New bridleway gates installed after rider injured

A rider who was injured in a bridleway gate she found hard to open wants others to realise why it is important to report issues after three new gates were installed.

Natalie White was injured when she had difficulty opening a gate that had been weighted on a bridleway at Turville Valley, Buckinghamshire, on 1 January.

Natalie reported the gate to Buckinghamshire County Council and was told by the council appropriate action was being taken with the landowner. In April the new gates were installed at three parts of the bridleway.

Natalie told H&H the new gates are “brilliant”.

“I tried them on the bank holiday weekend and they’re much safer. The handles have a hoop at the top which is better, I’ve seen straight handles on gates before where your reins and martingale can get caught over the top of them,” she said.

“They’re also wider which is really helpful and they’ve got an interesting hinge that allows them to open both ways and automatically close – but it does it quite slowly so it’s safe. It’s nice because you don’t want to be faffing around behind you trying to shut a gate if you can avoid it. [My horse] Kinna is so big I can’t get off her or I can’t get on again so being able to open a gate is important.”

Natalie said the British Horse Society (BHS) was very supportive and she is considering volunteering as a bridleways officer.

“The BHS bridleways officer Alison Heath sent me pictures of the new gates when they were first installed. The BHS asked if I was interested in becoming a bridleways officer which I’m thinking of doing when I can get to a training day. There’s so many problems out there and I report them all so I thought I might learn a bit more and I’d like to try and get a few more routes opened up in the area.

“There’s lots of single-route bridleways that don’t lead to anywhere and it would be good to connect the dots. The roads are getting busier and people don’t want to ride on them so if we could connect more bridleways it would make life much easier for so many people.”

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Natalie wants other riders to report incidents on bridleways.

“I really recommend reporting things – even if nothing is done it is still on record,” she said.

“I think some landowners think if they leave an issue on a bridleway long enough and no one reports it then people stop using it and if people stop using it they can close the route. It’s really important; the more people that report issues, the more likely something will be done. We have to protect our routes and fight for bridleways or we’ll lose them.”

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