A New Bridleway

As a member of the Hertfordshire Local Access Forum I was invited to the official opening of a new permissive bridleway at Cross Farm near Harpenden. Being the cycling representative on the forum I naturally planned to ride there and I invited fellow members of the Welwyn Hatfield Cycling Forum to join me. There was a slight complication in that the event was not expected to finish until 18:30 and our monthly WHCF meeting at Campus West in Welwyn Garden City was due to start at 19:00, giving us only half an hour to cycle a distance of about eight miles. A couple of people said they wanted to attend so we decided to delay the start of the meeting by half an our to allow time to get there.

A Muddy Lane

Ignoring my cold I set off in the rain on Wednesday afternoon and was one of the first people to arrive. I was greeted by Will and Jan Dickinson of Cross Farm who had the idea for a bridleway a couple of years ago. It was a “missing link” situation where people were crossing their land anyway so they thought it made sense to provide an official route, and the Local Access Forum were happy to provide them with encouragement and support. By 17:30 a fair few people had arrived including one other WHCF member, plastered from head to toe in mud after riding through floods and across Nomansland Common. Most people had arrived by car, including a number of LAF members, a Rights of Way officer and County Councillor Teresa Heritage. A tractor and trailer had been organised to take people up Cross Lane to the north end of the new bridleway, just west of the St Pancras to Bedford mainline. Jan and her daughter went ahead on horseback and we followed on our bikes.

Cutting the Ribbon

After a short speech Councillor Heritage cut a ribbon and there was a photo opportunity before we set off to walk/cycle/ride the new route. I am glad I made the effort because we were the only two cyclists present and it was important that all user groups were represented. The surface would probably have been fine were it not for the recent heavy rain. My friend had a full-on mountain bike and didn’t seem to have any trouble but the rear tyre on my hybrid was spinning a bit in the mud. The route crosses Mud Lane and carries on down the west side of the railway as far as Ayres End Lane, a total distance of about half a mile. At that point you can cross the bridge and continue down an existing maintenance track on the east side of the railway towards Heartwood Forest. The tractor arrived to ferry people back to the farm for refreshments but we got there first after cycling back along the bridleway. I could have stayed longer chatting to people but we had a meeting to get to so we set off and rode back past The Wicked Lady to join the Ayot Greenway which took us all the way to Campus West, arriving only a couple of minutes late.

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2 responses to “A New Bridleway

  1. It’s great news to see more local bridleways, especially those which provide a continuous route.

    However there are many local footpaths which would be excellent linking routes for off-road cycling- how can local riders campaign to get them converted or made permissive bridleways?

  2. Good question Mike. In this case I believe the permissive bridleway was a new route, not an upgrade from an existing footpath, and it only came about because the landowner wanted it. Many footpaths are too narrow to be upgraded to bridleways and even where they are wide enough or there is adjoining land available for widening there is often resistance from existing users. I am more interested in paved off-road cycle routes in urban and semi-urban areas and these can sometimes be gained as part of a Section 106 Agreement of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, so it is worth responding to planning consultations with bike friendly suggestions. Look at getting involved with a local CTC group or Sustrans – and you should find out about your Local Access Forum. Every County was required to set up a LAF to consider issues affecting public access, with members representing various user groups (farmers, cyclists, horse riders, pedestrians etc). I started going to the quarterly public meetings of the Hertfordshire LAF a few years ago, and eventually joined up as a member representing cyclists. It is great for networking and there is a huge amount of collective knowledge and experience amongst the members.

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