T he Voca l Yokel

Land Rover Monthly - - Contents - EX-LRM Ed­i­tor Dave has driven Land Rovers in most cor­ners of the world, but loves the Bri­tish coun­try­side best

“I can’t think of any other le­gal ac­tiv­ity likely to stir up so much anger and re­sent­ment”

Driv­ing off tar­mac and along a track is one of the most sat­is­fy­ing as­pects of Land Rover own­er­ship. I love green­lan­ing and go back fur­ther than most. I was just 15 when I drove – or rather rode – along my first green­lane, to­tally il­le­gally, on a friend’s mo­tor­bike. Since then I’ve legally driven tracks in most cor­ners of the world – and ev­ery cor­ner of the Bri­tish Isles – but I’m a mere young­ster com­pared to Mike Mor­rall.

Mike is, we reckon, Bri­tain’s old­est greenlaner, and at 81 he is as keen as ever. This month I had the plea­sure of meet­ing him and his fam­ily. You can read all about them in this is­sue, start­ing on page 78, but what I want to say here is that they suc­ceeded in re­new­ing my en­thu­si­asm for lan­ing. They lit­er­ally got me back on track.

Like many, I ad­mit to hav­ing mixed feel­ings about green­lan­ing in re­cent years. The petty re­stric­tions of un­friendly county coun­cils and un­fair ac­cu­sa­tions from those who would like to see 4x4s banned from the coun­try­side were get­ting to me. Over the years while green­lan­ing I have en­coun­tered many, many folk who re­sented me be­ing there. Some were grumpy and frown­ing, oth­ers rude and un­hinged. A few were rather close to apoplexy.

It’s an­noy­ing, be­cause driv­ing an un­sur­faced right of way with ve­hic­u­lar ac­cess is per­fectly le­gal. Yet I can­not think of any other le­gal ac­tiv­ity likely to cause so much anger and re­sent­ment.

Green­lan­ing has be­come so po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect that many Land Rover own­ers won’t even give it a try. You can’t blame them: few of us like to de­lib­er­ately stir up con­fronta­tion. I’m prob­a­bly more pre­pared than most to make a stand on a mat­ter of prin­ci­ple, but I must ad­mit that I try to avoid driv­ing lanes where I know ag­gra­va­tion is highly likely.

But Mike has shaken me out of my de­pres­sion. He ex­plained that he loves green­lan­ing be­cause it gets him to the places in the coun­try­side that, an as oc­ta­ge­nar­ian, he can no longer reach on foot. In fact, green­lan­ing is the per­fect way for the el­derly and dis­abled to get to the places that the young and fit seem to think they should have all to them­selves.

Mean­while, Mike’s son-in-law, Adrian Bishop, is run­ning a com­pany that spe­cialises in lead­ing green­lan­ing tours that en­cour­age own­ers of shiny new Land Rovers to tackle lanes where they won’t scratch their ve­hi­cles, nor dam­age the tracks. It’s a phi­los­o­phy that ticks all the green boxes.

The sim­ple philoso­phies of Mike and Adrian need to be pro­moted be­cause they have the po­ten­tial to change the pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of green­lan­ing in a way that even the tire­less po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties of pro-green­lan­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions like the Green­lane As­so­ci­a­tion (GLASS) can­not achieve.

This is not a knock­ing ex­er­cise. I truly ap­pre­ci­ate the vast amount of work done be­hind the scenes by GLASS to get in­volved with coun­cil com­mit­tees and fight lane clo­sures. If it wasn’t for their ef­forts, green­lan­ing as we know it in the UK would prob­a­bly have been out­lawed a decade ago. I have to­tal re­spect for GLASS.

But what GLASS have never man­aged to achieve is the to­tal PR makeover that would change the gen­eral pub­lic’s opin­ion on green­lan­ing. It needs to be seen as an in­valu­able way for the old and dis­abled to get out and en­joy the se­cret places, far off the beaten track – as well as a harm­less ac­tiv­ity where own­ers of or­di­nary, stan­dard Land Rovers and other 4x4s drive care­fully and con­sci­en­tiously, tak­ing care not to dam­age the en­vi­ron­ment and hav­ing con­sid­er­a­tion for other users of un­sur­faced rights of way.

Of course, this means that we need to dis­cour­age the mi­nor­ity el­e­ment that still see green­lanes as off-road play­grounds. Yes, sadly they still ex­ist. There are still Land Rover clubs that or­gan­ise green­lan­ing days on what they term “chal­leng­ing” lanes. In other words, lanes where they’ll prob­a­bly get stuck and need winch­ing or tow­ing out of trou­ble. This was prob­a­bly ac­cept­able 15 years ago, but it isn’t now. If you want to play with your winch, go to an off-road site.

We can­not leave the lanes dam­aged, rut­ted and turned into mud baths. If they need to be avoided in win­ter and wet weather, then so be it. Af­ter all, why should a hand­ful of self­ish in­di­vid­u­als be al­lowed to de­stroy such a beau­ti­ful re­source?

Get this right and green­lan­ing will be­come ac­cept­able, even de­sir­able. Wouldn’t it be won­der­ful if ev­ery fam­ily that owned a Land Rover saw a green­lan­ing ad­ven­ture as a great way of spend­ing a sunny sum­mer’s day? Think of the fun par­ents, kids and dogs would have, clam­ber­ing into the fam­ily Land Rover and trundling down the lanes for a pic­nic in the wild.

This is the ac­cept­able fu­ture face of green­lan­ing. And I, for one, know it would be a bet­ter one. What do you think?

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