ON March 16, the church bells rang out in celebration of the completion of the Dorstone Bell Restoration Project.

A large crowd of funders, supporters and parishioners listened in the churchyard as the six bells rang out over the village - rung first by Dorstone's own bell ringers and then by ringers from other towers who had taught them their skills.

The ribbon was cut by Betty Lane, Ray Birchenough and Ernest Morgan, three of the oldest residents of the village.

The big surprise for parishioners had happened two weeks before when they heard the church bells ring out for the first time in over 70 years. The final new bell rope had been connected and the final bolt tightened and they had returned to full-circle ringing.

The bells had been silent since before 1950, when the bell tower was declared unsafe and lowered by some 30 feet.

The original four bells (1350, 1639, 1650 and 1654) are now fully refurbished and repaired, and placed on a metal bell frame, with new fixtures and fittings.

The four have become six, thanks to a gift from the Keltek Trust of two second-hand Warner bells dating from 1904 from St Mary's church, Richmond in Yorkshire. So, St Faith's has, for the first time ever, a ring of six bells.

CCTV has been installed so that the ringers and the moving bells can be seen from inside the church. There is even a training bell so that potential ringers can try out their skills in safety and in silence.

This whole project was made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £90,000.

Other funders, including the Herefordshire Historic Churches Trust, the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers and the Hereford Diocesan Guild of Bell Ringers also contributed to the total of £150,000 to enable this ambitious plan to be fulfilled. This includes many generous donations, and unfailing support, from local people.

It is rare that bell ringers have the chance to ring such ancient bells, so it is hoped there will be many ringers visiting the tower in the future to enjoy the results of this ambitious project.

See dorstonechurch.org for contact details and further information.