Exeter Triumph in National 12 Bell Competition
By David Hird

We had just finished all of our Christmas ringing, looking forward to the challenges of 2015 and suddenly we are bolted into a new year with an email from our Master, Matt Hilling with a whole list of practice dates for our Exeter 12 bell team arranged at a number of other 12 bell towers apart from the Cathedral and the light 12 we use regularly at Withycombe Raleigh. It was rather like signing ones life away for 3 months until the eliminator at Shrewsbury in March.

And so the practices took place, the whip was regularly cracked and we learned phrases like 'backstrokes up', 'focus',' handstrokes sharp' and 'control'. Many miles were covered with visits to South Petherton, Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton for what seemed like endless half courses of Cambridge for the eliminator. It was hard work but gradually our ability to work as a team matured and in the eliminator at Shrewsbury in March we qualified for the final by being placed a very creditable 3rd.

The next 3 months then followed a similar pattern but with Lincolnshire now being the method for the final at St Peter Mancroft, Norwich in June. Now these are generally considered to be a scary ring of 12 with an incredibly long draft and the reputation for elastic ropes. I still have memories (or nightmares) of the 2 peals I have rung there.

Our Master recorded and analysed our practice ringing via the Hawkear software that shows clearly when you are only a millisecond out on your striking. He sent a string of emails out after each practice urging self analysis and soul searching of the resulting printouts. One could become suicidal eventually with despair that you will never get it quite right.

A 700 mile round trip was made to Norwich for an hour practice. How dedicated is that? We came away encouraged by our ringing and the fact that they had changed the ropes to Dynema tops which means no more elastic. We have a Dynema top on the tenor at the Cathedral which works a treat with no stretch although at the extra cost, I hate to think what the Norwich ropes (all 12) must have cost.

Exeter Team PhotoClockwise from front right: Ian Avery, Paul Pascoe, Sue Sawyer, Alison Waterson, Tim Payne, Jenny Sparling,
Pauline Champion, Ian Smith, Tom Waterson, Mike Mears, David Hird, Matthew Hilling (C).

Then finally in late June we made the 700 miles round trip again to compete with all of the great and good of 12 bell finesse. Drawn in a comfortable centre slot, we rang to our best but perhaps felt that the ringing didn't quite flow as well as hoped but, of course, we did not hear it outside, so it was a bit of a surprise on descending the tower that listeners greeted us with encouraging compliments.

Relief Drinks 12Bell2015Drinks2
Celebratory Drinks

Hours later when the teams had finished after the usual relief drinks, the long awaited results were declared in a modern nearby building resembling an aircraft hangar in the town crammed with ringers from end to end. We were declared 4th out of the 10 finalists so not only had we managed to attain a position in the final but had moved significantly up the ladder to a creditable position. The Ancient Society of College Youths were declared the winners pushing the favourites, Birmingham, into second place. I remember looking at the scores and noting how close the top marks were and thinking if only we had been a bit more focussed.... However soon will dawn another year and already the signs are there that next year will be as hard, exciting or frightening as this year. Bring it on!