FOR several years Farnham resident Richard Greaves has had an ongoing battle with members of the council over the damage caused at Frensham Little Pond by horse riders.

He claims that many miles of bridle paths around the area were previously signposted to encourage horse riders to stick to them and avoid the other paths.

However, Mr Greaves notes that over the past two years these signs have been systematically removed, which seems to be encouraging horse riders to use any path they want.

“This was highlighted once again the other weekend when a sponsored horse ride took place, and horses were directed up a path that ran parallel to a bridle path,” he said.

“They have caused massive damage to the fragile vegetation on this path which will now join the rest of the bridlepaths as being a vegetation free, deep sandy ravine as it is eroded over the next few years.

“Many of the paths that used to be for walkers only are now eroding at a massive rate since horse riders were ‘encouraged’ to use them.”

Mr Greaves claims that one particular path (that was rented out to film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) is now three times the width it was a couple of years ago and has very little vegetation holding the ground together.

In response the National Trust, which manages Frensham Little Pond, stated that it is glad to welcome visitors to Frensham Common – whether on foot or with their horses – and it appeals for the help of all of it supporters in protecting this “special” place.

Lead ranger Matt Cusack continued: “The proliferation of paths can be damaging to ground nesting birds and can have a lasting effect on habitats for wildlife.

“It is particularly important as the area around Frensham Little Pond is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation.

“Rare ground-nesting birds such as the woodlark and the nightjar breed on the common and it is one of only two sites in Surrey where you can find all six species of our native reptiles.

“We are grateful for the help of our local supporters, including Haslemere Natural History Society, who paid for new ‘tern rafts’ on the Little Pond. This is a special nesting site for terns, principally to protect the chicks from predators such as mink.”

A spokesperson for the Waverley Borough Council, who acknowledged awareness of the sponsored horse ride, said: “One of Waverley Borough Council’s top priorities is ensuring the environment is looked after and enhanced.

“Frensham Great Pond and Common is run by our rangers who prioritise the area’s wildlife conservation and protection, while also managing the thousands of people who come to the Green Flag Award-winning site every year.

“Visitors and events are carefully managed to ensure there is minimal damage to the environment and that bylaws are adhered to.

“On this occasion, the condition of the route was checked prior to giving permission for the sponsored ride and was checked again after the event, with no adverse effects found.”

Mr Greaves is continuing his fight saying that any money spent in the area seems to be for the benefit of horse riders and fishermen, and the “beautiful paths that criss cross the area are basically being ruined by a complete lack of intelligence being shown on the part of the management/council”.