Greenlaning or green laning is an outdoor pursuit of driving along the network of public byways that run the length and breadth of the country. The greenlanes are typically unsurfaced and only suitable for “off-road” vehicles. The byways are often overgrown which is why they are known as “Green lanes”. Green lane or green road is not a legal term, under the Countryside and Public Rights of Way Act 2000 there are four categories of Public Rights of Way in the UK. Not all are open to motorised vehicles so it’s worth checking the legality of the lanes before driving them.
Public Rights of way types:
Footpath: Pedestrian use only
Bridleway: Pedestrians, horse traffic and cyclists
Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT): Open to all types of traffic usually only suitable for 4×4 vehicle, ‘off-road’ bikes, pedestrians, horses and cyclists.
Restricted Byway (RB): Allows horses, pedestrians, horse drawn carriages, no mechanical vehicles.
The byways each have their own unique symbols on Ordnance Survey (OS) maps of England and Wales but not of Scotland. The symbols can be found on the maps key:
Byway Open to All Traffic: +++++++
Who can legally use Greenlanes / Green Roads / Green Lanes / Byways
In short, byways are highways and publicly owned and therefore they are open to use by the general public. As these green lanes are public highways the same laws regarding the use of vehicles on the road are applicable to these routes. That means that drivers must posses a current driving license, vehicles must have MOT, tax and insurance.
Rights of way on Greenlanes / Green Roads / Green Lanes / Byways
There is no legal rights of way, the common etiquette is that motorised vehicles give way to cyclists, horses and pedestrians. As greenlanes are shared routes a common sense approach should be taken by all users to ensure that everybody is safe whilst using the lanes.
How can I find Greenlanes / Green Roads / Green Lanes / Byways
There are a few ways of going about finding greenlanes. The first thing you should do is get an OS map which covers the area you want to go laning in. Just remember an OS map isn’t foolproof, it may be outdated.
Join a Group: Such as GLASS (Green Lane Association), TRF or CALM. Joining one of these groups will get you access to Trailwise, you can find out how to use Trailwise in our tutorial.
Find Local Groups: There are usually local greenlaning groups on Facebook, this is probably the easiest way to get introduced to the local lanes in your area. You can use Viewranger or other mapping applications to record your route for reference at a later date.
Use Trailwise: Trailwise is accessible for free, although the features are more restricted, it is certainly worth becoming a paid up member of one of the groups above for full access. TrailWise brings together Rights of Way information in the United Kingdom to aid those carrying out research into old roads and highways. It is especially valuable for finding lost roads and un-recorded lanes. TrailWise also helps people find out where they can drive green lanes. Free users get a 3km search radius, whilst subscribed members get access to a much wider search range and additional features. Trailwise features a very handy “maps browser”, which searches a database of green lanes and places an overlay onto a map.
Plan a route: Plan a route in advance, cross reference your route against the local definitive maps which can be found online. Also visit the lanes to check for any prohibition notices.
Greenlanes vary in length and also difficulty. Most lanes are quite short, when planning your route try and link as many together as you can in the area. Make sure the lanes are suitable for your vehicle, some can be low and unsuitable for taller vehicles, whilst others may be narrow and unsuitable for wider vehicles.
Be Prepared: Make sure you carry suitable recovery gear, strops, D-shackles, Hi Lift Jack etc. Never go laning on your own, the last thing you want is to run into trouble and get stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Useful Links for Green Laning
Throughout this article we have briefly touched upon certain organisations or mapping software, you can find out more about each of them by following the links below. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments, we will be only to happy to help.