The Mother's Day service at Scorton Methodist church brought spring cheer and simnel cake.

MOTHERING Sunday was meant to be a sort of Lenten half-term holiday, it's reckoned, a chance for a bit of battery recharging, both physical and spiritual. They blame the Americans for making such a cutesey, commercialised, candy floss confection of it all. They're probably quite right.

At Scorton Methodist church much of one and bits of t'other are effectively and affectionately embraced, right down to the little girl of three who's arrived with her parents and fluffy squirrel and announces (or so it seems) that she's bought her mum a wok.

"That's lovely," says Andrew Champley, the minister, "a watch".

Clearly Mr Champley is more accustomed to such babes and sucklings dialogue than is the column. Some Mother's Days do have 'em.

Scorton's near Richmond in North Yorkshire, a pleasant village with a table top green - one of only two in England, it's claimed - and a history of monastery and toxophily, archery's every day story.

Mothering Sunday seems also to have coincided with the first day of spring, a chap in shorts out jogging with his dog - or possibly vice-versa - the youngsters having cast clouts before March, much less May, is out.

"Our wintry spell appears to be over," announces Mr Champley, optimistically, thereafter advising his congregation that the man from The Northern Echo is in attendance and enjoining them to be careful what they say.

Scorton Methodists had also been in the paper in January, a letter in the Darlington & Stockton Times praising them for allowing the Roman Catholics recently displaced from the closed church St John of God's Hospital to use the chapel for a dawn service on Christmas Day.

In the happy event, folk from all denominations almost overflowed the place. "What better start could there have been to Christmas Day?" it asked.

They share Mothering Sunday with the neighbouring Anglicans of St Mary's, Bolton-on-Swale, a church perhaps best known as the burial place of Henry Jenkins, who lived to be 169 (or something) and swore by a regime of nettle soup and daily dips in the Swale.

Nothing is known of his mother, but it's fair to say that old Henry was a canny while an orphan.

They've provided extra chairs, and need them, the youngsters seeming in the great part to be little girls. (Well they don't seem to be little girls, they undoubtedly are.)

Left handed, we're also tapped on the shoulder by a lady whose right arm is in a sling and who five days earlier had had a shoulder operation at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton similar to that with which politicians now play medical piggy-in-the-middle.

"I can't speak too highly of them, they've been absolutely marvellous," she says, ignoring the minister's injunction about devils and long spoons.

Mr Champley's own mum, who's 87, has also been in hospital for the first time recently but is home and hearty now. He leaves in the summer after nine years as superintendent minister in the Richmond area to return, similar role, to his native Morecambe. It's a carefully considered and richly enjoyable service, in which the children play a full part and the minister explains that Mothering Sunday was once known as Relaxation Day when mother could put her feet up and quite likely eat simnel cake - a Mothering Sunday tradition - after the Yorkshires.

There are readings about Moses in the bullrushes - "Many mothers are in a very similar position to Moses's mother, threatened with violence, poverty or famine," says the minister - and a little vignette by the bairns in which "Mary" answers questions from a couple of New Testament Jeremy Paxmen.

"What about his teenage years? Lots of people say teenage sons are a bit of a trial."

"You don't have to tell me about that. I know all about that. Once or twice I could have wrung his neck.

"After that business in the temple, we didn't know whether to praise him or clip his ear. In the end we did both."

Some of their Mothering Sunday paintings are at the back. "Thank you for letting me feed the cows"; "thank you for telling me what to do"; "thank you for being super".

Though Mr Champley advises that "simnel" is from the Latin for fine flour, it is impossible not to recall the lustrously named Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Simnel, impostors to the Tudor throne.

Had they been called Gordon Brown and Alan Milburn (say) they would long since have been consigned to historical make believe.

Simnel, poor sap, was said in turn to be the Duke of York and the Earl of Warwick, his "coronation" in Dublin prompting Henry VII to parade the real Earl of Warwick through the slightly bemused streets of London.

Captured after the Battle of Stoke, Simnel prompted a rare moment of clemency. He was made to work in the king's kitchens, though whether on cake baking duty has not been recorded.

At the end the bairns get ribboned daffs for their mums and everyone gets some luxuriant simnel cake made by Caroline Rogers - talented lass, she's also the organist - or simnel buns, no less enjoyable, made by the Wednesday night youth club.

Before that, we've sung the upbeat but slightly curious hymn about the trees of the field clapping their hands - there's a biblical base somewhere - and all going out with joy.

It's joyous indeed: the mother of Mothering Sundays.