Donhead St Mary Bell-Ringers - April 2018 Report

Last time, I wrote that it is now up to us to ensure that the skills and traditions of bell ringing are passed on to the future. That essentially English sound of bells ringing out over the countryside will otherwise be lost. If you are free on Spring Bank Holiday, 7th May, 2018 you can see a demonstration of ringing at Stourton church, by Stourhead, with displays and people to explain it all, and a small simulator bell to try your hand on!

With apologies to those who remember my writing about learning to ring in April 1998, I said that in the programme “Casualty”, a character remarked that “bell ringing is very easy - you just grab a rope and go dong”. If anyone did, they would end up in real-life casualty! However, properly taught, bell ringing is safe. Bells are large pieces of metal (the largest at St Mary’s weighs about half a ton), so you can imagine that the careless could have accidents. Like learning to drive, learning to ring takes time.

Ringing is a fun hobby for all ages from about 11 years old upward. Unlike driving, where other road users are impatient, experienced ringers are delighted to help. You will start learning to handle the rope safely, and in stages progress to ringing the bell unaided. Even at this point, you will be ringing your bell in time with other people, as your tutor will have dual control. As soon as you can control the bell on your own, you will start developing the skill of keeping in time and adjusting the speed. Then you learn to fit your bell in with everyone else and be part of the tune, as a conductor calls the changes. And so it continues.

Meanwhile, there is a strong social side and, if you are new to the village, it is an excellent way to make friends. It also holds true if you move away (please don’t!); indeed, if I am on an overnight business trip, I know I can go to the local tower practice night and be welcomed. Better than watching TV in a hotel room and the pub afterwards is more pleasant than the hotel bar as well.

To know more, feel free to come up to the tower at 7.50 pm any Wednesday evening without committing yourself, to see what it is all about.

Christopher Sykes

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