What are Bridleways?

Bridleways, Bridlepaths, Green Networks, Greenways.  

These are just a few terms used around the world to describe trails or paths, used by non-motorised traffic.

Bridleways are traditional rights of way in the United Kingdom for all non motorised traffic including horses. They provide a large network for public access in the UK, and are also prevalent across Europe. Bridleways in the UK are shared by horses (including carriages), walkers (and their dogs) and cyclists (since 1967).

In New Zealand, many have a reduced understanding of bridleways as being for horses only, or do not recognise the term at all.

In NZ our old roads started as bridleways or bridlepaths. This is the traditional name for any route that was able to be used by horseback, or by coaches. Sadly, many traditional routes are being restricted, even when the name clearly shows the heritage of the horse. i.e. "Old Coach Road" in Tongariro National Park, or Old Ghost Road (which includes routes such as 'old dray road') not longer allow horses on them.

This is often being done under the under the banner of the New Zealand national cycleways initiative (which is clearly anti-horse in their publications, and either ignorant of, or wilfully biased against admitting the economic benefits of multi-use trails, the heritage of the routes, and the overseas examples of shared trails). Sadly, cyclists on one hand decry the selfish attitudes of NZ drivers on the roads, but then do exactly the same to others when they gain access to funding or backing. 

Visit NZ Horse Network  to learn more about trail sharing and see Many Examples

Do we have bridleways in New Zealand?  

Yes, we do.  

They work well and NZ Horse Network's work in raising the profile of equestrian needs, has seen an increasing number of horse riding areas, and bridleways being built or considered.  As well as formal bridleways, we also have unformed legal roads (sometimes called paper roads), which provide our closest approximation to the UK system of rights-of-way. 

Porterfield Rd bridleway Whitford
Photo:  Porterfield Rd bridleway,  Whitford, Auckland

Public Access in NZ 

 We in NZ do not have a history of traditional rights of way, nor do we have the European or Scottish 'right to roam'.  Even when Queen Victoria ordered that public reserves, and recreation spaces were to be made, New Zealand landowners ignored the order for public access\rights of way. They protected their private land rights even though at the time, much of the land may have been illegally taken from Maori.  

Our only guardian of public access on public land (unformed legal roads, for instance) is the Walking Access Commission ,  however they have no powers of enforcement.   From the name you can see how meek the Government was in even creating such an organisation. Fortunately, they are very proactive in working for all forms of access, including horse riding.

Some Definitions

"Bridlepaths" tend to denote equestrian only paths, but may be shared with walkers, or may be used in the UK interchangeably with "Bridleways".

Green Networks is a newish term simply describing any network of off road routes. It may be a network of footpaths, cyclepaths, bridlepaths and shared paths.

Greenways again in NZ this tends to be used in urban settings to mean walking and cycling only. We have a long way to catch up with the rest of the world! In the UK and elsewhere, Greenways are off road paths for non-motorised traffic that may include parts of the route on quiet roads.

The Pennine Way

[Photo - The Pennine Bridleway, one of the great tourism journeys -  UK]

Trail Sharing - Canada