British Horse Society hits halfway point in project to save bridleways but ‘time is running out’

  • The British Horse Society has received 1,500 applications to save bridleways and byways – but there is still a lot of work to be done to save thousands more, and “time is running out”.

    Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, historical routes for walkers, riders and carriage-drivers will be lost if not formally recorded on the definitive map by the cut-off date of 1 January 2026.

    A BHS spokesman said the society is urging people to help ensure routes are not lost to the public for ever, although it has reached the “landmark” of 1,500 applications to date. The 1,500th application seeks to protect a bridleway along the “Bread and Cheese Drove“ in Haddenham, Cambridgeshire.

    “It was researched and submitted by a volunteer who found evidence of the route dating back to 1813,” said the spokesman.

    “Without the crucial work of volunteers like this, this historic right of way could have been wiped off the map – along with many more across England and Wales. But there are still plenty more routes at risk.”

    The spokesman said time is running out and many public routes not formally recorded by 2026 will be lost.

    “Time is running out to save many important and historic routes across England and Wales. Tragically, many public routes not formally recorded by 2026 will vanish for ever,” he said.

    “In the wide-scale project, we secured generous funding from Sport England, which we matched, to train and support volunteers and help cover their expenses in making applications. We are aiming to save even more routes and hit a target of 2,700 definitive map modification order (DMMO) applications before the end of 2022.”

    BHS project 2026 manager Will Steel said the society is thrilled to be past the halfway point, but added that there is still a lot of work to be done to reach the goal and ensure thousands of public rights of way are not lost.

    “Protecting safe off-road routes is vital to ensure equestrians, cyclists and walkers can continue using these routes in the future. We are working with the Ramblers and Cycling UK to try to achieve this,” he said.

    “With evidence from our horse incidents reporting app Horse i showing just how dangerous our roads are for horse riders, the need for safe off-road riding routes has never been more important.”

    A BHS access volunteer has recommended others get involved and help.

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    “All the BHS staff and volunteers are so welcoming and supportive. I’ve enjoyed looking at old maps and learning the history of my local area to find and secure off-road routes for us all to enjoy long into the future,” said the volunteer.

    “The applications aren’t difficult, there’s plenty of friendly people who can help, and you can do it from home whenever you like.”

    For more information on how to get started visit: https://www.bhs.org.uk/our-work/access/campaigns/2026/2026-toolkit.

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