Transcript for ‘Ringing Differently in Devon’

Transcribed by Emily Watts

[00:00:00] Ryan Trout: It really is a unique art that we have down in Devon. And one that we really are trying to keep alive by bringing more people in. But also what we want to do is try and show people across the country that is very different.

[Bells ringing]

[00:00:24] Cathy Booth: Hi, you’re listening to the Fun with Bells podcast, where I, Cathy Booth interview novices and some of the most famous ringers in the world to reveal the mysteries of this heard, but often hidden art.

Ryan Trout is my guest today. He’s from a bell ringing family and considers himself lucky to have rung at Eggbuckland with some of the best ringers in the County of Devon. Since leaving Eggbuckland, he has been a captain at two towers. He’s also secretary of the local Deanery Ringing Association and has been a Chairman of the Devon Association of Ringers.

But first of all, what I’d like to know from Ryan is, that I hear that people in Devon ring differently from the rest of the UK. So I’d like to know a little bit about the difference.

[00:01:14] Ryan Trout: The difference between our type of ringing down in Devon from that across the rest of the UK, or should I say there are two predominant ringing Associations down in Devon, and you have the Devon Association of Ringers, which covers the call change aspect.

And then you have the Guild of Devonshire Ringers which covers the method ringers or the change ringers in Devon. The main difference is that we as call change ringers, will only change a pair of bells at any one time by the Captain or someone else in the team calling the changes out. And the method ringers or change ringers, as in across the rest of the country, will learn patterns of bells. There’s usually not very much talking in the tower during that, unless there is a command from the ringing master at the time.

[00:02:01] Cathy Booth: Hmm. So what I heard with the YouTube clip that you sent me, was it sounded quite different. It didn’t sound like the call change ringing that I’m familiar with when I’ve listened to it in the rest of the UK.

[Devon call change ringing]

So what’s making it sound so different?

[00:03:02] Ryan Trout: I think one of the main differences is that a lot of our call change ringing is a lot quicker. So a lot of people across the UK, will call our type of ringing down in Devon cartwheeling. That’s a term that is used throughout the UK for our type of call change ringing.

I’m not quite sure myself. I don’t know if I like that analogy of our ringing, but that’s what a lot of people call it. We are slightly quicker, the bells do move around a little bit quicker. I think that as well as that difference with call changes across the rest of the country, I think they’re mainly used as a starting point for learners.

And usually when it comes to the changes. They might call changes down the scale rather than up the scale as we would. So for instance, if you have say the call was four to five down in Devon, the call across the rest of the country might be five to four. It’s the same change, but slightly different. So that’s one aspect. Also of course, in Devon we also concentrate a lot of our ringing on the rising and lowering of the bells and most of the striking competitions that happen from the end of March through to sort of November time, you will find that all the competition peals will start with the rise and they will end at a lower of the bells.

So we really do concentrate on trying to get the rise and lower exact as well.

[00:04:27] Cathy Booth: I see, and from the clip you sent me, it didn’t sound like you started with trebles going, she’s gone?

[00:04:35] Ryan Trout: The treble ringer will always say, treble’s going, trebles gone. And the bells will rise up simultaneously. So everybody that’s following the treble bell, the second bell will strike just after the treble and so on and so forth. You should always try and hear all six or all eight or all ten bells. It doesn’t always happen, but we try and get the striking in rounds in the rise, just as perfect as we try to in the top ringing when we’re up. In method ringing, usually the rise will happen where one bell will go first and then once that bell started, the second bell will start and then the third bell and then the fourth bell, fifth, tenor, et cetera. So it is a very different art to the one that we do down in Devon.

[00:05:22] Cathy Booth: I’ve asked the question of other people, whether you have to be strong to ring bells, and the answer that I’ve had back is “no you don’t, it’s technique. But the thing that sometimes is if it’s a heavy bell it needs somebody who’s a bit stronger to bring it up and down.”

And I wondered whether, because you incorporate that as part of your ringing, whether it means that you have to be stronger to do your type of ringing?

[00:05:49] Ryan Trout: Yeah. So I think Cathy from what you said there, I think that when it comes to, I totally agree with the other people.

