Berwick-upon-Tweed’s Riding the Bounds

Serendipity comes to surprise at unexpected moments.

 


May 1, 2015, Don, Thomas and I travelled from Edinburgh, Scotland to Berwick-upon-Tweed, England, a small distance of approximately 55 miles or 88 kilometers by train.  It was a beautiful spring day that offered blue skies with intermittent rain clouds. We were roaming the Scottish Borders, the land of dramatic coastlines, ancient abbeys, and green hills – the land of my ancestors.



We were on our way to visit Robert Smail’s Printing Works, the oldest working commercial letterpress printers in the UK – a living museum of Victorian history.  Our plans were delayed the moment we stepped out of Berwick’s train station at 9:30a.m. to see riders and horses moving in tandem down the street towards Berwick Town Hall.



May 1st celebrates the ancient tradition of Riding the Bounds, one of Northumberland’s oldest traditions.  May 1, 2015 marked the 406th year when riders on horses toured the traditional fifteen-mile ride to check the security of the boundaries of the town.



Berwick-upon-Tweed is England’s northernmost town.  During its turbulent history, this town changed hands 13 times.  According to the Northumberland Gazette, “the ‘Bounds’ refers to the Bounds of the Liberties of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the land between the border and the River Tweed. The first description of the Bounds is in a charter created by Robert Bruce after he took the town in 1318 but this land extended only a little north of where the medieval walls stood (the Bell Tower area).”



Horses and riders assemble at the Barracks and move down Marygate to the Town Hall where they are greeted by the Mayor and Civic Party. The Chief Marshal then asks permission of the Mayor for them to ride and inspect the Bounds. Permission is given and the riders set off.


This is your invitation to join us to witness Berwick’s Riding the Bounds.


81 Thoughts

  1. Rebecca, what a fortuitous interruption with this living piece of history of Riding the Bounds! Fascinating to learn about it and I love when traditions like this are kept alive! Did you ever get to the printing press? I would love to learn more! I hadn’t realised your family came from around the area, that’s wonderful. As for Berwick, it’s a place I passed endless times on the train from Leeds to St. Andrews but sadly never had a chance to visit. Wishing you a lovely start to the week, my friend! Hugs xx ❤️

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you Annika for joining us at Berwick and adding to the conversation. We did make it to the printing press – what a wonderful place to visit. It felt like we had gone back in time to the Victorian era. My family (Paxton) came from the border area before they moved to North America after the 1745 Jacobite rising. It seems that they may have been with the Jacobites and thought it may be a good time to make a quick exit. There is a Paxton House that we visited. Paxton village is located in the pre-1975 ancient county of Berwickshire. It lies 1 mile west of the border with Northumberland, near Berwick-upon-Tweed. We had a full day on May 1, 2015.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Wow! It is another fascinating history of the past. Of course, it is good now to look at these borders and fronts as memories, and also, it is good to keep them in mind to learn from. Thank you so much, dear Rebecca. 🙏💖

    Liked by 3 people

    1. When I was revisiting these photos, I thought about how we make plans and yet have the choice to change those plans when we are presented with an alternative course of action. It is the small, seemingly insignificant daily tasks and actions that make up our lives and have the power to change the trajectory of our journey. Writers understand this idea best – it is what makes that stories to appealing. The possibility of disruption and divergence moves the narrative onward. Sending hugs your way.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. You know, I think in these instances that the town, village…whatever, has put on its finest garb for us and we should stop to admire it. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Hugs. .

