Island Life – by Helen McGregor

The most southerly ART Ringing Centre in the UK is on the delightful island of Alderney. With a population varying between only 1300 and 1500, depending on the season, front doors are not locked, cars are parked with keys in, bank tellers have no glass screens, passengers on the flights/ferry to Guernsey/UK embark by first name, parking is free island-wide, milk is sold from a machine dispensing it into the customer’s own receptacle, cars stop to talk to drivers coming the other way, items lost are found and handed in, drivers routinely offer lifts to pedestrians, pedestrians routinely accept lifts from drivers, volunteers man the very successful cinema, library, museum, ambulance and fire service – and the lifeboat of course.

This photo was taken in St Anne’s belfry, Alderney – which we visited during the week. L-R: June Banister, Philippa Arditti, Lynne Sydes, Niels Benatar, Helen McGregor, Ziggy Jenkins, Aileen Wilson, Philip Geary and Chris Lamb. The peal board for the record length is visible at top centre.

St Anne’s, Alderney, is home to the 13cwt 12-bell ring made famous by the 25056 changes of Bristol Surprise Maximus rung in October 2017 – the longest peal yet rung on twelve. Considerably less well known is the Channel Islands’ Ringing Centre – home to Wells Bells, a 3cwt 8-bell ring, a Higby simulator and a set of handbells. Five novice ringers recently spent a week here on Alderney ‘improving’ their ringing. We had sessions on handling, and changes were called at handstroke, at backstroke, and by place.They were called by students initially outside the circle and eventually while ringing too. We had fun with kaleidoscope ringing and Mexican wave, flipping from rounds to reverse rounds. Leading was perfected by hunting on five from 6th’s place down to 2nd’s and back so that the turnaround at the front was lying over a bell permanently leading. We walked Plain Hunt, we moved playing cards around the table top to emulate Plain Hunt, we ‘fired’ the bells in the rhythm of Plain Hunt. We rang Cloisters with students on the hunting bells & tenor cover – with both a Grandsire start and a Plain Bob start. By the end of the week the students were very happy plain hunting on five even when the bells had been swapped out of Rounds for the start.•

This photo was taken at Wells Bells, the ART Ringing Centre on Alderney. L-R: Chris Lamb, Helen McGregor, Philip Geary, Aileen Wilson, Lynne Sydes, Niels Benatar and Ziggy Jenkins

Having all day access to a really easy peal of bells, a simulator and a set of handbells, a friendly group of helpers and willing class of students, we just went from strength to strength. A donation of £90 for ART was collected from the students at the end of the course.Readers may be interested to know that there are no residency restrictions on Alderney and that anyone entitled to reside in the UK can buy a house here. Even if you don’t move here you should spend at least one holiday here! St Anne’s practise on Saturdays from 10am to 12 Noon and Monday evenings 5-7pm,followed by curry. Wells Bells practise on Wednesdays from 4-5:30pm, with handbells on Tuesdays.Helen McGregor and husband Peter Bevis own and operate both the Tulloch Ringing Centre near Fort William and the Channel Islands’ Ringing Centre on Alderney. They see access to easy-to-ring, fully available peals of bells and simulators as key to the resurgence of ringing. Both are proud to be members of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths, but see the provision of first class teaching facilities and a fun, stress-free learning environment as their greatest contribution to ringing. Both Helen and Peter are keen handbell ringers too – though their enthusiasm outweighs their abilities 🙁

Helen explaining plain hunt to Alderney improvers

Future courses will be advertised in Tower Talk and on and – no dates yet set for 2020

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