Who rides out (hacks)? Maggie: 61 year old grandmother Likes exploring on horseback Looks after her horse after workLyndsey: 35 year old professional competition rider Hacks to get her horse fit & give variety Amateur & professional riders All ages 75 % of horse riders are female; 31% are under 16 (BETA National Equestrian Survey ) The Smiths With their 3 daughters relaxing on a Saturday morning. Sophie prefers a bike at present.
The benefits of riding out (hacking) View from horseback of the Kennet Valley from the Wayfarers Walk / Way, Hampshire April 2009
The benefits of riding out (hacking) Quiet, relaxing outdoor exercise for all ages: benefits mind and body Challenge of riding in the outdoors and exploring our countryside Improves appreciation of our countryside with little disturbance to wild life The horse as a vehicle for those with minor disabilities, eg. arthritis Required by competition horses to achieve fitness from riding club to Olympic level Supports the £4 billion equestrian industry: farm diversification to livery yards, vets, farriers, feed & tack shops, horse boxes etc
Organized rides: many organized, showing demand for countryside access on private estates / rights of way fee paid & horse transport usually required Competitive / non- competitive irregular Hunting / Drag hunting: by a substantial subscription only faster - not for the faint-hearted! How do equestrians access the countryside today ? Using roads, the public rights of way network, common land: free irrespective of income ( 65% of equestrians are from socio-economic groups C.D & E BETA survey ) Permissive access: short paths or over estates / farm land free or by permit Photo courtesy of Eric G Jones
Roads & the public rights of way (PROW) network Equestrians have the right to use roads, byways, restricted byways, bridleways, some common land & some beaches Nationally they have access to only 22% of the PROW network The complete rights of way network of Oxfordshire The horse riding & cycling rights of way network: 33% in Oxon Red = settlements PROBLEMS The equestrian PROW network is fragmented Equestrians usually have to use roads to reach off-road routes to form a riding network
Riding on todays roads Tarmac is hard on horses joints & can be slippery but MOTOR TRAFFIC is the serious problem PROBLEM: mixing of slow-moving horses with fast-moving traffic on todays roads, including minor roads, is hazardous This problem is not specific to horse riders but to cyclists & walkers too Horses are trained to accept vehicles of all shapes & sizes but is this wise ? Rider trying to get to the next bridleway Horse!
Riding on todays roads PROBLEMS: Roads are uninviting to ride Leads to fear of hacking out Some horse riders never hack out now Many A and B roads are not used by horse riders because of vehicle speed, volume & size. Horse riders tend to use minor roads but even minor roads have become hazardous to ride: 60mph speed limit Drivers in a hurry Narrow / high banks Blind corners More traffic from diversification / increased building
Equestrian road accidents Dept for Transport 1/2006: 46% of serious road casualties & more than half of road deaths occurred on rural roads - those roads horse riders tend to use. What many horse riders fear is summed up in Eleanor & Terrapins story ( see separate BHS video clip).
Other problems to hacking out these days Severance of bridleway networks by trunk / major roads / new rail routes Poorly maintained surfaces Height barriers on car parks Difficult gates These problems are solvable with thought & consideration for equestrians
Vision A network of inter-connecting routes (greenways) where riding on roads is minimized Community circuits in all parishes linking into longer routes In West Berks, safe links to the Three Downs Link, Ridgeway, Wayfarers Way Priority given to areas with a high horse population / livery yards - hence supporting the local economy Routes for horse-riders (bridleways) automatically include cyclists, walkers & the disabled and can include carriage drivers if restricted byway status Bridleways / Restricted byways are Best Value
Possible Solutions Re-connecting the fragmented network ProblemSolutions Roads are hazardous to ride 1.Reclaim (some) minor roads for recreational use by horse riders, cyclists & walkers 2. Provide behind the hedge/fence tracks to connect equestrian PROW 3. Upgrade footpaths where suitable/look for historic evidence of higher rights 4.Encourage new bridleway dedications, pay compensation to landowners (The Trails Trust) 5. Priority to DMMOs that enhance the equestrian network 6. All cycle tracks to be open to horse riders 7.Make verges, where they exist, possible to ride on 8. Create areas of open access areas for equestrians (as for walkers)
HOW? 1. Reclaim (some) minor roads for recreational use Implement Dept for Transport guidelines: SETTING LOCAL SPEED LIMITS Page 26, paragraph 108: On lower tier C and unclassified roads: 40 mph on roads with a predominantly local, access or recreational function or where the road forms part of a recommended route for vulnerable road users
HOW? 1. Reclaim (some) minor roads for recreational use Encourage reminders that horse riders / cyclists may be on the road OUTCOME: reduces fear of riding on roads amongst equestrians (& cyclists & walkers) Encourage implementation of Quiet lanes RR Rural Byway Take Care Rural demonstration Project, Norfolk County Council West Berkshire Counci l
2. Provide behind the hedge / fence tracks Bridleway achieved through planning gain alongside a road which was road becoming increasingly busy from development in the area OUTCOME: traffic physically separated from equestrians (& cyclists & walkers) traffic need not be inconvenienced everyone is safer
3. Upgrade footpaths where suitable / look for historic evidence A landowner may dedicate to bridleway status: sympathetic landowners do Historic evidence can indicate that ways recorded as footpaths on the definitive map are likely to be bridleways or restricted byways Other tracks on the ground may not be recorded but have historic evidence of public rights Are these really only a footpaths or are they old roads? Northumberland Underwood Lane Pitney Somerset DMMO submitted Nov 2008
4. Encourage new bridleway dedications (eg. The Trails Trust method*) The Trails Trust has opened 80 new routes since 1988 thanks to help from many farmers & landowners though goodwill or by paying compensation * Formerly Mendip Cross Trails Trust (MCTT) New Pen Hill bridleway, Mendips OUTCOMES: the PROW network is expanded to meet todays needs landowners can be compensated for new public access
to other problems: Possible Solutions to other problems: ProblemSolutions Poorly maintained surfaces Allocate more funding to rights of way from other budgets eg. sports pitches. Use pre-emptive measures BEFORE expensive damage occurs Height barriers on car parks Allocate space for horse boxes before height barriers Difficult gates Consult with horse riders NB. A good rights of way network provides sustainable utility & recreational travel & benefits a wide range of people – dog walkers, joggers, the elderly, school children, equestrians, cyclists etc
To sum up Equestrian access to the countryside: problems and solutions Historically, the bridleway / byway network was designed for horses! Motorized transport is a major factor in destroying equestrian access to the countryside There are solutions all non-motorized users These solutions benefit all non-motorized users meeting current political objectives of : access to the countryside for exercise, health, well being economic development sustainable tourism sustainable travel