Campaigns, Successes and Claims
Express Dedication at Common Law and the Environmental Land Management Scheme
What it is?
Members of the EBA Committee hadn’t until Rachel Thompson MBE, their leading light popped up on the TV recently.
Set up in 1963, and based in Somerset, it is the oldest bridleway group in the southwest. Rachel and her team in the Trails Trust have been responsible for getting over 80 routes in the Mendips dedicated through Express Dedication at Common Law (EDCL).
She is also very involved in the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) going through Parliament now, and is very keen that riders contact their MPs to push the need for permanent access rather than permissive paths which have only temporary legal status and can be withdrawn by the landowner at any time.
The two areas, ELMS and EDCL, are of great interest to the EBA which is why we invited Rachel to talk to us at one of our Committee meetings. The Question and Answer session gave us much food for thought. Rachel was very positive and full of information. It was a lively, wide ranging session and hard to keep up with! Our discussions have led to two positive outcomes.
How are we doing it?
I. Using Express Dedication at Common Law the EBA plan to try to make further bridleways through gaining landowners’ cooperation. This way of getting permanent public rights of way recorded is a different approach to the usual route we all know about: bridleways created through the legal ECC pathway, often involving public enquiries and government inspectors which is convoluted and slow!
EDCL requires a shift in thinking, particularly about the relationship with landowners. Here the landowner dedicates a route and the public accepts it. And once adopted it must be recorded by the Highways Authority on the definitive map. So another way to get ‘Better Bridleways for Essex’ Watch this space!
2. The Environmental Land Management Scheme.
The Environment Bill includes access under ‘Beauty and Engagement’. Rachel pointed out that under the old stewardship scheme 58,000kms of routes were lost when the scheme ended as they were permissive routes only and no longer funded. This is why it is imperative that letters are written to MPs now asking for access to be through permanent PRoWs.
We all need to make the case that under ELMS, Public Access is a public good, that bridleways and byways encourage biodiversity and connectivity for nature through hedge planting and green routes; it improves mental health for people using the countryside; it can aid local travel.
What do we want people to do to help?
We want you to help with the EBAs’ newest Campaign: It’s easy to play your part
A link to a sample letter, using these points, on which to base yours, can be found here: (Note: click on the word "here" and it will take you straight to the letter template)
1. Copy the letter click on the link for “write to them.com” and input your postcode
2. Click on your MPs name and paste the letter (or better still, version it to suit your particular case) on the online page, then follow the instructions.
Remember: The more of us who write, the better awareness our MPs will have of their need to act on our behalf.
Write to your MP now for the creation of permanent access routes in ELMS. This is the time!
More information from:
Essex Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP)
The Essex Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) is a statutory document that sets out ECC's ambitions for improving the provision of access to the countryside through Rights of Way over a 10 year period. Development of the ROWIP was a requirement of the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000, and contains an assessment of the extent to which the existing network of local Rights of Way met the present and likely future needs of the public. It also looked at the opportunities provided by local Rights of Way for all forms of open air recreation and enjoyment, and the accessibility of local rights of way to blind or partially-sighted persons and others with mobility problems.
The ROWIP was last published in 2009 and it remains the prime means by which Essex County Council will identify improvements to the local rights of way network in order to meet the Government’s aim of better provision for walkers, cyclists, equestrians and people with mobility problems.
Essex County Council is currently preparing the second Plan (2020-2030) and is seeking the views of various stakeholders including individuals, user groups and parish and town councils. We will be having our say, monitoring the development of the Plan and asking for your help as the new Plan develops.
See Update Autumn 2017 and Spring 2018:
For the Evidence of Use Form which is required by Essex County Council follow this link to download the document:
/generaldocuments/Evidence of Use Form-3.docx
2016 Essex Bridleways Association - Petition and Survey - Over 2,600 riders sign EBA Petition
On 8th June 2016, Essex Bridleways Association presented a petition to Essex County Council requesting increased access to safe off-road routes for horse riders. The petition contained 2,644 signatures and was received by Councillor Eddie Johnson, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport.
As a result of our efforts, EBA achieved news coverage in a number of publications, including a substantial piece in Essex Chronicle. EBA Chair, Julia Wilson was also interviewed live on the Dave Monk drive-time show on BBC Essex Radio.
In a written response to the letter accompanying the petition, Cllr Johnson highlighted a number of actions designed to improve the safety issues affecting equestrians riding on the county’s road. These included support for the British Horse Society’s ‘Dead Slow’ Campaign – information which was shared using social media, e-newsletter and the Safer Essex Roads Partnership (SERP) website: www.saferessexroads.org/road-users/horse-riders. However, the EBA Committee felt that the main point of the petition – i.e. the need for increased off-road access - has not been addressed. As we go to press, EBA has replied and awaits further correspondence.
