A special staircase suitable for horses has been built to open up a bridleway that had become unusable.

The bridleway runs along Little Ouse Path in the heart of the Brecks on the border between Norfolk and Suffolk, near Santon Downham and Brandon.

Norfolk County Council collaborated with the British Horse Society (BHS) to make the former towpath suitable for riders.

“The formerly muddy path was sadly steadily slipping into the river and due to the steep concrete steps (pictured, above) was completely inaccessible as a bridle route,” said Martin Wilby, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s environment, development and transport committee.

“This is the first time I’ve seen horse steps and they are certainly impressive and a very simple and logical solution to making this beautiful section of bridleway usable in the future.”

The council also levelled and resurfaced a 550m section of the path to help stabilise the popular route, which had become narrow, slippery and uneven.

Path before

Path after

Contractors used gabion baskets filled with rocks and stones — a method often used in coastal areas to prevent erosion and collapse.

The creation of the steps cost £22,000 and the resurfacing came to £40,000, which was paid for though the Heritage Lottery Fund and section 106 money as part of a local landscape conservation scheme.

Steps during construction

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Mark Weston, BHS director of access, said it is “fantastic” the steps have opened to allow riders safe access to the bridleway.

“We campaign to protect and extend safe off-road routes for riders, and it’s fantastic to work in collaboration with Norfolk County Council to ensure riders can continue to enjoy this bridleway,” he added.

The work was all carried out without disturbing the wildlife habitats near the river, as the route runs through the heart of a site of special scientific interest and special protection area.

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