Hack writer

Hack writer

About this blog

This blog records occasional comments affecting hack riders' use of Epsom and Walton Downs, including reports from meetings of the Conservators and the Consultative Committee. See the downs web page for more information about riding on the downs.

Meeting, 9 July 2012

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 10 Jul, 2012 07:12:11

The previous minutes were approved without comment. Apologies from Nick Harrison and Andrew Cooper.

Constitution: a constitution of the consultative committee was turned up from 1991, and it seemed that the chairman could invite along anyone who had an interest in the committee’s business. However, the constitution was circulated only at the meeting itself, so it was a bit hard to pursue questions arising.

Fill for the Tattenham Straight works: this was now intended to be sourced either from the Human Resources block of the racecouse near the old paddock, or from a site in Guildford. Work would commence on 3 September.

Carriage driving on Walton Road: still no response from Surrey Highways. It is said to be a question of whether the width of the highway is unlawfully restricted. They will try the Surrey Portfolio Holder if no response is received from officers within a month.

Events: organiser’s bond for clearing up: we asked what had happened to this idea, which sought to ensure that organisers of a major event would deposit a bond to guarantee satisfactory clear-up after the event. It was reported that the last meeting of the conservators had agreed charging for events, including a bond, which would come into effect for full applications after October 2012. All regular event organisers would be written to, and the intention was to solicit a full application from the organisers of the Race for Life. Charging would be mandatory, and done by the council on behalf of the conservators. The clerk agreed to check on powers of the conservators to charge.

Tarred sealed surface to Walton Road on Six Mile Hill: I asked about the conservators’ approval of the so-called improvement of Walton Road. It was agreed that the conservators needed to consider this at the next meeting. But Alex noted that many hack riders would ride either side of the tarred surface, so moving the erosion elsewhere.

Byelaws: DCLG was reported to be still considering the requested confirmation of new byelaws on cycling on the downs.

Future use of Downs House: the clerk noted a continuing legal dispute. The council had achieved an order for possession in the county court, but the order was being taken to appeal. A member said that she hoped there would be continuing equestrian use of the yard. The clerk said that, if vacant possession was achieved, the building would not be left empty, and would be protected. It was implied that there was a firm intention for continued equestrian use.

Dog control: ambition was now limited to a code of conduct to be displayed on site. We asked for the conservators to be willing to consider cases for prosecution: the chairman made the point that it was usually difficult to identify offenders.

Hack sand track: officers had received a risk assessment from specialist contractors, and a report would be made to a future meeting of conservators.

Clear-up after the Derby: we were told that the intention is to pick up glass straight away, and contractors were sent back where necessary. But the fact remains that, every year, glass is ignored by the regular clearing-up team.

Signage on the downs: it was reported that of the seven introductory road signs on the downs, one was missing, and four were damaged. In view of the Queen’s jubilee visit, it seemed that the county council had restored all of the signs. However, signage appeared to be proliferating, with no regard for need, appearance or location. The byelaws signs were often illegible or defaced. A discussion followed.

Unfortunately, I and Alex had to leave at this point for other engagements, but the minutes of the consultative committee will be available shortly and fill in the remainder of the agenda.

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Meeting, 31 October 2011

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 01 Nov, 2011 07:19:24

A meeting which was almost entirely dominated by issues raised by horse riders' representatives, but even then lasted only 50 minutes. Oddly, despite a good turn out for the meeting, hardly a word was spoken by any other representative.

Bridleway 146: we reiterated that a traffic regulation order could be made to control cycling on the ‘horse margin’ adjacent to Langley Vale Road (a point we've made before).

