Heckington Church bell ringers held an open evening to attract new members and I went along to discover what it takes to learn ‘the ropes’.
The ringing team, captained by veteran Audrey Harrison, are currently around 20-strong, although only about a dozen would regularly ring on a Sunday.
They range in age from nine to 80 years old and are one of the biggest teams in the local area. It has strong family traditions too, with four generations of the Harrison family now involved - Audrey’s daughter Becky Carr, grandson Greg Harrison and great-grandson Daniel Harrison, aged nine (the fifth generation of ringers in the family).
No prior experience is necessary to take up this inexpensive hobby (just £10/year to belong to a guild). For more details call 01529 460316.
At the open evening on Thursday, I was guided by Greg who reminded me to keep facing forward and not look up as watching the ‘sully’ (the fluffy handle at the end of the 60 feet of bell rope) shooting up and down would soon send me dizzy. It only took a gentle yank on the end of the rope, arresting its travel for another pull. Mistiming it could have seen me heading towards the ceiling, but I was soon getting the hang of the basics, pulling one of the larger of the eight bells which date back to 1880. (There are records of bells being rung there in the 16th century.)
All the prospective ringers were taken by Greg to peep at the belfry too. Audrey said it is sociable, fun and appeals to all ages, adding: “It exercises your mind and your body.” She said there are many bell ringing enthusiasts not associated with parish churches too: in town halls or even people in their garages or homes with a rope linked to a computer.
She hoped to raise awareness as, although the village loves the bells of St Andrew’s Church, without restoration they may fall silent. The church has put in for Lottery funding for work including re-hanging the bells closer to the ringing floor to make them easier to pull - at a cost of £100,000. The Tenor Bell is the largest, weighing 2,072lbs. Each bell has a sobering inscription, the Tenor’s reads: “All that hear my mournful sound, repent before you lie in the ground”.