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Countdown to 2026

A horse on a motorway: is this what access in the future will look like?The BHS is committed to protecting and preserving the equestrian off-road network. However, there’s only so much we and our volunteers can do – we need your help! Working together we can ensure that routes used by horses in the past are accurately recorded and reinstated as safe off-road routes to ride and carriage drive according to the evidence.

To help you to help us save these routes, we’ve created a toolkit detailing how to go about getting them recorded to ensure that they won’t be lost after 2026.

2026: Why is it important?

In 2000, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act was introduced in England and Wales. Section 53 of the Act provides for a cut-off date in 2026, which means that many historic routes of use to horse riders and carriage drivers will be extinguished if they are not formally recorded as a bridleway or restricted byway.

These unrecorded routes actually exist in law but have been temporarily lost to the public and are in danger of having their rights extinguished. Our aim is to safeguard them for public use so that equestrians today and in the future have safe off-road routes to ride and carriage drive on.

Just because you currently ride on a route doesn’t mean it’s recorded and protected from extinguishment. That’s a frightening thought as there are some areas with very few recorded routes and 2026 is closer than you think – we’re already more than half way there.

The 2026 Toolkit

The BHS has produced the 2026 Toolkit so that you can protect your local bridleways from closure following the deadline. It contains all the information you need to check whether the routes you ride are recorded, and if they aren’t how you can protect them beyond 2026. It takes you through marking up your local routes that aren’t currently shown on the OS map, and how to gather the evidence you need to back up the existence of your route.

It’s an exciting process that will give you a deeper insight into the history of where you live and ride, and keep you interested as you travel back through time using the historic maps. The toolkit will make it much easier for anyone wanting to help to save the routes so loved by equestrians.

Using the toolkit you can check that the routes that you currently enjoy riding are safe from closure, and you may even be able to save a route that you can’t currently ride but would love to! Getting all the historic riding routes accurately recorded on the Definitive Map is the only way to ensure that they are safe for future generations.

So, now you know why it’s important, it’s time to begin saving your local routes! Download the toolkit to get started.

We now also have a guide on Researching a Route to help you further.

To get a head start on mapping your routes, get your copy of Rights of Way, Restoring the Record by Sarah Bucks and Phil Wadey. This informative read includes helpful hints and time-saving tips on carrying out research.

If at any stage you feel you need further help or advice with researching your routes you can contact your BHS Regional or County Access and Bridleways Officer. These experienced volunteers will be able to put you in touch with someone who can guide you through the process of getting your routes on the map. Find your local Access Officer now.

You can find out more background about the Definitive Map process by downloading our free leaflet, Recording a Right of Way (pdf), or contact the Access team at or 02476 840515 to be sent a hard copy.

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