‘Beating the Bounds’

Canal Walk

“Beating the bounds’ of a parish is a custom dating back to medieval times. The people of the parish walked the length of the parish boundaries, beating or stopping at the boundary stones or other significant markers. The purpose was to ensure that parishioners were familiar with the parish boundaries.’


My local parish/walking route in my home town is a walk that follows The Grand Union canal and circles back round through fields which are part of the Boxmoor National Trust. The route begins anywhere along the canal, west of point A. However, I usual begin after passing the church, which is signified by point A. I follow the canal route passing various features, such as a cricket club (point B), go underneath a bridge which has a pub on top (point C) and begin to circle back once I see the railway line (point D). Point E signifies another small bridge that crosses over the River Bulbourne.

Beating the Bounds

Along the walk I could hear sounds of traffic from the nearby road, birdsong and the flow of water from the canal. There were quite a few birds (which I did not identify), geese, ducks, the occasional swan and my personal favourite of dogs being walked. Sometimes you can hear the noise of trains passing by which disrupts the peace momentarily.

Although that I have walked along this route many times throughout my life, doing this exercise really brought my attention to the specifics of the area and its sense of flow and direction. Afterwards I researched The Grand Union Canal itself and discovered that it was built in 1929, running from London to Birmingham in over 137 miles. This knowledge broadened my sense of place greatly as it created a notion of connection to other cities outside of my local area, just as it would have allowed new accessible routes when it was built. Purposely looking for details along this walk has made me realise that some things, such as your surrounding areas, become so familiar that you tend to not notice them in a way that you would when entering a new space. In the future I will try to view areas as if I was experiencing them for the first time, as to fully get a sense of place.


Pollution Solution: Beat the Bounds in your local parish or area and do a litter pick on the way!



Bath Record Office, Archives and Local Studies. [Online] https://www.batharchives.co.uk/beating-bounds-bathwick

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