WELCOME to the South Pennine Packhorse Trails Trust website for Wharfedale and Airedale. We aim to provide information and support to anyone interested in improving our local rights of way network. The Trust researches the historical documentary evidence often needed to support rights of way. Although we have a particular interest in historic bridleways and packhorse trails, we are equally happy to help walkers and cyclists.
OUR AREA: is centred on the Bradford Metropolitan District. But, because recreational riding does not simply stop at local authority boundaries, it includes parts of North Yorkshire, Harrogate and Leeds. We are also working with other established bridleway groups across council borders.
WHY IS RESEARCH NEEDED? Whether you are aware of it or not, a large proportion of the paths and tracks that are currently being used by the public have no legal protection. Some paths have not been recorded at all and many bridleways have been under-recorded as footpaths on the councils’ legal record of rights of way. The are historic problems which can be difficult to resolve.
WHY NOW? At present, the principle of ‘once a highway always a highway’ which is enshrined in English Common Law, allows you to walk or ride along these under-recorded footpaths and bridleways without committing an offence. But the Deregulation Act 2015 has now changed the procedures affecting rights of way, and any unrecorded routes (where claims are based on historical documentary evidence) will be extinguished on 1 January 2026 (the cut-off date).
There is a real risk of the public (especially riders and cyclists) being left with a much reduced network of available paths.
HOW YOU CAN HELP. At present new paths can be added, or their status upgraded to bridleway or restricted byway status on the Definitive Map, if evidence is produced to show that is appropriate. The evidence required is either long use on foot or horseback or historical documentary evidence. A combination of the two kinds of evidence generally makes the strongest case. You can find out how to quickly check this on our Rights of Way page.
If you are interested in finding out more about improving access for horse riders, Making Ways for Horses, compiled by the Equestrian Access Forum, outlines the challenges we face and includes suggestions to help restore our network.