Improving relationships with land owners, authorities, and others

    During 2020 we have been, and will continue to focus throughout 2021, on the important task of creating new positive working relationships with land owners and authorities, as well as clubs and other organisations on a national scale.

    This approach has been very well received by all involved and has assisted The Green Lane Association in their work to help all users of unsurfaced roads as well as those responsible for managing the lanes themselves.

    Our Communications Officer has approached many land managers in particular problem areas with the intention of helping to provide a proactive and practical solution other than closure. In all cases a positive and solutions-based approach was welcomed by land managers, some of who had initially had some doubts! Authorities and land owners were interested in advice regarding solutions, some of which they have never implemented before but that The Green Lane Association has experience of and could evidence as tried and tested effective working practices in other areas of the country.

    These working relationships with the custodians of our countryside have been extremely beneficial and have allowed us at The Green Lane Association to expedite clearance, signage, and repair work very efficiently with the land managers blessing. We’ve even had offers from some North Wales farmers to speak to the media about our help and assistance from their perspective. This is a really positive step forward from the days when things were more ‘us vs them’ and is a great example of the team orientated approach we are thankfully seeing more of today.

    Working with clubs and other organisations has enabled us to grow our affiliate and membership numbers with active and motivated laners who are willing to offer support from everything from PR to physical project work, and educating their members to fundraising. We’ve taken on more members, reps, assistant reps, lengthsmen, and volunteers than ever before over the last 12 months, and recruited a media team too!

    These new recruits are representative of the laning community as a whole – volunteers aged from their late teens into their 70s, disabled and able bodied users, 4x4 drivers and motorcyclists, all gender identities, all coming together under one organisation. Our media team is comprised of executive officers, regional coordinators, reps, and members covering all the above demographics too.

    The Green Lane Association isn’t just about the politics and legal side of laning, it’s about people first and foremost, and looking after and fighting for the interests of thousands of individuals who have come together to make up the organisation and support its goals.

    Crawshaw Lane Lancashire

    After taking on the role as rep for Lancashire in April one of the first things I wanted to do was become familiar with the lanes in Lancashire, having spent most my laning days in the Peaks /Cumbria / West Yorkshire for ten years Lancashire was still unfamiliar territory.

    One of the first lanes I came across was Crawshaw Lane near Burnley (SD8836-02) and found a land drain running across the lane with a gaping hole in it! Obviously it had been driven over while broke and was only going to get worse! Not only that but it was dangerous to foot and equestrian traffic.

    After contacting The Green Lane Association officials about how to go about a repair day the next was setting up a meeting on site with RoW at Lancashire County Council, they were only too happy for us to take on the work and as I’m a builder by trade gave them assurance that the work was done correctly. They even agreed to supply the new pipe!

    Work was done in November and we had a good 100 yard to carry any plant and 1.5 ton of stone, sand and cement! Without the help of Mark Hayes who carried everything in the back of his Discovery the job would of been twice as long! Also thanks to Ashley Nelson and Paul Nutter for helping out over the two weekends. As you can see though the end result was rewarding and in the first 6 month as rep I felt I’d put something back already.

    Along with the repair work the team carried a large amount of rubbish left by fly tippers to the top of the lane ready for collection by the local authority.

    Cheshire Police work to reduce illegal activity

    In Cheshire we have an excellent working relationship with the local police. This has lead to several examples of the local force responding to both images supplied by members of the public (via local area reps) and by way of Facebook posts made by the offender, either boasting or asking for help. The result of these reports have been COVID and Section 59 sanctions.

    Due to data protection, the police have been unable to feed back directly on a case by case basis, but as part of their own on going public engagement they have posted a number of times about progress made with illegal off-road use in the area.

    The Green Lane Association have also been invited to attend educational ‘interventions’ whereby the police will stop people performing illegal activity and direct them to us for advice on legal lane usage and support. COVID has so far meant these have not yet taken place, but we are keen to make them happen.

    Keeping information up to date

    Charlie Moore has been busy ensuring that Trailwise2 is up to date by taking on a huge number of lane surveys in his area. Read on to find out how much work goes in to keeping lane information up to date for all members! Over to Charlie…

    When I took on the area rep role for Bath & North East Somerset (BANES) in 2019 there were a large number of lanes on TW2 that did not have any comments, approximately 150 of around 200 in total. Over the following 12 months I planned various days out to survey those lanes that had no comments, both BOATs and UCRs.

    These survey days made a good day out exploring the area and travelling many back roads and country lanes that would not normally be travelled. Whilst many of the UCRs turned out to be tarmac farm access roads, or dead ends, some good lanes were encountered as well as great scenery and views. Comments and in many cases photographs were added to TW2. Every lane TWUID within BANES now has comments.

    In addition to providing a great day out the planning is all good practice at using TW2 and then plotting the route onto Viewranger.

    Now I have taken on the area rep role for Somerset I plan another similar project and have made a start with assistance from a few other members of Green Lane Association. North Somerset is nearly completed, approximately 63 lanes. It is going to be a much bigger project due to the size of the county and number of lanes without comments, which stands at approximately 320 out of a total close to 400.

