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Beating the Bounds

5th May 2024

The tradition of Beating the Bounds involves the incumbent walking the boundaries of the parish praying the Great Litany as well as psalms and asking for God‘s blessing for the well-being of the community.

In past times when maps were rare, it was usual to make a formal perambulation of the parish boundaries. Knowledge of the limits of each parish needed to be handed down so that such matters as liability to contribute to the repair of the church or the right to be buried within the churchyard were not disputed. The priest of the parish with the churchwardens and the parochial officials headed a crowd of boys who beat the parish boundary markers with green boughs, usually birch or willow. The object of taking boys along was supposed to ensure that witnesses to the boundaries should survive as long as possible.

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The boundary runs along the back fences of the houses on the West side of Ilfracombe so, rather than clamber over garden fences, we walked along Ilfracombe, across Southchurch Road and up to Stornoway Road.

Here the boundary runs across Stornoway and between two houses and over, crossing Trinity Road and into Westbury Road Once again, we couldn't walk through people's back gardens, so we had to take a slight detour down Stornoway, right into Oban Road, right into Trinity then left into Westbury. Phew!

For our 1200th anniversary we decided to revive this tradition and beat the bounds of our parish on the traditional day - Rogation Sunday.

After a psalm and prayers led by Mother Claire, our group set off from church at 1.30.

Our southern parish boundary runs along the C2C railway line, so we headed down Lifstan Way and took the footpath up to Riviera Drive and walked alongside the railway as far as Southend East station. Here the Boundary turns right into  Ilfracombe Avenue.

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Then it was right along North Avenue, left into Hamstel Road, up to the McDonald's, across Eastern Avenue and we were at our first staging post - the Garon Leisure Park. We were now two and a half miles into the walk.

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Our next section took us into the countryside

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Next, we were crossing farmer's fields - the perfect opportunity to thank God for our fertile soils and pray for those who work on the land. We reached Wakering Road, coming out just opposite Alleyn Court School.

Turning right into Wakering Road, what should we bump into but the Rose Inn! Of course, we had to pause for a pint. Then, suitably refreshed, we were on our way.

To start the next section we had to traverse 300 metres or so along Southend Road where there's no footpath and badly overgrown verges.

We headed East out of the Garon Park car park, walking along the parish boundary on the North side of the football fields.

Then, via a slight wiggle to skirt a deep ditch, along a country footpath between two sections of the Garon Park Golf course. Crossing a brook, we paused for a psalm and prayer thanking our Lord for good water.

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Given the speed vehicles travel along Southend Road and the state of the verges, it was just too dangerous to walk it. What to do?

In the nick of time our trusty support team came to the rescue, shuttling us by car the short distance between the Rose Inn and the footpath. It took just 3 shuttles and about 10 minutes to deliver us safely to the next stage of our walk.

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Now we could cross the fields, pausing to enjoy the liquid song of the skylarks hovering above, warning us off their nests.

Next our route took us along Shoebury Road to Maplin Way North. Here we halted for a psalm and Mother Claire led us in prayer for the wellbeing of the residents of our parish.

We turned into Maplin Way North where the parish boundary runs along the back fences of the houses to the West of the road.

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Just before the railway bridge we turned right into Barnstaple Road. Once again we were following the course of the railway line - the parish boundary - along Barnstaple Road, past Burleigh Square, across Thorpe Hall Avenue and into Willingale Way.

Then we turned left into Wansfell Gardens, where, half way down, we had to veer away from the railway line because the school fields blocked our path.

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Continuing up Wansfell Gardens we turned left into Fortescue Chase then left again into Southchurch Boulevard. From here it was an easy stroll back to church. Mother Claire led us in a final prayer: we thanked God for a safe and enjoyable walk.

All-in-all it was a most uplifting walk. The weather was kind, the company was good, and the vibe was joyful. We ended the day with a sense of achievement, a feeling of comradeship and a much better knowledge of the edges of our parish!

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To download a street-by-street route of our walk, click here.

To download some background on Rogation Sunday and Beating the Bounds, click here

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