Advice for driving in the South Hams lanes

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Advice for driving in the South Hams lanes

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Now lockdown is easing we have started welcoming visitors to our beautiful part of the world. 

While we all enjoy showing off our little piece of heaven to those who come on holiday here, (and being slightly smug when we get to stay here and they have to go back to normal) one area that can cause some contention is driving in our lanes. 

They’re an odd experience for people who haven’t grown up with them. Very limited visibility, no white lines, and enormous and imposing Devon hedges on both sides, so with that in mind we have tried to come up with a list of things to try to help our visitors stay safe and feel less intimidated by our beloved country lanes. 

Say thank you - a small wave to say thank you to someone who has reversed, moved over, or waited for you makes all the difference. Don’t be that guy. 

Reversing - you’re not going to make it through a stay in the South Hams without needing to reverse once or twice. The rule is, the closest to the gap reverses, or the person with the least amount of cars behind them!  

Keep left - even when there is no white line in the middle of the road, still keep left as much as possible. Keeping left improves your visibility, reduces the chance of a head-on collision and means you’re in a better position to manoeuvre if you meet another vehicle. The joke is always if you can’t hear the hedge tickling your wing-mirror, you’re not over far enough, but don’t take that too literally!

Don’t follow through - don’t just follow the car in front of you. Often passing spaces are only big enough for one car to pass or only big enough for one car to be passed. Wait and watch before following the vehicle in front to prevent getting stuck. 

Tractors and Farm Machinery - 99% of our farmers and contractors are excellent drivers and will reverse and move out of your way; but trailers, farm equipment, or having to reverse for the 8,765th time in a day can make that tricky. If you come across a tractor and you can reverse for them, do, they’ll appreciate it! They’re keeping us all fed after all!

Mud on the road - farmers have to move vehicles, crops, machinery and many other things between fields and pastures, so this means tractors on the road and if the weather has been wet, this also means mud. It's slippery and can sometimes take you by surprise. Avoid heavy braking on thick mud and you’ll be fine. If you’ve driven through particularly heavy mud, check your brakes aren’t clogged up before you next need to use them.  

Livestock - drive the lanes like you expect to find a sheep, cow, horse and rider or tractor around the next blind bend, because one day they’ll be there!

Devon banks - the hedges, or Devon banks, that hem in the road on both sides are a unique feature to the county. They’re essentially ancient piles of earth with a hedge on top, and more than a quarter of then are at least 800 years old. If you have to choose between hitting a bank or another car, we always choose the bank, but be warned, some are faced with rocks and stone beneath the turf, so you might be unlucky. 

They’re main roads - some may be barely more than farm tracks but often they are the one and only road into a village, oh and the speed limit is 60mph. 

All in all, slow and steady wins the race, and if we can all be courteous to each other, the world will be a happier place. Happy driving! 

Main photo: Geograph Sandy B 

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