Friends of Essex Churches - Ride and Stride 2015 - Page 1
This was my fifth year fund raising for friends of Essex Churches who have made many generous grants to St John’s during our 10 year restoration scheme. In 2010 I went to all the Anglican churches in Waltham Forest as I was member of the deanery Synod and wanted to explore the area more fully. In 2011 I reached all Anglican churches in neighbouring borough of Redbridge, where I now live. 2012 was the Olympic year and I managed to reach all the Anglican churches in Newham. 2013 was a very wet year and I went to most of churches Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, etc. in the Borough of Dagenham and Barking. I met a few riders at Barking Abbey who were going to ride direct to Waltham Abbey and also the Bishop IN (not OF) Barking. Last year I'd planned the more challenging ride to all Anglican churches in Havering a much bigger deanery than Waltham Forest which would have meant I'd covered every parish in the Archdeaconry of West Ham but this has now been split and the date was too near that of my father's funeral.
2015 Ride and Stride day I was due to be on holiday in the Isle of Wight but Barbara our warden said she'd raised money for Essex by walking in other dioceses and encouraged me to ride during my holiday. I found that a similar event was being run by HIHCT (Hampshire and the Islands Historic Churches Trust) so I marked the position of all Anglican churches in the Deaneries of East and West Wight on a map. There were a lot and it looked hillier than round here. I then overlaid an outline of the Isle of Wight on a map of East London and realised how large it was, stretching from Chingford to Stratford and out to Romford i.e. a far bigger area than I'd covered on previous years.
Four of us were camping on a caravan site in the North West of the Isle, at Newbridge; a bicycle was among the many things packed into the caravan and towed down to Leamington and across the Solent to Yarmouth on Thurs 10th September.
On Friday night I tried out the bike, a little smaller than my own one , with a very hard saddle and squealing brakes. I set off after breakfast on a miserable day, with a rucksack of water proofs, maps, a packed lunch and a car foot pump.
Friends of Essex Churches - Ride and Stride 2015 - Page 2
I tried to text the vicar and his children who were having a Ride and Stride round Leytonstone. First stop was the old church of All Saints Calbourne. It was open and had a lot of water damage last winter and estimated they needed half a million for repairs. There were pews with doors and a brass to Sir William Montacute, accidentally killed by his father the Earl of Salisbury while jousting. His grieving father had erected a similar brass in all parishes where he owned land.
Next stop was another church in the team parish in fact the nearest to our campsite, St Michael Shalfleet, also Medieval with a very squat tower. I met the vicar and enquired about times of Sunday service.
I headed North to the Church of the Holy Spirit, Newtown which on the map looked as though it was in the marshes lying near a big river estuary and a National Trust owned old Town Hall. A host offered me orange squash and for the third time that day I caught up with a rider from Brook in the South of the Island. There was a box at back of church selling books and cucumbers for fifty pence each.
The area was very rural, I ate some sloes in the hedge and kept my eyes peeled for red squirrels as the Isle of Wight is one of few areas of the UK without grey squirrels. Branches ran right across the lane. By now the weather was a lot sunnier and I was regretting packing waterproofs. I decided to include not just Anglican churches and went by the lanes to Porchfield where the map showed two chapels. There was no trace of one and the other a red brick “Bible Christian (Methodist) Chapel” was now a private house, even the pub had closed down.
The Isle of Wight has a high chalk ridge along the South coast and most of the rivers run almost the whole width of the island ending in wide estuaries on the North coast. I decided to go South across the main road to the old town of Carisbrooke. Charles I was held prisoner in the castle there and its chapel was recently restored in his memory; we visited it later in the week.
Friends of Essex Churches - Ride and Stride 2015 - Page 3
Outside Carisbrooke was Gunville and Carisbrooke Methodists opposite which was a charity shop for Friends of the Animals and I was able to get a butter dish which pleased my fellow campers.
