THE vexed question of Herefordshire's green lanes came under the spotlight when Leominster Civic Trust held its April meeting at The Talbot Hotel.

Members heard a talk by Michael Mable, Herefordshire Council's definitive map modification officer, who is responsible for maintaining and up-dating maps showing the legal rights of way, a job often involving tramping the route, talking to landowners and examining ancient documents.

Defining a right of way was not a new subject, he said, with numerous documented examples of complaints and court cases from 200 years ago.

Then, as now, councils had difficulty in finding the funds for maintaining these paths, which are not always rights of way.

A valuable source of reference is the relevant Inland Revenue map of 1910, which would show areas subject to land tax. Often the map shows a narrow strip of untaxed land - a public road. Other sources are the 1831 Ordnance Survey maps and parish survey documents.

A lively question-and-answer session focused on the topical controversy of the use of green lanes by 'off-road' vehicles.

Mr Mable, while sympathising with some of the audience, stressed that there were two sides to the debate.

Lanes often become overgrown with brambles and are unusable, so traffic helps keep the weeds down and the lanes open.

Besides, he said, if anyone were seen to be abusing the privilege, the council had the power to step in and take enforcing action to ensure that all sections of the community could use the lanes in safety and comfort.

The trust's next meeting, on May 8, will feature a talk on 'The Marches Housing Association' by Julian Knapp.