Where to ride in Essex
Don't know where to ride? New to an area?
The first thing I suggest you do is to take a look at the maps listed below. This will give you an idea of the official routes that you have a right by law to use. You can only ride on roads, bridleways, byways and restricted byways, NOT footpaths (unless the landowner gives you permission).
If there is a yard nearby call in and see if they know of any other places to ride, maybe even ask to ride out with them.
Buy an Ordnance Survey Explorer map of your area (orange cover), this will show bridleways as long green dashes and byways as green crosses. You can get these from a good newsagent or you can buy from the Ordnance Survey Online Shop see https://shop.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/maps/paper-maps/explorer-maps/
You can even buy a map that is centred on your house. These maps are not however always 100% up to date as additions can take years to find their way onto the official maps. If you want to see the very latest rights of way you will need to take a look at the local definitive map of your area mentioned below.
Local Definitive Maps
Your Parish Council and library should hold a printed copy of the detailed definitive maps of your area. These are very detailed large scale maps and they should have been kept up to date with all current changes.
Essex County Council Highways Information Map On-Line
This website gives you access to ECC’s interactive map of public rights of way. Click here to view it shows the latest updates to the map and gives path numbers. To view public rights of way on the map, under “map categories” in the left hand panel, click on “assets”, then tick the box against “rights of way”; they will now all show on the map. You can search the map by various methods including postcode and parish name, or just by zooming in to the area you want to look at. Left clicking on a path brings up an information box which will tell you the parish and the path number, and its classification (footpath, bridleway and byway).
It used to be the case that a landowner could provide permissive footpath access over their land within Countryside Stewardship schemes run by Defra and managed by Natural England. Such schemes enabled landowners to respond to local requests for access, without concern that new public rights of way would be created.
The option to enter into a permissive access agreement was removed from Higher Level Tier Countryside Stewardship schemes some years ago and almost all existing agreements have now come to an end. In some cases landowners have kept routes open, largely under pressure from local walkers but in many cases, access has reverted to that to which the public are legally entitled: mainly public rights of way and open access land.
So don't get too excited about Permissive Bridleways as they are very few and far between and do not get very well advertised. If however you do have one locally then you will find some information below:
A permissive path, permitted path, permitted bridleway or concessionary path is not a public right of way. It is a path clearly signed as a permissive that a landowner allows the public to use. This may be for walkers, riders, cyclists, or any combination. However there is no statutory right of access. Importantly, the landowner can impose conditions on use e.g. no dogs. A white arrow, with or without additional identification is the recognised method adopted by statutory agencies for identifying such paths. However, land owner local agreements may simply have a printed notice e.g. yellow print on a blue back ground.
A permissive path may be closed on a specified calendar day each year. These are precautions to prevent any possible future claim of continuous public access along the path which could result in it becoming designated as a statutory right of way.
Some of the more firmly established permissive footpaths and bridleways are shown respectively as short/ long broken orange lines on 1:25,000 scale Ordnance Survey maps. However, many permissive paths are a result of local arrangements, for a set period only and do not appear on maps. These include walks as well as rides so be careful to check the legend to make sure it has the horse symbol.
The routes are well marked on the ground and there is usually a map of where they link to other bridleways in the area. DEFRA are not renewing any agreements or creating any more so these permissive routes will gradually be phased out. Oh well it was good while it lasted!
Possible rides in Essex
Thorndon Country Park, the Avenue, Brentwood, Essex CM13 3RZ
You can use the North Car Park at Thorndon Country Park as a base for a ride. The car park gets very busy on Sundays and in school holidays so use common sense and try to ride at non-peak times. You must pay the parking fee and please clear up any dung.
There are lots of possible routes in and around the Country Park. In the park the Bridleway routes are marked with blue arrows. See https://www.explore-essex.com/places-to-go/find-whats-near-me/thorndon-country-park for more information.
