I take my pair of 1943 Jeeps along my favourite green lanes in Derbyshire.
Setting out with little more than a map, a flask of cocoa and some cheese and onion cobs, Green Laning is a great way to see the unspoilt bits of our countryside, get plenty of fresh air and hopefully enjoy a perfect pint at the end of it! The Peak District offers everything anyone could want and is only a couple of hours drive up the M1 from where I live in Leicester. The trouble is, it’s only a couple of hours from several million other people as well! To avoid the crowds I try to go there on a week day when it is far less busy. The area is very popular with other outdoor types, but experience has taught me that the innocent looking older 4x4 vehicle with the roof off, presents a less aggressive appearance and the lack of a barrier, such as a windscreen, invites friendly banter from other green lane users.
Last summer, we organised a couple of Jeep shakedown days in association with Free Spirit 4x4 (www.freespirit4x4.co.uk) that involved driving over 50 miles of lanes in a day. In a 70 year old Jeep this is tiring on the nerves and your bum, but Kieran Johnson plotted a great route that included a bit of everything - views, picturesque villages, some pretty stiff challenges for man and machine and ended up in a cracking good pub!
Two stand out as all time favourites from the area. The first route leads east out of Birchover, up Clough Lane and Oldfield Lane, gradually getting narrower as the old stone walls that define the track give an unforgiving profile to the track edge. Anything wider than a Series Land Rover could risk the odd scratch up this first section. Maybe this is what keeps the lane reasonably quiet! Trees and hedges blotted out the sky allowing only a little dappled Autumn sunlight to illuminate the way. Then, when you think you are forever trapped in a tunnel of green, you pop out on top of moorland with views across Darley Dale. The going is easy enough on a dry Autumn day with plenty of grip and no chance of damaging anything as long as you drive sensibly.
After a succession of easy lanes we were craving a decent challenge. Something to test our driving skills and to see just how good the legendary Jeep would be if shown a serious bit of track. Our prayers were answered as we peeled off the B6465 at Monsal Head Hotel and began a long descent on a minor road, turning left over a small bridge and into the trees. Hidden from view was a track that would test both us and the Jeeps - the Monsal Head track. As we rounded the corner with the full glory of the track before us, it was a case of a quick down change to first, or a certain stall and a hill start! Not only is this lane very steep, it is also made up of the most unforgiving boulders. As each one bashes the underside of the Jeep, so the energy is transferred to your spine! The only way up is slowly, letting the lazy torque of the old flathead engine chug along at about 1500 rpm in low, first. The tyres, set at 20 psi, flex and form themselves to the shapes of the boulders as foot by foot we crawled up the track.
The steepest stretch is not that long, but one mistake makes getting mobile again a tricky operation. A delicate balance of throttle and clutch while hoping the hand brake will hold keeps you on your mettle! Once at the top there is a chance to swap tales with other drivers and take a few photos of the view, then it is on across the top of the moors on farm tracks leading to the highlight of any good green lane adventure - the pub! Kieran took us to The Waterloo Hotel in Taddington, near Buxton for a good pint of real ale and a very reasonably priced full roast dinner dished up by the landlord - who bears a striking resemblance to Elvis Presley! Should you arrive there late and fancy making a night of it, there is a very convenient camp site right behind the pub with another green lane adjacent to it should you wish to continue your adventure the next day.
The Peak District Rights of Way lay out clear guidelines for 4x4 use of their lanes.
General Guidelines set by The Peak District Rights of Way Dept.
Max 4 vehicles per group.
Max speed 5 mph
Please be courteous towards other users.