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Riders in Hampshire are “outraged” over plans to resurface a permissive bridleway to make it more accessible for cyclists.

The Old Meon Valley disused railway line has been a popular riding route for more than 50 years.

The permissive bridleway starts at Wickham in Hampshire and ends 10 miles later at the village of West Meon.

But now a joint project between the South Downs National Park and Hampshire County Council (HCC) is under way to upgrade the path to make it more accessible for cyclists, disabled people and young children.

The works are costing £310,000 and will involve the path being closed for several months.

Concerned that the path’s new surface would be unsuitable for horses, local livery yard owner Kathryn Montague has set up a Facebook group named “Save Our Bridleway — Meon Valley Disused Railway Line”.

The group had 645 members in the first five days (after being set up on 25 March), with both riders and cyclists objecting to the plans.

A petition has been set up at Hampshire Saddlery in Botley, and there are suggestions that there should be a ridden protest against the scheme.

Mrs Montague said plans to attract more disabled people are limited as there is no parking near the route and there are concerns that once the barriers are taken down “we will get offroaders”.

“Riders and cyclists have used the disused railway line for years and it is totally unnecessary to spend thousands on resurfacing it,” she told H&H.

“The path is perfect for a trot or canter, but we’ve now been told we should only be walking.”

David Deane, joint cycling projects officer for the South Downs National Park Authority and HCC, said the work is part of a £5m investment in a network of core cycling routes into the South Downs National Park.

“The trail is in desperate need on an upgrade, with overgrown trees on steep embankments that are prone to collapse in high winds and a muddy surface that rarely dries out,” he said.

Mark Weston, director of access at the British Horse Society, told H&H: “This truly is a multi-user route and, in partnership with the South Downs National Park Authority, HCC is repairing the surface to accommodate other users.”

He added that the BHS is discussing the proposed surface improvements with the council and “as far as we are aware there are no proposals to tarmac any sections of the route”.

Ref: H&H 7 April, 2015

  • WaitForPete

    It used to be only fit for horse riders, now it is fit for riders, cyclists and walkers.
    And this is an outrage, apparently.

  • Gerri Scargill

    Quite right.

  • Gerri Scargill

    I checked the story out by going to the relevant facebook pages. Apparently the route is a actually a ‘permissive bridleway’, but it doesn’t alter the fact that neither the local horse riders or the local cyclists are happy about it. Where the surface has already been done, both parties are unhappy about it, even dog walkers have complained about it! Apparently the surface that was already there was adequate in most places, and just needed some cleaning up and restoring in others. I think it is a case that it is somebody’s vanity project and money has been chucked at it, so it has to be spent!

  • Oak Tree Lady

    This is a horribly lop-sided article. There are many examples where both a finished bike/walking and riding path have been successfully installed and works well in the communities, like El Dorado County near Placerville, CA and the American River Parkway in Folsom, CA. Do more research before you condemn the idea. Maybe if you stop using the word “scheme” when you are against the plans, it might help.

  • Myth

    Think I am more outraged at the abysmal journalism. Stop twisting news into a sensationalist article else soon you’ll be no better than the cheap gossip mag. You should be ashamed of yourselves for pitting user group against user group when the real problem is the council. It isn’t the first one to upset horse riders (and cyclists) for unnecessary works to sanitise bridleways. The real story is the apparent nationwide bridleway sanitisation in areas of natural beauty.

  • David Morgan-Davies

    A lot depends on the type of surface .I dont know the name for it in the affected part of England.in the Ewst of England , scalpings, or quarry scrapings make a good universal surface.The fine quality for a finish.The problem here seems to be it is not a long term bridal path covered by suitable regulations after all it was once a railway.