Green Laning report

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Jobbo
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Green Laning report

Post by Jobbo » Sun Jun 23, 2019 9:03 pm

This weekend was always intended to be the first full day out in my Grand Vitara, exploring the local green lanes in Gloucestershire. I'd only done one of them previously so it would be a good explore, with friends. Despite work intervening to take up half my weekend, we still managed it today. I'd been a bit apprehensive about the ground conditions after such a rainy June, so the sunny weather was a good bit of luck.

My friend with the Range Rover LSE decided not to bring it after it became immobile on our drive for a week after Easter. So there were three of us, in two cars: my Grand Vitara and my ex-stepson's original shape Freelander. Rover spent ages developing the Pathfinder which became the Freelander, so perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that it's actually reliable, good off road and drives well. Still looks really good too. It has the Hill Descent Control which I'm lacking, but doesn't have a low range transfer box. Helpfully it's quite a similar size to the Suzuki - this was useful throughout the day because there were places the LSE would not have managed to fit.

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Due to lack of prep time I didn't fit my spare set of wheels; I'd joined GLASS (the Green Laning Association) which gave me plenty of info and a growing database of comments on lanes (which ruled a few out as impassable, saving us wasted time). Our of all the off-roading kit they recommended I only bought a bow saw and a pair of loppers; I didn't want to become a prepper and they'd be useful in the garden anyway.

We started with Greenway Lane, which runs straight up the Cotswold escarpment just south of Cheltenham. I'd been up this one earlier this year in my Volvo and it didn't seem to have any problem. In a car which is fairly new to me and which requires more user interactionn than the Volvo, I set off in 1st without locking the diff or engaging low-range; the start of the lane is just a petering out of the tarmac after all. Within 50 yards it becomes broken, with a serious gully on the right, so I stuck it in low (which locks the centre diff and turns off the ESP) and just trickled on up, really happy with how it felt. And surprised at how different the lane was to how I remembered; the foliage has grown, the surface has been broken and scoured by rain water and I'd not have wanted to walk or cycle up it. The only downside was that I couldn't get the diff lock to disengage at the top (low range clicked out fine); it took a bit of low-speed wiggling around to get the diff lock light to go off on the dash. You can really feel it when it's on and it definitely feels like you shouldn't use it locked on tarmac. Later on I worked out that reversing a short way guarantees it turns off, though that can be a bit inconvenient when the lane turns straight out onto tarmac.

Then after a short stretch of tarmac we started the lanes I'd not done before. They all look the same on a map, just a line of green dots or whatever; this one started in a church car park which was a pain because it was full of old people reversing (10.45 on a Sunday morning) but we escaped the throng and drove up a fairly solid, stony lane which wasn't any sort of challenge, but did at least go through lovely countryside. The next one was more interesting, from the difficulty of finding it to the absence of any sign of it as we came out from between hedges and basically entered an unmown meadow.

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The views were lovely, the going wasn't difficult but was a really nice bit of variety and I can imagine this changes in character a lot through the year. Then it became a narrow, rutted track between fences, where we encountered a really lovely couple walking their dog and a pleasant, confused lady who assumed we were lost. The dog walkers said the ruts get deeper further on; while they were right, that wasn't the big difficulty we encountered. For the first time, as we weaved between trees and bushes, we had to stop and plan our route through. There was a 90-degree left into the tightest gateway I've ever seen, with so much foliage it was impossible to line up straight to get through; for good measure the lane turned 90-degrees right immediately after the gateway. This picture is of the approach:

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So our third man jumped out and acted as spotter to get us through, and we made it - but there's no way the LSE would have done. Even if it is no wider than a Freelander, the length would have made it impossible to line up. That obstacle out of the way, we encountered the dog walkers again who were getting back to their car (unnoticed by me, they'd got past us as we were negotiating the gateway) and they recommended us a pub down the road in Cowley. Since it wasn't far past 11am we didn't stop for a pint but it looked lovely.

We headed on to a collection of four lanes, starting to spot the tell-tale signs that a lane is a legal right of way for motor vehicles. 'No Through Road' in red writing on signposts, but no Image sign, or 'Unsuitable for motor vehicles', for instance. They don't all have such useful markings, but it's helpful when you start to understand the euphemisms.

Next was a really lovely downhill lane across a grass field and then down a grassy, rutted track alongside a fair drop down to fields the other side of a sparse hedge. Incredibly scenic, and probably really fun to run in the other direction uphill. By this time our third member was having to open and close plenty of gates. The following lane was a field boundary, squeezed in between the hedge and the crops, fairly rutted and doubtless muddy in winter.

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This was supposed to be followed fairly shortly by a lane back up the hill, described in the GLASS comments as a bit tight for anything bigger than a Defender 90. Er... we found it, and asked the neighbour who was leaving his house if it was right. He said you'd struggle to get through though motorbikes use it. There was a stony earth bank to start, at an angle to the lane which was between trees and a fence and started barely wider than a car. We walked up after seeing if there was an alternative route; it was going to be too tight to be worthwhile so we gave this one a miss, and found our way back to the 4th in the area, which was easy but had open views over fields.

