Issues Concerning Recreational 'Off-road' Motor Vehicles in Colton Parish
(and surrounding areas)

(last updated 28th November 2015)


Over the past 10-15 years, the use of recreational vehicles (e.g. 4x4s, trail bikes and quad bikes) in the countryside has become a popular pastime, both for individuals and tourism businesses. Issues concerning illegal access, landscape damage and behaviour offensive to other countryside users has cause some concern and this webpage aims to provide useful information on legal vs. illegal activity and how to report incidents to the police.

A Working Group has been set up in the High Furness area of South Lakeland concerning 'Inappropriate and Illegal use of the Countryside by Motor Vehicles'. This is a local partnership between the National Park, 4 Parish Councils, the Police, Natural England, the Forestry Commission, the Bridleways Society, and the Trail Riders Federation. This group works together to inform and educate vehicle users and to tackle illegal behaviour.

Legal vs. Illegal use of Motor Vehicles

It is important to understand what is legal and what is illegal use of motor vehicles in the countryside:

It is perfectly legal to drive a motor vehicle on some unsurfaced routes. These routes are often referred to collectively as 'green roads', but more formally they are known as 'Byways Open To All Traffic' (BOATs), 'Unsurfaced County Roads' (UCRs), or 'Other Routes with Public Access' (ORPAs). These are often finger posted as 'Public Ways' in Cumbria and the National Park. All unsurfaced routes with vehicular access are subject to exactly the same laws as for surfaced roads, so all vehicles must be road-legal, that is, taxed and insured, with MOTís if appropriate, and with visible and correctly sized number plates. Colton Parish has 8 'green roads' - i.e. unsurfaced routes with vehicular rights - see maps.

It is illegal (a criminal offence) to drive or ride a motor-vehicle on any other land or right-of-way without permission from the landowner.

The Lake District National Park website and Cumbria County Council's website both include useful information on green road driving and legal routes.

Two key concerns have arisen from 'off-road' activity:

1. Illegal Off-road vehicle activity and bad behaviour: In the past few years, the incidence of illegal off-road activity (on illegal tracks and excursions onto sensitive fellsides) has increased markedly, along with bad, sometimes threatening behaviour to other recreational users and land-owners. The Working Group referred to above, encourages volunteers to report illegal activity and bad behaviour. See how to report.

2. Damage to green roads in Colton Parish, and the need for maintenance and repair: Damage to green roads (unsurfaced routes with vehicular access - where vehicles are legally allowed to travel) is now so severe that some are impassable for farmers who need to access their stock, directly affecting local livelihoods (see pictures). Cumbria County Council Highways have responsibility for repair, but their limited funds mean that these roads are extremely low priority.  However, the Colton Green Roads Pilot Working Group (Colton PC, County Councillor, County Highways Dept and the National Park) has surveyed some of the routes and funding was found for repairs to one of them: High Ickenthwaite to Nibthwaite Grange (Bletherbarrow Lane) (U5064). This was carried out in 2013 as pilot study, and made a huge improvement. However, since then, no further work has been done, nor has the planned monitoring been carried out. Colton Parish Council is currently (Nov 2015) awaiting a meeting with County Highways.

Off-Road Vehicles: How to Report Illegal Activity and Bad Behaviour

First, note that there are 8 legal routes with vehicular access in Colton Parish: 7 Unclassified Country Roads (UCRs) and 1 By-way Open to All Traffic (BOAT):

  1. The Strands, Rusland Pool - (summer only - a Traffic Regulation Order operates between Oct and May) (U5566)

  2. Force Mills to Thwaite Moss (U5062)

  3. High Ickenthwaite to Nibthwaite Grange (Bletherbarrow Lane) (U5064)

  4. High Ickenthwaite to Oxen Park (Peg Lane) (U5213)

  5. Hulleter to Low Hay Bridge (U5216)

  6. Colton Church to Moss Wood (BOAT/UCR U5203)

  7. Colton Church to Old Hall Lane, Bouth (U5204)

  8. High Nibthwaite to Low Parkamoor (U5051) - this is a 'no through road' which ends at High Parkamoor - there is no access into Grizedale Forest.

View maps

Illegal activity includes i) any excursion off the above routes onto footpaths, bridleways, fields and fellsides, without the landowner's permission. ii) Use of motor vehicles on legal routes, where the vehicles are not road-legal (e.g. no number-plates or obscured number-plates).

