Says Naomi Smith
It 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
Leith Hill, Surrey
New Mountain Bike track causing concern on Leith Hill
Tessa Gooding explains
How the track circles one bridleway
Horseriders believe that what is being constructed, and which will open in March/April 2014, shows a complete lack of understanding of how horses behave in confined spaces and with sudden, and possibly unexpected activity happening above, alongside or below them (in multiple).
As a rider, I have this terrible image of my young 7 y-o ex-racehorse bolting into a family as a result of being spooked on this bridleway once the track is open,
Says Tessa Gooding
Horseriders in the Surrey Hills (Leith Hill area) are gathering to ensure their voice is heard by SCC and the Surrey Hills AONB Board about the safety issues which they believe now face users of the bridleways and rights of way, as a result of a new Mountain Bike Trail that has suddenly appeared at Cockshot Hollow, beside Leith Hill Tower.
Of particular concern is how the new downhill Mountain Bike Trail has expanded beyond a proposed legacy trail to be more like a ‘rural velodrome’; and that there has been no need for planning permission by the AONB in this protected area.
How the track circles one bridleway
They believe there has been no risk assessment carried out by Surrey County Council in whose name the common is managed through an access agreement made under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. And they are questioning the health and safety liabilities if there is now an accident.
The Horseriders believe that what is being constructed, and which will open in March/April 2014, shows a complete lack of understanding of how horses behave in confined spaces and with sudden, and possibly unexpected activity happening above, alongside or below them (in multiple).
The AONB Board appear to have given their Mountain Biking Group carte blanche to do what they like. Their website is actively promoting the Surrey Hills as a Regional Centre for Mountain Biking and at the same time they say that it is a huge problem! Their plans appear to have been blindly supported by the SCC, without the need for planning permission or wider consultation with other users.
We believe it they are acting to the detriment of all the other users of the Hill. As a rider, I have this terrible image of my young 7 y-o ex-racehorse bolting into a family as a result of being spooked on this bridleway once the track is open, which is my only access route to avoid going around Leith Hill Tower. What sensible horserider is going to take such a risk? Are we being constructively managed out as users? It feels like it.”
As to next steps, there are a number of discussions taking place and a further meeting planned with AONB Board members at the end of February. In the meantime, the local horseriders have got both the BHS and MDIRF involved in their safety concerns and are actively gathering the views of other users eg local residents, walkers, botanists, artists etc.
To end on a positive note, I am encouraged that one AONB Board Member, Rob Fairbanks, who is Director of the Surrey Hills AONB, has responded well to our concerns and has told me that he feels there needs to be more user representation on the AONB and more done for equestrians. He is actively seeking feedback on their 5-year management plan so I would encourage anyone who wants to see what their plan is, to look at the Surrey Hills website at www.surreyhills.org and let him know.”
Footnote: The mission as an AONB is for:
(a) The purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area of outstanding natural beauty, and
(b) the purpose of increasing the understanding and enjoyment by the public of the special qualities of the area of outstanding natural beauty, but if it appears that there is a conflict between those purposes, greater weight should be given to the purpose mentioned in paragraph (a).
Says Linda Wright
We 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