April 2005 - Greenlaning In The Lakes
I am going to write again about Greenlaning issues in the light of some discussions that I have had over the last two months, an article written in the Daily Telegraph and a trip to the Lakes and Yorkshire.
You may remember that a few months ago I wrote a piece concerning the rights of way in Grizedale Forest in The Lake District National Park praising the attitude of the Forestry Commission in its signing of some of the routes through this spectacular landscape. My thoughts still run along the same lines but with a couple of modifications after actually meeting the Head Forester.
In December I was travelling across the forest with my wife Louise in our newly acquired Rangerover (ex Princess Anne I am told) from Coniston to the Forest Centre checking our roadbook for the 2005 Greenlane Days, carefully following the signposted route. All was going extremely well until halfway across we came across a sign that appeared to be pointing in the wrong direction. I say wrong direction because I remember that the track went straight ahead last time we came this way and now it was sending us left. Perhaps the route had been changed so left we went. At the next junction there were only arrows for walkers and horse riders! I smelt a rat here so turned around and went back to the suspect sign. When we got back after passing a walker who we stopped to speak to so as to reassure them that we were not just gallivanting around the forest I got out and walked across to the sign. It was obvious upon inspection that it had been moved round 90 degrees, so I put it back as it should have been. Realising that other cars may have gone the wrong way and wandered around the forest I decided to report the signs “misplacement” to the centre.
Some twenty minutes later we arrived at the Forest Centre and I went to see the Head Forester. He thanked me for letting him know and got out the maps for the area concerned so that he could pinpoint the position of the sign. I explained how pleased I was to see lanes that were properly marked for 4x4’s and that other relevant authorities should follow this excellent example. “We do not encourage them” was his reply, followed by “ But we know that you have every right to drive these legal rights of way” “Absolutely” I replied and continued with “My company Impala Adventures runs 4x4 laning days all over England and Wales as well as Safaris to Africa and Russia. We always use the rights of way responsibly, hence me being here in the lakes making a roadbook.” I showed him a copy of the roadbook that I was making and followed with “I have set myself the task of keeping the rights of way open for all of us wanting to drive them” I could feel that he was not very happy and to his reply of “don’t you worry about damage to the tracks ?” I followed with “No, because tracks are there to be driven and with responsible use, especially with regard to winter and summer routes damage is kept to a minimum. Tracks especially here in the lakes are on rock so damage is not an issue. In fact I have been driving lanes for over 25 years and they are now far easier than they used to be because 4x4’s are using them”. He did not reply. I went on to explain that I would be back with some groups in 2005 and showed him the roadbook that we use. “Did he want the dates that we were here” I asked, “no thank you” was his reply. We chatted about the forest and the mountains for a few minutes, said our farewells and off Louise and I went to continue our reccee.
This discussion got us both thinking about the best way for us to use lanes in a responsible way and this is what Louise and I came up with.
1. Byways, RUPPS and UCR’s are legal rights of way that we should be able to drive, taking into account their condition. Local authorities should maintain them and they should be marked properly on the ground so no confusion is possible about their position.
2. Often 4x4 cars leave a legal right of way because it is poorly marked and it is about time that Landowners and County Councils accept that we will not go away so to ensure that we stay on the legal path they should mark them well.
3. National off road routes should be formed in the same way as walking and cycle routes are at the moment. This achieves two things; one that routes are easily found and cars straying have no excuses so can be dealt with accordingly by Trespass Laws and the other is that it would give us unmistakably clear and legal routes that could not be closed or blocked by groups who do not share our love of driving off road
4. Certain areas, especially tracks requiring well prepared vehicles and skilled operators could be driven using a permit system where individuals, groups or organisations such as Impala can drive the tracks in question. This would ensure that cars and the people driving them have the correct set up to cross the track in question: winches, recovery equipment and survival gear.
One of the arguments used to try to close tracks is that they were there for the old transport system of horses and carriages and that modern vehicles damage the road. This does not wash in my opinion as if you read the history books these routes became quagmires when it rained with horses and carriages on them. Landrovers and the like are the modern horse and carriage and often weigh less!
The voluntary code of practice that has been set up by LARA is an excellent guide to driving these byways, RUPPS and UCRS, but one of the voluntary codes of practice is not to use tracks after periods of wet weather. I think that this is un-workable and panders to the anti-lobby. We at Impala and also any other off road organisation publicise dates up to a year in advance so it is not possible purely on a business front to cancel days because it has rained the day or so before or actually on the day of an event. When we make our roadbooks we try to use tracks that can take cars in wet weather. But we must not loose sight of the fact that it is fun driving wet, slippery tracks.
I have found over the years that a little diplomacy and patience, talking to the farmers or landowners concerned as well as keeping the police informed that many rights of way issues can be resolved.
On average we spend a week in each area researching new tracks, checking old ones and making a roadbook for a days off roading. Therefore if you come on one of the LRM/Impala driving days you will be travelling well researched and legal rights of way so you will be able to enjoy these lanes secure in this knowledge.
We look forward to seeing you this year at one or two of our days in this beautiful countryside of ours.