If you are not that confident with a map, finding new and safe routes to ride can be a challenge. Petra Studholme, a member of the Essex Bridleway Association (EBA), is keen to help more horse riders to explore the countryside and has come up with a way of sharing good routes that will encourage safe riding, away from busy roads.
The EBA works to preserve and maintain existing bridleways, create new ones, restore ancient rights of ways and encourage riders to try new routes. Petra has been using ViewRanger, a GPS mobile mapping app, to plot, track and share her rides and encourage others to use them.
ViewRanger is an easy-to-use off-road GPS which allows users to download a choice of free open source maps or paid-for Ordnance Survey mapping to their smartphone or tablet. Once the map is on the device it can be viewed without an internet connect and your location is visible at all times using GPS.
A colleague of Petra’s introduced her to ViewRanger when he heard that she was riding in unfamiliar places. She first used ViewRanger for a ride in Thetford Forest.
She recalls: “It is easy to lose your bearings in Thetford Forest because there are very few landmarks and every tree looks the same! I think I was the only person on the trip who didn’t get lost. I loved the app so much that day, I have kept using it.”
Now Petra is an active ViewRanger she is using it to plan new routes and share them with friends, family and members of the EBA.
“The EBA organises about 10 rides a year and we look for routes that are about 12-14 miles long, although shorter options are also available. I get a paper map off a friend, plot the route online using myviewranger.com on the computer and then sync it with my smartphone. I can check how long the route is and if it is suitable for the other riders and it is also possible to add notes about meeting places.
“The other way I use the app is to explore an area and track where I’m riding. Afterwards I can upload my route and share it on the EBA Facebook page so others can enjoy the ride too.
“I’ve recently discovered the sports computer setting which tells me how fast I’m going and what my top speed was. It’s amazing to see how fast we actually go!”
One of Petra’s most popular rides goes along to Holme-next-the-Sea / Hunstanton beach in Norfolk, where the EBA organises a three-day short break holiday. Riding on the beach is an amazing experience for both horses and riders. Some horses are apprehensive but others enjoy playing in the waves straight away and have been known to go for a swim.
The ride begins at Courtyard Farm and it is five miles to the beach. Riding on Hunstanton beach – and indeed Holkham beach which is a short drive away and the EBA destination for the third day of the holiday – is permitted 365 days of the year and has miles of flat golden sand (and some patches of rather sticky mud!).
Petra has uploaded this route to ViewRanger and you can find it by searching “beach ride from Courtyard Farm” on the routes tab at my.viewranger.com.
“I always recommend ViewRanger to other riders. Nearly everyone has smart phones so it’s perfect, it just needs someone to prompt riders to download the app.
“Once I show it to people they are really interested and can see how useful it would be. It is so important always to know where you are when you are riding. It really has changed the way we ride.”