Time For A New National Greenlaning Initiative?

Dear all.

There has been quite a lot of ‘discussion’ regarding greenlaning in the press, on social media or 4×4 forums and groups: A lot of people love mud, modifying their vehicles and sharing it for all to see. I would now like to share my very grave thoughts with you all about the future of greenlaning in the UK and ultimately offer an idea to a possible solution, I would appreciate you giving up five minutes of your time to read this as it affects each and every one of us who enjoy the countryside in our 4x4s.

I rarely (if ever) see people looking to the future of our hobby, nearly everyone is living for the day and failing to look ahead and appreciate the fact that there is a very real danger that the hobby we all share and enjoy is likely to be the subject of government legislation that (if passed) effectively puts new laws into place that ban us from the countryside forever. Many of us are unaware of this as it is being very quietly slipped through the back door, some of us are aware yet choose to ignore it and bury their heads in the sand, or like me, are acutely aware of this proposed legislation and are worried about it.

You can read more about this here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201314/jtselect/jtdraftdereg/101/10107.htm
Section 147 onwards applies to all of us, this is what we should be reading, digesting and collectively formulating a proactive plan to thwart this threat…..and I think we need to change our ways and the public perception of our hobby before it is too late, we need to offer something positive to those who oppose our legitimate hobby in order to persuade them to change their minds.
There is an exceptionally powerful movement behind all this, including royalty, MPs, prominent landowners and gentry, GLEAM http://www.gleam-uk.org/ and the inevitable Ramblers Association. If you look at some of the some of the photographs on the GLEAM site they go out of their way to show greenlaners in a negative light but I suspect that someone has been very economical with the truth and very selective about which photographs to use in their publicity, yet sadly there is a hardcore amongst us who do not care about the damage they inflict on the countryside and are inevitably tarring all the responsible greenlaners with the same brush.

The thing is, greenlanes (whether in the form of a BOAT or a UCR) are a shared user public route, they are not just for the sole use of 4x4s, as trail riders, horseriders, cyclists and walkers use them too – the state of some of these routes are nothing short of shameful and often we are the culprits for making them that way.

Adopt an apathetic attitude towards this at your peril, if we wish to continue enjoying our hobby we have to collectively start to make some radical changes in our approach to it, the time has come to change our ways, to work together, to banish our image as the pariahs of the countryside and how the public perceive us….there are lots of things that we need to start doing in order for us to continue enjoying our hobby well into the future.

Now we know the ramblers very successfully got their ‘Right To Roam’ but we won’t be so lucky to obtain anything like that by using a militant approach as they did. I’ve never looked at greenlaning as a god given right, it is a privilege to do what we do and if that privilege is abused it can be taken away. So perhaps it is time for us to lead the way and put back some of what we have all taken in a positive, rather than negative way?
You don’t see the ramblers doing that but look how far their persistence is getting them, especially taking into account how the actions of the less responsible 4×4 owners have played right into their hands. If the lanes are closed because we buried our heads in the sand we can no longer legally enjoy our hobby, if we choose to carry on we are greenlaning illegally, we risk section 59 and our vehicles condemned to the crusher, considering that a lot of us own vehicles costing many thousands of pounds the crusher is to be rather avoided!

We have to change our public image, have a new code of conduct expanding on the existing GLASS code of conduct to a much higher level, be more conscientious in our use of lanes and how we impact on them, remember that we share them with other users on foot/horseback. It is time for the responsible majority of greenlaners amongst us to start reporting or educating those who are going to get us banned that UCRs and BOATs are not solely for mud plugging, we need to self police and report those who are spoiling it for the rest of us and other users. Maybe showing your local MP the responsible and conscientious side to our hobby would be advantageous to prove a new approach to greenlaning is the right thing to do?

Many of us remember the NERC Act in 2006 where we lost many driveable rights of way forever. They were downgraded to Restricted Byways, bridleways and footpaths due to there being an acute lack of formal user evidence to support any claim that it was a right of way in regular public use. Admittedly it was a farce and was poorly executed by the government but in 2026 it is going to happen again…..unless everyone starts making records of the lanes they use and taking photographic evidence to prove that the lane has been used by a motorised vehicle and ideally has been undamaged by that use – if we cannot prove the lanes are being used and used responsibly we’re going to lose them, any evidence we gather in the future will need to be submitted to GLASS, LARA, local 4×4 club or County Council Rights Of Way Department. At Dorset Land Rover Club we already have a Greenlane Reporting System in place and the county council is steadily receiving a flow of user evidence in readiness for 2026.

