If you would like to do your bit to preserve the UK’s greenlanes, and the relationship between greenlaners and other byway users, now is the ideal time to join a volunteer working party.
With vehicle-based foreign travel impractical for most of us, many lanes are likely to receive a hammering this summer. Doing your bit to keep the clear, safe and navigable is therefore more important than ever.
The Green Lane Association (GLASS) schedules many volunteer events around the country, and you can also support their efforts from the comfort of your own home.
To learn more about finding and exploring routes you can legally drive in the UK, read our Essential Guide to Greenlaning.
How to find volunteering opportunities
Firstly, for insurance reasons you will need to be a GLASS member in order to join GLASS volunteering events. Upcoming opportunities are published in the Association’s regular bulletin, which all members receive via email, and on local area Facebook groups and regional pages as they come up.
‘We are always looking for willing people to assist, and opportunities arise all the time,’ says Lauren Eaton, Regional Area Co-ordinator for Wales and North England. ‘For example, two weeks ago a landowner approached a local authority with a boundary fencing/gating issue and additional signage. The council then contacted us to see if we were able to carry out the work, and it will be complete by the end of this week (28th May).’
What greenlane volunteers do
Examples of current or upcoming work include…
• Denbighshire - installing a new gate and boundary fence on a byway in the north of the county.
• Sarn Helen (South Wales part of the route) - Clear blocked drains, cutting back obstructive vegetation, improving signage, surveying the route for future maintenance requirements, and removing litter.
• Happy Valley – Large scale works in a very sensitive area of National Park land. Volunteer tasks include being stationed at access points to advise anyone in the area of site traffic and active work. Works involve plant machinery and a helicopter, so good comms are essential.
• Cumbria – Litter picking, and marshalling open days on Gatescarth Pass (which requires a permit). The local area team is planning various other projects, TBA.
• North Wales general - Clearing obstructed routes and installing or renewing signage is an ongoing task, as is visiting lanes that are rarely used and/or have no comments on Trailwise2.
Building relationships between stakeholders is another key part of a volunteer’s role. Lauren says: ‘We try to focus on fostering relationships with local landowners as this helps in a variety of ways. Firstly they get to know us and this helps discourage any animosity. It can also be helpful if they require any help with maintenance issues as many jobs can be done far quicker by discussing them with the landowner directly rather than waiting for a local authority to do the introductions. And it gives us eyes and ears on the ground 365 days a year. We have several visits planned in the North and Mid Wales area soon, and while we don't like to descend on a farmer on mass (preferably two people) if anyone is interested in joining the rep and learning more about laning from a landowners perspective, they are very welcome.'
GLASS would also like to hear from stay-at-home volunteers, so if you’re unable to work up a sweat for whatever reason, you can still help preserve your local countryside. Lauren says: ‘If anyone has any management, legal/local authority (particularly pertaining to rights of way), administrative, IT, public speaking, PR, lobbying, or project management skills and are willing to offer some of their time to our hobby we would welcome their input.’
How to become a custodian of your local greenlanes
‘We run a volunteer “Lengthsman” scheme whereby any member can 'adopt' a lane (or lanes) and help to keep an eye on it/them,’ says Lauren. ‘The role requires visiting the lane(s) several times a year, doing a basic survey of its state, completing any work that can be done on the day such as removing wind fall branches, clearing a drainage ditch, removing litter, and reporting any more pressing matters to the local rep for action.’
If you’re not a member of GLASS you have a role to play too, whether or not you’re on a formal volunteering event. ‘Everyone can get involved in litter picking while out and about, clearing obstructions as long as they can do so safely and do not remove anything from the lane, and reporting any larger issues they across to the local rep,’ says Lauren
GLASS is requesting that byway users check overgrown branches for nesting birds before cutting them back. For the same reason, major clearance projects should be postponed until at least September.