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Bell Ringing 


 
Bell ringing was nowhere on my retirement radar screen until I noticed a small item in our local monthly magazine canvassing for people to learn. Following up, I was invited by our local tower captain to take a conducted tour of the tower of our local church, which included a birds’ eye view of the whole village and our neighbours’ back-gardens.
 
Bells are fascinating beasts.  Our oldest bell dates back to 1400/1410, so it rang out the victory at Agincourt and is still in regular use. The second oldest was cast in the mid 15th century, and most of the rest in the 18th century. The mechanisms have been updated, but it’s not every day you have the chance to use equipment made 600 years ago.
 
I began to learn to ring about 6 weeks’ ago and have now handled bells up to 1 ton in weight with reasonable confidence. I am now starting to ring rounds, and join our local band for practice every Wednesday evening, followed by refreshment at the pub. Bell-ringing and beer have always been closely linked!
 
Surprisingly little effort is required to ring even quite heavy bells over ½ ton. It’s all down to technique and timing, so as long as you can stand upright you should be able to carry on indefinitely. Even into their sixties any man or woman can still look forward to many years’ ringing.
 
Teaching is by trained instructors. The technicalities of ringing are quite straightforward – but so is swinging a tennis racquet or hitting a cricket ball.  The art is in timing, technique and the application of the right amount of pressure to the rope. These come with practice, so after 3 to 6 months most people should be able to handle a bell rope with reasonable competence. It cost’s nothing to learn, and you can even make money - £25.00 for each rope is the standard fee for wedding bells.
 
It doesn’t stop there because rounds lead to changes, tittums, hunting and finally methods, which started to evolve in the 1650’s when bell ringing became popular among the aristocracy as a mental and gentle physical exercise. There are literally hundreds of methods but Plain Bob and Grandsire are the most frequently rung. So once you have mastered the basics there’s still a lot more to learn if you want to.
 
You can find out a lot more about why bell ringing appealed to me and how I have been getting on from my website www.agewhatage.com.  However, as an activity/sport/ craft it should rank high on anybody’s retirement wish list.
 
The social benefits of bell ringing are just as important. I now ring in two local towers, with maybe 20 ringers. I already have an unsolicited invitation to ring in another tower – good ringers are always in demand and welcomed wherever they travel. Add to that ringing keeps the mind active, provides a gentle full-body workout, and can be carried out anywhere there is a bell tower and in any weather. 
 
For more information about bell ringing, its history and how to get started visit the national website www.bellringing.org.

Tony Rand
 


Tony Rand, 04/12/2016