Bank Holidays were always the occasion for the Church Youth Club to go on a Ramble, so who knows what perambulatory traditions we were inadvertently clinging onto as we made our way to Box Hill, or walked from Dorking to Friday Street every year.
I get so confused about Bank Holidays now but we are having one here in the UK today ... and this isn't the Whitsun one.
Rather disgracefully, for something even as a lapsed Anglican I feel I should know, I've had to look it all up.
The May Bank Holiday used to be on the Monday after Pentecost, or Whit Sunday which falls seven weeks after Easter Sunday, but I discover it was shifted to the last Monday in May after a trial from 1965 to 1970, none of which I knew or could recall. Today is the more recent holiday we captured from Scotland in 1978 apparently, which they had been celebrating since the nineteenth century.
But anyway, all that aside, this year it is also falls on Rogationtide and I have had to look that up too
The traditional day for beating the bounds of the parish was Holy Thursday (Ascension Day) 40 days after Easter. The rogation days fall on the four days from the fifth Sunday after Easter which itself falls on the Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. In different places these may be called Cross Days, Gang Days or Grass Days.
Rogationtide is the ancient festival to invoke a blessing on fields, stock and folk emerging after a sequence of natural disasters in fifth century France. By the eighth century in England it involved parishioners 'ganging' after the Cross around the edge of the parish.This helped everyone to remember the boundaries before maps were commonplace. Along the way prominent trees often became places for preaching Gospel Oaks. Locations of various landmarks - stones streams, hedges, ponds were impressed upon the children: in the past by ducking them, ritually beating them and then giving them a treat.
Herbert offers the following reasons to beat the bounds:
1) a blessing of God for the fruits of the field:
2) Justice in the preservation of the bounds
3) Charitie, in living, walking and neighbourliy accompanying one another, with reconciling of differences at that time, if they be any:
4) Mercie, in relieving the poor by a liberal distribution of largess which at that time is or oght be made.
The enclosures of the 18th and 19th centuries which 'fixed' so many lands into common, field and bounds killed many of the perambulations. But where they do survive they prove a wonderful way of getting into the countryside, different domestic customs are still practised or have been revived in secular ways to offer a friendly way of looking at the place from its edges, checking its corners are in good heart whilst getting to know people. On returning 'home' you may be lucky enough to be offered ganging beer and Rammalation biscuits.
So over the next few days, and hopefully before the rain which is forecast, I have a little bit of Parish boundary to walk solo. A = home, turn left out of the gate and walk along the lane a few hundred yards and the Parish boundary is uphill through those trees somewhere before I will turn left along to the woods, and back down our green lane to home.
I will invoke a quiet blessing of the fields but I won't be doing any preaching, or ducking and beating of local childer, and any considerable distribution of largesse may well be curbed by not meeting anyone in need of any, though I'll keep an eye out. At the lower corner of the woods I will pass our spring water supply so I'll say a quick word of thanks for that. Though we now have a bore-hole so are no longer reliant on it, we still use it outside a great deal and always like to know it is there and bubbling away and as you can see it is piped a long way underground to reach us.
In nearby Lydford, the parson on a nineteenth century perambulation apparently declared...
'Now we must make a shout here that we may recollect the bounds.' The people then Huzzard and took off their hats.'
So perhaps just a little gentle Huzzarding and tossing of the hat will be called for.
I have made the biscuits in readiness, though any recipe for Rammalation-specific ones (which I assumed to be a derivative of 'perambulation' ) proved elusive. However in an old cookery book, compiled for a local charity by the Young Wives group I belonged to many years ago (when I was a young wife,) and which I was about to throw out, I came across an easy recipe for Matron's Biscuits. I liked the sound of them, had all I needed in the larder and they have proved a great and very moor-ish success, so I have declared these to be official Rammalation fare..
6oz S.R. flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 dessertspoon syrup
Melt margarine, sugar and syrup over a low heat then pur onto flour, baking powder and essence.
Mix well with a wooden spoon.
Put onto greased trays in spoonfuls, flatten slightly with a fork.
Bake at 170-180 degs for 15-20 minutes.
Leave on trays for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire tray to cool.
You too can make some, or alternatively please just help yourself to one of mine.