ANGRY horse riders turned the sleepy village of Wickham into a stage for mass protest as they took to the streets against the surfacing of recreation trail.
About 150 people marched through the village to oppose Hampshire County Council works on the Meon Valley Trail, which runs along a disused rail line from Knowle to West Meon.
The protest against the £380,000 project was organised by the Save Our Bridleway Meon Valley Railway Line group which says the surface injures horses and is difficult to walk and run on.
Group member Julia Arnold, 54, from Swanmore, said the resurfaced trail was ‘horrible’.
‘We want a softer, dual, surface, not just for equine use, but for children, the disabled, everybody,’ she said.
‘The people here today are just a sample of the support we’ve got. They’re very passionate.’
I’m not able to ride my horse which has given me freedom to roam the countrysideJulia Arnold
Droxford farmer Dan Bower, 57, led the march in a tractor draped with a banner reading: ‘We are hacked off.’
Mr Bower said: ‘We’ve come to make a peaceful point. The council’s decision has opened a real can of worms in terms of access.
‘It’s unfair and there should have been more consultation.’
But the council has so far stood firm.
Executive member for culture, recreation and countryside Councillor Keith Chapman said they had received ‘a great deal’ of positive feedback about the new surface.
Cllr Chapman said: ‘I am pleased to see how the project is opening up the trail to as many people as possible.’
Cllr Chapman said the council proposed making soft verges on the trail along nine sections – a total of 3km – for horseriders.
‘There is a small group of horse riders who have raised concerns about the work being done on the surfacing,’ he said. We have listened to these concerns and are proposing to make some soft verges.’