THE magnificent edifice of Bamburgh Castle provided a fitting backdrop to the completion of a 63-mile charity cycle undertaken at the weekend by two Borders couples.

Selkirk’s Kenny and Shirley Houston, along with friends Andrew and Ann McKerracher of Ettrickbridge, had originally planned to take part in April’s Etape Loch Ness cycling event, but its cancellation meant a complete rethink.

Having already raised over £3,000 in sponsorship for the cancelled cycle, on Saturday the friends completed a similarly distanced route from the McKerrachers’ home in Ettrickbridge to the Northumberland village of Bamburgh (entitled ‘Etape Brigend to Bamburgh’).

As well as finishing the 63-mile route in record time (riding time 4 hours, 15 minutes), what made the cyclists’ achievement even more remarkable was the fact their sponsorship total has now rocketed to £5,000.

The money will go to the Katie McKerracher Trust, a charity established in 2009 in memory of the McKerrachers’ 11-year-old daughter Katie, who died on January 27 that year from Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a brain tumour on her brain stem.

Since its formation in 2009, the trust has assisted DIPG patients and their families in numerous ways – sending out copies of the trust’s DIPG information booklet, assisting with practical day-to-day issues, and working with health professionals to seek to improve the treatment of DIPG patients.

Kenny, a retired police officer, chose the Bamburgh route as his mother Rhona hailed from the nearby village of Belford.

At the end of the ride he said he had been “absolutely humbled” by the number of people who had taken the time to support and sponsor the quartet’s efforts.

“The sponsorship total has now increased to £5,000, while the original aim had been to raise less than half of that.

“It’s a brilliant total to go to the Katie McKerracher Trust, which is a cause very dear to our hearts.”

Kenny’s wife Shirley, a support officer at Hawick Police Station, said the cycle ride had been hard work but great fun.

“The last eight miles was very hilly, but up until that point I couldn’t believe how quickly we’d been going.

“The favourable weather conditions helped, so all-in-all things couldn’t have gone any better.”

Friends, family and well-wishers gathered at Bamburgh to cheer the four cyclists across the finishing line, and the champagne flowed as everyone toasted the riders’ superb efforts.

“Everything went pretty much according to plan,” said Andrew McKerracher, whose parents Donald and Moira travelled down from their home in Perth to set up feed stations for the cyclists at Kelso and Ford.

“There was plenty of good banter among the four of us – especially during the hilly climbs,” added Andrew, who is vice-president procurement & supply chain with Galashiels-based pharmaceutical firm Kyowa Kirin International plc.

“We are very grateful to everyone who supported us on the day, and also to the many kind individuals who’ve made such generous donations.

“The money raised will be invaluable in helping to further the trust’s work.”

To date, cycling events have played a major role in the Katie McKerracher Trust’s fundraising efforts.

Ann McKerracher said the first major task was the Hebridean Cycle Challenge in 2010.

But reflecting on the most recent ride, Mrs McKerracher hailed an “enjoyable” cycle.

The foster parent and Borders College achievement coach added: “The cycle to Bamburgh was a great experience, made all the more enjoyable by the support of family and friends along the way.

“The most satisfying thing, however, is the fact so much money has been raised for the trust thanks to the generosity and kindness of supporters.”

Kenny Houston’s fundraising exploits are well-known throughout the Borders and beyond. Diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2013, and having undergone five major surgeries over the past five years, in 2015 he organised a dinner and auction in support of the BGH’s Borders Cancer Centre and the Katie McKerracher Trust, with each organisation receiving a sum in excess of £10,000.

Last April he staged a dinner-dance and auction in Selkirk’s Haining House, raising a further £11,000 for the Borders Cancer Centre.

He said: “I’m delighted the four of us are raising funds for the Katie McKerracher Trust.

“Shirley and I were extremely fond of Katie, and the trust has done an amazing job of supporting DIPG patients and their families over the past 11 years.”

Anyone still wishing to make a donation can do so through this website.