TGMB hatched area: no change in position on use of hatched area. We pressed for disclosure of the criteria which will permit (or not permit) use and asked the chairman to press for an answer. The racecourse said that the eastern area suffered from rabbit damage etc and the physical ground conditions were unsuitable; the western area was maintained for use as training grounds: the TGMB’s view was that opening this area would lead to uncontrolled use and conceded that the condition of the hack sand track was critical to maintaining the hack rider facilities in good condition. We asked whether there was any possibility of maintainance of the eastern end of the hatched area? The TGMB believed it was not responsible for maintenance, but the downskeepers agreed to review what would be required, including taking account of the offer of rabbit control by a third party.

Training restrictions: the TGMB had called for greater enforcement of regulations on horses in training, which had lapsed in recent years: these covered access to the gallops, gallops in use, speeds. Horses had been straying onto the grass, for example, in place of using surfaced tracks. The TGMB will re-issue the regulations and seek to police them more actively.

We also asked for a proper balance between policing use of the gallops by hack riders, and ensuring hack riders’ safety by enforcing rules on kite flying, dogs, cycling etc. Just because the TGMB had asked for more patrols of the gallops during the afternoon should not divert resources from other legitimate enforcement duties.

Works to Tattenham Straight: there will be a display of racecourse plans for the Tattenham Straight at the Grand Stand, 1530-1930 Monday 7 November.

Ebbisham Lane: we asked why the board, at its discussion on 17 October, had failed to acknowledge the potential savings which would accrue from eliminating the need for double handling of materials delivered to the hack sand in the event of reinstatement works, by ensuring that Ebbisham Lane is kept in good repair. Those savings had not yet been identified, but a report to a previous board meeting had identified the costs as a significant element in the total costs of reinstatement. We said we were puzzled that the point had not been considered by the board. The clerk said the board had had my comments before it at the last meeting, but neither clerk nor chairman could explain why they weren't pushing an approach which would save them money. Unless of course they don't think that the plans for reinstatment of the hack sand track have a hope in hell of being approved.

Walton Road: I asked what provision would be made to ensure that carriage drivers could use Walton Road across the downs, given that it is currently obstructed by various barriers. Since there was some lingering uncertainty about whether the traffic regulation order on the Walton Road did permit carriage driving, I agreed to forward a copy of it to the clerk when it was received by me from the traffic authority, Surrey County Council, who will then provide advice.

Events maps: We asked for a map of the routes to be used by events to be published on the downs website alongside the calendar, so that riders could ensure they would avoid those routes. It was agreed that officers would seek to do this.

Next meetings: 9 July 2012 and 8 November 2012 at 1800.

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Meeting, 4 July 2011

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 05 Jul, 2011 21:59:27
Ebbisham Lane: The cyclists representative observed that the board at a recent meeting had duly received the clerk’s report on the procedure for serving notice on the highway authority, but had not had any opportunity for discussion on the procedure, and the chairman very reluctantly accepted that a future board would be asked for its views. (Ed: it will be interesting to see how much latitude the board is given: the chairman’s antipathy was all too apparent.)

Dog control orders: The chairman said that the difficulty of enforcing dog control orders was key: education was important with better behaviour needed from dog owners. Officers had been working hard to achieve results at Nonsuch Park. After several members expressed concern about dog control, the clerk agreed to convey the committee’s views to officers about dog control on the downs. I suggested that some form of byelaw or dog control order was necessary as a longstop to deal with egregious behaviour, even if prosecution was unlikely to occur. However, the clerk noted that byelaw 22b dealt with out-of-control dogs, and that enforcement was the issue.

Chestnut paling fencing: Commented on the chestnut paling fencing going up a fortnight before the event: the racecourse said the fencing set out a footprint for the festival, and was therefore needed as the first step in marking out the downs. However, my point that the fencing stood in splendid isolation on the downs over the bank holiday weekend, serving no purpose at all, was side-stepped.

Authorisation of early fencing: the chairman said that the clerk stood by her advice, that the board could authorise something which the 1984 Act clearly does not permit it to do (Ed: notwithstanding its absurdity). No debate. (Ed: So it’s official. The conservators and the racecourse don’t consider themselves bound to operate within the terms of the 1984 Act, so why should anyone else?)

