Tell-a-lie Telscombe

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Revealed. A Council’s illegal war against riders.
Is this the most anti-horse local authority in the country?

Jackie RowlandFor the past five-years Telscombe Town Council in East Sussex, which is responsible for Telscombe Tye, 72 hectares of once beautiful open countryside, a Sussex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty incorporating no less than two scheduled Ancient Monuments, has

  • Illegally fenced whole areas of open countryside and bridleways
  • Illegally installed electric fencing
  • Illegally placed cattle grids on bridle ways
  • Illegally permitted farmers to dump concrete blocks and boulders in front of bridle gates
  • Illegally dumped so many tons of filthy, unsorted,  builders rubble in piles up to 22’ wide and 5’ high along paths and bridleways that it could be seen from outer space
  • Illegally opened up a public bridleway as a public road running alongside an unprotected scheduled Ancient Monument, a Bronze Age cross-dyke. If a member of the general public did it, it would be a criminal offence. The Police, however, say they can do nothing about it – because, as far as they are concerned, the public road is still a bridleway.

That’s not all. Even the Police have been illegally directing Travellers to Telscombe Tye even though it is a criminal offence to direct people to camp on a public common.
The total cost of the Council’s illegal campaign against riders is estimated to be well over £1 million, paid for, of course, by local residents.


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Fighting them every inch of the way has been mother of three, grand-mother of five and local rider, Jackie Rowland, who since 1987 has kept her two horses, Chilli and Sadie at stables in nearby Swanborough village.
Now finally after practically six-years of virtually non-stop battles, no end of committee meetings late into the night, one public inquiry, several appeals and no end of local hearings, she believes she is seeing the first signs of success. Maybe.

She has had a meeting with members of a newly-elected Telscombe Town Council. She has also just been appointed a member of the Council’s newly-formed Tye Management Committee, which includes local residents as well as representatives of Ramblers associations. But she is not too hopeful.
Says Jackie, “The Council promised to put in a new bridlegate on the Common, near Telscombe Town. They have put in the ramp leading up to the bridlegate. But no bridlegate. They also promised to re-instate the entrance at East Saltdean. But so far there is no new entrance.
”It would be nice to believe what they say. But so far all we’ve had is talk. But no action.”

East Saltdean

But however much the Council does – and when - it still doesn’t excuse the long list of fierce anti-horse measures they have taken over the years or make up for the long hours of hard work, dedication and sheer grit that Jackie and her local supporters have put in fighting for the cause of horse and rider not to mention the numbers of riders who have been driven off the common by the Council’s fierce, illegal anti-horse attitude and actions.

Telscombe Town Council acquired the Tye in 1989. The management of it, they sub-contracted to the Sussex Downs Conservation Board, which is funded by East Sussex County Council.
But the Council retain the ultimate responsibility for it.
Since then, however, the area has been subjected to one illegal measure after another.


Illegal Fencing

Over 10 kilometres of illegal fencing have been put up by the Council across the Common. No less than seven bridleways have been fenced over. Fences have been put in the wrong place, in effect, preventing public access to large areas of the common. Bridleway gates have also been put in completely the wrong positions.
Says Jackie, “Almost all the fencing carried out by the Council on the Common over the last five-years is unlawful. It’s disgraceful. It’s denying riders as well as walkers access to parts of the Common they are perfectly entitled to have access to.”

Electric fencing

Electric fencing

Illegal electric fencing has not only been installed along bridleways, it has been attached to bridlegates as well.
Says Jackie, “It’s criminal. Electric fencing along bridleways is dangerous. Electric fencing on bridleway gates is insane especially when it’s close to cattle grids. The only way riders can now get through the gates is by getting off their horse, hoping the horse wont touch either the electric fencing or the cattle grid, lead the horse through the bridlegate and then get on again the other side. It’s dangerous for horse and rider. And it’s illegal.”

Cattle grids

Illegal Cattle Grids

Illegal cattle grids have been positioned both ends of two bridleways. The first is known as the Old Funeral Road. The other is known simply as Bridleway 8. Illegal cattle grids were also installed on Bridleway 4 as well as on a bridleway which should be on the Ordnance Survey map but isn’t.

Says Jackie, “Putting cattle grids at both ends of a bridleway completely stops it from being used by riders. That’s unlawful. It’s also extremely dangerous if a horse gets loose. We have already had one horse killed after it bolted and ran off – straight into a cattle grid. Another horse was severely injured. The same thing has been happening with dogs. Dogs have been hurt and killed trying to run across cattle grids. There are lots of three-legged dogs in the area. The cattlegrids are dangerous. They’re also unlawful.”

