In an exciting new development for EBA, Mary Pengelly has taken on the position of Projects and Funding Manager, and I have to say, it seems she has landed running, as she has already produced her first report to the committee, and from inside information, I know she has been seen in a few places around our county! She has a great task in following up some priority projects which EBA will be funding, however, she will also be spending time researching new possibilities for obtaining funding from other sources which will help us plan for future ventures. We wish Mary every success in her new position.
Needless to say, if it wasn’t for our hard working team who organise our rides, we would never have been in a position to fund a paid ‘workforce’ who put in all the hours essential for the research and campaigning needed to ensure Essex bridleways are maintained and improved for future generations. As you know from my constant witterings, we are hearing all the time of problems riders encounter on the roads, and it is essential that safe alternatives and links are set up to ensure all vulnerable road users can get out and about in safety.
Sadly the issue of funding comes up again and again in conversation, as it is more than apparent that our highways authority have very little funding to spare for such a minority group as horse riders. A group of riders in Hullbridge have been left disappointed after the District Council negotiated the creation by the developers of a bridleway around a new housing development, only for the County Council to refuse to support its creation. This refusal is simply because the CC cannot afford to maintain such a bridleway and feel it is not of sufficient importance to justify its creation. We have not given up hope, but unfortunately this is typical of the current financial environment. We do need to progress as many multi-use paths as possible, since the combined weight of horse riders, pedestrians and cyclists makes considerably more impact!
Two very important consultations have been completed recently; DEFRA’s Health and Harmony research into farming post Brexit, and the National Planning Policy Framework Review. Both consultations are of major importance to us, as it has given us the opportunity to stress the importance of access to equestrians, as well as pedestrians and cyclists. The government do want a healthier public, so the opportunity was taken to stress the benefits of horses in terms of health and wellbeing, as well as supporting the economy (£4 bn annually from the equestrian sector!!). As far as the countryside is concerned, increased access possibilities improves tourism possibilities, and a degree of flexibility for farmers to divert around livestock would make their life much easier. Ideally everyone needs to benefit in some manner. Anyway, I feel this is exciting stuff, and sincerely hope that we can find a way forward to ensure horse riders will be able to continue to enjoy the countryside with their steeds, in a safer and more enjoyable manner than is sometimes currently possible
I can’t leave you without mentioning some of the great activities going on at the moment. Firstly, a group of EBA members have recently enjoyed a fabulous weekend of beach riding up at Holkham in Norfolk. I love looking at the photos; it is a glorious, endless beach, absolutely perfect for exhilarating gallops and safe paddles in the water, as well as lovely hacks in and around the surrounding coastal headland. Safe to say a return visit will be planned!
We are also in the midst of the BHS Ride Out Month, and I have seen pictures already from some of the rides organised around the country. The Canewdon riders here in Essex have also planned their own safety awareness ride, starting at Hockley Woods, to coincide with the Ride Out Month activities. This group have done sterling work in continuing to promote road safety around horses, and to raise awareness of the issues facing riders on the road.