I think it is down to technique rather than strength. However, what I would say is that when you have heavier bells, certainly over the tonne, if a tenor weighs sort of twenty hundredweight or over. In Devon, if we were having a striking competition or we were on a ringing tour, certainly we would have what we call a strapper.

So it’s a second ringer trying to help the man up on the tenor bell to try and keep that bell in place.

[00:06:21] Cathy Booth: Oh right, so you have two people on the same bell?

[00:06:23] Ryan Trout: Yes.

[00:06:24] Cathy Booth: Oh, right okay.

[00:06:26] Ryan Trout: We call it strapping. I’m not sure whether it’s called anything different around the rest of the country. Well, that’s certainly what we call it down in Devon.

[00:06:34] Cathy Booth: And on the same sort of theme, what sort of age can you start doing this?

[00:06:38] Ryan Trout: I started when I was nine. I just think a lot of it depends on I guess, the size of somebody’s hands. If they keep a coil in the hands of, they can keep a rope in, there’s not really a particular age, that one would start. I think it all depends on the individual.

I mean I do know people that have started when they were six or seven, so it really depends, but I think if you’re sort of around nine or ten, you are a little bit bigger. I think you’ll probably likely to handle the bell a little bit better as well, but like I said everybody’s different and that is just my opinion.

[00:07:10] Cathy Booth: And do you have as many women ringing as men ringing?

[00:07:13] Ryan Trout: Okay, yes I think that there probably are slightly more men, but the towers are frequented quite readily by ladies as well these days. I think they get real enjoyment out of it. My wife also rings. She was one of the people that thought, “Well, if you can’t beat them, join them.”

So it’s really good. And our team actually now, where I ring at Shaugh Prior, we’ve got a very good call change team. My wife rings in that team as well. When I was growing up with Eggbucklands, there were two or three ladies that that would be ringing there and they were excellent ringers. There are also a lot of other excellent ringers that are women across Devon as well as the UK as well.

[00:07:54] Cathy Booth: So the rumour I’d heard that you didn’t have so many ringers, lady ringers wasn’t true. That’s, that’s nice to hear.

[00:08:01] Ryan Trout: No definitely not. I wouldn’t say there are as many lady ringers, but there’s certainly quite a few.

[00:08:08] Cathy Booth: Why is it that Devon has got this type of ringing and not the rest of the UK?

[00:08:13] Ryan Trout: I think down in Devon, because it’s still obviously a very rural County. And I think when the Devon Association of Ringers started in 1925, they sort of came together because there was this other group of ringers called the Guild of Devonshire Ringers, or the Devonshire Guild of Ringers, whichever way you want to call them, that were ringing method ringing at that time.

And I think that’s the main difference. I think some people thought we want to do something different. We don’t want to be doing the same as this other group in Devon, we want to kind of, it wasn’t a breakaway group because the Guild Devonshire Ringers I think we’re about 1880/1890, I think they sort of got their group together. So it certainly wasn’t a breakaway group. It was a group put together as far as I’m aware, it was a group put together because they wanted to do something different and try another art.

[00:09:07] Cathy Booth: Okay. And the type of ringing that you do, you’re calling it call changes?

[00:09:11] Ryan Trout: Yes.

[00:09:12] Cathy Booth: Yes. Somebody mentioned something called sixty on thirds. What’s that?

[00:09:18] Ryan Trout: It’s basically what we call the Queen’s peal. We ring a set of changes. It’s actually 66 changes in length. And lots of people across the country will know what the sixties on thirds are. But it’s becoming, I think more prevalent because people, not just myself who organize tours, but certainly other friends of mine from Devon who go out and ring across the country and sort of take our ringing far and wide, shall we say?

So people are becoming more aware of the type of changes that we ring, but the sixties on thirds is a peal of changes that we ring for any striking competition on six bells in Devon primarily.

[00:09:58] Cathy Booth: I see, have you done any method ringing out of interest?

[00:10:03] Ryan Trout: Good question that. If you spoke to some of my method friends, they would probably say no, Ryan has never rung a method and they would be absolutely right.

I’ve only ever covered, what they call covering behind on the tenor to very minor touches. But other than that, I wouldn’t class myself as any great method ringer at all.

