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Learning the ropes

The phrase originates from the days of sailing ships, but I’m sure it has also been applied to the traditional craft of English-style bellringing, where the rope provides the ringer’s only physical connection with the bell.

Ringing requires many skills, mental as well as physical, but they all rest on the core skill of being able to control a bell hung in the English style, with wheel and rope. To a layman it might sound impossible to control half a ton of metal swinging through 360 degrees to a precision of a few hundredths of a second, but many people master the technique (as they do other skills that seem impossible to those who haven’t acquired them). Ringing requires physical coordination and a sense of rhythm, but it doesn’t require great strength.

At All Saints, we aim to maintain a steady flow of newly trained ringers, typically one or maybe two a year. We know that some of them will leave us and move away, but then other bands will benefit, in the same way that we have benefitted from competent ringers moving to Wokingham in the past. Half of our current members had learned to ring before coming here.

Sue James is our latest recruit, and we have been training her since October. She has made good progress, and now rings for services, and in February was elected as a member of the Oxford Diocesan Guild. She followed her son Oli into the tower – he became a member last year.

If you are interested in the possibility of learning to ring, we would be happy to discuss what’s involved. If you aren’t sure about your aptitude, we can offer lessons on a trial basis, with the option to discontinue if ringing doesn’t suit you.

There is more about learning to ring at All Saints on the tower website at: http://allsaintswokinghambells.org.uk/learning/ 

John Harrison (March 2012)


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