Group name - Hull Handbell Change Ringers

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  Development: Plain Hunting

Plain Hunting on 6 bells

Making your bells change their position with adjacent bells is the very essence of change ringing, and is the way that change rows are generated.

Plain Hunting is the major component of the method: Plain Bob.

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Plain Hunting on 6 bells

In Plain Hunting, every bell moves in the same pattern, one step at a time until it reaches the first or last place in the change, it then turns round and repeats the process until arriving back at its starting point. The underlying pattern for this is for adjacent bells to change position (cross over) or to make 1sts and 6ths places to delay the return to rounds as long as possible.

The numbered bells below are shown in their positions in the change-rows and also by joining all of the individual bell numbers together with a line, as a grid. Copying out the line (a.k.a. the the blue line) for a single bell produces a useful visual aid to the work of the bell, this aid is increasingly useful as more advanced methods are learned.

Copying out two lines, the the double blue line produces a visual aid to the work of a pair of bells, with obvious relevance to handbell ringing.

Image of plain hunting by numbers and by lines

Diagram: 1r.06.01 Plain Hunting, change-rows and grid.

A pair of bells can start plain hunting from any combination of two places out of the six available, giving 15 different pairs of places.

These 15 different starting positions all fit within three unique hunting patterns which are defined by where the pairs of bells cross over inside the pattern. These are, by crossing position and name:

  • 1-2 / 5-6: 1-2 pattern or "coursing pair"
  • 2-3 / 4-5: 2-3 pattern
  • 3-4 / 3-4: 3-4 pattern or "opposites"


In Plain Hunting the word "coursing" is used to refer to a pair of bells that are never separated by more than one bell as they hunt up and down within the pattern. For a wider use of the phrase please see coursing in the glossary.

It is helpful to ring several pairs of rounds, handstroke and backstroke, to establish a good rhythm before starting to ring the changes.

When the conductor calls “Go Plain Hunting”, the bells commence their work on the next handstroke.

How do you know where in the change-row you should ring your bells?

The answer is to work out where the first bell should be relative to the start of the change-row, and then ring your second bell at the correct spacing from the first.

1-2 Pattern

Start here, the simplest plain hunting pattern, coursing:

Instructions and double line for Plain Hunting on 1-2 or 5-6, coursing pairs

Diagram: 1r.06.02 Plain Hunting on a coursing pair.

2-3 Pattern

In Plain Bob etc., you cannot avoid this asymmetrical pattern:

Instructions and double line for 2-3

Diagram: 1r.06.03 Plain Hunting on from 2nds and 3rds places.

3-4 Pattern

3-4 pattern (a.k.a. "opposites") is easier to ring than 2-3:

Instructions and double line for 3-4

Diagram: 1r.06.04 Plain Hunting - 3-4 pattern.

Ringing Plain Hunting:

With physical bells:

Whatever your “learning style” might be, the above three patterns need to be engraved in memory so that you have enough spare mental energy to count bells and think about the next instruction. To that end time spent looking at the detailed instructions above, together with the double blue line will pay dividends.

Normally when starting to ring plain hunting, the bells are paired up, 1-2, 3-4. 5-6, which means two ringers get coursing pairs, one ringer gets a pair in opposites, and no-one gets a pair in 2-3 pattern. To practise 2-3 position, either get one ringer to ring 1 and 4, and another to ring 2 and 3, or start from a change row other than rounds such as 134256.

Using a Simulator

On Abel:

Using a simulator is an excellent way of engraving the hunting patterns in memory.

"Plain Hunting" as described on this page is a vital component of Plain Bob, but Plain Hunting can be rung as a method in its own right, complete with bobs and singles. This method has its own unique name, "Original Minor".

When you ring the 12 changes of Plain Hunting you are ringing the plain course of Original Minor.

To ring plain hunting on the simulator you need to add in Original Minor to your list of available methods. On Abel, the dialogue is:
Add Method
Get from microSIRIL Library
Principles: Minor. Click OK.
Scroll down and highlight Original

When you finish the session, be sure to save your changes.

On higher numbers:

Major, Royal, . .

The principles of Plain Hunting apply on all numbers, but in practice, the ability to use coursing bells (not just 1-2 or 5-6) becomes significant; the more bells you have, the harder they are to count.

Plain hunting on 8 bells has four different cross-over positions, viz:

  • 1-2 / 7-8: 1-2 pattern or "coursing"
  • 2-3 / 6-7: 2-3 pattern, coursing 3 apart
  • 3-4 / 5-6: 3-4 pattern, coursing 5 apart"
  • 4-5 / 4-5: 3-4 pattern, or "opposites"

Plain hunting on 10 bells has five different cross-over positions, viz:

  • 1-2 / 9-0: 1-2 pattern or "coursing"
  • 2-3 / 8-9: 2-3 pattern, coursing 3 apart
  • 3-4 / 7-8: 3-4 pattern, coursing 5 apart"
  • 4-5 / 6-7: 4-5 pattern, coursing 7 apart"
  • 5-6 / 5-6: 5-6 pattern, or "opposites"