Green Laning Guide
The term Green Lane or Green Road is a general expression used to describe
any unsurfaced country way; often of some antiquity. The terms have no
significance in law.
If a right of way exists along such a way, then it will be one of the following: a Byway (shown on OS maps as a 'Byway Open to All Traffic' or BOAT), a Road Used as a Public Path (RUPP), a Bridleway or a Footpath.
Under the terms of the Wildlife & Country side Act 1981, there is currently a review which will eventually reclassify all RUPPs in England and Wales to either BOAT (if vehicular rights are proven to exist), Bridleway or Footpath, the BOAT being the greatest right of the three and the only one to carry vehicular rights. In each category the greater right is always held to include the lesser. RUPPs and BOATs are public highways, so your vehicles will need to be taxed and insured and seat belts must be worn where applicable.
Let's look briefly at the situation:-
Right of Way - in this context, the 'right of way' is the legally
protected right of a member of the public to pass and repass along a defined
route across private land. I use the word route because there
may not be any visible evidence of the existence of a track on the
ground. The M4 and Petersfield High Street are not rights of way in this
BOAT or Byway - this has vehicular and all the lesser rights of way.
Vehicles must comply with all driving regulations applicable to ordinary
RUPP - this does not always have vehicular rights of way but is always
a bridleway and a footpath as well. Indeed, it may be signposted 'Bridleway'
or 'Footpath' but still have vehicular rights. You
may need to check with the relevant council to establish what rights
exist. In a rights of way policy statement, Berkshire CC says of RUPPs
...and it is not an offence to drive a vehicle along one.
However, the right to drive will be determined through reclassification
during the next few years. Clear?
Bridleway - this is for the use of horse and bicycle riders and
Footpath - this is for pedestrians only.
Whilst not in the same general class of the rights of way described above,
but equally as important, are:
Unclassified County Roads (UCR) - UCRs may range from fully surfaced
wide suburban roads down to ill-defined overgrown tracks across open
country. Most County Councils accept that these
have vehicular rights even though the route may co-exist with any of
the other types of right of way. Dorset, Glamorgan West, Gloucestershire,
Gwynedd, Nottinghamshire, Surrey and Warwickshire do
not accept that UCRs always have vehicular rights, while Kent and
Yorkshire North cannot confirm. On an OS map, a UCR may appear as a coloured
or uncoloured (white) road, a single broken line
or nothing at all! UCRs are "county maintainable roads", but are bottom
of the list for allocation of funds for repair.
White roads - there are many minor roads shown on OS map in white.
(i.e. not coloured.) They may have continuous, single or double-dotted
defining lines (indicating the presence or absence of walls
or fences) but these do not all necessarily have public vehicular
rights. You cannot tell the true status of 'white roads' just by looking at
them! Many UCRs are shown as 'white roads' but not all 'white
roads' are UCRs.
Commons, beaches & moors - there have been many misleading adverts
recently showing vehicles on commons, beaches, moors and mountains, etc. You
do not have the right to drive a vehicle in
the majority of these areas unless you have permission from the
landowner. The 'foreshore', that is the area between the high and low water
marks, is generally Crown Property and you may not drive
there either. There are a few littoral RUPPs and BOATs, usually coming
about due to erosion, (i.e. the sea has moved inland) whilst others are
ancient short cuts across bays or estuaries. Such routes
are often very dangerous too.
(a) The roads described above may co-exist in any combination resulting in a confused appearance on a map.
(b) Byways (BOATs) and UCRs can be closed either temporarily or permanently by a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO). The notice declaring the existence of a TRO must remain posted at both ends of the relevant road all the time it is valid. No notice - no TRO. However if you know there is a TRO but you can't see the legally required sign, please stay off the route anyway.
(c) Do not assume that Ordnance Survey (OS) maps always give correct information on rights of way. While the review mentioned earlier is in progress, the rate of change is very high and OS maps cannot possibly keep up.
(d) The LARA Code of Conduct, (Land Access & Rights Association) issued from time to time, categorically stated at one time that UCRs all have vehicular rights. Not all county councils agree with this. (See UCRs above.)
