An argument over a bridleway blocked by a Yorkshire farmer has been won by rights-of-way campaigners who discovered documents written more than 200 years ago.
Official papers from 1789 were used by horse riders to prove that a half-mile route across a farmer’s land at Kirkby Malzeard near Ripon was a bridleway.
The route, linking two roads on the edge of the village, was padlocked in January 2002 when riders started using it after the lifting of Foot and Mouth restrictions.
But following a Public Inquiry, a planning inspector has ruled in favour of riders and ordered the route’s reinstatement as a public bridleway.
The decision was welcomed by local horse rider Richard Sadler, who led the campaign which divided villagers. He said: “This is very welcome news. It has taken 13 years to get to this stage and my colleagues and I have spent hundreds of hours going through old maps and archives to prove that this is an ancient bridleway – now we can say it was all worth it.
“With increasing road traffic and more and more horse riders getting killed or injured on the roads it is vital that we hang on to the few off-road routes we’ve got.”
The bridleway was originally blocked by Chris and Ruth Broadley, who bought Kirkby Moor Farm around the time that Foot and Mouth restrictions were introduced in 2000. They claimed the route, called Rosper Road, had never been a public bridleway.
But campaigners discovered a copy of the 1789 Kirkby Malzeard Inclosure Award, describing Rosper Road as “a horse and foot road 20ft in breadth” and ordering landowners to “fix, hang and forever hereafter repair maintain and support good and sufficient gate posts”.
The claim was supported by North Yorkshire County Council whose 2011 order for Rosper Road’s reinstatement was referred to the Planning Inspectorate after objections by the Broadleys.
Mr Broadley, 74, said that when he purchased the house and land there was no mention of a bridleway, only a footpath. The battle has left him “depressed, angry and upset.”
His case was presented by neighbour Philip Holden, who argued the route may have been originally intended as a private road. He said: “They (the Broadleys) have done nothing wrong yet have had something taken off them through no fault of their own.”