The British Horse Society (BHS) is outraged that Natural England is advocating the abandonment of a project to research and improve the rights of way network in England.

In 2000, the Countryside Agency established the Discovering Lost Ways (DLW) project to identify and record historic rights of way that existed before 1949.

Last September, H&H reported the BHS’s frustration with the slow progress made on the project.

BHS director of access Mark Weston said: “The project was intended to find and save a huge number of routes like the hundreds of miles of ancient bridleways and byways that the efforts of our volunteers have added to the definitive [rights of way] map.”

Bridleways currently form only 28% of England’s rights of way network. Many of the original bridleways have either vanished, are unrecorded, or been classified as footpaths. But now Natural England has recommended Defra “moves away” from the project.

DLW spokesman Mel Capper said they are simply reviewing the way the project is being undertaken.

She said: “The project is very useful but we are looking to run it more cost effectively.”

The Natural England review explains: “[We] have concluded that researching lost ways is extremely resource intensive. Even if Natural England were to focus on ‘high-quality’ routes, it would still require exhaustive and costly research.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (6 March, ’08)