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2014: A Year in Access

6 Feb 2015


With 2014 firmly in the past, there is another year less to record any historic bridleways that are not currently recorded on the definitive map.

Any historic bridleway in England needs to be recorded on the definitive map by 2026 or it could be extinguished forever. To combat this threat we launched the 2026 Toolkit, which informs people how to check whether the route they ride is recorded, and if it isn’t how to protect it beyond 2026. We wait to see what will happen in Wales and whether the Welsh government will follow suit with their own deregulation bill.

Access and Bridleways Officers and Equestrian Access Groups have again had a busy year protecting and extending the existing network, with eight new routes being recommended by the Planning Inspectorate to be added to the definitive map, two routes saved from deletion, two areas of waste land of the manor registered as common land in Cornwall meaning that horse riders can now legally ride there, and exchange land secured at Walton Heath in Surrey.

Ten definitive map modification order applications have been submitted to secure routes that are not currently recorded on the definitive map and many more are being researched. There will be more that we have not been informed of and we intend to improve our reporting mechanisms in 2015 so that all of the work that is done is recognised, which in turn will hopefully mean more members joining the BHS, Equestrian Access Groups and more people being enthused to volunteer as Access Officers.

Natural England Report

We worked with Natural England, who are to date providing 18km of equestrian routes with 127 hectares of area wide access on their national nature reserve estate. The following national nature reserves will be being considered in 2015 and it is important that we liaise with Natural England in respect of these sites to see whether any can provide access for equestrians:

Bredon Hill, Worcestershire, Derwent Gorge and Muggleswick Woods, Northumberland, Gordano Valley, Somerset, Ham Street Woods, Kent, Kingley Vale, West Sussex, Ludham and Potter Heigham Marshes, Norfolk, Parsonage Down, Wiltshire, Rusland Moss, Cumbria, Stodmarsh, Kent, Suffolk Coast, Suffolk, Calthorpe Broad, Norfolk, Dungeness, Kent, Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses, Shropshire, Hallsenna Moor, Cumbria, High Leys, Cumbria, Lower Derwent Valley, East Riding of Yorkshire, Sandybeck Meadow, Cumbria, Somerset Levels, Somerset, Wybunbury Moss, Cheshire.

We have produced new advisory leaflets on surfaces, Access overview, Riding through Cattle, and Riding on beaches in Scotland to assist all equestrians and to encourage more people to get out riding in our countryside and urban areas.

To assist with the mapping of routes, both recorded and non-recorded we have been developing an exciting new simpler mapping facility using Memory Map which will be rolled out in 2015. This has already successfully been used to plot long distance rides in Scotland.

During 2014 we held 16 training courses attended by 87 delegates, a national access conference, a south west access meeting, and two Scottish access technical information network days.

Around the Nations and Regions

The Isle of Wight Bridleways Group helped secure the upgrade of an existing footpath to a multi user route connecting a dead end bridleway to Strawberry Lane and supplied a new bridle gate to the scheme.

April saw the opening of a new bridleway linking Porthleven and the National Trust’s Penrose Estate, with the National Trust providing 10 miles of new bridleways, which was made possible by the Penrose Estate Paths for Communities project.

The Humphrey Kynaston Way, a new long distance route for horse riders, walkers and cyclists which runs the length of Shropshire was opened during Access Week.

May also saw the launching of a Paths for Communities funded route, The Yellow Brick Road bridleway, which had long been on the list of missing links in the County Durham network.

St Euny's Well Way, Cornwall

June saw the opening of another Paths for Communities scheme, the St. Euny’s Well Way, Cornwall. The route is a new 200-yard stretch completing the bridleway from Chapel Carn Brea to Brane, and can now be enjoyed by riders, walkers, cyclists and disabled users.

The new bridleway was made possible thanks to funding from Natural England’s Paths for Communities scheme, as well as the hard work of BHS Affiliated Bridleway Group the West Penwith Bridleways’ Association. The generosity of local farmers was also key in the success of this project. 

The British Horse Society Scotland, with help of funding from Scottish Natural Heritage, carried out a long distance route audit to help riders determine which of the eight most popular long distance routes or sections of them, are suitable for horses. Our consultant was assisted by no less than 92 volunteers.

Wolf Minerals, the operator of a tin mine opened up a new public bridleway in Devon. The 650m bridleway was opened in Hemerdon and provides a new safe off-road route for horse riders, walkers and cyclists.

Path Minders, a footpath and bridleways group located in Llanbrynmair set up by BHS Access Officer Michael Mosse (CABO Montgomeryshire) and friend Steve Jagger, have among other things installed four gates; cleared a number of overgrown byways; removed bundles of discarded wire from a bridleway and ultimately made sure that at least five or six kilometres of rights of way in the local area is now useable.

BHS affiliated Five Pits Horse Watch and Countryside Access Group continued to work hard to raise funds to help finance the maintenance of the Tibshelf Canter Track, a purpose built all-weather track adjacent to The Five Pits Trail at Tibshelf, Derbyshire. The Five Pits Trail is managed by Derbyshire County Council’s Countryside Service who financed the building of the track in 2013.

