We want to see a UK-wide network of traffic-free paths for everyone, connecting cities, towns and countryside, loved by the communities they serve. And as they explain in this blog, this is a vision that the team at The British Horse Society share.
Sustrans and The British Horse Society are working together to make the National Cycle Network accessible to all users. ©The British Horse Society
Since Sustrans launched their Paths for Everyone report back in 2018, we’ve been working closely with them in their role as custodians of the National Cycle Network, and with other partner organisations and landowners.
We’re working together to make sure that wherever possible, the Network is accessible and inclusive for anyone who wants to use it.
This includes people travelling by horse.
Working together to improve routes for everyone
We at the British Horse Society are part of Sustrans’ UK-wide steering group and their accessibility sub-working group.
These groups involve representatives from lots of different organisations.
We all come together to support and guide Sustrans in their work to make the Paths for everyone vision a reality.
And when improvements to routes are considered or new routes are proposed, The British Horse Society works with Sustrans to make sure that horse riders’ needs are also included in these plans, wherever possible.
The British Horse Society is working with Sustrans to make more routes open to horse riders. ©The British Horse Society
Transforming the Lias Line
One of the most recent routes we’ve worked together to improve is the Lias Line in Warwickshire.
It’s a disused railway line which runs through the beautiful Warwickshire countryside.
We want to transform it into a path that's truly accessible for all.
This will enable local people and visitors alike to get outdoors and enjoy this part of England.
The Department for Transport (DfT) provided £5.1m to improve this route. And with this money Sustrans is:
Constructing a 3m-wide, surfaced path
This will make the route more accessible to everyone, whether they’re walking, cycling, riding a horse, using a wheelchair or pushing a pram.
Improving the former railway structures
These structures carry the Line over roads and watercourses, and work will ensure they are fit for purpose.
Carrying out ecological enhancements
With the help of local volunteers, Sustrans is creating new habitats and making the route an attractive green space to benefit both people and wildlife.
Engaging the community
Sustrans will work with the local community to increase the number of people using the route.
Sustrans will also be promoting the route both locally and nationally to celebrate its development and encourage its use.
Shared paths allow all users to enjoy the freedom of the National Cycle Network. ©The British Horse Society
Where we are so far
Once complete, the branch section of the Lias Line will form part of Warwickshire’s longest traffic-free greenway.
It will connect Leamington Spa with the Grand Union Canal Towpath.
Riders and their horses will be most welcome to enjoy this route.
So far Sustrans has made great progress:
- obtaining match funding from the local authorities
- completing detailed designs
- securing planning permissions
- and clearing vegetation along the main line.
Removing barriers with the Ride Out Fund
Currently, there are seven unwelcoming, awkward access controls and barriers along the Lias Line.
These barriers restrict horse riders and many other users from accessing the greenway, including those in wheelchairs or on mobility scooters or adaptive cycles.
We have agreed with Sustrans that these barriers must be removed or redesigned to allow everyone, included horse riders, to fairly and safely use the Lias Line.
We are delighted to announce that this has been included in the planning permission application that Sustrans has submitted.
Signs will also be installed at each of the improved access points to confirm that horses have full access to the route.
We have provided £7,000 from The British Horse Society Ride Out Fund to co-finance this project, which was awarded to Sustrans in May 2021.
Making more of the Network accessible for horse riders
Sustrans continues to work with local and national governments to make the Network better and more accessible.
You can see on their interactive map that they have 80 improvement schemes being delivered, with more in the pipeline.
We continue to work alongside Sustrans to improve routes for the horse riding community and to help them achieve their 2040 vision for the National Cycle Network.
And in the meantime, you can take a look at our Equestrian Access Mapping to find horse-friendly rides and trails across the UK.
To celebrate 30 years of the Trans Pennine Trail, Sarah and her pony Billy trekked along the entire route. Read their story.