ART is developing a series of online learning courses based around short videos. You can dip in and out of these courses swotting up on various areas or you can work you way through from beginning to end. Once such course is, 'An introduction to basic belfry checks and routine maintenance' which was released to help people performing their postlockdown checks. The course is still under development, but the basics are there for those who are less experienced. Obviously if this is new to you try and take a more experienced person along with you and if you're uncertain about anything once you've checked, then contact a bell hanger or official in your Guild or Diocese.
I found the course very useful and interesting. I suggested that two of my fellow Northchurch ringers, who were going to check the bells with me, also look at the course. They too found the course interesting and informative, liking Richard's approach. Having the videos definately helps. For all of us this was the first time carrying out any maintenance and the course helped us work out what to do. I could not find any maintenance schedule in the tower so we created a check list from the example provided in the course adding several columns to document: our findings, the remedial action taken, and whether any further actions would be required.
We all agreed that the way the course is broken down into sections helps jumping to any particular chapter to review the content easy. Having discovered that we had 'Hastings stays', we were glad to see a section on them.
Having been through the course before venturing into the tower meant that we could help each other work out what to do. Several of us also obtained a copy of the CCCBR's Manual of Bell Maintenance to support the course. We would definitely recommend the course to anyone who is new to bell maintenance and is unsure of where to start.
On venturing up the bell tower to commence our safety checks, it was discovered that a bird had made a nest on one of the window ledges to the ringing chamber, and a further two bird nests had appeared in the belfry. The birds had flown, so following the guidance given in the course, the nests were safely removed and the entrance holes blocked up. We also checked the small space between the ringing room ceiling and the belfry floor. Whilst carrying out our checks we discovered that several Hastings dingler bolds were loose and their nuts found on the floor. Several stays had only finger tight bolts. Since there seemed to be no record of stay dimensions, each stay was carefully checked, measurements recorded and bolts tightened with a spanner. Having finally completed our checks we then rang each bell in turn to check the bearings and that everything turned over smoothly.
The course can be found at ART's online learning portal onlinelearning.bellringing.org
Course tutor Richard Booth