Our territory!

PUBLISHED: 12:26 02 May 2008 | UPDATED: 10:37 17 June 2010

PARISHIONERS of Sidbury with Sidford were out in strength on Sunday afternoon to revive the ancient custom of beating the parish boundaries.

PARISHIONERS of Sidbury with Sidford were out in strength on Sunday afternoon to revive the ancient custom of beating the parish boundaries.

The custom, dating back to the Middle Ages, was for clergy and parishioners to walk around the parish at Rogation tide, offering prayers for crops and farming, while beating boundary stones with switches of hazel and willow to impress in everyone's memory where the parish limits were.

When most people were illiterate and maps were few, it safeguarded the knowledge and ensured tithe rents were paid correctly.

Now Beat the Bounds exists only in those few parishes which set about re-enacting the old custom.

Stephen Huyshe-Shires, of Sand, joined the walkers and said: "Everyone had an enjoyable day, despite a spot of rain.

"We certainly had one or two enquiries as to whether we would be doing it again. The group who organised it will be meeting next week and they might decide that then."

The Reverend Rik Peckham blessed the switches, collected for the event, at a service at St Peter's, Sidford.

Mr Huyshe-Shires said: "Urged on by his words, six hearty walkers promptly set off to complete the entire circuit of 17 miles.

"Most of the 80 or so walkers, from all parts of the parish, had more modest aims however. Starting at 2pm, they covered one, in some cases two, of the four sections of the walk, ranging from about three to seven miles in all.

"On a mainly fine afternoon, many families joined in, with ages ranging from five to well over 70."

One of the many enthusiastic youngsters taking part was a seven-year-old who matched his age and walked seven miles.

The route chosen ensured participants walked as close as possible to the actual boundary by using footpaths, bridleways and some of Devon's ancient green lanes.

They were helped by generous cooperation from Lower Knapp Farm and the Caravan Club site at Putts Corner, through which the boundary line actually passes.

A magnificent spread was provided at Sidbury Village Hall by Sidbury WI after the event and walkers received commemorative certificates and specially-commissioned medallions as a memento of their efforts.

The successful day ended with a brief thanksgiving service at St Giles, Sidbury.

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