This week, something completely different. Many of you know I have a few hobbies outside work, including classical music (I play the Cello and Timpani), sailing and am also a regular church bell ringer. I thought I’d explain a bit about bell ringing, as most people have a view formed from watching this advert for Mars Bars. We don’t actually lift off the floor – ever! Maybe after reading this blog, you might like to have a go at learning.
Bell ringing is a uniquely British thing. In Europe bells are swung at random. In the UK they swing through a full circle, and at the end of the circle the person on the end of the rope can control how long to wait before the next “dong”. So we can ring complex patterns, called methods.
It take about 5-10 one hour sessions to learn how to physically ring a bell. After that you start to learn patterns that change the order of the bells around. These can get as complex as you want and are called methods. So what makes it such an interesting hobby is the challenge of learning new and different patterns. It’s far more than just learning how to safely “pull on the rope”. Also you don’t have to be strong; we teach people from about the age of 10-90. I have known some ringers carry on till their late 90’s. It’s about technique, not brute force.
Another perception is that ringers combine ringing with drinking beer. That is broadly true, any major ringing event will probably have a beer tent attached, and ringing practices could be considered as working up a thirst for a beer or two afterwards.
Ringing is also a great social hobby. I’m often away from home and am already ringing regularly with local groups of bell ringers and have a new set of friends outside of work. Bell Ringers have always made me welcome and adjust what they are ringing to make sure that everyone gets a go and is involved.
So if that sounds interesting, let me know and I could take you along to or find a local practice to let you see what it is all about. My involvement has led to me ringing in places as far apart as Cornwall, Scotland and North America and on bells including those at St Paul’s Cathedral and St Mary Le Bow (Famous from the story of Dick Whittington). Since I started learning at school, it’s has been a great hobby and a way of meeting people – I even met my wife at University Bell Ringing! Here is a great youtube clip from Liverpool to show you what ringing can sound like when done well.
One of my proudest achievements is the restoration of the Bells at Crondall, Hampshire, where we put in a new frame and added two extra bells. This video tells the story. The bells had been in their original frame for about 300 years, hopefully what we did will last for another 300 years.