Many areas are subject to overuse because of the reduction of available lanes after NERC 2006, that is a valid point, but I feel that it could also be attributed to the side effect of irresponsible people who go out with the sole intention of looking for mud and have no respect for the countryside or other rights of way users
BUT, even if the pre – NERC greenlane network still existed there would still be areas
where the idiots congregate solely to get stuck or to satisfy their craving for mud, true greenlaning isn’t about that but it is the negative image that always stays in peoples minds. You wouldn’t drive down a tarmac road with a JCB and deliberately destroy the surface, that’s illegal; deliberately driving a greenlane with the intention of ripping it up with your 4×4 is no different, it’s a public right of way, therefore it is just as illegal.

There’s also a knock on economic effect if our hobby gets banned. From greenlaners to triallers to clubs to accessory manufacturers to LRO/LRM to the used car market, this will affect us all in some way. Maybe there will be new interest in trialling from the banned greenlaners that wish to broaden their horizons…..or will they have already tried to sell their 4x4s in disgust and moved on to something else? There will be reduced income for aftermarket parts, servicing agents and accessory manufacturers – who needs big tyres, lift kits and winch bumpers any more? Will the bottom will fall out of the market for 4x4s, rendering many of our vehicles effectively worthless? What about all the other small businesses such as rural garages, shops and guest houses? The long term impact of a ban seems endless….

I am a member of various 4×4 groups across internet forums and social media, I am shocked by the amount of off-piste activity by the ignorant minority that is publicly exhibited on the internet – I am also pleased to see that the backlash towards these people is also on the increase and I actively encourage naming and shaming these morons. I don’t want this deregulation bill to become law, many others like me don’t want this to happen and this is resulting in a ever increasing minority who are tirelessly working away behind the scenes who are alarmed at the general disinterest and apathy towards this subject that is being shown right across the spectrum of the 4×4 fraternity.

The whole image of greenlaning has to change in order to change the perception of greenlaning by those who oppose it, it’s all very well objecting to further lane closures or total closure, but unless each and every one of us get our house in order and prove that we can collectively be responsible and respect the UK greenlane network then on what grounds can we expect all those who oppose us to listen and give us the opportunity to turn things around?

We have to offer them something positve, a proactive and radical approach to appease them and this is my idea…

What I foresee happening is an actual increasein the amount of illegal or irresponsible greenlaning to the point where in the public eye it becomes an even more antisocial hobby than they think it already is. The image of greenlaning has to change from something which is perceived as clandestine and unacceptable into a perception of a legitimate, responsible hobby that doesn’t destroy but also contributes to the well being of the countryside.
This will require full cooperation from all of us individually, 4×4 groups/clubs and the various county councils in order to make a new pilot schemework, a licensed greenlaning scheme that will apply to all motorised users of the greenlane network across the UK.

Membership of a recognised group will be a condition of the scheme and will be used to self regulate our hobby with the assistance of legislation at local government level, without resorting to the draconian parliamentary deregulation bill – this is our last chance to offer something constructive and to prove that we can do it right.

This pilot scheme will enable only those who are registered on the county council database and a member of a recognised body to legitimately use the unsurfaced right of way network within the county. To register you must prove that your vehicle is taxed/insured/MOT’d, that you possess OS mapping for the area and know how to use it, that you have joined a recognised body and have attained a Greenlaning Competency Certificate ( I’ll explain the GCC later) – ONLY then will you be deemed as a legitimate greenlaner within that county, only then will you be issued with a unique identification disc and number and only then will you have access to the live database of the county’s lane network with clearly set guidelines. Exemptions will be given to landowners and other essential users such as gamekeepers but they will still have to register their vehicles.

