If you’ve been around the 4x4 scene for any length of time you will know we have an ever-decreasing number of green lanes to drive. This is due to many reasons, one of the them being the idiots amongst us who drive off-piste vandalising fields and general creating a mess, then there’s the government and those groups who tie us all in with the aforementioned idiots. There’s also overuse, lack of use and natural deterioration like severe storms that can have a detrimental effect on them, and make them impassable.
Anyway, getting to the point of this article; one of the nicest lanes that I’ve driven in Cumbria, The Old Coach Road, was decimated a few years ago when storm Desmond reigned and rained over the area, which resulted in huge channels and ruts being chiselled out along its scenic route, thus making it unaccessible not only for unmodified 4x4s, but certain other groups who may want to gain access.
With several weekends of work planned, access groups like the Green Lane Association (GLASS) and the Trail Riders Fellowship (TFR) and the local paragliding & hang-gliding club, Cumbria Soaring Club, all clubbed together for maintenance.
And so, on a cloudless Sunday morning I dragged myself out of bed at 6.30am to prepare myself for the 2 hour drive up towards Keswick to lend a hand maintaining this classic route.
On arrival at the west side of the Old Coach Road I made my way slowly towards the first working party where I parked up and offered my services for the next couple of hours.
Simon from the TRF appeared to be in charge, or at least he knew what was doing! Our working party had 2 jobs, to fill in a huge step that had developed and a few metres further down to create a diagonal water channel to, well, divert water to prevent creating further erosion.
Within the first 5 minutes of moving small boulders and using a pick-axe to create the aforementioned channel with the other volunteers, one thing was blatantly obvious, and that’s I need to introduce more cardio into my life. I was totally buggered!
Throughout the morning we made decent progress, I did feel like a 5th wheel at times but that was purely down to my lack of road building experience. Creating effective rain channels in the road isn’t as simple as you may think, you not only have to consider the effect of vehicle use, but also how a powerful a torrent of water is, so after the channel was made, bigger rocks were strategically placed along it to prevent further damage.
All too quickly it was midday, and because I had 'home stuff' to do and a 2 hour drive to get there it was time for me to leave. I said my farewells (over the jovial comments of 'part-timer') safe in the knowledge that I had played a small part in this important task, and hopefully I hadn’t hindered it too much!
Of course on my way back down I couldn’t resist taking the odd photo of Deux Smurf and promised myself that sometime soon I’ll return and explore this area more thoroughly.
So, if you enjoy driving our ever diminishing Rights of Way and want to get involved with their maintenance, one of the first places you can join in GLASS, they may not be perfect but they’re the largest group of its kind in the UK and have some clout. There are other groups out there like All-Terrain UK whose membership is growing steadily. They have a great forum, mapping system and maintenance fund that allows members to apply for project funding for works such as lane maintenance, gate and fence repairs, etc.
P.S. - Because I was making good progress returning home to Muddy Towers I took the executive decision to have quick detour and explore a short green lane that I’d recently heard about just outside Lancaster. SD4956-01, near Colgate isn’t very long, and when dry could easily be driven in a 2wd SUV type vehicle like an MG ZS, but what makes it interesting is the little ford in the middle, it was only about a foot deep today and Deux Smurf hardly caused a ripple, but it was an enjoyable detour all the same.