The Green Lanes Blog
11 August 2020
Landscapes for everyone: a conference on access to National Parks. This event was originally planned for April and will now take place online on 12th and 13th October 2020.
The main focus is on how to improve access for everyone and to ensure visitors are more representative of the social and ethnic make-up of our society.
We completely agree, of course: National Parks are there for everyone, but, importantly, not for everything. For example the Lake District is not for speed boats on the Lakes or recreational motor vehicles on green lanes.
The main event takes place online on 13th October. The keynote speaker is Julian Glover, who led the landscapes review for the government, with important recommendations for National Parks. (Read the summary here and the full report here.
Full day ticket - numbers are limited. Tickets include taking part in the action planning sessions of the selected proposals from the Landscapes Review facilitated by Defra’s National Landscapes Review Policy team.
22 July 2020
"Studies across the spectrum, from health to financial risk, remind us that it is in our best interests to look after nature. We know that a connection with nature contributes to well-being, and improved mental health. So starting this autumn, we’ll be investing a further £4m in a two-year pilot to bring green prescribing to four urban and rural areas that have been hit the hardest by coronavirus and then we want to scale that project up. "
"When we destroy nature, we undermine our very foundations. Every country faces a choice as they map out their recovery - store up problems by sticking with the status quo, or get back on our feet by building back better and greener."
"In our own country, nature has been in decline for decades….This Government’s pledge is not only to stem the tide of loss, but to turn it around - to leave the environment in a better state than we found it."
21 July 2020
Somehow we missed this article in the Daily Telegraph from last December: "I love 'greenlaning' too – but it's time to banish destructive 4x4s from our national parks" Read the article here ...
5 June 2020
(You can access the report on the WHW site. The section dealing with the Lake District is on PDF pages 87 – 90.)
The latest WHW Report shows that our green lanes are not the only cause for concern in the Lake District: the Keswick to Threlkeld Railway Path, the Honister Zipwire and the Whinlatter Gondola project are all being pursued despite the opposition from local communities. The section on the Lake District comes to the following conclusion:
“These examples show that local communities are being ignored and that the National Park Authority is putting the commercial exploitation of the Lake District and access rights of a minority of motorists above the need to protect the OUV (Outstanding Universal Value).
We urge the World Heritage Centre to scrutinise the National Park Authority’s compliance with the key principles of conservation and community involvement.
On the first Sunday in May - under strict lockdown conditions - residents of Little Langdale watched in dismay as a convoy of 5 4WDs drove up the track at Bridge End in the direction of High Tilberthwaite at 6 in the evening. If there is one message that must come through strong and clear during this crisis it's "Put Conservation First.".
Scafell Pike is England’s tallest mountain and home to a flock of native Herdwick sheep. Every summer, their shepherd must gather these notoriously hardy sheep and bring them down to the farm for shearing.
The Great Mountain Sheep Gather charts this journey across the fells with epic bird’s-eye view photography descending into the valley below. This timeless event has taken place in the Lake District for over a thousand years. Opening at dawn with the shepherd blindly navigating the foggy peaks and crags, this film reveals the skill, knowledge and bravery needed to care for a flock in this rugged land.
As the fog lifts to expose the breathtaking landscape, and the small pockets of sheep merge into one big group, the voice of Lakeland shepherd Andrew Harrison allows us to see this unique world through his eyes – the knowledge of the dogs, farmers and sheep passed down from generation to generation for centuries, the challenges of life in the fells, and the conflict posed by visitors and the 21st century.
Specially commissioned poetry written by Mark Pajak and read by Maxine Peake provides a counterpoint to the shepherd’s insights throughout this film. The programme’s unique visual perspective includes riding along on a dog, a sheep and with the shepherd himself. The bleats, barks and birdsong echoing down the valley create an evocative natural soundtrack.
Once the flock has assembled as one, this immersive chronicle follows the group as they descend and are greeted by sunshine and a sense of relief once they arrive at the farm. Five hundred sheep must now be sheared - the tale of a shepherd’s life.
“In times of crisis, the natural world is a source of both joy and solace. The natural world produces the comfort that can come from nothing else. And we are part of the natural world. If we damage the natural world, we damage ourselves.” David Attenborough
Will this be the chance to rethink how we protect the natural world?
If you feel like experiencing the sights and sounds of the Lake District wherever you are, let this ambient video art by Ben Dickey immerse you.
Judicial Review: our case is 'arguable'
A message from GLEAM (Green Lanes Environmental Action Movement)
We learned on Friday that the High Court has given permission for our judicial review case against the Lake District National Park Authority to be heard.
Preliminary arguments put forward by the LDNPA and the Trail Riders Fellowship (the off-roading motorbike lobby) that our case against the National Park Authority is not ‘arguable’ have been rejected.
This is excellent news. It means we are over the first legal hurdle and can now prepare for a full judicial review hearing.
The Court has decided that the case will be heard in Manchester. Two days have been set aside for the hearing. We will let you know the date once we have it.
Best wishes to all our wonderful supporters
From all at GLEAM
At the beginning of the year GLEAM, the Green Lanes Environmental Action Movement, applied for Judicial Review of the way the LDNPA has managed the the two tracks near Little Langdale. GLEAM also launched the CrowdJustice appeal. Here is an update from GLEAM on where we are:
We are still patiently waiting for the Administrative Court to decide whether our case against the LDNPA is ‘arguable’. All judicial review cases are subject to this preliminary assessment, which is done through consideration of written legal submissions.
