WHEN I was a young whippersnapper, a certain Mars bar advert, where bell ringing monks rocketed into the air when pulling on the ropes after eating the chocolate and listening to Jump Around, caught my imagination.

So when I was offered a chance to learn the ropes at Trowbridge’s St James’ Church, as part of an effort to get more people to take up bell ringing to mark 100 years since the First World War ended on November 11, I could not turn it down.

Unfortunately, when I was given a lesson in campanology, the study of bells, expert bell ringers Brian Coward and Veronica Newman said they did not listen to the House of Pain song when practicing this age-old tradition and there wasn’t a Mars bar in sight.

Despite this momentary setback, I was still keen to master this art. I mean, how hard can ringing a church bell be? Pull the rope up and down, right? Wrong. Mr Coward told me it takes at least half a dozen sessions of over an hour to properly get the hang of it. I just hoped I wouldn’t get seven bells knocked out of me.

I was in the ringing chamber, where bell ringing ropes hung from the ceiling and above us was the bell tower.

Without getting too technical, I was told to put both hands, with the right slightly above the left, on this woollen handle called the Sally. In my left hand I also gripped the Tail, which is the length of rope below the Sally.

I then pulled down on the Sally to below my waist, and let it go. As the bell above rotated, my arms were brought upwards so that I was holding the bottom of the rope.

Then I pulled the rope down, which rotated the bell the other way, leaving the Sally to shoot down. When it is on the rise again, I caught it to complete the cycle. I hasten to add that a silencer was put on the bell because I might have annoyed the whole town with my lack of skill.

Despite Mr Coward telling me to look straight ahead, I was not very good at that as I am a bit of a duffer. I was like a cat following a moving light. So, how did I do?

“For a beginner, I would give you an eight out of 10,” said Mr Coward, who got taught this back in 1950. “It is all about timing, handling the bell accurately and finding your rhythm.” I think the dear old chap was being polite, I thought I deserved a four, but hey ho.

It is hoped that around 1,400 bell ringers will be recruited in preparation for Armistice Day. The church needs seven more recruits so that all 12 bells are used.

“My father taught when I was 11, I liked it straight away. The longest session I have done without stopping is well over three hours,” said Mr Coward.

“I rang for the Coronation in 1953 in Dorking and I have been here since 1974. This is a great way to keep the tradition alive.”

“We meet every Wednesday at the church at 7.30pm. It is good exercise, mentally stimulating but not too tiring or tough,” said Mrs Newman.

To get involved call 01225 351217.