Council climbs on board ancient rideout

Town councillors are poised to ride to the rescue of one of Berwick's most historic traditions.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 12 February, 2016, 06:32
Riding of the Bounds

They have answered an appeal for help from Berwick Riders’ Association that will help to preserve the ancient Riding of the Bounds.

The association had submitted a funding request for £3,500 to Berwick Town Council with the message that the future of the 400-year-old event was bleak if it was turned down.

Members of the finance and resources committee recommended that the full amount be given and ring-fenced for the future. The final decision rests with full council later this month.

The funding will cover the bulk of the costs of organising the annual 15-mile cavalcade to ensure the town’s ancient boundaries are in tact.

This was covered by Berwick Borough Council until local government reorganisation in 2009 and by its unitary authority successor, Northumberland County Council, on a sliding scale, since then.

However, that agreement has now finished which meant the association was facing a financial headache.

Ed Swales, of Berwick Riders’ Association, said: “This year going forward we don’t have the benefit of the council underwriting the bulk of the costs.”

This includes the cost of St John Ambulance to accompany the rideout. Provision has been doubled this year after its services were needed to help a casualty last year.

“That meant the rest of the ride was theoretically not safe because there was no back-up ambulance cover so we had to wait at Gainslaw Hill or come back to Berwick, which we did.

“However if something did go wrong we wouldn’t have been covered so it’s been suggested we double the ambulance capacity so in the event of one casualty there would still be cover to allow the ride to continue.”

The other major costs are for insurance, portable toilets, council services to clean up and rosettes for the riders.

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The riders’ association will continue to fund other aspects of the event such as marshalling and ensure there are no access issues.

It also hopes to secure private sponsorship and raise funds to attend rideouts across the Borders.

A major goal is to ensure the ride is open to all, no matter what their background.

Mr Swales outlined plans to reform the riders’ association over the next year and called for the town council to come on board to help reduce costs.

“Linking with the council and knowing that there is financial support there would be a real morale boost for the association,” he admitted.

Councillors welcomed the opportunity to play a part in one of the town’s biggest events.

Councillor Ivor Dixon said: “If we don’t support this the Riding of the Bounds is finished. It’s an old tradition and I applaud the association’s efforts to keep it going. They need a hand and I think we are in a position to do that.”

Councillor Georgina Hill added: “It’s a historic event and I completely support it.”

Councillor Karin Graham said: “I think it would be wonderful for Berwick Town Council to help by taking on the event.

“I like the fact that they don’t want to be elitist and financial support would be there for a boy or girl from a less well-off area.

“I think for a council that is looking to regenerate the town and bring money and visitors in this would be fabulous.”