In our case, this preliminary assessment is taking longer than usual as one of the third parties (the off-roading organisation called Trail Riders Fellowship) decided to get involved in the case in support of the LDNPA and asked for time to make a submission. (The two other third parties with an interest, the National Trust and Cumbria County Council, are not taking part in the proceedings.)
Should the Court decide that a case is not ‘arguable’ and therefore should not proceed to a full hearing, the claimant can contest this decision at an oral hearing.
We budgeted for the possibility of an oral hearing at the outset. This means that thanks to you all we have enough funds to cover the cost of an oral hearing should one be needed.
Meanwhile, the Administrative Court has categorised our case as ‘significant’ and has noted that the case ‘raises important issues concerning the Sandford Principle’. (The Sandford Principle says that where there is conflict between conservation and recreation, national park authorities should give priority to conservation.)
We will continue to keep you posted and, as ever, we are hugely grateful for your support.
Best wishes from all at GLEAM.
If you want to know more about Judicial Reviews and how the work, there is a good introduction on the website of the Public Law Project.
Bill Birkett has published more than 30 books about the Lake District. He was born in Little Langdale, and remembers walking the Tilberthwaite track with his grandfather. He also remembers how families used to come here to enjoy the remoteness of the place, undisturbed by 4x4s and motorbikes.
Sometimes the pictures on the radio are better than on any screen, and that’s the case with this podcast. Listen to it wherever you are, to experience the beauty of these fells and to relax. Or to discover a shortcut that Bill hadn’t walked for 30 years and that his grandad had shown him.
And then there is the Cathedral Quarry, where Bill’s father worked and where he knows all the secret tunnels.
Listen to the podcast here ...
There are more podcasts, beautiful drawings and photos on countrystride.co.uk.
At the end of last year the CEO of the Lake District National Park, Richard Leafe, told Sky News that the Lake District National Park was too white and middle class and that its visitors needed to be more diverse. Nobody would disagree with this statement – but why pick out this particular aspect of the Glover report on National Parks? Again and again Glover and his team stressed the primacy of conserving natural beauty– now even more important than 70 years ago when National Parks were established.
The Lake District National Park Authority is currently being criticised for allowing 4x4s and motorbikes on fell tracks, for backing plans for zip wires and gondolas, and for resurfacing a trail near Keswick with tarmac. Locals and visitors feel that the priority of the LDNPA is not conservation, but creating a theme park with commercial attractions.
Tony Lywood, one of the Authority’s board members, thinks that the CEO’s newly discovered fondness for diversity is just a diversionary tactic to avoid having to address the real issues. He has spoken out against his own authoirity.
Read this article in The Times to find out what happened next.
It wasn’t the most inspiring day for a BIG DAY OUT with a wild and wet weather forecast from the start. But as it turned out, the torrential conditions didn’t deter the crowds of protesters on Saturday. Walking from Grasmere village then gathering on the misty southern shores of Grasmere Lake we were there to show how much we all care about protecting this national park from the increasing pressures upon it.
Some folk arrived by canoe, one on horseback but mostly on foot in very wet and muddy boots. Quite a troupe of well-behaved dogs also voted with their paws! But one of the highlights was the crew of wild swimmers in their equally wild headgear who, running and whooping into the lake as if it were a balmy summer day, brandished their placards and showed that they would be no pushover when it comes to facing the oversized ‘houseboats’, tarmacked paths, zip wires and encroaching 4x4s!
There were speeches by Douglas Chalmers (Friends of the Lake District), Terry Abrahams (film maker and photographer) and Tim Farron MP. Despite a megaphone their voices were occasionally carried away in the wind but still the message was clear. This is a positive campaign, encouraging those outdoor activities and types of sustainable development which sit comfortably within such a special environment. It is not ‘anti’ anything, unless that anything should threaten to damage this World Heritage site for which we are guardians.
Grasmere Village Hall was the hub for the morning and here we represented the Lake District Green Lanes Alliance (LDGLA) and handed out some of our Take Back the Tracks mini posters and our ‘hot off the press’ leaflets. These have been designed for us, for free, by Russell Mills. A very big thank you there!
The most encouraging aspect of this event was to feel part of a much larger movement. ‘Better together’ we can share skills, resources, good will and optimism and work towards our common purpose of protecting Lakeland’s unique beauty and tranquillity. Everyone who participated in this Big Day Out would agree it was a GREAT Day Out. So, a huge THANK YOU to all those involved in the organisation of it. Together we will Save Our Lake District!
Report from the High Tilberthwaite track: on Saturday 18th January a convoy of over 20 4x4s drove from Bridge End to Tilberthwaite well after dark, with lights blazing. So much for 5 vehicles a day.
10 motorbikes were seen coming off the Parkamoor track at Nibthwaite on Sunday 19th January. A convoy of 7 4x4s also used the track on the same day.
23 January 2020
The BBC’s One Show included a report on the High Tilberthwaite/High Oxenfell green lanes. The LDNPA’s usage figure quoted by the reporter is 5 vehicles per day – but that average figure masks a much higher usage at weekends. It also excludes motorbikes. The official LDNPA data for August 2017 to July 2018 show that
on 81 days there were 15 vehicles or more;
on 43 days 20 vehicles or more and
on 4 days 40 vehicles or more.