    The upgrade to TW2 which added a feature for area reps to see which lanes are without comments has helped greatly in the task of identifying which ones require looking at and comments adding. You can see the area covered in the photograph, along with a couple of photos showing the view from one dead end lane near North Stoke ST7069-05.

    Staffs alzheimers charity work

    Hannah Bailey is our Staffordshire rep, and like many of our area leads she set up a local social laning group to help members benefit from each other’s experience, help out on projects, and enjoy their mutual hobby on the lanes. Her efforts culminated in what became the Staffordshire Green Laners group and they do some wonderful charity work! We’ll hand you over to her to explain what her club got up to near Stafford.

    Staffordshire green laning charity camping night organised by Hannah Bailey, Gavin Dolman and David Griffiths raises an amazing £626 for Alzheimer’s Research UK

    A camping and charity auction night held at Carneys Pools camp site Bishton Lane, Wolseley Bridge, has raised £626 for Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity.

    Hannah Bailey of the Staffordshire Green Laning team said: 

    “I set Staffordshire Green Laning up in March 2020 during isolation, it was a page where we could share information on green lanes and form a community based around the hobby. We started off as a really small group, but since then and with restrictions being lifted our group grew pretty much over-night, our page has changed so much that now we meet up monthly to go laning with our 4x4’s and had an opportunity to take SGL to the next level and organise events. Our first event was the charity camp and auction which was very successful especially with it being on a bank holiday weekend and the current circumstances of COVID-19

    Our aim is to now host more events and with it raise money for charities

    Alzheimer’s Research UK holds a big place in my heart as I lost one of the most precious people in my life earlier this year due to this awful disease and Parkinson’s disease, we also lost my uncle to this disease in 2009 so I’d like to think we can try and help make a difference for the sake of my daughter’s generation and thereafter.”

    Hannah Bailey handed over a cheque for £626 to Bernie Carranza, Regional Fundraising Officer, who said:

    “We’re so grateful to Staffordshire Green Laning and everyone who came along to support this event for Alzheimer’s Research UK. One in two people know someone affected by dementia. Fantastic fundraising efforts like this will help us to make life-changing research breakthroughs that will keep people connected to their families, their worlds and themselves for longer.”

    Powys Farmer Prosecuted using Video evidence

    Two 4x4s approached a farmyard, driving along an unclassified road shown on the List of Streets as continuing through the farmyard. The second vehicle carried a Dash Cam.

    As the first vehicle entered the farmyard, a man, believed to be the occupant, ran across to it and threatened to smash the windscreen of the vehicle with a large piece of timber several feet long.

    He was fortunately restrained by his female partner who was nearby at the time unloading a car.

    The incident was recorded on the dashcam of the second vehicle and eventually reported to the Police.

    With the video evidence and two statements, the Police proceeded to prosecute and the man was given a suspended sentence and fined.

    Signage initiatives in North Wales

    Working with land owners and authorities to erect signage across North Wales has improved the visibility of legal routes, and also ensured that voluntary and legal closures are clearly announced to all vehicular and non-vehicular users alike.

    Our Wales Regional Coordinator, along with reps and assistant reps from various counties, have spent a considerable time identifying lanes that would benefit from clearer signage for a variety of reasons and will continue to erect the relevant signs going forward.

    This information was also gleaned from land managers who gave us feedback on what messages it would be useful to make users aware of when travelling through a working landscape. Our Wales RARC passed this information, including Welsh translations, onto our editor who kindly took care of the graphic design element and had the signs custom made for purpose where necessary.

    Signs erected include: byway and UCR roundels, ‘repaired by motorised users/GLASS’ roundels, ‘provided with help from The Green Lane Association’ roundels, voluntary restraint signs, and ‘close the gate’ signs.

    Many land owners welcomed the initiative, including the huge delivery of new dual-language ‘close the gate’ signs that The Green Lane Association designed and funded to help local farmers ensure that any users crossing their land knew that the simple act of closing a gate is vitally important to keeping livestock safe and from mixing with neighbouring flocks/herds.

    This initiative also helped to begin new, and/or strengthen existing relationships between vehicular users and land managers across the North Wales area.

    Signage projects have been implemented across the UK and also include (amongst others):

    • Salisbury Plain – working with the MOD to signpost an area the size of the Isle of Wight! You can watch our video here: https://youtu.be/zRRm2g_7II0
    • Working with Cheshire Rural Crime Team to signpost lanes identified by our local rep
    • The Green Lane Association and Treadlightly signage put up across South Wales
    • Working with Snowdonia National Park Authority to design dual-language signs for RoWs in the park

    Dyfed Powys police work with the Green Lane Association

    The Green Lane Association has a long standing relationship with Dyfed Powys police going back over a decade. The force will accept statements and digital imagery to assist with prosecutions, Sec59s or stern warning letters.

    The Green Lane Association have also assisted with many Police operations in the force area, providing transport and assistance with mapping to assist helping to reduce illegal vehicle use in the countryside.

    An example of a reporting form can be found here on the Brecon Beacons National Park website https://www.beacons-npa.gov.uk/the-authority/report-it/reporting-illegal-offroading/ please note the webpage should only be used for areas within the BBNP.

