The British Horse Society’s Paralympic Legacy Access Project has been launched on the Ridgeway in West Berkshire.
The project was developed after the need for more off-road carriage driving opportunities for people with physical restrictions was identified following the huge success of the 2012 Paralympic Games and Para World Carriage Driving Championships.
When complete, the project will see twenty twelve mile carriage drives suitable for those with physical restrictions available across the UK, with route information and maps available to print from the BHS website.
The charity’s President, Martin Clunes, had the honour of cutting the ribbon and declaring the project and its accompanying routes officially open. Speaking at the event he said: “We all know what a beautiful country we live in and there is no better way to enjoy it than to get out there and explore the bits that you don’t see from the road.
"It is so important that horse riders and carriage drivers have access to safe, off-road riding and driving. These routes will bring so much pleasure to carriage drivers of all ages and abilities – and of course their horses and ponies!”
Senior Executive for Access at The British Horse Society, Heather Clatworthy, added: “We are privileged to honour the successes of the equestrians in the 2012 Paralympics by launching this series of routes suitable for carriage drivers with a wide variety of physical limitations.
“With the speed and volume of traffic on roads at an all-time high, it has never been so important to find safe off-road access for vulnerable road users like equestrians. These routes not only provide somewhere for local carriage drivers to use regularly, but also provide a destination for those wishing to visit the area and carriage drive in different parts of the UK which is wonderful for the local economy."
The launch of routes would not have been possible without the support of the British Driving Society, which played a crucial part in the project. Access and Rights of Way Co-ordinator for the BDS, Margaret Pawson, bought her pony Robin to the launch and drove Martin and Para Equestrian Driving World Championship Silver medallist, Judi Ralls along part of the Ridgeway route.
She said: “Carriage drivers can only currently drive on five percent of the public rights of way network. It is a wonderful sport which the whole family can enjoy and these routes will increase the opportunities to enjoy driving for all generations for many years to come.”