This is not acceptable for walkers or the sheep farmers on the tracks. And it is not compatible with the National Park’s special quality of beauty and tranquillity.
21 January 2020
The World Heritage Watch Forum in Paris ended today. Although World Heritage Watch is an NGO, top representatives from the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS, the UNESCO advisory body, attended the meeting. it is clear that UNESCO is taking concerns about threats to the World Heritage Status in the Lake District seriously – particularly because of the cumulative effect of off-road vehicles on green lanes, the zip wire, the gondola/cable car project and the Keswick railway path being covered in tarmac.
20 January 2020
The Friends of the Lake District launched the SOLD campaign today: Save our Lake District, of which we are part. It aims to change the culture for decision making in the National Park, so that conservation comes first. The other partners of the campaign are Zip Off, Houseboats off Grasmere, NoGoGondola and the Threlkeld to Keswick Railway Path Campaign.
12 January 2020
In August 2003 the LDNPA told the Westmorland Gazette what its position was on off-road vehicles using green lanes in the Lake District:
“One vehicle used irresponsibly in the wrong conditions can cause damage which takes ten years to repair” said Corporate Operations Director Bob Cartwright. The authority hoped a ban would foster an environment where off-roading would become “socially unacceptable” in what the authority regarded as “England’s finest landscape - a place where people like to get some tranquillity.”
Since 2003 the number of off-road vehicles on green lanes has risen dramatically. We know that on the Tilberthwaite track 4x4 numbers went up five-fold between 2003 and 2017/18.
So why has the Authority changed its position? How is it possible that the report it produced to inform its Rights of Way Committee reads like a manifesto for off-road vehicles on green lanes?
When John Dower delivered his report on the establishment of National Parks, he expressed what he thought should happen to the “rough mountain and moorland cart-tracks” such as those in the Lake District:
“the only sound policy basis is segregation and selective restriction of traffic, and with no improvement and minimum maintenance of those routes which are reserved for walkers, cyclists and horse-drawn traffic, and closed to all motor vehicles except for the specific service of neighbouring farms.”
8 January 2020
In 30 days we've raised over £60,000. That's an amazing result, thanks to our supporters throughout the UK. Some people have donated large sums, some have donated several times, and many of you have left comments on the CrowdJustice website. To read some of them, click here.
We don't know yet whether there'll be any additional costs because of possible appeals and the involvement of 'interested parties', so we are keeping the page on CrowdJustice open for the time being. We'll keep you informed about the progress of the Judicial Review.
29 December 2019
In a bizarre piece on Sky News, the LDNPA seemed to defend 4x4s (and motorbikes) because of the need for more visitor diversity. But if the National Park is there for everyone, that does not mean it's there for every activity. How drastically the Lake District National Park Authority has departed from the purpose of National Parks becomes clear when you look at some of the documents which led to the establishment of National Parks in 1949.
One of these is a submission in 1930 by Lake District local authorities to the Addison Committee. The report of this committee was an important stepping stone for the formation of National Parks.
The Lake District local authorities have this warning:
‘As regards the recreative object, it is perhaps sufficient to say that in fulfilling this as completely as possible nothing should be done to destroy the very purpose for which people in search of recreation visit the Lakes. This sounds like an axiom or platitude, but there are persons quite capable of using the lure of natural beauty to the public's lower instincts. One can imagine that a company might acquire a dale famous for its natural scenery and develop it as a fun park. These things have been done elsewhere as an adjunct of the necessary provision for eating and sleeping, but also as a blatant counter-attraction to nature. Indiscriminate opening up for access by all types of machine is equally foreign to the real use of the district for recreation.'
If the people looking after the Lake District knew this 90 years ago, why don’t their successors seem to care today?
The most important document preparing the ground for the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949 was a report by John Dower, published in 1945. In the introduction Dower quotes this statement from Henry Strauss, MP, in a parliamentary debate in 1942:
'We are a large population living in a small island of matchless but most vulnerable beauty. It is reckless folly to squander and destroy it.'
In the same debate the Paymaster-General, Sir William Jowitt, mentions the Lake District:
'I give the illustration of the Lake District. Is there anyone who really doubts that a district such as that ought not to be a National Park, combined with some scheme of youth-hostels to give our young people the chance to roam about and get their exercise under those conditions? Has not that some spiritual value?'
Dower defines the two dominant purposes of National Parks as 1) that the characteristic beauty of the landscape shall be preserved, and 2) that the visiting public shall have ample access and facilities within it for open-air recreation and for enjoyment of its beauty.
Dower then adds that sometimes these purposes may be ‘at variance’ with each other, and suggests the following:
'Some things that the visiting public – or that part of it which is as yet insensitive and ignorant of natural beauty – might wish to do in National Parks, and some of the more urban and mechanical facilities they might ask for, will have to be prohibited or restricted in the interest of landscape preservation.'
Here Dower clearly formulates what has become known as the Sandford Principle: if there is a conflict between conservation and enjoyment, conservation must come first.
So right from the start it has been Conservation First. Why does the LDNPA have such difficulty accepting this?
15 December 2019
70 years ago the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 described the statutory purposes of National Parks:
The provisions of this Part of this Act shall have effect for the purpose—
(a)of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the areas specified in the next following subsection; and
(b)of promoting opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of those areas by the public.]
And the Environment Act 1995 defines what should happen if those two purposes are in conflict:
In exercising or performing any functions in relation to, or so as to affect, land in a National Park, any relevant authority shall have regard to the purposes specified in subsection (1) of section five of this Act and, if it appears that there is a conflict between those purposes, shall attach greater weight to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area comprised in the National Park.
