click here to read more

Says Naomi Smith

Says Naomi SmithIt is all too possible to round a corner on horseback and come upon a group of cattle with no prior warning -this WILL result in a horse being badly spooked at best, bolting at worst -it is only a matter of time ........... read more

The following story appeared in The Observer.
(Bob Milton has added his comments in red.)

Horse riders and cyclists go to war over bridleways

New mountain bike trail at Leith Hill in Surrey is site of latest flare-up to divide countryside users

The Observer, Sunday 11 May 2014

Horse riders and cyclists go to war over bridlewaysHorse riders say that cyclists often have a lack of understanding of how horses will react to their presence.

Photograph: Martyn Williams/Alamy >>

Leith Hill tower in Surrey, a Georgian folly, is the highest point in south-east England. Through its telescope visitors can see Big Ben to the north and the glimmer of the Channel in the south. With its surrounding wooded hillside, it ought to be a tranquil rural idyll.

It has, however, become a battleground between horse riders and cyclists who have clashed over a new mountain bike trail that in parts runs alongside a bridleway. The dispute has meant that the trail has been closed while claims by the British Horse Society that it is illegal are investigated. The society also claims that the proximity of fast-moving bikes to horses will result in a fatal accident.

In the New Forest, walkers and riders are free to go where they like while bikes are restricted to gravel paths. But despite the prospect of a £500 fine, it is claimed, many mountain bikers break the rules. Last September David Horton, 64, died after he fell from his horse as it was spooked by a cyclist coming up at speed behind him on an unauthorised route near his home in Beaulieu.

And in Delamere Forest, Cheshire, disputes between the two groups have resulted in a trial riding code for mountain bikers urging them to be careful around horses and to warn riders that they are approaching. However, riders claim their horses are often startled by cyclists doing jumps and fast steep descents across paths that they use.

Says Bob MiltonBob Milton, common land adviser to the society, has written to Surrey county council, which manages Leith Hill on behalf of the National Trust, The common as against the tower is owned by Wotton Estates [Evelyn family] saying that the new track is not lawful, as cyclists do not enjoy the same access to common land as riders and walkers. "There have already been a number of accidents caused by speeding and aggressive mountain bikers with equestrians and pedestrians, though no biker has remained in place for long enough to be asked for their name," he said.

The decision to close the track was, he said, "welcome, but does show what a complete lack of understanding the council has of the legalities and ramifications of an access agreement under the National Parks and access to the Countryside Act 1949. It is the prerogative and duty of the council as scheme managers to act only under the agreement with respect to public access which excludes vehicles of any sort, ie cycles."

Tessa Gooding, a local rider, said of the new track: "Of most concern is a 100ft blindspot where cyclists won't know if there is a horse in the sunken bridleway beneath them. I have this terrible image of my young racehorse bolting into a family as a result of being spooked." Penny Tyson-Davies, BHS bridleways officer for Mole Valley, said there had been no input from equestrians into the building of the trail. "Mountain bikes whizzing in and out of trees, jumping ramps above horses' heads, around an established sunken horse track, is an accident waiting to happen."

Surrey county council said it was waiting for Milton to confirm whether he wanted the council to investigate his complaint. If so, it would cooperate fully. This was done a month ago and we are awaiting the so called independent review. This review is done by a department with in the Council so is not independent

Julie Rand, from the national cycling charity CTC, said: "There are bridleways and tracks all over Surrey that are quite happily coexisting [it does not mean that the use is lawful] at the moment without too much anguish [this is an admission that there is a problem especially with mountain bikes] and they respect each other[a large proportion do not]. People are anticipating problems that may not actually arise." [Yes there are as the www.horseccidents.org website is getting more reports]

Sam Bayley, National Trust head ranger, said: "The design will ensure cyclists naturally slow down at crossing points by appropriate turns and signage. "I do not see why the NT is involved as they do not own the land on which the course has been built. Perhaps it is because they have recently refurbished and let the café in Leith Hill Tower so the have a vested interest in getting lots of cyclists to use the area.

Rob Fairbanks, of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Board, said: "It is not feasible to ban biking in one of the most popular areas in England. We want to work with the BHS to educate cyclists about the priority [legal requirement not selective] that needs to be given to horse riders and pedestrians as a result of the granting of access to bridleways under the 1968 countryside Act."

Comments Tony Barnett

There is no jurisdiction with the council to "allow" coexistence between horses and mechanically propelled vehicles, of which cycles are, unless the use is on a private right of way to a dwelling, but not as a thoroughfare.

Says Tony Barnett

Says Tony BarnettA good segment in the observer 14/5/14.

As I was in on the original protest against cycling on a common land bridle path, which was sent and appeared on Horseytalk.net, may I comment on the report, without injuring any ones comments.?

Leith Hill common was registered under the 1965 CRA un s (9) of the act, therefore it is not subject to regulation, conveyance, deeds of grant or grants of easement are invalid, s 9 denotes that the common commissioner, unable to locate an owner-s with pr-registration of title deeds, vested such common lands into the protection of the registering authority , but it gives no jurisdiction.

It is then correct to say that the council cannot "manage" the common, A, because the National Trust has no locus stan-di, and B, because the land is vested into the local authority to prevent such pretentious claims to ownership or lawful occupation.

The National trust did make a claim to ownership, this is registered as "For reference purposes only" and is included on a plan of the area as "RO" which as stated before is for reference.

There is no jurisdiction with the council to "allow" coexistence between horses and mechanically propelled vehicles, of which cycles are, unless the use is on a private right of way to a dwelling, but not as a thoroughfare.

Cyclist however are allowed on other bridlepaths, contrary to the claims rights were granted over common land under the 1968 countryside rights of way, such rights would be recorded/registered under the prescriptions act 1832, however, the 1968 act was repealed where common land rights as lawful access is concerned subject to a long battle in the supreme court stopping the rights of owners(if any) to sell or a gist from the lawful access to properties over common land, these are private rights of way, in conveyance law, a property may not be sold,leased or accessed without a lawful rights of way.

I do have all of the documents and statements to show that there are no person-s with title deeds to pre-date 1189 over Leith Hill Common, no negotiations between BHS,or any other organisation simply because there is no one with jurisdiction to do so, any claims to a right to do so must disclose.

It should be understood, because the common is not subject to any regulation act, it being Rural common Land, access is from all points of view, and that access may be denied if an injunction is put in place because of rowdy behaviour.

Says Linda Wright

Says Linda WrightWe moved to a Shropshire location a year ago having surveyed the local OS map and noted the significant number of bridleways around the property. Sadly the map appears a total fiction. Scarce any of the bridleways are usable ........... read more

Read more here