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Info-Super-Highway on a Muddy By-Way!

Green-Lane 'Maps' & GPS Systems for Newbies


Two of the more FAQ's on the topic of green-laning are:-

"Where can I get a Green-Lane Map / What maps are best for Green-Laning"

"What GPS is best for Green-Laning?"

Question behind these is normally:-

"I'm a Newbie, I want to go drive my Land Rover down these 'Green-Lane' things, but don't know bludger all about how to do it"

So the FIRST thing is you need to know What Is Green-Laning, and how to go about doing it, and only THEN might you need to know about the maps for the job and where / when / how GPS systems may be of any use.

A quick intro of Green-Laning if you don't want to follow the link; Green-Lanes are un-surfaced roads. Public rights of way, with vehicular rights, but without a made or 'tarmac' surface. Technically it's not actually, 'Off-Roading', because legally, these trails ARE 'Roads', and you need a car or motorbike that is taxed, Insured, & MOT'd (If Applicable); hold a valid driver's licence for the vehicle, and drive it in compliance with ALL the statutory regulations that apply to ANY 'normal' roads.

Driving Green-Lanes is contentious. Lots and Lots of people think that cars & motorbikes belong on roads, but DON'T think that anything without tarmac can actually be a 'road', it must be a foot-path or bridle way or farmers track, and we shouldn't be driving a two ton 'gas guzzler' on it for 'fun'.

You have been warned; if you want to go Green-Laning, you need to be SUPER SURE that the tracks you are driving on ARE legal, open, By-Ways, you DO have the right to drive down.  And that means BEFORE you drive them, you have to make certain YOU have Status Confirmed the track you are on!

And you are advised to follow the ''Tread-Lightly' ' code whilst doing it! Green-Lanes are NOT the place to explore the limit of your Landy's capabilities, in the same way that tarmac roads aren't a race track! They are ROADS and we need to remember that, even though they might not 'feel' like ordinary roads.

Driving green-lanes SHOULD be about the adventure, explorin these 'lost' roads, getting away from snarling traffic and enjoying the scenary.... if you just want to get your Landy muddy or see how mad you can get with it before getting stuck, go do a Pay & Play Day instead! Becouse you will probably be very dissapointed in what you get out of a Green-Lane trip (looking for lots and lots of short, unchallenging tracks CAN be quite boring, actually!), and you are likely to not do the trails or the reputation of other Laners much good, IF that is all you are after.

Now Join a Club - GLASS or the TRF  for preference!

OK, so you have taken on board the advice and warnings about Green-Laning, and want to get out there and 'Do' some, but you still don't know how to find any, and probably have the idea that you can buy a map or get a little dash-mount Sat-Nav widget, and you'll be able to see at a glance, or the tap of a button, where you can drive..... sorry, to disappoint, but its NOT quite THAT easy!

But, the BEST place to start 'Green-laning' is with an organised, but as importantly, recognised, Club. For Land-Rovers & 4x4, preferably that'll be a club that's an associate member of a GLASS, if it isn't GLASS itself. For Motorbikes, it'll probably be the TRF.

If you've clicked the link to the tread-lightly code of conduct, you should know who GLASS are, but if you haven't DO SO!, but they are  the Green-Lane ASSociation. The TRF is the Trail-Riders-Fellowship. These are special umbrella organisations who represent the interests of green-lane enthusiasts. There are plenty of clubs and organisations for Land-Rovers or Off-Roading, or Motorcycling, but if you want to go Green-Laning, you need to join a club that does it.

Hundreds of clubs for Motorbikes, Land-Rovers or 4x4's up and down the country, but their interests are quite diverse, and they dont always have a much of an active Green-Laning membership. A lot of Land-Rover Clubs for instance concentrate on Trials, many 4x4 Clubs on Challenge events and P&P's and an awful lot of motorcycle clubs don't do much more than organise social evenings and the odd camping Rally. So if you pick a club other than GLASS or the TRF, you need to make sure its at least an affiliate member to one or other, and has a reasonably active Green-Laning membership. More on that later.

But, find one that is and does, and they are a very good recourse for ALL you need to know about the persuit, and there will be folk who'll help you with everything you need to get out there and have a go at it, and most likely take an AWFUL lot of the hard work out of the job for you.