In his reply to our complaint the CEO of the the LDNPA says this about protecting our two historic fell tracks:
How they should be protected is not a question we addressed specifically within the report, but is a wider question.
So 70 years after the creation of National Parks it seems that conservation is no longer a priority for the LDNPA. And it's dressing this failure up as a concern about diversity.
3 December 2019
Earlier this year the National Park Authority and Cumbria County Council put up a sign on the Tilberthwaite track, loudly proclaiming that 'this route is a road'. To the locals this came as a surprise: they know it as a cart track. On the 1979 Ordnance Survey map the route is indeed marked in two places as a track.
Why is the LDNPA so keen to say that this is a road? A nearby track from High Tilberthwaite to Little Langdale ford, although wider in places, is a bridleway. Over the years, arbitrary decisions have been made about the status of these tracks, with only one beneficiary: the users of recreational motor vehicles.
6 November 2019
Summary of complaint to the Chief Executive of the
Lake District National Park Authority
1. In its management of the green lanes at High Tilberthwaite and High Oxenfell the LDNPA has consistently ignored its statutory purpose of conserving and enhancing natural beauty. Instead it has focused its efforts on protecting access rights for recreational motor vehicles.
2. The process of evidence gathering carried out by the Authority was not robust. Neither the online nor the on-site survey complied with industry standards.
3. The evidence presented to the Rights of Way Committee was selective and biased:
a. Despite its limitations the online survey showed that 85% of non-motorised users want a TRO on the High Tilberthwaite route and 80% on the High Oxenfell route. This information was not included in the body of the LDNPA’s report to the Rights of Way Committee but concealed in a table in the Appendix.
b. Two significant findings were not conveyed to the Rights of Way Committee: at least half of the 4x4 and motorbike traffic occurs at weekends, and on 59 days there were more than 20 vehicles per day on the Tilberthwaite route, with several peaks of over 40 vehicles a day.
4. The testimonies from the two sheep farms were not taken into proper account: they show that 4x4s and motorbikes have a serious detrimental effect on farm management.
5. The LDNPA failed to mention to the Rights of Way Committee that its proposed solution - partnership management - has been in place for 20 years in the shape of the Hierarchy of Trail Routes. This scheme was not able to address the impact of motor vehicles on the beauty and tranquillity of the tracks and the surrounding area.
6. The LDNPA did not take into account empirical noise measurements and observations from residents about the impact on tranquillity.
7. The solutions for the two routes proposed by the LDNPA do not address the effect of recreational motor vehicles on natural beauty and tranquillity or on the sheep farms. They ignore the lesson from the last 20 years that partnership management is not working.
8. The LDNPA’s management solution takes no account of the latest letter from UNESCO (8th October 2019), asking for the exclusion of recreational motor vehicles from these two lanes.
15 November 2019
UNESCO sent its letter (read it here...) to the 'state party', i.e. the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on 8th October, the day the Rights of Way Committee made its decision. UNESCO and its advisory body made it clear they wanted the Rights of Way Committee to take their letter into account when making its decision:
“ICOMOS requests that these comments be passed on to the Rights of Way Committee in advance of the report being discussed.”
It didn’t happen. The UNESCO letter contains a detailed rebuttal of arguments in the LDNPA’s Committee Report - the document on which the Rights of Way Committee based its decision against Traffic Regulation Orders.
a) The impact of recreational motor vehicles is not limited to physical damage, but concerns the character and tranquillity of the landscape.
b) UNESCO and ICOMOS consider the LDNPA’s report advising the Rights of Way Committee to opt for ‘consensus management’ as inadequate.
c) The use of green lanes by recreational motor vehicles was not set out as a threat in the document bidding for World Heritage status.
d) The increase in 4x4 traffic is having an adverse impact on the World Heritage site.
e) Traffic Regulation Orders appear to be an appropriate tool to deal with the impact.
The LDNPA does not think any of this matters. Writing to the DCMS (and UNESCO) the Authority says that “the letter did not include any additional information or evidence relevant to the determination of the matter.”
This is clearly incorrect. Had the Committee had all this information, its decision might well have been different. Just ignoring it is risking the World Heritage status of the Lake District.
7 November 2019
"In this world of increasing awareness and concern about climate change and the urgent need to take action, how could anyone support the use of these vehicles on our Lake District green lanes?" Bill Birkett in Cumbria Magazine. Read his article here ....
1 November 2019
BBC Countryside Autumn Diaries this morning showed how locals feel about recreational motorbikes and 4x4s on the fell tracks near Little Langdale.
The writer, mountaineer and photographer Bill Birkett said on the programme: "We do not want 4x4 vehicles coming through our landscape polluting the air and tearing up the tracks. This is such an iconic and beautiful place, the kind of thing we want to preserve."
The CEO of the Friends of the Lake District, Douglas Chalmers reminded us that National Parks were all about getting people away from towns and mechanised lives - and recreational off-road vehicles "spoil the enjoyment of the Park for the vast majority of people."
At the same more and more drivers from abroad are seeking out the Lake District fell tracks for an adventure. A Dutch company is offering guided tours, using public and illegal routes, and convoys of Dutch 4x4s are now regularly seen in the area. To stop this we need TROs, not a partnership management group.
