T he Voca l Yokel
“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?