Standing at the back of Thaxted Church waiting to go on, the trio and I – Jim piano, Simon bass and Ben drums stand looking up at the infamous bell tower which has a ring of 8 bells with a tenor weighing 15 hundredweight – I know a few of them. This prompts a discussion about bell ringing, and as none of us has actually properly ever had a go, the theories are varied.
Because these particular bells are so high up believe it or not they can be difficult for the ringers to hear so they have installed a dedicated sound system to further amplify the otherwise deafening tones.
Ben and I have always fancied having a go at bell ringing, so I’m on a mission to try and make that so, I notice that Thaxted are keen to recruit new ringers, “especially people who would be able to handle heavy bells”, intriguing but as Thaxted to Chippenham is a 302 mile round trip I’m going to have to look closer to home.
According to the website “Discover Bell Ringing” this activity is proven to improve agility and co-ordination it apparently tones core abdominal muscles and glutes – hurrah, and also works bi-ceps, quads and calves.
I remember standing outside York Minster one Sunday morning you could physically feel the vibrations of 12 bells it was amazing.
Some special bell ringing performances can last up to 3 hours so I would imagine you build up a bit of stamina too. Although the ringers of Netherbury, West Dorset pushed their neighbours to the limit with a 12 hour marathon of continuous ringing to raise funds to refurbish their own peal in what was coined “bell-hell.”
Of course there is a musical element too. New ringers learning the ropes, so to speak, are often taught with a silenced bell I can imagine it takes a while to get to grips with what to pull, when and how hard!
I reckon it would prove an excellent opportunity to make new friends despite a survey I read mentioning risk of repetitive strain injury and other associated problems from manual handling, indeed Ian Bowmen had to be winched to safety from Worcester Cathedral after his foot got caught up in the ropes in a freak accident, but on the whole campanology would seem a relatively safe hobby providing you keep your feet on the ground.