Tribute is paid to a dedicated horsewoman

Brana Charkham.
Brana Charkham.

BRANA Charkham, a dedicated horsewoman and president of West Sussex Riding Club, died suddenly at her home in Yapton, a few days after her 74th birthday.

In her younger days she hunted with the Enfield Chase, before bringing her mare Miffy (Mayfair Lady) down to West Sussex where they were active in dressage competitions. Brana settled in Yapton, living with her disabled mother for whom she cared. She soon found herself involved with West Sussex Riding Club too.

In her professional life, Brana worked for Marks and Spencer, first at the Baker Street head office and then in Chichester. Her contribution to the business was recognised when she was asked to represent staff and pensioners on the Pensions Committee when she retired.

She was thorough and organised in everything she did and as chair of WSRC, she wanted everyone to enjoy their chosen sport, at whatever level. She valued the club’s association with Goodwood when it was a main dressage venue and was honoured to be invited to the Hermes pre-competition dinner on more than one occasion. She welcomed juniors into club competitions and encouraged new members, but was a stickler for protocol and kept the committees on their toes.

When Brana first arrived from Hertfordshire she stabled Miffy in Lavant, but in 1986 she moved to Boxgrove Competition Stables and Miffy was rechristened Boxgrove Mayfair. By the mid-90s, Brana had a little more time on her hands and a fresh challenge presented itself, in the form of a Welsh cob with attitude called Ginger. He belonged to Caroline Pagett-Fynn and had been a resident a Boxgrove some years previously. Both Caroline and her trainer Sally Fitzmaurice wondered whether Brana could spare ‘Ginge’ some time and offer him a little education. As Brana herself remarked, “He still thinks he’s a boyo from the valley, and he needs to learn some manners!” Painstakingly she taught him those manners, and much else besides, and she enjoyed being out hacking and competing again.

Brana’s four legged friends weren’t just equine. Ben, the statuesque, ever-patient, black pointer-labrador cross was born at Boxgrove, where Ginger was at livery. He was the largest, gangliest pup from a litter of 11, and didn’t catch the attention of the early puppy-seekers, but he won Brana’s heart and he was with her from a puppy to her very end.

After retiring from M&S and following the death of her mother, Brana started work in a local care home. Always ready to learn new skills, she took on the role of Health and Safety Officer and latterly worked as Activities Co-ordinator. Ben helped her bring interest to the lives of many of the elderly residents by visiting and spending time with them. He also became a regular companion to youngsters in Horse and Hound competitions.

A lover of theatre and the arts, Brana was involved for many years in the open air theatre productions at West Dean, both on stage and behind the scenes. She had a prodigious knowledge of Shakespeare as well as more modern plays. Her mother was a tutor at RADA, which gave her back stage access to all sorts of exciting occasions, and she was a regular at Annabel’s, the famous London nightclub, when it really was the place to be seen!

Brana wore her years lightly. At a time of life when most of us might think about slowing down and taking things a bit easier, she was still working, still learning (she embraced IT wholeheartedly), still helping out at dressage competitions at Boxgrove, and active on a number of committees. Best of all, she was still smiling.

Ever a positive, can-do person, Brana was never ‘down’, and to meet and spend time with her was always a joy. She was passionate about many things, and her enthusiasm was infectious. Brana was a fine example and a good friend to many, many people.