Hi Stephen I'm a relative newcomer to this stuff too and I know there's nothing worse than posting a message but not getting a response. I don't think I have any Littleport Gathercoles in my tree so I will talk about how to get started.
Many people recommended that I join a group, which I did, but found that there were no other new researchers so it was all a bit daunting.I thought I would try to get the basics in some other way so chose the web.I have found the Mormon's Familysearch site at http://www.familysearch.org/http://www.familysearch.org/very useful.I also did some searches, e.g. I entered 'Gathercole family' and found many sites including this oneand have spent a lot of time in our local and State libraries looking up indexes and other records.
I like to buy the birth, death or marriage certificate of the relative on my direct line and then use the details to find their children, brothers and sisters etc in other records like censuses, land records, phone books and indexes.I would like to buy the whole set of certificates but my budget doesn't allow and I still have a lot of fun in this way although historians and other purists would probably be horrified!