A MUSICAL nine-year-old from Barbon is believed to be one of the youngest campanologists in Cumbria.

William Natlacen may need two boxes to reach the bell rope at the village's St Bartholomew's Parish Church, but that does not stop him from taking part in the time honoured tradition.

His mum, Jules, who runs The Churchmouse store, cafe and delicatessen in Barbon, said that her son started with the somewhat unusual hobby when he moved to Old Hutton CE Primary School.

"They're fantastic at Old Hutton," she said. "They're very much opt in rather than opt out because there isn't enough kids to opt out! Since he started at Old Hutton his life is just so full."

It was one of William's friends that introduced him to the past-time, and his mum said that he 'hasn't looked back' since he began ringing in February.

"He has to stand on two wooden boxes to reach the bell rope, which is so cute," she said.

William, who his mum says is 'musically inclined', practises ringing once a week. In another few weeks he is likely to be ready to begin sounding the bells on a Sunday.

It was after a bell ringing convention in Barbon that Mrs Natlacen started to wonder if her son might be the youngest in the county.

"Loads of bell ringers came into The Churchmouse to have a coffee and the last thing one of them said to me was: 'Oh bell ringing is great - it's from age nine to 90.

"That's what got me thinking, I wonder if William's the youngest."

Anne Pettifor, curate for the Rainbow Parish, a parish of eight Church of England churches in the area around Kirkby Lonsdale, said that most of the St Bart's group was over 60 but that they welcomed younger recruits.

"It's a team work thing and it's quite a social thing to do," she said. "It's keeping alive a tradition and you don't have to go to church to be a bell-ringer.

"It's something that you do with people from a wide range of ages and wide backgrounds.

"It's physical exercise and mental exercise and there is always something else you can learn."