Thorndon Ride with a Guide Option with Caroline Standen, Members Only. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rides can vary from between 1 hour with no road work to 3 hours with a little road work. Alternative routes can also include bridleways beyond Thorndon that take you out and over the M25. Bridleways here are all surfaced and great for winter riding. Bridleway takes you over M25 on a high sided bridge. There is a parking fee, check the website for current parking charges https://www.explore-essex.com/places-to-go/find-whats-near-me/thorndon-country-park
Weald Country Park, Weald Road, Brentwood, Essex, England, CM14 5QS
The bridleway network creates a circular route around the woods with some beautiful views – this track is one of EBA’s most significant achievements which is nice to think about as you ride around enjoying the lovely route. Please note that there may be cattle grazing at times, keep an eye out for signs. Horse riding routes are shared with cyclists. See https://www.explore-essex.com/places-to-go/find-whats-near-me/weald-country-park for more information.
Parking for horse riding: please use the Cricket Ground car park. This is the perfect spot to gain access to the circular bridleway. Please note there is a height barrier through to the overflow car park which is 7ft 7" / 2.3m. If you need access, please call the visitor centre on 01277 261343 and one of the rangers can check the availability prior to your arrival. Please note, the car parks can get very busy at weekends.
Route - The circular bridleway can be found on the park map. See https://ca1-exe.edcdn.com/DS21_7096-Weald_Mapv6.pdf and bridleway is signposted throughout.
Weald Ride with a Guide Option with Julia Wilson, Members Only.
Start your ride at Weald Country Park, either stay in the park with no road work for an hour or venture out north over bridleways and quiet lanes for an 8 mile ride. Various car parks depending on time of year, check the website for current parking charges Contact Julia for details, she will take you out or provide you with a map.
The Forest is a great place for a ride with your horse. You can ride on any of the 284km of shared use paths that run through the Forest. There is open riding for the drier months of the year, when you can ride almost anywhere. The Forest open riding closed on 12 November 2021 and will reopen as conditions permit spring 2022. You do need a licence to ride in Epping Forest and you can be fined if you ride without one. You can find out how to purchase daily, weekly and annual licences via the website below. You can also find details of where to park your horsebox or trailer on this website and the Guidance which exists for riding in the Forest.
Please refer to https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/epping-forest/apply-for-a-licence-in-epping-forest/horse-riding-in-epping-forest
Berwick Farm, Berwick Lane, Stanford Rivers, Ongar, Essex CM5 9PY
The new owners of Berwick Farm have agreed to continue to allow parking for horseboxes for hacking on the nearby bridleways and byways. The cost is £10 per rider. NOTE this does not include use of the cross country course or the ménage.
Bookings are taken online. Follow this link https://berwickfarmxc.as.me/bridlewaysparking This parking is available from June 2022.
EBA members can reduce the cost to £6.50 per rider by clicking on the button "Redeem Coupon" and entering the code EBA2020. Then continue with your booking entering the number of horses and the date you want to ride. Please be respectful and pick up any droppings or hay before you leave.
Click here for a map of one possible route of 12 miles
Berwick Ride with a Guide Option with Lesley Gillman, Members Only. Email: email@example.com
Start your ride at Berwick Farm and ride over beautiful countryside from an hour to 3. Lots of different routes to choose from. Maps can be provided or contact Lesley for a guide. Parking is by prior arrangement with Berwick Farm at £10 a rider for EBA members (2020 prices).
Great Notley Discovery Centre, Braintree, Essex CM77 7FS
Horse riding is popular at the park with the designated horse-riding route cutting North-South through the park. Please stick to the bridleway. Directions to start for both - Parking at Great Notley Discovery Centre car park. Parking charges apply. https://www.explore-essex.com/places-to-go/find-whats-near-me/great-notley-country-park for more information.
Some possible routes at Great Notley:
Ride 1 - The Flitch Way - a 13 mile there and back ride - updated Jan 2021
This ride is on a total of about 13 miles of surfaced bridleway along part of an old disused railway line. This is a "there and back" ride with a possible refreshment stop at a pub half way. Please note that the route includes a long (safe) bridleway bridge over the A120. Some people find the surface a little hard but it is a good ride to do in the winter/autumn when everywhere else is knee deep in mud as the surface stays good all year round. Click here for a map of the route. Click here for Flitch Way Route Instructions.
