Striking is talked about a lot, but often only in a negative way. Experienced ringers seem to be keen to tell you when you're wrong, but reluctant to tell you what you can do to improve. People used to yell "Listen to Your Bell!" at us, and we didn't have a clue what they meant.

What is helpful is when someone gently tells you that you are ringing too close to the bell in front, and then compliments you when you've managed to put it in the right place. I think it helps to say, "That sounds better, doesn't it?" when it improves- hopefully it will dawn on you that yes, it does sound better, and therefore the nasty clatter before must have been your fault.

I well remember being asked, "Can you actually hear your bell?" "Yes", I said, "Of course I can". But I hadn't understood what the chap was meaning - I didn't realise he meant, "Could I pick my bell out from amongst all the others?" (And the answer should have been, "No, I certainly couldn't"!)

A good way of learning to strike is to start on just three bells. Everyone can sing Three Blind Mice, with the correct rhythm. So if you can control your bell well enough, you can strike on three. What you need to know is how long a gap to leave at the Handstroke lead and the Backstroke lead. So agree on that with the others before you start, and then as you ring, think to yourself...Three.....Blind.....Mice.....Three.....Blind.....Mice. Or even say the words out loud.

To keep the interest up and have a laugh, change it to "Poor Old Cow" next time you do it. When you feel that your mice and cows are acceptable, make up a rhyme to ring four bells to. When the four bells are going well, think of a rhyme for five, and so on. Always attend to the leading, as that is really crucial. Either leave space for one extra bell at handstoke, and no space at Backstroke, or leave no spaces anywhere. BUT, everyone needs to be doing the same, so do discuss what you're going to do first.

Sometimes you will hear an experienced ringer making strange grunting noises as he rings, or nodding his head. When you are experienced, you will want to be concentrating on the Method you are ringing, not on cows and mice. So many of us just think "Uh..uh..uh..uh..uh..uh", or some such rubbish. It's probably better if you think it in your head, rather than doing it out loud!

Practice ringing by ear by facing away from the centre of the circle.

We're collecting other ideas to help you here. We'd love to hear from you if you find them helpful, and please do send us any other ideas you find useful.