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Trail erosion - Traffic, laziness, skill, nerve?

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V

I was uncertain about posting this and I am not sure if this is the right section to post into. It's about a trail in Utah that I have driven many times in the past, but I think the underlying issue is relevant to the UK too, I just haven't found any UK specific video examples to illustrate my point. I have been at UK council meetings before protesting against byway closures and didn't actually realise at the time that my experience of the byway in question was just a snapshot in my timeline, my experience of the byway was not over a number of years of familiarity. Today I had this strange feeling of seeing things from the view point of a 'byway conservative' after watching some recent video of a Moab trail that I have good memories of.

 

Some years ago I was a trail leader for a US club. Strike Ravine was the trail that 'Handlebars' and I always seemed to get volunteered to lead at events in Moab. It was one of my favourite loose boulder trails. A good deal of it had to be driven in low ratio four wheel drive and there would often be carnage. Smashed diff covers, broken UJ's, punctures, debeaded tyres, squashed exhaust systems, body damage (People as well as Jeeps) - it was a marvellous trail that was half inside Area BFE, my favourite playground.

 

I never took any video myself as I was usually too busy on other duties but I was watching some video today from others that was taken recently and I noticed the trail had changed by people driving on the margins to avoid the boulders. I found some footage of the same trail from ten years ago and I think there is a difference. Maybe, it's because I knew that trail well, does it seem worn out to you too?

 

One of my favourite sections was called 'Big Ugly'. Every time I drove this section (which would be five or six times in an event week), someone lost a tyre or suffered some mechanical damage. It was one of those trails that you could see the relief and the enjoyment in peoples faces when they got to the top of the hill. At 1:12 in the first clip, a Discovery debeads a tyre.

 

Big Ugly 2008 - Tyre debead at 1:12

 

Big Ugly 2010 - Erosion beginning

 

Big Ugly 2017 - Boulders seem smaller. From 2:04 trail seems wider, driver avoiding the rocks!

 

I have watched other recent videos of Strike Ravine and most of it now looks like it could be done in 2wd hi ratio. I know Big Ugly is a hill and rocks are going to get propelled down hill eventually, but I was surprised how worn out and less exciting the trail has become now. There are a lot more Jeepers driving offroad in the US since the JK was launched so an increase in traffic is likely to leave its mark.

 

Have you noticed any trails in the UK that have developed bypasses or become less challenging through highway maintenance, simplification or overuse? I know some councils tend to send the bulldozers down byways when they develop interesting features. Since the reduction of the UK trail network caused by NERC, traffic on what is left must be higher now than what it was before NERC.

 

I have noticed on hikes locally that footpaths have got wider or unofficial easy shortcuts (bypasses) have been made. Are we getting lazier not wanting to experience the real challenge of the trail? Or are the less capable being more adventurous and are making trails easier for themselves?

Should we try to preserve the rawness of a byway or should we soften them for ease of travel?

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Stew the Jeep

Some lanes have got easier through use and maintenance others in Wales have got worse through over use

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V

Some lanes in Wales that cross wet ground will often develop bypasses for the areas that have become too difficult to travel. Often these bypasses fall withing the stated width of the the lane on the definitive statement, sometimes they don't. Should we worry about repairing a deteriorating lane if there is still sufficient legal width for a second, third or fourth carriageway?

 

I can think of an example in Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire called Forty Foot Lane that runs out of Santa Pod Raceway. Both councils would slap TROs on their parts of the lane from time to time because it would develop some very knarly ruts in places but was still passable within the stated width of 40 feet (equivalent to five unsurfaced carriageways). The councils appeared to want the lane to become a permanent lawn without ruts but historically it was made 40 feet wide specifically to deal with degradation and overuse naturally.

 

The point that I am trying to get at is that when I drove 'Big Ugly' I drove on the rocks for the thrill of the achievement of conquering the challenge while it appears now that lots of drivers have chosen to bypass the rocks by creating an easier track in the margin. Could we do this in the UK on byways? Could we keep byways open that have become very challenging due to their overuse if there were sufficient easy bypasses within the stated width? If so, lane maintenance wouldn't need to be expensive as only spot repairs to bypasses would be required with occassional repairs to extensive erosion on parts that nobody is using because of that erosion. Why can't the UK have a recreational trail network like in the USA that is challenging for 4x4 drivers? How come cycling, which also causes erosion problems due to traffic gets a national byway network? https://www.thenationalbyway.org/

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The Smiths

The biggest problem is ramblers do not want any mechanised vehicle to use ANY byway - and they also dislike mountain  bikers - who will be the target after us.

