Folkestone and Ypres – Saturday 28th September
The date was finally set with emails and updates sent out. Passports dusted down or renewed, travel tickets purchased (yellow vests purchased just in case) and hotel rooms booked. Before we knew it, the date had arrived for our district outing to Kent and then on to Ypres in Belgium.
A bright morning in the UK and early start brought ringers to Folkestone and to the church of St. Mary and St. Eanswythe. A fine 25 cwt 8. St Eanswythe was an Anglo-Saxon saint who first established the Christian church in Folkestone and whose name is given to the parish church. Plenty of time for call changes, Grandsire and half a course of Cambridge, before we headed off to the Channel Tunnel. Thank you, Matt, for ringing the tenor up (looked on by Andy) and for being the ringing master. Thanks to Julia too for ringing the tenor down (not looked on by Roger!)
After navigating the Town Centre, Costa’s, Starbucks (and other leading coffee chains), we all departed on our merry way. Heading to the Channel Tunnel for various boarding times; alas some delayed much longer than others!
Ringers who got through Passport Control without an issue:
The bright autumnal sunshine experienced in Kent, was greeted by a dull grey wet welcome into France (no topical comments please!) Sat Nav’s were set for Ypres for just over an hours’ journey to the city.
A staggered arrival into beautiful Ypres and once parking spaces found with chocolate shops avoided, ringers and friends headed to St. George’s Memorial Church.
Initially, there was competition from across the road at St. Martin’s Cathedral and their bells being rung for weddings. Guesses were made at the tenor’s weight, but the heavy three were no competition to St. George’s delightful sounds.
Ringing started with call-changes; Grandsire, Plain Bob and getting a number of the Ypres ringers to start plain hunting on 6 some for the first time!
For the A&P ringers, this was a delight to see. Beaming smiles after completing a number of courses says everything! Let’s hope their progress continues and support comes from all visiting ringers. Helping them achieve should be seen equally as rewarding as scoring a peal there!
And… those who couldn’t fit into the ringing chamber had a grandstand view (emphasis on the stand part). From the ground floor church entrance via live feed cameras into the belfry and ringing chamber. A great way to watch the bells being rung and maybe a subtle recruiting tool we could see rolled out one day!
Owing to late arrivals a planned quarter peal attempt was delayed until later in the afternoon. Finally, after everyone had a good chance to ring, a well struck quarter of Grandsire Triples was scored in 42 minutes.
This, we believe, was the first Winchester & Portsmouth Diocesan Guild quarter peal on the bells. The details are adjacent here, dedicated to the memory of Derek Yates from the Guild and a footnote to Gregory the Ringing Master at Ypres, who had retired earlier in the week:
After the successful quarter, the ringers congregated in the adjacent hall and what a feast had been laid on. Liz Millward, Tower Captain ‘extraordinaire’, worked wonders! A huge thank you to Liz, Martin, Gregory and the Ypres ringers for laying on everything was given by our Chairman Mike Novell. He then continued with a second or third helping of trifle!
Ringers enjoying themselves in St. George’s Hall. Roger deep in conversation with Nick, planning what to ring on the next visit!
The outing concluded with what was perhaps the most memorable part of the whole day.
Despite an early start, the long drive to Belgium and an afternoon ringing the beautiful bells, it was wonderful to have a short early evening stroll through picturesque Ypres, to congregate at the Menin Gate for the Last Post Ceremony.
Upon arrival, crowds had already assembled to be at least six deep awaiting the eight o’clock ceremony to commence. The variety of ages attending was noticeable, especially the number of young attending and reassuring this ceremony will be in safe hands for many generations to come.
Picture: Within the Menin Gate prior to the Act of Remembrance with the archway lit as the focal point for the wreath laying ceremony.
Precisely at 7.45pm the invited band of ‘K.F Sint-Lambertus Eindhout’ struck up and marched the short distance to the Memorial ready for the short act of remembrance to commence.
Many organisation’s were represented laying wreaths including our Guild. Earlier in the year we had been given permission by the Last Post Association to take part in the ceremony.
Organisation’s taking part on the 28th September were:
We were permitted three representatives to lay a wreath on behalf of the Winchester & Portsmouth Diocesan Guild. Whilst the band played a very fitting arrangement called ‘Benedictus by Karl Jenkins’, Emma, Sam and Roger joined the wreath laying procession. The fitting words were:
‘Remembering Those Ringers Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice’
After the moving ceremony had ended, tears wiped and noses blown; ringers joined the crowds to spend time looking for the inscription of a family member or distant relative to pay their respects amongst the thousands of names.
To conclude events in the most traditional of fashions, one last thing… to the nearest pub! Off we went to sample some of Belgium’s finest beers! A number of ringers selected to stay over and ring on Sunday with the Ypres team, whilst others heading back to the UK.
Finally, we look forward to welcoming the Ypres ringers who will be visiting us in the District between the 15th -17th November, and Guild support to join them ringing here would be warmly welcomed.
Thank you all who came to share in this special day. Will we return to Ypres? You bet we will!