We managed to keep the road sections short between lanes and did another three, again varied (first one bizarrely off the back of a lay-by alongside a dual carriageway, both muddy and rutted and the first scratchy lane of the day). The third required us to open an electric gate (third man happy with this being automated for him!) presumably put in by the owners of the stable yard through which the lane first passed. Civilised. This led down to a village with a most excellent ford, quite narrow and running along the river bed for a couple of hundred yards.

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By now it was past midday but this village didn't have a pub, so we carried on along a couple of lanes towards the next village. One was particularly lovely and I think we disturbed some lovers as we reached the end of it and took photos. This is a lane I'd like to go back and do the opposite way because it had a great stony base and a steep descent for us (1st in low range, feet off the pedals, worked for me).

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We found that pubs in the Cotswolds are pretty busy on a sunny Sunday at 1pm and refreshed with just drinks and crisps, then aiming for a lane which I'd read was particularly nice with switchbacks down to the valley floor and through a ford. We managed to explore far more than we intended here, due to a navigational error, but it was a really lovely detour which I'm not allowed to suggest you follow because it's not actually on the right of way.

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After this the valley floor and ford were actually a bit of a let down. So we pressed on to find somewhere to eat the cake we'd brought, though the amount of flies around didn't make a picnic terribly appealing. The next nearest lane on the map had some comments about being scratchy, technical and precipitous, so we decided against that (mainly due to scratchiness; we were getting brushed regularly by thick bushes by now and elected to avoid anything with a GLASS comment of 'scratchy'). An nearby lane joining two roads seemed to be the obvious choice since the comments were a bit cryptic. It started a bit muddy and rutted off a slightly busier road and through a shaded gate, and on the OS map had a name so we thought it would be a historic lane or hollow way. It turned out to be the most effort, with the most reward, all day. The reason? It got a bit tight, and the only way through was to use the bow saw and loppers to make the route wide enough.

These were taken after a bit of hard pruning back:
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After getting the Suzuki through, third man sawing and lopping as I encountered hidden obstacles in the undergrowth, the Freelander made it through by following my tracks. There was a particularly tight bit where a fallen tree made the path into an S-bend; once we'd got past that we felt like we were clear. After a very tight gateway (straight this time, at least), there was some relief to pop out into a field:

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Even the field wasn't straightforward because there were some serious side-slopes, so taking the correct route across it necessitated a bit of planning. And it wasn't a very big field, because we then found a section which was basically threading between trees which had grown about a car's width apart. Third man played spotter again to get me through this (I ignored him quite a bit, mind you - he seemed only to care about getting the front of my car through any tight spots and not the route I needed to get through the next bit). We walked this bit first and discovered that the very end of the lane wasn't ever going to be passable without uprooting trees, so we had to scramble down a grassy bank as we exited the tree-lined section. It was more interesting than this image looks, but the Freelander has one wheel in the air here:

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Just to make this lane complete, we had to go through the only properly muddy, rutted track to leave the field and get back onto tarmac. The Suzuki lapped it up; the Freelander cheated and stuck to the top of the ruts :lol:

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We did another couple of lanes before heading home, but the highlight was obvious already. I considered the precipitous one we'd shunned earlier but we were a bit hot and covered in sawdust, and didn't want to break anything. The Vitara had a squashed-in corner on the front bumper by now, the Freelander had a loose plastic wheelarch extension and both had plenty of scratches they hadn't acquired in their previous 10/16 year lives. And it was great, just excellent fun and capped off by the Red Arrows going over us and starting their smoke just as we were getting back home. I think we did 49 miles in total (including the tarmac bits) all day, so I don't know where 9 hours went.

My only real complaint about the Vitara is that it's a bit lacking in torque and possibly not even running quite right low down. Flewy cleared a misfire code; it may be something simple like a change of plugs required. It would be nice to have a much bigger engine, but I don't want a bigger car; these lanes simply wouldn't have accommodated a Shogun.

It's obvious that the lanes will change quite a lot with the seasons, and that they'll be different when driven the other way, so plenty of scope to keep using the Suzuki even locally, let alone exploring further afield. It's a much cheaper hobby than track days and just as much fun :D

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Jobbo
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by Jobbo » Sun Jun 23, 2019 9:21 pm

Oh, and there is something else which would have been useful. CB radios. Communicating when you can’t open the door would be easier 😄 I had deliberately avoided them because they seem like something only saddos would use. Oops 🤐

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nuttinnew
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by nuttinnew » Sun Jun 23, 2019 10:07 pm

Looks good 8-)
There are weather warnings for rain over the next couple of days so you won't have to wait long for the same lanes to be a different challenge :D

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Matty
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2005 VW Bora

Re: Green Laning report

Post by Matty » Sun Jun 23, 2019 10:30 pm

Looks fun!

What was your "This car is completely stuck" escape plan?

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John
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by John » Sun Jun 23, 2019 10:32 pm

Good read 8-)

My wife, who normally shows zero interest in cars, has recently started showing an interest in the latest Vitara as a replacement for her Focus. I doubt I'd get away with borrowing it for the day and bringing it home with scratches down the side :D

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Jobbo
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by Jobbo » Mon Jun 24, 2019 6:36 am

Matty wrote:
Sun Jun 23, 2019 10:30 pm
Looks fun!

