SELKIRK pensioner Patience Anderson has ridden more than 100 miles across country to raise thousands of pounds for a soldiers’ charity.
Mrs Anderson was one of six fundraisers dressed as Reivers riding between Otterburn and Dunbar along routes used by the thieves several hundred years ago.
So far the seven-day ride, organised by Major-General Sir Evelyn Webb-Carter, has raised more than £90,000 for ABF, The Soldiers’ Charity, of which Sir Evelyn is chief executive.
Mrs Anderson, 61, of Ravensheugh, said: “It was the most enormous fun. The sun shone, we only had one hideous afternoon, on Thursday on the way to Thirlestane. We had marvellous hostesses feeding us and all the horses finished sound.
“I have never done anything like this before.”
Riding for an average of eight hours a day, the horseback fundraisers, who visited six battle sites, covered about 25 miles on their first day from the 1388 battlefield at Otterburn to the border via the ancient Clennel Street to near Yetholm.
Last Monday, they rode on to Flodden (1513) – where they were met by Ford and Etal Estates’ Lord Joicey, and Scottish Borders Council convener Alasdair Hutton – and then on to a reception in Coldstream (1018).
On Tuesday, they were received by Provost Fiona Scott in Kelso before fording the River Tweed in front of Floors Castle, and spending the night at Mounthooly, near Jedburgh.
On Wednesday the party rode to Ancrum Moor (1545) and on to Selkirk. They galloped across the Philiphaugh (1645) battlefield in the early evening, and were met by landowner Sir Michael Strang Steel.
On Thursday they passed Thirlestane Castle and carried on to Haddington and then Dunbar (1296 and 1650), the finish, where there was a fundraising ceilidh.
On the leg to Thirlestane in the Thursday afternoon rain, one horse was spooked by its rider’s flapping mac. The jockey tried to steer his mount away from the gate with barbed wire and wall it was heading to but, unable to turn the horse, jumped the obstacle instead.
“There was a roar of approval and ‘I must buy that horse’!” said Mrs Anderson. It was the lightest moment that day.”
And towards the coast the group had to ride through a windfarm. “It was surreal but the horses didn’t turn a hair. They were settled in a group by this stage, almost like a herd, so if one had reacted, they might all have. The views were outstanding.”
Mrs Anderson continued: “The high point was when we rode over the border ridge in the Cheviots – we were up there and it was just us and the curlews. That was the way the reivers went and we really felt in tune.
“I always love being in the saddle. I particularly wanted to go up the Cheviots because I’m from a reiving family on my mother’s side, the Selbys.”
Other highlights were the river crossings, including fording the Tweed towards the ruins of Roxburgh Castle: “It was a lovely crossing, the current was quite strong – it was amazing to think that is where they would have crossed in medieval times.”
The lifelong horsewoman explained her involvement in the ride: “I just want to help. When I think of the lives of these people after their service, that’s the thing that really moved me. It’s not just the glory of the battlefield, soldiers have got to live the rest of their lives with these wounds. We are so grateful to them for that sacrifice.”
Her brother, Oliver Howard, served for 25 years in the Royal Hussars and her father-in-law, Lt Col Charles Anderson served with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
“I have always known the importance of the army and of the regiment. Regiments are like families and they all care for each other.”
She raised more than £5,500 from friends and she said: “I am so grateful. The money goes straight to the families, the people who need it.”
ABF Scotland director Major Roy Robertson said: “This was simply the most innovative fundraising done for ABF in Scotland and the most successful. The total is mind-boggling! The success is due to the generosity and friendliness of the people of the Borders and the help of Lothian and Borders Police.”