I’d like to see a Lane Warden system set up where the legal and responsible laners can ‘police’ the lanes whilst enjoying their hobby, maybe an ANPR system could be utilised. This takes the Greenlane Reporting system mentioned earlier to a far higher level whereby we can send any pictorial evidence of off piste activity (and the perpetrators if they’re still there) to the relevant authorities. This could also be used to monitor lane condition and to temporarily close lanes as and when necessary (a new, flexible TRO system), these details will be kept on a live database maintained by the council rights of way department so licenced greenlaners can log on and see where they can and cannot go with no excuses BEFORE they go out.

Ultimately this could discourage people coming from other areas, not caring about whether the ground conditions are suitable or not and then going home having trashed the lanes – the cowboy element cannot join up without first having been screened through the Greenlaning Competency Certificate and those that continue to illegally greenlane will be easier to spot if they are not registered and displaying the correct disc and unique number – yes it’s a somewhat unorthodox idea but there is a definite problem that needs stamping out and that whilst self regulation works amongst the more responsible laners it doesn’t work for the other idiots for whom legislation and enforcement is the only option – ultimately ‘Responsible Rural Recreation’ will become a term of phrase that will not only apply to every one of us who registers to the scheme but will apply to the entire greenlane network nationwide.

The Greenlaning Competency Certificate is something that I strongly feel needs to be set up so we can use it as another measure to prove to the powers that be that we are adopting a proactive approach with a responsible solution to what many regard as a problem hobby. For most of us, gaining the certificate would be a walk in the park, but there has been a big rise in the number of active greenlaners within the country, it’s an easy hobby to get into as just a few hundred pounds will buy you something four wheel drive with an MOT. Sadly many people spend huge sums of money modifying their vehicles rather than spend a few pounds on an OS map and learn how to read it. I have witnessed several people who need some tactful tuition to groom their skill levels to that of a competent greenlaner. It’s something I already do with club members and as a privateer, I take these people out and get them to study maps and navigate themselves in a small group, I want to pass on to them my knowledge and for them to gain the confidence and skill levels to see and do what an experienced person can, rather than just turn the key and drive off and trespass. Obtaining a Greenlaning Competency Certificate would ensure that the ignorant have to become aware of their responsibilities and that the right way is the only way…

It will obviously cost money to fund this scheme, it will cost money to gain a certificate but seeming as we all spend huge sums on our vehicles I really cant see how a bit extra to legitimise our hobby will impact on the majority of us. I wonder if GLASS and TRF would be better off putting money into the pot for something like this rather than putting vast sums of money into various contentious greenlane legal cases? After all, if we’re all doing it right there won’t be a case to answer will there?
I know that it’s more red tape, but remember that those who shoot require a firearms certificate, a 4×4 used inappropriately in a sensitive area could also be considered a bit of a ‘loaded gun’, this scheme is a small trade off to continue what some of us enjoy doing, they wish to legislate us out, so why don’t we legislate ourselves IN…

Thank you for taking the time to read this, please at least consider the idea before you ridicule it, I want to provoke thought and discussion on the subject by thinking outside the box – like it or not this affects all of us, we need to plan for the future before it’s too late. As you all know, I am somebody who is rather passionate about greenlanes, greenlaning and the countryside in general, I am an advocate of ‘Responsible, Rural Recreation’ and will do everything I can to promote greenlaning in a more positive way.

Kind regards,

Rob.

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Written by 

Former Green Lanes Officer for the club 2013- 2016, Dorset rep for the Green Lane Association (GLASS) since 2016 and now the Green Roads Officer for the club again as well. I'm a bit of a self confessed Land Rover nut, I've had two 3.9 V8 Discoverys, a 4.0 V8 P38, a 300tdi Discovery (bloody awful), a genuine factory V8 90 CSW, a TD5 Discovery and a diesel P38. I had a brief (and disastrous) fling with a Japanese make in the quest for reliability before returning to Land Rover with my current ride, a 300tdi Defender 90. I used to do all the modifying stuff but decided that a Land Rover is really good enough as is - in my opinion huge tyres and a winch are really only necessary for trials/pay and play. For green roads, a decent set of All Terrain tyres (along with a respectful attitude to the countryside) are all you really need modification-wise. I make absolutely no apology for taking a hardline approach to green road use, I maintain a fiercely preservationist and often vociferous stance, am intolerant of mud-pluggers and illegal off-roaders and am a firm believer in promoting both the GLASS Code of Conduct and the three 'R's - Responsible Rural Recreation. We go out, we enjoy the countryside, we share the countryside, we leave it as we found it (or better) for everyone else to enjoy, we improve it by clearing obstacles we encounter, there is absolutely no wallowing in mud, no winches, no drama, no fuss, no glory.

