News from the Trail
In the late Spring of 2022, a section of the Pennine Bridleway in Lancashire between Holme Chapel and Long Causeway was improved thanks to £66,000 of funding from the Lancashire Environmental Fund, Natural England, and Lancashire County Council. One year on, the Pennine National Trails Partnership revisited the site, which is also part of the Mary Towneley Loop, to see how it’s settling in to the landscape.
The section of trail where the work was carried out passes over restored quarry workings. Much of this stretch has poor drainage which, combined with high annual rainfall, had resulted in prolonged wet ground conditions. The route had become badly rutted and it was difficult for users to pass along it. It was hoped that by improving the ground conditions this section of trail would become more accessible to a wider range of users and allow inexperienced, less-confident or less-able users, including those using mobility aids such as trampers, trikes or off-road wheelchairs, the opportunity to experience a National Trail through the natural upland environment, in all seasons.
The project to improve this section involved re-profiling 1km of track surface using gritstone aggregate and incorporating multiple water-shedding humps and a gentle cross-fall to ensure water would leave the surface before it could cause damage. The intention was that the new surface would remain firm and stable during wet weather conditions and one year on, it is fantastic to see that it has been successful.
The Pennine Bridleway Ranger for Lancashire, Bill Brady, said: “The new path is more resilient to climate change, and will require less ongoing maintenance. It is future proofed to cope with the increasing intensity of rainfall events and the drainage channels are self-clearing due to their design. These improvements will ensure that a wide range of users can continue using the Pennine Bridleway for many years to come without the fear of slippery mud and deep ruts.”
Pennine National Trails Partnership Manager, Jo McAllister, said: “The new surface has proven it can withstand the challenges of the varied weather throughout the year and it hasn’t taken long for the appearance of the materials to start to soften in to the landscape too. This scale of project wouldn’t have been possible without the combined funding from the three parties involved. Together, they’ve created an opportunity for more people to access this area to experience and benefit from the nature and wildlife that can be found here and to enjoy the Pennine Bridleway National Trail.”
The Pennine Bridleway provides a strategic arterial link through Burnley district, providing connections to the local rights of way network. It provides an opportunity for local residents to exercise outdoors in the natural environment and gain the associated physical and mental health benefits. This section of the Pennine Bridleway forms part of the ‘Cliviger 8’ route developed by the Burnley Bridleways Association, providing a much needed off-road route for horse riders and cyclists near to Burnley.
Spring of 2023 will see a number of temporary diversions put in place on the Pennine Bridleway whilst essential maintenance works are carried out at various locations. Full details of all the diversions can be found by selecting the yellow icons on the interactive map , within the Exploring the Trail tab here , or by clicking the relevant links below:
Update July 2023:
The maintenance work at Cant Clough Reservoir has now been completed and the diversion removed.
The maintenance work at Shaw Lane Bridge, Oldham has now been completed and the diversion removed .
The Pennine Bridleway has been updated and you can download it from the Leaflets page. The PDF has also been made accessible so that it meets established accessibility standards. This will make it easier for anyone using assistive technology such as screen readers, text-to-speech programs or braille displays to access the information.
Nearly forty years ago three woman navigated ancient packhorse routes between Northumberland and Derbyshire on horse back. The one surviving member of that group, Dawn Baly, has described the adventure as “magic, total magic”.
She was speaking at a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the official opening of the Pennine Bridleway National Trail, held in June at the Fat Lamb Inn in Ravenstonedale in the Cumbrian part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The 205-mile trail, which ends at the Fat Lamb, resulted from the ride she undertook in 1986. A 123-mile ‘northern extension’ to Byrness in Northumberland, however, remains uncompleted.
Also at the event was Cosima Towneley, currently the Mayor of Burnley, whose mother Mary Towneley led the 1986 ride and became the driving force behind the Pennine Bridleway. In a speech Miss Towneley said: “How extraordinary to think my mother’s legacy of the Mary Towneley loop and the Pennine Bridleway are respectively 20 and 10 years old.
“The raison d’etre for this magnificent route was three-fold. One – to reclaim the ancient highways deemed redundant to modern forms of recreation and reopen them for a new generation. Two – to support and succour that hardy but dwindling breed of upland farming communities by encouraging people to stop and stay. Three – to place the horse at the centre of a strategy when all others failed to acknowledge its existence.
“To this Mary was to dedicate 40 years of her life. In fact it became her life. One memorable event consisted of my mother dashing to the bed of an older sister in the throes of childbirth. Between each rising stage of excitement my mother was busy marking up maps on the hospital floor.
“It took two years of research to prepare for the ’86 ride – and 10 days to complete. My mother threw herself into the campaign to get the route acknowledged and funded and great friends carried this forward. This is a bittersweet moment because today the northern extension still languishes uncompleted.”
Her audience was a gathering of people who had campaigned to establish the trail as well as representatives from Natural England, which funds the maintenance and promotion of National Trails, the British Horse Society, Cycling UK, and the staff of the Pennine Trails National Partnership, which is administered by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
The 1986 ride participant Dawn Baly, from Shropshire, also gave a short speech. She said: “I did the first journey down the route from Hexham to Ashbourne with Mary Towneley. I was a novice. It was so exciting. The freedom of it, looking through the ponies’ ears and riding to the horizon and beyond – magic, total magic.”