[00:10:21] Cathy Booth: Okay. Can you describe, you’ve mentioned call change competitions. Can you describe what one of those is?

[00:10:28] Ryan Trout: So whether it’s the Devon Association that puts on the competitions, or whether it’s an invitation competition from another church in Devon, they basically follow the same format and the striking competition for instance, you may have 15 teams that enter. So I’ll pick one of the competitions out. For instance in July, they always have a competition at a church called South Brent, which is not very far away from Ivybridge in Devon. They’ve got a really fantastic peal of six bells, tenor weighs nearly fourteen hundredweight.

And they usually get anywhere between ten and fifteen teams from around the County. The striking competition follows pretty much the same pattern. So every team will go in and ring the sixty on thirds or the Queens peal. So 66 changes. Each team must rise. They must call those changes and then they must lower in no less than around fifteen minutes.

And then it gets judged by two or three people from the outside.

[00:11:31] Cathy Booth: And when was the last one you attended?

[00:11:33] Ryan Trout: I attended a competition at Clawton, which is in West Devon, not very far away from Holsworthy. Back in, towards the end of October.

[00:11:43] Cathy Booth: Right, okay and how did you do?

[00:11:45] Ryan Trout: We won it.

[00:11:46] Cathy Booth: Well done, congratulations!

[00:11:49] Ryan Trout: We had some good ringing actually on, not easy bells, they’re certainly not easy. But we had some good ringing we were quite pleased with the result.

[00:11:56] Cathy Booth: And how many teams was that out of? Is that out of fifteen again?

[00:12:00] Ryan Trout: I think twelve, I think that day.

[00:12:02] Cathy Booth: How do you get to be a judge?

[00:12:04] Ryan Trout: Hopefully have a good ear. I think it pretty much depends these days. I mean, a lot of the judges in Devon are ex ringers, so they don’t always ring anymore. And some of them do of course, but it’s whether they’re, I guess a lot of it is whether you would prefer to ring or to judge. And I know what we prefer to do. I would prefer to ring. If our team hasn’t been invited to a competition or we can’t make it, then I will quite happily make myself available for judging as well. So I have a lot of other people across the County are the same.

[00:12:35] Cathy Booth: So is it a hard job judging?

[00:12:37] Ryan Trout: I would say so. I mean, certainly the judging of the rises and lowers can be the, probably the most difficult. Because of course you’ve got so many aspects  when the bells are ringing, whether the bells are ringing up especially, you were listening out to see whether, yeah, you can hear all the bells striking and if they don’t strike, then we would call that one whole fault.

It’s just minor striking errors. Then we might about a quarter of a fault, perhaps that’s certainly where really a lot of our striking competitions can be won or lost. And that’s why a lot of the teams across the County will, we’ll be practicing very very hard. With their rising and lowering as well as their top ringing because in competition a rise and lower, a decent raise and lower can win you the competition.

[00:13:23] Cathy Booth: I see. I see. And is it done all on what faults then? Is it that you count up the number of faults and the ones with the fewest faults wins?

[00:13:31] Ryan Trout: Absolutely, that’s exactly it.

[00:13:32] Cathy Booth: I get it. So I’m going to move on to something else now, which is why do you enjoy ringing what do you enjoy about it?

[00:13:39] Ryan Trout: That’s a very, very good question, Cathy.

I enjoy it for many different aspects. I think, I’m not really that musical. I don’t play any instruments, but I absolutely, I’ve always loved the sound of bells. There’s something about it, which really captures me. So I would say that’s one of them. I think also I get to go to some absolutely amazing places across the country.

You know, I speak to some of my friends that are non ringers and they don’t know where half the places I’ve been to are in Devon. And so even just the ringing in Devon gets you to places where you would never ever think about going, I feel like I’m, I’m actually very privileged to be allowed to ring as well.

You know, especially when you go to other people’s towers. And they give you the permission to go in and ring. I think that’s a privilege in its own right. So that’s great as well. I mean, going to places like the Cotswolds, ringing at places in Oxford, at a lot of the university colleges there. Ringing out Fettes College up in Edinburgh, in Scotland, in all just fantastic things really.

