Motoring: Following the country code: The off-road motorist's name is mud among riders and ramblers, but not all of them are hooligans. Phil Llewellin meets a man who knows

THE ROAD climbed steeply between old sandstone walls towards a viewpoint almost 2,000ft above sea level as Alan Kind squeezed a little more power from the Suzuki Vitara's engine.

'This would have been a busy route in the late 1700s and early 1800s,' he said. 'Carts carried timber for pit props up to the mines, then took coal and ore down to Penrith and the coast. Travellers heading from Newcastle to America would have passed this way, heading for Maryport.'

What used to be one of the main roads over the wilderness of the northern Pennines is now a broad, firm, grassy track. We were ambling along in four-wheel-drive mode, but most of the going was good enough for a conventional car with reasonable ground clearance.

Mr Kind, 43, is a lawyer whose knowledge of the countryside is complemented by concern for its future. He works for the Land Access and Recreation Association (Lara) and spends a lot of time driving along 'green lanes' at little more than brisk walking pace. Lara was established in 1986 to promote responsible use of the countryside for motorsports and recreation. Members include the All Wheel Drive Club, the Trail Riders' Fellowship and the Civil Service Motoring Association. The Sports Council is an active supporter.

Sales of vehicles with off-road potential have soared in recent years, focusing media attention on an apparent threat to the countryside. Mr Kind is aware that headlines about 'motorised menaces' and 'off-road fanatics' attract more attention than Lara's contribution to the debate.

He agrees that vehicles can savage the landscape, infuriating those who choose to explore it by foot or on horseback. Mechanical muscles and knobbly tyres can make idyllic byways resemble First World War battlefields. Riders of noisy, high-revving, fast-moving motorcycles are condemned as latterday versions of Genghis Khan and his Mongols.

'This is the old story of the sensible, responsible majority being blamed for the actions of a tiny minority of hooligans,' Mr Kind said. 'But we believe the situation is getting better. There were genuine problems between about 1988 and 1990, when Japanese four-wheel-drive vehicles grew in popularity and off-roading became a bit of a craze. Too many people were going at it too hard, particularly in the South where there is a lot of pressure on ancient roads such as the Ridgeway, which runs across Berkshire and Wiltshire for about 40 miles.

'We think we've seen that craze come and go, one reason being that there is now a growing number of properly managed sites where off-roaders can enjoy themselves without upsetting other people. Aside from that, is driving along a green lane for fun any less moral than walking for fun? If society says it is less moral, so be it.'

Mr Kind warns against the view that every sale of a Land Rover Discovery, Vauxhall Frontera or Ford Maverick contributes directly to the death of the British countryside. Manufacturers and importers confirm that few of these vehicles ever leave the tarmac.

Mr Kind is no blinkered champion of the off-roader's controversial cause. He has loved walking since childhood in Yorkshire. He pedals a mountain bike and his teenage daughter rides a horse. He says Britain has enough space to cater for these and other outdoor pursuits, but attitudes need to change at the highest level.

'We take the view that there must be a far better planning system for all recreational use of the countryside,' he said. 'Take the Lake District, for instance. Part of the western fells could be basically a vehicle-free area. Elsewhere, we could do with perhaps 120 miles of green lanes open to four-wheel-drive vehicles and maybe an extra 50 miles for motorcycles. There could also be 1,000 miles of bridleways for horses and maybe 3,000 miles of foothpaths for walkers.'

England and Wales have about 140,000 miles of footpaths, but only 5,000 miles of green lanes open to motorised vehicles. From my own experience in Wales, I can confirm his contention that recreational off-roaders are often blamed for damage done by tractors.

Intelligent self-regulation is one of the answers to the problem, Mr Kind believes. Lara's code of conduct covers such points as not driving along green lanes if bad weather makes their surfaces vulnerable.

'Go to an off-road centre if you want to spend a day getting stuck and winching yourself out of bogs,' Mr Kind says. 'Green-laning should be a gentle pursuit.'

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own