They’re a jolly lovely bunch, the bellringers of St Crewenna’s Church in Crowan.

The church’s eight bells go back around three hundred years. Although their core group of bellringers range more modestly in age, they’ve had some members continuing into their eighties.

“It’s something you can carry on doing when you’re quite elderly,” says Liz.

There are evident health benefits, both physical and mental.

“You’re totally focused on what you’re doing, totally in the zone,” she adds. “It’s like a form of mindfulness.”

Their youngest member is Henry who, when not ringing bells, studies Mathematics at Oxford University.

He’s also in a bellringing group – or ‘tower’ as those in the know call it – at Oxford. He observes that about half those student bellringers are fellow mathematicians.

“That doesn’t mean you have to like Maths to enjoy the bellringing,” he points out. “But there’s extra enjoyment there if you like the mathematical patterns.”

Those bellringing sequences can be extraordinarily complex, but for the ringers of Crowan it’s not just about their technical expertise.

A couple of years ago, Henry had seen a notice in his local post office saying they were looking for new bellringers.

“I’d no idea what it involved but I thought I’d give it a go,” he recalls. “I wouldn’t have continued with it if everyone hadn’t been so lovely when I started.”

A friendly tower

“The most important thing is the friendship,” adds Duncan. “As a team, we take the ringing seriously, but a key element is the social aspect of it. Don’t get the idea we don’t take the bellringing seriously. But getting it right all the time isn’t the only reason why we do it. I think we make quite a good job of it because we get on so well together.”

Jane notes that the group is quite diverse in terms of age, experience and background. She says that, as a relative newcomer to the area, it’s been a great pleasure for her to join the group.

“We get people coming along to give it a go, though it doesn’t suit everyone,” says Duncan. “But anyone who turns up is welcome to give it a go. We don’t criticize or pressurize people. That’s why people think we’re a friendly tower.”

“The vicar’s always been happy for anyone to come and ring,” adds Howard. “There’s always been this open door policy of friendship and welcome.”

The group have their war stories about experiences of rather stricter towers. Howard recalls a visit to another tower a few years ago and the reaction of the bellringing captain there to their initial efforts.

“We started ringing and this look of horror descended on his face,” he says. “After we’d been ringing for five or ten minutes, he told us to stop and dismissed us from the tower.”

Crowan’s own captain, Amanda, remembers how, when she’d started bellringing in her younger days, the captain had instructed them never to stand on their tiptoes to ring.

“If you did, then you were out!” she laughs.

“Of course we all want to improve but if you’re too strict, people will just give up,” Duncan adds.

A great tradition

Several of the team have been taught ringing by Amanda. She is, they say, the glue that holds them together.

“They’re very good – good as gold,” she says. “I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

Their vicar, the Reverend Rosheen Browning, recalls Amanda once telling her that when she hears the bells she knows that all is right with the world.

“That’s now what I think myself, as I’m coming to the church for worship,” Rosheen says.

That’s a sentiment with which Steve agrees. He’s been ringing the bells at Crowan for more than twenty years, and is as such this particular church’s most stalwart ringer.

“The reason I do it is to keep the Crowan bells ringing,” he says. “I simply do it for that.”