On 31 December, Leicestershire and Rutland Bridleways Association closed their doors after over 32 years as an Equestrian Access Group. Vicky Allen, the Equestrian Access Group’s Founder, President & Networks Officer, shares with us how it all started and gives an insight into the group's amazing work over the last 32 years.
“On 13 March 1991, I booked the upper room of a Leicester pub, printed out posters and asked Ann Wood, Derbyshire County Access & Bridleways Officer (CABO) and Erewash Riders members to speak about the importance of protecting Public Rights of Way for equestrians.
These local meetings were set up for riders, not just members, to discuss what should be done about problems they had come across and over time, these morphed into twice-yearly Area Meetings on a District basis – Melton, Harborough, etc.
A Bridleway Guidelines sheet also evolved so members knew what standards to expect and who to complain to. This is much easier now with online definitive maps and reporting systems.
Some of the best successes we had as a group were:
- Extending bridleway Q45 from Swepstone through a restored opencast coal mine so it links with byway open to all traffic (BOAT) Q38 and Q39 between Packington and Ravenstone and almost links to BOAT O41 into Sence Valley Forest Park and a byway/road east to Donington-le-Heath.
- Getting the parapet of the bridge over dual-carriageway A46 raised. I gather it cost £67,000. At the time of planning the route was on Leicester City’s Definitive Map as a footpath but was changed to a bridleway by the time the new road was built.
- Getting the decrepit, narrow Long Horse Bridge replaced with a new bridleway bridge (budget £800,000) so it might provide an off-road link in The Midshires Way. The bridge was part of the Grand Union Canal towpath where the Derwent joins the Trent. I was in the local planning office and was unexpectedly shown the first planning application, which was too narrow for families or gear-laden anglers as well as horses so I was objecting for everyone.”
On behalf of all the BHS Access and Rights of Way Team, we would like to say a huge thank you to all of the members of the Leicestershire and Rutland Bridleways Association. Their fantastic work has helped so many equestrians and horses over the years and we're happy to say that Vicky will continue to fight the good cause for access and rights of way within her role as a BHS Access & Bridleways Officer.