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24 September 2014

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Historic lanes are restored to former glory
Green lane at Blackstone Point near Kingswear
One of the 191 Green Lanes in the South Hams, which are being restored....this one is at Blackstone Point, near Kingswear
Tales of smugglers hauling their contrabond along South Devon's ancient Green Lanes has added a touch of romance to a project to restore 191 of the lanes which have been neglected for decades. The lanes are a wildlife haven, and are now being made spick and span for walkers.
Dart Valley Trail
Lorna Doone Country
Two Moors Way
Mariner's Way, Dartmoor
South Hams Council

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South Hams boats 191 Green Lanes which are in need of restoration.

Some date back to the Bronze Age.

They are a waven for wildlife, as cars cannot access them.

In the old days, smugglers would use the Green Lanes which meandered up from the secluded coves of the South Hams.

The South Hams is the bit of South Devon which fits in between Torbay to the north and Plymouth to the south.


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Tucked away in the South Devon countryside, and largely ignored for decades, lies a network of historic tracks, all of them with a rich tale to tell.

Some of the lanes are centuries old, and one, in Ugborough, dates back to the Bronze Age. There are almost 200 of these routes in the South Hams, and some provided a link all the way from the moors to the coast.

Others were used by smugglers, who brought their contraband ashore via the secluded coves of the South Devon coast.

Children walking along a lane
Away from all the traffic, the lanes are a perfect setting for walkers

The tracks are known as Green Lanes, and they are now being brought back to life as part of a green tourism project by South Hams District Council.

The council has launched its "On the Right Tracks" scheme, and is looking for help from businesses to fund it.

But with 450 miles of track to clear, it's going to take thousands of pounds - and hours - to complete the huge project.

Some of the unique tracks have become eroded and storm damaged, while others are in danger of disappearing completely.

Leafy green lane
Green by by nature

The green lanes are not just of historical value, though. With their traffic-free steep hedged banks and grassy surfaces, they are environmentally important too, encouraging birds and other wildlife.

South Hams' green tourism officer, Zoe Hambly, says that once the restoration is done, it will be the finest network of its kind in Britain: "The lanes have been forgotten really, and yet they are very historic," she said.

"We've got 191 of these lanes, and most are too narrow to drive along, but are wider than paths. It will be lovely to get them back to as they should be."

Signpost on footpath
Once cleared, the lanes can again be used by walkers

Some of the paths will be made accessible for people with disabilities, and the tracks will attract locals as well as visiting walkers and cyclists.The project has received funding from the council, the Countryside Agency, South West Tourism and Devon County Council, with grant aid from the European Union.

But businesses and individuals can also help by giving donations. Contact South Hams Council on 01803 861249.

In addition, "On the Right Track" leaflets about the project are also available on the same telephone number.

All pictures used with permission of South Hams District Council.

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