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A Brief History of the Bridlewild Trails Association

The Bridlewild Trails Association started in 1927, evolving from the fox-hunting days in Gladwyne. This fox-hunting tradition has been documented back to 1876 when Mordecai Worrell, owner-manager of the Merion Square Hotel, the Guard House Inn today, had a small pack of foxhounds and guests were invited to hunt with him. In 1885, William Epright, with a well-established pack of hounds moved to a farm on Merion Square Rd. and fox hunting became a regular activity in Gladwyne.

As late as the 1920’s many farms were maintained throughout Gladwyne. The Wood’s farm, Camp Discharge, covered many hundreds of acres along the Schuylkill River. The Henry farm was located along a stream and trail below Lafayette Rd. That farm is now the Henry Foundation for Botanical Research, and the trail is known today as Turtle Hollow. The Shipley School Farm in Gladwyne operated into the late 1940’s. Farms created large areas of open land in the community, and with it many horses.

In 1927, a meeting of neighboring landowners was held at Idlewild Farm, the home of Larry & Dorothy Saunders and the Bridlewild Trails Association was formed.

The number of riders and trails increased during the 1920’s. More and more landowners opened their property to riders and installed special gates able to be opened by a rider on horseback and to close automatically. The Bridlewild trails were numerous and stretched from Narberth to Villanova and West Conshohocken and to the Appalachian Trail. Riders from Gladwyne could and did ride to Valley Forge Park. Fox-hunting continued, often with twenty-four riders in the field, until 1950 when the building of the Schuylkill Expressway cut through the hunt land and the Gladwyne Hunt disbanded.

Currently, the Bridlewild Trails Association maintains about 30 miles of trails. Our members enjoy this unique feature of our community because of the work done by volunteers who manage the Association with more than 500 member families now giving their support. BTA has grown from the 1927 meeting of neighbors who had the foresight to realize the wonderful tradition of fox-hunting and to foresee the need to protect the trails for future generations.

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