A Manx off-road car club has hit back at claims that the only way to preserve the island’s green lanes is to close 15 of them altogether and place stringent restrictions on many of the remaining ones.
The Manx Four Wheel Drive Club chairman Richard Crane said many of the claims made by recenty formed Green Lanes our Heritage (GLOH) were ill-founded and the measures they suggested unnecessary.
Mr Crane said a report completed by GLOH members was riddled with inaccuracies and said they were peddling biased propaganda.
‘Green lanes are all of our heritage too and the vast majority of us are quite responsible enough not to go out and trash it,’ he said.
‘The Four Wheel Drive Club, for example, is organised and responsible and cares for the countryside as much if not more than many others.’
He wanted to dispel the myth that people using the green lanes were yobbos turning the countryside into an unofficial enduro course.
He pointed out the hours put in by the club to guiding visiting off roaders around the island’s green lanes to ensure they got the best tourist experience – thus promoting the island’s tourism industry – while at the same time staying within the law.
‘People need to remember these are unsurfaced highways, not footpaths,’ he said.
‘What we need Highways [Department of Infrastructure] to do is take the challenge head on and let us do what we have been asking them to do: there is an army of volunteers out there from the Four Wheel Drive Club, the biking community and others.’
He said the GLOH report under-estimated the impact of torrential rain in recent years which has been particularly intense over the hills. Water runs down tracks, settles in a rut and erodes it to create the deep scars which have received so much recent publicity, he said.
Rather than closing such roads, the answer is to maintain drainage which is generally already in place, by unblocking culverts and ditches, allowing water to drain harmlessly away.
One of Mr Crane’s projects is an Adopt a Track scheme where people who regularly use a particular green lane – biking, driving or walking – monitor its condition and help maintain efficient drainage by keeping culverts and ditches clear once reinstated by the volunteer working parties.
‘There are places where the water has run down for 20-plus years and that is bound to erode the surface. But if you can get the water off it and let it recover, you soon have a nice grassy track again that can be used.’
Some of the damage is not new, he said. For example he has aerial photographs from 1943 showing damage and widening at Narradale.
Pictures of Ballacobb from the same period also show damage.
Recent photographs of the Baltic track, above Kirk Michael, show it to be in better condition now than 25 years ago.
He said volunteers have also used direction markers to reinstate the course of the old green lanes where they have strayed off route, which should allow the churned up areas to recover as traffic returns to the correct route which benefits from a stone or compacted earth foundation, making it more damage-resistant than the surrounding soft peat. Some of the green lanes still bear signs of wear from cart wheels, he added, so it’s not a new phenomenon.
Any kind of use causes damage in time – for example paving blocks have been used in popular areas in the UK, such as Mam Tor in the Derbyshire Peaks, to combat erosion from walkers.
‘There are many tracks which are in better condition now than they used to be,’ he said.
Richard Crowhurst of GLOH said all his photos were of current damage, taken within the last 18 months and the level of rainfall was not a significant issue compared with the effect of motorcycle tyres which created ruts for the water to settle in and cascade down.
He said he accepted there may be ‘one or two’ inaccuracies in terminology in his report but he said Mr Crane had not provided any explanation as to where they were.
He said he wanted to replace the GLUG with a more environment and conservation-focused body to monitor tracks, perhaps recommending closure to vehicles where damage was happening.