The Essex Association of Change Ringers   President: The Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford

Essex Ringing Course 2018: report

Our experience on the Ringing Remembers Group on the Essex Ringing Course - April 2018 - from a husband and wife from Broomfield

Photo of the Group participants Students back row l-r: Mandy (Gt Baddow), Carol (Broomfield), Andrew (Broomfield), Cliff (Gt Totham), Michelle (Goldhanger) and Stephen (Isleham)
Tutors front row l-r: David Hengeli, Steve Nash and John Hall (missing Stephen Wood)

On arriving at the course, despite feeling like imposter bellringers due to our lack of prowess and experience, we were warmly welcomed as a valued addition to the course and the wider bellringing community.

We were a group of 6 new ringers, ourselves from Broomfield plus others from Gt Baddow, Gt Totham, Goldhanger and Suffolk. The organiser had kindly assigned our group to a tower in Coggeshall for all our practical sessions which was just 5 minutes walk from the school base for the course - this meant plenty of time for pub lunches, enabling us to fit in pudding, thanks to Vicki for the excellent choice of pubs!

At the start of the course we were reassured by Stephen Nash, our lead tutor, that 'nothing would be our fault' ie any clangers (pardon the pun) would be down to our tutors - wait until we try that one out on our tower captains back home! Simon who looks after the bells at St Peter's ad Vincula in Coggeshall also assured us he had some spare stays!

Day One began with a morning session on practising separate backstrokes, handstrokes and then joining both together - having had varying degrees of success in 'joining it all together' on practice nights in Broomfield, it was great to have more rope time to refine our techniques and to understand what goes wrong and why. With calm and patient tutoring we all grew in confidence and our Baddow member in particular, who had only attended one practice night before, made stellar progress. At the end of the day four of us joined the "First steps in listening skills" lecture and found we could identify such things as 'Bell no.3 being too late on the handstroke' - despite the fact that we wouldn't know what to do about it!

At the start of Day Two we had a go at ''Rope Splicing (the long splice)'. Then it was off to the tower to practice how to speed up or slow down at handstroke and at backstroke; and counting the number of times you could consecutively set / stand the bell at handstroke / backstroke - that got a little competitive between husband and wife!

In the afternoon we had a go at ringing in rounds. Over pulling was a common problem but we were assured that is quite usual to begin with. Also there were moments of panic/anxiety when all the fundamentals suddenly deserted us when we were trying to follow another bell - a lack of spare brain capacity we think! Fortunately we were ringing on bells with tied clappers so we couldn't upset the neighbours; with the sound simulator switched on in the tower it wasn't always melodious, however our tutors were endlessly patient and calm which enabled us all still to have fun. Not everyone could make the social that evening but by all accounts it was well attended and everyone had a great time with quizzes and silly games.

Day Three and, after trying our hands at rope short splicing, our first practical session of the day was spent learning how to ring a bell down - handy for safety reasons. We then proceeded with more practice ringing in rounds and we all improved our ability to adjust when we inevitably got out of place in the round. It was sometimes a case of right pace, wrong order (and yes Les Dawson was mentioned) and sometimes neither the right pace nor the right order. This necessitated lots of coaching: to 'pull all the way down on both strokes'; get 'hands close together on the sally'; and 'hold it up'. Those phrases will still be ringing in our ears, but likewise there was lots of encouragement when we got something right and we all grew in confidence. Despite there being a way to go yet, we finished the course with a sense of achievement and found bellringing less scary, more interesting, and above all enjoyable.

Our thanks go to Vicki Chapman for organising the group and providing advice in moments of panic! Plus to Stephen Nash, John Hall, David Hengeli, and Stephen Wood for their generosity in giving up their time, sharing their wealth of experience, their endless patience and for making it such fun. Having said farewell to our ringing course family, we all look forward to taking part in Ringing Remembers on 11 November 2018 and into the future ..... watch this space! So, to anyone who is wondering whether to get involved, do, you won't regret it.

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