Generally, you'll start by joining a Club 'laning run, which should be lead by an experienced Green-Laner, who will have Status Confirmed the trails to be driven before hand, and planned and checked the route so that there shouldn't be anything particularly challenging for a newbie (green-lane) driver or potentially damaging to their vehicle. So you, and perhaps your family, if you are in a 4x4, can literally turn up to the meeting point, and follow the leader all day, not needing anything much more than your club membership card, some sandwiches and something to drink! While, along the way you'll learn from the more experienced members, how to drive and what you need to do more lanes, and you'll progress from there, under the guidance of club members.

ONLY after you have started, and done some Club Runs, might you want to venture further a field and do other trails 'on your own'. But heeding the advice in 'the code', you STILL shouldn't be going completely 'alone' you should have at least a second vehicle with you in case of mishap, but assuming you have considered that, and want to venture onto less familiar trails, with perhaps another 'Newbie', THEN you might need to think a bit more about the navigation

Ordnance Survey Maps

For Green-Laning, the average 'Road-atlas' isn't much use, it probably wont even show Green-Lanes, for the simple reason that most people wouldn't want to drive down them!

THIS is the same problem you will have with the proprietary 'Sat-Nav' widgets you can buy to sit on your car dash-board and give you turn by turn directions to Ikea when the missus wants to go look at furniture!

Most, proprietary Sat-Navs, for all the clever electronics in them, are basically JUST an electronic road atlas, and no matter how fancy they are, most just will NOT have 'green-lanes' in their Data-Bases, so wont direct you to, or along them, or even show them on their little LCD map screens.

The most common, readily available, and economical Maps that show what might be Green-Lanes, are Ordnance Survey Maps, or specifically OS Maps with a resolution higher than 1:50,000, Essentially the 1:50K scale OS 'Landranger' series, and the 1:25K OS 'Explorer' series.

Of the two series, the Landranger series is probably the slightly 'better' for Green-Laning; it has enough detail for trails that may be Green-Lanes to be marked, but without being so big that the map is unwieldy to use in a car, or can be folded and tucked into a map-pocket in a tank-bag, or dedicated map-holder, on a motorbike

The Explorer series show a lot more detail, but they only show half the area of land. They are great for walkers, travelling at a more sedate pace, but for Green-Laning, where you probably have to drive a few miles at normal road speeds between 'trails, they can be a bit cumbersome and unwieldy.

Landrangers have a couple of advantages then, you get twice the land area per map, so you need half as many of them, and per map, they are cheaper!

Both the OS Landranger and OS Explorer series maps are available in either traditional 'Paper' or 'Digital' formats.

Conventional paper maps, are about 7 (as 2010) each for the Landranger series, about 10 each for the Explorer series. Which isn't a huge investment, and no great loss if they get dropped in a puddle or something!

E-Maps, vary in price depending on the series and the area they cover, but packages start at about 30, for which you'll get a bit more coverage than you would for 30 worth of paper maps, but you'll need some electronics to run them on, which may make them a bit more expensive, and electric things don't like getting dropped in puddles, and tend to run on batteries that can go flat, so e-Maps tend to be a tad less 'dependable', though with electrickery around them, they can be made to do more, depending on what they are running on.

& Predicting your next Question, "Where Can I get these OS Maps?", well, the best starting place is the Ordnance Survey 'online' shop . But you can try your local WH Smiths, who usually hold a good selection & will order in copies of maps they don't hold for you; and 'Good' outdoor shops often carry a good selection of the more popular areas if not the entire range, in at least one or other series.

Recognising 'Green-Lanes' on the map

Green-Lanes are tracks and trails, without a proper 'made' surface, but which DO have Vehicular Rights on them. You WONT find anything on the map, or in the key, that says 'Green-Lane'! Here look, these are the Keys to the Landranger maps!

The first one, 'Communications' shows the 'normal' kind of roads; Motorways, duel-carriage ways, a-Roads, B-Roads, and the like, that we should be familiar with from a conventional road-atlas. Its the second one, 'Public Rights of Way', that is more useful to us for Green-Laning.

Foot-paths, & Bridleways, you CANNOT legally drive a car down! So don't, all right?

