Horse riders, cyclists and walkers in England are currently at risk of having their access to our countryside restricted, warns The British Horse Society. Up to 20,000 pathways and bridleways are at risk of being extinguished from the map, and the Charity is renewing its efforts to raise awareness of the threat to our countryside.
By 2026, routes that existed in 1949 and still exist on 1 January 2026 have to be recorded on a Council’s Definitive map; otherwise they will be erased from the records and could be closed for good.
With just nine years until the 2026 deadline, The British Horse Society (BHS) are encouraging the public to check that the routes they used are recorded.
The BHS has almost 300 access volunteers who give up their spare time to work tirelessly to ensure routes are recorded. In 2017 alone, they identified 500 bridleways and byways that needed to be recorded. However, it isn’t a quick or easy task and it’s not uncommon for it to take decades before a route is officially recorded.
Many Rights of Way departments have been cut back due to austerity measures; and as a result they have to deal with a huge backlog of requests to record routes. I
BHS Director of Access, Mark Weston explained: “We wouldn’t be able to achieve what we have without our access volunteers. It’s vital that these routes stay open so that horse riders have an alternative to riding on the roads, where the speed and volume of traffic is often increasing. We would love for more people to join us, and help us keep our countryside open!”
Do you want to help?
If you enjoy riding, cycling or walking in our countryside, or just want to save these routes, you can get involved and make sure these routes stay open. 1 in 4 of us volunteers regularly and the BHS offer training, support and advice to those who wish to become access volunteers.
Throughout December, the BHS are raising awareness of the work of its volunteers as part of its Platinum Year celebrations. To find out more, visit the BHS Volunteer page.