So it’s not just one aspect that I can say. I get a real buzz from all of it. I get a real buzz from going up into the bell chamber. And seeing the different bell frames, what they’re made out of. So I get a real buzz from everything. So it stemmed from just the ringing aspect, but it’s going on a lot more of that. I also like going to the pubs afterwards.

[00:15:04] Cathy Booth: Bellringers know the best pubs. That’s what I’ve heard.

[00:15:11] Ryan Trout: Absolutely. That is definitely the truth.

[00:15:14] Cathy Booth: What’s the most unusual tower that you’ve rung at?

[00:15:17] Ryan Trout: I would say you’ve asked me another good question. I would say the most unusual tower I’ve been to has to be Pershore Abbey, where the bells are rung from a cage above the chancel crossing.

And it’s about, I think about 60 to 70 foot from the cage. The cage is on four beams that span the tower of the church. And when you’re ringing, you can feel the cage wobble. There are lots of people that will know exactly what I’m talking about. And if you’re on the little bridge that goes from the tower steps into the cage, that little wooden bridge is, you need nerves of steel.

[00:15:56] Cathy Booth: Right! Sounds dangerous.

[00:16:01] Ryan Trout: It’s interesting. I wouldn’t say it’s dangerous, but it’s an interesting place to go and ring. And one that if nobody’s been there, they should go in and at least have a look to see what it’s like.

[00:16:12] Cathy Booth: So, I want to move on to, you’ve told me a bit about how ringers are organized in Devon.

You’ve told me about, there’s two associations. One for the method ringers and one for the change ringers, do they cover the County? Does that cover the County of Devon?

[00:16:32] Ryan Trout: Yes, it does. We used to be worlds apart in our thinking the two organizations, but over recent years, because a lot of the method ringers actually now ring call changes as well and come into our competitions, there is much more collaboration between the two organizations, which is a really good thing because I think we can certainly offer people something slightly different, but also if we collaborate more and engage more with each other, we can certainly offer something really good to non ringers across Devon. If people are willing to give it a go.

[00:17:05] Cathy Booth: Have you got many young ringers in, in Devon?

[00:17:09] Ryan Trout: It very much depends. At my tower, I have a 12 year old and a 13 year old at the moment. And they’re both doing very well. I would say it’s sporadic. I think all across the country, we need more ringers and certainly younger ringers. As for Devon we’re no different. Because we’re very rural as well, we do struggle a lot to get the younger generation involved. Certainly in a Plymouth point of view, where I live in Plymouth, one of the towers who ring, regularly ring method, not very far away from me, they’ve actually got probably six or seven youngsters sort of beneath the age of 16 or 17. So they they’ve always done fairly well, I don’t know why that is. Maybe I need to bottle what they’ve, got and send it out to the rest of Devon, but they always do seem to do very well. So I think probably in the bigger towns, we probably do a little better than in rural communities, I would say. But that’s not for the want of trying.

[00:18:06] Cathy Booth: So if I lived in Devon and I was listening to this and I thought, “Oh that sounds interesting as a hobby, how do I find out more about it? Could I have a go?”

[00:18:14] Ryan Trout: In Devon, along with the Devon Association of ringers and the Guild to Devonshire ringers if you don’t mind me mentioning that as well. I think we do, like I said, previously in the conversation, we do collaborate a lot. So we’re always asking one another, you know, how we can recruit and retain people. And certainly from a Devon association of viewpoint, there are training officers that we have. We’re always very welcoming. There’s a website, we’ve got a Facebook page, we’re on Twitter. Can you believe it? They come into the 21st century. So, you know, we’re trying to recruit and retain people as much as we can. I think it’s very, very difficult. But we would never turn anybody away. People can contact the Devon Association, if they want to try it and we will get back to them, or certainly the training officers will get back to them and put them in contact with somebody else who can support them and help them find a tower perhaps, or go along to a local tower and see what it’s all about.

[00:19:13] Cathy Booth: That sounds good. Would it be possible for you to send me the links to the things that you’ve mentioned so that we can put those in our show notes?

[00:19:19] Ryan Trout: Absolutely. I will do that. Yeah.

[00:19:21] Cathy Booth: Another question is if I was a ringer and I was having a holiday in Devon and sampling your lovely cream teas, where should I go? Where should I go if I wanted to hear, or if I wanted to have a go with ringing in the call change ringing in style?