7 thoughts on “Time For A New National Greenlaning Initiative?”

  1. Rob,
    I applaud your enthusiasm and ideas for the future of Greenlaning that we are all interested in.I cannot in any way find fault with your intentions but here are some comments:
    1) You say that Greenlanes will be “registered on the county council database” but I am not sure that they may have bought into this idea – and one might say “why should they”? They are tight on finances so it will take a lot of publicity to demonstrate to them that we Greenlaners deserve respect just like walkers/horse riders etc. This is not meant to be negative but to identify a future challenge we will have.
    2) I joined GLASS (and DLRC) s a few years ago and downloaded the Trailwise list of trails but this made my MemoryMap software painfully slow so I stopped using it. We clearly need something like this to identify & register Greenlanes.
    3) My “to do” list for this week includes documenting my outing on Tuesday along a variety of trails in Dorset. I am therefore embarrassed that I have not yet done this and while your posting says that our DLRC has a Greenlane Reporting System I cannot readily find this on our website.
    So Rob you have my full support for many of your ideas including the Greenlaning Competency Certificate. I just feel there are more mud plugging idiots out there than there are responsible Greenlaners but this is no reason to not take them on!

    1. Thanks for your comments Gordon and for pointing out about the CC database.
      What I should have said was that the fee for the GL Competency Certificate would help to cover the cost of running the database, my main intention was to get people thinking about this contentious issue as far too many people are either unaware of it or ignoring it completely.
      As for our greenlane reporting system you can find the PDF for the form to download off the greenlane page, completed copies can be sent to Jim who will pass them on to the CC rights of way department.
      Looking at my now mental facebook notifications (including the support from other Land Rover clubs and GLASS) is confirming what I suspected in that almost everyone agrees with the idea in principle, bringing it to fruition will be an altogether different matter….
      See you on Sunday,
      Rob.

  2. Hi Rob.

    You have my full support with your proposals and I would be more than happy to take a ‘Greenlaning Competency Test’ to prove my commitment to ‘Responsible Rural Recreation’.

    I would like to suggest at this stage that due to your ever increasing ‘Greenlaning ‘ workload that the DLRC considers appointing an Assistant Greenlaning Officer who can work alongside you to help with the Greenlaning reports etc and give you more time to concentrate on fighting our corner.

    As Tom Bayford has already been unofficially assisting you with visiting many of our lanes he could be proposed as a possible candidate.

    I hope you all have a fantastic GL day on Sunday.

    Graham G Matthews

    1. Thanks Graham, your continued support of what some may regard as my crackpot ideas is much appreciated as indeed are your thoughts.
      Sorry that you can’t join us on Sunday, good job you came out with us on one of the recce trips.

  3. As a further footnote to this, as the argument has been raised elsewhere as to ‘how you can assess competency if they are not allowed access to the greenlane network to become competent?’. So here is my response to that:

    There are many truck drivers including myself that were horrified at the prospect of having to pass a DCPC (Driver Certificate of Professional Competence) despite many of us knowing how to do our jobs perfectly well.
    Without it, we would lose our right to work as a professional driver despite retaining a vocational licence – any driver stopped at a roadside check without one is off the road with immediate effect, insurance companies will not provide cover without evidence that the driver has DCPC qualification and companies are obliged to check that their drivers are qualified as a condition of retaining their goods vehicle operators licence.

    If this system can be put into place then I do not see why a similar system can’t be implemented (albeit on a much smaller scale) with a GCPC qualification.

    There will be a degree of classroom training which includes map reading and being able to identify the different rights of way, along with an approved form of ‘best practice’ on their use, before being taken out onto the greenlane network as a group to be assessed and hopefully gaining the qualification.

