Horse riders and carriage drivers have been using a national awareness week organised by The British Horse Society to raise the profile of the need for safe, off-road riding and carriage driving for equestrians.
The British Horse Society’s Access Week has been running for many years. Over the nine days (23-31 May) various events are taking place throughout the UK to enable riders and carriage drivers to show their passion for protecting and extending the routes they are able to enjoy.
In Wokingham, Berkshire, 40 riders and their horses took to the streets on Wednesday (27 May) to highlight that recreational horse riding in Wokingham Borough is increasingly being threatened by new development and the additional traffic that new developments bring.
Nicola Greenwood, BHS Access and Bridleways Officer for Wokingham and organiser of the ride, said: “Riders in Wokingham have access to some beautiful Bridleways but sadly there are few of them. In some parishes riders can only access these Bridleways by using A and B roads.
"It is important that local planning and transport policies create new Bridleways in and around new developments to keep walkers, cyclists and horse riders off the roads wherever possible.”
Mark Weston, Director of Access at The British Horse Society, said: “This is a problem that is being faced by equestrians all over the country. It is imperative that new off-road routes provide for equestrians as well as walkers and cyclists.
"That is the beauty of bridleways and byways: unlike footpaths, they can be enjoyed by equestrians and cyclists rather than just walkers.”
There are numerous ways in which equestrians have been able to demonstrate their passion for supporting off-road access, including donating to a new fund set up by The British Horse Society.
The British Horse Society’s Paths for Communities Fund will provide bridleways and byways in England and Wales and multi-user routes in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The initial fund was set up with £25,000, but further donations are needed to ensure that as many equestrian routes as possible are created.
The Society is delighted to announce during Access Week that the first funds have been awarded to support a project that has resulted in the creation of a new bridleway in Somerset.
Thanks to the generosity of local land owner Mr Kong of Moor Farm, Hardington Mandeville, who dedicated the bridleway across his land, riders can now link onto Coker Hill Lane, a bridleway which was added to the definitive map last year after a successful application by the South Somerset Bridleways Association.
The Society's new Paths for Communities fund, with matched funding from the South Somerset Bridleways Association, paid for new fencing to be installed and a horse friendly gate to be repositioned to make the route easily accessible for all.
Sarah Bucks, Chair of The British Horse Society's Access and Rights of Way Committee and South Somerset Bridleways Association, said: “This bridleway along Moor Lane will not only provide a much valued off-road route, but will also form part of a loop with Coker Hill Lane, so increasing the value of that bridleway too. Riders are indebted to the generosity of Mr Kong.”
Mark Weston added: “The Society is very grateful to Mr Kong for dedicating this Bridleway and was delighted to provide funding towards the costs of the fencing and new gate from its Paths for Communities Fund.”