This project is run by the Ringers and PCC’s of St Mary Bradoc, St Winnow and Lerryn Primary School, situated in a sparsely populated part of rural south-east Cornwall.
Three years ago, we approached the school to see if they would become partners in an exciting programme to promote bell ringing in Cornwall, to grow and make viable our churches of St Mary Bradoc and St Winnow and also other churches in the benefice and diocese, to raise the profile and promote the school in the community, and to use the knowledge gained to involve other schools in our benefice and across the diocese and show that bell ringing is fun and share our learning with the Truro Diocesan Guild of Ringers.
Our link to the school and the year 4,5 and 6 pupils’ achievements and their community participation has given us the ability to get matched funding for our project as it has developed with the backing of our PCC’s, Guild, Diocese and School. It has enabled us to purchase hand chimes, a portable 8 bell ring, Bagley simulator, computer projection and large screen for virtual ringers, Beltower and Abel software, a full-sized dumbbell and this year as a direct result of this project St Winnow PCC have installed a very fine 3-3-5cwt ring of 10 accessible bells specifically so they can be easily rung by very young and old.
The reason for the nomination is to demonstrate how two small churches and a small school have engaged with young people and their parents and had fun, how they have influenced and got the backing of, and grown our profiles in our community. How we have expanded our programme from one school to three, and we have engaged in the larger community through civil and church weddings, devised and developed the unique Cornish Scout Badge with the Cornwall Scout Group launched this year by the Bishop.
We have promoted ringing across the diocese and West and North Devon through ‘the churches together marquee at the royal Cornwall show’, the BBC ‘Make Music Day, the St Winnow Way Pilgrimage and the Children in need ‘Appeal for Pudsey’ and used blogs, television, radio and the Press. At the same time the ringers young and old have raised funds through the mini ring and invested in our church at Bradoc to improve our church heating and ‘go’ of our existing bells.
We have realised that the necessary funding can be obtained often through Diocesan matched funding and grants as the project progresses so that even the smallest church, such as St Mary Bradoc which has the least population (126) of any church with bells (5) in Cornwall, and no villages, pubs or amenities can engage with one of the Counties smallest schools (22 Pupils) and make a difference, and become the best equipped centre of ringing in the County. We have also experienced that mums at School will help as volunteers and become leaders themselves and that Child Protection and Safety is something we can embrace and not consider onerous.
For the last three years we have considered ourselves to be the St Mary Bradoc, Lerryn School and St Winnow Bell Ringers. The project was devised between two small rural churches linking with a small rural church of England school and we meet each Friday morning in term time with 15 of the pupils
Our links with the school have enabled a small rural church at Bradoc population 126 with five bells to create a state of the art teaching centre and install 10 new bells at St Winnow.
As our relationship with the school has developed and our needs increased we have been able to attract matched funding from the Diocese. In this way we purchased our first set of hand chimes, our portable mini ring, and our full-sized dumbbell. It has given our PCC’s and individuals the confidence to invest in our project, to purchase a Bagley simulator for our tower bells and dumbbell and invest in our other equipment such as the relevant software Beltower and Abel, and equipment to project virtual ringers onto a large screen. This has enabled a five-bell tower to teach at any level and with any number of bells in the safest possible environment.
Our teaching experiences have rethought how we teach our ringers of all ages minimising the risk of mishap and utilising the available technology. They are given an introductory booklet which deals with their safety, both physical and their protection as vulnerable people and enabling them to record their progress.
Learning first on the portable bells gives the concept of how we ring and a visual account of what they are doing. This enables learners to quickly develop their skills into ‘consultation call changes’ where the young ringers are given the principles of changes. They ring and stop and discuss what went wrong, put it right and ring again, just as they do at school.In this way they quickly learn to call and put right call changes on eight bells.
From the mini ring they move to the dumbbell which allows them time to develop rope time and style with the minimum risk. With an elastic stay and little momentum, the risk of injury from any mishap is minimised. When they have rung with the dumbbell and simulator they have the timing and understanding to ring in rounds, cover etc, and they have had sufficient rope time to ring on the tower bells.This has revolutionised our teaching of all of our learners particularly those who are young or old.
Just as we started our project we received the bad news from the structural engineer at St Winnow that we could no longer ring our bells due to the recurrent structural problems with the tower. The options included St Winnow permanently ceasing to be a ringing tower. From this adversity came the decision by the PCC based on our success with young ringers from the school to install new bells lower in the tower. We discussed with the bell hanger/founder the best way we could complement our project and meet the structural engineer’s criteria with bells that could be easily rung by young ringers. The result is our very fine 3-3-05 cwt easy to ring and musical ring of ten bells each containing Cornish Tin and Copper and pennies given by each pupil at Lerryn School. We have kept our old bells and fitted an electronic chime.
For three years Lerryn School have had the only band of school bell ringers in Cornwall. In that time they have rung with our portable 8 bells at Truro Cathedral for the TDGR Bells Open day, and for the Schools parent Academy biennial service with all of the academy schools in attendance again at Truro Cathedral, recognition from both of these bodies of the importance of our project.
Each year the school permits the school ringers to ring at the three-day Royal Cornwall Show. This is one of the premier agricultural shows in the UK with an attendance 130,000 (cf Cornwall’s 530,000 population) and an ideal venue to promote bell ringing. In the first year having given a presentation on making small rural churches viable and growing our churches to the Deanery Synod we were invited by the Churches Together Team to set up the portable bells on their premier site at the show and promote bell ringing across Devon and Cornwall. We have done this for the past two years with an invitation to come back next year again a recognition by all the church groups of the value of us being there.