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TimC

There’s a lot of points raised in this discussion, here’s some of my thoughts on some of them from my limited experience:

 

I can think of a few ‘bypasses’ on byways, the one that springs to my mind is towards the eastern end of the track that goes through Grizedale Forest from the Visitor centre in the Lakes. The byway goes to the left of a tree down a fairly big rock step, this is the official route of the byway, but there is an easy bypass to the right of the tree which clearly a lot of people use although I suppose strictly speaking it is off piste. I don’t really have a problem with people making there own bypasses, after all finding the easiest route through terrain is what made these trails ( and subsequently roads) in the first place. It’s also a natural thing to do for those people who still want to enjoy the trail without risking damage to their pride and joy/daily driver while those who want the satisfaction of taking on the toughest route and getting through it can do so too. It’s why we have different graded routes at the P&P after all, I can see both points of view.

 

Erosion (or ‘damage’ if you prefer) is bound to happen on any track if it becomes popular and gets used a lot. People want any area of the natural outdoors to be open to and enjoyed by all but somehow remain ‘unspoiled’, can’t have it both ways. And of course I’m not just talking about 4x4s although they are the scapegoats. Walkers cause a huge amount of erosion as they take to paths in the Yorkshire dales, or the Lakes or Snowdonia in their hundreds of thousands. The biggest culprit though is rain and there’s not much you can do about that. I started laning back in the 1980’s and I have never seen any serious damage caused by 4x4s, rain yes, farm/ agricultural and logging vehicles yes but 4x4s, no.

 

Some of the lanes I used to drive around Northants and Herts ( most are closed now  :icon_cry: ) used to be a real challenge to get through but through a combination of seasonal restrictions and maintenance they have been very much ‘tamed’ and can now be driven in 2WD mostly. Is this a bad thing? No, probably not. they are still fun to drive and good to get out in the countryside and explore so better that than be closed off altogether. By the way, in all the years I have lived just down the road from 40 Foot Lane I have never driven it, shocking!

 

I have never driven off road in the US so I don’t know anything about their rights of way or trails but I can’t see a National network of challenging off road trails ever getting anywhere in this country. Back in the 80’s I used to think that the 21st century was a long way off and that all the byways would be closed by then. While that hasn’t completely happened a huge number have been lost, never to return. I think if you want a challenge then off road sites are probably going to end up being the place to do that although, yes, there still are a few legendary routes still being defended. I think GLASS and the TRF seem to have the right idea with helping contribute time, money and resources to the maintenance of these routes so that they can continue to be enjoyed.

 

One other slightly controversial thing I actually think is quite good is restricting numbers that can drive a given route ( like Gatesgarth Pass for example ) It helps keep routes ( maybe like Big Ugly ) a bit special and less civilised since only those who are really keen to do it will go to the extra effort of getting a permit to drive. What do you think?

 

Blimey, have rambled ( scuse pun!) on a bit there, time to go and view a few routes on “3D fly through” on OS maps  :icon_e_geek:

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V

Tim, thanks for taking the time to reply. Some years ago I did some historical research on the Northamptonshire lanes and found from 18th century parliamentary records that all of the Northamptonshire lanes at the start of the 21st century were in the best condition they had ever been in. I read an 18th century MP's report on constituents drowning (to death) in rain filled ruts in the county. The lanes were being used by commercial vehicles of the day - 8 to 16 ton wagons being hauled by massive teams of oxen. I went to some Wagon museum in Northants or MK and remember reading about an experiment to change the rear axle on wagons to a roller to aid flattening the ruts. Over time, canals, railways and tarmacadam created by accident the network of unsurfaced routes that we have today.

 

In Britain, unless a public right of way is a private road or a toll road it is maintained at the public expense. In a lot of US states, their trail network largely consists of County Roads and what have latterly been called 'Jeep Trails' on Federal and State owned land. Different states have different laws concerning the use of Off Highway Vehicles (OHV) but generally OHV are permitted on unsurfaced 'roads' if they are trailered, not driven to them. OHV permit schemes exist for non-road legal vehicles. Offroad capable (highway legal) road vehicles are also permitted but they can be driven on a road to and from them. The major difference with the US County Road network is that they are not all maintained at the public expense. A decision to maintain a county road at the public expense is done at a local government level.

