One of the key elements of the Monday daytime rides is that we seek to use bridleways, byways and quiet country roads, with as much off-road as possible, sometimes over 75% of the route. Most of the bridleways and byways would have been in existence from the time of the enclosures, if not earlier, and were the usual means for farmers and labourers to access fields and villages and for villagers to get to church. They are very irregular in direction and, when converted into roads, give rise to the famous “rolling English roads”. Those that were not made into roads, remain as unsurfaced byways (open to wheeled traffic), bridleways and footpaths. Part of our vision is to seek out and use these routes so that they do not disappear through neglect. Full details of all rights of way can be found on the East Sussex Rights of Way website and on any Ordnance Survey map.
One of the major problems we have experienced is the degradation of these routes. We have found that access to the wide range of routes is being restricted by problems at several, usually narrow, key nodes or pinch points which are difficult to negotiate particularly for less adventurous cyclists, walkers and riders and those with younger families.
The problems seem to be:
All paths get overgrown in summer, most paths get wet and muddy in winter, but a few key places are getting to the point where they are unusable all year and are restricting access to a large network of adequate routes. The main point is that these are small areas that are restricting access to a much greater length of excellent bridleways and byways which could provide exercise and interest to many. It should be possible for remedial action to be taken to remove these problems and improve access to all parts of the network. Another point is that these pinch points force users onto a few easier paths which may, in turn, become overused and suffer erosion.
According to ESCCs Rights of Way Team, it is the landowners’ responsibility to maintain Rights of Way across their land. The Team advise that if you find a problem on a Right of Way, report to them, quoting the number of the route. This can be found from the on-line Rights of Way Map by clicking on the route at full magnification when a drop down box will show the Parish and number of the route, even of each stile and gate.
With traffic on the roads increasing, it is essential that these off-road routes are used and not lost.