A GROUP of enthusiastic people from all sorts of backgrounds are working hard and having fun keeping the traditional skill of bellringing alive in Sedgemoor.

St Mary's Church has recently become home to the officially accredited Sedgemoor Ringing Centre, which means not only can people learn the art of bellringing, but they can also work their way up to become qualified tutors at the centre.

To keep the noise down while the group are practicing, the bell clappers are tied, but the sounds of the bells are mimicked using a special computer programme.

Experienced tutor Richard Lee said: "Ringing is a gentle exercise of the upper body and mind so we are appealing to learners of all ages to join us.

"As the Sedgemoor Ringing Centre it means anyone wanting to learn the skill from Burnham-on-Sea to Thurloxton to Stogursey can come here to improve their proficiency without causing disturbance."

Mr Lee says it takes about 15 to 20 hours to learn the basics of bellringing.

Margaret Lee, tower captain said despite how it can be depicted on TV and films, bellringing is much more about technique then strength.

"We are keeping a traditional skill going, and once you have picked it up you are able to mark special occasions such as weddings, St George's Day or Remembrance Day," Mrs Lee said.

Angela Creasey from Bridgwater happened to be walking past the church when they had an open day for bellringing and hasn't looked back since.

"I just decided it would be interesting to have a go and I've been coming since October now," Angela said.

"The people are really nice, the teaching is excellent and you can learn at your own pace.

"It is an amazing feeling once you have learnt the ropes to have the bells ringing."

The group is currently fundraising to install five additional lighter bells which will make it easier to teach new recruits and future proof ringing in St Mary's.

The team are on the home stretch having raised around £130,000 so far in grants from the likes of Sedgemoor District Council and Bridgwater Town Council and donations toward a £195,000 target.

"It is an expensive process, the bells themselves don't come cheap, and then installing them is quite an effort too," Margaret Lee explains.

Anyone interested in having a go at bellringing at St Mary's Church the group meets for basic handling and introduction to raising and lowering on Tuesday evenings between 6pm and 8pm.

For more information about St Mary's Church visit stmarysbells.org.uk.