Bell Handling Training at Walsoken Church, 14th February 2015

A personal perspective by a bell handling training participant. 

The presentation given by the Recruitment and Training Subcommittee (RATS) at the recent Wisbech District ADM gave rise to the subject of basic bell handling skills. My feeling was that some towers may pretty much dread a new recruit, of any age, turning up unannounced to try bell-ringing as many towers did not have ringers trained or confident to instruct newcomers in basic bell handling. 

I had looked into what training was available in various ringing guilds and the training did indeed vary from some very loose bell handling guidance to the time intensive programme run by The Association of Ringing Teachers (ART). I guess my first personal questions were “Did I want to become involved in starting to instruct in bell handling?”, as well as “Could I confidently instruct others in bell handling?” and lastly “Was my ringing to a standard that would inspire confidence in any learner?” Perhaps these questions were not the right ones to ask oneself, but it’s easy to be persuaded by self-doubt to inaction. 

In bell ringing I have learned that ‘reading about it’ can only get you so far. There is no substitute for ‘rope-time’ so simply reading about teaching bell handling would not be enough. The ART programme was tempting, and I may look into that at a later date, but simply put, if I was not cut out to instruct in bell handling I’d rather know that sooner rather than later without first investing in the time and effort required by the ART programme. Fortunately our District Ringing Education Officer (and District Ringing Master), Anne Carpenter, had a practical bell handling training course as one constituent of her training material that could be provided by our district. This training session was publicised as available to members and non-members by email from our District Secretary. 

I have been on many training courses in my professional career. Many of those courses simply had to be endured to completion. This training was not like that at all. Those being trained and the trainer all had a keen interest in the subject matter and the time simply flew by. I remember asking questions that would seem daft such as “What about left-handed ringers?” but I now have that answer and there were many many more instances where I remember thinking or saying “Ahhh, so that’s why!”. All questions that were asked were answered with a suitable and understandable justification. 

So what was the basic outline of the bell handling training? 
  • We learned about the right safety messages for new ringers and what to look out for. 
  • We learned how to practically instruct newcomers in ringing the back stroke. 
  • We learned how to practically instruct newcomers in ringing the hand stroke. 
  • We learned how to practically instruct newcomers in putting both strokes together. 
I found the training incredibly useful, focussed, and highly instructive and I feel more confident to consider talking/instructing in basic bell handling. All things considered, almost the perfect training and I would positively encourage any confident ringers to attend this district training as part of our general ringing recruitment drive. Let me make a further point clear. If you are expecting a newcomer to turn up, further support is offered by the District Ringing Education Officer. You are not left on your own. The offer of additional support is there so that your instructional technique is supervised, that’s a win-win situation all around! 

I would like to thank the Rector and officers at All Saints’ Church, Walsoken, for the kind use of their bells for this training success and, of course, for those kind people who were good enough to tie the bell in preparation for this training. 

On a more humorous note: A distinct highlight was being able to tell Anne Carpenter why her ringing was not quite right and saying how it could be improved – I do, of course, recognise that Anne was purposefully ringing wrongly, to see if we’d notice, but it still felt good! 
Bob Cox, Walsoken