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Solemnity, celebration – and sometimes just fun! A bellringing insight by our own Tower Captain, Val

You expect to hear the bells ringing on Sunday before the usual services – but ringing at noon is out of the ordinary. So it was on the first Sunday in June when a band of Northchurch ringers gathered to remember Robert Allen with affection and respect.

As a young lad, Robert had learnt to ring at St Mary’s in the ‘50s but his working life took him away from the area, and from ringing.

Retirement brought him back less than 10 years ago and Robert discovered that ringing is indeed like riding a bike: once you’ve learned, you never forget how to do it. Robert was the most regular of Sunday ringers – and the most conscientious clock-winder!

Those bells ringing at noon heralded the scattering of Robert’s ashes in the churchyard, a simple ceremony attended by a score of friends from near and far.

Bells on Saturdays at this time of year often celebrate a wedding, half an hour before the service and for 20 minutes afterwards. Different timings will tell you the bride was late! Ringing for a wedding is definitely for celebration.

If you hear the bells ringing for nearly 50 minutes nonstop, that will be a quarter peal. At the end of May, some ringers from elsewhere in the county came as part of their ambition to ring a quarter peal at every tower in Hertfordshire. Two QPs a week will do it! This may not sound much like fun to you, but bellringers enjoy a challenge ....

What about Monday practice nights? People who enjoy their hobbies, sports, or leisure activities generally regard them as fun. But there is also a serious side to our regular practice. The ringers are learning and practising to ring something new or something tricky. Amongst supportive friends, everyone takes delight in mastery of some new skill.

The overall result is that the standard of our Sunday ringing also improves.

Valerie Clark, Tower Captain

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