Working with Scouts and Guides

For over 30 years by far the majority of my under-16 recruits have come from Scouts or Guides. Generally speaking I find these young people have supportive parents (needed for transport) good discipline and a sense of commitment. Yes, along with many young people, they will leave to go to University but not before I have had at least five years of useful ringing out of them. I have often found that although they do not ring at University they do return to ringing sometime later in life.

Why Scouts and Guides?

Guide Companies and Scout Troops are always on the lookout for places to visit (easy meeting for leaders), they are often loosely connected to the church and meet in church halls.

Years ago both Scouts and Guides could gain the “Bell Ringers’ Badge” but this badge was phased out along with other minority-interest badges and now Scouts and Guides can gain the “Hobbies Badge” for Bell Ringing. They can have a hobbies badges for each of their hobbies.

The requirements for the Scouts Badge are:

  • Take up a hobby or interest that you do not already have an activity badge for.
  • Keep a record of your hobby for a period agreed with a member of your leadership team.

The requirements for the Guides Badge are:

  • Start a new hobby or develop an existing hobby over at least six weeks.
  • Tell your Patrol about your hobby and how long you have been interested in it. If possible, show examples of a collection or things you have made, or demonstrate what your hobby involves.
  • Explain the skills needed to pursue your hobby and what you have learned.
  • Discover more about your hobby by reading a book, visiting an exhibition, watching a TV programme or talking to someone else with the same hobby. Tell your Patrol or unit what you found out.

As can be seen from the requirements a hobby like bell ringing is a lot more complex and difficult than most hobbies a Scout or Guide might take up. The badge is never the reason they take up bell ringing but it does provide an early opportunity for achievement. I have never had a Guide leave after their 6 weeks.


Recruitment of Scouts and Guides usually starts with a request by one of the local groups to visit our tower, or if I am short of recruits I approach them.

We now have a set pattern for these visits which take place on their usual meeting night. The meetings last 90 minutes and I usually set a maximum of 24 people. We start with a welcome and introduce our team, making sure we have a good mix of ages present. We show selected clips from the “Craft of Bell Ringing” DVD (10 minutes max). We then split into 3 groups and rotate around 3 bases lasting 20 minutes each.

In the ringing room

  1. Quick safety talk. One bell amongst the eight is up and dangerous to touch, can they guess which? Use model bell – demonstrate.
  2. Chiming the bells – we are lucky to have sound control.
  3. Demonstration on up bell, show two strokes and setting in 2 positions.
  4. Clapping the sally on a bell half up and if good taking the bell up to ring a proper handstroke.

In another room

  1. Introduction to Call changes and Plain Hunt.
  2. Game using first 8 months of year on cards – team to get them into alphabetical order by moving as in call changes. E.g. first move might be March over April, then February over April.
  3. Then using worksheets fill in the calls to get 8 bells into Queens, Whittingtons and Tittums.
  4. Walk Plain Hunt on 6 or 8 using cards for places on the floor and cards in their hands telling them their bell number.
  5. Write out Plain Hunt on 6 on squared paper, join up numbers with coloured pens.

With hand bells

  1. Using 6 or 8 hand bells ring rounds – if possible use up handstroke, down backstroke.
  2. Ring Queens, Whittingtons & Tittums – mainly by pointing at each person when they should ring. Try this first with your ringers and get used to the patterns you need to point out.
  3. Make sequences – up down in Rounds, up down in Queens, up down in rounds, up and down in Whittingtons, up down in rounds etc.
  4. If all these go well it is often possible to ring Plain Hunt with each person ringing the bell down the line moving and ringing next stroke. Kids move quickly and soon get the hang of this particularly if they have just come from base 2.

Return to a plenary session talking about how long it takes to learn to ring, time of our practice and any questions.

I then usually ask those interested to go home talk to parents and then tell their leader who passes details to me. I do talk about ringing for service on Sundays. I tell them that I realise there are family events, days out and holidays. I do not expect them 52 weeks of the year but I do expect them there when they can, and not lying in bed when they could be ringing. I tell them about weddings and the fact that they get paid for weddings once they are good enough.

If a lot are interested, I take 2 or 3 at a time, the oldest first, taking the next 2 or 3 when the first group can ring Rounds. For the first 3 weeks, I try to arrange an extra practice between practice nights so 6 lessons in 3 weeks usually has them handling safely on their own. Up to 3 months for ringing reasonable rounds. I have never lost potential ringers due to asking them to wait.

Gill Hughes, Belper


New Bell Ringing badge awarded to scouts at Royal Cornwall Show

In a major initiative to involve the 2,200 plus cubs and scouts in Cornwall with our rural churches Bishop Chris St Germans (the Right Reverend Christopher Goldsmith) with Annie Holland President of the Truro Guild of Ringers and the Cornwall Scout leaders presented the new scout ‘Bell Ringers’ activities badge at the Churches Together tent at the Royal Cornwall Show.

Our badge is slightly different in that we have taken the process a step further and developed a specific bell ringing badge with the Cornwall Scout movement. The guild of ringers is sponsoring the badge which is basically our guild badge symbol.

Our aim is to enable as wide a range of scouts and cubs to obtain the badge, it is accessible and you can get it through hand chimes, hand bells, mini ring, dumbbell with simulators and tower bells and will be extended to the Guide movement. The criteria are set out for each instrument.

It is a six week welcome to the world of bell ringing badge following the scout movement criteria, and our aim is to entice some of its participants into our world. As a guild we recognise that young people in bell ringing are significantly under-represented and this is one of a string of highly successful initiatives to redress this issue.

Of all of the routes so far the mini-ring is the most popular, with many then progressing to dumbbell and to tower bells.

Of course mini-rings are not that common but our cubs and scouts have traveled significant distances to ring on the one at Bradoc (the only church with mini rings and dumbbells in Cornwall) and many having taken the badge are now learning at their own towers, which of course is great news.

We have many styles of ringing down here and we are careful not chose any particular style, and those who learn to ring with us at Bradoc are taught in the style of the tower they will ring in so that they are comfortable continuing to ring in those towers. As a guild it is important that we do our best to preserve our bell ringing heritage.

It was developed by the Bradoc ringers and the St Mabyn scout group.

It has taken a long time to develop and we are constantly reviewing how it is working, but we are very pleased with the take up and the reaction of the young ringers and their parents some of whom have also started to learn to ring.

Robert Pearce, Truro Guild of Ringers

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