Hils at Large

JuneHilsA new column this month, as Editor at Large Hils Everitt gets to grip with those people who moan about the state of our greenlanes, but aren’t prepared to actually help making them better

Welcome to my new column –  ‘Hils at large’. And before you say anything, I’m fully aware of the irony in someone so diminutive (read: ‘short a**e’) having such a title, but nevertheless it does accurately reflect what I shall be doing from now on! Freed from the shackles of editorship, I will now be out and about more, collecting stories and attending events and generally buzzing about the 4×4 scene; so, rather than calling it ‘Hils gets about a bit and reports back’, we felt ‘at large’ was more succinct and perhaps even a little more refined.

Last month I enjoyed a great day out with ukLANDROVERevents on a greenlaning trip in the stunning North York Moors. Greenlaning in this country has really suffered in recent years. We may be hearing a little less from the ‘anti 4×4’ brigade in the press lately, thanks to a couple of extremely severe winters which have seen our transport of choice earn grudging respect by behaving heroically, saving lives and helping motorists and friends and neighbours in distress, but when it comes to using our hard-working and reliable vehicles for some R&R within this beautiful country of ours, that seems to be a totally different kettle of fish.

I was very saddened by the news piece we ran last month about the excellent work done by those who were repairing an unclassified country road, Black Harry Lane, in the Peak District National Park. The road repair was part of the ‘Black Harry Trails Project’ to improve and create routes for horse-riders and mountain bikers and improve recreation facilities for the less able, elderly and young families. The repairs were actually carried out by 4×4 users and motorcycle clubs. Not one walker volunteered, or even helped out when directly asked. It is a very sorry state of affairs when the very people who so readily rush to slam all ‘off-roaders’ for the apparent damage they cause then decline to help when repairing a route that is available to all. At least we can be grateful that the anti-4×4 brigade has quietened down, but it seems a bit hypocritical.

JuneHilsMainOf course, responsible off-roaders will always suffer from the behaviour of those who don’t give two hoots about the environment and charge about in the worst of conditions churning up the countryside in the process. Such behaviour merely encourages local authorities to slap TROs (Traffic Regulation Orders) on routes and give more ammo to those who like to bash 4x4s. (It seems ironic that the very councils that seem so willing to slap restriction orders on greenlanes have no hesitation in using 4x4s themselves to run around the countryside doing essential work.)

Usage restrictions create a ‘chicken and egg’ situation; as closures force more traffic onto the routes that do remain open until they, too, have to be closed for essential repair due to increased wear and tear through overuse. Millions of pounds have been spent over the years on repairing footpaths and bridleways hugely eroded by countless foot and hoof prints. Fair enough – these excellent amenities are used by us all, myself included. But, equally, the byways are also perfectly legitimate routes and I think we have a right to expect them to receive appropriate attention, too.

In the meantime, as a 4×4 community the more we can be seen out and about helping to repair general wear and tear caused by weather and all sorts of things, not just tyre tracks, the less ammunition we give to the ‘anti’ brigade. So, get volunteering for work on any local lanes to you to show that we care about the environment – and support those who offer guided greenlane days such as the trip we took recently. Enjoy what we have left, and prove we can have fun responsibly!

Mention of 4x4s getting out and about and working for a living reminds me how good it was to be back at the CV Show at the NEC recently. After a lengthy absence, it was heartening to see the show buzzing with 4x4s and related accessories and attracting a healthy attendance.

Pick-ups were, naturally, in the majority with the occasional modified Land Rover on display, too. It was good news for the manufacturers, who are enjoying healthy sales, and for the innovative entrepreneurs who are constantly developing new systems to make utility work simpler and more effective.

Cheers to the 4×4 market and make sure you make the most of the opportunities available. I certainly will be! 


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