 

I believe that the British government should change the law to remove the responsibility for maintenance at the public expense from all public footpaths, bridleways and byways. They have been operating this system unofficially anyway for the last 70 years by only spending the minimum they can to fix up those routes complained about the most. I think it is far better for the user groups that represent the highest authorised traffic class to be responsible for the maintenance of their routes and remove this burden from local authorities, except on restricted byways.

 

Ramblers maintain all public footpaths as the highest traffic class on those routes.

Horse riders and cyclists groups maintain bridleways

4x4, motorcycle and carriage drivers maintain byways

County councils maintain restricted byways as it was their negligence in the first place not to categorise them as byways in the 20th century. They still have the option to recategorise them according to the law to avoid the expense of maintenance.

 

I disagree with localised permits on public rights of way, but I do support a membership/affiliation of a national governing body for each class of user group. The national body decides what routes get maintained by the democratic decision of members that pay dues and/or contribute volunteer labour or donate materials or other resources for route maintenance. To prevent political interference or infiltration in the decisions of the national governing bodies I suggest a one-time initiation course/exam for membership of an affiliate group. My local 4x4 Response group does this. Anyone wishing to have a vote on byway maintenance must first attend an affiliate organisations initiation day with the equipment for their class. If you are voting as a carriage rider, you attend initiation at a carriage riders club day with a horse and carriage. A motorcyclist/ATV voter attends a motorcycle/ATV initiation on a motorcycle/ATV and a 4x4 driver in a 4x4.

 

Byways will still be open to all traffic, but lower traffic classes do so as they choose. If Ramblers don't like erosion on a particular byway, they vote for the Footpath national governing body to donate funds and resources to the Byway national governing body specifically to maintain the byway identified. This way precious resources are consumed where they are needed most and contributed by those that require the work to be done. All funds are ring fenced and Central and Local government have no access to them.

 

The advantage for the local government will be that the money previously budgeted for PRoW maintenance can be spent on other things officially or it can be a cut that they have to factor in somewhere.

 

Ramblers will spend their time concentrating on their exclusive footpaths as they will soon dissappear through lack of use.

Horsey and cyclists will concentrate on their semi-exclusive bridleways.

4x4, motorcyclists and carriage drivers will concentrate on their favourite byways and work out a fair sharing condition/bypass/maintenance agreement as some will be more interesting than others to each group.

Councils will reclassify restricted byways as either footpaths, bridleways or byways to the letter of the law as they were required to in 1948 or keep maintaining them at the public expense as a restricted byway.

 

If an agricutural user or a 4x4/Motorcyclist/Carriage are identified causing damage to a byway, affiliate members or not, the national governing body can pursue them in court for the compensation of damage if the actual damage caused is within the recognised classification of damage set by the governing body either nationally or specifically for that route. A rambler will NOT be able to apply their standard of damage to a byway until ALL footpaths and bridleways nationally comply with the Footpath national body's level of maintenance and only then for a bypass on a byway although this could mean a footpath is set aside in the margin.

 

Governance of a national body is by proportional representation of their members.

 

These ideas allow routes to be available for use by all authorised traffic types but it controls the cost of maintenance and puts it directly on the users to a level that they decide amongst themselves to bear.

 

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Stew the Jeep

The NERC act opened up a can of worms that has never been closed I’ll happily admit I still drive some restricted byways that have houses on them might even admit to a bridleway (with a house on it) but I have the landowners permission

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Jim

This is on BBC News website today - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-43767068

 

"The authority running the Lake District National Park has been accused of "violating its World Heritage status".

Campaigners say a "massive increase" in motorbikes and 4x4 vehicles has "profoundly changed the landscape".

 

 

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TimC

Vince,

 

Interesting to hear the historical background on some of those lanes you mention.

 

You make clear, sane, reasoned and logical arguments which address the issues to the benefit of all parties concerned........and therefore are doomed to be completely ignored  :icon_e_sad: Unfortunately the green lanes debate, as with most other debates these days will be swayed by emotion and unreasoning hatred.