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks, dear Rebecca, for sharing this post. We have once been at Robert Smail’s printing workshop. Siri 🙂 and 🙂 Selma actually typeset a little text, well, it took them quite a while, and printed it. We made a kind of book tour around the border country. This brought us to Alnwick (about 25 m south of Berwick) where you find Barter Books, one of the best antiquarian bookshops we know. It’s established in a big old railway station. A model railway runs around under the roof. Barter Books is very well sorted and you will find real rarities there as well as ‘normal’ pre-loved books. The atmosphere is great.
    Wishing you a wonderful week
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    1. When we visit you we must stop by Barter Books. My father loved these places and would spend hours looking through the shelves. We have a great bookstore in Vancouver with a wonderful back story of how it all came into being. http://kestrelbooks.ca/
      We did make it to Robert Smail’s unforgettable printing workshop . We stayed there until closing time and then went over to the pub across the street to wait for the bus. The pub was a wonderful place to finish the day. I am imagining Siri and Selma working diligently on their typeset. What an adventure you had that day. Sending many hugs to my dear friends, the Fab Four of Cley.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Dear Rebecca,
        Siri 🙂 and I are just reading about the book business during Renaissance when printing started. Wow, typesetting was such a job! But Siri 🙂 and 🙂 Selma love those fiddely things.
        That’s great having such a interesting bookshop in your city. We have a nice little one in Holt, our next market town.
        We’ll surely go to Scotland again. We love it there. Our shortest way to Scotland is driving through this border country on the east coast. That’s an easy day’s drive from Cley.
        Oh dear, we missed the pub – but next time …
        Wishing you all the best, sending big hugs to you all 🤗 🤗 🤗 🤗
        The Fab Four of Cley
        🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I just found the book by Ross King, “The Bookseller of Florence – The Story of the Manuscripts that Illuminated the Renaissance.” This is the opening quote: “All evil is born from ignorance. Yet writers have illuminated the world, chasing away the darkness.” Vespasian da Bisticci. Now all I need to do is find the time to read this book. Thank you Siri and Selma for all the fairy dust you send my way – it really helps. Looking forward to when travel comes back to our world. Sending much love and many hugs to our dear friends, The Fab Four of Cley.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Dear Rebecca,
        you wouldn’t believe it, we just read this book. This is full of information about the book business at the change from handwritten illuminated manuscripts to print. But you learn as well quite a lot of Renaissance philosophy and its connection to classic Greek and Roman philosophers. Actually, everything we learned at school but at least we have forgotten it.
        With lots of love <3<3
        The Fab Four of Cley
        🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  4. How lucky for you to arrive and witness this event, Rebecca. It is difficult to find at village, town or City in Scotland or England that doesn’t have some amazing historical places and traditions. I’m sure Ireland and Wales are the same but I have yet to get to those places.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I find that it is these surprises in life that give us the strongest memories, because circumstances have given us a different pathway. When I look back over the many twists and turns in my journey, it has been the unexpected that prompted me turn down a new pathway. I am reminded by T.S. Eliot’s thought:

      “Do I dare
      Disturb the universe?
      In a minute there is time
      For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”

      P.S. Let’s meet up in Ireland!!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. HI Rebecca, life is full of unexpected opportunities and it is up to us as individuals to recognise them and grab them. I think you and I are both good at this because we are adventurers. This is a splendid quote. Thank you. PS I was listening to Edgar Alan Poe’s poem The Sleeper and marveling at its depth. No-one ever mentions him as being their favourite poem, but he really wrote amazing poems. I am listening to The Pit and the Pendulum now – shudder!

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you very much, dear Rebecca, for having me taken to Berwick-upon-Tweed, town on the bounds I had never heard of, its history and the impressive and lively horse manifestation and it’s tradition. Big hug:)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Martina – I had never heard of this tradition before. When we entering Berwick, while on the train, we saw trucks with horse trailers along the road. I overheard a fellow passenger say, “They are Riding the Bounds today” And that, my friend, was the first time I heard that expression. Sending bigs hugs back your way.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Graham – thank you, thank you, thank you for this information. What a spectacular story. The intricacies of legal documents cannot be underestimated. I am delighted that you provided me with a wonderful way to start my week.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. 😌 Oh, my pleasure, Rebecca! I’d been aware of the folk story that Berwick was still technically at war, but your post prompted me to do some research on its actual veracity.