14 October 2019
Last Thursday Keswick Town Council voted unanimously to pass a vote of no confidence against the LDNPA, proving that the Authority's refusal to ban motor vehicles from fell tracks is not an isolated decision. Read the Guardian article here...
Zipwires, gondola cable cars and tarmac tracks are also part of its vision for the future of the National Park and World Heritage site.
9 October 2019
We are pretty disappointed with the way the meeting went. 20 minutes for the officer who produced a biased report based on shoddy research, with no right of reply, 10 minutes for the motorists and 10 minutes for supporters of a TRO: the National Trust , the Ramblers and us.
Five out of six Committee members supported the report's recommendation to set up a ‘partnership management group’ for the High Tilberthwaite track. As the LDNPA's report shows, this is exactly the kind of approach which was tried 20 years ago and which failed miserably to control the traffic and to protect the special character of this beautiful place.
And for the High Oxenfell track? To quote the LDNPA:
“For the High Oxen Fell Road (U5001), Option b (maintain the surface, but do nothing else) would suffice. Far fewer concerns have been raised about this road in all aspects.”
In other words, let the farmer at High Oxenfell cope with the through traffic of 4x4s and motor cycles – the National Park Authority could not care less.
This despite abundant evidence that the vehicles make the lives of farmers difficult and spoil the experience of other users who have come to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this area, as we said in our verbal statement to the Committee.
At the meeting the National Trust confirmed its support for a TRO:
We believe that MPV use is damaging and should be regulated by a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) at Tilberthwaite and High Oxen Fell.
The Rights of Way Committee was unmoved and argued that “the National Park is there for everyone” – even for those whose activities diminish the enjoyment of the vast majority of users and blight the lives of farmers.
We have now set up a Lake District Green Lanes Alliance (LDGLA), similar to groups in the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District. Together, and with our supporters throughout the country we will continue to work for the protection of our fell tracks.
If you are interested in joining us, please let us know by emailing
5 October 2019
The writer, mountaineer and photographer Bill Birkett has spent much of his life in Little Langdale. This is what he said about 4x4s and motorbikes on our fell tracks:
“How could anyone who understands the fragile and special nature of the Lake District National Park and World Heritage Site not understand that it needs protection from the damaging self-interest of a few - a very few? To see it damaged in this way is a very singular and continuing sorrow.”
28 September 2019
Please join us on 8th October at 10 a.m. if you can, at the
Lake District National Park Authority
Kendal LA9 7RL
The decision will be made by the six Members of the Rights of Way Committee. The Members of National Park Authorities are independent of management. It is their duty to ensure that the National Park Authority fulfils its statutory national park purposes to the full and does so in a way that best reflects the special qualities of the area.
What are these statutory purposes?
to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage; and.
to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the area by the public.
So there should be no problem: conservation always comes first when there is a conflict between conservation and access. This is clearly set out in the Natural Environment Act 1995 – and should guide every single decision made by the Lake District National Park Authority.
The recommendation to the Committee made by LDNPA officers does not put conservation first. The "cooperative approach" it proposes has been in force for 20 years, while the influx of off-road vehicles has increased massively.
We need Traffic Regulation Orders on both tracks>
If you want to print out a "Protect our fell tracks" sign, here is a link.
22 September 2019
On 8th October the Rights of Way Committee of the National Park will decide on the future of our two green lanes. To provide a basis for their decision officials have now produced a report: a Summary Paper (11 pages), an Assessment Paper (77 pages) and a 1000-page Appendix.
The report reaches a truly scandalous recommendation: the two routes should stay open for 4x4s and motorbikes. It says so against the clear policy of the National Trust as the landowner, against the wishes of local farmers and residents, and of over 300,000 people who signed a petition and want to see a ban on off-road vehicles, against the stance of the Friends of the Lake District, mountaineering clubs and the Ramblers.
Contradicting its own evidence
Most bizarrely, the recommendation also ignores the National Park’s own evidence. Hidden away on page 5 Appendix 4.2 we see that 84% of non-motorised users want a ban on motor vehicles on both routes through TROs and 86% think there is an impact on the special qualities of the National Park. In the report itself there is complete silence about these important findings.
Appendix 4.2.3 shows the report’s dismissive handling of comments from respondents. On page 3 we find this comment:
As I have said, on my last walk along the route I encountered no recreational vehicles, for they were prohibited by the temporary order [i.e. during and after repairs]. This was a blessing. I have had extensive experience of encounters with non-essential motors on other routes, and know that the encounters have invariably been disagreeable. I go to national parks to get away from motor vehicles, not to meet them on otherwise quiet rural tracks. The NPA's insistence that the route is a road, essentially no different from the tarmacadamed roads elsewhere in the Park is pure sophistry. Tracks that came into existence to serve quarries, but which have borne no quarry traffic for many years, and which have become quiet tracks, used by non-motorised visitors, and local farmers, should be recognised, and protected as such.
This is dismissed by the LDNPA with the following remark:
Evidence relates to different roads. Not this one.
Many comments reflect a deep sense of loss to activities that degrade the National Park’s special qualities, and in particular all aspects of tranquillity, visual as well as aural. All these comments are brushed aside by the LDNPA.
For most visitors, both routes are places to get away from motor vehicles and the stresses of urban life. Many respondents refer to the traumatic quality of the intrusion by motor vehicles, not just for one particular walk but for the prospect of meeting 4x4s or motorbikes on any future walks.
