The Slapton Belles

At the end of January, just one of the “Slapton Belles” had completed her Learning the Ropes Level 1, and the team as a whole were just beginning to ring in rounds.

Three months on, and the team is really beginning to come together. Now seven have completed their LtR Level 1 and an eighth might have done if only a suitable date could have been found for completing the final actions and carrying out the formal assessment. These eight are now ringing pretty consistent rounds and beginning to progress into call changes. We also have a couple more at an earlier stage for whom we need to organise some one-on-one practices.

At first sight, it may be thought that we should be well into call changes by now. However, the fact is that at most practices it has just worked out that there have only been the two teachers present who are also experienced ringers. Therefore typically we have been ringing with one or two experienced ringers and five or six learners at a time. Under these circumstances, it can take some time for the rounds to settle down before we can even start to think of calling some changes.We did briefly, at the end of one practice, have six Slapton Belles ringing together for the first time.

Whilst I would agree that this is not necessarily ideal, it does mean that everyone gets plenty of rope time, which in itself is valuable experience. And we have had plenty of fun in the process!We have also done some “games”, such as whole pull and stand, then after a couple of goes we all move round one bell, until everyone has rung all the bells. This not only helps people to develop their bell control but makes sure nobody gets stuck on one bell all the time, although I think it’s fair to say the Belles are all somewhat in awe of the tenor – perhaps I ought to make it somewhat less deep set!

Team building away from Marsworth tower is also an important element. One of the coldest days of February found us all (including my dog) up the tower at Slapton inspecting the bells – followed by tea and cakes in a somewhat warmer house. In April we had a meeting in Slapton Village Hall, to which villagers were invited, to discuss ways of involving the wider community in order to satisfy Heritage Lottery Fund’s requirement for a “community involvement plan”.

Then on the final Wednesday of April, only two of the learners’ group (which included one of the Slapton Belles) were able to make the practice, so I took them along to another practice nearby, at Wingrave.They were certainly thrown in at the deep end, not just ringing on eight bells for the first time but ringing call changes on eight.It so happened that our presence helped the local team as there were only five of them present on that particular night so I was able to make up the sixth for ringing Doubles methods (with one of the resident ringers who is able to ring tenor behind but not yet ringing methods inside).

During the period of: one-on-one lessons, it had become apparent that Friday morning was a popular time. This has developed into a Friday morning practice, in which the Belles have been joined by another learner from some distance away and it seems we have now attracted another more local learner. So, on the first Friday in May we are going to another tower! OK, it’s only Mentmore with a somewhat odd-struck anti-clockwise five (which I also look after), but it’s all good experience and visiting other towers is something I am sure we will repeat from time to time.


Richard Booth