Being there is very important for the project, it is an audible and visual demonstration to the public and press that you can have fun at church, the site is free to us, in a prime place. There is a waiting list for stands at the show, and the cost of a stand to a small church would be prohibitive. The bells ring all day, each day and every day, with ringers, non-ringers, and lapsed ringers of all ages being taught and guided by our young ringers. It is important to have young ringers on the stand as they make all the difference in communication with groups of similar ages. We were top of the attractions list in the local newspapers this year.
June saw the launch by the Bishop of St Germans and our Guild President of our unique and highly successful Scout and Cub badge developed in 2016/17 by us with help from children from Lerryn School and St Mabyn Scout group. We see scouts and cubs from across central Cornwall coming to Bradoc to undertake this badge. We have shared our experience with ARTs the backing of the Guild and Cornwall Scout Group. This badge which was devised with the help of St Mabyn Scout group and members of the school is an outcome of the mini ring being at the show in 2016.
Each year we try and incorporate some of the CCCBR initiatives into our programme and this year ‘BBC Make Music day’ saw Lerryn School Parents Association, Lerryn River Stores, and St Winnow PCC put on an evening event on the Green with a marquee, the portable bells, chimes and barbeque attended by Lerryn School pupils, and two packs of cubs. We had 56 bell ringing children and over 150 of the general public, on a balmy evening ringing and singing on the banks of the river Lerryn, the venue for Wind in the Willows raising funds for the school and bell appeal.
For Children in Need we took the portable ring to Lerryn school and the pupils rang ‘a peal for Pudsey’, with call changes on eight called by one of the pupils. (they can all call into queens) and the children made stalls and games.
We also ring at the summer and Christmas school fetes.
While we have been raising funds for our new bells at St Winnow the school have also been helping one of our neighbouring towers in our benefice at St Veep raise funds to repair their historic maiden peal of six Pennington bells. Again, the school have supported their fund raising from the beginning, using the portable bells and chimes in a concert at the church to raise funds initially. This year on the return of the bells (cracks having been welded and new frame) the school pupils acted in a play written by the secretary of the tower about their casting which included the pupils ringing our tone chimes.
February saw each of our school pupils at Lerryn bring a penny to school to be taken to the bell foundry to be incorporated in our new ten bells. August bank holiday Monday saw our annual pilgrimage from Bradoc, via Boconnoc and St Nectan Churches to St Winnow where our new bells were rung for the first time. Over 200 people walked the 5.6 miles, including ringers from all over the country who joined us. This was recorded in an interview on BBC television Spotlight South West and in the local press including a beautiful article in Cornwall Today. Here we were having fun and raising funds for Cornwall Historic Churches Trust and our two churches.
All of our exploits involve our volunteer helpers, particularly their parents. Teaching or transporting the children to the churches requires considerable dedication. It would not be possible without the dedication of the mums who have helped and lead the projects. Whether it is supervising the ringers for demonstrations at the school summer and winter fayres, or when they ring at services and school functions.
Each year our young ringers have appeared on television, radio and radio video blogs promoting bell ringing and this year is no exception, see Royal Cornwall, St Winnow new bells, make music day and Children in need.
Taking the portable bells to weddings and functions across the Diocese allows our young ringers to perform in public and also to raise funds to improve our church facilities for both the ringers and the general congregation. This year sees us updating the heating systems to improve our experience in church as well as funding to make the go of our bells better. The whole experience at St Winnow has seen the removal of the tower screen and moving the organ so that the ringers and the congregation are one. Our aim is to be one congregation, supporting and benefiting everyone in the church with a ground floor ring accessible to all. We have also installed a permanent cctv/screen so that the congregation can see what happens when you ring our bells, a lesson learned from the mini ring.
Every Friday we ring either at Lerryn School or use the facilities at St Mary Bradoc.
September 2017 saw us expanding our scheme to include children at two other primary schools, St Winnow year 4,5 and 6 on Tuesday afternoons and an after-school club on Mondays at Braddock school situated in the neighbouring benefice.
Our aim is to have safe accessible ringing and we have installed the hardware to make this possible. Our bells are accessible to a wide range of abilities.
We have looked at and invested in the safety of how we teach and that those who are taught are safe, with suitable DBS checks done on the seventeen who help.
2017 saw the launch of the Scout and Cub Badge, the casting and installation of the new bells at St Winnow, Make music and Children in Need days.
The lessons learned from St Mary Bradoc have been used in the design of the ground floor installation at St Winnow with an open tower to involve our congregations.
We reach out to three schools and the scout and cub movement. Our future plans are to extend this again to the Guiding Movement. Through the year this has involved some 60 pupils and 40 cubs and scouts. At the Royal Cornwall Show many tens of thousands of people will see the ring and probably about 800 of these will have a ring over the three days. Similarly, at weddings where we use the portable ring each of the guests sees us and can have a ring will have typically 60 to 100 guests.
Our other aim is of course to keep our own ringing team topped up and to encourage those we meet to ring in their own towers. Three of the five youngest to ring quarters in the Diocese have done so with us. Two of our older young ringers have achieved their bronze and silver Duke of Edinburgh’s awards through bell ringing in the last three years. The new ten bells are making a significant impact on our ringing and opportunities for our all of our ringers particularly the young who can easily ring each of the bells. Our youngest tower bell ringer is six and our oldest in their seventies. We have ringers of every age group and have significantly increased the congregations of both of our churches.
The project has the support of the school, the parents, and the academy
Our initial aim was make the population aware of bell ringing as an activity and as a result to grow our two churches and improve their viability and to take this out across the diocese. This has been our significant success.
The new bells at St Winnow have opened a new world of opportunity for everyone associated with the project.