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 context.

BOAT or Byway - this has vehicular and all the lesser rights of way. Vehicles must comply with all driving regulations applicable to ordinary road traffic.

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 pedestrians only.

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.

Notes


(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.)


Obstructions

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 matter.

Behaviour

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.

Recommended reading

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 Trust.

Credits

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.

Steve Kirby Hants & Berks Rover Owners Club

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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.

Note : The Muddy Pluggers take no credit for the information above if the Hants & Berks Rover Owners Club or author object to the re publication please Email webmaster@muddypluggers.co.uk