EBA 2016 Survey
To support its campaign work, EBA conducted an online survey with the aim of gaining a snapshot of Essex riders and their thoughts on riding in the county.
- 1046 riders completed the survey, made up of 36 male and 1010 (97%) female*.
- 94% of riders were aged 17 or over. 46% were aged between 31 and 50 years of age, with 30% being 50+.
- 91% ride more than once a week, with 64% of those riding every day or most days.
- 84% ride for fun, with 48% of those also competing locally.
- 52% said that they are in the saddle for over an hour – 10% of those ride for more than 2 hours.
Where we ride
- 47% of people regularly ride on busy main roads.
- 55% of all respondents classed off-road access in their area as poor or very poor; 26% thought it was Okay.
- 95% of people said that improved off-road access would make them hack out more.
- 1000 people selected specific answers to best reflect their feelings when riding on the roads. Of these: 37% don’t enjoy hacking because of the traffic, while 6% don’t hack out at all because they feel the roads are too dangerous. 50% avoid some roads because of the traffic. Others used the comments box to expand on their concerns.
- 98% said they would like to see the Government do more to consider the needs of equestrians.
The equestrian industry
- Respondents listed a total of 2231 horses (with 10% of respondents sharing or loaning equines).
- Of those that specified, 739 people keep their horses at livery/friend’s property; 20 keep horses at their own equestrian business; and 282 on their own private property***.
- 31 people classed themselves as professionals/competitor/business**, accounting for 111 horses (plus 1 Mounted Police).
*Sport England’s research revealed that far fewer women than men participate in sport regularly: the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, was designed to address this gender imbalance. Horse riding meanwhile, is enjoyed largely by females of all ages.
** Equestrian ownership and activity makes a significant contribution to our regional and national economy. The British Horse Society supplied us with the following figures:
27 BHS Approved Centres in Essex
2,241 BHS members in Essex (as of Dec 2015)
*** There is a common misconception that horse owners are wealthy landowners. A large number of riders support the local economy by paying for livery.
What you said:
People that completed our survey were given the opportunity to make further comment. Many feel that Essex roads are getting busier, with faster traffic and increasingly intolerant or aggressive motorists.
The disjointed bridleways network is a problem, with bridleways that lead nowhere or end on busy roads. Others expressed concern that fly tippers and off-road vehicles make PRoW impassable.
This is just a small selection of comments…
“I have completely lost my nerve to ride on the road. Even the small lanes are lethal. Cars drive so fast, have no idea you are around the corner. Please give us more off road riding.”
“Riding in the manège gets quite boring very quickly, I really wish we had some bridleways near us.”
“Horse riding and access to safe bridleways/multi user routes should be integrated in to all sports/outdoor and leisure strategic planning at a national and local level.”
“Leisure maps show "recreational routes" & these are increasing. Surely, riding is a form of recreation & yet these routes are not suitable for either horses or cycling. I consider both of these as recreation. Is it that we need more routes or better use of routes which are already available?”
“With the ever increasing house building in our area our previously quiet country roads are now like racetracks and so dangerous that we soon won't be able to ride out at all. It's very sad.”
“Thinking of giving up as roads are too bad.”
“My children hack but & I worry constantly as drivers drive to fast and don't slow down on the country lanes esp. bends!”
“Nearly every time we ride drivers are aggressive and pass to close and too fast. We always thank careful drivers but over the last couple of years we have noticed that more and more drivers actually want confrontation. One woman screamed at me that she would like to rip my horse’s head off and watch it die. I have ridden out for over 40 years but it is so dangerous now I am thinking of giving up.”
“Have recently sent my horse to my niece in Suffolk as impossible to ride in this area without stress.”
“Drivers hate seeing horses on the roads, residents complain we are causing an obstruction or heaven forbid droppings, yet there are literally NO safe routes to hack on! There is one short bridleway (approx 1 minute ride in length) which leads nowhere; other than that it is road riding. It really is pretty dire. Make it a safer environment for all involved - add in decent bridleways! There are enough footpaths.”
“Would love to see a continuous link of bridleways around Essex to allow you to roam our wonderful countryside and to enable young horses to learn to hack out without fear of collision or fretting with the occasional ignorant driver on the road - this should be a pleasurable hobby for both horse and rider as well as much needed exercise for both.”
EBA is extremely grateful to those that expressed their thanks in the comments box; it was also good to see that so many people are members of EBA and/or the BHS and other access groups. However, over 33% of people were not a member of any RoW group. Completing our survey and signing our petition are fantastic first steps but we would urge all Essex horse riders to be more proactive.
If we are to make ground in the fight for Better Bridleways for Essex, we all need to join together in order to help ourselves. EBA is a registered charity, run by a small team of volunteers and, while we do liaise with the authorities and fight the cause for riders in Essex, we also ask that you help us by joining and becoming actively involved wherever possible.