Clean-up of the downs after the Derby: it was recognised that glass had again been left behind, and I asked why the contractors were not required to deal with it. The racecourse said that broken glass was difficult to identify, and was sometimes missed. The contractors were keen to learn from feedback. (Ed: same story every year.)

Hack sand track: Full reinstatement would be very expensive, but would be considered at a future board meeting. Alex noted that even the current maintenance programme was inadequate, and that even if nothing could be done towards reinstatement, the track should be kept safe and convenient to use. It was unacceptable to persist with the current arrangements. The head downskeeper said he had acquired a harrow with the intention of harrowing once or twice a week. Integration of council operations with the downskeepers would also assist in maintaining a more effective programme of maintenance.

Hack rider misbehaviour: Simon Dow’s report, previously not disclosed, referred to riding along the top of Six Mile Hill between the Polytrack and the woods. We said that this area needed better signposting, and proposed better markers at each end of the part which is not a hack ride. We agreed that we would inform other hack riders of the concerns expressed by the trainers regarding encroachment on this area and request them not to do so through the website. Done.

Hatched area: we asked the chairman to ask the TGMB to respond to the questions about what conditions would permit use of the hatched area. She agreed, but said she had little influence. (Ed: odd that, you’d think the chairman of the conservators would have considerable influence. Perhaps she meant that she did not wish to wield it.)

Cycling on the downs: Epsom cyclists had asked for the hack ride along the south side of Juniper Hill to be authorised for cycling. We said this request had been made and refused twice in the past, on the grounds that the path was narrow and suffered from poor visibility. The clerk agreed there had been a lengthy debate on authorised cycleways, but it was a matter for the board to decide whether it wanted to review the matter. It was agreed to refer the matter back to the board, notwithstanding that there was no evidence that there had been any unfairness in past consideration. It could be a candidate for the downs tour.

Date of downs tour: 5 September 2011 at 1730.

Date of next consultative committee meeting: 31 October 2011 at 1800.

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Meeting, 1 November 2010

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 03 Nov, 2010 21:45:32
Ebbisham Lane: the clerk reiterated that, following a meeting, the county council were adamant that maintenance would be only as a bridleway, notwithstanding the current status. Apologies from the clerk for failing to follow up the undertaking to look into the possibility of a notice of repair, which would therefore be discussed at the next meeting of the board.

Horse margin, Langley Vale Road: we suggested that the horse margin could be subject to a traffic regulation order restricting cycling, perhaps only during the training hours in the morning. The CTC put the case for allowing continuing use by cyclists, and suggested signing the top end of the margin of the need to look out for horses when descending. The preference was for new signage to warn of the danger, and to follow up with further measures if that was unsuccessful.

Hack ride through Warren Woodland: work is now programmed to begin this winter, to open up the lost hack ride from Old London Road through the Warren woodland to terminate near Grosvenor Road.

Epsom Live! concerts: further discussion about the disruption arising from some of the post-racing concerts.

Hack sand track: three quotes were to be obtained to upgrade the sand track, of which one had been received in the order of £15-20k: this was to relay sand and add four additional areas of drainage. Alex noted that the current situation was being managed, which was welcome, and looked forward to developments.

Hatched area: the board had merely noted a report on the origin of the hatched area designation, agreeing continuing maintenance in accordance with the management plan, which would never achieve a return to favourable condition suitable for hack riding (which, of course, was the point). We asked why hack riders could not use that part of the area currently in use for winter training, since conditions obviously permitted, and what changes would be required to the management of the remainder of the hatched area to secure favourable conditions: the racecourse representative didn't have an answer to this, and we agreed to write with these questions to be put (again) to the TGMB.

