The British Horse Society (BHS) is delighted to have signed a new agreement with British Equestrian to access Sport England’s partner investment scheme, to continue its ground-breaking 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. The name of the project stems from a change in the law, introduced by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, that proposes to remove the public’s right to use any bridleways or footpaths that hadn’t been officially recorded by 1 January 2026, the “cut-off” date.
By the end of the first phase of the project in Spring 2022, over 2,500 Definitive Map Modification Order applications had been prepared, submitted to and registered by local authorities across England. This amazing success was despite the impact of the Covid pandemic, which saw the closure of local and national archives across the country, a resource that is essential to rights of way research.
Many project participants are dedicated BHS members and volunteers, but we 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. 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, 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.”
For more information about the BHS 2026 campaign, visit www.bhs.org.uk/2026