Exmouth team go Beating The Bounds!

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By PGStrange | Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 10:15

YOU MAY have recently seen a team of people wandering around Exmouth and the town's outskirts with willow sticks, beating them occasionally on the ground. You may have even seen Exmouth's town crier Roger Bourgein shouting at rocks along the way. What on earth was going on and why?

The curious behaviour was a revival of Beating The Bounds, an ancient custom involving members of the community walking around the town's boundaries, and marking them out. It was used when maps were rare, and originally involved whipping choir boys near the town's stone boundary markers.

"It's an old tradition, going back to Roman times," explained Suzanne Birkett, Town Management Project Officer. "It's been adapted over a long period of time where townsfolk walk around their boundaries, hitting a boundary post or boundary spot with a willow, or, as used to be the case, hitting a choir boy over the head or dipping him upside down on to the boundary mark so he won't forget and he'll remember where the town's boundaries are."

The custom was last re-enacted in 2006 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the town council. This year it was revived to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee, but instead of whipping choir boys, town crier Roger Bourgein shouted at the rocks.

The Beating The Bounds team also included town councillors Jean Mitchell, Malcolm Mitchell and Steve Gazzard, town clerk Colin Poole, former councillor Phil Freuen-Smith, and Suzanne Birkett. Later on they were joined by members of The Govnors' Assembly, the vintage cyclists group.

"It was lovely," said Suzanne. "About seven of us did the walk. It was a 13-mile round trip, the weather was gorgeous, so we all had a great time. We stopped at various points to beat the bounds – the boundary stones – with willow sticks, which is the tradition. We also stopped for tea at A la Ronde, where we met members of the Govnors' Assembly, the vintage-inspired cyclists, who were down for another activity on the following day.

"It was quite odd at one point, clambering under the bridge to get out of the estuary and beat a big stone in the mud."

Will they be Beating The Bounds again?

"Yes, we probably will to commemorate another special occasion," said Suzanne. "It seems something that people enjoyed."

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