Here is an overview on how I find legal green lanes and byways in the UK. I try to give as much information as possible but please don't take this guide as gospel as green lanes can often be a cause for contention in some areas of the UK. It is important that you do your own research before heading out.
There are a number of organisations that can assist with the legalities and finding green lanes, these include the Green Lane Association and Trailwise which contains a list of green lanes in UK and their current status.
Buy a up-to-date OS map of the area you want to explore. Your starting point then is to locate ‘Byway open to all traffic (BOAT)’ on the map, these will be marked with a green rectangle with a thick line crossing through, as per the below.
These should be okay to drive, however before you head out the next thing to check is, ‘is it a restricted byway?’ If it is marked as restricted nothing no motor vehicles are able to drive on it. Another thing to note is if the BOAT has a traffic restriction order (TRO) showing, this means no access a certain time of the year. To definitively check if a BOAT is restricted or has a TRO placed on it, contact the council for that area and request to see the Definitive Map.
It is also possible to drive on ‘other routes with public access’ (ORPA) or ‘unclassified roads’ (UCR), these are marked with a spaced dotted green line on the OS map. These are less common than BOATs and the exact nature of the rights on these routes and the existence of any restrictions would need to be confirmed by council before driving.
Online Definitive Maps.
In addition to using OS maps I also use council online definitive maps when available. A definitive map is a legal document which must be produced and kept up to date by every county council or unitary authority in England and Wales and contains all public rights of way, including BOATs.
Below is a great example from Neath Port Talbot Council that contains a simple key showing footpaths, bridleways and byways. I then match these against the OS Maps to gain a better understanding of their location.
As a final check before heading out I look up the the start of the BOAT on Google maps street view, this can give a better understanding of what to expect when you arrive at the trail.
Once out on a trail I recommend keeping a paper OS map with you at all time, as green lanes are often not marked on smartphone maps and phone signal can be hard to come by when you’re in the middle of nowhere!
Ensure you and vehicle are prepared. Many lanes are easily passible in a standard off-road vehicle but i’d always recommend packing tow ropes and shackles just incase you get into trouble.
Speak to your local Green Lane Association representative and council members if you have any questions about green lanes in your area.
Join Facebook groups as these often contain great advice and up-to-date comments on particular lanes.
If you can, take someone with green lane or off-road driving experience with you. Driving green lanes can be daunting for beginners. Ensure you have someone to help in case you get stuck or break down.
When out on the lanes check the map regularly to ensure you’re still on a legal trail.