Centuries old tradition of bellringing alive and kicking in Derbyshire

Peter Steele, James Bishop, Peter Pitkin, Margaret Crofts, Rev John Drackley and Brian Legood

Peter Steele, James Bishop, Peter Pitkin, Margaret Crofts, Rev John Drackley and Brian Legood

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For those who have over-indulged over the festive period, the first weeks of the New Year are often a time when new diets are taken up and gym memberships are purchased.

However, according to one Derbyshire group, a centuries-old English tradition could provide the answer they are looking for.

The ringers in action

The ringers in action

It is cheaper than the gym, easier than a diet, helps keep people mentally active and is a very social activity as well, with groups enjoying a vibrant scene after practices and performances.

The Rev Clive Thrower, of Ashford-in-the-Water, near Bakewell, explains: “Bell-ringing stretches the mind as well as the body, provides a great cardiovascular workout, is a hobby enjoyed in any weather and is far cheaper than paying membership fees at any gym.”

The reverend is President of the Derby Diocesan Association of Church Bell Ringers, which boasts 145 churches and around 600 ringers in all parts of the county.

Ringers throughout the UK travel to Derbyshire to take advantage of its rich range of bells with the churches at Youlgreave, Melbourne, Derby Cathedral and Chesterfield’s being particularly popular.

St Giles Matlock

St Giles Matlock

And the fact that Derbyshire now has two specialist teaching centres and a programme to develop teaching skills has led to a renewed interest in the county, according to membership secretary, Peter Jenkinson.

Peter, 69, of Tansley Road, North Wingfield, said: “Virtually anyone can enjoy ringing church bells and you don’t even have to be a regular church member to take part.

“We are always happy to help anyone interested. Bell-ringing is a great hobby.

“Pulling the rope is not particularly strenuous and in terms of remembering the patterns or ‘methods’ as we call them it is a great activity for people mentally as well.

Peter Pitkin climbing the ancient staircase to the ringers room in the tower

Peter Pitkin climbing the ancient staircase to the ringers room in the tower

“We have people who are well into their 80s and even 90s who are still ringing.”

However, Peter says that as well as the physical and mental benefits, the hobby is great for people socially as well.

“We go to the pub after we finish practices and performances to enjoy each other’s company and the real ale!

“And every year we have an annual dinner with last year’s being a ceilidh with a fish and chip supper.

Brian Legood high in the belfry

Brian Legood high in the belfry

Also, no matter where they go in the UK, Peter says ringers can be assured of a warm welcome.

“I recently visited my daughter near Newcastle and joined in with a crew up there which was great.”

And the result of the upsurge in interest Peter identifies is already being seen among younger ringers in the county. A team of teenagers from the county recently took part in a Ringing World Youth Contest in Oxford and were honoured with a grade ‘A’ award, being placed joint second of the 19 teams in the ‘Call Change’ category.

“They are the next generation who will be the ones who keep bell-ringing going in the future,” says Peter. “It is the most English of traditions and one we really need to preserve but we always need to get new people involved to make sure we do.”

Further information about bell ringing is available from Peter at learn2ring2016@derbyda.org.uk, on 01246 856057 or via the website www.derbyda.org.uk.

The striker inside one of the historic bells

The striker inside one of the historic bells

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