 

I have just read this on the BBC news and it’s typical:

 

  Wrynose Pass, Little LangdaleImage copyrightGOOGLE

Image caption

Campaigners said 4x4s and motorbikes were damaging the area near Little Langdale

The authority running the Lake District National Park has been accused of "violating its World Heritage status".

Campaigners say a "massive increase" in motorbikes and 4x4 vehicles has "profoundly changed the landscape".

They have accused the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) of neglecting the fells and promoting the use of tracks by off-roaders.

The LDNPA said it would be "preferable if people did not take vehicles on these routes" but it was legal.

Head of park management Mark Eccles said: "All unsealed routes with public vehicular access rights, including the ones in the Little Langdale, Oxen Fell and Tilberthwaite area, are subject to the same laws as surfaced [tarmac] roads.

"We encourage users to behave responsibly on what can be vulnerable tracks to minimise environmental impact and respect other users."

Little LangdaleImage copyrightGOOGLE

Image caption

The Lake District National Park Authority said the tracks were subject to the same laws as surfaced roads

Save The Lake District campaigners say the LDNPA has a statutory duty under the Environment Act 1995 to give greater weight to conservation in any conflict between it and recreational interests.

They are asking Unesco, which oversees the World Heritage status designation, to force the LDNPA to use its traffic regulation powers to keep off-roaders off unsurfaced tracks.

A petition demanding a ban has been signed by more than 4,300 people.

Although traffic regulation orders "cannot be ruled out", using them was a last resort and the authority had "no immediate plans" to do so, Mr Eccles said.

 

Headlines from the BBC shouting that the Lake District is being destroyed by hordes of 4x4s are much more sexy than dull old reasoned arguments. This is reported as news and by implication fact with not much attempt to provide any counter arguement, such as:  there are so few 4x4 routes ( probably about 20 byways ) that even if they were being driven 24/7 it couldn’t possibly “destroy the Lake District”. Whereas walkers, who have freedom to roam all over the place cause immense damage to dry stone walls, surface erosion, litter,  traffic ....... I’m not against walkers ( I have been one many a time ) I just do not understand the hatred there is for the relatively small number of 4x4s and the refusal to share the beautiful English outdoors, even the tiny number of tracks that 4x4s are allowed, and they ignore the fact that it’s organisations like glass who contribute to the maintenance ( £5000 + resources for Old Coach Road for example )

 

It has been like this since I started laning 30 years ago and it hasn’t changed, I’ve had abuse from knights and MPs ( well one knight and one MP ) farmers, ramblers, horse riders and cyclists while out laning, I’ve always been polite, courteous and tolerant, driven slowly and in small groups, all the usual laning code and it makes no difference, 4x4s are still hated and I don’t understand it. I’m now of the opinion that it is hardly worth even fighting the long defeat, I’ll just carry on driving the few I can until they are all shut down and all our children will be able to do will be to pretend to off road by the use of VR headsets  :icon_evil:

 

Oh dear, seem to have gone off on a bit of a rant! All I really meant to say was I think whilst the idea of a National trails network for 4x4s sounds great and you make a good case I think the chances of it are pretty much close to zero.

 

Sadly, all very depressing  :icon_massacre: 

 

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TimC

This is on BBC News website today - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-43767068

 

"The authority running the Lake District National Park has been accused of "violating its World Heritage status".

Campaigners say a "massive increase" in motorbikes and 4x4 vehicles has "profoundly changed the landscape".

 

Ah ha Jim, beat me to it!

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Stew the Jeep

My gut feeling is more 4x4s are laning that coupled with tros and VROs coupled with illegally blocked lanes means more useage If the NERC act hadn’t been brought in there would be a lot more lanes

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TimC

My gut feeling is more 4x4s are laning that coupled with tros and VROs coupled with illegally blocked lanes means more useage If the NERC act hadn’t been brought in there would be a lot more lanes

 

I couldn’t tell you if there are more 4x4s laning now than 20 years ago Stew, I have no data to go on, but you are absolutely right about NERC. Shut down half the lanes that used to be driveable overnight and, surprise surprise, the 50% that’s left see a “massive increase”  :icon_rolleyes: didn’t see that one coming! Now we can all complain about the ‘increased amount’ of 4x4 traffic and shut down the rest. I despair  :icon_mad:

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V

UNESCO "Building peace in the minds of men and women"

It looks like they are failing to achieve their goal as the 'Save The Lake District' certainly are not interested in building peace with legitimate road users.