The report tackles the issue of tranquillity by inventing its own evidence, not tainted by any empirical measurements, as it freely admits (Summary Report 14.8.11). And it comes to the conclusion that this area is not an oasis of peace and quiet at all. It is in fact a kind of post-industrial landscape, where mining and quarrying would apparently have caused greater noise and air pollution than motor vehicles today.
And the argument that this is the very place that inspired writers and artists such as Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter and therefore needs to be protected? Rubbish, says the report (Summary Report 18.104.22.168):
‘There is no actual evidence of artistic inspiration being reduced or stifled by the presence of MPVs on these roads.’
And the report notes, with a degree of incredulity, that most walkers do not regard the noise made by farmers as intrusive, but rather as intrinsic to the Lake District, unlike the noise made by leisure vehicles. The report finds this a ‘difficult concept to understand.’ (14.8.21 of the Summary Report) It comments:
‘It would be difficult to prohibit traffic based on noise, when other traffic generating similar noise is allowed to remain.’
Every single TRO in the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District does exactly that, flatly contradicting this statement.
And on the tarmac roads in the area the report has this to say (in the same paragraph as above):
‘It would also be difficult to prohibit recreational vehicles on these two roads, when the increase in road traffic generating the same noise [???] on the surrounding roads such as Wrynose and Side Gates is unabated, and when the traffic on those roads is far greater.’
Not only would it not be difficult to do this, it is all the more necessary to safeguard areas of tranquillity the busier tarmac roads are.
The LDNPA’s report is based on unprofessional, poor quality, biased surveys. Any responsible organisation would immediately have redesigned a survey with a dropout rate of over 50% after the first page; not so the LDNPA. (Read a more detailed comment on the surveys here.) But even this limited evidence points to the need for a TRO, not the solution presented as new by the report.
Just as serious is the report’s dismissal of evidence from farmers. No mention at all of farming in the Summary Report, and in the Assessment Report (p. 51) we find this awkward statement: ‘It is difficult to know the precise impact of MPV [i.e. motor vehicle] usage on the two farms concerned.’ And a page later it concludes that the ‘agro-pastoral tradition … is not being negatively affected by recreational MPV usage…’
But the Appendix tells us exactly what the impact on farming is. In 3.9.1 and 3.9.2 the farmers at High Tilberthwaite and High Oxenfell explain how they have had to change their working practices. Examples include not being able to work on the farm at weekends and the noise and presence of motor vehicles disturbing sheep on the fells. The Secretary of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association describes vividly (Appendix 10 page 3) how during a visit to High Tilberthwaite she witnessed the disruption to farm work caused by recreational motor vehicles. And she stresses the tragedy of a farmer having to leave his farm after decades of skilful work in developing an outstanding flock of Herdwicks.
‘A collaborative approach’
So what exactly does the report recommend, after all the evidence points to TROs as the solution? It says a partnership management group should be set up to pursue a collaborative approach, as if this was a new idea, and as if this was not the very proposal contained in the off-roaders’ comment on the ICOMOS review (Appendix 6.7).
It is bad enough for the LDNPA to reproduce uncritically, and without labelling it as such, a paper by a spokesman for the motoring organisations. But then to present the off-roaders’ ideas as a new solution assumes that nobody remembers what happened over the last 20 years. Consensus management, in the shape of the Hierarchy of Trail Routes (HoTR), has been in place since 2000 and has not prevented a 5-fold increase of 4x4s on the Tilberthwaite route, it probably even contributed to the rise.
The HoTR is still being advertised, on road signs and the Cumbria County Council website, as the management scheme in force now. But it is clear that consensus management has not protected and cannot protect the beauty and tranquillity of this part of the National Park, because it cannot control the number of off-road vehicles.
This also becomes clear in the minutes of the Trail Management Advisory Group which oversaw the HoTR until 2006. The off-roaders admit that they have tried unsuccessfully to get the cooperation of commercial operators and other motorists. And the LDNPA representative agrees that the HoTR is simply not working on some routes, particularly on the High Tilberthwaite track.
That the public body entrusted with the protection of our National Park should publish this report for the Rights of Way Committee is deeply troubling. Why should a National Park Authority want to ignore, and systematically ignore, the evidence for a TRO and seek to discredit the motives of those who oppose motor vehicles? Why would it want to belittle the disruption caused on the sheep farms, with very real consequences for the lives of the sheep farmers?
Maybe the answer lies in an academic paper published in 2011 in the journal Leisure Studies, which tries to answer the question: why were there different outcomes for powerboats on Lake Windermere and off-road vehicles on green lanes? Why was powerboating effectively banned, and off-roading given the go-ahead? The author, M. Collins, concludes that the motoring organisations have managed to co-opt the LDNPA, so that their perspective is now the LDNPA’s perspective.
Only the Members of the Rights of Way Committee can prove by their decision on 8th October that this is not the case.
9 September 2019
The Observer today has a pretty accurate report about the precarious situation of our green lanes. Local people describe how these tracks have become magnets for thrill-seeking off-road enthusiasts, and how the National Park is not only turning a blind eye, but now actively encouraging them.
25 August 2019
4x4s and motorbikes driven for fun on green lanes are not acceptable – that is what the LDNPA said in 2003 in a draft management plan:
“The use of recreational vehicles in the countryside is an emotive issue for many people who have concerns about the associated noise, pollution, erosion, and the conflicts with other users and local residents.
