You and I may know the difference between greenlaning and off-roading but the general public may not. It’s simple. Greenlaning is the driving of unsealed roads. Off-roading is driving on private land.
However, when people see the tracks left by 4x4 drivers illegally off-roading in fields and beside lanes they assume that’s what greenlaners do.
It isn’t. I’ve been a greenlaner for almost 30 years and I’ve seen the changes that have occurred I’m particularly worried by the current trend. Although there have been fairly well defined guidelines around for years, greater numbers of people are choosing to ignore them. If that continues it will kill our hobby.
The guidelines aren’t too severe; the overall message is to keep to small groups, don’t drive off the lane and don’t cause any damage. Sadly, it seems people can’t even be bothered to stick to that; they are unable, or unwilling, to see the impact this causes.
LRO, the Green Lane Association (GLASS) and most clubs recommend five or fewer vehicles in most areas, with four in National Parks and on Salisbury Plain. Some areas, like Salisbury Plain, have their own good practice guide agreed between greenlaners and the local authority/land managers.
The damage being caused by illegal off-roading is becoming a significant problem with police having to divert their resources to try and prevent it.
In Nottinghamshire, police are patrolling an area of woodland to prevent illegal off-roaders damaging the area. The same is happening in Thetford Forest and on Salisbury Plain illegal off-roading has damaged sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) and historical features.
As responsible greenlaners, we need to distance ourselves from these people. They aren’t greenlaners, they are just people with 4x4s. They’re the ones who are going out of their way, literally, to destroy the countryside. They’re the ones who are ruining it for responsible greenlaners. They are the ones who will have their vehicles confiscated it caught.
Because lets face it, if you’re illegally off-roading, you are contravening Section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 which gives the police powers to seize a vehicle once a warning has been given. And, if a warning is given, it applies to both the driver and the vehicle.
But we can’t hope that the police will be there to catch the miscreants in the act – they’ve generally got more important issues to deal with – so we’ll have to do our bit. If we see someone illegally off-roading we should make a note of where and when it happened, a description of the vehicle and get a registration number if possible. If we can get pictures it’s even better. Then we can give that information to the police.
They may not be able to prosecute or even give an official warning based on it, but it will bring the problem vehicles to their attention so they can keep an eye on them. I appreciate that some will be saying that we should be looking after 4x4 owners’ rights, and not be helping get them prosecuted, but people are committing offences, whether it is deliberate or not.
It should be fairly obvious to any sensible person that you shouldn’t just drive on land beside the road – you wouldn’t drive across your neighbours’ front gardens, for instance – so there is really no excuse.
And anyway, we are looking after 4x4 owners’ rights. We want to maintain the right to drive greenlanes for the responsible majority. Why should we turn a blind eye to the irresponsible few who are intent on destroying everything?
It’s not like it’s difficult to find places to off-road with the land owner’s permission. Loads of off-road sites are open every weekend, where people can do what they like with their 4x4 (see our Events pages for venues). And they can test themselves in trials and other competitions with their local club.
Things have to change. We have to do our bit to stop people off-roading illegally, because, although those people aren’t greenlaners, their actions will have an impact on greenlaning in coming years.
This is the turning point; it’s up to us now.
The LRO greenlane code
* Greenlanes are either byways or unclassified county roads (UCRs). You’re not allowed to drive a vehicle on restricted byways, bridleways or footpaths.
* Only drive greenlanes that have known vehicle rights after studying the relevant Ordnance Survey map and checking the local county council’s definitive map. Some definitive maps are available online.
* Avoid badly rutted, muddy or sodden lanes.
* Don’t stray off the defined track. Turn back if necessary.
* Stay under 12mph and always stop for walkers or horses (switch off your engine to avoid scaring the latter).
* Don’t travel alone, but keep to a maximum of five vehicles.
* Don’t damage trees or hedgerows, except for cutting back branches to allow you to drive the lane.
* Take recovery gear and a spade in case you get stuck.
* Keep your phone charged.
* Leave gates as you find them – they may have been left open on purpose.
* Take your litter home.
* Supervise dogs and children, especially near livestock.
* Don’t drive waterways unless you’re absolutely certain there’s a right of way. Check the current isn’t too strong to cross safely. If in any doubt at all, turn back – there’s always another way.
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