Gatescarth Pass copyright LDNPA

Unsealed Roads

Recreational use of motor vehicles such as 4x4s and trail bikes on unsealed routes with public vehicular rights is sometimes called 'green road driving'. These routes are non-tarmac 'Byways Open to All Traffic' (BOAT), 'Unsurfaced County Road' (UCR), or 'Other Route with Public Access' (ORPA – on Ordnance Survey Maps). These are often finger posted as 'Public Ways' or 'Byway' in Cumbria and the National Park.

All unsealed routes with public vehicular access are subject to the same laws as tarmac roads, so all vehicles must be road-legal (taxed and insured and with MOTs if appropriate) and with visible and correctly sized number plates.

It is a criminal offence to drive or ride a motor vehicle on any other land or public right of way (footpath, bridleway, restricted byway) without permission from the landowner.

The Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) has adopted a position statement on unsealed roads on 19 January 2022.

Legal unsealed routes are shown on maps of the Lake District

Detailed information and maps can be found on Cumberland Council and Westmorland & Furness Council's websites - under their Heirarchy of Trails pages.

Ordnance Survey maps show unsurfaced routes with vehicular access as follows:

  • 1:50,000 scale Ordnance Survey 'Landranger' maps: Red crosses usually within a double line (BOAT) and red dots usually within a double line (ORPA).
  • 1:25,000 scale Ordnance Survey' Explorer' maps: Green crosses usually within a double line (BOAT) and large green dots usually within a double line (ORPA)

Though with the caveat that 'The exact nature of the rights to these routes and the existence of any restrictions may be checked with the local highway authority' – which is Cumberland or Westmorland & Furness.

Routes closed by Traffic Regulation Orders

Some routes are further subject to 'Traffic Regulation Orders' (TROs) which may close the route periodically, sometimes seasonally.

In the Lake District there are TROs on the following routes

  • Little Langdale to Ford at River Brathay, U5531 - closed
  • Nibthwaite to Parkamoor – U5051 and U5052; discretionary closures depending on weather and condition (2024 update - We are advised by Westmorland & Furness Council that as this TRO has not been activated for many years, it would likely require consultation with stakeholder and interested parties before bringing it into effect again - and possibly a new or revised TRO.  Please direct any equiries to Westmorland & Furness Council.)
  • Rusland Pool – U5566 seasonally closed between 1 October and 31 May
  • Gatescarth Pass, permit system for use of BOAT 548015/361002 between Sadgill and Mardale

Routes may also be subject to voluntary restraint notices from user groups such as the Land Access and Recreation Association (LARA), the Green Lanes Association (GLASS) and the Trail Riders Fellowship TRF. Specific advice can also be given by representatives of these user groups.

Codes of Conduct

Walkers, cyclists, horse-riders, 4x4s and trail riders (motorcycles) all want to use the Lake District for recreation, as well as farmers and landowners who make their living from the land. The landscape is also very vulnerable to damage. Pressures and conflicts arise where users leave legal routes and are inconsiderate to others.

All users are asked to follow the  Green Road Drivers Code of Conduct

Other codes of conduct have been produced by GLASS (Green Lanes Association), link here, and by the TRF (Trail Riders Fellowship) here

Illegal off-roading

Taking a vehicle off a legitimate route without permission is both illegal and unacceptable, and damages the reputation of legal vehicle users. Any such activity witnessed, for example vehicles leaving the legal routes, not being road-legal, or behaving dangerously, should be reported to Cumbria Police using the 101 non-emergency number.

It is also useful to report incidents to the Lake District National Park Authority:

Position statement on unsealed roads

19 January 2022

This position statement was approved at Park Strategy and Vision Committee 19 January 2022, to clarify our current activity and the process we will follow should management difficulties arise. The intention is:

  • To aid our corporate and staff understanding our current position and approach
  • To give a consistent message to staff to use and promote when dealing with enquiries on this matter.
  • Provide clarity to individuals and organisations enquiring of our approach.
  1. The Lake District National Park Authority remains concerned about driving on unsealed roads and Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs) often referred to as 'green lanes’.* The activity is considered a potential disruptor with the special qualities of the National Park and attributes of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the World Heritage Site (WHS) depending on levels of activity and behaviours.
  2. The ability to enjoy the area in tranquillity could be threatened by vehicle intrusion into its quietest parts. When vehicles are encountered or their physical impact is witnessed, the sense of peace and quiet is lost and enjoyment is temporarily diminished.
  3. However the Authority accepts the legality of such activity which was in existence prior to inscription as a WHS and therefore will work with partners, land managers, user groups and stakeholders to manage and mitigate the impacts of such activity on the routes themselves, the surrounding environment and on other legitimate user groups.
  4. Where there is unequivocal evidence that motorised vehicle use of a specific unsealed road poses harm to OUV of the WHS, or special qualities of the National Park, then we will seek the introduction of an appropriate TRO to address the defined threat in accordance with DEFRA guidance and the tests required under Highways Act legislation.
  5. The LDNPA recognises the legitimacy of motor vehicle users to exercise their legal rights to use unsealed public roads and BOATS within the national park within the requirements of the Highways Act and other relevant legislation such as Traffic Regulation Orders applied to specific routes.
  6. The LDNPA recognises the tensions around the vehicular use of some unsealed roads in the national park that, through their physical appearance, would appear to many observers, not to be roads or to carry vehicular rights. Where these tensions exist the LDNPA will use the resources available to it at the time to inform, educate and explain the legal situation and also to instil responsible and sustainable use of such routes to all legitimate users.
  7. If the Authority forms the view that despite routine maintenance and information provision, tension or conflict between users sharing a route is sustained over time then where appropriate, and subject to availability of resources, the LDNPA will support the establishment of Management Groups comprised of stakeholders with a remit to:
    1. monitor the use of such routes with a view to reaching consensus on the way such routes should be managed to safely accommodate all legitimate users
    2. make suggestions to the relevant managing bodies to maintain or improve the management of the routes.
  8. Decisions to establish such groups may be informed by collection of data such as activity monitoring and or surveys, or these may be a product of the establishment of such Management Groups.
  9. In the event that the Management Group identifies problems with the use of an unsealed road and impact on the area then an HIA will be undertaken to assess the impact on the OUV of the World Heritage Site which can then be part of any decision on future action.
  10. In the event of a Management Group recommending the use of a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) as a means to securing the sustainable use of a route, the LDNPA will carry out an assessment of the route and follow the prescribed legal process to establish if a TRO is appropriate and legitimate.
  11. The LDNPA will consider any future national legislation that may be presented that relates to the management of traffic, sustainability of routes, or the promotion of non-vehicular traffic in relation to such things as the National Park Partnership Plan, planning policies and other policy guidance relevant and applicable at that time. Such consideration may be used to inform any changes in the Authority’s position on this matter.