A CHURCH has had its bell temporarily silenced by squirrels.

Churchwarden of St James’ Church, Rowledge, Dr Mike Randall, discovered the bell rope laying on the floor of the church after he unlocked the building.

At first he had believed someone had pulled it too hard, but because the church building has been out of action for the past six months because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the bell has not been rung.

Closer inspection of the damaged rope appeared to indicate nibble marks – and the local squirrels of the adjacent Alice Holt Forest are getting the blame.

“Whether these squirrels are particularly anti-church, we’re not sure,” said vicar of St James’, Rev Russ Gant.

“But the damage to the bell rope is potentially quite expensive – not to repair the rope, but to access the small church turret to reattach it to the bell!

“We obviously want to get the repairs done as soon as possible, because we’re very keen to reopen for public worship next month, albeit with a reduced capacity because of social distancing.”

The church would be “delighted to hear from a local business” or individual who might be willing to loan a cherry picker or scissor lift, or even some scaffolding that would allow access to the bell turret to make the necessary repairs.

At the same time, it is hoped to encourage the squirrels to vacate the premises!

The bell was cast by Messrs Gillett & Johnston Ltd of Croydon, weighs 2cwts and is tuned to G sharp. It was hung at St James’ in 1951 to replace an earlier bell and is dedicated to the memory of the former vicar, Rev Albert Dance.

On it are inscribed the words: “Good people all, come when I call,” but Mr Gant recognised as well as calling people to worship, the bell has another purpose.

“It hopefully reminds the community that week by week, they are being prayed for and that’s of especially important in these very uncertain times,” he said.

Anyone who can help the church should email [email protected]