Cycling byelaw: we adopted the trainers' representative's suggestion that a further byelaw should provide that: "Any person who rides a cycle on the Downs shall give way to persons on horseback and pedestrians." The cyclists representative thought this would be unsatisfactory and downs users should be trusted. It was suggested that the rules should be consistent between public bridleways (where this was already a requirement, under the Countryside Act 1968) and the authorised routes. The chairman was concerned about delay to the new byelaw, but agreed to put the proposal to the next meeting.

Noticeboards: we suggested the need for further debate on the style and content of the maps which will be displayed on the downs to replace the existing byelaw noticeboards. A proposal was made that the boards should also be double-sided. It was agreed there would be further consultation before a decision was taken.

Date of next meeting: 4 July 2011.

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Meeting, 12 July 2010

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 12 Jul, 2010 22:13:47
Ebbisham Lane: in the face of continuing unwillingness by Surrey CC to do any meaningful repairs, I suggested the conservators consider service of a repair notice.

Dog control: Epsom and Ewell borough council is exploring introducing dog control orders, but is concerned about enforcement.

Post-Derby clean-up: plea for contractors to have planned arrangements for clearing up glass after the event, which is problematic every year (noted by Rupert Trevelyan). It was agreed to clarify the downskeepers’ powers to enforce byelaws on racing evenings.

Race for Life: complaints about the organisers not ensuring a full clean-up after the event, nor arranging for recycling. It’s planned that a deposit will be taken from organisers of future major events, so that all or part can be withheld in similar circumstances.

Additional horse route across Warren Woods: asked why this new path, apparently for the trainers’ benefit, was being cleared by the downskeepers, rather than the training grounds team. Was told that it was also a matter of public safety. But really, the point had not been raised, and the downskeepers just ended up getting the short straw because no-one thought to ask.

Calendar of events: agreed to put this on the council's website, in order to minimise conflict between users.

Map of the downs: a planned comprehensive map of the downs was circulated for comment. This is intended to replace those currently shown on the byelaw boards. Unfortunately, the map is intended both to provide legal information and to be informative, but at present, it doesn’t quite do either. We agreed to provide further comments subsequently, within the next three weeks. It was suggested that each display should have a ‘you are here’ marker.

Cycle routes: cyclists’ representative John Bird offered to meet with horse riders’ representatives to agree a plan of cycling routes on the downs.

Habitat Management Plan: we asked about the extension of the plan to cover the golf course. Surrey Wildlife Trust had conducted surveys of invertebrates, flora and fauna, which were likely to be repeated later in the year, with a report due in October.

Closure of subway: Rupert Trevelyan confirmed that the subway would be closed only in response to a police direction, and not simply in response to vague concerns about 'health & safety'.

Lonsdale enclosure: comments were made about the appearance of the fencing, which must be approved by the conservators, but Rupert Trevelyan said that the fencing was owned by the racecourse, had been approved for many years, and would be very costly to replace. Since the conservators' consent cannot be 'unreasonably withheld', that probably means that we'll have to put up with it for the forseeable future.

Marking hack rides: it was thought that afternoon rides (marked with yellow) were being confused with public footpaths (also yellow), and the aim was to adopt a new colour for the former, although no decision had yet been taken.

Sand track: a report had been commissioned on the cost of full reinstatement of the sand track at the foot of Six Mile Hill, upon which the conservators would be able to make a decision. Maintenance had fallen behind recently, which Bob Harding attributed to the demands of the Derby and other racing days, but Alex Stewart said that after reinstatement, the sand track would need regular maintenance if any investment was not to be wasted.

Hatched area: the TGMB does not consider that it has responsibility to deliver the conditions necessary to enable hack riders’ use (whatever those conditions may be: no-one has ever said). Alex suggested that the conservators needed to decide who had responsibility, and what actions should be taken.

