Riders fight back after popular forest track blocked

  • Riders fighting to regain access to a well used forestry route say that with horses being forced on to roads, it is “a matter of time before a serious accident occurs”.

    Landowner Natural Resources Wales (NRW) installed kissing gates at either end of the track, in Craig yr Allt Forest, Upper Llanover, stating it was to stop motorbikes using it.

    Rider Janet Villars, who is leading the fight to regain access, had meetings with NRW to try to find a way of preventing the bikes’ access while still allowing horses in.

    But as the organisation “refused to budge”, Janet and other riders are campaigning for the track to be officially designated as a bridleway.

    “By installing the gates, NRW went directly against Welsh government, local government and Brecon Beacons National Park Authority strategy, policy and guidance to increase and improve safe off-road riding and circular routes for horses,” Janet said.

    “I have tried to reason with NRW to implement an alternative solution that enables horses access while prohibiting motorbikes, but they have refused to do this.”

    Janet said that although the route is classified as a public footpath, there are no signs stating so. She added that she has been riding on the track since 1979, while other riders have been using it since the 1950s.

    She has submitted an application for it to be re-designated as a bridleway, but warned that this could take up to two years and be costly in terms of time and public money.

    Riders met by the track last week in protest.

    Among them was Emma Cassidy, who said: “It’s important we have safe places for our young ones to ride. The roads aren’t safe and with routes like this being closed, it’s worrying about the future of riding.”

    Rider Vicki Fisher added: “The lack of off-road riding is forcing riders to use roads that are increasingly busy and dangerous for horses. It is just a matter of time before a serious accident occurs.”

    NRS land manager Dai Rees said: “We installed kissing gates at both ends of the public footpath to stop illegal off-road motorbikes using the path, and ensure the safety of people using it.

    “Following talks with the local horse riding community, we installed a combination lock and mounting blocks to enable free horse access through the forest on routes other than the public footpaths.”

    But Janet said the alternative track “doesn’t go anywhere” so does not replace the original circular route.

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