I think many of us have been feeling a bit sluggish, the grey, wet and miserable New Year weather not being of much help, but we are now well on our way to spring, so time to get out, get our horses fit for all those rides planned for this year, and banish those blues!
This year though, EBA have a lot to live up to, as we had a very pleasant surprise at the end of 2017. During November, EBA heard that we were to be the proud recipients of the British Horse Society Access Award for 2017. Thus Julia our Chair, and Jan (vice Chair) attended a grand presentation ceremony in late November, where Martin Clunes, BHS President, presented them with this award. (photo attached, courtesy of BHS – Stuart Howat).
To quote Julia: “I have to say it was one of my proudest moments since working for the EBA. I was there to represent the Trustees and many volunteers who give up their time and work so hard to raise the profile and improve the access to off road riding in Essex. We could never have done it without them. The award and our day in London will remain a happy memory for many years to come. “
EBA have so many irons in the fire at the moment. Our Historic Research Officer, Chris is well aware that the 2026 cut off date for bridleway claims is now within sniffing distance, but she is manfully pursuing her exploration of records, maps and rider evidence to search for lost and unrecorded bridleways. Her work must be frustrating since many avenues of exploration come to an abrupt end, but any success is a gift forever, for our riders and those of the future.
Sue, our Bridleway Development Officer seems to have a never-ending task in hand; liaising with so many different bodies such as Highways England, local planning, developers, local government; attending Essex and Thurrock Access Forums, and also working very closely with the BHS.
All in all, the decision EBA took to invest in these paid positions has proved, time and time again, to be a totally sound one. With the best will in the world, it is pretty difficult to juggle horse ownership and care with family and work, let alone find the necessary hours to do all the other work so necessary to achieve our aims. Our Chair and Trustees all give so much of their time already to running and managing our Association, and importantly, planning the fundraising rides necessary to continue our work.
That said, it has been agreed that while we have funds to spend, it is more than worthwhile using them to pay someone with the skills to help us in our work, so an exciting new position is being created, a Projects and Funding Officer, to complement the existing work of the Bridleway Development Officer, following up potential new bridleway schemes with various bodies, and to continue working on existing EBA projects, seeking possible new sources of funding to secure our aims.
This will be an interesting and challenging opportunity for someone, and if you think you may have the necessary skills and enthusiasm, then get in touch!
A major issue in our work these days is the lack of funding available within local government to spend on public rights of way. County Hall now has one officer, instead of the team it historically boasted, and since there is so little money available for the maintenance of rights of way, the powers that be are very hesitant to grant that status to new routes. It is generally considered that the way forward in creating new routes is for all vulnerable users including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders to create multi-use pathways, which is the avenue we are promoting alongside other user groups, and accepted in principle by County Hall. However, at present, there is no category in existence in highway terminology, to cover multi-use paths maintainable out of the highways budget. This is going to be an ongoing aim, as it could see the way forward for future development of off-road routes. I know Mark Weston of BHS has been in discussion with ‘Transport Focus’ who have been looking at the levels of satisfaction within Highways England Network of the vulnerable users, cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians. Within future planning of our road network, we can allow ourselves a little optimism that one day the needs of riders will be catered for, and under a mantle that will have its own purse to actually pay for it!
Finally for this month, we have all been so sorry to hear that our Patron, Katie Jerram sustained a nasty riding accident recently, resulting in an injury which will keep her out of action for a considerable time. We all wish her well, and a very speedy recovery.