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Lake District Green Lanes Alliance 

Take back the tracks

Lake District Green Lanes Alliance

"To see the Lake District damaged in this way is a very singular and continuing sorrow." 
             Bill Birkett, mountaineer, writer, photographer.

What Defra will do about green lanes - a letter from the Minister.

In a letter to GLEAM, the Green Lanes Environmental Action Movement, the Defra Minister Lord Benyon has given details about the government’s plans for the protection of green lanes. The main points: 1) At this stage no legislation is envisaged, although that remains an option for the future. 2) Defra is proposing to rewrite the guidance in order to allow the mechanism for protecting green lanes to be easier to use and empower highways authorities to implement TROs effectively. 3) Defra will identify those routes which carry vehicular rights but are unsuitable for vehicular use and gain collaborative agreement that TROs on these most vulnerable routes will not be contested by the vehicle user groups. (The original letter from Lord Benyon used the term 'unsustainable'. This has now been replace by 'unsuitable'.) We at the LDGLA hope that this will allow the Lake District National Park Authority to tackle the green lanes problem with renewed vigour. Surely all of us share the same aim – to protect this unique landscape and help it regenerate. Defra will now make it easier to achieve this aim.

Why the green lanes of the Lake District must be protected

"Walking along a green lane, we can be taken into a zone in which centuries become our nearby yesterdays and are so much more entwined within us than we might imagine.  As many of us are lucky to know, this also is deeply releasing and tranquil; just the sort of adventure which should be at the heart of a World Heritage landscape." (Terry McCormick, author and historian)

People walk or cycle on the hill and forest tracks of the Lake District because they want to get away from the traffic on tarmac roads. That is why the tranquillity of green lanes (or "unsealed roads") needs must be protected against non-essential motor vehicles, and why UNESCO has requested a halt to 4x4s and motorbikes using green lanes. 

If you would like a summary of the scientific evidence against driving on green lanes, click here.

Over 388,000 supporters have now signed our petition. A big thank you to all of you!

"They shatter the peace and create anxiety and danger."

In online surveys on the two routes near Little Langdale the LDNPA collected hundreds of responses from walkers and cyclists. The environmental psychologist Dr Ryan Lumber evaluates their comments and comes to a worrying conclusion:

Motor vehicles on unsealed roads (or green lanes) fundamentally undermine people's relationship with the landscape of the Lake District. This is their impact :

•    Tranquillity and beauty diminished
•    Stresses from city life introduced 
•    Connection with nature disrupted
•    Cultural heritage threatened
•    Community of walkers besieged
•    Physical danger from motor vehicles on narrow sections
•    Feeling of apprehension while walking the route
•    Harm caused to the landscape, flora and fauna


The evidence is shocking and conclusive. Motoring on fell tracks transforms the experience of the great majority of visitors and takes away many of the benefits they have come to expect from a walk or cycle ride on these two green lanes.

Read Ryan Lumber's full report here.

"In order to protect the UNESCO-recognised agro-pastoral character of the Lake District, some farming vehicles are no doubt necessary but other uses would not align with the overall integrity and landscape character of the Lake District."

Professor Emily Brady is an environmental philosopher. Although she teaches in Texas, her heart is in the Lake District. She addresses important questions about landscape beauty and the implications of change. 

Read our interview here.


You can read Defra's TRO guidance

for National Park Authorities here.

One of five video clips from the Colton area posted by off-roaders on their Facebook page in September 2021. 

45 leading environmental scientists are appealing to the National Park: take urgent action against 4x4s and motorbikes.  Read their letter here and a summary of the scientific evidence here.

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A shocking conservation fault-line between the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District

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Watch dusk fall over the majestic Langdale Pikes, a new immersive video by Ben Dickey.

All you need to know in 10 seconds. Just listen.

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New off-road monsters, driving onto the green lane at High Nibthwaite, 5 September 2020.

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James Rebanks tweets his support. Read what he and others have to say about green lane driving.

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A 4x4 driver has second thoughts  Read this article from the Daily Telegraph.