What was your "This car is completely stuck" escape plan?
Two tow ropes - though getting completely stuck never looked like a risk. Not getting through was the realistic hazard, meaning quite a bit of reversing.

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NotoriousREV
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by NotoriousREV » Mon Jun 24, 2019 7:11 am

Just buy some Motorola walkie talkies. You don’t need CBs unless you’re going to be separated by more than a couple of miles.
Mo’ money, mo’ tard.

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Rich B
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by Rich B » Mon Jun 24, 2019 7:41 am

NotoriousREV wrote:
Mon Jun 24, 2019 7:11 am
Just buy some Motorola walkie talkies. You don’t need CBs unless you’re going to be separated by more than a couple of miles.
i thought the same - it also opens up many “airplane” jokes: what’s your vector victor? Have I got clearance Clarence? Over Roger.....

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JonMad
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by JonMad » Mon Jun 24, 2019 8:14 am

A most excellent adventure. Well done on christening the car with a few marks as well.
Tightens your line under power like an umbrella hooked round a lamppost [Car, March 2019]

drcarlos
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by drcarlos » Mon Jun 24, 2019 8:52 am

I always thought about green leaning my Navara. It’s probably too big as it’s longer than pretty much anything else in the large suv class. +1 on the Motorola 2 way radios, we use them when racing and they’ll happily cover a field that it about 1km and run all day on a battery.

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Jobbo
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by Jobbo » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:21 am

I was actually thinking walkie talkies when I said CB radios - but that's it, they'd be really useful.

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Jimmy Choo
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by Jimmy Choo » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:26 am

Looks great fun. I'll have to come and do gates for you at some point.

Was the first lane the one that comes up from Shurdington towards the star centre? If so, you went past my cousin's place. I've been down there on my bike many years ago when it was like a river.
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dinny_g
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by dinny_g » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:31 am

Looks like a great day out... 8-)

You only made one minor mistake as I see it - 11:00 am is not too early for pint [/Irish] :lol:
JLv3.0 wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 4:26 pm
I say this rarely Dave, but listen to Dinny because he's right.

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Jobbo
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by Jobbo » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:31 am

That's the one, Jimmy - and yes, we should have got you along! Plenty more opportunity, and you can do the difficult bits seeing as you're the best at it :lol:

Dinny, I had a soft drink when we got to the pub :shock:

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mik
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by mik » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:33 am

Looks like fun 8-)

Only off-roading I have done was the Land rover Experience - which was superb.

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JonMad
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by JonMad » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:57 am

Did it feel a bit wrong driving through people's fields and the like? Superb, different day out.
Tightens your line under power like an umbrella hooked round a lamppost [Car, March 2019]

V8Granite
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by V8Granite » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:41 am

Greenlaning is an odd one, there isn’t much around here and what there is isn’t very challenging or enjoyable.

I quite fancy a guided tour with some tricky lanes and more rock work.

It certainly looks to be an enjoyable part of the world where you did it. Check underneath for grass Jobbo, I had loads packed around my transmission brake and only realised weeks later when it started to smell fun as it had dried out and slowly singed on the exhaust.

Do you have normal ropes or a kinetic rope?

CB radios are a bit excessive, unless you are in a huge group and need to listen in on what’s happening elsewhere, a cheap 2 way radio will do, a few hundred metres of range in the hills is more than enough.

Dave!

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Jobbo
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by Jobbo » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:51 am

The first time you open a gate into a field and just drive through, it does feel a bit wrong. But the first time you open a gate on a rural tarmac road in Wales to go through it feels a bit wrong. Second time onwards you don't think about it. There was one lane which had an electric gate with a push button; that felt like letting yourself into someone's garden but if you've done your advance planning you'll be certain there's a legal right of way. And that's all we were doing, driving down roads which happen to be unsurfaced and therefore not used all that much.

Don't think I mentioned that we didn't encounter any other green-laners all day. Nobody coming the other way on motorbikes or in 4x4s; the only vehicle we saw was a mountain biker coming down Greenway Lane first thing.

Dave, they're just nylon webbing type tow ropes not kinetic ropes. We don't have the strengthened recovery points which would be required for that. Cheers for the suggestion to check for grass; we drove over enough of it so there's inevitably some. I was too knackered to clean the car at the end of the day so I'll make sure I do the underside as well as the top!

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ShockDiamonds
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by ShockDiamonds » Mon Jun 24, 2019 12:25 pm

Interesting read, sounds like a good challenge 8-)

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Jimmy Choo
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Re: Green Laning report

Post by Jimmy Choo » Mon Jun 24, 2019 12:32 pm

Jobbo wrote:
Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:31 am
That's the one, Jimmy - and yes, we should have got you along! Plenty more opportunity, and you can do the difficult bits seeing as you're the best at it :lol:
:lol: :lol: :lol:

I was busy this weekend doing a blacksmithing course and next weekend I'm moving but I'll definitely be up for something in August.
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