'Road Used as Public Path', or RUPP Are worth knowing about, although the classification was made 'obsolete' by the 2006 NERC act, though most OS Maps haven't been updated yet (as 2010) to reflect the change! Basically these routes USED to carry vehicular rights, but they were either so narrow, tight or otherwise restricted, that you probably COULDN'T actually drive a Land-Rover down one, even though you had the right to! And as said, since the NERC Act, they have all been reclassified and most DON'T have vehicular rights on them any more. Some may, and if you spot one that looks interesting, you may want to research it and find out, (some have been reclassified 'Restricted Byway) but for the most part, just presume that they are Bridleways or foot-paths and don't drive them!

By-way Open to ALL Traffic is what should get us exited, its how MOST Green-Lanes are described on the maps, and on the Landranger series, marked with a pink - + - + - line. And you stand a better than 'fair' chance of being actually able to drive these tracks. And most Green-Lanes so marked are often pretty tame, and could be driven in a family saloon car.

But its NOT 100% certain! If you check the disclaimers on the map itself, there are the statements:-

"Public Rights of Way shown on this Map have been taken from local authority definitive maps and later amendments. The map includes changes notified to the Ordnance Survey by 1st Nov {Year - usually immediately before map publication}"

it then goes on

"Rights of Way are liable to change and may not be clearly defined on the ground. Please Check with the relevent Local Authority for the latest information."

Basically, the Ordnance Survey has a schedule for updating its maps. Its a bit like the Forth road bridge, they start at one end of the country and over about ten years or so, work their way up, publishing updated versions of each map, until they get to the top, and then they start again, which is why MOST maps at the moment, still being sold still show RUPPs.

So, you CANNOT take the rights of way shown on an OS map as being 'Certain', even on a brand new map, they could be a decade or more out of date. You HAVE to make sure that the trails you intend to drive are 'Status Confirmed', which means, as the advice on the map, checking with the relevant authority that the routes ARE still legal to drive, PLUS checking that they don't have any 'Temporary Restriction Orders' or TRO's on them, prohibiting their use at the time you want to drive them.

But, if you were alert, you might have also spotted the pink dot and pink diamond trails, described as 'Other Route with Public Access' or 'National Long Distance Trail'.

These are 'uncertain' rights of way. Usually they are footpaths, but SOMETIMES, and I mean JUST some-times, they MIGHT be 'Green-Lanes' with vehicular rights..... but checking with the relevant authority, as you intended to anyway, should sort that out, shouldn't it?

Right, ONLY other thing to say about maps and map keys, is ALWAYS USE THE KEY! The colours and symbols used to mark RUPP's & BOAT's are DIFFERENT on the Landranger series maps to the ones on Explorer series maps, and can be different on maps of different ages.

Status Confirmed

OK, so having got an OS map or two, and spotted some likely looking trails on them, you want to make sure they are Status Confirmed and you CAN actually LEGALLY drive down them.

Well, as stated in the key, the most certain way to do this is to do the rounds of the local authorities and view their 'definitive map and list of amendments' and while you are at it, enquire about Temporary Restriction Orders, and whether any are in force, applied for or intended, and if the people in the office are quite friendly and helpful, they might even tell you about any lanes that are illegally blocked, obstructed or otherwise un-driveable.

This can be quite a tedious job, and depending on how many trails you need to check, over however many maps or local authorities, AND depending on how helpful those authorities are, it can be very time consuming and frustrating. BUT IT HAS TO BE DONE!

And it is here that most Newbie's would struggle and or give up, because dealing with the local authorities can be a very taxing experience, and traditionally, you have HAD to make an appointment to view the Definitive map for an area in the relevant local authorities offices, and many have made the process particularly difficult or onerous, or been specifically unhelpful.

Under the freedom of information act, you ARE entitled to see it, though, but many authorities don't make it any easier, neither do they make it any easier under the directive that says they should put their public records 'on-line'......

Comment on the Forums often says you can view the Definitive Map, or Rights of Way information 'on-the web' for many local authorities, and I wont disagree.... except that coverage is very patchy, and not always that helpful.

