A team of four equestrians ranging from 66 years of age to 88 are urging riders to join them on horseback from West Devon to Hampshire on 23 June – 8 July to highlight the loss of pre-1949 rights of way.
The group is being led by volunteer for the British Horse Society (BHS) and Chair of The Bridleways and Byways Trust (BBT), Catriona Cook MBE. In total the team are riding 250 miles from Dartmoor, West Devon through East Devon and Dorset, finishing at Burley in the New Forest in Hampshire.
Riders have until 17 June to apply to join the challenge ride, including 16 miles from Chagford Common to Chipstow, 18 miles from Hawkerland to Southleigh, and 19 miles from East Lulworth Equestrian Centre to Kingston.
This is the fifth time that The BHS and BBT have joined forces in such a ride.
It’s hoped the arduous journey will spread further awareness of the 2026 deadline and raise money for legal costs of The BHS and BBT to preserve historical paths.
An estimated 20,000 paths could be extinguished on 1 January 2026 if not officially recorded, due to a change in Government legislation. The date to record routes on the definitive map by 2026 was prescribed in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.
Catriona Cook, Regional Access and Bridleways Officer for Yorkshire and Chair of BBT, said: Riding or driving a horse across our wonderful British countryside is one of the best therapeutic things one can do. It makes me extremely sad that so many historic routes are designated as footpaths and so are not available as safe havens for children riding ponies or bicycles to access.
“We hold this wonderful under recorded public asset in trust for this and all future generations, and action by all is needed now.”
Mark Weston, Director of Access at The BHS, said: “I wish Catriona and the team the best of luck on their journey. 2026 might seem like a long time away, but with an estimated twenty thousand routes that need recording, I urge everyone to become inquisitive and research your local routes so riders can enjoy a network of bridleways and byways now and forever.”
Many thousands of miles of ancient bridleways were incorrectly recorded as footpaths after the Second World War, when riding was at a low ebb and local authorities, as now, were keen to minimise their perceived maintenance burden. But over the years through much hard work, volunteers have caused hundreds of miles of those missing byways and bridleways to be recorded on the definitive maps of public rights of way, returning them to the public to use.