"So where's the challenge? It's just pulling on a rope isn't it?" - Umm... No.
Our Tenor Bell, the largest in our Tower (but only of average size in the world of bell ringing) weighs about half a ton. That's about the same as an old mini. Its swinging about at the end of a rope 20 feet in length, which is moving at upto 60km per hour. The turning force on that bell is about 1,600lbf. To put that in context, a Bugatti Veyron, one of the worlds most powerful supercars only turns its wheels with 1,000lbf and you wouldn't hang on to one of those!
"So you have to be super strong? I had no idea!" - Err... No.
You have to have skill. You have to learn to handle a bell. In the same way jumping on a thoroughbred race horse, slapping its rump and yelling Yee-Harr!! would be inadvisable, so is pulling on a bell rope without any training. With proper technique and training even the smallest Jockey can handle an 1100lb racehorse. Its the same with bell ringing. (Don't worry - if you want to give it a go, we'll start you on a bullet proof Shetland pony we keep in the orchard.)
"OK, so its just a motor skill thing." - Well... that's just one part of it.
The skill of learning to handle a bell is just the start. You soon find that an endless set of challenges opens up in front of you. You could for instance decide to ring with a band all the possible combinations of 6 bells. In bell ringing parlance this is called the extent. It would take you about 24 minutes. If you enjoyed the experience you could try ringing the extent on 8 bells, but you'd need to leave at least 22.5 hours free to accomplish it, if you rang continuously. Add just one more bell in the mix and you'd need 8+ days. To ring the extent on 12 bells would take 30+ years of solid ringing.
"30 years of ringing, that sounds... boring." - OK. I'll give you that one.
But that isn't really what ringers do. They ring 'Methods' composed pieces of music, performed from memory, following a pattern. The fewer the number of bells, generally, the simpler the pattern and the easier to ring. Ringers keep track of where they are in relation to each other and the pattern by counting their place and using something called 'Ropesight' the slightly mystical art of knowing where you are among a blur of moving bell ropes.
"Fine, so its a skill thing and a memory, counting, patterns, visual thing. Look to be honest i'm loosing track of what is going on here..." - OK, OK. lets go back to basics.
Bell ringing requires physical skill, concentration and teamwork. Its best described as riding a bike while doing a Sudoku at the same time, but it's not all blood sweat and tears. In fact most people enjoy bell ringing for the community, for the socializing and for the camaraderie, as much as for the challenge. (Ohh... and the view from the Tower Roof.)
"Sounds interesting. I was on holiday in [INSERT LOCATION IN EUROPE HERE] and we heard the bells there. It was really nice. They had big electric motors that rang the bells. Why don't you just do that?"
Don't even get me started...