Ride 2 - White Notley - a 13 mile there and back ride with a loop
This ride starts off around the park and then out into the countryside of Great Notley. About 50% of the ride is on minor roads. The rest is on byways and bridleways. Click here for map of route.
Please Note: Best to avoid on busy summer days as the Flitch Way is well used by walkers and cyclists. Parking available only on week days and non-school holidays. Approx. £5 parking fee applies but please check website above for up to date parking fees.
Flitch Way Ride with a Guide Option with Lesley Gillman, Members Only. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Castle Point (Thundersley and Benfleet)
Ride with a Guide Option in Castle Point with Alison Power, Members Only Email: email@example.com
Alison often hears people saying that we don't have great riding around Castle Point. It's true that we don't have miles of grassy tracks and there will always be an element of road work where ever we ride. However, Alison have been riding around Thundersley and Benfleet for many years and she knows most (if not all) of the unmade roads, tracks and routes in the area. Alison’s usual ride is about an hour and a half to two hours, but we can go for longer or shorter depending on what you want to do.
Recently Alison has taken friends from outside the area and they have loved the different type of riding and the hills (which we don't have so many of in other parts of Essex!), so it's made Alison think that her area has something to offer. So, if you're new to the area, or would just like someone to show you tracks you may not be aware of, please get in touch with Alison. Parking for one 3.5 tonne box or trailer at Alison’s yard.
Hatfield Forest Bush End Road, Takeley, Bishop's Stortford, Essex, CM22 6NEF
For current information please refer to https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hatfield-forest/features/activities-for-all-at-hatfield-forest
Annual Private Permit: £60 plus £25 new tabard charge (£20 tabard refundable)
Day Permit: £10 plus £10 refundable deposit
Ride your horse in Hatfield Forest and enjoy the tranquillity and safety of this interesting and beautiful 1049 acre property. Follow in the hoof prints of the Norman gentry! Parking fees apply unless you are a member of the NT.
For further details about an Annual Permit, please call the Estate Office. Day Permits are sold at the shop during normal opening hours as published in the NT Members' Handbook or at the web address below. Day permits not sold in winter. Terms and Conditions apply.
Estate Office: 01279 870678 / Shop: 01279 870327
Ride with a Guide Option at Hatfield with Lesley Gillman, Members Only. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Parklands Farm, Lower Green Galleywood Essex CM2 8QS
Over 5 miles of peaceful off road riding in the Essex countryside. Please note that an Annual Licence is required for this facility. The cost of this is currently £140 per annum. For more information see https://www.parklandsfarm.co.uk/ and their Facebook page @ParklandsFarmGalleywood
Spains Hall Estate Spains Hall, Finchingfield, Braintree, Essex, CM7 4NJ
Horse Riders are offered the opportunity to ride on more than 12 miles of private farm tracks at Spains Hall under a subscription scheme. For more information see https://www.spainshallestate.co.uk/farm-rides
Langdon Hills, Basildon
Langdon Hills Country Park sits on a hilly ridge that extends from Dunton to Vange. Its 400 acres have panoramic views over the Thames Estuary and across to London. For more information see: https://www.thurrock.gov.uk/langdon-hills-country-park/overview
The park has ancient woodlands dating back to prehistoric times, with flower-rich grassland meadows and areas of dense scrubland. There are picnic areas and a good network of footpaths and horse and cycle tracks linking the surrounding countryside. The lower car park at One Tree Hill is a good place to leave your horse boxes and start your ride. There are routes through the Park for horse riding see Map below:
Belfairs Nature Reserve Eastwood Road North Leigh on Sea SS9 4LR
Enjoy this 5.47 km, loop trail near Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, this trail is multi-user. The trail is open year-round and is beautiful to visit anytime.