[00:19:40] Ryan Trout: My question to you, Cathy, before we go any further, as you said about a cream tea, would that be cream first or jam first?

[00:19:47] Cathy Booth: Oh no, I know I’ve got to get this the right way round haven’t I. I like the jam first and then the cream.

Is that the right way round?

[00:19:57] Ryan Trout: No, it’s not, that’s Cornwall. From a point of view of cream teas maybe you should miss Devon altogether. However if you wanted to, if you wanted to come down to Devon and have a great holiday and you wanted to do some ringing, then there are some fantastic teams around, that would welcome you to Devon. I would say the teams that are really prevalent in Devon at the moment that are really sort of reaching out to young people and taking lots of people on, I can mention Kingsteignton and I can mention South Brent, they are two of the towers in the South Devon area. Sometimes at South Brent, I think they get something upwards of 15, 16, 17 ringers sometimes on a Monday evening, they’re a six bell tower I’ve mentioned previously.

Kingsteignton, they have a fantastic Gillet and Johnston eight and they also have got a lot of youngsters ringing there as well, but the ringing is fantastic as well. So both of those two towers would I’m sure welcome visitors at any time. And of course we are down at Shaugh Prior Bickleigh, near Plymouth as well.

[00:21:00] Cathy Booth: Right okay. So we’d hear some fantastic ringing and we might be able to have a go.

[00:21:05] Ryan Trout: -Absolutely-

[00:21:05] Cathy Booth: Great okay. Is there anything else that you wanted to mention before we go onto the final two questions Ryan?

[00:21:12] Ryan Trout: I think that from a point of view of Devon call change ringing, you really have to come to Devon and to see it firsthand.

However, there are plenty of people that now upload YouTube videos. I’m one of them. I’ve got another friend whose YouTube name is bellr1nger so instead of the I, it’s a 1 and you can actually see some fantastic ringing from across the country, as well as in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset places. Westminster Abbey for instance, it really is a unique art that we have down in Devon.

And one that we really are trying to keep alive by bringing more people in. But also what we want to do is try and show people across the country that it is very different. I think people, you know there are some big peal ringers actually from outside of Devon that have come down. I’m sure the gentlemen, there’s two gentlemen that I can mention. One of them is from Cambridgeshire called Auburn Forster and the other, Ian Fielding from the Bristol area who has now just moved down to Devon actually. But two big method ringers, very, very good method ringers in their own right. Have turned their hand to call change, ringing and thoroughly enjoy our type of ringing as well.

And I think seeing it firsthand, seeing how different it can be, our emphasis is always on the striking of the bells. That we get the sound right inside so it’s right outside to people listening in as well. And that’s the real thing for me that sets, I’m hoping sets us apart from others across the country.

That’s great. I’m going to probably as part of this podcast, having some soundtrack from your YouTube video so that people can get a little taste of what it sounds like. Apart from the towers that you regularly ring at, which is your favourite ring of bells and why?

Am I allowed more than one Cathy?

[00:22:58] Cathy Booth: Oh go on then.

[00:23:01] Ryan Trout: Okay. I will start with my favourite and that’s a peal of ten. A peal that was cast by John Taylor and company of Loughborough. And that is the fantastic ten of Abergavenny in Wales.

They are the nicest peals of bells that I’ve rung on. Probably the main reasons for them is because they’re a relatively heavyish ten. The tenor weighs about 25 and a half hundredweight. The sound clarity in the ringing room is fantastic. So you can hear all ten bells. They’re just so musical to listen to.

They’re the type of peal of bells that really make my hairs on the back of my head stand up on end when you go in and ring, they are just superb.

[00:23:41] Cathy Booth: Ah, lovely. And did you want to mention another one?

[00:23:46] Ryan Trout: There is quite a few down in Devon, really, but I’ll mention another one that I rang at actually only a couple of years ago.

And that’s a largish village in Oxfordshire called Kirtlington. They’re not only just one founder because these days, a lot of people will always say that a one complete founder is sort of John Taylor and company, or Gillet and Johnston peal of bells can be some of the best. However, I found Kirtlington to be absolutely fantastic.