        There is also a folk tale common around here concerning Chester, near the Welsh border – I have now discovered that, apparently, it is NOT okay for Chester residents to shoot Welsh people with arrows at certain times of the day. Wow. https://www.cheshire-live.co.uk/whats-on/no-you-cant-you-shoot-16302109

        Liked by 3 people

    1. It is, isn’t it? Cultural memory is a powerful force. Consider this was still an event after 400 years. I remember when I lived in Edmonton, Alberta, every summer we would celebrate Klondike days. The gold rush had taken place several hundreds of miles to the northwest. Edmonton was a stopping point for prospectors headed to the Yukon Territory on the “all-Canadian overland route”. What happened in the past stays with us…. Thank you for stopping by and for your comment.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. This is the kind of delay that is most welcome! You picked the perfect day to go to Berwick-Upon-Tweed – what a marvelous thing to see… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was a reminder to me to be open to opportunities that come knocking. This was a huge knock at the opportunity door, but sometimes the knock is so quiet that we simply miss it altogether. That you for joining me in Bernice!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. A most serendipitous interruption to your plans, Rebecca. I love the way old traditions are kept alive and as you say, become celebrations for all to witness and enjoy. Thank you for sharing your experience here. You must have such fond memories of your visits to the British Isles. 🤗

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh, Sylvia I do miss travel and am very glad that we traveled over the years. There was always a thought that perhaps we should wait until retirement, but I believe we need to live today, rather than plan travel for another day. I am grateful for those who invented the camera and brought it to our mobile phones. I am revisiting all our travel adventures. Remember that quote by Anais Nin: We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. I have changed it to “We take photos to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” Sending many hugs!

      Liked by 4 people

  8. What a treat to be surprised by such an historic celebration. It was interesting to read the comments, an educational experience, also. It is so important to observe history and keep cultural occasions. This was so interesting to me as I had no knowledge of the place or the history’s festivities. I enjoyed seeing the horses and the riders!. I smiled as I looked at the horses tails, so carefully cared for and designed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I knew you would enjoy this event Frances. Yes – it is important to celebrate and observe tradition. Remember Klondike Days in Edmonton. I look forward to Bard on the Beach and the Cherry Blossom festival in Vancouver. I was amazed that the horses and riders were so organized and in turn with each other in the procession to the Town Hall. Many thanks for joining us at Berwick. Sending hugs!

      Like

  9. This was a charming reminder of how wonderous the British Isles can be Rebecca. Just as Robbie said above, aeons of customs and tradition around every corner and each peculiar to a specific village or area.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. How very well said, Paul. I remember when I first glimpsed Tintern Abbey. When we arrived, I saw a young woman reciting in a loud voice, the words by William Wordsworth, “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” written when he revisited the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798. I had never heard of the poem before, but that moment is forever in my mind. I am delighted you joined us Riding the Bounds.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. What a delightful detour! The sound of horses clopping on pavement is one of my favorite sounds in the world. Isn’t it interesting that a custom which epitomized division has become a tradition which tells that story from a good natured perspective, a treasured history and not one to be erased? I have some ancestry that reaches back to Northumberland, a feud between the Carrs and Herons, if I remember correctly. So this was very special to me. Hugs + hugs + hugs

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Isn’t it interesting how time allows conflict to be resolved. I just looked up Clan Kerr/Carrs and Clan Heron. What a history!!! Did you know that William Heron was the keeper of Bamburgh Castle? So many stories (& feuds). It seems that you and I may be somehow related, considering our families originated in the Scottish Lowlands and were Border Reivers. I am delighted that you joined us Riding the Bounds. Always enjoy our adventures together. Sending many hugs back your way.

      Liked by 4 people

    1. I wondered if those hip hip hurrays were to be said by designated riders. The response from the choir was a great confirmation that the riders were doing a great deed. It was a fun day and the crowds were appreciative.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. It is finding the extraordinary in the ordinary isn’t it Julie? And being ready to accept the unexpected. Cultural memory and traditions – this is a very interesting subject. The idea of creating our personal traditions, in particular. Something to consider!!

