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.
WE WILL LOSE ALL HISTORIC RIGHTS OF WAY
NOT ALREADY SUBMITTED AS A CLAIM
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.