Restrictions on overseas travel have led to a boom in greenlaning on home turf. Sadly, irresponsible usage has also increased, and relations with other users are deteriorating, say tour operators.
George Spoors of Trails & Tracks cancelled all overseas tours for 2021, but has been running some UK tours, excluding Wales due to the difficulties regarding certain popular lanes. ‘There’s definitely been an increase in users and in off-piste activity, especially in areas such as Slayley Forest, Blanchland Common, Hamsterly Forest, Tyne Head Lane and some areas of the North Yorkshire Moors.’ George reports witnessing other operators repeatedly running convoys of up to 17 vehicles, apparently due to two groups catching up with each other. ‘I know they’re legal lanes but some people just seem to be out to destroy them,’ he says. ‘We maintain regular contact with our Green Lane Association reps and monitor the social media groups, and try to avoid the hotspots where possible.’
Antagonism between different types of lane users has worsened, says Paul Blackburn of OneLife Adventure, who has been operating a standard schedule of UK trips since May. ‘Initially, post-lockdowns, all users seemed more happy to share access, but I have noticed this dissolving over recent months. We have also met a few more newbies than normal, who didn’t know where they could drive legally; it’s a good sign that they know they can’t drive anywhere, but they’re getting their info from forums and YouTube rather than national 4x4 bodies.’
Overseas tours are expected to resume in some form this year. OneLife will resume international trips from November, avoiding certain areas of Africa. Trails and Tracks will operate a reduced scheduled of overseas itineraries in 2022, only to the Pyrenees.