some of the army’s elite – a Major General, General, Captain and Colonel – turned into 16th century Border reivers this week to raise awareness for the soldiers’ charity, the Army Benevolent Fund.
Although on horse-back and dressed for the part, the military reivers crossed the border in a peaceful fashion (there was certainly no sign of stolen sheep or cattle accompanying them fron Northumberland into Scotland) and they received a warm Coldstream welcome when they arrived at Coldstream Bridge on Monday afternoon.
The riders led by Major General, Sir Evelyn Webb-Carter, chief executive of ABF, The Soldiers’ Charity, set off from Otterburn on Sunday, July 24, and although they were due to be joined by two soldiers who both lost legs in Afghanistan, by the time the ride reached Coldstream – the second stage of their journey – the soldiers had not yet caught up with them, one of them busy training for a horse race!
The two soldiers due to join the Reivers’ Ride are taking part in the army’s Battleback programme which rehabilitates amputees through adventurous training. And the purpose of the Reivers’ Ride is to raise money for programmes like these and The Soldiers’ Charity Current Operations Fund which supports soldiers and their families who are in need resulting from current operations or any future conflict.
Spending an average of eight hours a day in the saddle the intrepid modern day reivers set off from Otterburn (site of a battle in 1388) and plan on visiting the sites of six battles that took place in Northumberland and the lowlands between the 13th and 17th centuries, their journey ending at Dunbar where there were two major battles fought in 1296 and 1650.
“The marches astride the constantly disputed border were areas of conflict, cattle stealing and raiding parties,” said Sir Evelyn Webb Carter.
“Battles have taken place in this area as early as 1018 with families taking to one side or the other, often changing sides for short term advantage.
“The line of the Anglo-Scottish border from the Solway Firth to Berwick-upon-Tweed was a medieval frontier of great military importance and startling violence.”
But there was no violence to be seen on Monday as they travelled from Callaly, through the Cheviots and on to Coldstream (site of a 1018 battle). They stopped off at Flodden (1513) where they were met by Lord Joicey, from Ford and Etal Estates, and Alasdair Hutton, convener of Scottish Borders Council, plus a further 50 supporters.
After speeches were made they were given lunch before setting off for the border, accompanied by around a dozen local riders, arriving at Coldstream Bridge just before 3pm.
There they were met by Coldstreamer Steven Bell, and representatives from the Royal British Legion, Ex-Coldstreamers Association and the Coldstream branch of the Coldstream Guards, and with standards flying they were led into town and down to a reception at the Tweed Green by the 1513 monument where they were welcomed by chairman of Coldstream and District Community Council, and a strong contingent of townsfolk to wish them well on their journey.
Speaking at the reception, Sir Evelyn Webb Carter thanked everyone for the greeting they received adding: “We are delighted to be in Scotland and know we will be well looked after. Our aim is to raise the profile of the Army Benevolent Fund charity, so this has helped us enormously. We are very grateful for the way we have been welcomed here today.”
Then after a wee nip and a piece of shortbread each, the reivers were escorted to the gates of the Hirsel and from there they were heading to Anton’s Hill, Leitholm, where they were spending the night, before setting out for Kelso on Tuesday morning.
The rest of their battle site journey will take them to Philiphaugh (1645) and Ancrum Moor (1545) visiting Thirlestane Castle on their way and passing through Galashiels and Haddington, and events have been organised by local people along the way, all helping to raise the public profile of The Soldiers’ Charity, with the main celebrations taking place at Dunbar on Saturday when the ride is complete.
Anyone who wishes to donate can do so on their website: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/reiversride.