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In the Footsteps of St Richard - Jubilee Day out

The idea of celebrating our golden Jubilee by retracing the footsteps of St Richard is more than a year old. Fr Kieron's idea of a day out with links to St Richard's life was investigated by Maria.The story of St Richard's itinerant two years, with the king banning people from sustaining him, is well known. That he kept faith and in touch with his flock is also on record. Tarring (now in West Worthing) was where Richard found a priest who supported him, but this was considered to be too far away with no suitable walking routes nearby. However, the Compton area, with its lovely old churches seemed suitable. Maria's proposal was gladly accepted by Fr Kieron, and it required much footwork and planning to decide the route.

So, thanks to the generous response of the Vicar of Compton to our request that we base our day on these churches and celebrate Mass at St Mary's Compton, detailed planning was underway. The Mardens was well known as it happens, to husband Dominic who had been on many runs in the area when the family were living nearby after moving here from Scotland 7 years ago.

So a map was produced, a route planned, health and safety rules complied with, and vigorous pubicity aroused the interest of 100 parishioners, on foot, wheelchair and motor car. One desirable needed was good weather.

Came the day: it poured.

The rendezvous was New Compton Parish Room, to sign on.

Seventy pedestrians (including 16 children) bravely tackled the walking routes, in rain to begin with, but determined to make the pilgrimage.

The walkers passed the prehistoric mound known as Bevis' Thumb and Telegraph Hill.

Martin Downy, afoot, reports "With so many people, the group easily became spread out but the need to negotiate farm gates, stiles and the odd deep puddle meant the group then bunched up again. this resulted in small groups forming and reforming which helped to mix up the ages and abilities of the walkers. Marshalls front and rear meant that no-one got lost and there was always someone to chat to . By the time the group reached Locksash farm the weather had warmed considerably and the water stop was the opportunity to shed some of the wet weather gear.

the last stretch was downhill all the way and this was also the Nature Trail for children who were given sheets to tick off various things they might see on the way. Disappointingly, no deer or sheep could be seen but that didn't stop some children from claiming that the 'speck on the horizon' must have been one or other."!

The motor party of 20 people in 5 cars was guided by Dominic - North Marden church being well hidden even from pedestrians.

An account was given here, by Dominic, of the history - this was one of 200 churches in Richard's diocese, then a drive to East Marden.

Here, the sun came out and so did picnic chairs and sandwiches.

The booklet reminded us that Bishop Richard was based at Tarring, but went on horseback to visit his churches until the king, threatened with excommunication, accepted St Richard's authority.

Martin continues: " things were a bit brighter by the time the group reached Upmarden church, We we were all invited to enter and light candles which Simon and Judy Davenport had brought . Upmarden churchyard then became the site for some alfresco dining as everyone tucked into goodies they had brought. With only one or two benches and some very wet grass, most people ate while standing up."

One more church - Up Marden- with St Richard's prayer being recited, beforewalkers and motorists were reunited, returning to Compton for Mass.

Refreshments rounded off the day.

There was a birthday greeting to Mary before everyone went home.

Thanks too, to Maria and Dominic

For all of us an imaginative and well-planned experience of 13th century life and faith.

We are grateful to the Reverend Andrew stamp, the Vicar, and thanks also are due to the welcoming people of the Mardens,