Surrey’s bridleways are under threat but you could save them
- Credit: Archant
Did you know that thousands of bridleways – our essential off-road riding routes – are under threat? If they are not all officially recorded within the next decade, they could be closed to horses, as well as walkers and cyclists, but we can all do our bit to help save them.
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A new downloadable ‘toolkit’ launched by the British Horse Society will help to get historic bridleways and off-road riding routes recorded on the definitive map, thereby protecting them for the future.
Any such routes not recorded by a 2026 ‘cut-off date’ that has been imposed by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) will be in danger of being closed forever. Potentially thousands of historic routes could be jeopardised. What is more, many of us may currently be riding on unrecorded routes unknowingly.
With less access to safe off-road riding than ever before, we cannot afford to lose the routes we currently do have and, unless action is taken, this could become a reality.
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Fortunately, the British Horse Society, a registered charity, has a dedicated team of 230 access and bridleways officers campaigning tirelessly to protect Britain’s equestrian off-road routes.
A recent success was the upgrading of a footpath in Effingham to a bridleway, just over a kilometre in length, which is now recorded on the definitive map and safe for future generations of horse riders, cyclists and walkers.
The access and bridleways officer for Guildford, Colin Sandford, initially submitted his definitive map modification order application to Surrey County Council in 2008 – yes, it can take that long!
The route provides a vital off-road link to areas of more open riding south of Effingham, and as Colin explains: “Without this bridleway, the many riders whose horses are based in and around Effingham village would have effectively been cut off from some of the best riding country in the area, which could otherwise only be reached by riding for about half a mile or more along a busy winding road with high banks on either side – not a ride I would recommend for even the quietest of horses.”
Even after achievements such as this, horse riders still only have access to 35 per cent of the public rights of way network in Surrey. With the volumes of traffic increasing, horse riders are in desperate need of more safe off-road routes to ride on, and we cannot afford to lose those that we currently do have access to.
The British Horse Society’s new toolkit will help volunteers in the area to preserve these unrecorded equestrian historic routes so that they can continue to be enjoyed by horse riders and carriage drivers after the deadline. The rules will affect walkers and cyclists, too, so everyone who uses our wonderful Surrey country routes should check they are already recorded. If not, they can follow the steps in the toolkit to ensure that they remain accessible for us all.
• For more information, to donate or join the British Horse Society, please visit bhs.org.uk
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