One of the best ways of publicising your bridleways group and raising both funds and awareness is a pleasure ride on local routes. Cheshire County Council were promoting access to the countryside by the “Step into Cheshire” weekend on foot, by bike and on horseback It seemed a good opportunity to show local riders some of the improvements that we had been able to obtain over the past 12 months.
Many riders didn’t know that three local bridlepaths could be linked with quiet lanes to make an 8 mile ride because a difficult bridge and gate had deterred them in the past. We contacted the local farmers to see whether the sheep and cattle that usually inhabit a couple of the fields where the bridlepaths run could be moved for the event. This would mean that we could tie the gates open to make access easier for the riders and also we would need fewer helpers. The farmers involved were extremely helpful.
We made up posters, designed an entry form for the local yards and were very pleased with the number of enquiries. The entry fee of £10 included a year’s membership of North Cheshire Riders. We got a few definite bookings and the rest would depend upon the weather! We wrote up riding instructions for the route and one of the helpers went out the previous evening and marked the route up with coloured ribbons and sprayed a few markings on the road. Cheshire Endurance Riding Group helped us enormously with advice on safety, day glo tape and marker spray plus “ Horses on the Road “signs, which we put in place early Saturday morning on a couple of the winding lanes.
Having sorted out insurance cover for the event and also obtained the services of a paramedic (one of our members) as a first aider, we had the main items in place. Roping in our partners for the day of the event we knew we would have enough people to help the event run smoothly. Saturday dawned and it all looked very promising …….until the heavens opened and we had a deluge. We really didn’t expect that anyone would want to ride in such appalling weather. One of our partners had already set out on his mountain bike to check that all the route markers were still in place – he arrived back looking like a drowned rat and was packed off to our yard owners’ farmhouse to steam gently by the Aga. Well, what a hardy lot our local riders are, as 17 riders including 2 children and a couple of teenagers decided that they were taking part and a quite a number of them signed up on the morning itself.
We were pleased that the event appealed to a wide age group. In fact we had more riders from the four local livery yards than another event for horse riders publicised across the county. I was acting as a road marshal on the second road crossing with one of my friends. This was near the end of the ride and it was fantastic greeting the riders as they appeared and finding out that they had all had a lovely ride. Most of the riders hadn’t linked the routes together before. They had also had been avoiding their local bridleway because a gate had been previously sited on the exit of a narrow bridge by a ditch. Now they could see how much safer and more pleasurable this gate was to use they felt that they had access to much better, safer and more varied riding in the area – exactly the desired result from organising this event.
Once everyone had got back the final task was to send out two of our members on horseback to remove the route ribbons and a couple of our partners to retrieve the road signs. From lunchtime the change in the weather couldn’t have been more different – warm sunshine. We rewarded our helpers and ourselves with a B-B-Q and spent a very pleasant afternoon at our yard drying out.
Since the event we have had great feedback from participants who have continued to ride the route we showed them and struck out on their own further afield.