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Off-Road Horse Riding Through Woodlands ~ by Angus

Off-Road Horse Riding Through Woodlands

If you have your own woodland you can use its tracks for riding a horse or pony, but most riders also want to go further afield. And, of course, most people don’t have their own wood. Riding on roads can be dangerous and is, anyway, less enjoyable than riding on car-free tracks, so there have been various schemes developed to enable more off-road riding.

Although there are hundreds of miles of bridleways that provide off-road riding, there are many areas around the country where there simply aren’t any useful bridleways and many of them go between busy roads. Almost 20 years ago a few people got together to try to create more private off-road tracks by paying a fee to local landowners for access. The idea was that the riders would each pay a subscription that would entitle them to use all the routes agreed for miles around. The toll ride scheme also organises riders to join working parties to help clear back trees and shrubs that encroach on the tracks.

Woodlands.co.uk agreed to its tracks being used as part of one of these routes. This is down in Kent and, though the track is heavy clay, we have had a very positive experience of the toll ride scheme. We have worked mostly with Ross Rowan, a keen toll ride organiser and horse owner. Her objective was to create off-road routes with a good circuit and minimal road use for riders and where the landowners would be happy with a long-term arrangement. As owners we could have simply pocketed the money we were paid, but we decided to spend all the money (which is a little over £300 per year per mile) on improving and maintaining the tracks themselves. It works well and the TROT scheme, previously called South East Toll Rides, has now been using our tracks for several years. Riders wear a badge stating they are part of the scheme and confirming their membership. Beside the locked gates into the woodland, there are small, horse-only gates which can be opened and closed by a rider without the need to dismount.

The off-road toll rides movement is led by TROT whose website is at: http://www.tollrides.org.uk/

Posted in: Community use, Practical Guides, Woodland Activities ~ On: 21 November, 2008

3 comments so far

Karen Davidson
6 January, 2009

I am very interested in what the “horse-only” gates that riders go through without dismounting look like. Would someone email me or post a picture of one of these gates? I would like to see how it operates. Thank you. Karen

Angus Hanton
28 November, 2008

These schemes are fairly rare for woodlands.co.uk – we don’t agree them if the neighbouring owners don’t want them and in any event they only work where the track can make part of a good circuit – usually of several miles.
The danger that you have identified of people establishing rights of way and abusing these has not been a problem as far as we have found – the horseriders actually police the tracks very well partly because they have paid to use them and don’t want people who haven’t paid being “free riders” and partly because they know that the landowner expects them to help regulate use of the tracks.
best wishes, Angus

John Brand
26 November, 2008

I’m not sure I like the idea of tracks being opened to people other than neighbours. Another thing is while members of this scheme are supposed to carry a badge, what’s to stop other riders just following the track and saying they’ve forgotten the badges if challenged? In fact since your rides are joined up with tracks across neighbouring land, over time this will be treated more and more like another right of way by locals on foot, starting with local lads full of bravado on an evening. Are you planning on extending this kind of scheme to the woods your currently selling in the South West? (where I’m looking)

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