Learning The Ropes: Achievement Award

Highly Commended: Sarah Robbins

At the time of writing Sarah is 14 years old (DoB 7/11/2007). She started to ring for Ringing Remembers at the end of 2017 at Shenfield, Essex, when she had just turned 11. Shenfield is an active 6-bell tower, with mixed ages from 10 to 80, a good number of juniors and we aim for quality ringing from call changes and Kaleidoscope to basic Surprise.

Sarah made excellent progress, being taught by our tower captain, Beth Johnson. She achieved her level one in August 2018. She was soon ringing with the rest of the band for Sunday services, ringing and calling call changes and she never missed an opportunity to ring elsewhere. Ringing methods came shortly after, with a good understanding of the theory. She rang her first quarter in February 2019 and has now rung 26 quarters to date, including Plain Bob Triples, Cambridge Surprise Minor and Stedman Doubles. She is now one of the most proficient ringers in our band, enabling us to advance our ringing targets.

Following the award of her Level 5 in December 2021 she has continued to make excellent progress, ringing her first peal inside in August of this year and calling her first quarter in September. The quarter included an inexperienced ringer scoring their first quarter inside. Sarah has achieved all this, whilst maintaining a very calm and unflappable attitude. She is dedicated to ringing and supporting her Church, whilst still having interests in other activities, such as modern and ballroom dancing and is being trained to become a Guide Leader, helping with the brownies every week.

Sarah shows a lot of determination and does not allow setbacks to upset her, they just make her more determined to succeed. She is not daunted by coming up against something new. If it is a new method, for example, she will take it away and thoroughly learn it before the next practice or quarter. If it is a new tower with challenging bells, she will always give it a go. For example, she loved strapping the tenor at Liverpool Cathedral in 2019.

To celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, one of our regular visitors suggested a peal attempt for Sarah and other Shenfield ringers. To add to the challenge of it being a first peal attempt for Sarah and 2 others, it was suggested that the peal would be in five minor methods. Some of the methods were new to Sarah, and Sarah mastering her backstroke in Nov 2017 she had only rung single method quarters of minor before. A series of dedicated practices and quarters were held, with Sarah learning the methods and ringing them proficiently with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the attempt was lost over the Jubilee weekend, but Sarah was not disheartened or upset, she just wanted to know when the next attempt would be and so demonstrating her resilience. The peal was then scored at the second attempt, which Sarah rang really well with excellent striking throughout and hardly any trips. The successful peal on BellBoard is here

Sarah is keen to be involved at the local and association level. For example, she has attended training days and the Essex Ringing Course both as a student and as a helper. She attends district and association events such as AGMs and the quarterly meetings. For her development she regularly attends district practices. She now attends advanced district practices such as Surprise Major practices and those for ringing on higher numbers. She also rings at the monthly practice at Waltham Abbey where she is being mentored by Jane Walters, the Tower Captain. Here she rings, amongst other things, Stedman Cinques. She also supports new learners in the district by helping at the regular district learners’ practices.

Sarah enjoys being part of the Essex Young Eagles, the Essex Association young ringers’ group run by Christina Brewster. She was pleased to be selected as a reserve for the RWNYC competition held in Liverpool in 2019 and delighted to be named in the ringing band for Worcester in 2021 where the team were runners up, and in 2022 in Exeter where the team won the call change competition.

She rarely misses the weekly practices at Shenfield, or a Sunday service ring. In the tower she enthusiastically helps us with our teaching, and she passed the ART M1 course in April 2022, at the age of 14. She now has 2 registered students of her own, who are about to achieve their Level 1. She is an ideal role model for our youngsters, and she interacts wonderfully with all our ringers, young and old. She will take on any task such as writing an article for the district newsletter, scrambling around the bells to put ties on for our learners’ sessions or fully participating in our Bell Sunday services where we take over the running of a service with a bell ringing theme. She is currently organising the bands for our district call change competition.

Sarah also rings at Brentwood every week to help her father run the practice for learners and intermediate ringers.
Sarah has a lovely ringing style and has been involved with the making of ART bell handling videos as a subject with Graham Nabb and Beth Johnson.

In summary, Sarah is a well-rounded ringer with huge potential. If Sarah is the future of ringing, then we are in good hands. As she develops, she is also keen to put back into ringing as much as she can, evidenced by her commitment to teaching, to ART and her support of training events. Sarah is a dedicated ringer with a very bright future.

This application is endorsed by Beth Johnson (Tower Captain, Shenfield and Essex Association Education Officer), Trevor Church (EACR Southern District Master) and John Harpole (EACR Past Master). Attached to this application is a letter of endorsement from Beth Johnson and a photo montage giving an idea of Sarah’s progress.

Application endorsement

Sarah was one of our first ringers to be taught on the Learning the Ropes scheme and to move all the way through to Level 5. Her progress has been consistent over the years, moving from learning her bell handling right up to and off the scale to ring her first peal and start method calling. The whole band is proud of her, not only of her ringing skills but of her manner in the tower, quietly encouraging others, praising people’s achievements and giving those lovely little nods of help in methods, or a discreet extra call to get someone back in place during call changes. She is an example of how to behave at practices that many older ringers could learn from.

As Tower Captain, I increasingly rely on her for help with our teaching. We aim to continually improve our numbers and we also teach for other towers in our area. After taking her M1 course in April this year, Sarah is fast becoming an integral part of our teaching team, making herself available for training sessions outside our normal practice nights. She is developing a calm, unflappable teaching style, and I love hearing her characteristic, “There we go!” from across the tower as one of her learners ‘gets it’.

She is showing an interest in learning about steeple-keeping, and working in our hard-to-access bell chamber. This is just another example of her fully rounded approach to her ringing, and to turning her hand to whatever is needed in the tower.

Sarah is really allowing us to stretch our tower abilities as she is now ringing at the top end of our tower achievements – our task is to ensure that we provide her with enough opportunities to continue her skill development which will necessarily happen outside Shenfield. We can rest assured that she is becoming a desirable component of ringing at District level, as she is a pleasure to ring with and so many people appreciate what she has achieved. Sarah is a great advocate for the Learning the Ropes scheme, an example to other towers with learners starting their ringing journey.

Beth Johnson, Tower Captain at St Mary’s Shenfield.

Sponsored by the Ancient Society of College Youths


Winner: Benjy Mallard

Highly Commended: James Ellis and George Ellis, Sarah Robbins and Dominic Johnson

Nominated by: Mark Robbins