Mark Weston, director of access at the British Horse Society, which has 118,000 members, attended the celebration. He said: “The Pennine Bridleway has particular importance for horse riders. It’s a prime example of how the need to get horse riders off the road and for them to have safe access can be achieved. The development of the Pennine Bridleway National Trail also encourages smaller loops to be developed, that join on to it, and so it acts as a catalyst for more route creation.”
Routes linking the Pennine Bridleway to the Eden Valley Loops have recently been improved. People attending the celebration walked from the Fat Lamb Inn to a section where work has been carried out, funded by the Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Scheme.
Businesswoman Alison Muir of the nearby Stonetrail Riding Centre said she was booked up for the rest of the summer, such was the growing popularity of horse riding for recreation. She said: “When the Pennine Bridleway opened ten years ago I remember Martin Clunes saying at the opening, ‘It means you can go on a journey – and everyone wants to go on a journey’. The bridleway network we have now, there is nowhere else like it in the world. The bit people are seeing today linking the Pennine Bridleway and the Eden Valley Loops used to be pitted and slippery. I used to have to tell people ‘watch where you go’. Now it is good to ride on.”
Sara Schultz, who is Northern National Trails Manager at Natural England, said she was keen to take part in the celebration: “Natural England is very proud of the lengths that the lead partner – the Yorkshire Dales – has taken in leading the new Pennine National Trails Partnership forward to really promote the Pennine Bridleway as a multi-user route particularly for horse riders, cyclists and walkers. A lot has happened in ten years. It resonates with us that National Trails are important. We continue to fund them and will do into the future I hope.”
Adam Peters, who was the Cycling UK representative at the celebration event, said: “Cycling UK is enthusiastic about long distance trails. Two-thirds of the population is too scared to cycle on the road. So this is the kind of route that at least the fitter members can tackle. We think there’s a lot of potential for cycle touring on the route. We think it’s a great resource and we’d really like to see the northern extension completed.”
Mark Allum, the volunteer Chair of the Pennine National Trails Partnership, said: “The Pennine Bridleway was unique in the way it was conceived and came about. And also it is unique in the breadth of users who can enjoy it. It’s a very special National Trail.
“One of the main objectives of the partnership is to continue the National Trail northwards from what is – at the moment – the official end point here at the Fat Lamb. We’ve got a way to go until we get to Byrness but it’s still very much the ambition of the partnership.”
Officially opened on 12 June 2012 by Martin Clunes as President of the British Horse Society, the Pennine Bridleway is one of two National Trails through the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The other is the 268 mile Pennine Way, the first National Trail to be created in 1965.
At the end of June, four women rode 50 miles over three days on the Pennine Bridleway in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, completing the Cumbria leg of the UK-wide Great Horses for Health Relay.
Alison Muir and Lucy Pickford from the Stonetrail Riding Centre near Ravenstonedale were joined by farmer Hilary Fawcett from South Stainmore and Marie Wray from Teesdale for the charity event.
They were raising funds for mental health charities, while raising awareness of the benefits horses can bring to mental health.
Speaking at Yore House Farm in Upper Wensleydale at the start of the first days riding, an 18 mile journey to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Alison Muir, on cob Sam, said: “When the Horses for Health route was being planned it was obvious the Pennine Bridleway would be a superb way to carry the baton along. We are raising funds for mental health charities and awareness that horses can bring a lot of positive therapy to people, brightening their lives. They are very friendly creatures who understand you and want social contact with people. Most of all horses want you to be kind and they want you to love them. So if someone’s got a bit of love to give, but maybe they can’t give to somebody else, they should give it to a horse – and they’ll get bounce back.”
“I’ve taken hundreds of riders up and down the Pennine Bridleway. It is a tremendous route, so it’s fantastic that Horses for Health are using it, because it will help to promote it much more. It’s mostly off-road, the tracks are in really good nick, and the scenery is outstanding – it’s big skies all the way. You come down into the valleys simply to reach a new valley and then you are up in the hills again.”
Member Champion for Recreation Management at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Nick Cotton, said: “‘Horses for Health’ is using the Pennine Bridleway in just the way it was designed to be used. Participants are riding a length of the trail over a number of days and making the most of the hospitality on offer along the way. It is satisfying to see the trail supporting a charity and enabling a fundraising event.”
He added: “The Pennine Bridleway is a completely separate trail to the Pennine Way. While it’s a great route for walkers and cyclists, it was designed specifically for horse riders and that point is sometimes missed. It is a fantastic asset but not well known. It’s good that Alison and her friends are helping to put the word out about it.”
After three days of riding, the baton was handed over to another group of riders in Lancashire and the relay continued south along the Pennine Bridleway for a further 7 days.
This year, International Trails Day also coincides with Volunteers Week and we want to say a huge thank you to all the amazing volunteers who give their time and expertise to help maintain the Pennine Bridleway.
Volunteers play a vital role in the maintenance of the Pennine Bridleway, particularly in Derbyshire, Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales. They get involved in a variety of work including replacing gates, repairing fencing, drain clearance and installing waymark posts and fingerposts. The time they give and experience they bring are invaluable in helping to maintain the trail to its high standard and ensuring everyone using the trail has the best experience possible.
Whilst volunteers generously give their time for free and enable work to be carried out which could otherwise not be completed, volunteer programmes are not free to run. Every volunteer needs to be supported to fulfil their role safely and effectively.
How you can help
If you would like to make a donation to help fund the ongoing work of the volunteers on the Pennine Bridleway please follow this link: Donate to the Pennine Bridleway
(Please note you will be directed to the website of Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority who manage the collection of donations on behalf of the Pennine National Trails Partnership). Thank you for your support.