Warwickshire County Council, for example are particularly 'anti' Green-Laning, and deny having any, and admit to only a few miles of 'By-way Open to All Traffic', make comment that they are displayed clearly on the Ordnance Survey maps, and invite you, if you wish, to view the Definitive Map, by appointment, at the Council Records office.

Rutland, a TINY little council by comparison are VERY much 'on the ball'. They don't have the Definitive map 'on-line', but they do have a web-site with a google map window on it, and a search facility to display all the BOATS, Foot-Paths and Bridleways in their jurisdiction... unfortunately there is only ONE BOAT shown! Like I said, its a small county!

So, the advice here is basically not to even bother, trying to DIY your Status Checking, unless you absolutely have to.

If you have followed the advice so far, you WILL have joined GLASS or a GLASS affiliated 4x4 Club. or the TRF. Most will have a Rights or Way officer or Green-Laning Secretary, and they will normally be responsible for gathering the ROW Status info for all the Green-Lanes in the Clubs area.

The Green-Lane Secretary should then distribute this with the club members, and they usually organise 'Map-Marking' Sessions at their meets, so you can highlight 'Status-Checked' Green-Lanes on your own maps, and be told when they were last Status confirmed, and what the status was when it was confirmed.

CAUTION:- If YOU don't 'Status Confirm' green-lanes on your OWN map, you need to be VERY sure that the people you get status reports from are 150% 'reliable', and that what they are telling you is correct!

Most GLASS affiliated 4x4 Club';s Green-Lane Secretary or RF Reps will be reliable 'Green-Lane-Guru' and know the tracks and trails in their distinct intimately, and will probably be on very good terms with the people in the Local Authority Rights of Way offices, and have 'good' and up-to-date status info.

Some Clubs, though simply aren't all THAT 'into' green-laning, and might not have very recent lane-data, and SOME, particularly un-affiliated clubs or informal meetings, NO-ONE might have anything more than the info on an OS map! (if THAT, in some cases, in fact!)

Take Particular heed of this, if you are invited to go Green-Laning with any-one off a web-forum, or an informal laning group. Just because they offer to take you on 'Some Trails' doesn't mean that they have reliable Lane-Data!

Back to the Clubs; a good GLASS affiliated club, should have a pretty 'on-the-ball' Green-Lane secretary, and you should be able to get pretty reliable information from them. If you join the TRF or GLASS direct, then same should be true of their local rep.

BUT, that MAY only be for lanes in the district local to the club. What about further a field? Well, GLASS and the TRF are National organisations, and they have local representatives in most parts of the country. In many cases these are the Green-Lane Secretaries of Local Clubs, and between them, they 'share' lane-data. So, if your Local Club Green-Lane Sec doesn't have the lane-data for an area you want to drive, he can probably still get it for you.

BUT, making things a LOT more convenient, there is also the 'Trailwise' database. (I have specifically NOT put a link to this in this post; follow the advice, Join a GLASS affiliated club, and you can have your OWN access code for this on-line resource, with FULL access)

The Trailwise Data-Base

THIS is a Data-Base of Green-Lanes in England & Wales (Scotland doesn't have any). It is NOT a 'Map', it is a Data-Base.

Lanes in it are identified by an ID Number, or UID, based on the OS Grid reference for one end of the lane. You can search the data-base in a number of ways, but probably you'll search by area for any and all 'lanes within so many miles of a given location. That will give you a list of Green-Lanes, and viewing the entry for any of them, you will get some more of less helpful lane data.

This should include the OS Grid-refs of the start and end-points, as well as the lanes Legal status, and how recently it was Status Confirmed. There may also be some user info from people that have driven the 'Lane, telling you what the ground conditions might be like, or offering warnings about any difficult sections. There is normally also a link to a Google Map, where the 'Lane will be 'highlighted' on the map.

CAUTION:- Many people are often confused by 'Map-Overlays' as on Google-Maps, or using OS Maps on Memory-Map, because the highlighted lines are straight lines between grid-refs, and they DON'T often follow the actual features of the Green-Lane on the map!

This section of a map, should give you an idea of how these over-lays work, as well as how the accuracy of lane-data might not be as 'great' as you hoped!

