Protect unmarked bridleways in the UK

Sep 21, 2021 | News

Do you use an unmarked bridleway when exercising your horse(s)? Did you know that you need to act now to protect the equestrian offroad network?

Legislation was introduced in 2000 to state that any pre-1949 paths must be recorded by 2026 to continue to carry public rights. This means that any offroad tracks, bridleways or paths not recorded will cease to exist after 1st January 2026. There are potentially thousands of routes across the UK which are at risk, so it is important that you’re aware of these changes and protect the routes that you utilise.

Phil Wadey, a space satellite scientist and vice-chair of the conservation body Open Spaces Society says “These paths are all over the place. A lot of them are actually paths that are in everyday use. They are not hidden. We are not talking about paths that have fallen into disuse. There are actually people walking or riding or cycling along them. But they are not on the official map, so they will vanish if applications are not made. People won’t realise until they are gone and then it will be too late”.

 

Many walkers follow a their favoured route when out for a day exploring the countryside. However, it seems not only bridleways but thousands of public footpaths could soon be lost for ever. Walking charity Ramblers ,formerly the Ramblers Association, has found that there are some 50,000 miles of right of way not marked on any map – some of which date back to Roman times! The Don’t Lose Your Way project is helping the Ramblers prioritise useful paths and make applications to get them on the map as legal rights of way.

Everyone has a part to play, and you can help to protect a bridleway near you. Some of the actions that you can take include:

  • Check your bridleway is recorded via the OS Maps app or ask your local authority. On this app, you can use a highlighter pen to mark the routes that you use or are aware of.
  • Take photographs of the features of the routes that you think indicate that they were an old cart track or a bridleway, even if they’re only used as a footpath today.
  • If you are unsure about a footpath you ride on, simply contact access@bhs.org.uk.
  • Attend a training day – a training day is the perfect way to educate yourself on the historical routes and resources used in order to study them.
  • Become a volunteer of the British Horse Society, where you will receive support and guidance to help protect the bridleways in the UK.

Find out more about how you can secure and save bridleways near you here.