The Winchester & Portsmouth Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers is an active guild, representing bell ringers across Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and east Dorset.  

Alton & Petersfield District is our home area with 23 active ringing bell towers, each with their own separate teams of ringers.  

We support many church occasions and are often to be found helping out at other towers to make up teams for, say, weddings, special services or other occasions. Over the past two years we have found ourselves marking the Duke of Edinburgh’s passing and funeral, we rang for the Queen’s Jubilee, and then her death and the accession of King Charles III.   

Along with most church towers in our kingdom, we are now preparing to ring for his coronation in May. 

Of course, we also have a fair amount of contact with the other W&P districts, which are Andover, Basingstoke, Christchurch & Southampton, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Winchester.  

Towers arrange special outing days when we visit approximately five towers to ring their bells, or to welcome ringers from other areas to our own towers so they can do the same.  

So far in 2023, we’ve received four requests to ring at Blackmoor and we held  a district practice of “advanced minor methods” on the afternoon of Saturday, February 11. 

At Blackmoor last year we were thrilled to welcome a groom and his parents from up north, enabling them to ring for their son’s wedding day – that made the occasion very special for all of us present.

For our Christmas outing in December, ringing started at the four-bell Ellacombe Chime at Farringdon, followed by Bishop’s Sutton (five bells), Old Alresford (six bells) and New Alresford (eight bells). 

Many thanks to each of these towers for allowing us to ring.  

Overall, nearly 50 district members attended, and we all agreed it was lovely to spend time with a great bunch of people.  

Particular thanks to the amazing Jess Hornsby, Judy Sparling, Matt Watts, Andy Sparling and Roger Barber for doing such a fantastic job of planning and running the ringing, and providing the support that enabled ringers at every level of experience to have a great time.

Thanks also to our excellent district chairman Simon Poyser, whose idea it was. 

As an added extra, some of us even managed to see the Watercress Line trains that evening, beautifully lit for the festive season.

Once hooked on bell ringing, you suddenly realise holidays can be designed around attending practice nights at local towers, enabling people to “bag” towers – yes, there is even an app that allows you to record visits!  

Discovering ringing has been a wonderful thing for me, as I’ve inadvertently found a welcoming community of diverse backgrounds and experiences – many of whom have become my “family”.

While some ringers were fortunate to have started at a young age (from ten upwards, as long as you are at least one metre tall), many only find the time when reducing working hours and being able to search out new hobbies.  

As well as keeping fit and healthy, it’s also like learning a new language – certainly a way to stretch the mind and body, without needing to be overly strong physically.  

It’s all about technique, not strength, and being part of a team effort. 

Ringing alongside others, there is a huge satisfaction and sense of achievement to be had when succeeding in placing your bell accurately within a sequence of, say, six bells and then repeating it at least 100 times!  

Looking to the future, at the Blackmoor Apple Day on Sunday, October 8, A&P District are planning on hosting a mini ring of six bells which the public will be invited to try out for a small donation. This is a first at Blackmoor!  

Experienced ringers will be on hand to support and carefully help people to have a go. You never know – if you are intrigued by the challenge, you may then decide to move up to a real tower with heavy metal bells!  

And if you aren’t tempted to get involved, why not join one of our tower tours on the day? We hope to see you then.

Debbie Matthias

Tower secretary, 

St Matthew’s,  Blackmoor & Whitehill