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With the body of the church out of action for so many months, talk of ‘back to normal’ might seem odd. But in the tower we did something that we had not done since before Covid. Service and practice ringing have been more or less normal for some time (albeit with numbers reduced), and we’ve rung several quarter peals for services and special occasions, but on New Year’s Day we rang the first Date Touch for three years.
A Date Touch has a length that exactly matches the year in which it is rung, unlike most ringing performances that have standard lengths. A quarter peal is 1250+ changes (around 45 minutes so easy to fit in before a service) and a peal is 5000+ (nearly 3 hours so reserved for special occasions). There’s a bit of leeway because ringing methods come in chunks, a bit like verses in a hymn. (You couldn’t sing exactly 20 lines of a hymn that had 6 line in a verse.)
Date touches are rung at least as far back as the 1760s. They called it ‘ringing the date of the year’ but the term Date Touch was in use by at least 1880. The custom of ringing date touches at All Saints is more recent. The first was in 1984, and since then we have rung 28 since then, almost all on New Year’s Day.
Composing a date touch can be challenging because of the need for an exact length (apart from a few ‘ideal years’ where the number conveniently fit). Assembling a band to ring on New Year’s Day can also be a challenge, with so many ringers away or otherwise engaged. Fortunately through the ringing community we have a large network of friends, and this year’s band included ringers from six towers: Barkham, Basingstoke, Easthampstead, Eversley, Wargrave and Wokingham.
This year we linked our performance to the Festival of Bells, so Wokingham has a mention on its website: bells.org/ , It originated in the USA but has an international dimension.
There is a published record of the performance at: bb.ringingworld.co.uk/view.php?id=1577744
John Harrison (January 2023)
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