Date of next meeting: 1st November 2010

Date of consultative committee downs tour: 23rd August 2010, meeting in racecourse car park

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Meeting, 3 November 2009

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 03 Nov, 2009 21:03:57

Ebbisham Lane: Steve Williamson, Surrey area highways manager, reports that the county does not recognise this road as a route open to vehicles and aims to reclassify it as a bridleway (for which purpose, it would need to apply to the magistrates' court). He says that a small programme of tree management has been carried out, and the worst potholes are repaired, that a continuing breakdown of the asphalt can be expected, and that it is maintained as passable for cyclists, horse riders and walkers. The committee agreed that this policy amounted to neglect, that the surface was convenient neither for cyclists nor riders, and asked the conservators to take a view and raise the matter with the highway authority.

Hack sand track: officers are still in discussion with Andrew Cooper, secretary of the Training Grounds Management Board, about responsibility for maintenance.

Byelaw boards: £7,500 has been approved to be spent on 27 byelaw boards, the money coming from "section 106" funds arising out of the new hotel on the downs. Designs for the boards will be presented to the consultative committee next year.

Onwards rides from the downs: there had been a misunderstanding about what was sought, and it was agreed that there should be further discussion about opportunities for hack riders to use the equestrian crossing at Tattenham Corner, particularly since one option is entirely within the control of the conservators.

Dog control: officers are working with Elmbridge Borough Council, which has introduced dog control orders, and are exploring this possibility further. Strong emphasis on education of dog walkers, since legal measures tend to be ineffective on their own.

Metal detecting: the designated areas for metal detecting are essentially coincident with the hack rides and areas: we expressed concern that the decision was made on areas open to metal detecting without consideration of effect on particular downs users (i.e. hack riders). Agreed (I think) that impact on downs users needs to be considered when making policy decisions.

Byelaws: a byelaw is proposed to control cycling, but would allow cycling on 'designated routes'. It was agreed to consider further what routes should be designated for cycling, since the new byelaw would be unenforceable if it’s not clear where cyclists can legitimately go. Designated routes would certainly include public bridleways and roads, but what about the cycle route from Rifle Butts Alley to the tea hut roundabout?

Event management strategy: asked for the impact of events on particular downs users, and whether event will exclude access for other users, to be considered in the screening report.

Habitat Management Plan for golf course: plans are definitely in hand for the long-awaited update to cover management of the golf course lands, but it won’t start until April 2010 when funds are available, and should be concluded by October.

Downs strategy: agreed to review action plan, and consider strategy when providing advice to the conservators.

Date of next meeting: 26th July 2010 at 1800.

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Meeting, 7 July 2009

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 13 Jul, 2009 21:20:42

David Smith, former chief executive of the council and ex officio clerk to the conservators, will retire shortly, and not return to the council after a prolonged absence owing to ill health. From David’s point of view, it’s surely the right decision. Best wishes to David in his retirement, and our thanks for his tremendous help over the years, and his readiness to listen to hack riders’ views.

Leaflet for hack riders: the final version of this is still not resolved, and the version which appears (well hidden) on the council's website remains somewhat unsatisfactory.

Events on the downs: there will be two windows of opportunity to apply for approval of events each year, but the number of events will be limited in number. The criteria will be addressed in a paper to be taken by the 28th July meeting of conservators. The conservators are contemplating charging for cleaning up after events (thanks to the rubbish left after this year's Race for Life): I asked for refundable deposits to be considered, to avoid an adverse impact on small events.

Ebbisham Lane: the continuing poor state of the road will be raised with Surrey county council's new local highway engineer. The council has done no maintenance on the road for years.

Sand track: claimed to be harrowed once a week, but it had been neglected during the Derby season. Investigating machinery to pick flints. There's a willingness to top up the sand, but structural problems need to be resolved before this is done.

Byelaw boards: funding for these is unlikely to be resolved until at least September, and until then, officers are unwilling to commit to the style and content. I asked if they could work up some designs to minimise delay once funding was confirmed later this year.

