Beating the Bounds

(Does anyone have any photographs of this expedition, or a copy of the Schedule, mentioned in the second paragraph? Report loaned by Betty Jackson.)

Report of proceedings on Saturday, 11th June 1977

Beating the Bounds – 1929The ancient custom of beating the bounds of the unenclosed common land of the parishes of Hamsterley and South Bedburn was revived on Saturday, 11th June 1977 as part of the celebrations of the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The last time the custom was observed was on 1st June 1960 (and before that, in 1929 – see photo).

The departure from Grove Hall

All Interested persons were invited to meet at the Grove Hall (‘Redford’) at 10.00am. Several others arrived later and the party eventually comprised three members of the Hamsterley Parish Council, four members of the South Bedburn Parish Council and their Clerk, twelve other male residents of the two parishes, three ladies and four boys, a total of twenty seven persons. They included four people who had taken part in the proceedings in 1960. The oldest member of the party was Councillor Walshaw of South Bedburn, (aged 67 years) who was accompanied by his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Ann Walshaw, and grandson, John Walshaw (aged 8 years). The names of all other persons taking part are set out in the Schedule to this report. (Not with report.  Does anyone have a copy?)

Brownlow Common

The party left Grove Hall on foot and proceeded along the bridle road to Metcalf’s House (Honeybee) ascending Paddy’s Bank. They turned West along a road shown on the Award Map and marked ‘road’ for John Blackett and Mr. Maddison to Brownlow Common and entered the common at the east boundary.

The party followed a well-worn track leading due West across the common. On the North side of the track they saw an old railway wagon standing in a sheltered position, which, on close investigation, proved to be a shelter for grouse shooters and beaters. They also noted an old tub, which was thought to have been used in one of the nearby quarries.

The party observed a number of sheep grazing on the South East part of the common, which were thought to belong to Mr Frank Ward.

The well-worn track began to peter out and the party divided into two. The smaller group continued West to a sheep fold set into the hillside and known as “Coatsworth’s Sheep Fold’. The larger group moved South to the edge of the forest and then proceeded West close to the forest wall. They noted a small section of wall built into the side of a bank whose purpose could not be determined. This group had to cross rough ground including thick heather and some very marshy land, which caused problems for those persons who were not wearing wellingtons.

The two groups joined up at the boundary stone on Black Hill at the South West corner of the common. The party paused briefly while photographs were taken (Does anyone have copies?) and the two youngest members, John Walshaw and Kevin Hodgson, were ‘bumped’ on the boundary stone. A number of coins were left under the boundary stone.

Ayhope Shield and lunch

The party moved North following the line of Curricks, which mark the West boundary, and adding and adding a number of stones to one of them. They joined the South Grain Beck at ‘The Loop’. Here the beck constitutes the North boundary of the common and the party turned East following the beck to Ayhope Shield at the ‘Meeting of the Grains’. On the way, they passed a large stone on the North side of the beck, which had a well-defined indentation down the centre and was clearly a boundary stone. Before they reached Ayhope Shield, the party met Mr. Leslie Hogarth, the Under Keeper for Underley Estates, the owners of the common He accompanied the party to Ayhope Shield where the party rested and had lunch.

Pikestone Fell

After leaving Ayhope Shield, the party then divided into two groups. The smaller group followed the route, which was taken in 1960 when the boundary party found it impossible to trace the line of the North boundary between Ayhope Shield and Doctor’s Gate. The larger group followed Mr. Hogarth, who had volunteered to take them along the line of the North Boundary. This second group moved North East up a steep hill on to Pikestone Fell. They first encountered a circle of stones which is marked on the Ordnance Survey map as ‘mound’ and whose purpose could not be determined. Shortly afterwards, Kevin Hodgson almost stood on an adder which was partly concealed by heather and which was promptly killed by M. Hogarth. Consequently a second group moved warily forward to a small enclosure, which Mr. Hogarth said was a sheepfold, before crossing some very marshy land where a number of persons experienced wet feet. Before reaching Doctor’s Gate both groups observed numerous sheep on the North side of the common. Those nearer to Ayhope Shield were understood to belong to Mr. John Pickering and those nearer to Doctor’s Gate to Mr. Ivan Peart. There were also a number of sheep belonging to Mr. Lawrence Bainbridge, a South Bedburn Parish Councillor.

