A NEW bridleway next to the Sunderland Metro extension is proving a hit with horse riders.

They like the facility at Wardley, Gateshead, so much that they have nominated Gateshead Borough Council and Railtrack for a British Horse Society (BHS) national access award.

Councillor David Bollands, council cabinet member for development and transport, said: "The extension of the Metro service to Wardley severed access to the existing bridlepath, making it difficult for riders to enjoy a seamless journey.

"Gateshead council and Railtrack have worked with BHS representatives to construct a 'horse-friendly' bridge that runs alongside the new Metro line and over an existing railway line to link two improved sections of bridlepath.''

The bridge has an enclosed parapet that effectively blinkers horses from the line and the railway below, and is wide enough to cater for horses, walkers and cyclists.

Kathy Atkinson, the BHS's bridleways officer for Gateshead and South Tyneside, said: "There is a very active horse riding community in Gateshead that will make good use of this new track.

"We are eager to look at ways of working with local councils to improve access for equestrians and this is why we launched the access awards in recognition of those authorities that support our Riders' Charter.

"Gateshead council is one of just two North-East authorities to be presented with our award this year, but we have developed partnerships with several more which will be opening up new routes for riders."