Common land: a manifesto for horse-riders

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We shall today propose a manifesto for horse-riders on common land.

Our case officer, Nicola Hodgson, is speaking at the British Horse Society’s National Access Conference at Stoneleigh.

Says Nicola: ‘Common land is immensely important for recreational horse-riding. It provides extensive areas of open country where people can ride safely, in wonderful landscapes which have remained largely unchanged for centuries.

‘While walkers have rights to roam on all commons, horse-riders have rights on only some. We should like to see greater attention given to the rights and interests of horse-riders on commons.

‘We therefore propose the following actions:

• A universal 40-mph speed limit on all unfenced roads across common land, to safeguard horse-riders enjoying the commons. This would also safeguard grazing animals and avoid the need for unsightly, restrictive fencing.

• Landowners to dedicate riding rights on commons, in addition to the rights of walkers.

• Fencing and other barriers minimised. Often land managers want to introduce grazing, for perfectly legitimate reasons of improving the habitat and managing the vegetation, but they tend automatically then to want to fence the common—instead of using alternatives such as slowing the traffic and installing cattle-grids.

• Where there is fencing, land managers should avoid the use of barbed wire and ensure that there are ample gates which are easy for horse-riders.

• Land managers should consult horse-riders and involve them in any plans to manage the common, as recommended in the Department for Environment-approved document A Common Purpose and the Open Spaces Society’s Finding Common Ground.

‘Horse riders are a vital part of the community which uses and enjoys the commons. We join with our friends at the British Horse Society in arguing that riders’ rights should be respected and improved, so that our magnificent commons are a joy to horse-riders as well as walkers,’ Nicola concludes.

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