Teenagers represent Berkshire in national bell-ringing contest

wargrave berkshire bell-ringing
Matthew Steele, 17 and Helen Ricketts, 13 at St Marys Church, Twyford.They're wearing their medals awarded at the contest

Two secondary school students had a great ding dong of a day, representing Berkshire in a national bell ringing contest.

For 13-year-old Helen Ricketts from Twyford it was her first ringing competition. Also in the team was Matthew Steele, 17, from Charvil. They’re both students at The Piggott School, Wargrave and ring at St Marys Church, Twyford.

They were part of the eight strong team from Berkshire and Buckinghamshire who went to Worcester for the Ringing World National Youth Contest last Saturday.

Their first ring was at the magnificent Worcester Cathedral, dating back to 1084. Helen, a little daunted at first, said: “I enjoyed it once we got going. It was a massive day out, bell ringing in lots of different churches.”

The team rang in six places. The competition tower was at St Martin-in-the-Cornmarket. “It was my very first ringing competition. The bells were lovely, they rang really well. They weren’t too heavy or too light. It went pretty well,” said Helen.

“We didn’t win the trophy but we had a great time and had lots more experience.”

Matthew explained how the competition was organised.

“We started off ringing in rounds, the smallest bell starting and then the others ringing in size order going up.

“Then we started call changes where the conductor calls out switches in the order of ringing.”

He and Helen took part earlier in the Bucks and Berks Young Ringers’ practices and were then invited to join the team for the contest.

“It’s always an education ringing in new towers. Every tower has bells that feel and sound different. We had very few practices, only starting in May because of Covid. There are quite a lot of young ringers in our area including at Twyford, Wargrave and Waltham St Lawrence,” added Matthew.

The team’s organiser Peter Jasper was pleased with Helen’s first contest performance. “She has been taught so well at Twyford she was able to find ringing at one of the country’s great cathedrals relatively straightforward.

“The contest really boosts ringers’ confidence. Someone sent me a message saying: ‘You may not have won but it looked like you were all having way more fun than the other groups.’ Matt is a very experienced ringer. He was mentoring some of the younger ringers during the contest.”

Mr Jasper hopes to organise a trip to ring in the city of London churches. The Bucks and Berks Young Ringers practices are open to any ringers under 18.

There are more than 6,711 English churches with the traditional rope and wheel bells. There are 227 in Wales, 23 in Scotland, 39 in the island of Ireland, two on the Isle of Man and 147 others worldwide.

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