St. Mary's Carisbrooke is a bigger church halfway down a steep hill. There were several hosts present who gave me tea and cake. I noticed an unusual Royal coat of Arms on the wall to AR (Anne Regina rather than Alasdair Rochan). A notice in the porch said at the end of October would be their second ever wool festival and to ask for a pattern for knitted bunting. They couldn't find the page but one of the ladies kindly recited it to me. Not being a knitter I don't know all the abbreviations normally used so I have no idea what shape would be formed by anyone attempting to follow my notes. It began “Cast on 30 stitches, knit the back of the stitch on that row, next row knit two together wool rn to end of row.... (eds. note – guess you start with 32 stitches, k 2 tog at the start of each row and end up with a triangle. Anyone up for knotted bunting for next year’s Michaelmas Fair?)
Squealing down the hill and avoiding the road up the other side of the valley to the castle, I went on to Newport, the capital of the Island. It was early afternoon by now but the town is swarming with churches and I was able to fill in a lot more spaces on the sponsor form. Castlehold Baptist church had bright blue pillars on the facade. Then walking down a one way street I found in quick succession, Newport Catholic church and right next to it the temporary premises of Newport Congregational church with the Salvation Army citadel on the other side of the road.
Also on this road I noticed the back entrances to three neighbouring shops, BHS, BHF and WHS.
It was a busy Saturday afternoon with the centre of the town full of shoppers. Newport is full of traffic lights and one way systems (as is Leytonstone). I spotted another church only to find it is now a Wetherspoons pub “The Man in the Moon” formerly the Congregational Church. The pub had the odd slogan, “Avoid segregation, Join our congregation”.
Friends of Essex Churches - Ride and Stride 2015 - Page 4
I finally managed to find a pedestrianised square with, at one side, St Thomas's, Newport Minster the unofficial cathedral of the Isle of Wight. I was welcomed in and given a cup of tea. I noticed they were due to have a civic service the next day to celebrate the record breaking length of the Queen's reign. We went back for this and I was very pleased to be recognised by two of the sidesmen on a very busy service with the Lord Lieutenant, many of the councillors, about 20 standard bearers from British Legion and various Old Comrades Associations and a selection of children from schools around the island. I was told that they had a special set of pews in the chancel not for the choir but for the town council, very grand with leather padding and armrests, though the vicar disapproved of them and persuaded the council to sit in the pews at the front of the aisle rather than behind his back. The church also had a tomb made by Queen Victoria for Princess Elizabeth, a young daughter of King Charles the first who died young while a prisoner but was brilliant at languages including Latin, Hebrew and Greek.
The Ride and Stride hosts gave me careful instructions how to find their sister church St John the Baptist, Newport.
The people there were very friendly a fetched me several cups of tea from their hall as we discussed differences between their St John’s and ours and also the merits and otherwise of being in a shared parish with a powerful town centre Minster. They were planning an appeal to modernise their hall which was set out for a tea afternoon for the parishioners and visitors.
After a while at St John’s for a late lunch, I headed back to the town passing the church of latter day saints (Mormons) one of several buildings on my route which I was uncertain whether to include or not. The main A3020 was very busy so I went across and up a very steep hill to Pan Down and eventually reached, after a few one way streets, St Paul’s, Barton which was not open but had a huge cedar of Lebanon. Further up the hill was sign to Bestival, a pop concert on the island that weekend which was just audible from that distance. My aim was to go across country as far as Wootton and then start working my way back to the campsite. The weather was glorious, there were fine views across the Solent and a much more pleasant place for a bike ride than East London. I passed many tourist attractions including a lavender farm, an owl and monkey sanctuary and Butterfly and Fountain world. I finally reached Wootton. It is at one end of the steam railway.
Friends of Essex Churches - Ride and Stride 2015 - Page 5
Wootton Bridge Methodists was similar style building to the one in Porchfield, but still in use with a banner advertising the following day's “Short and Snappy Family Service” at 10am. Nearby was the Anglican St Marks, Wootton it was also shut on Saturday but its much older sister church St Edmunds Wootton was open on a rough track at the top end of the village.
