Remembrance Sunday 2018 – the centenary of Armistice Day – the end of the First World War, and for some of us a day to remember for different reasons. I had always wanted to learn the skill of bell ringing, so with that aim in mind, in May of this year I made my way to Hereford Cathedral where local bell ringers had set up a mini – ring to demonstrate what actually happens when you pull on that rope and the bell, which is usually hidden in a chamber above your head, turns through 360 + degrees and chimes out. I was invited by the tower captain, Karen Powell, of St. Bartholomew’s, Holmer, to start my apprenticeship under the watchful eye of her husband, Dave, whose career in bell ringing spans some 30 + years. I practised every Tuesday, from June to October, and eventually joined the regular ringers for their practice on a Thursday evening. I learned to ring handstroke and backstroke unaided and was just getting the hang of learning to ring rounds with the others when disaster struck – I was forced to take a break due to a car accident.
The regular ringers continued with their preparations. Experienced ringer, Hayley Clarke, had been given the task of ensuring that all the local churches which had ringable bells also had a full complement of ringers on Remembrance Sunday – no mean feat as it turned out ! But she succeeded and on Sunday November 11th church bells across the county rang out from 12.30 onwards.
Before this the team had already rung the bells muffled for the service at Holmer, before ringing open at 12.30. Then, after a photo call,
we three apprentices, Jayne Morgan, Laura Simpson, and myself joined the regular Holmer bellringers on a ride round the lanes of Herefordshire to call in on four other churches. starting at Vowchurch, in the west of the county, which has a ring of 3 bells.
Next stop was just down the road at Peterchurch. First impressions? it was so warm and cosy ! With the aid of Heritage funding, the church has become an important social space for local residents, with a café, comfy sofas to sit on, a library cum bell tower on the first floor, as well as some lovely traditional stained glass windows.
We then visited Tyberton, a small village about 3 miles west of Madley. Tyberton has an unusual red brick built church with plain windows. See if you can spot the other unusual feature in the next few photos!
Yes, that’s him – the dummy vicar who resides in the bell tower! Anyway, here we are, apprentices and old hands alike, marking the day. After Tyberton we called at Holme Lacy, a beautiful, but sadly, redundant church. When you decide to learn to ring church bells one thing you realise is that there are ladders or spiral staircases to be negotiated to get up to the ringing chambers in some churches – in Holmer we are spoilt because it is a ground tower – and I am told Herefordshire has a disproportionate number of ground towers, but eventually you face a scary ladder. Luckily, Holme Lacy’s looked scary -but wasn’t !
Holme Lacy, a beautiful church, set in the lovely Herefordshire countryside near the River Wye, boasts some unusual stained glass windows.
Our last stop was Wellington, a village, just north of Hereford, off the A49. This time it did mean wending our way up a stone spiral staircase but quite an amenable one.
This day was special – It was special to be part of it and special when you realise that this anniversary will never be repeated -the Centenary of the end of a war which happened at the beginning of the last century. My grandfather would remember it as he was one of those boy soldiers who ran away to fight, to serve his country. But with each passing generation it becomes harder to recall the sacrifice and suffering that those men endured to guarantee peace for ensuing generations. But remember we must!
It was special for me too because I am starting to achieve something I had wanted to do – to acquire a skill and help maintain a tradition which is so quintessentially English – when you hear bells ring out on a Sunday morning you think of everything that is good about England.
And …………. bell ringing is fun! Try it!