The "Hierarchy of Trail Routes" is the Lake District National Park's answer to green lane driving. Hierarchy of Trail Route signs adorn many green lanes in the Lake District - no other National Park has adopted it. it was devised by off-road motorists. Read here why this voluntary restraint scheme, devised by off-road motorists, solves nothing.


The Judicial Review brought by the Green Lanes Environmental Action Movement (GLEAM) has not been successful. But the judgment  does not affect the validity of our central claim, that off-roading on two fell tracks near Little Langdale is environmentally and socially unacceptable.


Although we addressed our open letter to the Members of the Lake District National Park as the body responsible for setting LDNPA strategy and providing leadership and scrutiny, we received a reply from Richard Leafe, the CEO. But we need the Members to look at the way Richard Leafe and his team have shown a persistend pro-offroader bias thorughout this process. So we wrote again to the Members ...

Lake District Green Lanes Alliance

The LDGLA is an alliance for all those who want to protect our historic green lanes  for farming access and quiet, non-motorised recreation. 

We fully support the National Park's statutory purposes of conserving natural beauty and promoting the enjoyment of its special qualities. 

Permitting recreational motor vehicles to colonise the landscape ruins the Lake District for everyone in our diverse and multicultural society.


Little Langdale

Recently the focus has very much been on the High Tilberthwaite and High Oxenfell tracks. We are grateful to GLEAM (the Green Lanes Environmental Action Movement) for leading the Judicial Review against the Lake District National Park Authority's decision not to consult on Traffic Regulation Orders. Over £60,000 have been raised to fund it - showing the massive support for this cause in the country. We'll keep you updated about progress.

Green Lanes in the Lake District

Green lanes are unsealed tracks, an important part of the Lake District's cultural heritage. They were made for pedestrian and horse-drawn traffic, not for motor vehicles with pneumatic tyres and propelled through their wheels. According to the LDNPA there are 75 green lanes in the Lake District. Of these 16 are classified as red routes, i.e. "priority management routes with significant use requiring significant monitoring/management". The tracks at Little LangdaleHigh Nibthwaite, ElterwaterTarn Hows and  Stang End and are just some examples.

The Aims of the Lake District Green Lanes Alliance
We are campaigning for the prohibition of recreational motor vehicles on green lanes in the Lake District National Park:

  • By arguing that recreational activities in the Lake District should be essentially quiet, non-destructive and non-polluting.

  • By showing that recreational use of green lanes by 4x4s and motor bikes makes routes unpleasant or impossible for non-vehicle users and causes disruption, inconvenience and distress for farmers.

  • By encouraging the Lake District National Park Authority and Cumbria County Council to use their powers to prohibit recreational motor vehicles through Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs). Programmes for the introduction of such orders should be energetically promoted.

NB: Traffic Regulation Orders make exemptions for farmers and people with disabilities.

The Sandford Principle
We presented our case again at the last full LDNPA meeting of 2019, emphasising that the Sandford Principle (codified in the 1995 Environment Act) clearly states that where there is a conflict between conservation and enjoyment, conservation MUST take precedence.
The LDGLA argue that the current issue is an explicit example of the Sandford Principle being tested for its efficacy. Some 16 years ago, when the 2004 Management Plan was being drawn up, the draft copy of that plan mooted a blanket ban for motorised vehicles on green lanes, unsealed roads and byways. It was withdrawn after an outcry by the motoring organisations.
Yet how much worse is the problem today? These lanes have been the living backbone of Lakeland communities since Viking times and beyond and now the legacy of these historic routes may be lost forever.The sale of recreational 4x4s across the UK is rising (37 to 1 compared to the sale of electric vehicles) despite the global need to radically reduce carbon emissions. This problem will undoubtedly escalate in the coming years.
Our National Parks, these hard-won spaces of peaceful freedom and quiet enjoyment truly deserve our protection.

For more information on Green Lanes and the law visit the GLEAM website.

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AMBLESIDE ACTION FOR A FUTURE is a network of local residents working together to mitigate climate and environmental breakdown and build community resilience.

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Immerse yourself in the Lake District with these ambient videos by Ben Dickey.

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