When lockdown regulations and periodic relaxations have allowed over the past 18 months, we have managed to toll the tenor or ring up to 3 of our 6 bells for several local occasions and national commemorations, most recently to mark the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh in April this year.
At Easter we decided that three tower bells just did not sound joyful enough so we dusted off our long-unused set of handbells* and rang outside the church on Easter day. We carried on ringing handbells (enthusiastically but by no means perfectly) before Sunday morning services and have found that it has been a very useful way of promoting awareness and interest in the bells among parishioners and also more widely, with an article written for the local ‘Merrow Matters’ magazine leading to a couple of enquiries from people about learning to ring. We hope to be able to invite potential new recruits along as soon as distancing allows.
Several members of the Merrow band also joined the Leatherhead District Ringing Room practices which ran throughout the summer and we thank Jenny Heyworth for her good humour and patience in leading the sessions. Our attempts in Ringing Room and with handbells have been a great way of staying in touch as a band and have certainly helped to reinforce the concept of counting your places. All we have to do is to remember to apply this now that we are back in the tower…
Since the relaxation of restrictions in July, we are pleased to say that we have been able to ring all six bells on Sunday mornings and have had a very good turn-out at Tuesday evening practices. Initially cautious, we limited the length of ringing time and the number of people in our small ringing room during practices, taking turns to swap over between a group of three or four of us up in the tower and another group enjoying the sunshine and ringing handbells in the church car park. These precautions have now been eased but we are continuing to wear face masks whilst ringing for the time being.
We are now ringing for longer on Sundays and Tuesdays and gradually reviving those dormant muscles. We’re grateful to Mike Bale for his support at practices over the past few weeks and feel that as a band we are well on the way to getting back to where we were pre-lockdown. Like many other towers, we have a greater than usual number of much-delayed weddings to ring for over the summer. We are very happy to be back!
Lynn Boniface 29/08/2021
* Our set of JT handbells is not only long-unused but it is also incomplete – we’re missing a number 9(B) bell so please get in touch if you have one to spare.