For more information see: https://www.essexwt.org.uk/nature-reserves/belfairs
Little Canfield, Stansted
Ride with a Guide Option with Lesley Gillman around Little Canfield, Members Only. Email: email@example.com
Wimbish, north of Thaxted
Ride with a Guide Option at Wimbish with Sarah Moss, Members Only. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Start your ride in the pretty village of Wimbish, miles of lovely countryside and long bridleways and byways. Rides lasting up to 3 hours with little road work on minor roads. Parking, 1 trailer or lorry can be left safely on a verge adjacent to Sarah's yard.
Following an enormous response from local riders and residents which resulted in a petition signed by over 4000 people, horse riding is available at Frinton Beach. Please do however ensure that you aide by the Regulations agreed between Tendring Council, Local Riders and Clubs and EBA to ensure that this lovely beach remains open for Essex riders to enjoy. Before visiting please read the Regulations a copy of which you will find here:
North East Hertfordshire/Essex Borders
Ride with a Guide Option with Jane Skinner. Members Only.
Come and enjoy safe hacking on a myriad of bridleways and quiet lanes in NE Hertfordshire/ Essex borders. The rides will take you through the villages of Much and Little Hadham, or through to Albury, where The Catherine Wheel Pub makes a very suitable place for lunch, returning via Hadham Hall – once a private school, and the polo grounds at Bury Green.
Another ride towards Widford will pass the Henry Moore Foundation at Perry Green where you may catch a glimpse of the famous sculptures in the grounds.
If you have time for a day ride we may venture as far as West Mill with its delightful tea rooms and village green.
Jane’s yard is very private with ample parking for several vehicles and trailers. There is a kitchen for refreshments and even a loo – all mod cons!
Contact Jane on 07757 916 138 if you are interested in joining her.
Holkham beach Norfolk
This beach is one of the best beaches you can ever ride on; miles of flat golden sand with plenty of room for everyone. For information please refer to https://www.holkham.co.uk/nature-reserve-beach/horse-riding
Due to a large increase in visitors, Holkham have had to put time restrictions in place on weekends and holidays for horses visiting Holkham Beach. Please note that parking is on a first come first served basis and is not guaranteed.
May 1st-2nd, 30th-31st
June 1st-5th, 11th-12th, 18th-19th, 25th-26th
On the above dates, access times are:
Morning - Arrival between 6am to 9am and leave parking area no later than 11am
Afternoon - Arrival from 4pm and leave parking area no later than 6pm
Directions - Holkham Beach is on the North Norfolk coast two miles west of Wells-next-the-Sea. Parking at Lady Anne’s Drive, Holkham, Wells-next-the-sea, just off the A149 post. My sat/nav says M11, A11 to Thetford then pick up A134 to A1065 through Swaffham and Fakenham. Then east on the A148 for a short while to join B1105 (a slow drag), turn right onto the A149 towards Holkham. Lady Anne’s Drive is in the village of Holkham on your right hand side opposite The Victoria Hotel (Post code for hotel is NR23 1RG). From the Bishops Stortford M11 junction 8 it takes about 2hrs 15 mins to get to Holkham.
Map for The Victoria Hotel can be found - http://www.holkham.co.uk/victoria/find.html
Parking - Horsebox parking is only allowed on the first half of the verges of the very long Lady Anne’s driveway so if it is wet turn around half way up the drive and park on the verge but with one wheel still on the tarmac. Horseboxes/Trailers parking is £15 per day. You will need 15 x £1 coins for the machines or a credit card. Tip – buy your parking ticket as you turn around as the ticket machines are half way up the drive and it can be a long walk back to them.
CARE ON THE BEACH
Before you plan your trip phone the coastguard (01493 841300) or look up the tide times on-line and check for the time of low tide. See https://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/coast-and-sea/tide-tables/1/157a you should aim to be riding on the beach just before low tide so there will be miles and miles of beach to ride on. If your horse has never seen the sea before they can be frightened by the waves rushing towards them; approach at an angle and/or ride parallel to it for a while. The sand is pretty firm, especially nearer the sea, but be careful, there could always be soft patches. Last time there were also some deeper inland streams which you would not want to canter through. Personally I would not gallop unless I had checked out the surface first. Once on the beach it is easy to lose track of where you are, keep a look out for landmarks. Please be courteous to other beach users and do not gallop close to them. The beach is huge so there should be plenty of room for everyone.
