Walkers join riders in protest over county plan to turn bridleway into cycleway

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About 30 horse riders plus a similar number of people on foot attended a protest ride this morning along a bridleway Suffolk County Council planned to tarmac.

Residents of West Row gathered at the beginning of Bridleway One on the edge of the village to see the riders off on the right of way to Mildenhall which the county proposed tarmacing to create a £220,000 cycleway.

Protest ride on Bridleway 1, West Row, regarding plans to tarmac over and turn it into a cycle way.

Protest ride on Bridleway 1, West Row, regarding plans to tarmac over and turn it into a cycle way.

Trudy Lovatt, a West Row stable yard owner who organised the ride, said. “We had fantastic support. People were walking their dogs alongside us and people came from the Mildenhall end, too.”

Later she apologised to people who had waited to meet the horses at the Mildenhall end saying the bridleway has for several months been too overgrown for riders to get out of that end.

Alison Balfour-Lynn, the British Horse Society’s eastern rights of way officer, said: “I think the turnout is excellent. People have rallied around this cause.”

She urged people who are unhappy with the plan to write to Suffolk County Council.

Lorrainne Bedford, who lives near the bridleway, said: “I just think it’s a sad destruction of the countryside. We cycle it, we walk it and enjoy it. Had they had a public meeting, everyone could have put their ideas. It could have been maintained instead of tarmaced.”

Karen Bell, who lives near the middle of the bridleway said:”If they had bothered to maintain it, the tunnel [of trees] at the other end wouldn’t be in the state it’s in now.

“I asked for a public meeting and they said no. The whole thing stinks of secrecy. If you had a meeting and 75 people said they wanted it, you wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.”

The county is now proposing a cycleway alongside a surface for horses on part of the track, which several villagers felt was unnecessary as cyclists already use the route.

An e-petition against tarmacing bridleways, started by the BHS after the ride, gained 129 signatures from all over the country in 14 hours. The petition is at www.change.org