The British Horse Society (BHS) is calling for more time to log bridleways and other off-road routes before they are lost forever.
The Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000 means that, come 1 January 2026, unrecorded bridleways may be permanently closed.
In order to protect routes from this cut-off, the BHS is urging riders to make applications to their local authority.
There are several parts to the process; the first is identifying routes at risk – which might include paths that are still regularly ridden – and another is documenting all the historical evidence that shows it is right of way.
Once legally recorded as bridleway or byway, and added to the definitive map, they are protected for people to use and enjoy forever.
The British Horse Society, alongside partner organisations, are lobbying for an extension to the current 2026 deadline to 2031 to ensure that as many historical public routes as possible are saved.
“Coronavirus has made everyone recognise the importance of the outdoors, so it is shocking to know that many bridleways could be lost forever,” said Will Steel, 2026 Project Manager at the BHS.
“I am hoping that local people will get involved as so much can be done while observing social distancing.
“Lots of the research required can be done at home as long as you have internet access. Most local authorities now have rights of way maps online, and you can also access OS mapping that shows rights of way based on the definitive map.”
What to do to save your favourite bridleways:
Check the status of the routes you ride along on your Local Authority’s online map of rights of way, an OS Explorer Map via bing.com or streetmap.co.uk or via various mapping apps, e.g. OS Maps – are they shown as a bridleway or byway?
Take action if they are not. To help, the BHS has developed resources and a practical toolkit: bhs.org.uk/2026.