ImageBasically, the Green-Lane is the white track, marked with a green spotted lane (Taken from an Explorer series map, not a Landranger, where it would have been a pink dotted line... like I say, ALWAYS use the key!), running roughly diagonally from upper left hand towards the lower right hand corner. (This is one of those 'Other Routes with Public Access')

The 'Over-lay' is the straight green highlighter mark, with blue dots at the end, and take note, that it is no-where NEAR the actual Green-Lane on the map!

There are some good reasons for this. The first being that the Over-Lays are JUST straight lines between user defined grid-refs, usually only the start and end-points of a Green-Lane, and maybe a couple of significant turning points in the middle, if the lane is fairly long and or crooked.

Because NORMALLY, this is 'good-enough', and its expected that from approximate start and finish point grid references, you can find the detail that shows the ACTUAL lane on a map, and be able to follow it.

Other is the accuracy of maps and map-reading. Most people, working with a 1:50K Landranger map, will give 'abbreviated' Ordinance Survey Grid refs, these are some-times called six 'digit' references, and tie a location down to within about 200m of their absolute location.

That is about as accurate as you can be with a land-Ranger. Remember, the scale is 1:50K, so a half mili-meter wide line on the map is covering a track about 25m wide on the ground!

If you took the start and end point Grid Refs off Trailwise and loaded them into a proprietary Dash-Mount GPS, and used it to try and 'find' the ends on the ground WITHOUT a sufficiently high resolution map, in THIS case (and many, many others!), you could be stuck hunting around for something that looked like a driveable track, not really sure where the lane was.

And since the quoted lane start point is haphazardly placed on the Atherstone Rd, it's entirely likely that without checking the OS Map, you'd think that the 'Lane, started by going down Lodge Farm's driveway, through the farm-yard, and out across a few fields coming out on the foot-path somewhere near Meadowcroft, and possible actually try driving it! (SOME Green-Lanes DO follow such obscure routes which don't follow such easily discernable features in the real landscape!)

In short, its expected, NAY essential, that you still KNOW how to read a map! AND, have Maps with the necessary level of detail on them!

However, using the Trailwise Data-base you can, relatively quickly and easily (Is ay RELATIVELY! Its still no quick and easy task!) Find lanes you can drive, check their status, and mark maps to be able to go navigate these trails.

But, you do need to remember, that Trailwise is only as good as the people that put the info in and check it. It is still not 100% certain that the data is correct, and or current, and at the moment, it does NOT contain data on every single Green-Lane in the country.

It does have a lot of them, though, and most of the data, is pretty reliable, BUT, you DO need to be aware that it is essentially the creation of interested amateurs, and has no legal standing.

Paper-Maps, E-Maps & GPS

OK, so far we have dealt with how to 'Find' Green-Lanes and make sure the lanes we want to drive are Status Confirmed and legally driveable.

And our map, whether paper or electric, has been pretty much just a reference, all we have needed is to look at it, & heading out on the trails this is still the most important thing, we MAINLY want to just be able to see the detail on the map and work out the rest for ourselves from what we can see around us.

IF you decide to use the Trail wise data-base to get your lane data, then you need a computer and internet connection to get it (but I'll presume you DO, as you must be looking at this forum via the same means!), and using that, e-mapping may have some added merit, because you can quickly and easily find specific locations, and call up any of a large number of maps, as well as import over-lays and things.

But doing lane research 'on-line', it doesn't really matter whether you work to e-maps or paper; you can still use paper maps, and even if you use e-maps during the head-scratching phase at home, you may still prefer to use paper-maps out on the 'lanes.

If you join a club and make use of the clubs rights of way officer, then it can be an awful lot easier to take a few OS maps along to a meet, in your pocket to pour over and mark with a high-lighter, than it might be to try messing about with a Lap-top, or worse a fancy mobile-phone, with a GPS function!

There is a lot of opinion on the topic of 'in-car' e-mapping, and the best software and hardware for the job, and I really don't want to get into the debate on it.

Getting started, Paper-Maps are as good a way to go as any. Individually they are pretty cheap, and you don't have to buy a whole load in one go. They are also very portable, easily storable, and don't need batteries or a power supply!

