Celebrateing centuries of old tradition for the first time in seven years.
Beating the Bounds began in 1346 with the presentation of a royal charter creating freemen of Llantrisant. Every seven years thousands of people walk the seven mile boundary of the borough to mark the anniversary. The walk was created to ensure that anyone who wasn’t a freeman wasn’t trading within the boundary.
Over the centuries the rural boundary has been replaced by developments including the Royal Mint, the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, factories, shops and houses. One resident in Cross Inn will welcome hundreds into their garden so the sons or grandsons of freemen can be bounced on the boundary stone – the Maen Llwyd – which sits on their property.
This custom of bouncing a freemans boy on the boundary stones traditionally reminds the boys of where the boundary exists. The walk is led by the bearer of the mace who undertakes the walk carrying the Llantrisant mace. It dates back to 1633 and is older than the mace at the Houses of Parliament.
Having received a flyer about the walk that takes place in the area I’ve just moved into, I thought it would be a good opportunity to delve into the history of the old town and join in with centuries of tradition.
A small hand full of us met up in the Old Town area of Llantrisant for the start of the walk, (3pm avoiding the first two hours of market stalls, and the freemen service) on the BBC news in pictures site you can see us on the left hand side as the procession starts, (Andy holding a large bottle of water and the rest of us tucked behind, I’m assured you can see my legs!) We slowly merged into the crowd as we head of down the hill brass band playing, people cheering, dogs barking, and the inevitable vuvuzela making a flipping racket over the lot.
I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly fast walker, but it was extremely frustrating being stuck in a crowd that seemed to move at the pace of a snail, and very often stopped as the congestion built up when roads got narrower, after what seemed like an hour we had just passed the first km mark, we then stopped completely for the ceremonial bouncing of the boy on a stone in someones back garden.
I was intrigued by the thought of over a thousand people walking through someones garden to see a boy being bounced on a bolder, despite home information packs no longer being required, having just purchased a home I could picture filling out the form. “Any further Information a purchaser of this property should be aware of? – Every seven years over a thousand people will crowd through your back garden climb over your fence, and stand on your shed to watch a form of legalised child abuse!” I was shocked to see that despite the narrow lane being barley big enough for a row of four to pass down, people were pushing passed to see the ceremony at the front with people stood on shoulders and climbing trees. I didn’t get to see what it was all about but trusted the home owner hadn’t put the washing out that day!
After twenty minutes of hanging around we eventually got going again, however it wasn’t long before the next obstacle. As we walked of the main road at just about the second km, the thousand strong crowed had to cross a small river, not quite shallow enough to walk through, and neither was it narrow enough to jump. The only means to cross was a bridge made up of railway sleepers, wide enough for only one person to cross at a time that lead straight to a fence to be climbed over. As the crowd pushed from behind, it wasn’t long before another route was created by throwing in some stepping stones and pulling down another part of the fence. At this point the keen walkers where clearly separated from those who had come for the celebration. The difference being, those in walking shoes against those in flip flops.
More or less fields from here on until we got back to Talbot Green, but the positive thing from this river was that from here on, the massive crowd would be streamlined and it gave an opportunity to walk at a good pace and overtake some of the slower walkers. From time to time we would have to cross a road and police assistance was fab around the whole walk, stopping traffic to allow the walker to cross, and to point us in the right direction when needed.
At about three km mark we had to get onto Llantrisant common, this involved climbing over a small bank through a fence, and jumping a small bog. The crowed started to queue up ready to jump at one of two suitable places. Inevitably a dog went into the bog, and decided to shake all over those waiting patiently. This crossing was a little difficult for a few, the young the old, and obviously the prats in their flip flops. A big thank you to the gentlemen who stood for sometime over the bog swinging the less agile across!
The walk was simple from here on over the common to a farm that laid on free refreshments. From water to cider, which wasn’t what you might consider to be the best form of refreshment, but it seemed to be the peoples favourite for the whole journey. Pint per mile is the phrase that springs to mind, with odd aromas of hops and sweet cider wafting past from time to time.
Once the walk had gone through Llantrisant tradeing est and the hospital, there seemed to be some confusion over the route as the golf club had refused walkers the right to cross their land, and old paths had become overgrown. Map my run shows the route that we took. That doesn’t deviate much from the prescribed directions, but local knowledge was an advantage at this point. I can only recommend that the next time this walk is arranged the organisers put out markers to follow.
Overall It was a walk that evoked mixed feelings of enjoyment with frustration. I think this was due to the fact that the crowed that was so frustrating at the beginning of the walk with it’s slow pace and buzzing vuvuzelas, was probably the one thing needed at the end of the walk in order to disperse the annoyance of not knowing what direction you were supposed to be going in.
The whole point of this walk a way of recalling the history of the ancient town, but the more and more we went along the route, the more and more it become a want to ‘just’ finish. The carnival atmosphere would have suppressed feelings of having ‘just’ finished. I only hope that when we walk the Taff Trail in September, we all remember why we are doing the walk, and don’t get that feeling of just wanting to finish.
Links for The Beating the Bounds
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