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New Forest hacking - safety message from Forestry England

Forestry England has asked the BHS to share important safety information with our members, following two incidents over the winter where riders could have been injured riding across pedestrian bridges in the Forest.

"Forestry England provides and maintains over 300 bridges that cross streams in the New Forest. Around 100 of these bridges are designed for pedestrian use only and as such the deck thickness may be unable to support the weight of a horse and rider. These bridges are not designed for equestrian use and are limited in their width (usually around 1.5m wide) and have handrails set at mid-level (approximately 1.2m on average), they may also have steep or stepped approaches and are unlikely to have anti-slip decks.

In most cases, there are adjacent fords that have traditionally been used for passage of stock and by horse riders. There may also be a more suitable bridge nearby. None of the footbridges are on public bridleways and as such there is no requirement on Forestry England to maintain provision for equestrians.

To help ensure that all equestrians are aware of this situation we are erecting signage on the relevant footbridges over the coming weeks, highlighting the bridges that are not suitable for horse riders and are for pedestrian use only. In the meantime, we would ask anyone thinking about crossing a bridge that meets the description above, to please avoid doing so even if a sign isn’t present. They should use an alternative route, or an adjacent ford if it is safe to do so.

We hope that by clarifying the use of the bridges we will help to ensure that all equestrians
can continue to enjoy their rides on the Forest. There are over alternative 200 bridges that are suitable for use by equestrians that give good access to the Forest.

If you require any additional information or would like to discuss this further, please don’t hesitate to get in contact via"