A HORSE RIDING protest in Newport today showed how dangerous the current route they have to ride is – now that the woods has been blocked off.

A group of 15 riders set off from Park Farm livery yard in Newport and rode along the lanes to the front of Mescoed Mawr Woods.

South Wales Argus: Horse riders on a protest ride at their access to Mescoed Mawr woods in Rogerstone being blocked off

For decades, the riders have been using the woods as a safe place to ride their horses, with two entrances to the woods close to the starting point. However, these areas have been closed off by Natural Resources Wales in a bid to combat fly-tipping in the woods.

Tasha, the spokeswoman for the group, said they understand this concern from Natural Resources Wales, but that it is creating more danger for them. “The fly-tipping is a big issue, but by blocking it off, it is causing danger to us as we are now having to use the busy lanes to ride.

South Wales Argus: Horse riders on a protest ride at their access to Mescoed Mawr woods in Rogerstone being blocked off

“Our youngest member is just three years old. That is not a place you want a three-year-old.

“This is not just us wanting a right of way to the woods and saying they are our woods, we just want to be able to use the woods. The only access is a pedestrian access now, but there are no signs saying we cannot use it.

“Are we going to have to wait for a death before something is done?”

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The danger was evident during the protest – despite the fact that it was, by the riders admissions, a quiet day on the road. There was a car at the front and rear of the group to keep the riders safe from other cars, and while the cars coming in the opposite direction of the group were patient and understanding, the same could not be said for the majority of the cars following behind.

South Wales Argus: An access to Mescoed Mawr woods in Rogerstone that horseriders used but is now blocked off

A number of those cars overtook the rear car and those walking behind the horses, cutting in front of the walkers and behind the horses, despite being told there were horses in front.

On the approach to the area where the riders would usually take the horses, there are now barriers across the access routes and the lane narrows, making it more dangerous for them to continue via the lanes.

South Wales Argus: One of the access routes that horseriders would use to get into Mescoed Mawr woods in Rogerstone which has now been blocked off

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Another worrying incident came after the horses stopped at the pedestrian entrance to the woods, which is a safe place to stop due to the barriers preventing access for cars. Following a few minutes of congregation here, the riders began to make their way back, with some heading up a lane nearby. As the remaining riders began to make their way back to the road, a red car came speeding down the lane, luckily the riders and driver stopped so a collision was avoided – but it only goes to further show how dangerous their current route is. This would have been avoided if they were able to ride through the woods rather than around.

Some of the horses also seemed nervous of the parked cars, but the expert control of the riders allowed them to pass safely.

South Wales Argus: Horse riders on a protest ride at their access to Mescoed Mawr woods in Rogerstone being blocked off

Peter Cloke, Land Management Team Leader from Natural Resources Wales said: “In recent years we’ve been in touch with the British Horse Society and Newport City Council about local horse riders wishing to access the forest block. We’ve never had an objection to this request and have previously advised the group to seek the necessary footpath status change or permitted route request required from Newport City Council.

“In the meantime, we’ve had to take action to prevent anti-social behaviour on the site following an increase in fly-tipping and illegal off-road vehicles using the woodland. This has involved installing new fencing around our boundary and gates to restrict unauthorised vehicle access.

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve had to take these measures, which may have affected access to horse riders, but we have to prioritise the safety of other forest users. If local horse riders still wish to establish a formal bridleway through the forest, we again urge them to consult Newport City Council on this matter.”