Northamptonshire Historic Churches Trust Ride+Stride

Saturday 9 September 2017

St Matthew’s again took part in the nationwide annual sponsored Ride+Stride to raise money for the Historic Churches Trust. Half the money we raised here goes to the Trust, half to St Matthew’s. Our church received the very substantial amount of £10,000 from the Trust a few years ago for our major building works, so it’s a good cause to support. Just four of us signed up to walk this year, and two to man the church from 10.00am to 4.00pm to sign in the Ride+Striders who visited St Matthew’s.

It was a chilly day, but fine and sunny when we started out. We had our usual planned route to easily take in twelve churches, starting with St Matthew’s itself. So having signed in and collected our day-glo badges, off we set across the road to our friends at Kingsley Park Methodist Church. Doing this walk every year we’ve got to know the people in the various churches – like at ours, they tend to be the same people each year. Here we saw four other visitors, hardy types in short sleeved shirts!

There’s an abundance of churches on our way into town, so along Kingsley Park Terrace (‘The Front’) to our next stop, St Michael’s, who share their building with the Romanian Orthodox community.

Next was Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, which no-one had come to unlock, so the lady signing people in was sitting on a plastic fruit crate at a table; these had been found left in their car park at the back so had come in handy… Luckily it wasn’t raining!

Queensgrove Methodist Church is where, as usual, we had our coffee and cake stop, courtesy of Roger, who likes to treat us: he tells people he’s taking us out from our Old People’s Home (the youngest of us is just short of 70!) This walk is not arduous – it’s more ‘Ride+Stroll’ and a social occasion for us.

Suitably refreshed, on we walked across the Mounts to Holy Sepulchre, one of only four round churches remaining in the UK, founded around 1100 AD. When we signed in for St Matthew’s the man at the desk told us an amazing story… He said he was born in Collingwood Road, just across the road from the church, at 3.10pm on 24 July 1947. Years later when visiting Ghana he met a man who was married at St Matthew’s at 3.00pm the very same day. Spooky, or wot?

Now for the bit of the route where we always go off into the unknown… we’ve never managed to find our way the same way twice, and this year we did actually look at a map, but the layout of the streets was so confusing it was of no help whatsoever. But as Roger said: “It would take the fun out of it if we knew where we were going”. But we found our destination, Castle Hill URC, who tried to tempt us to partake in their refreshments on offer – not only chocolate biscuits (from Waitrose, no less) but also hot bacon rolls and hot dogs! We managed to resist, except for the chocolate biscuits.

At St Peter’s in Marefair we met a man with a big badge proclaiming him to be JOE; he was there on behalf of the Friends of Northampton Castle – their Heritage Project Trail takes in St Peter’s – and he was more than happy to sign our form. As we walked in the familiar smell of incense greeted us; Joe said it was from the Vatican City itself, and of course, when the church was built it would have been a catholic church. A new addition to the church is a hanging model, almost like a mobile, depicting images of, on the left, a red-billed chough which features on Thomas Becket’s coat of arms (the original name for the cough was ‘beckit’) and as we know, Becket was tried at Northampton Castle, and on the right a coiled creature, inspired by imagery from St Ragener’s grave slab (he was a priest at the church).

Up Gold Street to All Saints’, and standing alongside it the row of Classic buses that give free rides around the Heritage Weekend sites. And then on to St Giles’ where, as usual, we stopped for a welcome lunch break. It was good to have an extended sit down at this point.

Afterwards Roger left us while the rest of us walked on to Victoria Road Congregational Church. We were interested to see their display of photographs taken at the parish Day at the Seaside which they do every year, and to see one of the ladies who was booking us in taking a paddle in the sea.

From here it’s quite a long walk along Billing Road to Christchurch, and of course, this is when it rained. However, by the time we reached Christchurch it had stopped. In the car park we met an old friend from St Matthew’s, Sue Parkinson, who now worships at Christchurch; she was just about to take up booking-in duty for the Ride+Stride so we had a chat and delayed her.

At the church in the park, St Peter and Paul, Abington, our next stop, we’d just missed a wedding, but saw the newly married couple as they got into the car. We also saw one of our own congregation, Kay Warçaba, loitering, and had a chat with her.

The last leg is when you start to feel weary, and it’s always good to get back to St Matthew’s and have a sit down and a cuppa. On the green the Dog Show was in progress, and we saw our Parish Administrator Kate, with daughter Emmie and dog Boo, and Mary’s husband Bryan, so another stop for a chat. In the church, Christine and Barbara said they’d had a fairly quiet day – which is what other churches had told us too – with most of the visitors in the morning. The weather forecast of rain in the afternoon had clearly made a difference. The church is open on Saturday afternoons anyway, and this had also been the Heritage Weekend which had also attracted visitors – Christine said about the same number of Ride+Striders as Heritage and others.

Ride+Stride is always on the second Saturday in September; maybe you’ll join us next year?




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