VIDEO: Riders welcome new horse route on South Downs

HORSE riders have approved a scheme to bypass a bridleway and give people a safer option on the Steyning Downland Scheme.

Concerns have been raised about dangers from the Steyning Mountain Bike Trail (MBT), located between two bridleways within the area.

Matthew Thomas addresses the group on the bridleway

Matthew Thomas addresses the group on the bridleway

Some people want the trail moved away from the bridleways altogether but after months of negotiations, the horse route has been agreed as a compromise.

Interested parties, including about a dozen horse riders from Steyning and mountain bikers, met on the Downs last Saturday to walk the proposed route.

Before the consultation started, Kate Sigournay handed over a petition of 122 signatures calling on the downland scheme to move the mountain biking activities, as recommended by the South Downs Local Access Forum.

She said she was not opposed to the horse bypass but she would prefer the bike trail was moved away from the bridleways completely.

Kate Sigournay hands the petition to project manager Matthew Thomas D14461216a

Kate Sigournay hands the petition to project manager Matthew Thomas D14461216a

“I have always supported the mountain bike trail but now it has got so big, people are coming in from all over. It creates an adrenalin rush.”

Eddie Jenkinson, chairman of the new Steyning MTB group, pointed out the bridleway was the main route into Steyning and it was used by off-road cyclists from far afield, coming off the South Downs Way, who were separate to the trail users.

Following approval of the proposed bypass route by the riders on Saturday, Mr Jenkinson will be organising work as soon as possible.

A three-ton mini digger will be used to level the pathway and some of the new trees will need to be removed to ensure it is wide enough.

Mr Jenkinson said: “We have also had the offer of help from a local farming family that have an interest in horses with tractors trailer and a digger. All very productive and fast becoming a community project.”

The horse riders agreed the bridleway had become badly rutted over time and welcomed the safer alternative, which would be clearly signposted with no access for cyclists.

Christine Supiot, a horse rider whose son started the mountain bike trail, said: “I think if it is doable, it is fantastic and it is going to be pure benefit to equestrians. I think it is a wonderful idea.”

A dead hedge fence separates the mountain bike trail from the bridleway, which will remain open for horse riders, cyclists and walkers who wish to use it.

Mr Jenkinson said: “There is room for everyone on the Downs and if we build a track that encouragers both walkers and horse riders to come out and use this side of the hill then we will have done a good job.”