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Says Adrienne Yentis

Says Adrienne YentisA friend of mine recently was riding on the heath
and she came across a group of cattle strung out across the bridlepath with no way through – the only way off was to turn round. Fortunately her horse
remained calm throughout. But you can imagine how a nervous horse might react ........... read more

Hankley Common, Nr Elstead, Surrey

Campaigners win MoD battle over access

David Sumner Smith with Tor (6) and Dawn standing beside the entrance to the new car park David Sumner Smith with Tor (6) and Dawn standing beside the entrance to the new car park

Says Jennifer Morris

A determined group of neighbours are celebrating after they took on the Ministry of Defence over a land ownership issue and won.

The MoD owns and rents large parts of Hankley Common and uses it for training.

The picturesque grassland has been a popular beauty spot for neighbours and visitors for around 40 years but campaigners are concerned that the public’s access to the land is being systematically reduced.

As such Dave Sumner-Smith established PATH last year – Protect Access To Hankley.

A recent blow for the group came when the MoD announced in January that it would be closing the common’s central car park, despite a hard-fought campaign to save it.

This latest subject of contention was a lane which leads from Truxford Corner on the Elstead to Thursley Road up to the Lions Mouth on Hankley.

Part of it runs through the MOD training area. Last year the MoD applied for this part of the lane to be registered by the Land Registry as their property by “adverse possession”, also known as squatter’s rights, and earlier this year they set about installing a gate before work was abruptly halted by Surrey County Council’s rights of way department.

Research by members of the PATH group found that the lane is an ancient public highway, allotted land of 30ft width in the 1857 Elstead Inclosure Awards and that it cannot be taken over in this way.

They compiled a document and submitted it to the Land Registry who found in their favour and agreed to remove the land from the register.

The same research showed that Houndown Lane and Woolfords Lane are also parts of an ancient highway, allotted separate 30ft wide plots of land in 1857.

For this reason ditches dug by an MoD contractor along Houndown Lane earlier this year were filled in again as they were an obstruction on highway land.

A spokesman for PATH said the group was pleased with the outcome.

He said: “Part of the path runs through the MoD training area on the common but it is not owned by the MoD, as can be seen on the map attached to the byelaws notice at the entrances to the common.

“Bridleway 101 runs along the lane and it is also used by the public to drive to the central car park on Hankley Common and by the MoD to drive to the Dropping Zone.

“We are very pleased to be able to set the record straight and hope that this can be the end of our concerns over access. It took many hours of detailed research at the land registry’s end a bunch of us went to the Surrey History Centre in Woking and looked through documents dating back to the 1800s.

“Then we set about getting our case together and sent it off to the Land Registry.

“There are a lot of people in the area who are passionate about protecting access to the commons.

“Local councillors and Surrey County Council officers have been of great help in discussing these issues with the MoD and taking actions necessary to help us to resolve them.”

A Land Registry spokesman said: “The lane was registered by the MoD in 2012 on the basis of adverse possession.

“They did not object to a recent application to remove the lane from the title and so the application was completed.”

An spokesman for the MoD said: “The MoD is aware that an objection has been raised by an access consultant to the Land Registry but we await formal notification of the outcome.”

Comments Bob Milton

"The rules for using rights of way under the 1968 Act was that cyclists always have to give way to pedestrians and equestrians."

Says Bob Milton

Says Bob MiltonFor clarity and accuracy I am the consultant you refer to and I made the application against adverse possession on behalf of the Patth group and the British Horse Society [BHS]. The latest application against the misappropriation of part of the highways [BW101, Woolfords Lane and Houndown lane was made by me on the 3rd December 2103 and paid for by the BHS on behalf of whom I am working.

We have had no confirmation of the application for rectification to date.

