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. Grown ups seem to have fared better: in 1595 a parishioner in New Buckenham in Norfolk said that he 'better remebreth' that the boundary went to St Andrew's Church 'for that he had druncke Beare out of an hande Bell' (Norfolk RO/PD254/71).
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.
In Dorset during 1999, Helen Porter from Common Ground's Confluence project worked with East Stour residents and the local church to compose a new hymn for Rogationtide. Read more here.
Read more about PARISH BOUNDARIES
Where are the Boundary Stones and trees of YOUR parish???
Create a new walk for the parish - seek permission to retrace the parish boundary.
In Cumbria it is still customary to Ride the Marches here the parishes are very great in size.
Names alluding to boundary land include No Man's Land, Ball Close and Mear Oak Close. The rogation ceremonies provide a good selection of names eg Amen Corner, Luke Stone and Epistle Field. John Field - English Field Names a dictionary
Open Spaces Society - Common or Green - see their web-site.
Cumbria : Common Ridings
Dorset : Poole : The Mayor of Poole inspects his sea marks on special occasions, eg Millennium, anniversary of Coronation 2003. Mayors office +44(0)1202 633200; Island and Royal Manor of Portland - Ascension Day, every 7 years.
Kent : Rochester : Beating the Bounds can prove interesting, for example a boat is required to carry the Mayor of Medway, who holds the title of Admiral of the River, to trace the boundary down the centre of the estuary. June /July. Mayors Office +44(0)1634 727777; Burham to Garrison Point, Sheerness.
Lancashire : Lancaster: On special occasions or every 7 years May Wednesday only, the flagman and companion walk and cross by boat.
Northumberland : Berwick On Tweed: May Day Ride the Bounds: ten miles annually since Henry VIII. Register to ride Liz Hope, Borough Council +44(0)1289 330044; Morpeth: Hodgson's History of Northumberland has the grand jury walking the boundaries of the borough and leaving a detailed description on April 3 1758 including these mysteries: and along by Watty's-hole, and so into the standers and through the garden in the same, walked over the water called Bowls-green Steps to the bounder stones; Thursday nearest St Mark's Day 3rd week in April. Or Saturday. The Boundary Trustees were set up to administer the Riding of the Boundary after the reorganisation of Local Government in 1974. Involving 100-150 riders it takes four hours, including fording the river Wansbeck at the Low Stanners ending in the late afternoon for the St Marks Day Races on Morpeth Common. Queens Head Hotel, Castle Morpeth, Info TIC +44(0)1670 511323.
Staffordshire : Lichfield: 22 miles plus Horse Races for participants. Annually near 7/8 September. Information available in May +44(0)1543 250011.
Yorkshire : Richmond: every 7 years in September (next 2011), halberdiers and sergeants-at-mace lead an 18 mile walk, the water bailiff strides out into the River Swale as others watch on their perambulation. A horse race takes place outside town. Town Council +44(0)1748 850808.
Blessing the Sea
This custom seems to start in the 19th century, on Ascension Day unless noted.
Devon : Blessing of the River Dart across the water at Kingswear and Dartmouth. TIC +44(0)1803 834224; Brixham blessing of the fishing fleet.
Hampshire : Mudeford vicar of All Saints blesses the waters from a boat. Parish Office +44(0)1202 488645.
Kent : Margate in January at Epiphany, important in the Greek Orthodox calendar. The Greek- Cypriot community led by the Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain following Greek custom throws a crucifix into the sea to be brought ashore by a swimmer. TIC +44(0)1843 220241; Folkestone - The Seafarers Church, St Peter's leads the blessing of the sea and fisheries. Nearest Sunday to St Peter's Day (29 June), this year 30 June and nearest to high tide on the quay. Church office +44(0)1303 254472; Broadstairs - on the old jetty forth week of April; Whitstable oyster fishing at Reeves beach near or on St James' Day 25 July, during Whitstable Oyster Festival 20-28 July. Men of Kent and Kentish Men present the annual ceremony of the Blessing of the Waters. Dates from the early 19th century. Festival office +44(0)1227 265666 or see the web-site.
Norfolk : The Norfolk Broads blessed from the ruins of St Benet's Hulme Abbey near Horning by the Bishop of Norwich 1st Sunday in August. TIC +44(0)1603 666071.
Northumberland : Blessing of the Tyne and the sea from ship choir and clergy at North Shields; Norham 14 February on the River Tweed, Salmon fishery blessed before midnight just before the start of the netting season, the first catch is given to the vicar.
Yorkshire : Whitby Ascension Day Blessing of the Sea. Whitby Penny Hedge on the eve of Ascension Day at 9.00am. This may be the oldest surviving Manorial custom in England a hedge of stakes and woven osiers is created on the beach at Boyes Staithe in the harbour to stand for three tides a possible Saxon relic of fence building as part of a tenant's rent. TIC +44(0)1947 602674.
Sussex : Hastings, Blessing of the Sea from the lifeboat house. TIC +44(0)1424 781111.