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Horse riders enjoy riding ancient highway in Lancashire after years of campaigning

23 Apr 2013


An ancient highway has become available again to horse riders after being blocked for 34 years

The locking of a single gate by a local landowner from Horncliffe Top denied riders access to the route between Edenfield and Rawtenstall for over three decades.

Many horse riders and cyclists had used this off-road route and, in September 1980, a group of riders formed the Forest of Rossendale Bridleways Association (FORBA), and the campaign began to restore access to this ancient highway known as Bury Old Road.

A chance discussion with John Simpson, a local historian and genealogist, revealed the existence of  Quarter Sessions records from 1762, when the Justices indicted the local residents of Edenfield of non-repair of the King’s Highway from Edenfield to Rawtenstall. This important route had been a public carriage road prior to the 1790s.

Further help with came in the form of Groundwork Rossendale and the South Pennine Packhorse Trails Trust. Groundwork was developing the Rossendale Cycleway and Bridleway, a network of routes for horseriders and cyclists, and wanted to include Bury Old Road.

SPPTT and Groundwork Rossendale submitted the claim for Bury Old Road to Lancashire County Council in 2005, and – despite higher evidence dating back to 1622 – the council decided to make an order for a bridleway. This attracted objections that the route should be a Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT). It took six years for order to be referred to the Secretary of State. The Planning Inspectorate hearing was held in 2012 at which Sue Hogg, as representative of SPPTT, together with a local Councillor and local residents, argued that there was sufficient documentary evidence for the route to be a BOAT.

Whilst the claim was being processed, the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act of 2006 became law. Parts of the claimed route had been recorded as footpaths on the definitive map, and under the new Act their mechanically propelled vehicular rights were now extinguished. The rest of the route turned out to be recorded on the list of streets as publicly maintainable and retains the mechanically propelled vehicular rights.  The weight of the historical evidence persuaded the Inspector to modify the order to Restricted Byways over those sections shown as footpaths on the definitive map and to BOAT status for the rest of the route. These modifications were confirmed in April 2013.

So, 34 years after it was first obstructed and after several changes in ownership of Horncliffe Top Farm, this ancient highway is now open again.

The experience demonstrates the importance of using the knowledge of local people, evidence from local archives, and working closely with local landowners.

The BHS and FORBA would like to thank John Simpson, Sue Hogg of SPPTT and Dave Greenall, formerly of Groundwork Rossendale for all their help and hard work and for making their expertise freely available.

FORBA remains an important and active bridleway group affiliated to the BHS, with many other access campaigns underway.

FORBA Photo, by kind permission of Karen Lester:

A member of BHS affiliated Forest of Rossendale Bridleway Association (FORBA)  riding on an ancient highway between Edenfield and Rawtenstall in Lancashire.

Further information is available from Chris Peat at (opens new window).

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