My horse was killed by a cattlegrid – Camilla

Camilla  with another one of her horses, Sweetheart,"She was a brood mare. She was 13-years-old. She was in foal. She was called Lady Polly. She tried to jump the cattle grid but didn’t make it. She broke her back legs. She had to be put down," says Camilla Poulton, who lives in Telscombe Village with husband, Jamie, a racehorse trainer who has knotched up winners at Glorious Goodwood as well as Ascot.

"I also had two other horses," she says. “They managed to jump one of the cattlegrids. They landed on the other side. But they both damaged their fetlocks."

Camilla, not surprisingly, is one of Jackie Rowland’s greatest fans.

"I think what Jackie has been doing is excellent," she says. "Lots of farmers around here are brilliant. They let us ride on their land. But how Telscombe Town Council have been allowed to get away with so much for so long, I don’t understand. But, luckily, we had Jackie on our side."

Camilla with another one of her horses, Sweetheart,
who has won at both Ascot and Glorious Goodwood >>

"She stood up for our rights. She fought our case. She was brilliant. Everybody who rides on Telscombe Tye now and in years to come owes a deep, sincere debt of gratitude to Jackie. If we don’t have people like Jackie fighting for riders rights, they’ll trample all over us and we’ll end up having nothing."

To mark Jackie’s patience, persistence, hard graft and determination to fight for Riders Rights on Telscombe Tye, Camilla says she would like to see the Old Funeral Road, which runs across the top of the Tye renamed Jackie Rowland Way.

Rubbish blocking bridlegates

Illegal Cattle Grids

Illegal piles of concrete blocks and boulders have been allowed to be dumped in front of bridlegates on Bridleway 4  completely preventing them from being used by riders.
Says Jackie, “The Council has a duty to keep bridlegates  free for access by horse and rider. There are piles of bricks as well as giant concrete blocks piled high by some bridlegates. It’s completely unlawful.”

Builders rubble

Builders rubble

Even more amazing than anything else Telscombe Council have done in the last five-years in their illegal war against riders was to allow over 12,500 tons of filthy, unsorted, builders rubble including doorframes, steel reinforcing rods, old baths, posts and cables to be dumped along whole lengths of bridleways creating barriers literally 22’ wide and 3’ – 5’ high

Telscombe Town Council have admitted that it took over 450 lorries to dump the waste on the Common.
Yet when Jackie checked with the Environment Agency, under the Freedom of Information Act, she could only discover official waste transfer forms, which have to be completed for each lorry load of waste moved from one place to another, for just 30 lorries. What’s more, the forms were for waste all dated “November 2004” when the dumping had already been stopped at the end of September.

Says Jackie, “The dumping was completely unlawful. And dangerous. I don’t want to ride along a bridleway literally covered in rubbish and steel rods. Not only that but the fine for not having a valid form for a lorry load of waste is, I have been told, up to £50,000, five-years in gaol and confiscation of the lorry. I believe, we’re talking criminal offences here.”

Public Road

Public Road

Up until four-years ago, the only way to drive from Lewes and Kingston to Peacehaven was by going to Newhaven and along the A259 coast road to Telscombe. Now because Telscombe Council have illegally widened a bridleway, it is possible to drive most of the way from Kingston over the top of the Common direct to Telscombe.

In 2006 all vehicular rights that might have existed to drive across the Tye were abolishedby the Government. But Telscombe Town Council, East Sussex County Council and the Police are all allowing vehicles to use the bridlepath as a road.

Not only is this, yet again, forcing local riders off genuine, legitimate bridlepaths, it is also severely damaging the completely unprotected Bronze Age cross-dyke, which runs alongside the road way, as well as encouraging more and more late-night fly-tipping which is further damaging the Ancient cross-dyke.

Says Jackie, “This is the final straw. Having destroyed everything we hold dear, the Council are now destroying our ancient culture as well. The Council has been doing everything it could to absolutely, deliberately and disgracefully stop riders using perfectly legal bridleways across the Common. Access points have been blocked. Gates have been locked and bolted. Bridleways have been buried not in piles but in literally mountains of rubbish.
“What also worries me is that the people who managed Telscombe Tye for Telscombe Town Council are the same people who are going to be given responsibility for managing the whole of the new South Downs National Park. It’s terrifying. Especially when you think of what they could do to riders throughout the whole of the South Downs National Park.”

Is this the most anti-horse local authority in the country?

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