The first areas of “access land” that have become available under the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act open on Sunday (19 September), but questions over implementation persist, some of which affect riders as well as landowners and the public.
Concerns of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) include how information is to be relayed to the walking public, notably regarding temporary closures.
Access experts from the CLA also say confusion over boundaries may present problems for riders and that the scheme could lead to more opportunities for anti-hunting demonstrators to disrupt hunts.
In addition, some landowners with horse paddocks adjacent to commons may have had their fields mapped as access land, yet not know.
Access land, open to walkers only, is solid yellow on new maps. But some access land also encompasses areas that are open to riders.
A spokesman for the British Horse Society (BHS) says: “Mapping of access land may cause uncertainty for riders who use land such as forestry with permitted access.
“Also, off-road riding takes place on access land where landowners tolerate riders. This may be lost with the introduction of open access, if landowners withdraw that tolerance.”
Some fear the government’s £2m fund for councils to install signs, gates and stiles on access land won’t be sufficient, and that local bridleway budgets will be compromised.
The south-east and lower north-west areas open on 19 September. Visit www.countrysideaccess.gov.uk for more information.