Riders in Taplow, Buckinghamshire are celebrating after an outstanding effort by the local community secured the future of a much-used bridleway between the River Thames and the new Jubilee River.
Alison Adcock, a horse rider and equestrian access enthusiast from Buckinghamshire, led the campaign to safeguard the route after the sale of the land on which it was situated in 2009 caused riders to have their access revoked. Having ridden on the route through Barge Farm for more than 30 years, Alison was determined to ensure that riders didn’t lose their right to use the track permanently and enlisted the help of local residents to support the case.
“A friend who lived near and I were goaded into action,” said Alison. “We were never in doubt that we had a right to use the whole route, so we contacted Aylesbury County Offices and embarked on the process. We notified all the residents along the route of our intention, identified and marked the route on a map and started collecting evidence of use for a 20 year period.”
As Alison knew, the riders needed as much evidence as possible to be in with a chance of saving the bridleway, and even then there was still a risk of the proposal being overturned due to objections. A superb effort by Alison and her friend meant 27 evidence forms were collected and submitted to Aylesbury County Offices in 2010, and at the end of 2012 the proposal was put forward by the Rights of Way Officer to Buckinghamshire County Council.
However, as the riders had feared, residents of a row of houses situated at the end of the route objected to the claim. Reasons for their objections were varied, but centred on the fact that they had never seen any horses ride past their homes. Despite the objections, the County Council passed the bridleway proposal and Alison and the riders were victorious – but sadly, their success was short lived.
“Unfortunately, the County Council hadn’t followed the correct procedure and the process had to be repeated, and sure enough there were new objections,” said Alison. The latest round of objections meant that the bridleway claim had to be taken to Public Inquiry, a nerve-wracking experience for Alison, who had to hope that the user evidence would stand up at inquiry.
On 27 August 2014, five years after she started the process, Alison made her way to Taplow Village Hall to defend her bridleway claim at inquiry. She was absolutely delighted to find that not only were the riders who had provided user evidence present, younger riders who wanted to continue using the route had also arrived to show their support. Thanks to the inspiring display of teamwork by the local equestrian community, the court Inspector ignored the objections of the residents in favour of the overwhelming evidence provided for the route’s use. The bridleway was successfully added to the Definitive Map and is now protected for future generations of riders.
“Needless to say, I’m absolutely delighted!” said Alison. “I really do thank all those who supported me along the way.
“It’s so important not to give up in these situations. I refused to give up; it would have let down all my fellow riders who had provided evidence as well as the new riders in the area who have less and less accessible, safe riding. Our bridleways must be defended, and it’s the riders who need to do it.”
Pictures show Alison Adcock, her daughter Katherine riding her young horse Magic and Georgia Geurin (who spoke at the hearing) riding Alison's Fell pony Libby, in front of the Sounding Arch on the route and riding on another section of the bridleway.