‘On the bell City’ as ringing fans in Aylsham and Holt welcome the start of a premier season

Bellringers are getting into the swing of it as Norwich City FC players prepare for next week's opening match of their Premier League season.

The county is apparently well-stocked with ringers crazy about both campanology and the Canaries.

Eight of them will be filling the air with the sound of soccer success this afternoon, and a ninth is keeping a tight grip on both his leisure interests – literally.

A team of City fans will join forces in Holt Parish Church at 2.30pm for the premiere performance of Pride of Anglia, a specially-composed peal celebrating Norwich's promotion.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in north Norfolk, bellringer Keith Shaw's heart is gladdened each time he enters the belfry of Aylsham's St Michael's Church and sees the tenor bell's new rope, in the Canaries' yellow and green colours, waiting to be pulled.

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Today's Holt peal has been composed by David Brown, 58, from Trowse, who was one of 10 people chosen to ring the bells of Westminster Abbey for April's wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Mr Brown, a regular ringer at St Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich, has interwoven a few subtle jokes into the two-and-three-quarter hour performance, which will feature 5,000 changes on eight bells.

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He explained that a peal was a method of producing different sequences of changes on church bells.

Pride of Anglia was a combination of two methods well-known to bellringers , one called Norwich and the other Ipswich.

'Ringers will understand when I say that this uses Norwich above and Ipswich below!' said Mr Brown.

And with a final flourish, he has also chosen the venue in honour of City's striker and captain: 'We thought it would be nice to ring before the start of season, and chose Holt, because of Grant Holt,' he added.

Fellow City fan Keith Shaw, 77, who lives in Aylsham, is secretary of the town's St Michael's Guild of Ringers.

He was so thrilled when his favourite team gained promotion that he dug deep into his own pocket and commissioned a yellow-and-green sally – the woollen grip held by the ringer at the end of a bell rope – from a specialist firm in Loughborough.

'It's going to stay on there for as long as Norwich stay in the Premier-ship so I'm confident that will be a very, very long time,' said Mr Shaw.

However, he admitted that the 60ft rope which had been removed and replaced by the new one had not been thrown away, just in case.

The colourful sally has been attached to the one-tonne tenor, the heaviest of Aylsham's ten bells.

As one of only three towers in the county with 10 bells, St Michael's attracts many visiting ringers and Mr Shaw hopes other City fans will enjoy the novelty of pulling a Canary-coloured rope.

Despite the fact that Aylsham's deputy tower captain Lawrence Phillips supports West Ham, Mr Shaw has also managed to persuade fellow ringers to alter an ancient custom, in honour of his favourite team.

The traditional cry as everyone in a bell tower is poised to begin a ring is 'All hold'.

Mr Shaw said: 'For the time being we've changed it.

'Now we've started saying: 'Let's be 'avin' you.'


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