    Insurance companies can easily cancel any form of off-road cover until the GCPC is gained, just like they could with a heavy goods driver. It also means that there is no excuse for off piste play or ripping up the byways as you are now technically qualified – a series of hefty on the spot fines could prove as much a deterrent to rogue off-roaders as it has proved with rogue drivers.

    Like the DCPC, the GCPC could have a two year ‘grace’ period in which to give sufficient time for everyone who wishes to carry on greenlaning an opportunity to gain the relevant certification.

    Now tell me it’s unworkable…

  4. I think that Rob has presented us with a very thoughtful (and probably thought-provoking) mini-thesis. I hope lots more people take the trouble to read it! Yesterday’s hugely enjoyable and successful green lane run was ample evidence that our wonderful byways can be driven responsibly – but unless we do something concrete and radical we really do risk losing them for ever. That’s why Rob gets my total support in putting forward the idea of a competency certificate. Obviously the off-piste idiots wouldn’t be interested, but it would make policing (both metaphorically and perhaps literally) more viable. But I think additionally it’s definitely worth taking the proposal further because it’s a NEW idea which will show how seriously we take the issue and how genuinely we want to be pro-active.
    Andy Wilson

  5. Thanks to Rob for his post, there has obviously been a lot of thought and effort gone into this.
    Having spent some time reading this and revisiting the Deregulation Bill I have to admit that the first thing that springs to mind is that proper enforcement would solve a lot of the problems but this is not going to happen because it would cost money. However, if we are all banned from our RoWs, would this stop irresponsible, illegal use without enforcement?
    I have the misfortune to currently live in Dorchester and the total lack of any sort of enforcement is blatantly obvious – and not just on vehicular RoWs. Every day whilst dog walking I have to avoid cyclists abusing and damaging the footpaths and permissive paths.
    In 20+ years of laning I have only once seen a police presence on a RoW. They had obviously been pressured by a local Horse group who had two ladies sat in the back of the police motor looking on disapprovingly but unwilling to get out and speak to the louts exercising their right to drive on the route. The officer was extremely approachable as soon as he realised that we knew what we were doing and entered into our banter about his poor luck in having been issued with an inferior motor but said that it was at least an improvement on his previous Suzuki which he always felt should have been issued with a surfboard on the roof!
    Users like gamekeepers should be considered as allies – they are already trying to police our routes but without much support. I had a chat with the Moreton Estates Keeper very recently. Again, a pleasant conversation. Talk to users like this who are in the best position to see what is actually happening and know the responsible users.
    However this does not help our case as we are the prime targets of the “authorities” who have to be seen to be doing something to pacify suburbia, where the votes are, at the expense of the rural communities. A scheme like Rob’s GCC is to be supported to show that some users are responsible and prepared to make personal efforts to protect our environment. It is going to be extremely hard to get running as it will have to be a national scheme – you would not want to go to the trouble of gaining certification to be told that you cannot use Salisbury Plain because it is not in Dorset. Most local authorities have online RoW mapping already which is updated regularly so databasing should not be a major problem. I do not go out on the evidence of year or more old OS mapping without checking Dorset Explorer.
    I read somewhere amongst the mass of disinformation that the legislation, if introduced, will not be applicable to Wales. Bonus time for Welsh tourism?
    A couple of points from external sources which are worth noting:
    From Deregulation Bill
    BOATS AND UCRS
    147. The additional provision which elicited by far the greatest number of responses was that Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs) and unsealed Unclassified County Roads (UCRs) should be re-classified as Restricted Byways and closed to vehicular traffic. Over one third of responses to our Call for Evidence urged support for this reform..
    Note the bias – it does not say that TWO THIRDS did NOT support the reform!

    From Dorset Ramblers
    Dorset has 3,000 miles of rights of way made up of approximately 4700 footpaths, 1700 bridleways and 37 byways open to all traffic.
    So who has the best deal??

    One last note Rob – in your reply to a comment you say that Greenlane Report completed copies can be sent to Jim who will pass them on to the CC rights of way department. Do we now send ALL reports to Jim or just the problems as at present with the record only forms going to you?
    Sorry to rant on, Best of luck to us with this one
    Graham

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