The type of place you go to where you don’t expect the bells to be that good. But they’re well maintained. They’re an old fashioned set of eight and they’re about 16 and a half hundredweight, but they’re just superb. They’re definitely worth a mention.

[00:24:27] Cathy Booth: Great. So they’re the runners up. Okay. I’ll move onto my last question then.

Has anything remarkable happened to you that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t taken up bell ringing?

[00:24:38] Ryan Trout: That question is quite open-ended really, because I think. As I was always talking about previously as well Cathy, I think I find that I am really privileged to go into some of these places. The most remarkable thing for me, it’s not going to be remarkable to everybody, but I would say that, certainly if I hadn’t been ringing I certainly would never have gone there and that’s to Oxford city and to ring at some of the University towers like Magdalen college, Lincoln college, New college, and places like that.

I mean the history behind the places is a fantastic thing. You know, you see some of the places where Harry Potter is being filmed, where Blackadder is being filmed, et cetera. And it brings back lots of memories from watching those films. But I think as well, you know, to have the privilege, if you’re certainly not intelligent enough to have gone to their University to study. I think that’s probably one of the remarkable things is that I would never have got to go there and see inside these places if I wasn’t ringing.

[00:25:37] Cathy Booth: Well, thank you very much, Ryan. That was really interesting, I really enjoyed talking to you.

[00:25:41] Ryan Trout: Ah just one thing. If anybody’s coming down to Devon, it’s always cream on first on the scone, just to make that point.

[00:25:51] Cathy Booth: Thank you very much, indeed. Thank you.

Thanks to my guest Ryan Trout, who has given us an insight into how ringing in Devon differs from the rest of the country. Next, we have a short section where your questions are answered by an expert in the world of bell ringing. Today, Pip Penny, the driving force behind the Association of Ringing Teachers schemes for learning the ropes provides the answers.

Hello, Pip!

[00:26:23] Pip Penney: -Hello Cathy-

[00:26:24] Cathy Booth: It’s the ask the expert section again, and we’ve heard from Rebecca. Rebecca says she’s heard about people being able to hear their bell, but she says she can’t distinguish the sound of her bell. How much of a problem is that?

[00:26:39] Pip Penney: Why well, of course, if you’re the expert ringer, you will be able to hear your bell, but it’s very important to try to start to listen to your bell right from the beginning.

How can you do it? Well, one of the things you can do is when you’re ringing rounds is count your place in the rounds. So if you’re ringing the four, you’re counting one, two, three, me, five, six. One two, three, me, five, six, or emphasize your own number one, two, three, four, five, six. And so you’re beginning to pick up where your bell is in the change.

Likewise, if you’re called to make a call change. So you’ve gone up a place, you’ll be ringing in fifths place. So you’ll be counting one, two, three, four, five, six, and you’ll be the five. There were other ways you can do it. You can ring the tenor and try and cover without looking at the rope so that you are trying to keep your bed in sixths place just by listening.

If you’ve got a sympathetic teacher, they might let you ring rounds on three. Or rounds on four. And if you ring rounds on three, virtually everybody can hear one, two, three, three blind mice, and you might be the blind or the mice. One, two, three, three blind mice, or the three, one, two, three. Three blind mice.

So you emphasize the bell that you’ll ring in that position. And gradually you’ll begin to be able to pick up your own bell. Another thing that you can do with that, you can try and hear your bell as you lead, because when you’re leading, you’ve got the gap between the tenor and it’s more obvious.

So you could try to listen, listen to your bell in the lead.

[00:28:21] Cathy Booth: Is the treble always the one in the lead?

[00:28:23] Pip Penney: No, the trouble is in the lead in rounds. And when you move out of rounds, if it’s some call changes, the treble may not stay in the lead, but if it’s anything else, Plain Hunt or call changes or method ringing, the treble will move about as well. Each bell will lead it its own place.

[00:28:44] Cathy Booth: So it could be that you’re on two and you’d be listening to it when you’re the lead, the person that’s rung after the tenor, and then you can hear it.

[00:28:53] Pip Penney: Well, yes, it might. Say you want to hear your bell and you’re ringing the two. You can hear the treble leading in front of you, and you can probably count yourself in second place.

