Horse rider’s anger over ‘lethal’ state of bridleways

This Is Wiltshire: Rebecca and Lisa Clifforde at one of the overgrown bridlepaths which obstruct a hack Buy this photo » Rebecca and Lisa Clifforde at one of the overgrown bridlepaths which obstruct a hack

HORSE rider Rebecca Clifforde is kicking up a stink about the state of bridleways in the area – and has branded one as lethal.

The 60-year-old says both Swindon and Wiltshire Councils, as well as some farmers, are not sufficiently complying with their duties to ensure the historic tracks are maintained and to ensure they are accessible for equestrians.

The Westlea resident, who keeps her animals at Great Chaddinton Stables, between Royal Wootton Bassett and Blooms Garden Centre, says all four of the bridleways leading from there into the countryside are unsuitable – and other riders have reported similar problems in other areas.

Among the problems she reports are potholled and boggy ground, routes choked by overgrown hedges, non horse-friendly gates which require the rider to dismount, padlocked gates, and paths physically blocked, she claims, on purpose by farmers.

Rebecca, a mum-of-two who has been riding for almost 20 years, said: “What few green areas we have left we should all be used to the full, but our enjoyment in the use of these ancient paths is being eroded due to the obstructions landowners are putting in our way as many do not want horses or people on their land.

“This situation should not be allowed to continue. Farmers, whether they own their land or lease it, took it on in the full knowledge that these paths passed through their farm and in the full knowledge of their responsibilities to these paths. “There are regulations which state the condition of the paths, widths in various situations close to hedging, fences and ditches.

“They can be found on the Wiltshire Council bridlepath website for all to see. Farmers have no excuse for not being aware of their responsibilities.

“However it would seem that the council has little influence or desire in ensuring that these ancient pathways are maintained to a safe and usable standard.

“My major concern throughout my conversations with Wiltshire has been that of safety, safety of surface, safety of surroundings and safety of movement along the paths. Sadly neglect is making usage of these paths more and more dangerous not only for those riding along them but also for those choosing to walk along them.”

While riding along one path at the weekend, she said the ground was so impassable on horseback that her daughter, Lisa, 29, actually got her feet stuck when she dismounted. And while exploring on foot further up the route, they found the path was full of potholes, which she branded as lethal to riders and horses.

On another bridleway, she said a farmer had blocked the right of way with spoils from clearing an adjacent ditch and was in the process of constructing a boundary fence, which means riders would not be able to enter the field to bypass the blockage.

A Wiltshire Council spokesman said: “It is the responsibility of landowners to ensure bridleways are clear of obstruction, and in most cases this is carried out.

“If it isn’t, we will make contact to remind them of their responsibilities. These issues are normally resolved quickly, however further action can be taken if the landowners do not cooperate.”

Swindon Council’s appropriate officers were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Comments (11)

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6:32pm Wed 26 Sep 12

jax66 says...

I totally agree. The bridleways are in a very poor condition and have been for years. With so much traffic and many accidents on the roads its very dangerous to be out riding on the roads also. I think it would be in everybodys interest to get these bridleways made safe and encourage people to use them thus keeping both horse riders and motorists safe!
I totally agree. The bridleways are in a very poor condition and have been for years. With so much traffic and many accidents on the roads its very dangerous to be out riding on the roads also. I think it would be in everybodys interest to get these bridleways made safe and encourage people to use them thus keeping both horse riders and motorists safe! jax66

8:59pm Wed 26 Sep 12

Trend says...

Have you seen how much damage horses do to bridleways? Kind of ironic that they are complaining about the state of them.
Have you seen how much damage horses do to bridleways? Kind of ironic that they are complaining about the state of them. Trend

12:24am Thu 27 Sep 12

jax66 says...

have you seen how much damage cars etc do to horses?
have you seen how much damage cars etc do to horses? jax66

6:43am Thu 27 Sep 12

swindondad says...

Local authorites and land owners do have an obligation to maintain these rights of way but at a time when everybody (individuals / companies / govenments) are short of funds it is not suprising that they are cutting back on what is afterall a non essensial cost.

