Developing Dorset

Last year 23 new ART Members joined from Dorset and this article endeavours to identify the road to our success and explain how ringers in Dorset are looking to a bright and positive future.

It all began with a lucky break when the Dorset County Association managed to secure a small grant towards encouraging local activities within a 7 mile radius of Dorchester.

Jane Pridmore receiving grant at Dorchester Town Hall

This funding enabled us to pay for 18 local ringers to attend two Module 1 day courses at Charminster. The success of these courses led to the funding of 8 places on a Module 2C day at Piddlehinton for ringers who had been accredited to M1 and wanted to develop their skills for teaching all their new learners and novices!

Nationally there appears to be a low take-up of teachers to accreditation. So, why have our courses resulted in a higher take up than elsewhere? Did the fact that they had been paid for mean that those involved felt an obligation to complete and gain accreditation? Was it that Dorset with many heavy six bell village towers is aware that encouraging local recruits always requires new ideas and innovations? We believe one of the key factors is to ensure ringers are mentored effectively, so as to avoid drop out. Our local ART Assessor, Alan Bentley, was kept busy going round to see so many learners with their teachers. Mentors ensured that once ready, Alan was booked to come and see two or three teachers all on the same evening, so that they did the assessment in a tower that was not necessarily their own. However, as we all know, one of the benefits of the LtR Scheme is that a learner can go into any tower and (under supervision) ring the bell up from the down position whilst demonstrating good handling. Alan has also been very clear before his visits on what is required for teachers to pass their assessments and his support has been invaluable.

Taking a tea break during one of our courses at Charminster

Through Ringing Remembers and the introduction of LtR there are many newly formed bands up and running. A block of six visits by a team of ART teachers to a tower requesting support has enabled those who are new to ringing to move on quickly and enthusiastically whilst maintaining interest. Martinstown, Hilton and Puddletown have all started bands from scratch, whilst the latter has ten recruits (trained by a team of teachers one of whom is Dorchester Guild Ringing Master Robin Mears). Amazingly, after four months they now have a band that can ring decently struck rounds and call changes for Sunday Services at a tower where there have been no ringers for ten years! It is also noticeable that towers implementing the LtR ideas are sustaining and increasing their numbers, whilst those following a more traditional approach locally have ringers still trying to get into rounds after two years of learning.

Excerpt from Puddletown Parish Magazine

Our Young Ringers, under the guidance of Hilary Child, meet on a regular basis for weekend socials and ringing experiences throughout the county. At Piddlehinton, Tower Captain Richard Ellis (also using LtR) has recruited several adults over the past two years and also has 7 junior ringers in his band!

Finally, focus has been given to those towers where all their ringers are predominantly beginners or novices within LtR and have no experienced ringers to teach method ringing. As a trial, we ran a set of four ‘one off’ Saturday morning sessions entitled “Rounds into Plain Hunt”, “Plain Hunt with Confidence”, “Plain Hunt into Plain Bob”, and “Plain Bob with Confidence”. The purpose of these was for teachers to gain teaching experiences with a group of ringers at these stages of learning. The sessions, hosted by John Close at Winterborne Whitechurch, saw 5 teachers and 12 novices meet for 2 hours to work on the simulator. In this way everyone involved gained valuable experience and the neighbours were not disturbed! Feedback has been very positive. Resulting from this initiative several ringers have rung quarter peals for the Salisbury Guild ‘Firsts’ Week 2019.

Meanwhile, to the east of the county, Debbie Phipps has set her ringers at Lytchett Matravers a Challenge of learning to ring Plain Bob over a series of Saturday morning “tours” to local towers. Again experienced ringers have been there to support and stand by whilst the novices develop their ringing skills. This has also proved to be an excellent fund raising initiative for the tower. Finally, to the west of the County interest in LtR is spreading and there are now regular Saturday morning sessions on the simulator at Bradpole led by Training Officer Sue Carter.

Some of the Dorset LtR Ringers with their certificates

So where do we go next? It is clear that good mentoring is vital to the success of gaining teacher accreditation, so the aim is to encourage teachers who are enthusiastic and have the right skills to be more confident about becoming mentors and there are thoughts of setting up an annual gathering of teachers to provide support, sharing of ideas and new initiatives. Working together rather than in isolation is the key to our future in Dorset.


Jane Pidmore