The beginners guide to driving green roads
Unsure of where you can legally drive off the tarmac? Then look no further, here’s the (almost) definitive guide to where you can go.
Firstly join the Green Lane Association – it will be the best £48 you spend. Then we suggest trying to get your first green lane trip with one of the Green Lane Association reps, or someone they recommend, or even just getting their advice on a route. Alternatively, with another reputable group or 4x4 travel guide. If you are still up for planning your first trip, here’s what you need to know.
Know your vehicle
Make sure you know your vehicle and its capabilities. How deep can it wade? What’s its ground clearance? What will you do if you ground out in ruts? Knowledge is key. We won’t go into any depth here about this subject, but as a novice it’s something you need to be aware of.
Can you map read?
This is important as you will need to know what the icons on the map mean, how to spot field boundaries and be able to work out where you are if you’ve gone wrong. Even with digital mapping systems, you can go wrong. It also means that if you meet someone that challenges you, you will be confident that you are in the right place and on a route that carries MPV (Mechanically Propelled Vehicle) rights.
Finding green roads
Purchase your local OS map and look at the key. You need to be looking for these:
Confirming legal status
So, we now know we can drive BOATs and UCRs, but just because they are on the OS map doesn’t mean they are driveable. They could be wrongly marked, have TROs (Traffic Regulation Orders) on them, be too narrow, and so on. You can get advice from our reps or by checking on TW2, however, the only true way of finding the correct status is by looking at the Definitive Map (DM) or List of Streets (LoS).
The DM is held at your Council’s Rights of Way Department. They may have an online version as well, but there is only one true DM, the paper version.
The LoS will be held by the Highway Authority, sometimes in the rights of way department, but not always. As a member of the public you are entitled to view these maps, usually by appointment. It’s a good idea to mark up your own paper maps with highlighter pens (Green=BOAT, Pink=UCR), as shown below.
Planning your trip
Now you’re ready to plan your trip, and you need to decide how to do it. Some people still use paper maps – 1:25k is best because it shows more detail.
Most people these days plan routes and navigate using digital mapping (but it’s a good idea to still carry paper maps), and these can be varied. Many people use programmes like Memory Map or View Ranger to plan routes and navigate, and there are lots of ways to view them in your 4x4, with tablets being the most popular. Yet when you plan your route you will probably want to cross reference TW2.
TW2 is the Green Lane Association’s national database of green roads (and other rights of way). It is like Wikipedia where users can upload comments and photographs to the system, which is extremely handy. You can view routes in OS map mode along with a host of other features. Each lane has a UID (Unique Identification Number), so it’s easy to discuss routes online with other users.
You may also want to check whether the routes are clear of TROs. Most counties post a list of TROs on their website, but if not, check with your local Green Lane Association rep who should be able to advise.
If you are taking a small group out or getting someone else to run a separate group on the same day, it might be advisable to recce the route beforehand.
Besides your 4x4, what else do you require? Most lanes don’t require any mods to your vehicle, but you may need a little additional ground clearance, and at least All Terrain tyres, except in the driest of conditions. A suitable tow rope and shackles may come in handy if you ground out for example, and obviously some form of tow point front and rear that will take the necessary pressures. A spade could be useful, as are a bow saw and loppers. A hi-lift jack should definitely be considered. and don’t forget a first aid kit and phone! These are a few basic items that might make the difference as to whether you make it back in time for tea or not!
Running a trip
The big day has arrived and you’re ready to head out in your 4x4. You should be armed with appropriate clothing and footwear for the weather and conditions. You should have a packed lunch and plenty of water. And most importantly, a friend in another vehicle to go with!
What might you come across out there? Ruts? Gates? Landowners? Other users? Other users that challenge you? Animals? Illegal obstructions? Fallen trees? The list goes on. Each will come with its own set of challenges. On the other hand, you might have an uneventful day, and meet no-one. Certainly these days are the best days, but it pays to be prepared.
Getting out of trouble
One day something unexpected will happen, whether you break down or fall accidentally into a ditch, or suffer an injury, but by far the most common these days is meeting an anti. The worst anti is the one that wants to confront you and make you think that you are in the wrong. Their arguments can often be very strong (even if misconstrued), so be prepared to be polite, say you will check with the council that the route is legal, and be prepared to turn around and back track. Experience allows you to stand your ground. You may wish to consider driving green roads during the week to avoid the busier times on the weekend.
What are your rights to divert around an obstruction? Remove a fallen tree? Cut back undergrowth? Well, in order to pass, and assuming you always carry a saw or loppers, you can cut back the obstruction in order to pass. You must leave any wood on the verge though, as these belong to the land owner. Taking firewood away with you is theft.
You can also legally divert around an obstruction in order to pass. But please be considerate when you do this, or perhaps turn around and report the obstruction when you get home. Legally diverting around an obstruction is better left for lanes where land owners illegally obstruct. Just because a tree has fallen, it’s not really fair to drive though someone’s hedge to pass. Think about it logically and consider how you would feel if it was your land. Better to retreat on the day and come back another time.
When you get back home, please fill in some comments on TW2 as it will help others in their planning process and also record you usage. It’s worth remembering that in 2006 we lost over 50% of the green roads that we used to be able to drive and recording usage is essential in case further challenges to vehicular rights are made.
If you want to find out more, there is a wealth of knowledge within the association and the Green Lane Association forum is a great place to ask questions and discuss routes. Do please consider joining the Green Lane Association.