Ride and Stride 2016 by the Famous Five by Jacqui Squire



OR THE FAMOUS FIVE – who set off in the rain one Saturday in September to walk to as many churches as possible in a day.  Sara Janssen, who had done the same walk 2 years previously, had achieved 20 – so this was our goal.

The money raised is for the Hampshire and Islands Historic Churches Trust, a charity involved in giving grants for the preservation of the region’s historic churches and chapels of all denominations, and for the Itchen Valley Parish. Just last year, HIHCT did give a generous grant of £1,000 to St Mary’s Avington to help towards the restoration of two parapets.

To start with, the five were the Gang of Four, Sara from Easton, who had issued the e-mail challenge, Bill and Rosie Salmond from Itchen Abbas and Jacqui Squire from Avington. We set off just after 10 am from St Mary’s Easton and headed across the water meadows, under the M3 and into Kings Worthy and St Mary’s. Ticked two already so on to St Swithin at Headbourne Worthy, a delightful small and very old church surrounded by water, then on to Hyde and St Bartholomew’s, where King Alfred is possibly buried. Here the Gang of Four became the Famous Five when Frits Janssen joined the group.

Up Hyde Street, ticking off two non-conformist churches and a chapel then uphill to St Pauls, a very Victorian construction overlooking the main railway line.  It was still raining but the group pressed on across Oram’s Arbour, stopping at the Catholic St James burial ground on the Romsey Road (did anyone know that was there?) and over to the University where, amongst all the modern buildings lay the core of the old King Alfred’s College and its stone chapel.  Nobody there to greet us so we hurried on across the cemetery to Christchurch where we stopped for cake, coffee and comfort.

Still raining as we went down Canon Street and past Winchester College, stopping at Wolvesey Palace, the residence of the Bishop of Winchester, open exceptionally for the Heritage weekend.  Following the same theme and catching up with the Itchen again, we stopped for a quick snack at the Bishop on the Bridge.


After sustenance the walking resumed – and it was still raining. Up St Giles Hill to the oldest church in Winchester, St John’s. In former times this church had a gallery accessed by an outside stairway – this so that the lepers who were incarcerated in the medieval Leper Hospital on Morn Hill could come down to the city and watch the service from there. Back down into the Broadway a visit was paid to St John’s Chapel between the alms houses and the bus stops, then through Abbey Gardens to the Quaker Friends Meeting house, also open for the Heritage Weekend.  It was now past 4 pm so we needed to hurry – and it was still raining. Quickly walking through the Cathedral grounds up the steps to St Swithin’s church over Kingsgate, perhaps the most exotic church location in the city. Back to the Cathedral, where the Ride and Stride marshalls were well-organised, and on to the little St Lawrence church near the Buttercross, the site of William the Conqueror’s first dwelling in Winchester.  A quick yomp down Parchment Street to visit Holy Trinity, another large Victorian edifice, then up to St Peter’s Catholic church by 5pm, only another hour left before all the churches closed.   A quick detour to knock on the (closed) door of the United Reform church in Jewry Street. It was still raining when we reached the car and were whisked up to All Saints in Highcliffe then on to the last church at St Andrew’s, Chilcombe. Here the rain finally stopped and the sun had come out, so we enjoyed the view from the church before jumping in the car again for the return to Easton and long hot baths.

Twenty churches in just under eight hours on a great day, visiting places I for one had never seen before. In all the churches which were open we received a warm welcome with offers of food and drinks at each stop. Thanks to all the wonderful volunteers who manned their churches – it was lovely to see so many enthusiastic people and to hear their stories.

We managed to equal Sara’s record and raised £385, which will be split equally between HIHCT and the Itchen Valley Parish. Thanks to Sara for laying down the challenge, to Frits for the transport and to all my fellow walkers who provided laughter and encouragement throughout a very wet day.

Jacqui Squire

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