The National Park Authority, together with several other organisations and individuals, views the activity as inappropriate in the Lake District National Park. It conflicts, for example, with the concept of quiet enjoyment, a special quality of the National Park.”
In the Daily Telegraph of 27th September 2003 Richard Simpson wrote:
Bob Cartwright is corporate operations director at the LDNPA. When I asked him about the nature and severity of the "intrusion'' caused by 4x4s on green lanes he described it as "nearer to low-flying jets, and it really jars with the experience you're having''. Then there's that "risk of damage'' argument, and once again Cartwright makes his case very directly: "One vehicle can cause the damage of 500 pairs of feet.''
So why were these plans abandoned? An article in the Westmorland Gazette on 15th August 2003 gives a clue:
“This week Land Access and Recreation Association (LARA) branded the proposed ban a “betrayal” of an eight-year partnership between the park, motorbike and 4x4 drivers and questioned which sport would be next to be hit by national park policy.
The breakdown in relations could mean the end of The Hierarchy of Trail Routes experiment – a joint management plan which both drivers and park bosses have acknowledged as a success.“
Under this pressure the National Park seems to have backtracked. Let’s hope that in 2019 the LDNPA shows more resolve.
14 August 2019
In the article in The Times yesterday Stephen Ratcliffe, the Director of Sustainable Development of the LDNPA, is quoted as saying “applying TROs is a last resort for us, following guidance from government.”
Last resort? After 20 years of protests? In December 2000 the Chairman of the Langdales Society wrote in the Langdale Valley News that with the introduction of the Hierarchy of Trails Routes (consensus management)
‘the LDNPA have not just advertised the fact that ‘green roads’ are in fact legitimate highways; they have not just given permission for certain types of vehicles to use these tracks; they have positively issued a challenge which has been taken up by entrepreneurs.’
And the national guidance to which the Director of Sustainable Development refers says nothing about ‘last resort’. It does say that other options have to be tried first, but that is exactly what the LDNPA have been doing, mainly with the Hierarchy of Trail Routes scheme.
The national guidance clearly states the purpose of TROs: ‘to control the excessive or inappropriate use of mechanically propelled vehicles away from the ordinary roads network.’ It also says:
‘The Government considers that in many cases a level of recreational vehicular use that may be acceptable in other areas will be inappropriate within National Parks and incompatible with their purposes.’
The message in the ICOMOS report is simple: you are a National Park. That status gives you specific responsibilities to protect the special qualities of the place you are looking after.
You are also a World Heritage Site, and your responsibilities as a National Park Authority coincide directly with those to protect the World Heritage Site.
You have the tools to this, so please use them.
11 August 2019
This is a significant development: the UNESCO advisory body ICOMOS has asked the LDNPA to ban 4x4s on green lanes in the Lake District. The ICOMOS report focuses on 4x4s, but all the arguments also apply to motorbikes.
ICOMOS (the International Council on Monuments and Sites) says that the continuing use of unsurfaced roads by 4x4s has a detrimental impact on the Lake District’s OUV – its Outstanding Universal Value which gained the Lake District its World Heritage status.
The qualities particularly affected by the off-road traffic are tranquillity and beauty, the integrity of the landscape, sheep farming and the heritage of the conservation movement, in particular Beatrix Potter’s.
The report says that the National Park Authority has the tool to remedy this problem in the form of Traffic Regulation Orders, and points to the contrast between the Lake District (no TROs since 2006) and the Yorkshire Dales (12 TROs) and the Peak District (6 TROs), concluding that “there appears to be no reason why such measures cannot be introduced in the Lake District.
ICOMOS finds that the tests for TROs coincide directly with the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value “and thus there is an acknowledged and defined baseline of value for the qualities of the landscape that does not exist in other National Parks.”
In October the Rights of Way Committee will consider putting TROs on the High Tilberthwaite and High Oxenfell routes. This would be a good time to show that the LDNPA are serious about protecting the World Heritage Site.
8 August 2019
For 20 years the LDNPA has made a bold claim: it has found an innovative solution to the problem of off-road vehicles on unsealed roads. What is this solution, central to the LDNPA’s green lane policies? Management and containment through partnership working (LDNPA statement 18 October 2017).
This scheme, the Hierarchy of Trail Routes, was initiated by off-road motorists (see Geoff Wilson and David Robinson’s article in Countryside Recreation, Summer 2005) and devised by them in conjunction with the National Park. It was officially introduced in 2001, after a 2-year trial.
But in the section on High Tilberthwaite and High Oxenfell on the LDNPA website this policy of consensus management is not even mentioned, nor in a 23-page briefing note which people had to read before they could fill in a very long online survey.
Why? The strong suspicion is that the National Park wants to nudge people into choosing ‘consensus management’ as their preferred option, because consensus sounds good and is better than confrontation. And if you want ‘consensus management’ to appear in a positive light, you’d better not mention that in this case it has come with some pretty disastrous consequences.
Right from the start Parish Councils warned that putting up signs advertising the Hierarchy of Trail Routes would lead to an increase in traffic - and they were right. On the track from High Tilberthwaite to Little Langdale the number of 4x4s increased over 5-fold between 2004 and 2018, to 163 a month. Residents voiced their complaints, in letters to the Westmorland Gazette, in local meetings with LDNPA representatives and in the Langdale Valley newsletter.
Residents also wrote to the National Park; and the National Trust warned that the “use of the route has increased and their tenant at High Tilberthwaite is impacted by the amount of vehicles coming through his farm yard.”
