The Forest of Dean Greenway, a recently completed unique 55 mile route for riders, cyclists and walkers together with the lady who was the driving force behind the project were recognised by the British Horse Society during a presentation of a prestigious Access Achievement Award.
Mark Weston, BHS Director of Access, visited the forest at the beginning of January to present the award in person to Jenny Carling, the leading light behind the project and Chair of the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Horse Riders and Carriage Drivers Association since 2005. Jenny, together with a small group of local horse riding and carriage driving enthusiasts, engaged with Gloucestershire County Council, the Forestry Commission and other agencies to explore how local riders could obtain better access to Gloucestershire’s fragmented network of bridleways and other off-road tracks suitable for horse riding and other leisure users.
After successfully obtaining funding of £17,000 from the Forest of Dean Local Action Group for a feasibility study and, after intensive research and consultation, with the support of a small committee she personally supervised and managed further fundraising applications leading to successful funding of £75,950 from the Local Action Group and £15,000 from the Gloucestershire Environmental Trust. This was a phenomenal achievement for a small band of unpaid volunteers and has been the only Greenway in the UK that has been funded by such a group as every other route has been created by either a local authority or a charity with a paid-for and fully supported executive team in place. Jenny recalled the years of working with the project ‘At the beginning it all seemed so simple, but the reality of bringing this project to fruition was so different. I am so pleased that the committee stuck with it and the outcome has been so terriffic.’
Throughout the time period 2005-2012 Jenny worked with the team of unpaid horse riding and carriage driving enthusiasts which included main committee members Erica Rye, Maggie Saunders, Kay Sellwood, Tina Minister and Nikki Moore. The Association contracted Philip Cooke as Project Manager in 2010, whose help, advice, patience and work in forging partnerships with local landowners and the Forestry Commission were crucial to the successful culmination of the Greenway which was officially opened in September 2013. Without Jenny’s involvement, commitment, endurance and negotiating skills throughout these eight years, the Forest of Dean Greenways project, as it became to be titled, would simply not have happened. As Mark Weston stated during the presentation ‘ The efforts of Jenny and her team have resulted in a lasting legacy for not only today’s riders and carriage drivers but for future generations in the Forest of Dean. The British Horse Society was thrilled to present her with this Achievement Award’
Although Jenny has now stood down as chairman, the group, now known as the Forest of Dean Greenway Association is working on a new multi user trail to extend the Greenway across the Forest eventually to connect with trails in Monmouthshire. New Chair Nikki Moore is excited about taking the new plans forward. ‘Jenny’s boots are giant ones to fill but we have a dedicated team working really hard to fulfil our new objectives. As before we are looking to the support of the riders and carriage drivers in the Forest of Dean, we have done so much with so few, think what we could do with many, many more members.’