Foulridge Beating the Bounds (8 miles)
by Colne Life magazine
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A walk which takes in a variety of landscapes from the gentle setting of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal reservoirs to remote upland with spectacular views of the surrounding area.
The ancient tradition of beating the bounds
The custom has taken place in Britain in a variety of forms for 2,000 years. Maps were rare and the position of boundaries was passed on by word of mouth. It became usual to make a formal perambulation or walk of the boundaries to check that no one had moved any of the marker stones or laid claim to your land.
Boundary disputes were common. In fact the earliest surviving map of Foulridge, a Map of Whitemoor dated 1580/81, was drawn up in a lawsuit between the tenants of Foulridge and Barnoldswick.
Traditionally the custom of ‘Beating the Bounds’ involved local inhabitants walking around the parish boundary, pausing to ritually ‘beat’ particular landmarks (or even young boys) with a stick, or willow wand. Sometimes the boys suffered other indignities to imprint the boundary mark on their minds. They were turned upside down and had their heads bumped on the boundary stones, pushed into streams and thrown over hedges ‘to help them remember’ the boundaries. The object of taking boys was to ensure that witnesses to the boundaries should survive as long as possible.
Beating the Bounds had a religious side which involved the accompanying clergy asking for the divine blessing upon the parish lands for the ensuing harvest, and blessing the crops and animals. The ceremony typically occurred every 7 or 10 years and took place at Rogantide (from the Latin rogare) – fixed in the church calendar to coincide with the three days before Ascension Day, the fifth week after Easter.
Pagan superstitions have also survived through the centuries. For example it was believed that evil spirits resided around the boundary markers and would wreak havoc on anyone who removed or tampered with them. It might therefore be appropriate for anyone walking this route to recite the following:- “We declare this is the boundary of the Parish of Foulridge. Cursed be he who moveth our boundary.”