A delightful personal account of learning to ring at Carlisle Cathedral.

Why didn’t I try this years ago?

Following a Tower tour, a chat with the ringers and the leaving of my email address, there I was a matter of weeks later as one of the latest bellringing ‘learners’!

We started as a group of 3 for our first lesson and were introduced to our one-to-one teachers that day, who would guide and train us in the art of bell handling and control, hopefully with the outcome being to be able to ring and join the band.

Learning progressed and I was able to commit to 2 lessons a week. The lessons were well structured, with the first ones all to do with handling the rope with the aim of being able to control the bell. Hmm, it looked so easy….

This is where I found the one-to-one tuition invaluable. It’s just you and your teacher, so you don’t get performance anxiety and the teachers are so supportive, patient and calm with wonderful teaching skills. Some weeks I grew frustrated with myself, but my teacher and his humour and patience ensured that lessons were enjoyable as well as progressive. The day that I finally was able to ring the bell, handstroke and backstroke on my own, I beamed like the Cheshire Cat!

It can be the most frustrating and exhilarating thing to learn to do, often with both feelings in short succession, but I can honestly say that during all my lessons, there was never a day when I thought ‘That’s it, I can’t do it, I give up’.

Then comes the giddy day that you can join the band practice…  because let’s be honest, ringing on your own is fine but that’s not you signed up for, it’s the joyful sound of those bells ringing out that you want to participate in! My legs were shaking, palms sweaty… But the lessons and the ‘muscle memory’ that you learned in those weeks, months of one-to-one lessons kick in. And you can do it, albeit hesitantly at first. And yes, I made mistakes (still do) but you join a band where the camaraderie, support, guidance and encouragement you then receive from all the teachers, not just your own, and the other ringers just carries you on.

And the learning doesn’t stop. It’s going to be a long but enjoyable and rewarding journey – it starts with call changes, then progresses; counting, knowing your place, hearing your bell, ropesight, methods, and on and on it merrily goes.

I’ve been privileged to now ring on 12 bells for services, half muffled for Remembrance Sunday, and at Christmas and New Year. Plus, I’m a member of a fantastic band of people with the added bonus of plenty of a good natter and a coffee afterwards.

Sarah Steel