The second dong in the row is your sound of your bell. And then if you’re ringing Plain Hunt, when they say go Plain Hunt, the first thing the number two bell does is go into the lead. So again, you can hear it then. It’s easier to distinguish it on smaller numbers of bells. The other thing you can do is work on a simulator where you can’t actually see the moving ropes.

Although with modern simulators, you can sometimes. The point of a simulator is to aid you to listen. So to ring really beautifully, you’re going to need the rhythm, and the listenability and the rope sight. And before you can get to any of those, you need the control of the bell. So really it’s the control of the bell that is the foundation cornerstone of the thing.

[00:29:50] Cathy Booth: Okay. That leads on nicely to the next question actually. Sophie has written to us and just to remind people to write to us, you write to Anyway, Sophie says “I’ve started to learn to ring, but so far it’s just me and my teacher. How long should I expect it to take before I’ll be able to ring with the other ringers?”

[00:30:13] Pip Penney: Ah well, Sophie that depends on many factors. It depends how frequently you’re taught. If you’re taught three or four times a week, you’ll obviously learn more quickly than if you’re taught twice a week. You need to be taught at least twice a week, I would advocate.

If you’re a very coordinated person naturally and the bells are easy, you’ll probably learn in about 10 lessons. That doesn’t mean to say that when you go in to ring with other people, they won’t want to do some individual work with you on the bell until you can set it 10 times in a row at hand stroke, 10 times in a row at backstroke, raise it, lower it, make it ring quicker and make it ring slower and doing all those basic control exercises.

But really the more often you can get for handling lessons, the quicker you’ll get into the ringing in the rounds with other people. I think, some people think it takes about 10 hours. I usually try and start my ringers on a Friday. And do a lesson every day for four days. See how we are getting on and then decide what we want to do for the rest of the week.

And then hopefully getting to ring rounds on three on the next Friday and that sometimes happens.

[00:31:26] Cathy Booth: Wow. That sounds really quick.

[00:31:28] Pip Penney: Well, it can be that quick, if you’re prepared to put the time in at the beginning and you’re naturally coordinated and the bells are easy to ring. If you’re ringing big lumpy bells and you’re not very coordinated or you’re very tiny or you’re eleven or old, and your coordination isn’t as slick as it used to be, it’ll take longer, but really it’s down to the intensity because your body remembers more between the sessions. Some people call it muscle memory. It’s actually building your networks, but it doesn’t forget so much of the physical activity if you do them close together. So you can build the skill up more quickly.

[00:32:06] Cathy Booth: We have another question today. Harry asks what’s the most difficult thing about learning to ring?

[00:32:12] Pip Penney: Oh, a lovely question Harry. I think the most difficult thing to start with is learning to handle a bell with accuracy and getting control of it. That means working on your style, getting your handling nice and smooth. After you’ve done that, I think that the hardest thing in ringing is the thing you’re learning next. But I would say that there’s a couple of hard points. One is learning to hunt the treble with rope site and be able to ring your first quarter peal on the treble to methods. The second is learning your very first method.

People often learn, Bob Doubles, some people learn Grandsire Doubles, but your first method is the hardest. The second method is the second most hard. And then after that, it’s not as hard. Sometimes it’ll take people two years to learn their first method. Although I believe some people can do it in a month, but I’ve never met one.

[00:33:09] Cathy Booth: Okay. Well, that’s great for this episode Pip, we’ll see you on the next one. Thank you.

[00:33:15] Pip Penney: Okay Cathy, Bye!

[00:33:17] Cathy Booth: Thank you to Pip Penny for her answers to your questions, please let us know your questions and send comments by emailing me at You can also send me an audio file of your question to be played on the show.

More information, photographs and links can be found in our show notes at I’m Cathy Booth. This podcast was put together by a team, a special thanks go to Leslie Belcher, Nick Boyd, Anne Tansley Thomas, John Gwynne, Sue Hall, and the Society of Cambridge Youths for the recording of their ringing.

If you are in Britain and are interested in learning to ring then please go to the or for handbell ringers Both websites have links to help you get started. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook at Fun with Bells. Do let me know that you’ve listened to the show. Don’t forget to rate and review the podcast on iTunes.

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