15th June at Surfleet
The 26th Ridgman Trophy 10-bell striking competition was held on Saturday 15 June 2013 on the back ten at St Laurence’s, Surfleet (12, 12-0-9). This pretty Lincolnshire village stands on the banks of the River Glen shortly before it joins the Welland near its exit into The Wash. The attractive churchyard, across a side road from the river, contains the grave of Charles Clay Rawding, “bell-ringer for Surfleet parish most of his life”.
A few yards along the river is the Mermaid Inn, our base for the day, where we enjoyed the excellent real ales on offer. Meals were too pricey for some, but the local ringers’ excellent refreshments, served in the marquee in the beer garden, were very popular. The marquee served as a venue for handbell ringing, and also came in handy during the thundery showers which punctuated the afternoon. It has to be said that the Fen air, while beautifully fresh and clear, partakes all too frequently of a disagreeably liquid and high-velocity character.
The bells of the Maplestead mini-ring, conveniently located in the beer garden, took a dislike to the rain and sought shelter in the marquee, as did an unfeasibly large number of ringers. Some ringers managed to take boat trips on the river in between showers. The afternoon ended with such violent thundery rain that the judges had to seek confirmation of their opinion of the very last two leads from the organiser, stationed inside the church. Shortly after ringing stopped, the sun came out, suggesting there is something in sympathetic magic after all.
The bells of St Laurence’s are a pleasure to ring for a strong band, and an ordeal for a weak one. Every ringer in every band deserves respect for being willing to do their best. After the competition had ended, the local ringers kindly allowed some ringing on the twelve, which ended with a very enjoyable lower of all 12 bells in peal. This opportunity was particularly appreciated by those supporters who had not themselves rung in the competition.
At this point in the story, it becomes impossible any longer to avoid the embarrassing admission that even the tower’s best friend could not realistically describe it as vertical. It leans away from the church to such an extent that the top of the spire is vertically above the extreme western edge of its base. On entering the tower, one instinctively assumes that the peal boards are straight, in which case the bell ropes belong on a boat sailing along the river in a fair breeze. The ringers of the back two bells, standing, as it were, on the crest of the wave, reported feeling distinctly seasick on taking up their places. This should be borne in mind when reviewing the marks.
The handsome church was filled for the results, presented by judges Mike Purday and Richard A. Smith. Their interesting and helpful comments made it clear that getting the right speed, both for the bells and for the band, was vital. Some bands rang too slowly, so the judges felt their ringing did not flow, and faults were accrued for irregular leading and hesitations. On the other hand, some ringing was too fast, being described as seeming rushed and out of control, and lacking in structure. Many bands found consistent leading particularly difficult to achieve. The most successful bands were those where the back bells co-operated to set a good rhythm which was then adopted by the other bells.
The Lincoln Diocesan Guild are to be congratulated on arranging a successful and enjoyable day out. We are grateful to the incumbents who allowed us to ring. Thanks in particular to the catering team, to the stewards at the neighbouring towers open during the day, and to the heroic, and friendly, car park attendants who provided that essential initial welcome. Photos of the bands, and of the event in general, are here.
Next year’s Ridgman Trophy, hosted by the Essex Association, will be at Coggeshall on Saturday 7 June 2014, with a touch of Stedman Caters as test piece.
Barbara Le Gallez