The BBA was formed in the 1970s by local riders to address the lack of bridleway routes in an area where there was a pony on almost every allotment, back garden and pen. Amongst its committee were local equestrian luminaries, Norman Bishop, Mary-Jo Pinder and Mary, later Lady Towneley. It wasn’t that there weren’t bridleways, there were, as time and claim were to prove, but due to short sighted and poorly drawn up legislation in Westminster, riders had literally been disenfranchised from their natural environment.

Why were there NO Bridleways!

Simple … look no further than the 1949 National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act. Its inept drafting and biased implementation enabled the majority of higher rights to be expunged from the record or downgraded to footpath by landowners & Councils seeking to a) remove/curtail public access & b) minimise the burden of maintenance implicit to higher rights routes, ie. bridleway & above. The need to consult was also removed, unless you were a landowner or Council, and Parish/Town Councils designated as the appropriate bodies to undertake the role of inspecting and quantifying routes. In Haslingdon the Scouts undertook the important task of listing all known public rights of way! Consequently, and unsurprisingly, bearing in mind the difference between a footpath and bridleway was, and remains, indistinguishable to the majority of the public, it is unsurprising the horse was almost entirely expunged from the landscape as routes were simply and more easily classed under the generic term of ‘footpath’. Proof of this calumny has been documented by Sue Hogg, former Chairman of the National Federation of Bridleway Associations, Founder of the South Pennine Packhorse Trails Trust and Rights of Way Researcher without whom the majority of routes both in Cliviger and adjacent Township of Todmorden would still remain unridden.

And so, riders found themselves denied access along the pack horse trails, drove roads and ancient highways which criss-cross our Borough landscape; routes that had transported cotton, coal & lime, baubles & ribbons, furniture & food, carried or pulled by horse power, which powered the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, pre-canals, rail and the ubiquitous tarmacked highways of today, and which put the Great into Great Britain and changed our countryside forever.

Faced by this dilemma a determined few got together and took the system to task. They didn’t need to do it; some were old and infirm, some didn’t even ride and some had plenty of opportunity riding their own land. Laying individual circumstance aside they believed all should enjoy the historic routes of Burnley whether on foot or hoof and they set about cajoling, charming and challenging those that could make a difference.

In 1974, the first concessionary route was agreed with North West Water, now United Utilities. The Blue Horse Shoe was created by the riding fraternity carrying post, pipe & paint, children in tow, to mark the route along the lip of Ram’s Clough so the unwary traveller would not stray too far into the mire that blankets the moor between stream and the Gorple Rd.

Then followed the termination of the discriminatory practice of charging equestrians a fee for a ‘pass’ to use Towneley Park. Note: The Council suggested reinstating the permit scheme in 2005. It was thwarted by forthright discussion between the Chairman of the BBA, the Mayor, Cllr. Roger Frost and attending Borough Officer – so please do not think that battles won cannot be revisited!

Holme Chapel Rd/St. John’s Rd, which passes between St. John’s C of E School and St. John the Divine, Holme Chapel, Cliviger was dedicated by the landowner only to be objected to by a Rambler from down south which necessitated an Inquiry, likewise, Foxstones Lane, (always thought that was open did you? clearly an ancient highway but No Throughway until claimed), Limersgate, (Rochdale to Clitheroe) still requires research through Burnley, although Cliviger to Rochdale is ridable and part of the Cliviger Gorge Circuit.

There are, of course, those that have worked with and continue to work with us. Heartfelt thanks to them. Willing Wham – through the Windfarm, dedicated by the landowner just before the first windmills were put up in 1991. Scholey Head Lane – open through the co-operation of the landowner. The route alongside the railway at the Mosely Rd Crossing – agreed with the Borough Council. The track around the Reclaimed Land, Rowley Forest Park, the Padiham & Brun Valley Greenways – collaborations with the County and Borough Councils.

And finally the National Trail, The Pennine Bridleway/Mary Towneley Loop. Brainchild of one of our own, Mary, Lady Towneley MBE. Inspired by the Burnley landscape, 2 years in research, 25yrs negotiating the corridors of power. One of our major but much underestimated natural assets.

Burnley riders inject a cool £9million into the local economy but are still only able to access 10% of the estimated 400 miles of public rights of way within the Borough – Likewise we cannot afford to be complacent as there are notable losses where ridden routes have been closed due to changes in ownership or due to the lack of maintenance.

In January 2026 the CRoW Act ‘Cut Off’ will come into effect.



Bridleways are not only open to horse riders, they are for cyclist and walkers. Bridleways are inclusive & cost effective, they power equestrian diversification and a growing horse economy. They allow people to recreate together, they keep people active and outside, they encourage adventure, co-operation and broaden horizons. A disabled or physically impaired rider is the equal of any other user when mounted within the landscape. We cannot rest on our laurels – there’s a world of ways that should be open to us out there

And so I invite you to join the Burnley Bridleway Association, whether on hoof, foot or cycle and help us, help you enjoy the urban and rural enchantment of Burnley by funding research and repair to unwrap the historic secrets and set you exploring the spectacular landscape of our Borough.

Equestrian Access Factoids

  • If walkers can access 100% of the, approximately 400 miles of Statutory Rights of Way within the Borough, riders have legal access to only 40 miles, 10% of the network, in Rossendale of 404 miles riders have statutory access to only 7%, it’s even less at 6% in Pendle.
  • There are an estimated 2000 horses within the borough of Burnley with an average spend of £4,500/an = a WHOPPING £9,000,000 – That’s a massive input from a single recreational activity into the local economy.
  • The Pennine Bridleway was the brain child of Mary, Lady Towneley and planned and researched from her home in Cliviger. The Mary Towneley Loop, named in her memory, is 47 miles long, passes through Calderdale, Gt. Manchester, Rossendale and Burnley,  and sits in the middle of the 250 mile arterial route that runs from Derbyshire in the south to the Fat Lamb, Cumbria, in the North.
  • The original Pennine Bridleway route took 2 years to plan, 2 weeks to ride and 25 years to negotiate the corridors of power and implement on the ground.
  • At 250 miles the Pennine Bridleway is the only National Trail open to all users on foot, hoof or bicycle and the Northern Extension into Northumberland has yet to be taken forward.
  • 70% of riders are women and half of those are over 50.
  • January 1st 2026 – The Cut Off Date for historic claims. Help us make sure we claim all the miles due to us by joining the BBA TODAY

Subscriptions go towards research and projects which enable riders to make the most of their chosen recreational sport in our Borough.