The launch of Ride Out UK 2021 coincides with the easing of restrictions and also, it feels, with a new sense of optimism and adventure. While this initiative is partly about fundraising, it is also about enjoying the British countryside and nature at its very best - but if you are new to a particular area or new to hacking out, how do you get inspiration for safe off-road routes?
1. The Definitive Map
Essentially, everything stems from The Definitive Map which forms the legal record of public rights of way in England and Wales and is a mine of information. The Map is kept by highway authorities (county councils or unitary authorities) and can be viewed at their office or on council websites if available. It shows footpaths, bridleways and byways. Riding is permitted on all these rights of way except footpaths, which may be ridden along with the permission of the landowner.
2. Ordnance Survey Maps
The information from the Definitive Map is shown on Ordnance Survey maps. It is easiest to follow equestrian routes on the 1:25,000 scale Explorer maps (orange covers) because they show field boundaries. View the most recent OS mapping online with OS OpenMap or www.streetmap.co.uk. Hard copies of OS maps can be bought from many websites, bookshops or outdoor activity centres, or they can be viewed for free at most local libraries. As a word of warning, any map may not be completely up-to-date as recent changes to the official Definitive Map may not yet be included.
3. Bing Maps
Alternatively you can view OS maps on a laptop or PC by visiting www.bing.com/maps - click the road icon on the right hand side and choose 'Ordnance Survey'. Ensure your screen is expanded and zoom in to see the markings showing public rights of way, you will need to understand what the different markings mean which you can do easily by searching for 'OS Map Key' in your browser.
4. BHS Affiliated Equestrian Access Groups
The BHS currently has more than 100 affiliated Equestrian Access Groups spread across England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, all of whom work to defend, extend and promote equestrian access in their areas. They will have a good knowledge of routes in their area. Find out if there is one near you by visiting bhs.org.uk or contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in forming a group.
Apart from riding the routes described above, many of them can also be enjoyed by you, your friends and family cycling or walking – with or without a four legged companion.
5. Inspiration from others
You can get more inspiration from Ramblers UK or Cycling UK too.
This blog has hopefully provided some inspiration and we would love you to share photos of you enjoying new rides with us on social media.