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Joseph Arch Commemoration – 12 June 2005

The weather was ideal – somewhat cloudy, but no rain, and dry under foot. About three dozen folk, including some families with young children and a few dogs, assembled at the Joseph Arch public house and set out at 2.45pm.

The first section of the walk, after turning off the main road opposite Holloway Farm entrance, was quite tricky. Nettles and thistles on either side of the little-used path were child high, so we proceeded in single file with caution, passing back warnings of overhanging branches, rabbit holes etc. One woman put her foot down a hole, but fortunately did not sprain her ankle. There was another rabbit hole to one side of the path that was “Alice” sized! Once we got through this section (half a mile or so), it was plain sailing.

People remarked on the pleasantness of the route. It was good to walk through most of Wasperton village as a contrast to the open fields and more wooded sections. There was just one little slip in the text of the draft walk leaflet kindly provided by Wellesbourne Parish Council. Fortunately there was a sign to Wellesbourne at that point, making it pretty obvious that the instruction to turn left was wrong! Anyway, we all made it in one piece, though we were nearly 30 minutes late in arriving at Wellesbourne Green, so obviously one needs to allow 2hr.15mins rather than the planned 1hr.45mins. This would be reduced if the first part of footpath section was improved, as it will need to be if used regularly.

At Wellesbourne Green there were about 20 people waiting for us. John Ellis, who is the Methodist Church’s Secretary for Business and Economic Affairs at national level, spoke briefly but well about Joseph Arch and the justice issues that are still facing us today – mainly on a global scale.

Thence to Wellesbourne Methodist Church where a welcome cup of tea awaited us, and an excellent exhibition of Joseph Arch memorabilia that had been prepared by Barford Heritage Group. The Pensioners Group from Coventry had come in a bus with spare places, so there was no problem with transport from Wellesbourne back to Barford. However, quite a lot of the walkers left us at this point, so that, reinforced with the non-walkers, we still had 40 or so who travelled to Barford for the wreath laying, most of whom stayed for the service.

At the graveside, Bill Wilson the veteran former Coventry Labour MP, was invited to speak. Bill lives in the house of Joseph Arch’s employer in Barford, and delights in tending the grave, Joseph Arch being his particular hero. Alan Robson, agricultural chaplain for Lincolnshire, led us in prayer. Wreaths were laid on behalf of the Methodist Church; the Transport and General Workers Union; Wellesbourne Parish Council; Barford Heritage Group; the British Pensioners; and the Christian Socialist Movement.

The theme of care for migrant rural workers was developed in the service at St.Peter’s Barford that concluded the celebration. The Old Testament Reading about Ruth, a foreigner, gleaning barley in Boaz’ field to make a living for herself and her mother-in-law, is being echoed today. Alan Robson spoke from his experience of working in partnership with local authorities, farmers, gang masters and migrant workers themselves to improve their conditions. Copies of the leaflet being launched this week in the House of Commons by the Churches Rural Group and the Arthur Rank Centre encouraging local churches to offer appropriate support to migrant workers were given to those attending the service. The collection taken for the work of the ARC-Addington Fund, which is providing housing solutions for rural workers seeking to exit their business, totalled over £70.

There will be another celebration of Joseph Arch – probably following a similar format, but allowing longer for the walk, on Sunday 11 June 2006.

In planning the details, there will be liaison with the Parish Councils, the local churches and the Barford Heritage Group.

Jenny Carpenter
Contact 024 7685 3060
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