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Northamptonshire Historic Churches Trust Ride+Stride

Saturday 12 September 2020

Saturday 12 September 2020, a different walk for different times… But with all the uncertainty over Covid-19 the day did still go ahead.

Till this year we’d been ‘greedy for churches’ and followed a route that meant we could encompass twelve or thirteen on the day. But that was a route down the Kettering Road and around the town centre and then back towards Abington, and there was no way we were going to follow that route this year. In any event, many of the churches had decided they could not take part this year, including our usual ‘first stop’ Kingsley Park Methodists across the road.

So with avoiding people in mind, we plotted what was available to us on a map and though we didn’t visit many churches, we still had a good walk! It was the usual stalwarts, Mary, Roger and Dorrie, with varying degrees of leg-power – Roger joining us for about half of the route, as he normally does. So this year we visited three new churches; after registering at St Matthew’s, Mary and Dorrie set off for Holy Trinity, where we were warmly greeted by two ladies outside a closed church. This was going to be a walk with plenty of social distancing, sanitiser, and masks to the fore! We were socially distancing as we walked, but at least in the open air we could go mask-free until we got to our destinations. Dorrie took a pen and registered for us both, though normally we’d each do it ourselves. At least we still got to chat to the recorders there. Turning back, we then walked along Fairway and Kenmuir Avenue to Broadmead Avenue. Apart from houses, not so much of interest to look at… We arrived at St Alban’s and here met up with Roger who was already waiting for us, and although the door was open, we didn’t actually go in for a look. That’s what a pandemic does to you! Mary and Dorrie took photos of each other, so Roger managed to get in twice…

Just more houses again as we made our way to The Headlands URC. Having been past this church many times on the bus home from Silver Screen at The Forum pre-Covid (ah, those were the good old days…) we had however approached it from a different angle this time, via Thirlmere Avenue, and found that Google Maps hadn’t got it quite in the right spot… Puzzled, Dorrie told the others to stay where they were while she went ahead to check – nope, it was actually in the opposite direction. The recorder there kept well away while Dorrie registered, and asked her to fill in the walkers’ sheet too, then he came over and just signed his initial, keeping well away from the paper!

We sat and had a rest on the perimeter wall for a few minutes and had a chat, which had not been so easy to do with three of us socially-distanced while walking. Roger’s plan now was to return home while Mary and Dorrie intended to make our way to Abington Park for a sit and sarnies, but we reached Park Avenue North and decided to call it a day – we’d done enough! We were quite tired by this point and it was a hot day, and we’d had quite a long walk. The original plan had been to finish off after a lunch break with a visit to St Peter and Paul’s in the park and then Christchurch, and maybe St Michael’s at a stretch, but we knew when enough was enough. We’d left St M’s at 10.10am and this was now 12.20pm.

So we walked back to St Matthew’s; Mary popped in to see the troops and get Bryan on taxi duty while Dorrie nipped home, going in later to see how our recorders Christine and Barbara were faring. It was quiet, but they’d had quite a few walkers/cyclists visit, even from Roade and Pattishall. Gary and his Heritage Day team were there too, though not many people had braved it this year. It was good to sit and have a chat – all masked and socially distanced of course. Hats off to Christine and Barbara, they were on duty from 10am till 4pm when the church closed. We always ask people to sponsor us all, in a block, and thanks to the generosity of those who did, we raised even more than last year – a magnificent amount and a great team effort.

So why did we do it? Ride+Stride is organized by the county Historic Churches Trust – voluntary organisations that raise money for the restoration and maintenance of historic churches and chapels, supported by the national Churches Trust. It’s an annual event across most of the country on the second Saturday in September and funds raised are divided equally between the Trust and a nominated church (in our case, St Matthew’s).

Last year’s Ride+Stride enabled 24 churches and chapels to be removed from the Heritage at Risk Register, 188 church and chapel projects to get funds, and £1.3million in grants to be awarded for urgent repairs, new facilities, maintenance and project development.

St Matthew’s itself has benefitted in recent years with grants from NHCT, including one of £10,000 in 2012 – the largest grant ever awarded – for our major repair works.




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