Improving cycling and horse riding along The Ridgeway

12th June 2019

Cycling and horse riding is a great way to explore the countryside and get some exercise. However, cyclists and horse riders cannot use the full length of The Ridgeway National Trail because it follows 22 miles of footpath in the Chilterns. The Ridgeway Partnership wants to address this by creating a Ridgeway Riding Route in the Chilterns, following the example of the South Downs Way National Trail.

The public do not have a legal right to ride on public footpaths – it is trespass to do so without landowner permission. Our online map of the Trail shows the parts of the Trail where cyclists and horse riders can ride – go to www.nationaltrail.co.uk/ridgeway/plan and click on the Cycling and Equestrian tabs. However, we have been aware for many years that cyclists are using the Trail’s footpaths and this is a sign there is demand for off-road cycling in the area, particularly where roads are busy.

The National Travel Survey carried out by the Department for Transport suggests that around 42% of the population owns a bicycle – that’s millions of people! British Cycling’s State of Cycling 2019 report discovered that two thirds of their 15,000 members were concerned about their safety on roads. Cycling UK and Open MTB carried out a survey in 2016 asking their supporters about off-road cycling and, of the 11,482 respondents, 52% said they ride on footpaths to avoid traffic danger. This survey also revealed 66% of rides were local (i.e. from home) and around 35% were interested in riding The Ridgeway specifically in future.

We are also seeing an increased interest in horse riding. The British Equestrian Trade Association’s National Equestrian Survey 2019 has revealed an increase in horse riding over the past five years. Rider numbers are at 3 million and there has been an increase in those regularly riding at least once a month.

In response to these observations, The Ridgeway Partnership has been working with the British Horse Society and Cycling UK to develop a ‘Ridgeway Riding Route’. The Ridgeway Partnership has an ambition to make it possible for cyclists and horseriders to enjoy a good quality route from Overton Hill near Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon near Tring, just as walkers do.

The Ridgeway Riding Route project will involve surveying routes around the footpath stretches of the National Trail in the Chilterns and talking to landowners along these routes. We will also talk to relevant businesses along the routes about how we can provide services to cyclists and horse riders and support the local economy, including cycle shops, riding stables and B&Bs. We will ensure the route connects up with existing off-road riding routes such as the Phoenix Trail (an off-road riding route between Princes Risborough and Thame) and the Grand Union Canal at Wendover and Tring. In some cases it will be straight-forward to install signage along connecting bridleways and provide cycle stands and hitching posts at resting places, but in other areas there may be a need to repair or upgrade surfaces and explore options to create new routes or upgrade footpaths to bridleway or restricted byway status. And we will need to fundraise too of course!

This will be a project that takes years to complete and will be realised in phases. The stretches of Trail footpath dictate distinct project areas:

  • South Stoke to Britwell Salome (Oxon)
  • Hempton Wainhill to Wendover (Bucks)
  • Chivery (Bucks)
  • Tring Park to Ashridge (Herts and Bucks)

If you would like to indicate your support for the project, share ideas on what may or may not work, volunteer to help, donate money or sponsor all or part of the project, please contact the Ridgeway Officer. We will soon have a questionnaire online to gather useful information and feedback from the public. Updates about the project will be provided in the Ridgeway newsletter and on the Ridgeway’s news webpages.

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Cyclists on The Ridgeway - Jos Joslin
Only walkers have a legal right to use public footpaths - National Trails Team
Horse rider on Whiteleaf Hill where the Ridgeway turns to footpath