Out of Bounds

Out of Bounds

‘County of Bedford’   Turvey Bridge

‘Out of Bounds!’ A tiresome school rubric which, loosely translated, meant: ‘If you are planning to go to that area, keep your head down’.

I’ve been thinking about boundaries—a subject that could fly off unbounded in many directions, nearly all leading to philosophy and deep water. What interests me is the little dotted lines on the maps, a source of confusion for unwary walkers—but walk far enough along a boundary and you’ll probably come back to where you started, given time—and a source of fascination to people like me.

Interesting facts lie hidden in those little lines, but one important line always seems to be missing—the Greenwich Meridian. When you drive to Cambridge, you travel to the Eastern Hemisphere—and they don’t even have a sign to tell you when! Do you know that when you cross Turvey Bridge you cross from East England to South East England? Slightly confusing as you are traveling West, but caused by the long thin shape of Buckinghamshire. And travel a bit further towards Northampton from the Warrington Roundabout, and you are in the East Midlands.

There’s a wood between the Warrington Roundabout and Harrold called ‘Threeshire Wood’, the meeting place of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. If you want to impress your friends with stories of walks taking in three counties, that’s the place to go, unfortunately you can’t get there by car.

When my community moved to Turvey I became interested in local history, and what struck me, and perhaps surprised me, was to realise how little we actually know about the history of a certain place, what we learned at school turns out to be more like generalisations. Local history seems to raise endless questions, one thing leads to another—only a few weeks ago I was driving back to Turvey via Astwood and it suddenly occurred to me that it was strange having a road called ‘Turvey Road’ that actually leads to Newton Blossomville—but not so strange if you look closely at the old maps.

Back in April 1741, a court case was adjourned to give time to determine the boundary of the Manor of Turvey, and a description of the perambulation was duly recorded. I don’t know if all the members of the jury were expected to take part in the perambulation, it seems to be about 15 miles round Turvey Parish. With the help of a map drawn in 1781, 40 years later, I’ve been having fun trying to figure out where the boundary was by going for walks taking with me an A4 printout of part of the 1781 map, and seeing if I can make any sense of it, sometimes it’s easy, sometimes completely baffling. There is a tantalising mention of ‘park pales’ in the perambulation, where on earth was the rest of the boundary of that park? Will we ever know? Will a document describing it turn up next week?

The persons who placed the boundary stone in the wall on Turvey Bridge seem to have the boundary of Bedfordshire fixed to the nearest centimetre, very impressive, but on the whole things don’t seem to be that black and white. Local history is certainly to do with joining up the dots, making reasonable sense of the little we do know, and being aware that freshly discovered information may well oblige us to redraw our dot picture.

‘Redrawing our dot picture.’ This seems to be something we actually need to do all the time in our everyday lives—we can’t just carve a line on a piece of stone and say that’s it, we would risk to become ‘petrified’, turned to stone.

Many people in our world today have been precipitated into an uninvited and unwelcome redraw by tragedies of illness and natural disaster and many have become petrified, terrified. We remain sincerely grateful to our NHS and all who rally round to help those in need, and we at the Abbey continue to pray for the many needs of our village and of our world—as we continue to redraw our own dot pictures.

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