Written by Simon Fox Category: Programmes
Published on 23 November 2005

Len Kerswill's an amazing man. No matter what the subject under discussion, he always "knows someone...". Model railways, old buses, snakes, you name it, Len will have a contact somewhere. It was thanks to Len and one of his contacts that Simon Fox, Sam Sutton and Steve Westwood found themselves at the parish church of Langleybury, just outside Watford and within earshot of the mighty M25 motorway. The contrast between this typical English country church and the noise and bustle of the twentieth century could not have been more pronounced.

We were there to make a short feature on the ancient art of church bell ringing, or "change ringing" as it is more properly known. This is a method of ringing which is based on mathematical progression rather than the playing of a tune, and is unique to Britain, with considerable variations across the country.

We unloaded the car and set up the kit outside the church to record Len's introductory piece to camera. It was a fine winter's day, but cold, and we were glad to move inside and get shots of the ringers in action, and an interview with the Captain of the Bells.

Our next shots were close-ups of the bells themselves. We climbed an endless series of wooden ladders inside the tower, and with Steve at the top of the ladder with the sound recorder and Sam standing on his shoulders with the camera, we could look down on the bells. A strange feeling. We were able to get shots of the bells being rung, swinging through their arcs nearly full circle, the great clappers striking and nearly deafening us. Close up, the noise was indescribable, and very different from the lazy sounds which drift across the countryside on a still day. It is said to be certain death to enter the bell chamber of St Paul's Cathedral whilst a peal is being rung, A few seconds of this were more than enough, and soon we were back on level ground, our ears still ringing.

We were more than happy with the finished programme, on a subject which is so unusual, yet such a part of the English countryside.

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