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Motorised tourism on green lanes

Driving a 4x4 or riding a motorbike or quad purely for pleasure is legal on around 80 routes in the Lakes - but just because it's legal it doesn't mean it's right


The landscape of the Lake District is not a blank canvas for all kinds of activities, motorised or unmotorised. To residents, particularly farmers, and visitors alike it provides essential benefits - what ecologists call ecosystem services.


Natural England’s website has a detailed description of these services for all areas of the Lake District. These, for instance, are what the Cumbria High Fells provide us with:


  • Sense of place and of history - a strong and revitalising sense of place


  • Inspiration - as well as individual inspiration this area has been influential in the birth and development of the Picturesque, Romantic and conservation movements as well as British rock climbing.


  • Tranquillity - large areas are still undisturbed and remote


  • Biodiversity - this is the most biologically diverse upland area in England. Some of it is of international importance for its habitats and associated species, including lakes, tarns, rivers, woodland, hay meadows, purple moor grass pasture and the diverse mosaic of vegetation communities on the fells.


  • Geodiversity – the Cumbria High Fells have 48 sites of national importance for geodiversity. These consist of natural outcrops and river sections as well as man-made exposures. It is of particular importance for mineralisation, including disused quarries and dumps associated with mineral workings and mines.


For our own health and wellbeing and for that of future generations endangering these services would be utterly irresponsible. It would also be in contravention of our targets for nature recovery: the UK Government, has made international commitments to protect 30 per cent of land and seas by 2030. National Parks must be trailblazers in the country’s effort to reach this target.

As a policy paper on the Defra website puts it:

“Taking the value of the services we get from nature into account in your decisions isn’t an ‘optional extra’, it is central to the Government’s aim to achieve a healthy natural environment by putting it at the heart of policy making.”


Below is the evidence that's needed to make Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) - the very evidence used successfully by other National Parks. 


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

In online surveys on two routes near Little Langdale the LDNPA collected hundreds of responses from walkers and cyclists. The environmental psychologist Dr Ryan Lumber evaluated their comments and came 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 broken

  • Cultural heritage threatened

  • Sense of danger for walkers

  • Harm to 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.


      Motor vehicles on green lanes 

  • Create erosion and runoff

  • Prevent revegetation on tracks

  • Change hydrological conditions

  • Intensify the impact of climate change

  • Produce noise and exhaust emissions


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.


In 2006 National Park Authorities were given extra powers to prohibit recreational motor vehicles on green lanes. They can do this by making Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs).

Since then, the Yorkshire Dales National Park has closed 10 and the Peak District 7 green lanes to motor vehicles. All of these TROs were made to preserve the amenity and conserve the natural beauty of the area.

The Lake District National Park Authority has not made a single TRO since 2006. 


Join the Lake District Green Lanes Alliance

Keep a record of any encounters with off-road vehicles and send it to us (

Write to the CEO of the LDNPA, Richard Leafe (, explaining why you think the National Park should ban recreational off-road vehicles on green lanes.

Write to your Westmorland and Furness or Cumberland Councillor. You can also write to 

Giles Archibald, the Cabinet Member for Climate and Biodiversity.

Or, for Cumberland, write to Denise Rollo, Executive Member, Sustainable, Resilient and Connected Places.

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