A day in the life of an Access and Bridleways Officer
3rd December 2023
Hello, my name is Anna Hawkins and I am a Volunteer British Horse Society Access and Bridleways Officer (ABO) for Tunbridge Wells Borough.
In this third blog, I’m going to tell you about a typical day in the life as an ABO. The British Horse Society (BHS, the largest equestrian charity in the UK) has a network of over 400 volunteers working specifically on access in conjunction with a team of paid staff working remotely in their regions with a support team at BHS HQ in Warwickshire.
I volunteer with the BHS because since I was 14 and started on the qualification ladder to become a qualified equestrian coach and rider, the Society has provided me with a backbone of support. It is great to be able to give something back and to help the equestrian community locally. Since my children were born, I have worked flexibly around their schedules in my own business, so volunteering has given me purpose as part of a team that I miss from having a “proper job”.
I try to ring fence Mondays as my volunteering day to move projects along and focus on our goals. Invariably, I do answer emails and think about things on other days but having Mondays as my BHS day works quite well.
So, today is Monday and I’ve dropped my children off at school and then cycled to the library as I find it’s refreshing to work in different places than just at home. If I’m at home all the time I tend to get distracted by household chores and on Mondays my husband works from home in our shared office, so he is the biggest distraction of all! The library has a quiet working space and in the archives there are plenty of old maps and resources to help get my brain going when I need it.
Today, on the agenda is checking in with two estate owners slightly outside of my Borough but within Kent, where I am working with them to improve some gates on bridleways which pass through their land. In both cases, I have built a good working relationship with them and I am hopeful that we will be able to improve the access for equestrians. It can be as simple as changing the way a gate is hung so that it’s more easily openable from horseback or slightly more complex when trying to keep sheep securely in a field while enabling riders to pass easily between fields. Collaborative problem solving is key.
I’m also going to look at the newly released agenda for Planning and Transportation Cabinet Advisory Board meeting as there are findings and recommendations which will affect several areas in our Borough. On first glance, it seems cyclists and pedestrians will be well catered for, however equestrians less so. This is very common with planning policy so I may need to fly the flag more vigorously for the horse riding community.
If I’ve got any time left today I will delve into my maps of the Borough, I’m building a document which highlights paths which would be beneficial to upgrade to bridleway status, to link the local Commons together and also link the bridleways we already have into a continuous circuit. Some may have historically been bridlepaths, in which case, I will start applications to modify them. Otherwise, we will rely on land-owners willingly dedicating paths or planners drawing in new paths when developing land for housing.
I’m hoping to take a break to ride at lunchtime, although it’s so muddy after all the rain we have had I may not be able to get out into the woods easily. The horse I ride on Mondays, Troy, will not mind at all and usually enjoys a carrot and a groom before going back out into his field. Then I’ll go home, get showered and clean before it will be time to collect my children from school.
If you have any thoughts in response to anything I mention, please do get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org