Local bridleways could start to vanish in five years

Local bridleways could start to vanish in five years unless they are officially registered to protect horse-riders’ right to use them, charity warns

  • British Horse Society (BHS) urging volunteers to report local routes to councils
  • Even well-used paths, if not recorded, could cease to be public rights of way
  • BHS said without volunteers reporting it ‘this historic right of way could vanish

Thousands of historic bridleways could be lost to the public in just five years, a charity has warned.

The British Horse Society (BHS) is urging volunteers to report local routes to their councils so they can be officially registered – protecting the right to ride on them. 

Even well-used paths, if not recorded, could cease to be public rights of way by 2026 under changes to the law.

Protest against plans to build 600 new Persimmon houses at Gwern y Domen, Rudry

The BHS is aiming to save 2,700 bridleways by the end of next year. It has already applied to save 1,500 including the ‘Bread and Cheese Drove’ in Cambridgeshire, which dates to 1813. 

The BHS said that without volunteers reporting it ‘this historic right of way could have been wiped off the map’.

England and Wales have around 140,000 miles of public rights of way marked on maps. Government estimates suggest a further 10,000 miles – or 20,000 paths – are unmarked.

Campaigners say the true figure is much higher and have called for the government to extend the 2026 deadline to allow claims to be processed.

The BHS said that without volunteers reporting it ‘this historic right of way could have been wiped off the map’

Under English common law rights of way do not expire, but the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 required all rights of way to be recorded.

Only 22 per cent of the existing rights of way network are accessible to horses.

Will Steel, BHS Project 2026 manager said: ‘There’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure we reach our goal and ensure thousands of public rights of way are not lost.’

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