Horse riding groups campaign against proposed forests sell-off

HORSE riders have been urged to speak out against the Government’s plans to sell off publicly-owned forests in Suffolk.

Three horse riding groups which have joined forces to fight proposals to sell England’s Forestry Commission-owned land highlighted the issue among their members at Kings Forest, just outside Bury St Edmunds, yesterday.

About 50 horse riders from across East Anglia, together with supporters on foot, were there to campaign.

Elizabeth Barrett, chair of Camino Riders, said the potential loss of access to East Anglia’s forests for horse riders was a “very great worry”.

She said: “I think it [the proposal] is very short-sighted and the implications are it’s very unlikely horse riders will be allowed in the forests as we have no statutory rights like walkers.”

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Jan Harber, who is co-ordinating the campaign between Camino Riders, Endurance GB Iceni Group and Anglian Distance Riders, said she was pleased with how many had come in support.

“We really do not want to lose access to Forestry Commission land. It’s just so important, not just in East Anglia, but all over England.”

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She added: “At the moment our access is only concessionary. It was agreed with the British Horse Society and the Forestry Commission 10 or 11 years ago we could have free access.”

She said it was not just for the groups’ members they were carrying out the campaign, but anyone who liked to horse ride in the forests.

The groups feel that horse riding in the forests, which they do regularly, is safer for women on their own and is also less hazardous than being on roads with the traffic.

Dianne Luke, vice chair of Anglian Distance Riders, said: “The bottom line is it’s not the Government’s to sell. It belongs to you and I.”

At yesterday’s event leaflets were being distributed on how riders can speak out about the proposed forests sell-off.

Ellie Head, chair of the Iceni Group, said: “We are just urging them to pile letters high to their MPs to make our voices heard.”

Other forests at risk in Suffolk include Thetford Forest, Rendlesham Forest, Dunwich Forest and Tunstall Forest.

Kings Forest is on the outskirts of Thetford Forest.

* Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey is holding a public meeting to discuss the government’s proposal to sell off forests.

It is being held on Friday, February 11 between 5pm and 6pm at Rendlesham Community Centre, Walnut Tree Avenue, Rendlesham, near Woodbridge.

Dr Coffey said: “It is right to consider who is best placed to own and manage our forests and what role there can be for government, communities, charitable trusts and the private sector.”

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