BTW I can understand motorists who pay £hundreds a year in road fund licence and fuel duty complianing about the state of the roads and I wonder how horse riders would feel if they where asked to contribute to the cost of bridleways.
Local authorites and land owners do have an obligation to maintain these rights of way but at a time when everybody (individuals / companies / govenments) are short of funds it is not suprising that they are cutting back on what is afterall a non essensial cost. BTW I can understand motorists who pay £hundreds a year in road fund licence and fuel duty complianing about the state of the roads and I wonder how horse riders would feel if they where asked to contribute to the cost of bridleways. swindondad

9:02am Thu 27 Sep 12

Davey Gravey says...

I've lost count of the amount of times I've seen public bridleway signs pointing at thick hedgerows making access impossible. There is definately a problem.
I've lost count of the amount of times I've seen public bridleway signs pointing at thick hedgerows making access impossible. There is definately a problem. Davey Gravey

9:39am Thu 27 Sep 12

Al Smith says...

Councils are having to make budget cuts and frankly I'd rather see cuts in things like bridleway maintenance than things like care for the elderly and disabled.

Farmers are having a miserable time of things at the moment due to the weather and supermarkets not paying them enough. I imagine they don't want people on their land and can't really afford to maintain bridleways so making access easier isn't a priority (doesn't make it right though).
Councils are having to make budget cuts and frankly I'd rather see cuts in things like bridleway maintenance than things like care for the elderly and disabled. Farmers are having a miserable time of things at the moment due to the weather and supermarkets not paying them enough. I imagine they don't want people on their land and can't really afford to maintain bridleways so making access easier isn't a priority (doesn't make it right though). Al Smith

9:41am Thu 27 Sep 12

PaulD says...

I'm not anti-horse, but I do wish the riders would clean up after them when they drop their loads in urban areas, especially on cycle/footpaths.

Steptoe used to do it!
I'm not anti-horse, but I do wish the riders would clean up after them when they drop their loads in urban areas, especially on cycle/footpaths. Steptoe used to do it! PaulD

9:45am Thu 27 Sep 12

PaulD says...

I'm not anti-horse, but I do wish the riders would clean up after them when they drop their loads in urban areas, especially on cycle/footpaths.

Steptoe used to do it!
I'm not anti-horse, but I do wish the riders would clean up after them when they drop their loads in urban areas, especially on cycle/footpaths. Steptoe used to do it! PaulD

9:54am Thu 27 Sep 12

MrBstard says...

Sorry, in these economic times I don't see why the general public's taxes should be wasted on non essential maintenance such as this.

If you don't like the condition of a bridleway, feel free to take a few of your chums along and have a clearing day cutting back bushes. When I used to go off roading, as a club we would often have days out clearing green lanes... for the benefit of all users, not just us 4x4 boys.

How about this for an idea, why doesn't the government use people on community service and also the work shy in gangs to clear lanes, bridleways etc? ..... Would give them the chance to give something back to the people who are paying to keep them.
Sorry, in these economic times I don't see why the general public's taxes should be wasted on non essential maintenance such as this. If you don't like the condition of a bridleway, feel free to take a few of your chums along and have a clearing day cutting back bushes. When I used to go off roading, as a club we would often have days out clearing green lanes... for the benefit of all users, not just us 4x4 boys. How about this for an idea, why doesn't the government use people on community service and also the work shy in gangs to clear lanes, bridleways etc? ..... Would give them the chance to give something back to the people who are paying to keep them. MrBstard

11:11am Thu 27 Sep 12

swindondad says...

MrBstard wrote:
Sorry, in these economic times I don't see why the general public's taxes should be wasted on non essential maintenance such as this. If you don't like the condition of a bridleway, feel free to take a few of your chums along and have a clearing day cutting back bushes. When I used to go off roading, as a club we would often have days out clearing green lanes... for the benefit of all users, not just us 4x4 boys. How about this for an idea, why doesn't the government use people on community service and also the work shy in gangs to clear lanes, bridleways etc? ..... Would give them the chance to give something back to the people who are paying to keep them.
A couple of great ideas there.
[quote][p][bold]MrBstard[/bold] wrote: Sorry, in these economic times I don't see why the general public's taxes should be wasted on non essential maintenance such as this. If you don't like the condition of a bridleway, feel free to take a few of your chums along and have a clearing day cutting back bushes. When I used to go off roading, as a club we would often have days out clearing green lanes... for the benefit of all users, not just us 4x4 boys. How about this for an idea, why doesn't the government use people on community service and also the work shy in gangs to clear lanes, bridleways etc? ..... Would give them the chance to give something back to the people who are paying to keep them.[/p][/quote]A couple of great ideas there. swindondad

1:56pm Fri 5 Oct 12

bridlepathuser says...