Doctor’s Gate

The two groups joined up at Doctor’s Gate and were met by a party of horse riders from Hamsterley who had made the journey by road. They were also greeted by Mr. William Bainbridge, the Clerk of Hamsterley Parish Council and Licensee of the Cross Keys Inn, who had brought liquid refreshment in his estate car. The members of the party were in urgent need of refreshment and, in some cases, resuscitation, and Mr. Bainbridge prescribed adequately for their various requirements. Three representatives of the ‘Sunday Sun’ were also present at Doctor’s Gate and the spirits of the party were further raised by and assurance that their exploits would appear in print on the following day. Finally the party were joined for the last stage of their journey by Mr. Arthur Raine, a former chairman of South Bedburn Parish Council, Mr. Maurice Walton, a member of Hamsterley Parish Council, and Mr. John Coatsworth, a former clerk of Hamsterley Parish Council. Mr. Coatsworth could claim the unique distinction of having taken part in the Beating of the Bounds expeditions of both 1929 and 1960.

Greatly invigorated, the party moved off North East towards ‘The Straights’. Near the entrance to the Straights, the party observed the wire fence, which had been encountered by the 1960 expedition. However, on this occasion, the gate at the Northern end of the fence was not secured with wire and the party had no difficulty in passing. Descending to the Hamsterley – Wolsingham road, a number of flags were observed on the North side of the Straights, which were thought to mark a track used for scrambling.

On reaching the road, the party were again joined by the horse riders near to Knitsley Cottage. Final photographs were taken before the majority of the party were conveyed to Hamsterley by cars kindly provided by relatives and friends.

Knitsley Fell

A small group continued their walk along the Straights on the East side of Hamsterley – Wolsingham road. They were preceded by the horse riders, one of whom, unfortunately, came to grief in a bog where his horse became trapped. It was eventually freed, but the riders decided that the wiser course was to return to the road.

The walkers continued towards Knitsley Fell and came to a fence made of pig netting part of the way up the Straights. There was no gate and a return of fence was pulled from the wall so that the party could pass. A small group of four led by Mr. Walshaw made a short detour to the South. He pointed out a deep hole which had apparently been excavated by fluorspar miners and which had constituted a danger to both persons and sheep. Within the last two years, South Bedburn Parish Council had been in correspondence with the owners of the Underley Estates, and, as a result of their efforts, the owners had erected a fence round the hole. The fence was inspected and found to be in good condition.

The group emerged on to the Knitsley road at about 4.00pm when it began to rain heavily. Fortunately, transport was waiting to convey the members back to their respective homes.

The weather

Apart from the final shower, weather conditions had been generally good During the early part of the walk, the sky was overcast and, on higher ground, there was a cold North East wind. Whilst walking along the South Grain Beck, the party was sheltered and, in fact, weather conditions gradually improved until, approaching Doctor’s Gate, the sun broke through and it became very pleasant. However, before the party left Doctor’s Gate, it again became overcast with a cold wind.

The excursion was thoroughly enjoyed by both walkers and riders and it was generally felt that the next occasion for Beating the Bounds should not long be delayed.

The follow up

This report will be considered at a Public Meeting of both parishes on 21st June, when it will be decided whether any action should be taken regarding the sheep on the common, the majority of which were owned by persons who are not registered as being entitled to grazing rights.

Note:- The place names mentioned in this report are taken from the two inch Ordnance Survey Map Sheet NZ03 reprinted with minor corrections in 1956.

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