Macsen the skewbald horse, with his silent, unshod feet, carefully picked his way along the track, taking Richard Williams and me down the side of Kilvey Hill, east of Swansea. It is an excellent way to travel, and carriage driving is part of the culture of this hill.
Richard is a member of the Open Spaces Society and owns 27 acres on the hill which he uses for grazing. OSS local correspondent Jay Kynch and I had a good exploration of the hill, with a number of people representing a number of interests, before meeting Swansea Council rights-of-way staff in the afternoon.
Kilvey Hill is in the old borough of Swansea which was exempt from the requirement to produce a definitive map of rights of way until 1981. Consequently there are very few recorded paths in the area, and Kilvey Hill, which is criss-crossed by tracks, had none.
Instead of investigating what evidence there was for rights of way of all categories, the council made a creation order for seven footpaths, over five kilometres in length. The many horse and carriage owners in and around the hill objected to the order, because they believed the routes should have bridleway or byway status. However, the council persisted, there was a public inquiry last year and the footpaths were confirmed.
They are fine routes, and much better than nothing at all. But the council has ignored the culture of this hill, which is one of rough riding and carriage driving, on the tracks which lead right over the hill. Richard Williams has known the hill since childhood and ridden all over it.
We drove round the east side of the hill to Bonymaen where every yard contained carts of various types, a clear indication that this is a popular activity and therefore that the lanes are likely to carry vehicular rights.
It is of course open to anyone to produce evidence that the footpaths have a higher status. But it is off-putting to a community which is not well-versed in path law nor used to filling in forms or swearing affidavits to have to embark on the claims process. They believe they have the rights and do not understand why they must claim them.
Fortunately, Jenni Nellist, Swansea access officer for the British Horse Society, is gathering evidence to put in claims, making good use of the book Rights of Way, restoring the record, by Sarah Bucks and Phil Wadey.
Meanwhile, as we discovered when we met the council in the afternoon, any claim is likely to go to the bottom of a large pile. So we need to plan a campaign to ensure that the claims for Kilvey Hill are not ignored for years.
It is a singular area, unkempt with its barbed wire and sheds and dumped rubbish, but not unloved. And the views are stupendous. It is just above Swansea docks, and you can see right round Swansea Bay, to Gower and across to Exmoor.
There is a fierce loyalty to the hill among local people, volunteers go out and clear vegetation and tidy it up, and there is objection to the gentrification and new fences which are going up.
Swansea Council needs to regard the hill as a whole, recognise its value as the access land closest to Swansea, and invest in its opportunities for recreation on horseback and in carriage as well as on foot. It will find it has plenty of support.