BHS 2026 Project Manager Will Steel presents the award to Curriculum Area Manager Jessica Hassall-Gibson, watched by Equine Programme Leader and member of the BHS Regional Cheshire Committee James Rayner, and students Seb Wilshaw and Ben Powell.

A project by Reaseheath College equine students to identify safe off road routes for horse riders has been recognised with a British Horse Society (BHS) national award.

The students, who are studying for their Level 3 Advanced Technical Extended Diploma or Technical Baccalaureate in Equine Management at the Nantwich college, plotted over 300 bridleways or footpaths with bridleway rights in Staffordshire which could be lost if not officially re-recorded on new maps by 2026.

The students’ research, on foot and on-line over three months, was a collaboration with the national BHS Project 2026 and earned them a BHS 2020 Access Achievement Award in recognition of their significant contribution to equestrian access. It will also count as part of their community engagement qualification, which is in addition to their college qualification.

Project 2026 aims to safeguard and where possible reinstate bridleways and byways to provide safe routes for equestrian and rural communities who otherwise must risk using potentially dangerous roads. Many routes are ancient highways and their loss could add to the rising number of serious road riding accidents as well as denying the public the mental health benefits of countryside access.

After researching the bridleways, often on ancient maps, the students have been logging their data onto the BHS Project 2026 Mapping and Research website. This vital information enables researchers to quickly locate the routes and find supportive evidence for Definitive Map Modification Order Applications which have been passed to Staffordshire County Council.

Following the success of the 2020 initiative, 50 students are this year focusing on bridleways in Hampshire and Calderdale, West Yorkshire, which they will research on-line.

BHS 2026 Project Manager Will Steel gave a project overview and introduced the data collection system during a seminar at Reaseheath’s Equestrian Centre this week. He said: “The BHS is very grateful for the support received from Reaseheath on this important project. It is great to see the students engaging with the wider equestrian industry. Hopefully this will lead to a long term commitment to securing a nationwide network of bridleways for safer riding.”

Curriculum Area Manager Jessica Hassall-Gibson emphasised: “Reaseheath’s equestrian department is delighted to be part of this national initiative which will make a huge difference to the landscape of off road riding and ensure that it remains sustainable for future generations.

“The COVID-19 lockdown has highlighted the importance of preserving access to the countryside for mental and physical wellbeing and this project will benefit the equestrian community and the wider public.”

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