A riding event with a 400-year history is galloping ahead with one eye on the future.
Riding of the Bounds, the annual 15-mile ride to check the security of the boundaries of Berwick, is set to take place on April 29 this year – a change from the traditional date of May 1.
Those involved with the event, which features a procession of horsemen rekindling 17th century tradition with modern pageantry, believe that it’s the first time in around 60 years that the date has been changed.
Shaun Eltringham, from the Berwick Riders’ Association, who is also this year’s ride liaison, said: “We have been talking about this for around two years and now it is happening and we hope it will be the first of many.
“The Riding of the Bounds traditionally takes place on May 1, no matter what day of the week that falls.
“This year, we wanted to hold it on a Saturday which is also the bank holiday weekend with the hope that it will bring more visitors in and attract more of a crowd.
“Holding it on a weekday was also difficult for some people because of work commitments.
“So a lot of people are waiting to see if this does work out.
“But it does represent a step away and a change in tradition – it is unchartered territory in many ways.”
This year is also the second year the event has had sponsorship.
Berwick-based business Simpson’s Malt is continuing its partnership with the Berwick Riders’ Association in support of the 408th Riding of the Bounds.
Following on from the success of the 2016 event, the sponsorship provided by Simpson’s Malt will go towards riding lessons and horse hire for the 2017 Berwick team.
Shaun, who was Chief Marshal in 2011, said: “The support from Simpson’s Malt is paramount in keeping the Riding of the Bounds tradition alive.
“Not only does the money help us to fund the riders taking part but also the association with a local business helps us to spread the word.
“It will also allow people who have an interest in riding to get an introduction to it and hopefully develop a taste for it.
“So, we hope to see lots of new faces at the 2017 event.”
This year’s riders include Chief Marshal Bethany Innes, Left Hand Man Rachel Martin and new member Rebecca Allan as Right Hand Man.
Chief Marshal Beth (24) from Alnwick said she was delighted to have one of the main roles in the 2017 event.
Beth, who works for Barclays Bank said: “I am so honoured to have been given this role. I have been following the bounds from a young age on foot and have ridden it with my friends since I was about 14.
“I am nervous about the role, as anyone would be but, I can’t wait to carry the flag down the town with everyone cheering me on.
“I am hoping with the new date change that we can improve this historic ride and see the number of riders grow each year.
“The date change will hopefully give everyone the chance to experience what I did when I was younger and hopefully entice the riders, non-riders and also children to want to take on the role of Chief Marshal.
“I hope that, with the support of Simpson’s Malt, this will be accomplished, and we will be able to continue the ride for years to come.”
Simpson’s Malt vice-chairman Richard Simpson said: “The traditional event, dating back to 1550, is a huge draw for the town and one that we are very proud to be a part of for the second year running.
“We know our support of the event will help to keep it alive for generations to come and hopefully help to encourage more riders.
“As a family business in Berwick-upon-Tweed we are keen to be a part of the development of culture in the local area and we hope, with our support, more people – including those who do not currently ride or own their own horse – will take part in the event in years to come.”
Free to attend, the Riding of the Bounds starts at 9am on Saturday, April 29.