The City of Cambridge was the venue for this year's Country Meeting of the Ancient Society of College Youths, held on 16 July. The Society has a strong membership base there, reflecting both Town and Gown. The present Master, Tessa Beadman, is a former secretary of the Cambridge University Guild of Change Ringers.
The links between the Society and Cambridge stretch back some way. In 1727, the Society's first ever peal out of London was rung at Great St Mary's Cambridge, where the bells had been recast and augmented to 10 five years earlier. This peal, of Grandsire Caters, was conducted by Benjamin Annable, the Society's prime mover at the time, who walked from London to Cambridge. This year, Philip Earis decided not to follow Annable's achievement of simply walking from London to Cambridge; rather, he chose to run all the way, starting at St Bride's, Fleet Street and finishing at Great St Mary's, taking the modest time of 9 hours and 58 minutes to complete the 59-mile journey. And to show that he was barely out of breath, he immediately joined two others for a handbell peal – of Annable's London and Cambridge. That should be enough to silence the Park Run brigade!
In line with recent tradition, the two days before the Country Meeting were devoted to peal attempts. Rather against the run of recent tradition, all eleven peal attempts were successful. Attempts to attribute this success to the organisational skills of the Junior Steward were brushed aside with understandable modesty.
Saturday's gentle programme of open ringing – at Great St Mary's, Trumpington and St Andrew the Great – allowed time for a convivial lunchtime gathering in the Castle Inn, with its enticing patio beer garden. The ringing was followed by a short business meeting in the plush modern surroundings of the Yusuf Hamied Theatre in Christ's College. Jonathan Agg, the Master of the Society of Cambridge Youths, welcomed the Society to Cambridge, alluding briefly to its previous visit to the hallowed lawns of a Cambridge college. Two new members (Claire Reading and Nathan Cox) were welcomed to the Society by the Master, and George Pipe presented a collection of material to the library, entertaining us with his usual eloquence.
Business done, the action moved to the Buttery Bar, and then to the traditional and elegant surroundings of the Great Hall, where an excellent dinner was served to 100 members and guests. Alan Winter, as a Fellow of Christ's, just happened to have a set of handbells on site, and these were put to good use. Mercifully, the college authorities turned a blind eye to the rule that drinks could not be taken outside the bar, meaning that quiet conversation in First Court could continue late into the summer evening. To the Secretary's relief, the bar did not run dry, and no complaints have been received from the college.