Dereham for the relevant services there. Along the way we have rung for our Christingle and Carol services and also for Scarning school’s Christmas service on the last day of term. The latter was an enjoyable occasion for us ringers and the bells seemed to be appreciated by the 180 excited juniors. The rector forwarded an email from the school head thanking all concerned, including the ringers, for their efforts. For those who are missing the ropes and are looking forward to a break from being polite to their relatives and watching old films on television we hope to run a simulator session between Christmas and New Year. Other than that our next ringing will be in 2018. So it just remains to wish you all a peaceful Christmas and a happy New Year.
Monday November 27th 2017.
On Saturday the Western Branch AGM was held at Watton, with ringing beforehand at Saham Toney. Scarning was well-represented at the meeting, which is always gratifying, and some of our band are once again on the committee. Sadly, with very few members willing to stand for election there was no vote needed and the committee remains low on numbers.
Two Scarning ringers went to the afternoon session at Saham and found the bells difficult, or at least the back ones. But having a ring on different bells, particularly the less easy ones, is good experience and makes one grateful for one’s own, which suddenly seem easier by comparison. However the best thing to come out of it was that one of the two, who has been working away at ringing treble for Doubles methods on the simulator, had a go on the Saham treble and rang two plain courses of Plain Bob Doubles followed by a 120. Admittedly someone was on hand to help when needed but nevertheless it wouldn’t have been possible without the preliminary simulator work and it demonstrates its value.
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.