If you run Memory-Map software on a Lap-Top PC, you can plug in a GPS sender which will give you a gun-sight 'cross-hair' on the map, saying 'You are Here', but it wont work like a sat-nav and give you turn by turn instructions of where to go!

And as mentioned, with the accuracy of the maps and quoted positioning, you STILL need to look out of the window at the landscape around you, and translate that to what you see on the map in front of you. GPS functionality is only an 'aid', it wont do the job for you!

Remember the most significant thing for Green-Laning is viewability, because YOU need to see the detail on the map, whether its paper or electronic. And for that reason, e-maps, running on smaller devices are often NOT that brilliant, the display size is just too small to see a wide enough area with sufficient detail, to see what you need, whatever the 'functionality' of the device.

So, as far as GPS goes, there's no 'Green-Lane' Sat-Nav, the limit of usefulness of GPS is pretty much only giving you a location 'fix' that you can use to see where you are on a map.

Cheaper Sat-Navs will just about do that, but they wont often be loadable with the high resolution maps needed, and while higher end versions might, they are usually be screen-size limited.

Basically, 'small' e-mapping devices, Dash-mount sat-navs, mobile phones and PDA's are probably NOT great for the sort of orienteering type map reading demanded by Green-Laning, and are probably best used as an aid along side a traditional paper map, or larger screen e-map, on say a Lap-Top or Net-Book PC.

Others have different opinions, and to some degree it does come down to personal preference, and how you choose to use the equipment, but the essential thing is that Green-Laning is basically orienteering in a car or motorbike, and THAT means 'Map-Reading', for which you need maps you can read.

GPS is a tool that CAN be helpful, and may be in some kind of 'Sat-Nav', but no sat-nav will guide you to and down Green-Lanes, you have to do the research and map reading to find them first, then navigate them, again, by reading the maps, not following the instructions of synthesised voice!

So, while there may be a LOT of hardware options by way of Sat-Nav systems, GPS enabled mobile phones, PDA's and such you COULD make use of, starting out, you probably aren't going to find many of them all that helpful. You need to get to grips with basic map-reading, and doing this Status-Checking on the trails you intend to drive, before anything else.

For THAT, paper-maps are great as they don't demand a huge investment, and its only ONE new thing to get to grips with, you only have to worry about the map-reading, you DON'T have to start fathoming out all the Sat-Nav function and option screens, or getting to grips with all the menus in Memory-Map, or worrying about the connectivity of power-supplier and GPS dongles or anything!

If you already have a lap-top, though, the investment might not be so great, and you MAY like to have a go at e-mapping 'in-car'. Remember, viewability is everything, and a lappy, may be a bit cumbersome, but they do have a decent screen size.

And once you have got to grips with that, its only a small step to plug in a GPS sender to add GPS functionality to the system. But, it isn't necessarily the easiest bit of kit to use 'on the move'. BUT you don't really NEED to. You only REALLY need to open it up and switch it on, WHEN you want to check the map. And even if you use GPS features for 'bread-crumbing', you can often do that with the lappy closed and safely stowed.

If you DON'T have a lappy, then really, its probably NOT worth the investment JUST for navigating green-lanes, and neither would be any other Sat-Nav system or GPS enabled e-device. If you already have one, then, yes, you MAY like to have a mess, but you'll probably still need a paper-map anyway, and even if not, pack one as back-up!

When you get 'really' into the pursuit, THEN you may like to rethink the situation, and way up the pro's and cons of the different options, by way of e-gadgets, but the main thing is that at THAT point you'll have a far better understanding of what's what, and what may or may not be most useful to you, and well aware of how much 'leg-work' there is to be done, and that no map or sat-nav will find green-lanes for you to drive, at a glance or the click of a button!

So, if you have money burning a hole in your pocket to go get 'something' to help you go find and drive green-lanes, well.....50 will buy you a cheap and nasty Sat-Nav from Aldi or somewhere, and be almost useless for the job.....BUT, that same 50 WILL buy you a years membership to a good GLASS, an affiliated 4x4 Club, or the TRF, with the benefits of the people you can meet through it, as well as full access to the Trail-wise Data-Base, AND leave you enough change for a couple of Ordnance Survey Landranger maps to take along and mark up at the first 'meet' you attend!

And THAT is my recommended starting point......


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