Enforcement of byelaws: two new downskeepers are being recruited, after which the rotas will be reviewed in consultation with staff: they plan to present options for better enforcement of byelaws on Sunday afternoons to the next but one conservators’ meeting (even though they promised at the meeting exactly a year ago to do just that). Agreed to consider scope to make byelaw to control cycling on the downs, since the conservators have already agreed to amend the byelaws to deal with radio-controlled (model) cars.

Concert: no (pay for entry) concert is likely to take place for the next two or three years, owing (it was said) to the recession.

Dog control: Epsom and Ewell council is working with other Surrey boroughs to develop a county-wide strategy on dog control, with a small number of essential messages to be put across to dog owners. They will consider whether a dog control order is needed for the downs, to enforce a requirement for dogs on leads. Will be considered further at 28th July conservators’ meeting. Meanwhile, downskeepers’ vehicles are now equipped with cameras, microphones and trackers, to record incidents and provide greater protection for staff dealing with them.

Metal detecting: officers will send a revised map showing the areas authorised at for metal detecting (which we suspect coincide almost exactly with the hack areas), and say they will take seriously any concerns expressed in response.

Hatched area: We had asked the secretary to the Training Grounds Management Board, Andrew Cooper, how conditions had changed since the concessionary use of the hatched area was negotiated in 1984? No-one could recall that far back (pity David Smith has left), although Andrew goes back to 1993. The rough area east of Walton Road was described as being in as bad physical condition as it ever has been, and unfit for use. The area west of Walton Road is maintained by grounds staff and used for racehorse training in winter: the TGMB’s view is that use by hack riders would make it unfit for training use — but that's putting the cart before the horse.

We had also asked what conditions would now permit such use? Andrew avoided answering this question, but Simon Dow said he would be happy to adopt clear criteria for determining whether the hatched area should be available for use.

And we asked who was responsible for maintaining the area to secure conditions fit for use? The TGMB said they were not responsible for maintaining the east area — that was for the downskeepers, who were responsible for cutting the area under the Habitat Management Plan.

The TGMB had met that very morning and reaffirmed its position.

In a continuing discussion a little later, the chairman (and chairman of the conservators) Jean Smith said that the “purpose of the 1984 Act is the preservation of the racing industry”. That is doubtless her view, and it explains why the conservators act as a rubber stamp for the racecourse, but it's clearly not the purpose of the Act, which appoints the conservators to "preserve the Downs so far as possible in their natural state of beauty". Maintaining a successful industry is certainly a proper economic objective for the council, but it's not why the council tax payers of Epsom fund the conservators to the tune of nearly £200k per annum.

Date of next meeting: 3 November 2009

Date of downs tour: 24 August 2009

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Meeting, 18 November 2008

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 22 Nov, 2008 08:49:44
A rather frosty meeting, overshadowed by the absence of the long-time clerk to the conservators, David Smith, who is ill in hospital.

Hack riders' leaflet: this is the last of a series of leaflets for downs users to be agreed, and all of them should be published soon on the council's website. The hack riders' leaflet will include a new map of the hack rides and areas on the downs, and should be easier to read than the present one.

Rides on Juniper Hill: lots more work has been done by the downskeepers to open up long-blocked rides on Juniper Hill. Following on from the opening of the north-south ride late in the summer, the east-west ride has also been opened up, which strikes out west from 'bridleway 65' and heads across the hill to emerge on the grassland on the crest of the hill, with views across to Six Mile Hill. Both these rides will be marked with posts in the near future. Opening up the east-west ride is expected to deliver nature conservation benefits too, reversing some of the scrub encroachment which had been threatening the grassland. Our thanks to the downskeepers for their hard work on this.

Race for Life: this fund-raising event will take place next year on 28 June 2009. The chairman confirmed that the event represents 'a significant degree of interference with the rights of the public of access for air and exercise' (as described in the proviso to section 10(2) of the 1984 Act), meaning that the concert can now only significantly interfere with public access on just four days. That will be a challenge: after all, the concerts will take place on two days, leaving just two days for assembly and disassembly to the extent that what remains no longer constitutes a significant interference.

