Beating the Bounds ceremony takes in Hackney borders

A centuries-old tradition was re-enacted with the Beating of the Bounds of the Hackney Marsh parish alongside the River Lea.

It’s the sixteenth year that the community procession has been held since it was resurrected by the New Lammas Lands defence committee to take in the borders of Hackney Marsh and Leyton Marshes as well as the border with Walthamstow.

Organiser Katy Andrews said: ”Originally intended, in the days before maps existed, to teach village children where important boundaries lay, today we carry out this ancient ceremony as a historical walk to inform and remind people of our boundaries today and in the past.”

The event began with willow cutting before they are stripped of their bark, decorated and blessed.

Walkers gathered at Lea Bridge before the election of ten thegns, who have responsibility for the good conduct of the procession.

The group was then properly constituted as a Gang of Boundsmen, legally entitled to cross any obstacle and enter any property on the route in order to Beat the Bounds.

Walkers then stopped by the River Lea where the oldest and youngest people were asked to perform the ceremony of Pacifying the Waters.

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A blessing upon the Boundsmen and the Lammas Lands of Leyton Marshes were pronounced by Druid Steve Wilson of Newham.

The event continued with tree-hugging on the northern boundary of Leyton Marsh, and the traditional shouting of an ancient Biblical curse towards Walthamstow Parish, before taking in the southern boundary of Leyton Marshes.

Katy Andrews commented: “Beating the Bounds has very ancient roots and meanings, often to do with fertility rituals, particularly at Rogationtide. Rogation is a Christian tradition of blessing the village fields and crops, but the custom probably originates in pre-Christian traditions which we will explain about as we walk round.

“Nowadays the custom of Beating the Bounds is mainly an opportunity for a pleasant stroll around the marshes, as a local community, while learning about our local history and wildlife.”