    If elsewhere in Dyfed Powys simply download the statement http://www.beacons-npa.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/witness-statement.pdf form and post that to the Police.

    Building relationships with Leicestershire Police

    Leicestershire has recently come onto our radar here at The Green Lane Association. At first the behaviour of anti-social and illegal RoW users was causing relationships between all users groups, the local authority, and the police to become strained.

    It was at this point that we got more involved in the county and are happy to report that an action group consisting of the local authority, police, safety partnership, BHS, and The Green Lane Association has made huge progress with forging a far more proactive relationship between all parties and tackling irresponsible users visiting the area together.

    Education is key, as is finding solutions that are sustainable and do not reduce public access to the countryside. Thankfully we at The Green Lane Association have many years’ experience of involvement in such initiatives and are able to evidence what has worked and what has not in many complex cases across the UK.

    Based on that information we have been asked to create a local campaign, attend/hold education days for the public and police in the area, and will be helping to lead various agreed solutions going forward. These initiatives include:

    • Signage and public information
    • The use of trail cams
    • Regular police patrols
    • Maintenance projects
    • Public awareness days
    • A social media campaign

    Leicestershire Police have assured us that they will act upon photo and video evidence submitted to them, and the council have agreed to ongoing maintenance and support of new signage and trail cam initiatives.

    Education for all – The Green Lane Association in the Media

    One key objective we have at The Green Lane Association is to ensure that in order to protect and preserve the UK’s network of vehicular rights of way that we educate as many people as possible about the law and responsible usage of the lanes however they choose to travel.

    It is vitally important that every user group understands how RoWs work and the importance of treating them with respect, and we do this in a huge variety of ways to ensure the message gets out to as many people as possible:

    - Affiliate clubs – AS of the beginning of 2021 we had 54 affiliate clubs who joined us to access the benefits of the Association. We don’t know how many people these 54 clubs cover, but some have over 5000 members! Each one actively promotes the values of the Association, huge thanks to you all! For more information visit https://glass-uk.org/other-info/clubs-who-support-us.html

    - Rep teams – Our on the ground teams regularly communicate with land owners, authorities, the police, non-vehicular users, and members and non-members alike to ensure that we understand things from their perspective, and them ours.

    - The media – In 2020, despite covid, we had 34 appearances in the national (or even international) media ranging from our regular column in The Mud Life Magazine, to appearances on BBC and BBC Cymru news and radio broadcasts, as well as articles in all sorts of publications. In addition to this we had mentions/links on a large number of websites who promote us to those insuring or buying cars/motorcycles, or who are interested in learning more about rights of way from a more general perspective. 

    - Multi-user groups – Groups like Friends of Ramsden Road and Friends of the Wayfarer have been set up to allow ALL users of our nation’s lanes to come together in the interest of our common goal: to enjoy and respect the countryside.

    - Shows/events – Although we only managed one show in 2020 due to covid, in an average year we attend various shows around the UK, this allows us to speak to anyone interested in what we do face to face.

    - Social media – We currently have almost 40 local area Facebook social groups in addition to our official Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube accounts. By the end of the January 2021 we will be extending our official accounts with six regional pages to make it even easier to find out what you need to know and keep up with what we’re doing around the country, and also for those who have no idea what green laning is to learn about what we really do!

    - Commercial members – As well as clubs, those whose business is relevant to our hobby often join us to provide our members with discounts, and invariably they learn a lot along the way! We also provide them with material to promote our code of conduct, values, and objectives to their customers. We have 34 commercial members, check them out here: https://glass-uk.org/other-info/public-discounts.html

    - We’re not stopping there either! We have several new initiatives that include even more groups, people, and users, so watch this space!

    Working with North Wales Police

    North Wales is a notorious honeypot area for all types of RoW users, and with that come inevitable incidents that any responsible laner would want to see prosecuted.

    Over the years North Wales Police have worked alongside the Green Lane Association and with those we have fostered good working relationships with – local residents, land owners, councillors, and other user groups.

    The culmination of these relationships has led to a number of initiatives being put in place to both deter, and to catch and prosecute those taking part in illegal and anti-social behaviour on public rights of way. Many prosecutions have taken place during this time thanks to the proactive work of all involved.

    While details of such initiatives cannot be detailed publicly for obvious reasons, the measures include:

    • Improved signage – this ensures there is no ambiguity regarding the law
    • Multi-user groups – working together and with the police to educate and to report any inappropriate usage
    • Trail cams
    • ANPR cameras
    • Regular police patrols
    • The use of witness photographs and videos to aid identification and prosecution of law breakers

    Essex police utilise digital images for Section 59s

    Covert cameras are in use in Essex. These were erected at the request of the local police who will use the photography (date/time stamped) as evidence when building a case for prosecution, or issuing section 59's. This could be with regards to driving on private land, using routes which have legal closure orders on them or driving routes without vehicle rights.

    We also find the cameras to be very useful to monitor routes where locals have complained about issues, what we often find is they are completely unjustified.

    A very worthwhile tool for the job we do, whilst providing assistance to the police and local communities.