When I was adopted as parliamentary candidate for North West Hampshire in 1995, I purchased from Ordnance Survey a large-scale map of the constituency, which was at that time unfamiliar territory. I then went to WH Smiths and bought some sheets of multi-coloured stickers. I then affixed to the map a sticker for each school, church and pub. Blue for the schools; yellow for the churches; and red for the pubs. In order to acquaint myself with the constituency and those who lived in it, I then resolved to visit each one.
GY with fellow cyclists at Tangley Church
This task took several months, at the end of which I was spiritually and physically refreshed, and knew by heart the words of Kumbaya. I read somewhere that going to church adds ten minutes to your life; going to the pub probably knocks off a similar amount (less, now smoking is banned), so I ended up about all square on the life expectancy front.
This map came in handy earlier in the month, on the occasion of the Historic Churches Bike Ride; the more churches one visits, the greater the sum raised for their preservation.
Aurelia and I have been on this when we lived in St Mary Bourne, but have not participated since we moved to Penton Mewsey. Each year, the persuasive Caroline Tomlinson has invited me to mount my bike, and each year my conscience has been pricked. I have however remained immobile on the day and sent off a cheque instead. This year, I agreed to go and this was where the map came in useful. It enabled me to plot the most ergonomic way of visiting the greatest number of churches, while travelling the smallest number of miles.
I set a target of nine churches, which involved about 15 miles. There was only one problem; the map implied that North West Hampshire is flat. It isn’t; the journey from Appleshaw Church to Tangley Church, about five miles, is uphill all the way. Going through Ragged Appleshaw, it was more a case of ragged cyclist.
By the time I got to Tangley, I was in some distress. By the entrance to the Church is a tombstone with “George Young” engraved on it. I felt like hopping inside. But once you have got to Tangley, it is downhill to everywhere else.
There was great friendship and hospitality at all nine churches. Had the bicycle been invented in the time of Our Lord, I am sure he would have owned one. Certainly, his many disciples in NorthWest Hants were everywhere on the roads that Saturday.
A word about the food. The Mars Bars at Appleshaw deserve a mention. Tangley and Hatherden were unmanned churches, but had good chocolate biscuits. And because they were unmanned, more than one biscuit could be consumed without arousing comment.
I took a camera with me, and had a picture taken at every manned church. This was in order to prove to Aurelia when I got home that I had been visiting the yellow dots on the map and not the red ones.
There was only one problem. I forgot to get any sponsorship. So I sent off a cheque, as in earlier years.