Riders will be able to continue to enjoy essential off-road routes thanks to funding secured by the British Horse Society (BHS).

The BHS has signed a new agreement with British Equestrian to access Sport England’s partner investment scheme, to continue its Project 2026 across England for a further four years.

Launched in 2018, Project 2026 aims to record and protect bridleways and byways missing from the Definitive Map & Statement, the legal record of rights of way.

By the end of the first phase of the project in spring this year, over 2,500 Definitive Map Modification Order applications had been prepared, submitted to and registered by local authorities across England.

Many project participants are BHS members and volunteers, but the charity also supported researchers from other organisations such as the Ramblers, Open Spaces Society, Cycling UK and Sustrans, as well as parish councils and individuals who were interested in their local community and history.

“The bridleways being recorded by the project will provide essential safe off-road routes and links in the currently fragmented rights of way network for riders, walkers and cyclists,” said a BHS spokesman. “They will be a permanent resource and free to use, providing opportunities for active travel, access to nature and all the health and well-being benefits that this brings.

“Although the government has recently announced its intention to repeal the cut-off date [for registering off-road routes], the recording of such routes missing from the Definitive Map remains the best way to protect them from obstruction, development or neglect. The further match funding from Sport England via British Equestrian will enable the BHS and dedicated volunteers to continue this vital work right up to 2026.”

Will Steel, Head of Access at The British Horse Society said: “We’re pleased to be working with Sport England, through British Equestrian, to continue this much needed work. With evidence from our horse incidents reporting app, Horse i, showing just how dangerous our roads are for horse riders, this support towards safe off-road riding routes has never been more important.”

Mandana Mehran Pour, Head of Participation at British Equestrian added: “Protecting active environments is vital to ensure we create and preserve opportunities for people to be physically active. Our bridleways are one of the most precious assets we have across Britain’s iconic landscapes for people to enjoy their horses. British Equestrian is pleased to continue working with The British Horse Society on this strategic project and, with the help of hundreds of their volunteers, continue recording and protecting bridleways for future generations.”

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