If you drive a 4×4 vehicle, you will be behind the wheel of a vehicle that is large and able to drive on tough terrain. Off-roading is a popular pastime for 4×4 owners, giving them the opportunity to escape the tarmac and put their vehicle to the test on unpaved and uneven roads, putting the normally chunkier tyres to good use.
There are many types of recreational off-road driving on various terrain, including dune bashing on dunes, mud-plugging through very wet areas and rock crawling over mountainous areas. For those who like to enjoy the countryside at a leisurely pace and from a different perspective, green laning is a popular pastime for off-road enthusiasts.
So What Can I Drive On?
A ‘green lane’ is defined as a road that is rural and unpaved, usually including country lanes and those which run through fields.
There are four classifications of public road according to English law:
- Footpath – these have pedestrian-only access and are commonly used by ramblers
- Bridleway – these paths were traditionally used by those on horses, but pedestrians and cyclists also make use of them
- Byway Open To All Traffic (BOAT) – these unsurfaced roads are open to being used by all kinds of traffic; including both pedestrians and horse riders, but also by vehicles such as trail motorcycles and 4x4s
- Restricted byway (RB) – these offer the same access to pedestrians and horse riders, as well as any vehicle other than a car or motorbike – including bicycles or horse-drawn carriages
What Is Green Laning?
Green laning is a form of recreational off-roading, usually undertaken by those with 4x4s. Many of the roads travelled on by off-roaders will be those off the beaten track, but not the most beaten of tracks.
Green lanes and byways can be found all around the UK and can be a good way of exploring national parks and hidden roads around the country. Different places such as national parks will have a Code of Conduct for drivers within their boundaries to protect fellow path users and drivers.
Code Of Conduct
It pays to take care when driving on unfamiliar and uneven roads even if your wheels are chunky enough to handle the terrain. If you remember a few things as you go, you can help protect yourself and other road users while you’re exploring:
- Respect fellow road users – be sure to drive carefully and to give way to other users, such as horse riders, cyclists, and walkers, slowing down or stopping to let them pass where necessary to give way.
- Keep to the track – ensure that the road you’re driving on can actually be driven on, it can also be important to report hazards that you spot along the way to the park authorities – including fallen trees and very soft grounds.
- Travel quietly and unobtrusively – be considerate not only to other road users but also to all nearby residents en-route.
- Ensure your vehicle is road-legal – while green roads are seen as off-road, the rules of the road still apply. It is important that you ensure that your vehicle is safe to travel on such roads and that you have 4×4 insurance in place to protect your vehicle in the event of an accident.
- Use only vehicular rights of way – not all green roads will have vehicular access, so it’s important to check before you travel to ensure you won’t be breaking the law.
- Don’t use the trails after dark – even if you are familiar with the route already, night time can bring additional hazards.
- Respect the local wildlife – be wary that some areas may have high concentrations of wildlife, especially deer, so it's best to drive very carefully to avoid spooking the animals and potentially causing damage to your vehicle.
Aside from the guidelines set out by each national park or local authority, there are also a few ‘common sense’ factors you should ensure you follow when green laning, these are known as the ‘Four W’s’.
The Four W’s
These are essential to bear in mind when green laning:
- Weight – ensure that the road you wish to travel on will not get damaged or loosened by the weight of your vehicle.
- Width – don’t attempt to travel down any road which your vehicle will not fit down. And if navigating narrower roads, ensure that you don’t cause damage to hedgerows, trees, and walls outside properties.
- Winch – while many 4x4s will have a winch at the front, these should only be used as an absolute last resort. You should never place your vehicle in a situation where a winch may be required.
- Weather – the weather can change the landscape very quickly, especially when it comes to flooding and damage during the winter months, so pick your moments carefully and try not to green lane after periods of heavy rainfall.
Green laning can be a great way of exploring the hidden paths around the UK and the vast expanses of national parks. By ensuring that your vehicle is adequately equipped to deal with the terrain, keep to the rules of the various roads so you can ensure that you get the best from your experience.