Major roadworks on the A34 were set to disrupt a key horse route from Harwell to the lovely rides on the Ridgeway near Chilton village. The British Horse Society’s Oxfordshire volunteer County Access and Bridleways Officer, Troth Wells, had alerted the county’s Rights of Way team over a year earlier, but sadly no action had been taken to protect the equestrian route.
Things came to a head in December when a consultation revealed that a controlled ‘Toucan’ crossing for cyclists was to be installed at the crossing of Hagbourne Hill near Chilton – yet no provision was being made for horses. The road is set to become extremely busy with the creation of a new slip road and roundabouts for traffic to Didcot.
Earlier, the Restricted Byway (RB) from Harwell had apparently been re-routed so that it no longer faced the small road, Townsend, which riders use to go through Chilton. The fact that the RB now did not connect with an equestrian route seemed to be used to justify why no provision for horseriders was being made – a very frustrating situation.
Outraged local riders joined with Chilton Parish Councillors and the BHS South Region Access Officer, Janice Bridger, to mount a challenge to this omission. Jane Imbush, Jackie Gillan and others provided maps marking the locations of livery yards and stables in the area with the riding routes marked on them, as well as pointing out that the previous consultation feedback had clearly shown a concern that equestrians be provided for. This presentation was taken to Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Meeting in January and as a result the Council agreed to give more time for a solution to be found.
Janice put in a huge effort to find examples of Pegasus crossings that were feasible and less costly than the full-blown spec produced by the Department fof Transport. Geri Coop at BHS Head Office was a great source of advice and help. At a site meeting with riders and the county’s engineering planner we were able to demonstrate that there was sufficient space on the verge leading to Townsend for an equestrian track, which would of course benefit cyclists and pedestrians as well. The new plans were drawn up and approved in March and we look forward to seeing the new Pegasus crossing in due course.