Trail riders. Villains or villeins?

It’s business as usual this week. However, in between taking customers out I still found time for more research on new routes and uncovered some exciting stuff and also a few disappointments, but more about that later. To get this post under way here’s a few pics of  an enjoyable day out last weekend.

This is a beautiful old lane, flanked by mature hawthorn trees, which runs along a crest between two valleys, it’s one of my favourite trails in the area with stunning views of the Welsh aspect of the Mynd on one side and Stiperstones on the other.

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The boys are sharing a joke here at the expense of Tim [centre] . Previously we’d ridden across an innocuous looking ford but unfortunately Tim strayed off line and hit something underwater which took his front wheel away dumping him on his backside in the middle of the river, soaking him to the skin. In my experience fords , even shallow ones, have to be treated with respect. The force of water cascading off the hills around here can move rocks around in the streams and rivers and the fords can be unpredictable. I did exactly the same as Tim a few months back on a bitterly cold February day and ended up sat up to my armpits in icy cold water with three very amused customers looking on.

 

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On a day off following this ride I went out to look at some lanes to the East of Church Stretton in an around Heath and Clee St Margaret, two villages steeped in medieval history.

Sadly, two of the ancient lanes I was interested in close to Clee St. Margaret were subject to a TRO [Traffic Regulation Order] and closed to motorbikes.

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A TRO can be temporary [whilst a lane is repaired or allowed to recover after flooding or whatever] or permanent. Unfortunately these regulations are often abused by local authorities who either want to divest themselves of the responsibility of maintaining the road or [more typically] have bowed to the pressure of one or two local residents. It’s not unusual to discover these residents purchased property in the full knowledge an ancient right of way exists either through it or close to it and then put pressure on their local council to get the lane closed in order to boost the value of their house. A TRO isn’t meant to be used to close a lane simply because somebody doesn’t like it, the TRO should only be applied in exceptional circumstances.

A thousand year old right of way can be eliminated due to thinly veiled self-interest masquerading as concern for the environment. This seems to be the case in Clee St Margaret where two wonderful old lanes now have a permanent TRO

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The sad thing is, these lanes are now becoming so overgrown through lack of use they are almost impassable by pedestrian, cyclist or horse rider. Within a short time they will simply become absorbed into the landscape and a piece of local history gone forever.

Unfortunately there are organisations currently devoted to banning  motorised vehicular use on unsurfaced roads. One of these is GLEAM, a self-styled green lane ‘protection’ group [www.GLEAM-uk.org ] with an anti-vehicle stance which borders on hysteria . Their vitriolic  press releases are riddled with inaccuracies and written in the classic Daily Mail stylee.   Therefore in GLEAM-speak a motorcyclist is  always an ‘irresponsible biker’  , anybody riding off road is invariably labelled as ‘a ‘TRF member’ and a 4×4 driver is  a ‘reckless off -roader’.  So, if a local paper reports there has been a spate of kids  riding ‘crossers on waste land,  GLEAM’s tabloid version would be ‘irresponsible TRF members caught red-handed riding illegally’. Get the picture? The problem is , after a while some of this mud sticks, if you’ll pardon the pun. It’s an underhand and rather nasty method of  trying to get your own way but that’s the way they operate.

GLEAM promotes the idea that because some  4x4s or bikes have been driven irresponsibly on green lanes , these routes should now be denied to all motorised vehicles. It’s a fundamentally flawed concept; once you go down the route of punishing the majority due to the actions of a minority you mights as well close the M5 , the M6 and the M1 because some people have been caught speeding. They also argue that green lanes were never  originally intended for motorised traffic . The same could be said of the canal system in the UK  but as far as I know nobody is suggesting non horse-drawn narrow boats should be banned from the UK waterways.

Now here’s a curious thing, GLEAM proudly boast their main patron is HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.  At the risk of being labelled mischievous I feel compelled to point out Prince Phil also happens to be a high profile freemason.  I only mention this in passing making absolutely no connection between GLEAM, freemasonry and the possible self-interest of wealthy, apron-wearing land owners wanting to ban oiks from driving their motorised bicycles over land which clearly doesn’t belong to them [the oiks that is], even if it’s a historic right of way which has been in use for centuries.  No, I wouldn’t dream of suggesting it. Not my intention at all. I’m sure GLEAM are all above board and on the level.

No doubt one or two land owning residents of Clee St Margaret  lament the passing of the local medieval feudal system where a villein knew his place  and wouldn’t presume to claim any rights which might conflict with those of his superiors.

OK, that’s my quasi-political rant over for this week, let’s get back to the positive stuff. Fortunately not all the lanes in the Clee St Margarets area have had dodgy TROs slapped on them and there are still some really interesting and technically-challenging routes left which hopefully will find their way on to the AdventureRide itinerary in the future. Here’s a couple to whet your appetite.

This is a 50 yard ford along a stream bed at the confluence of two streams . Looks innocent enough now but I reckon in November it could be a different story.

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This is Dunstan lane, which also features a lengthy ford. It’s very shallow which probably makes it one to avoid when the temperature drops below zero. It’ll be a skating rink in the winter…

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3 thoughts on “Trail riders. Villains or villeins?

  1. Ahhh, the infamous Mad Polls Lane in clee st Margaret. If you search green laning in google you will get a piece from the BBC featuring her take on the destruction of ancient lanes. Great shame there are 2 or 3 routes that have TRO’s in that village. But peckledy (along the river) is still open and the rock steps are great.

  2. Hi,

    I have recently been green laneing (4×4) in Derbyshire with my son, great weekend with responsible people. He recently received a notice of intended prosecution for being in or around BOAT 28, 29 and 8. As they are BOATS and the Police have not specified the location do you know if they are correct relating to any restrictions? Ta.

    • Hi Tony,
      I’m not familiar with the Derbyshire lane network and therefore don’t know which lanes you are referring to. It’s worth checking on the current status of those lanes by logging onto the trailwise website [www.trailwise.org.uk] where you can check the current regulation orders and also see if they have been in use recently. There has been so much controversy in Derbyshire and so much focus on off roaders, particularly 4x4s that I suspect the police will be on firm ground on this one, however it’s always worth checking in case the NiP has been issued incorrectly.
      Good luck with it, Regards, Bob

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