On a slightly different tack but on the same piece of land notably on BW 101 between Lions Mouth and the MoD’s obstructing gate by the car park I had the unfortunate experience on Saturday of finding my self riding along the Bridleway which was at the centre of the adverse possession case when I was for about 20minutes surrounded by mountain bikes coming from behind. Only three bike riders made themselves known by voices as coming up at speed behind and slowed down, none used a bell to give warning. The consequence was that despite my horse being extremely well behaved on roads all he wanted to do was, as is natural for horses, to run away from the sound of being attacked from behind. The ignorance of the majority of these mountain bike riders of the effect they have on horses especially when approaching from behind is beyond belief. When asked to slow down seeing the problems they were causing many just it seemed aimed to go past as quick as possible.

This was an organised commercial event by it seems Southern Trail Rides who mark the rides with bright orange sign and ribbon as shown on the website [tel 01189 988 6041]

The event rules under ‘Care for the countryside’ states

“Take all rubbish home with you, close all gates, take care when riding near other trail users or farm animals. Dismount when passing horses. Enjoy your ride, the views, and the countryside. Remember these are public trails, not private a private race course.”

The published policy statement is on the website and includes

2: Access issues

As Trail Break events use public roads and rights of way, the legal and ethical terms and conditions of use for such public byways are de facto rules, terms and conditions for participation in Trail Break events. Anybody wilfully breaking the rules of the road or conditions of access to public rights of way whilst taking part in a Trail Break event may be denied further participation in said event.

Riders participating in Trail Break events are expected to:

  • Obey all rules of the public highway.
  • Ride in a manner that does not compromise the safety of other road and trail users. Be courteous to other road and trail users.
  • Give way to horse riders and pedestrians where appropriate. Close gates on public rights of way.
  • Respect land owners and authorities, their property and live stock.

Trail Break will not support or condone any break from this code of conduct by event participants. In return, Trail Break expects other road and trail users, land owners and authorities to respect our event participants’ public rights of access as cyclists.

NOTE TO LAND OWNERS AND AUTHORITIES: We are sometimes approached enquiries about why we have not informed land owners and/or relevant authorities of our event plans. We apologise if you feel you have been excluded, however, in the absence of a central and accessible register of land owners and contact points for every area we visit, it is impossible to know who to contact and how to contact them for every eventuality, and attempting to inform every possible interested or potentially interested party would make it impossible for the responsible event organiser to proceed. Trail Break are committed to running responsible events that promote and help educate riders in constructive and legal use of the countryside. We only use public rights of way within the codes of conduct laid down for use of those rights of way. If you have any questions or comments regarding our events, please contact us on 0118 976 2491. We will be happy to talk to you and work with you to encourage constructive use of the countryside by cyclists and hope you will support us in this objective.

It seems that the vast majority have not either read the rules or remember them when on board. The rules for using rights of way under the 1968 Act was that cyclists always have to give way to pedestrians and equestrians.

This time these events were witnessed by the MoD/DE Landmarc warden who was opening the gate that obstructs the bridleway so he could visit the army training which was happening across the BW some 100 m further on.

It was just this situation that cycle racing on bridleways was not allowed [RTA1988 s31] [see] The International Mountain Biking Association uk has the following recommendation on its website

What is the best way to overtake a horse and rider ?

Posted on 07/12/2011 by IMBA

The British Horse Society recommend the “hail a horse” technique which means that you should shout “Hello” or “Passing” and await acknowledgement before slowly overtaking.

If the horse is approaching it is best to dismount and get off the trail. If the trail is narrow then ensure that the bike is between you and the horse!

Perhaps the BHS should amend its recommendation to include ring a bell as it is easier for riders to hear a bell than an out of breath bike rider.

One has to ask what constitutes a racing on a highway. Is it just massed starts or can it be considered as such if the time is taken and published as in this case.

This whole issue links with the ongoing SCC policy to facilitate closures of the highway network for cycle racing.

Says Linda WrightSays Linda Wright

We moved to a Shropshire location a year ago having surveyed the local OS map and noted the significant number of bridleways around the property. Sadly the map appears a total fiction. Scarce any of the bridleways are usable ........... read more

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