Thank you for reading and responding to this article. To Trend I would like to say that 90% of bridlepaths are ancient byways created along old drover's paths in the days when horses were the only method of transport and they were created so that horse and carriages could carry people around the country, so the mail could get through and the farmers get to market. Bridlepaths are not to be confused with footpaths. If pedestrians wish to use them, which they can, they should do so in the knowledge that their prime use is for those on horseback. As to the state horses make - that leads straight to my complaint. If they were maintained properly by landowners the damage would not be so great. I have yet to meet a farmer who does not have a pile of hardcore lying around. If this were laid in gateways it would go a long way to preventing them becoming to boggy and muddy and would cost nothing to do it. To PaulD, I have heard this comment before and I appreciate the sentiment, but practically how do you suggest we do this. We could not carry around poo sacks on our backs along with a shovel to gather it up and as our desire is to use bridlepaths and not roads then it would not be a problem. It is biodegradeable and does not carry worms or diseases that affect humans. Not only that people have been known to come out and collect it for their gardens. Steptoe used to pull a cart along with him which made it easier for him to remove. Open up the bridleways and we get off the roads. To MrBstard and other commenters I would like to say that perhaps it was not made clear in the article that we are not expecting tax payers money to be used to clear these paths. On Wiltshire County's web site it clearly lays out the regulations and who is responsible for the maintenance of Rights of Way and it states "Landowners responsibilities: cut back encroaching hedges or overhanging vegetation that is growing from their land, keep paths clear of obstructions, such as padlocked gates, electric fences, etc:" and that is what I am asking for. There is no money required to do this. A local bridlepath runs 1 and a quarter sides of a farmer's field. He has trimmed the hedge back the 2 and 3/4 sides not affected by the bridle path and it looks lovely - and done nothing to the sides of his field where the path runs - Why???? My "chums" and I would be more than happy to join a working party to help keep the paths clear but do not have the equipment the farmers already have. However there is another farmer who has threatened a Council team of workers with violence if they did not get off his property so it would be clearly unsafe for us to do this without permission or support. This is what we are up against and this is what I am so upset about.
Thank you for reading and responding to this article. To Trend I would like to say that 90% of bridlepaths are ancient byways created along old drover's paths in the days when horses were the only method of transport and they were created so that horse and carriages could carry people around the country, so the mail could get through and the farmers get to market. Bridlepaths are not to be confused with footpaths. If pedestrians wish to use them, which they can, they should do so in the knowledge that their prime use is for those on horseback. As to the state horses make - that leads straight to my complaint. If they were maintained properly by landowners the damage would not be so great. I have yet to meet a farmer who does not have a pile of hardcore lying around. If this were laid in gateways it would go a long way to preventing them becoming to boggy and muddy and would cost nothing to do it. To PaulD, I have heard this comment before and I appreciate the sentiment, but practically how do you suggest we do this. We could not carry around poo sacks on our backs along with a shovel to gather it up and as our desire is to use bridlepaths and not roads then it would not be a problem. It is biodegradeable and does not carry worms or diseases that affect humans. Not only that people have been known to come out and collect it for their gardens. Steptoe used to pull a cart along with him which made it easier for him to remove. Open up the bridleways and we get off the roads. To MrBstard and other commenters I would like to say that perhaps it was not made clear in the article that we are not expecting tax payers money to be used to clear these paths. On Wiltshire County's web site it clearly lays out the regulations and who is responsible for the maintenance of Rights of Way and it states "Landowners responsibilities: cut back encroaching hedges or overhanging vegetation that is growing from their land, keep paths clear of obstructions, such as padlocked gates, electric fences, etc:" and that is what I am asking for. There is no money required to do this. A local bridlepath runs 1 and a quarter sides of a farmer's field. He has trimmed the hedge back the 2 and 3/4 sides not affected by the bridle path and it looks lovely - and done nothing to the sides of his field where the path runs - Why???? My "chums" and I would be more than happy to join a working party to help keep the paths clear but do not have the equipment the farmers already have. However there is another farmer who has threatened a Council team of workers with violence if they did not get off his property so it would be clearly unsafe for us to do this without permission or support. This is what we are up against and this is what I am so upset about. bridlepathuser

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