How to report illegal activity and bad behaviour:

  1. Immediate reporting to the police of illegal activity:  Ring 101. To get through to the local police, select option 4 and then extension 1511 or 5319. Please report location and get number plates and descriptions if possible, without placing yourself in danger (some of these people can be threatening). If you can safely get pictures, then do.

  2. Later reporting full details of the incident to the police and the National Park. These incidents will be followed up by the police, if sufficient information given, and will also be  logged on the Park's  Trails Register. Please try to send the following information:

    • Date and Time

    • Location description and Grid Reference if possible (e.g. SD nnn nnn for 100m reference)

    • Whether Footpath, Bridleway, Fellside, route with Traffic Regulation Order, or Other

    • Vehicle description, including type, make and model if possible

    • Vehicle Registration

    • If motorbike, colour of rider's crash helmet and clothing.

    • Whether registration plate displayed and whether it was clean and visible

    • Description of circumstances and behaviour

    Emails with the above information should be sent to the National Park at, the Police on, and copied to . 
    Click here to send an email now.



There are eight routes within the Colton Parish Council boundary, one of which (1. below) has vehicular rights extinguished on part of its length and is now a 'no through road', and one of which is closed part of the year through a Seasonal Traffic Regulation Order (8. below). The routes are:

1.          UCR U5051 High Nibthwaite to High Parkamoor (grid reference SO 294897 to SO 309926).  Since commencement of the NERC Act 2006, this is now a 'no through road', ending at High Parkamoor, with vehicular rights extinguished from High Parkamoor to Satterthwaite/Grizedale (Moor Lane), as this section was down-graded to a bridleway.

2.            BOAT/ UCR U5203 Moss Wood (grid reference SO 316861 to SO 327862). This is a Byway Open to All Traffic with proven vehicular rights.

3.           UCR U5062 Thwaite Moss (grid reference SO 341905 to SO 340897). This is a UCR with presumed rights.

4.            UCR U5204 Old Hall Lane, Bouth (grid reference SO 326856 to SO 320861). This is a UCR with presumed rights.

5.            UCR U5216 Hulleter (grid reference SO 331879 to SO 337876). This is a UCR with presumed rights.

6.            UCR U5064 Ickenthwaite to Nibthwaite Grange (grid reference SO 315888 to SO 323895). This is a UCR with presumed rights.

7.            UCR U5213 Oxen Park to Ickenthwaite (grid reference SO 319874 to SO 323894). This is a UCR with presumed rights

8.            UCR U5566 Rusland Pool (grid reference SO 332894 to SO 338891). This is a UCR with presumed rights. A seasonal Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) closing the road to all vehicles applies from May to October, for the purposes of fisheries conservation.

The location of these routes is shown on the following maps (blue lines are UCRs/BOATs, red line is Colton Parish boundary):


Green Roads and Landscape Damage by Motor Vehicles (legal and illegal)

In June 2008, a letter was written to the County Highways authority expressing concern about the state of the green roads in Colton Parish. The photographs show examples of the situations described in the letter.  Each one is accompanied by a caption which includes the number of the UCR (1-8), the date taken, and a brief description of the point being illustrated.

UCR 1 - 10/06/08:
This road is now virtually impassable to 4-wheeled vehicles

UCR 6 - 10/06/08:
Well on the way to becoming impassable. Note the widening of the track by vehicles driving round damaged areas.


UCR 7 - 06/04/06:
Typical winter flooding (due to removal of road material) making route almost impassable for walkers

UCR 6 - 24/10/05:
Drivers create road widening to avoid rough track

UCR 7 - 28/12/05:
4 x 4 drivers have fun trying to get up steep slope (short-cutting hair-pin)

UCR 6 - 24/10/05
4 x 4 drivers have created a short-cut past the hairpin (to create a challange?)

UCR 6 - 10/06/08:
....which, over the years, has become the main route.

UCR 1 10/06/08:
Trail bike riders going off-route over sensitive peatland and important habitats

UCR 6 06/02/08:
4 x 4 drivers 'having fun' - scarring fields which would penalise farmers in agri-environment schemes.

UCR 6 10/06/08:

Broken flag culvert


Vandalised Sign


Damaged drainage