Once gained, bell ringing is a skill for life you’ll never forget and can open up a lifetime of experiences and enjoyment.
New ringers follow the ‘Learning the Ropes’ programme to learn to ring, taught by accredited instructors through the Association of Ringing Teachers. There are five stages from beginner to experienced ringer and at all stages you’re helped out by either a personal tutor or other capable bell ringers.
Level 1 – Technique
The first stage in learning to ring is to develop the skills to ‘handle’ the bell. That means the technique to control the bell using the rope. This is done on a one-to-one basis with your trained instructor and is often done on a silenced bell.
You will usually taught each of the two movements, or ‘strokes’, in ringing separately and then helped to put them together. The technique is all about holding the rope correctly, moving with it and catching the role at the right place and time.
Level 2 – Ringing with others
Bell ringing is all about working as part of a team, so once you can ‘handle’ your bell you are quickly introduced to ringing with the rest of the ‘band’ of ringers.
The key skills learnt are the ability to watch and listen to the ringing to know when you pull and sound your bell and to be able to varying the pace of your ringing to fit in with the group. This is again usually done with a personal tutor, who will help you to develop the skills.
Level 3 – Start change ringing
To get the most out of bell ringing, the challenges lie in change ringing. This is when bell ringers follow a pattern called a method, where the bells change the order in which they strike each time.
You’ll learn about the structure of methods, how to remember them and how to move the place in the order that your bell strikes. There is often some theory and reading to do, but your tutor and the band will help out with advice. You will also learn additional skills such as preparing the bells for ringing and setting them safely ‘down’ again.
Level 4 – Developing change ringing skills
Once you have grasped the key skills of change ringing, there are more complicated patterns of methods to learn and also variations to existing ones you know. There is a world of opportunity to learn new things, and using the clever approach bell ringers have to memorise the pattern it is not even too difficult!
Level 5 – Become competent bell ringer
You finish the end of your learning to ring process by taking part in an extended period of bell ringing, usually about 45 minutes, which is then recorded in the official journal. There are then thousands more methods to discover, places to visit and new ringers to meet across the world.