Furious horse riders launch petition as Harlow Council block off bridleways

Lifestyle / Wed 31st May 2023 at 09:12am

FOR many years, horse-riding enthusiasts have enjoyed using a trail in the south-west corner of the town.

The trail is off Parsloe Road and follows a path into Risden Woods and by the side of Parndon Wood Nature Reserve.

It is particularly enjoyed by children who like the trail for its secure environment.

Bu that has now all changed as Harlow Council has shut all the gates and sealed ups number of other entrance and exits to the woods.

YH went up to the woods, to speak to one of the users and parents, Ed Wilson.

They have also launched a petition.


A Harlow Council spokesperson said: “We are aware of the concerns of local horse riders and the petition which has been created about access to Risden Woods.

“Equally, we do have some concerns about the use of Risden Woods which is a site of special scientific interest that we manage and have a responsibility for.

“The Leader of the Council, Councillor Dan Swords, and Portfolio Holder for Sustainability and Environment, Councillor Nicky Purse plan to meet with the riders to listen to their concerns and find a way forward.”      

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23 Comments for Furious horse riders launch petition as Harlow Council block off bridleways:

Harlow Gooner
2023-05-31 09:41:56

Re: “The Leader of the Council, Councillor Dan Swords, and Portfolio Holder for Sustainability and Environment, Councillor Nicky Purse plan to meet with the riders to listen to their concerns and find a way forward.” Well, Good luck with the riders. They're 'furious'.

Dave B
2023-05-31 10:14:32

“Selfish entitled horse riders continue to break law to cross private land and damage Site of Special Scientific Interest”. There, I’ve rewritten your headline for you…

Ruth W
2023-05-31 10:27:29

The damage done by horses being ridden in this SSSI is a real problem, damaging tree roots and restricting access to legitimate users!

2023-05-31 10:35:24

Sounds like better network of well defined linked bridleways is needed to ensure there's not this kind of conflict. The bridleways were probably here before the town was built.

2023-05-31 10:37:14

I work in a local school and we used to hire the fields from the scouts to take our school camping however we have been unable to hire this year as the scouts were concerned about the damage to the fields caused by horses. Such a shame as not only did the children at the school benefit but the scouts are a charity and have to cover their own costs.

2023-05-31 10:40:16

Site of Special Scientific Interest, interview is factually incorrect. Why did the owner of the stables not do the interview?

2023-05-31 11:08:54

Some proper keyboard warriors out in action today!! I’m sensing a very anti horse riding vibe here. Firstly, I’d like to know what damage exact has been caused and secondly, if you walk your dog in the countryside or send your little cherub to scouts would you not expect some form of uneven surface and even the odd hoof print?

2023-05-31 11:10:28

To all above against CHILDREN riding there ponies through these woods due to causing damage …. What damage can be done for goodness sake ? Provide your evidence of this … the woods is big enough for dog walkers cyclist etc no way do these ponies make it difficult to walk you dog.. utter rubbish .. far less damage than the council cutting down live trees to block paths or scouts having fires in the woods ??? Also the horses do not have to go over private land to access the woods at all ..get your facts right before commenting and do your research ..

Ed Wilson
2023-05-31 11:18:34

It's interesting that so many make remark as to damage to the Scout field - when the article makes no reference to the Scout field (other than being in the woods beside the hut for a location reference) or about access to the field. The article is about access to the woods. Ironically, I am a leader at one of the troops at this hut and I am also the person in the video whose daughter makes use of the woods on her pony. I have stated my potential conflict of interest to the council from the outset and at the same time to the Scout District Commissioner (the site is a district site and not that of either troop stationed here) What is also interesting is the fact of a non-disclosed conflict of interest from the council side where there is a direct involvement with one of the troops. I will not go into further detail here as this is not the appropriate forum, but this has been highlighted to the council. I have camped on this field many times and only last week were we playing wide games on the field with one scout section with no issue. Permission has previously been given by the Scouts to use one side of the field to access the woods. Additionally, the SSSI status does not exclude horse riding by default - Epping Forest and Thorndon are two good local examples of local SSSIs which encourage horse riding within.

2023-05-31 11:22:47

As a regular dog walker in Risden woods, I have met these children on their ponies a number of times and always found them to be polite and respectful to the area. I wondered why I hadn't seen them lately... Such a shame as my daughter loved saying hello to them. I hope they can get something in place for them. I am not sure what all this mention of the scout field is about though that's the scouts land and nothing was even mentioned in the interview about wanting to use that. So much negativity in the world, as the gentleman in the interview said, there is more than enough woodland to go round

Ted boss
2023-05-31 11:23:11

We walk our dogs through this area everyday all year round in all weathers and ground conditions . We enjoy seeing the kids and horses in the countryside it’s lovely , I’m no ground expert of course but we can’t see any change in the ground from the horses or walkers alike .

