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
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
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?