Riders have joined forces with conservationists to create a “horse code” to encourage fellow riders to be more aware of nature, wildlife and people at a protected heathlands.
The East Devon Pebblebed Heaths near Exeter, which are open to riders, cyclists and walkers, are recognised as one of Europe’s most important conservations sites covering around 1,100 hectares of linked heaths between the Exe and Otter estuaries. The site has more than 3,000 difference species of plant and animal life, including rare heathland specialists, and is protected by national and European designations.
The Pebblebed Horse Code is one of three voluntary codes that have been launched aiming to promote “mutual respect” among all users of the heathlands. It follows the launch of the Pebblebed Dog Code and Pebbledbed Bike Code earlier in the year.
The code, funded by the South East Devon Habitat Regulations Executive Committee, has been developed by experts from the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust, in partnership with the South East Devon Habitat Regulations Partnership, the RSPB and Devon Wildlife Trust, with input from the local riding community.
The code has six elements:
1. Slow down to pass people and give a friendly greeting
2. Follow the tracks and avoid widening paths
3. Take care of yourself and the tracks, which can be sensitive to damage
4. Always shut the gates, follow signs and report any problems
5. Explore scheduled monuments like Woodbury Castle on foot
6. Obtain the required licence for organised horse-riding events
Katie Lea from Budleigh who has been riding on the heaths for seven years, said the voluntary code is a “common sense” way riders can help preserve the landscape.
“I feel very lucky to have the heaths on my doorstep. It’s a very therapeutic place to ride and we should all do our bit to preserve this precious area,” said Katie.
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“The code is a common sense approach to enjoying the heaths alongside wildlife and all those who use it, and if it encourages horse riders to work together to make the space safe and enjoyable for everyone for years to come, then that’s a good thing.”
Pebblebed Heaths site manager Kim Strawbridge said: “Today’s riders play an important role in the future of their sport and access rights as well as the condition of the heaths and the much-loved tracks.
“By following the code, riders can be sure they are sharing this space in a positive way with wildlife and other people, while keeping the routes in good condition for everyone to use and enjoy.”
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