Tanya Jenkins
2023-05-31 11:28:27

How ridiculous are these comments. Children fall over on flat surfaces, such snowflakes everywhere these days. Let the children have their fun, on foot, at scouts or on ponies. So much for ‘let kids be kids’ no wonder they all sit on iPads What utter rubbish

2023-05-31 11:37:23

After reading all these comments I can see both sides of the story . Surely needs can be met by all involved here so that everyone can make use of the beautiful woods and everyone is kept safe ? Perhaps less negative and more positive chats to resolve . I’m slightly confused as the article is about the woods so it seems ? Not the field ? Sorry I might be being ignorant here . Hope issues get resolved for all

2023-05-31 11:50:21

This woods is SSSI as stated above a few times . Such is Epping forest , Epping forest manage with walkers hikers bikers and horse riders . Epping forest is managed so why can’t risden woods be managed for all ?

Heather Wilson
2023-05-31 11:58:50

So I am the person who started this petition... Who also happens to be a person who regularly walks their dog in risden wood along the paths and trails without issue so would love to see examples of this 'extensive' damage that other comments reference... For clarity, the scouts agreed that we could use the right hand side of their field, along with bikes, dog walkers and the like and had signs up to this effect. Interestingly these got taken down when the barricades went up. ... And yes, we are furious as I am sure any parent would be if their 6 year old child was essentially told they had to ride their bike with stabilisers on a 60mph road rather than on the safe pathways near their home. But hey ho, each to their own... Just remember, when we are being 'entitled' and exercising our right to ride on the roads because we have no choice... Pass wide and slow as required by the highway code and enjoy the tailbacks :-)

Kay Cartwright
2023-05-31 12:51:43

My granddaughter is the 6year old mentioned in the article . She is not entitled as commented on in one of the comments and neither are the other children who have ponies and ride . Sacrifices are made at home by parents who work very hard, doing extra hours to give their child this great pleasure. Horses need care 24/7 & the children learn to put their horses welfare above themselves. Their evenings, school holidays and weekends are spent caring for and riding their ponies. They arnt on the street corners doing God knows what! For starters horses have been around for centuries. These days they are considered a nuisance on the road. Little concern is shown to them on the roads. Cars skim past causing them great fear and danger often resulting in injury and death. More bridleways need to be established not paths closed to riders who are enjoying their chosen sport in safety. As for the damage to the woodland they do very little damage, obviously they leave hoof prints but that’s inevitable. To try and push these children out onto a fast main road is both idiotic and foolhardy by the Council who I presume will be open to liability should these children, their ponies, cars and people be injured or worse killed should they go onto the fast road and become another statistic of rider/ car collision. Blood will be spilled that’s for sure and totally unnecessarily. Who in their right mind would suggest that children aged 6 upwards would walk along a main road in charge of a very large flight animal except for Patrick Bailey ( Harlow Council representative) who stated it wasn’t his problem. That’s a quote. There’s seems to be a lot concern around the children who attend Scouts, God forbid they should topple over while in the countryside. Maybe they should play out on the main road with the horse riding children. A new sport ( and they could earn a badge ) of dodge the traffic could be implemented. Children are children, all are precious. The same rights to enjoy the countryside should be open to them all without risk assessments! I notice that many paths are now blocked. As a registered disabled person the council has now denied me the right to use these paths along with prams and pushchairs. How is has escalated! In conclusion I’m sure the honourable members of the council will see sense and stop this dangerous and pathetic implementation of stopping access to the woodland for everybody.

2023-05-31 13:18:08

Signage indicating that there is no access to Risden Woods for horses and motorcycles has been in place since at least 2006. The fact the riders continue to disregard this and are rude and abusive when this is pointed out them does them no credit. Also, Ed is being disingenuous when he suggests that SSSIs do not prohibit access to horses by default. They do - where there is no public bridle way a permit must be sought from Natural England for access to be granted.

Ed wilson
2023-05-31 13:33:44

Hi Patrick (sorry Trailfinder) you may want to re-read what I wrote. Context is everything.

Son of Old Man River
2023-05-31 14:03:06

Glad to see a proper discussion with people sharing and considering the points of view of others. Hopefully Harlow Council will work with ALL users to find a win-win solution. It should be possible.

2023-05-31 14:36:10

Hi Ed. I’m not “Patrick”. Just someone who took the trouble to use Google to look up basic facts about SSSIs on the DEFRA website. Maybe you should give it a go…

2023-06-01 08:15:06

Bonkers idea, make the horses and riders go on the road with a chance to get killed, Can’t have the kids falling over on the grass.

2023-06-01 10:17:25

My daughter has been using these woods since she was a child, This is ludicrous! My daughter now a grown woman in this area was knocked from her pony as an 11 year old child due to a motorist driving too fast and too close to her. Sadly we list her pony due to this dangerous and ignorant behaviour!!! I had the heartbreaking job of Telling an 11 yr old her pony was no longer with us. Not to mention the fact she was hospitalised She is already a statistic The roads are increasingly busy and much worse than before My daughter is now 38 As a mother and still ver much involved horse woman I fully support off road hacking for the younger generation Perhaps this member of Harlow council would like to send their children out on the roads to play Which is what you are asking these children to do every time they get on their ponies Disgraceful Harlow council you should be ashamed of yourselves!!!

Kim Oconnor
2023-06-01 19:37:32

The horse was here first. Horses do not do damage to wood lands. With out the horse ,, through history we would not have, what we have today. Show horses the respect they deserve. As lands get more and more less available, by greedy councils, and developers, let theses people ride there horses in peace,and safety of this land. If riders were all on roads, you would soon moan,holding up traffic, I just don't get society today, its nonsense.

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