The Humberston Bridleway, a new 2.2km bridleway in Cleethorpes, was opened, much to the delight of local riders who had been working for years to get a safe and legal off-road route through from the traffic to the beach in Humberston.

The opening of Sheets Heath, Brookwood

Previously, riders had been going through an area of holiday homes known as The Fitties and while many people didn't mind, there were a few who objected.

North East Lincolnshire Council worked with local BHS representatives to find a solution, and with the goodwill and co-operation of Thorpe Park leisure site and the RSPB, the new route was found and will be way marked shortly.

The BHS Ireland Greyabbey Toll Ride in Co Down continues to provide access to 6.5km of picturesque trails within in the Greyabbey Estate for BHS Gold Members who join the Toll Ride.

Local residents from Leyland, Lancashire celebrated the reopening of the Malt Kiln Fold Bridleway in August after much hard work by the BHS affiliated Ulnes Walton Bridleways Association (UWBA).

The UWBA led the major refurbishment project, which involved £25,000 worth of improvements, to restore the bridleway after it had fallen into disrepair.

In September, the Worplesdon and District Bridleways Association (WDBA) -funded path on Sheets Heath, Brookwood was completed. It provides year-round access to Sheets Heath and Staffordlake, creating a link between Pirbright and Chobham. The project has taken four years to complete, and has only been possible with the support of the landowner, Woking Borough Council, and the approval of Natural England.

A popular route in Taplow, Buckinghamshire, was safeguarded for riders, walkers and cyclists following an outstanding effort by Alison Adcock, a local horse rider and equestrian access enthusiast.

Alison, with the help of local residents, led the five-year campaign to secure the future of this much-used bridleway after the sale of the land on which it was situated caused riders to have their access revoked.

BHS Oxon donated £500 to Oxon County Council’s Countryside Access Team for improvements for equestrian users.

BHS Scotland held a joint event with Forestry Commission Scotland which encouraged understanding each other’s needs while working or riding in the national forest estate.

Christine Hardaker successfully challenged Bradford Council over their bye-laws banning horses on public open space. Having succeeded on the legal side, she then had another battle to get them to take down their 'No Horses' signs.

In Northern Ireland, King John’s Highway, Holywood was reopened. While this lane is only 100 yards long, it cuts off a dangerous bend on the adjoining road.

In Cambridgeshire Access Officers working with the Wildlife Trust aim to secure a number of new bridleways around the new  Trumpington Country Park providing a vast new area open to horse riders and providing a link between existing definitive routes.

Access Officers have been busy ensuring that adequate provision is made for equestrians in road scheme proposals in Cheshire, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire.

In Surrey, Sandra Smith oversaw the renovation of Bridleways of Thursley Common.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of our Access Officers, and congratulate all of those that received Access and Long Service Awards this year and especially Ann Fraser, chairman of equestrian access in Scotland, who was awarded an MBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to the horse and the Scottish borders.

Merseyside police received an Access Award for their work throughout the summer of 2013 to make bridleways and open spaces safer for horse riders and other users. ‘Operation Brookdale’ was launched in response to a rising tide of incidents involving unauthorised off-road vehicles causing damage and mayhem on tracks and open areas across the region, and resulted in a highly successful crackdown on reckless and anti-social behaviour culminating in the seizure of 171 unauthorised vehicles.

Dorset County Council received an Access Award for the creation of a new 12-mile multi-user route that links Sturminster Newton and Blandford Forum on the old disused Somerset-Dorset Railway.

Hertfordshire County Council received The Lady Elizabeth Kirk Award for their substantial dedications in and around Aldenham village, which have resulted in circular rides around the village that remove the need to ride on the exceedingly busy Watford to Radlett road, enabling riders to enjoy the already existing routes by linking together what had been a fragmented rights of way network in the parish.

Our BHS Equestrian Access Groups Facebook page continues to go from strength to strength, with more people than ever getting involved with what we’re doing. We post the latest access news from our volunteers and Equestrian Access Groups and spark fun discussions with an access theme. We love hearing from you, so if you haven’t already, Like the page and get talking to us!


Access Director Mark Weston and other Members of the Stakeholder Working Group on Unrecorded Public Rights of Way lobbying at The House of Lords on the Deregulation Bill

The Society continues to lobby nationally and locally to raise the profile of the need for more safe off road access for equestrians. We have met with Ministers and responded to several national consultation documents to ensure equestrian issues are considered.

We continue to work with partners/government organisations to secure more access and are pleased to be taking forward initiatives with the National Trust, the Canals and River Trust and the Trails Trust, Environment Agency to name but a few.

We have been monitoring and contributing to the passage of the Deregulation Bill to ensure that the rights of way provisions within the Bill progress without amendment.

In Wales, there is concern that the Active Travel (Wales) Act will have a detrimental impact on equestrian access, but lobbying has secured a statement stating that, 'Equestrians must not be disadvantaged by the development of Active Travel routes for walkers and cyclists'.

Lobbying also ensured that equestrians were included in the Road Safety Delivery Strategy for Wales. From late 2014 we have been working on a number of Local Transport Plan consultations in Wales, which, in March, will replace the Regional Transport Plans that ignored equestrians.

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