The law relating to obstructions is awfully complex. Strictly speaking, a
gate is an obstruction but unless it is locked we usually take no action.
Fallen trees may be cut and moved out of the way but, as they
are the property of the landowner, they must be left at the side of the
road. The law allows you to move only the amount of the obstruction that
enables you to continue. You may not set out especially to clear
a known obstruction, but if by chance you have suitable tools with you then
you may use them.
If the road is blocked, you may be able to drive around the obstruction but in so doing, you may need to leave the proper route. It is generally accepted that you may deviate only onto land owned by the person responsible for the blockage. Be particularly careful not to do any damage away from the track if you try this. Generally, I would recommend that you turn back. Report any major obstructions (accidental or deliberate) to your club Rights of Way Officer or to the relevant council.
Deep ruts or mud or water, that render the road impassable, do not necessarily constitute an obstruction; so you do not have the right to drive round such 'obstacles'.
Organising a Trip
Good maps are essential but if you intend to rely on OS maps, make sure you
have the latest edition (Note (c) above notwithstanding.) The 1:25000
Pathfinder Series are particularly recommended as they
show field boundaries as well as rights of way to a larger scale.
Take at least two but no more than five vehicles (absolute maximum).
Competition and/or aggressive looking vehicles are not recommended. If you
are in a 4x4 club please fill in and return Survey Forms to
the Rights of Way Officer. Take a spade and a good nylon tow-rope (at least
1"/25mm), two 3/4"/19mm-pin shackles and check your tow points. You will
need a secure tow point front and rear: looping
ropes around spring shackles or bumpers is not safe. Your club scrutineers
should be able to give advice on the installation of recovery points.
Try to avoid low-lying and/or known boggy areas after prolonged rain. Under
no circumstances take on difficult lanes as a challenge. If you have a
choice, drive in a downhill direction. Using public highways
for leisure purposes is quite legitimate but playing on them is a different
Slow down or stop for walkers and horse riders. Be pleasant to other users
no matter what their attitude is to you. Many walkers will be surprised to
encounter a large vehicle (or four!) in the middle of
nowhere. The vast majority of walkers don't know the first thing about
rights of way! If you are confronted by a farmer or a landowner, state that
you are exercising your right to pass and repass. Do not state
that you are looking at the view, taking photos, or making notes on the
condition of the lane, because that is not within the remit of your rights
to pass and repass and your presence could then be taken as
unlawful. If a landowner is adamant that the road is private, back off and
check up. Simply ask for the shortest route off his/her land. Under no
circumstances refuse to leave the land; that's the worst possible
thing to do. Most of them can afford better lawyers than you can! PRIVATE
PROPERTY signs are often to be found and these serve as reminders that you
may, indeed, legally be on private land. However,
a PRIVATE ROAD - NO ENTRY sign is illegal. Such signs are there to put you
off! Don't let them succeed. At the start of this piece I used the word
Briefly. So what happened? Well that is brief, believe
me. The laws relating to Rights of Way are very old and complex. If you
really want the details, read on.
Rights of Way: a Guide to Law and Practice, by Paul Clayden and John
Trevelyan. Published by the Open Spaces Society, 25a Bell Street,
Henley-on-Thames, Oxon, RG9 2BA. This used to be UKP5 with
UKP4 postage but it's probably more now! This is the best general purpose
book on the subject.
Public Highways: Their Origin & Status, by Alan Kind. Published privately.
Worthwhile charitable organisations to support:- The Byways & Bridleways
I am indebted to Alan Kind, Dave Cuthbert, Mike Scott, Tony Kempster, Liz
Hurley, Colin Gross, Peter Gott, Mike Dyer and many others for advice in the
compiling of this article.
Hants & Berks Rover Owners Club
The above text is based on an article in the March 1996 edition of "Pants & Berks" the magazine of the H&BRO
This article may be reproduced without prior permission so long as the
author and the H&BRO are acknowledged.
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