      Liked by 3 people

    1. I am delighted Donna that you joined us to experience this special event at Berwick-upon-Tweed. It was a beautiful city and everywhere we went, we were welcomed! Sending many many hugs your way!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Fascinating post, Rebecca, and I echo others in saying that it’s wonderful when traveling to change plans on a dime when stumbling across something that promises to be memorable. 🙂

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    1. Travels with Misty is very much like this idea. I don’t say this in jest, Dave. I find that when we allow others, and I include our four-legged friends, to clear a new pathway, we see things differently, through the lens of another being. We become more curious, more open to possibilities, we experience something afresh. I think that is why adults enjoy see children play with exuberance, excited about new discoveries. I smile when I see people taking their dog for a walk on the Seawall. There is only one place that their dogs want to go – the dog park to meet up with their friends. When we allow others to enjoy life, we share that enjoyment and welcome an unanticipated moment that stays with us forever.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Wonderfully and profoundly said, Rebecca!

        Yes, when I or my wife first bring Misty the cat outside each morning on his leash, we never know which route he’ll take. 🙂 And I’m fascinated by what fascinates him. 🙂

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  12. I love when these unplanned things happen. Right time, right place. We’ve stumbled upon fiestas and parades as we explore Spain. I love how the entire community participates and welcomes visitors with open arms.

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly, Darlene. Unplanned and unexpected happenings in life leave indelible memories.The cities and towns become energized with the joy and laughter of people dancing in the streets.

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  13. Talk about serendipity!

    Whilst sitting having a coffee yesterday, Rebecca, Keith and I were discussing where we’d like to travel once the world opens for travel. We both love England and want to go back. Only the next time we do we thought we’d love to head on over Scotland way. We’ve been up Yorkshire way and along the coastline; we’ve stayed in London and explored the sites and sounds there. But, we haven’t been to Scotland.

    Your very stirring video provides the necessary enthusiasm to ensure we make the trip!
    xoxoxo

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You must go to Scotland, Carolyn! You will love that landscape, the brisk, fresh air, the warm welcome at the tea shops. There is so much history to discover. This year, Scotland is celebrating Sir Walter Scott’s 250th anniversary. And then there is the Tattoo held in Edinburgh that last weeks of August. I am looking forward to our return once travel comes back! So glad you stopped by – your comments are very much appreciated.

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  14. I love how history is honored by this tradition. What fun, Rebecca, and how funny that you stumbled across it by accident. The history of the British Isles is fascinating, bordering on fantasy, and the more I learn, the more interesting and fantastical it becomes. I can’t wait to go there someday. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. That was just great, Rebecca! Thank you for the history, and for sharing this neat tradition with us!
    LOVE the sound of the clopping hooves. Your choice of music is right on, and the sound mix is perfect. {{hugs}}

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I marveled that the horses and riders were so organized and in turn with each other. You will find this interesting. There was a choir singing something about riding the bounds so I looked it up and found it. It is called simply “The Berwick Song.” Here is the first couple of stanzas.

      Oh Berwick for me,
      Oh Berwick for me,
      Sits like a jewel down by the sea,
      The pride o’ the North,
      So ancient and braw,
      Frae the Tyne to the Tweed the best of them all.

      Now Berwick’s tradition is ancient and long,
      Come sit you a while and I’ll sing you my song,
      Every Bounds Day when it comes around,
      It’s up on horseback and Riding the Bounds.

      https://berwickridersassociation.co.uk/the-berwick-song/

      Sending many hugs back your way.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’ll be using it for my next drawing of you…in ballpoint scribbles. I started up with that out of frustration of having no pencils.
        Long story short – Tim sent pencils! He loves the AGMs in Art Gowns scribbles, so I thought we could throw on a thank you scribble pos t for him. LOL

        Liked by 3 people

      2. What a GREAT idea! Tim is simply amazing! He shares his trees, keeps us updated on the growing Owl Family, posts great photos of the kitties… and sends pencils for the AGM’s. I love the idea of a thank you scribble post for Tim. Keep me posted!! Hugs!

        Liked by 3 people

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