Following in Fred’s footsteps

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Allan Downend, left, with happy walkers in the direct line of view of whoever might be watching from the garden room window

The first of this year’s EF Benson Society’s walks around the town took place on Saturday June 7 in beautiful sunshine. The walks take in the locations of many of the houses and incidents that feature in Benson’s Mapp and Lucia novels, which are in vogue again as an adaptation based on two of the novels is currently being filmed here for the BBC – Rye being the model for Benson’s fictional town of Tilling.

Saturday’s walk was led by Allan Downend, the Secretary of the EF Benson Society. Allan has a prodigious knowledge of all things Benson, or Fred as he is affectionately referred to. Although Mapp and Lucia are now his best-known works, Fred was a prolific writer and produced many other novels as well as ghost stories, plays, sports books and biographies. Fred was also the mayor of Rye for three years and he and his family have many connections with St Mary’s church.

Always enthusiastic to answer any Benson-related questions, Allan conveyed the information with a distinct sense of humour that one feels would surely have been appreciated by Fred and by the good folk of Tilling. Saturday’s walk took just over two hours finishing at Lamb House, which was once Fred’s home. The house has been renamed Mallards for the duration of the television shoot and the production company have constructed a beautiful version of the famous garden room window from which the various occupants of the house viewed the world.

The next walk is on June 21, with further walks on July 5 and 19, August 2, 16 and 30, and September 13. They start at 2pm from the look-out at the eastern end of the High Street and cost £6.95 per person. The society’s map of Tilling, showing its houses and business premises, costs two pounds and is available to buy on any walk or can be ordered from the society’s website.