Please wear your hi-vis on the beach as it makes it easier for everyone to see you coming and gives dog walkers a chance to get their dogs under control.
Thetford Forest Norfolk
Thetford Forest is a great place to ride as you can ride almost anywhere on lovely grassy strips between the trees. There are many separate parts of Thetford forest but the nearest part to Essex is Kings Forest. There is an Open Access policy for horse riding at King's Forest.
Please see the OS explorer 229 for a map of riding trails.
No permit is needed to ride at King's Forest.
There may be some events held at weekends which might disrupt your riding experience. Before your visit it is worth checking Facebook for any news and events.
Directions to public parking at Kings Forest:
From M11 - On the map the most straight forward route looks like you just go up M11, A11, then A14 past Newmarket, back on A11 towards Thetford, then about 5 miles past the Weather Heath War Memorial (looks like Nelsons Column) take the next exit onto the B1106. CAREFUL - the exit is very sharp bend o exit road - you need to be in second gear. After exit turn left at junction and follow for about 5 miles, go past fire road 201, the public car park is on the left opposite fire road 203 is where you would be able to park (gets busy at weekends and in nice weather).
From A131 – to Sudbury, A134 towards Bury St. Edmunds, at Southgate Green take the 3rd exit on Rougham Road/A1302, go through 1 roundabout and then take 1st exit onto A14 ramp to Newmarket/Thetford/A134/Diss/A143. At junction 43 take the A143 exit to Bury St Edmunds, central/Thetford A134/Diss. At roundabout take 4th exit to A143, at next roundabout take 1st exit A134 again towards Thetford. Keep following the A134 and in the village of Ingham a few yards past the post office/village shop and red phone box turn left into Calford Road B1106. Follow for a few miles and then at the give way sign turn right and follow the B1106 through Wordwell, go past fire roads 206 & 204. The large public car park on the right opposite fire road 203 is where you would be able to park (gets busy at weekends and in nice weather).
As a private rider you do not need to purchase a licence or pay for parking.
You can access the forest directly via a path that leads out from the back of the car park.
You are allowed to ride everywhere except in archery area and where notices say conservation ride.
Click here for map of Kings Forest (only Fire roads are way marked)
Thetford/Kings Ride with a Guide Option with Lesley Gillman, Members Only. Email: email@example.com
Various routes up to 3 hours. Fantastic going whatever time of year you go, lots of long canters and gallops. Large public parking opposite Fire road 203, Kings Forest, just off B1106 Bury to Brandon Road, south of Thetford. Sorry there is no post code. There is no parking or licence fee to ride here. Maps can be provided or you can arrange to meet Lesley.
Even Further Afield – a Day trip to Suffolk!
Rendlesham Forest Tangham, Woodbridge, IP12 3NF
Rendlesham Forest is situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Horse riders are welcome to ride on the tracks throughout the forest at Rendlesham (unless signage indicates otherwise). The trails can be accessed at the far end of the parking field or via the parking entrance.
No permit is needed to ride at Rendlesham Forest. Walking and trotting are welcomed, you are asked not canter or gallop. For more information on facilities, opening times and contact details, please see visitor information via https://www.forestryengland.uk/rendlesham-forest/horse-riding-rendlesham-forest
There is a dedicated horse box parking field straight through the field gate at end of main forest road. There is no longer a pay and display machine so please pay by phone using RingGo or obtain a Membership. Parking fees are as normal see https://www.forestryengland.uk/rendlesham-forest#openinghours
Rendlesham or Tunstall Forest Ride with a Guide Option with Sally Crone, Members Only. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Various options of up to 3 hours riding. Fantastic going whatever time of year on predominantly sandy forest tracks. You can arrange to meet Sally at either Rendlesham or Tunstall Forests.