Readers of the Tavistock Times, and followers of the various Tavistock pages in Facebook will have seen notices offering the opportunity to Ring for the King at his coronation next May, writes Donna Baker, and everyone will soon start to see them around the town — in supermarkets, on notice boards, practically everywhere they can be displayed without drawing accusations of fly-posting!

So what is it all about? Why should we want to ‘ring for the King’ and what does it involve?

Bells are the great announcers of major events. Rung all the time for church services, weddings, occasionally funerals and for many other events, they can’t be ignored.

That’s why during the Second World War they were silenced, to be rung only in the case of invasion. Everyone hears them. Sometimes they drown out almost everything else, including traffic noise. Not everyone (it has to be whispered) likes them…

But most people, when hearing the musical clamour of the bells, will lift their heads and ask ‘why are the bells ringing?’ Because there is almost always a reason.

Sometimes it’s simply because the ringers themselves find such enjoyment in the act of ringing. There’s really nothing else like it — standing in a church tower with other ringers, taking ropes in hands, using one’s physical skills in the control and handling of several hundredweight of metal swinging some fifty feet or so overhead, and then using skills of eyes, ears and intellect to place the sound of one’s own bell in exactly the right place in the pattern made by the whole peal, to produce the music heard by those outside.

It really is a very satisfying pastime, on many levels, and it brings its own social life as well. Regular practices on weekday evenings are frequently followed by a visit to the local pub. Outings of whole days or even weeks are organised, to visit and ring at towers far afield. More local practices are held so that ringers in the area can get to know each other and further their skills.

There was one just last week at Bridestowe, attended by 25 ringers from such places as Brentor, Sampford Spiney, Walkhampton, Plymouth and Tavistock, many of them beginners being helped by the more experienced ringers to improve their knowledge, and getting to know the friendly, all-inclusive body of ringers that operate all over the country.

As a pastime, ringing can last all your life. I started when I was twelve — an ideal age, in my opinion — but anyone can learn (well — maybe up to sixty or so…) although it has to be admitted that the younger you are, the easier it seems to be. And I am proud to say that I am one of the probably quite few ringers left who rang for the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

I shall be equally proud to ring for the coronation of King Charles III. So, I believe, will be my fellow ringers at St Eustachius’ church in Tavistock as well as ringers in many towns and villages all around the area and indeed the whole country.

But we shall need some help. There will be a lot of ringing to do, and a lot of villages don’t have enough ringers of their own. We need more people, of all ages from 10 upwards, to step up and commit to a learning regime of at least one evening a week, progressing to Sunday service ringing when proficient and then to that all important Coronation ringing.

Ringing a church bell isn’t immediately easy. It takes time to learn - time and determination. But the rewards are immense and what’s more, it’s good for you. For physical exercise, mental application and social activity, it is pretty near the top of the list — in fact, I think it should be prescribed by doctors!

But don’t wait for that. Come along and see for yourself at our Open Day at St Eustachius from 10am-12pm on Saturday December 10. You won’t be asked to make any commitment then, but you can hear more about the bells, watch a bit of ringing, maybe even have a go yourself — and see just what it is that’s happening in a church tower when you hear the bells ring out.

Ring for the King! It’s not a bad little catchphrase, is it!