The two ladies were very welcoming even though I was only the fourth visitor they'd had that day. I explained I was on holiday in the island and was keen to get as far as Wootton before going back as I had connections with another church of a similar name. My parents were married and buried at St John the Evangelist Wotton (pronounced Wootton), near Dorking and I was Christened there. The two churches were each very small and Norman or earlier. Strangely, St Edmunds was one of the few churches I went inside which had had the pews removed. Many had pews with doors, a feature of the Holy Trinity Botleys and Lyne where I went to Sunday School, and so the style I used to imagine was typical of most churches though until my trip to the Isle of Wight I had seen very few of this type.
It was now 4pm and time for the long slog back across the island. The bag was feeling heavier and the saddle lower and harder and I was about to find out whether I'd gone further than I thought with the wind behind me and would now have to struggle against it. The wind is very strange on the Isle of Wight. On Friday at breakfast we'd noticed we'd a Southerly wind at ground level and yet the clouds were coming from the North. Several of the church hosts commented that they sometimes had four different wind directions on the island at the same time. This was because they were clever, said a local - or odd, said a vicar who'd recently moved from the mainland.
My first stop was St Mildreds, Whippingham. I squealed to the halt past a massive coach park. This church was fairly near Osborne House where Queen Victoria raised her family. The original one had been flattened by Prince Albert who had designed a replacement which looked a bit like the Albert Memorial with pinnacles on the corners of the tower and lots of brown marble inside. There was also an exhibition to the wedding of Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria's youngest daughter who wed a German prince and after his death lived at Carisbrooke castle and according to a book about her sister Louise, censored all Queen Victoria's papers for the Royal archives.
St John the Baptist
Serving God and the Community of Leytonstone for more than 180 years
This Months Articles Click on article to view
Friends of Essex Churches - Ride and Stride 2015 - Page 6
From there I worked my way up the east side of the Medina estuary and got completely lost in a vast new building site and housing estate whichwasn't on my map and finally reached East Cowes. I passed Adelaide Grove Methodists then down towards the docks and Clarence Road Evangelical Church which holds Clarries lunch club on Fridays and later in the evening Rock Solid.
I looked very briefly at St James Church East Cowes built by John Nash the architect who also built much of Regency London, including parts of Buckingham Palace where Edward Blore, who built St John’s, Leytonstone also worked. The Host kindly gave me directions to reach the chain ferry or floating bridge which I needed to use to cross the river to Cowes. I ate more of my sandwiches while waiting for the ferry. The regulations had recently changed and foot passengers were no longer free which slowed the ferry down as all the passengers had to buy tickets including a large crew of yachtsmen who had lost their boat?! I could see several churches in Cowes including a big Catholic one near the ferry but my main aim was to get up the steep hill up to the main road and go south to the final church on my route. I passed Cowes Spiritualist church and also St Faith’s Anglican one, where I was shouted at for taking a photo from the other side of the road. I passed a wooden sculpture to the ship building traditions of Cowes, a cemetery chapel and took a turning off the main road called Church Lane. This was a lot more rural than our one, and turned into a narrow grassy track.
Finally at ten past six I reached St John the Baptist Northwood, which was still open as Ride and Stride finishes at six but they were getting ready for a concert. Finally there was a long slog home past Parkhurst Prison, which I'd joked I should try to visit the chapel, but there were strict signs forbidding any photography even from the road, and then a long journey east along the main road, hoping I'd get home before Sunset. I turned South down a very minor road to Fivehouses and rolled down towards our village and struggled up the final hill. I took a self portrait going up the hill with phone at armslength pointing back. I think there is a better way to take a self portrait than aiming blind at the lens but I was a too tired to find out.
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I'd like to thank all the church hosts for their kindness, Helen, John and Daphne for taking me on holiday and keeping dinner waiting while I recovered, and all the people who sponsored me on the ride and stride. I reached over twenty churches, cycled over twenty miles though it felt more, and collected nearly £350 in sponsor money. I regret not reaching St Helen’s church, which is in the sea, or St Mary's Brading where the first ever hymn number board was invented. I may return to Isle of Wight another year.