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The conflict between ramblers and landowners over access to Derbyshire grouse moors, ended in a mass trespass at Kinder Scout in 1932. Several of the trespassers were imprisoned and although their action was not supported by their federation the group continued to grow so that by the end of WW2 they were well positioned to make representation to the government on the Bill which eventually became the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. This provided for a Definitive Map and Statement for Footpaths, Bridleways and Roads Used as Public Paths.

Bridleways are primarily for use by led or ridden horses. They were not such a pressing issue in 1949 as they are today, because there was much less in the way of motor traffic. Horses were still in use commercially which meant that people were accustomed to them, for example delivering the milk. They were also loved and respected by many for the role which they had played in transport, both horse drawn and ridden in previous wars not least the First World War, and the inevitable suffering that had inflicted.

It was therefore natural for drivers of motor vehicles to willingly give way to non-motorised users (NMU's). In addition, in those days a car was something of a luxury and damaging it by running into a herd of cows was definitely to be avoided. However it was also the case that an accident between a motor vehicle and a nonmotorised user would initially be considered the fault of the motorist. A loss of ones driving license was also a considerable inducement to take great care.

During WW2 many of our very narrow country lanes were tarmaced for ease of troop movement, many of them were Bridleways and never regained their status once the war had ended. This was yet another reason why there are comparatively so few. Until 1968 cyclists did not have any rights at all on but by agreement with The British Horse Society, the Countryside Act 1968 permitted a concession. They could access Bridleways providing they gave way to walkers and horse riders. This was of course before the invention of mountain bikes.

That continues to be the law to this day and it is a shame that it is not fully reciprocated with a universal expectation of use for horse riders on cycle paths.

It seems to me that over the years horse riders have been mothballed to the extent that walking and cycling are well catered for but horse riders are deliberately left out of the loop. We only have to consider the £90 + million pounds spent on 'Open Access' for walking under the CROW Act 2000 and the millions on promoting cycling and cycle paths to see that lamentably appears to be the case.



The 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act required that the Definitive Map should show besides Footpaths and Bridleways, every `highway used by the public mainly for the purposes for which Footpaths and Bridleways are so used. Under the Act they were to be termed as 'a road used as a public path' (RUPP).

However, nationally, landowners amongst others found the term confusing and wished for clarification as to whether this included vehicle rights. Therefore an attempt was made to resolve the problem under the 1968 Countryside Act, where it was stated that a RUPP could safely be shown as a right of way for horse riders! The trouble was that by then some had already been downgraded to footpaths!!

A second attempt was made under the 1981 Wildlife & Countryside Act, and all surveying authorities were required to review all RUPP'S as either footpaths, bridleways or as a byway open to all traffic (BOAT's). The decision would rest on whether it was proved that vehicle rights existed; if they did then the way should be reclassified as a BOAT. If they did not it should be a bridleway, unless it was proven that it was not, in which case it would be a footpath.
In July 1997 the Head of Countryside Division of the DOE sent a letter to all Chief Executives saying "...vehicular rights cannot have accrued over any way recorded as a RUPP through the use of vehicles on that way in the belief that its status conferred rights of vehicular access. A RUPP cannot be upgraded to a byway open to all traffic on user evidence, unless 20 years use can be show to have accrued before the Road Traffic Act 1930
came into effect or dedication can be shown to have occurred...." Unfortunately, by this time Hampshire County Council (HCC) had upgraded a large number of RUPPS on nothing more than the observation of wheel marks on the tracks; an error that has never been put right. This has since caused enormous grief to walkers, horse riders and cyclists because of the damage caused by 4x4's on what are mostly unmade trails often on delicate sub-soils.

Therefore at the time of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act HCC asked the wrong questions and used the wrong criteria to reclassify many of these ancient highways as BOATS. However, the Definitive Map is kept under continuous review, so next month I will name a few places where a challenge to BOAT status might be required on a BOAT near you.

Despite the best intentions, the 1981 Act still did not solve the problems so a third attempt was made under the CROW Act 2000.


Useful Links:

BHS Access and Rights of Way (ARoW)

Access Training Programme