Gloucestershire Historic Churches Trust
Sponsored Bicycle Ride - Saturday 14 September 2002
The following is from the October 2002 edition of the Prestbury Parish magazine
Nigel Woodcock always asks if I am going to take part, so I readily agreed. Clare (14) and Andrew (13) immediately said they were coming too! Amazing or what?
I chose to revisit the Deanery of Cirencester. I knew we would be rewarded by many beautiful church buildings, delightful country lanes and splendid views. There would be only a few steep hills and, besides, I knew the way. The latter is important when there is a time limit. Each of us started getting our sponsors lined up.
It was a fine day, Gill gave us a lift to Frampton Mansell and we were off to a good start. Most of the churches were open allowing for a prayer, a quick look around and a chance to write our names in the visitors’ book. Several of the churches were manned and offered drinks and biscuits, very gratefully received. We reached Cirencester in time for a late lunch. Then off again on the home stretch along the attractive valley from Stratton to Duntisbourne Abbotts and on to Coberley in the north of the deanery to say ‘Thank you’ to Jesus for a lovely day out.
We managed to visit 30 of the 35 churches in the Deanery of Cirencester and cycled some 48 miles in the day, raising approximately £90 for the Historic Churches Trust. Thank you to all our sponsors.
Historic Churches Trust Cycle Ride 14th September 2002
The beauty of this annual sponsored cycle ride is that one can choose any route, to any churches throughout the country, at any speed and between 10am and 6pm on the day. This year I chose to explore those churches on the west side of the Severn, expecting the going to be relatively flat. I take a copy of Arthur Mee’s Gloucestershire – published 1938 – to give a lead to items of interest.
First I set up the posters at St Mary’s at 9.30 when Lyn Whitehead arrived with three of her family to ride before going on holiday, Frank Merrett came to join Nigel Woodcock and the St Nicolas’ team and there was also an enthusiastic cyclist who hoped to break his record of 142 churches. Barbara took me by car to St Giles, Maisemore, a church largely rebuilt by the Victorians but has a Jacobean pulpit dated 1636 and an old hourglass on a bracket on the wall nearby, from the time when congregations expected a lengthy sermon and would cheer with approval when the preacher turned the glass to start again!
It was 11.30 when I shouldered my rucsac and cycled off. I had hardly gone a quarter of a mile when I met my predecessor as County Commissioner; we had a long chat about Scouting, medicine, the law, grandchildren and the Church (he too had been churchwarden). He warned me of the hill ahead and indeed I had to push my bike to Woolridge where there was a magnificent view across to the Wainlodes, though the far distance was hazy. I shed my rucsac onto the carrier and feeling released like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress sped down hill to the A417 at Hartpury passing the Methodist Chapel. As St Mary’s church is two miles the other side of the main road I gave it a miss and turned off immediately to Ashleworth.
St Bartholomew’s, Ashleworth, is below the village near the river and is part of some magnificent monastic buildings – eg the Tythe Barn, in the care of the National Trust, and was completely swathed in plastic. The church doorway is Saxon set in the north wall, which is almost all herringbone stonework, and there is much carved woodwork. Arthur Mee mentions a fine preaching cross 10ft high with carved lantern head in the churchyard but I was told it was in fact back on the village green.
A team of a dozen from Twyning also called but then proceeded to the inn by the river for their lunch. I cycled on and caught up with a fellow traveller who was also looking for St Mary’s, Hasfield. Here there were grotesque gargoyles poking from the tower, a scratch dial above the inner door, eight stone angels supporting the beams of the chancel and a tub shaped Norman font. The road back down the hill was pretty rough with strong country smells by the farms!
St Michael’s, Tirley, provided much appreciated refreshment; there is a window in memory of Revd Joseph Hore who served the parish for 61 years. The floor of the church has been raised to bring it above flood level! A short way into the village they were preparing the Methodist church for harvest festival.
My companion turned west to work his way back to Blaisdon in the Forest whilst I went east to Haw Bridge arriving just after 2pm to find the pub closed! I sat on their bench to eat a dry lunch and chatted with a member of the Twyning team whose bike had given up – until his wife collected him with the car. It was a level ride from the river until the road started to rise to Apperley; by the Methodist Chapel there was a very English scene of a cricket match in full swing with evocative sounds and cries. I stopped at the village green to check the position of the church when the clock struck three and I saw it behind me beyond the duck pond. Holy Trinity seemed odd as it was brick built; it is not mentioned in Arthur Mee and was locked so I could not find out more – but there were refreshments on the doorstep!
Downhill all the way to Deerhurst with views across the river and to Bredon Hill. St Mary’s is a Saxon gem with the Eyes of God, a strange two light window, a carved Saxon font, the two parts of which were found many miles apart, and a carved angel high on the west wall outside. Nearby is Odda’s Chapel, plain but again with a history going back to Saxon, possibly Roman, times.
Crossing the A38 I passed churches that I had visited on previous rides, St John the Baptist, Tredington (fossil coelacanth), St James the Great, Stoke Orchard (ancient wall paintings and a cup of tea with an old Scouting friend, his wife and daughter – my goddaughter), St Michael, Bishops Cleeve (locked), Methodist (flower festival), Church of the Ascension, Southam (locked), URC and St Mary’s Prestbury by 6pm, just! 24 miles, 16 churches and chapels, £250 of sponsorship and a good day out!
Thank you to all who supported cyclists.
The Parochial Church Council of the Ecclesiastical Parish of St Mary and St Nicolas Prestbury Cheltenham - Registered Charity No 1130933
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