Concert: we gave one month's notice of some legal questions about the board of conservators' powers to authorise the concerts, but even so, the chairman was unable to provide any answers, and batted them over to Andrew Cooper from the racecourse. He sensibly sent them straight back, pointing out that questions about the conservators' own powers were for the conservators, not the racecourse. So we'll have another go, in correspondence.

Bridleway 65 diversion: Andrew also agreed that the gap at the northern end of the diversion looked a bit narrow, and will see what adjustments can be made. The downskeepers will re-erect the 'racehorses only' sign in a more sensible location, and Andrew is to consider whether a baffle is needed to stop horses in training escaping through the gaps out on to Epsom Lane North.

The hatched area: the chairman reported that the Training Grounds Management Board (TGMB) had met on September 8, when it was 'their unanimous view that the Hatched Ground should not be used for riding after noon, due to concerns over its current conditions and because such opening up would prejudice the maintenance and use of the training gallops'. So we've asked the TGMB to tell us:
* how conditions have changed since the agreement in 1984 that the hatched area should be used by hack riders 'when conditions permit';
* what conditions would allow such use;
* who is responsible for maintaining the area to enable conditions fit for use?
After all, the 1984 agreement was surely given in good faith, in anticipation that the hatched area would be fit for use at least some of the time. Yet, oddly, it never has been. Andrew admitted that some of the hatched area would be used for training over the winter: odd, really, that it's fit for training purposes, but not for hacking?

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Tour, 21 August 2008

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 02 Oct, 2008 22:01:12

Juniper Hill: The tour visited Juniper Hill, partly to look at the hack rides: the centre hack north-south ride has been much improved thanks to the efforts of the downskeepers, but the east-west hack ride remains inaccessible for the time being. It turned out that some members of the committee had never ventured onto Juniper Hill, and Nick Owen, the nature conservation adviser to the Conservators, took the opportunity to show how much promise this area has as a relic of unimproved downland. But good management calls for regular scrub clearance, and there was a consensus that opening up the east-west hack ride would be good for biodiversity as well as riders.

Blog Image

Photo: the consultative committee on Juniper Hill

The tour also looked at the sand track, along the bottom of Six Mile Hill, which remains in need of maintenance at its extreme eastern end, and in the vicinity of Nohome Farm at its western end.

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Meeting, 7 July 2008

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 02 Oct, 2008 21:58:53

The hatched area: We asked the chairman for feedback from the special meeting of the Training Grounds Management Board on 22 April, which apparently was dedicated to discussing use of the hatched area. All the chairman could say, tight-lipped, was that no conclusion was reached. Pressed to say what might have been discussed, she added that further legal advice was being sought. So, it seems that the TGMB is wriggling hard to avoid reaching any decision that might involve re-opening the hatched area to hack riders, and is reconsidering its legal room for manoeuvre.

Habitat action plan: We commented that the plan makes no provision for maintenance of the downs north of Grand Stand Road, and ignores the public rights of access to the downs on foot and on horseback. The plan will be taken into account, but not the determining factor, in drawing up a four year action plan for habitat management. The action plan should set out plans to restore to use the various hack rides and areas which are now difficult or impossible to use because of scrub encroachment

Hack riders' leaflet: This is close to publication, and will be a substantial improvement on the present one.

Events on the downs: We obtained a commitment to look at better ways of publicising events which take place on the downs, and which might interfere with riding: for example, the Cancer Research Race for Life was held on 29 June, but there was little advance warning to hack riders of the event, and plenty of tape fluttering in the wind on the day, enough to make most riders turn round and head home. The conservators will look at better notices (in places where hack riders might see them) and placing details on the website.

Next meeting: the downs tour takes place on 21 August 2008.

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