Tourism boom beckons as new bridleway links country parks

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A new horse route opening up miles of safe riding paths through woodlands in South Wales could pave the way for an equestrian tourism boom in the area.

The route is about 14 miles (23km) long and links up Dare Valley Country Park, near Aberdare, with Barry Sidings Country Park, north of Pontypridd.

The route, which meanders through St Gwynno and Gelliwion Forests, should be open by next month (March) and has been hailed by horse riders as a “huge bonus” which could bring important economic benefits to the Rhondda Cynon Taff area.

The project is being delivered by Groundwork Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff in partnership with Forestry Commission Wales and Briars Bridleways, a group of horse riders set up in 2007 in the Cynon Valley to campaign for safe off-road riding facilities.

It is funded by the Heads of the Valleys Programme and is supported by the British Horse Society and the Open Spaces Society.

The route supports Forestry Commission Wales’s commitment to improve equestrian access and increase the provision of safe off-road horse riding, as well as bringing economic benefits to the area.

Briars Bridleways will carry out annual inspections of the trail and is hoping to organise regular events along the route, which also links in with walking and cycling trails and joins existing bridleways.

Forestry Commission Wales has entered into a management agreement with Groundwork Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff to maintain the route, most of which is over Welsh Government land.

Groundwork Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff started work this month to upgrade sections of the route and install horse-friendly barriers, along with waymarking.

Stephanie Davies, chairperson of Briars Bridleways, said, "This new horse route is a huge bonus to horse riders in RCT and will hugely increase the amount of safe off-road access to the fantastic countryside here.

“We hope the route will also encourage equestrian tourism and will be of benefit to walkers and cyclists alike.

“Briars Bridleways and the British Horse Society owe a huge thanks to Forestry Commission Wales and Groundwork Merthyr RCT for their help and support in developing the route."

Richard Phipps, Groundwork Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff Places Co-ordinator, said, “This important route is a step forward in reaching the objectives of Briars Bridleways, the British Horse Society and local riders to promote safe off-road facilities for horse riders in Rhondda Cynon Taff.

“It builds on the Loop and Links trails concept launched by Groundwork Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff in 2005 and will improve access to large parts of Rhondda Cynon Taff.”

A leaflet and map should be available in March from Groundwork Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff via the website , Briars Bridleways and at local tourist information centres.

Caption: Members of Briars Bridleways try out the new route which could give Rhondda Cynon Taff an important equestrian tourism boost.


A total of 14.3 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Government.

Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.

For more information on recreation in St Gwynno and Gelliwion Forests, contact Forestry Commission Wales Community Ranger Mike James on 0300 068 0225, mobile 07825 843253.

More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on

Visit News at FCWales for news, images, press office contact details and links to case studies.

Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email