‘Consensus management’ turns out to be based only on the consensus between the National Park and off-road enthusiasts, who are, unbelievably, also responsible for monitoring the ‘sustainability’ of the routes.
It’s high time to look at another consensus: that of residents, farmers, walkers, cyclists, horse-riders, the National Trust, the Friends of the Lake District, the Wainwright Society, the Fell and Rock Climbing Club, the Fylde Mountaineering Club and the Yorkshire Ramblers - and of over 300,000 people who signed the petition asking for a TRO. These beautiful fell tracks should not be used for a fun drive in your 4x4 or on your motorbike.
19th July 2019
Is Michael Gove listening to us, at last? In May 2018 he asked Julian Glover to lead a review of National Parks, and the review team has now come up with a preliminary report. There are a number of important recommendations, but one in particular will be welcomed by anyone who has experience of the Lake District National Park’s record in protecting natural beauty.
"We think in particular the current system of governance for National Parks should be reformed. Time after time we have heard and seen that boards are too big, do not do a good job in setting a strategic direction and ambition, and are unrepresentative of both society and, at times, of the things parks should be leading on, such as natural beauty, climate change, and diversity."
So the LDNPA should be taking the lead in the protection of natural beauty and the special qualities of the Lake District. Instead it needs to be cajoled into action when our landscape is being degraded by off-road motorists invading some of the most beautiful tracks in the country.
The National Trust’s submission to the Glover review put it well: “We believe that National Parks and AONBs (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) are not currently delivering on their duty in relation to nature”.
11 July 2019
Who is in charge of green lanes in the Lake District? The Hierarchy of Trail Routes is the voluntary restraint scheme supposed to regulate the traffic of recreational off-road vehicles. It was devised by off-roaders and the National Park. New notices proclaiming that the tracks can be used by 4x4s and motorbikes are signed by the National Park and LARA, the umbrella organisation for motoring groups.
The notice asks motorists not to drive in groups of more than four 4x4s and six motorbikes. But this is often ignored and can’t be enforced. There is no overall daily limit for vehicles.
The views of residents, walkers, cyclists and horse riders are clearly not important enough to be taken into account.
Cumbria County Council’s website reveals who assesses the routes, from the most vulnerable to the more robust ones. Try and answer this multiple choice question:
Regular monitoring of vulnerable green lanes
in the Lake District is done by
a) The National Park
b) The National Trust
c) Cumbria County Council
d) The off-road motorists
The answer is d).
So the Hierarchy of Trail Routes has put 4x4
drivers and motorcyclists in charge of conservation.
29 June 2019
The World Heritage Committee meeting in Baku from 30th June to 10th July is being urged to act fast against the threat to World Heritage Sites posed by climate change.
World Heritage Watch, an NGO working for the protection of World Heritage Sites, is asking the Committee to address the problem urgently. The vulnerability of sites such as Venice is obvious, but what about the Lake District, and in particular the problem of soil erosion?
There is little doubt that motor vehicles, and that means above all 4WDs and motorbikes, are a major cause of soil erosion on unsurfaced tracks, particularly in the initial stages. But water exacerbates this damage, washing away already loosened particles.
The floods of 2015 and 2018 are a reminder that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent. So there is now a pressing need to eliminate at least the one factor over which we have control: erosion by recreational motor vehicles.
A wider consideration, equally urgent, is the reduction of vehicle emissions and CO2. In its Travel Vision the Lake District National Park says:
The Lake District Travel Vision aims to reduce reliance on the car in order to:
Create a more enjoyable, relaxing and healthier visitor experience
Reduce impacts of traffic on communities and the landscape
Reduce carbon emissions
Great. But these fine words need translating into practice.
Adam Markham of the Union of Concerned Scientists has written a blog about the Climate Threat Change to World Heritage. You can read it here.
20 June 2019
How does our National Park assess on which green lanes recreational 4x4s and motorbikes should be allowed? The LDNPA uses a rather strange form of words: 'Although we would prefer it if people did not take vehicles on these routes, it is accepted it is a legal activity...' That sounds like end of story, and it has been LDNPA policy for 20 years. Not much we can do, since it's perfectly legal. But National Park Authorities were given TRO powers to curb precisely this kind of legal traffic. Illegal traffic is a matter for the police.
In 2006 Cumbria County Council took over the management of the Hierarchy of Trail Routes (the voluntary restraint scheme for off-road motorists). This means, according to the CCC website, that 'volunteers mainly from the Cumbria Trail Riders Fellowship [TRF] and the Green Lanes Association continue to monitor more than 220 unsurfaced routes to assess suitability and sustainability.' So off-road motorists, not the National Park Authority, monitor the green lanes. A bizarre state of affairs for a National Park Authority that is supposed to 'conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.'
The contrast to the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District could not be more pronounced: in the Yorkshire Dales 10 TRO's were imposed since 2006, in the the Peak District 7 in the last five years alone. And every single one of these Traffic Regulation Orders is based on the preservation of beauty and tranquillity.
Is the Lake District is so much less worthy of protection than other National Parks?
20 June 2019
We are not alone. walkinghighlands reports that efforts are underway in the Scottish Parliament to control the spread of vehicle tracks in the Highlands. Campaigners worry about the encroachment of motor vehicles into wild landscapes - through an expansion of new tracks that don't look very different from the repaired High Tilberthwaite track.