 

I suggest that GLASS and TRF counter the complaint by petitioning UNESCO for funding for emergency byway maintenance. If UNESCO don't think this situation is eligible for their Rapid Response emergency funding then it clearly isn't a problem that is affecting the Lake District National Park World Heritage status.

https://whc.unesco.org/en/activities/578

 

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TimC

It’s the same with off road trails as with anything I guess...... you found a secluded unspoilt little cove you used to love to go to years back but now it’s got a road going to it, a car park, a bar and is chock full of other tourists who all love going there too on organised trips. Yes it’s been spoilt but that’s progress, only way you keep it unspoilt is by not letting people anywhere near it.

 

( note to self: must try not to go off on a rant...)

 

So it goes with green lanes, one of the great things about going laning is getting out and seeing almost no one all day, finding lanes that haven’t been used in ages, exploring and seeing the countryside from a different perspective as much as,  the off road challenges, if not more so.

 

However, to get to the point, and particularly in relation to the above Lake District article, I have noticed one thing in particular that has changed and that we never used to have “back in the day”. Green Laning has now become a business that people make money at. Companies such as Kankku who are based in Windermere and to a lesser extent others, such as Yorkshire 4x4 treks charge significant amounts of money for guided trips along these unsurfaced unclassified public roads and byways. To run as a successful business they need to do this all year round and all through the week and in all weathers providing adventure holidays and corporate days out as well as guided trips for people wanting to try 4x4 and experienced off roaders alike.

 

I’m not necessarily saying this is all wrong, they (hopefully) provide proper instruction and guidance on responsible green laning that is good for anyone going on their trips and is better than people thinking they can just head off onto the fells in their Toyota hilux and do a few donuts in the nearest field. However it is probably not surprising that particularly in the Lakes ( and particularly Tilberthwaite/high oxen fell/ little Langdale ) that there is this “massive increase” and presumably the same applies in Wales. I suspect that a lot of this increase is organised commercial trips, not just a few mates out for a days laning in their  4x4s, and it’s probably not surprising that local residents on these routes get a bit fed up of bright orange Kankku Defenders driving through their farm week in week out.

 

I am not really having a go at the likes of Kankku and Yorkshire 4x4, what they are doing is completely legal and enables people who might not otherwise have contemplated 4x4 to have a go and enjoy the experience....but, it is one thing to offer and charge for  a 4x4 driving experience on a private site, it’s another to do it on a public road. My thoughts are that if they are doing this as a business then they, as heavy users who are using the trails to make money, ought to pay something for their upkeep.......and perhaps they do. I was talking to a mountain biker on our last trip who seemed to be saying that Kankku paid some of the local landowners to be able to drive the tracks across their land that are still there have been restricted to non motorised traffic ( which if true is a great idea I think) 

 

Anyway I reckon the commercialisation of green laning, particularly the “big name” lanes in Wales  the Lakes Yorkshire and C2C is, on balance, probably not helping in the long run......or perhaps I’m completely wrong and organised, sanitised trips are the way forward for the future, can’t say it appeals to me though.

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V

Anyway I reckon the commercialisation of green laning, particularly the “big name” lanes in Wales  the Lakes Yorkshire and C2C is, on balance, probably not helping in the long run......or perhaps I’m completely wrong and organised, sanitised trips are the way forward for the future, can’t say it appeals to me though.

Maybe this is even more of an argument for removing the financial burden of maintenance from the public purse. If commercial laning companies are creating increased traffic on the remaining byways then they will need more maintenance as a result. Unmaintained routes will find their own traffic equilibrium. The commercial laners will stop using them as they will become either too challenging or dangerous for their vehicles and customers. The lanes will still be used by those more capable until gradually no easy lanes are left and either a commercial laner has to provide the resources for maintenance or a volunteer group will. After suitable repairs the lane comes back into high traffic service and the cycle repeats.

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Stew the Jeep

Interesting view V personally I have an issue with commercial laning as an OS map costs a few quid and responsible owners clubs run trips organised by folk with local knowledge

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TimC

Interesting view V personally I have an issue with commercial laning as an OS map costs a few quid and responsible owners clubs run trips organised by folk with local knowledge

 

Talking of trips run by folk with local knowledge Stew .......... :icon_e_wink:

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V

Fancy doing any next weekend?

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TimC

Fancy doing any next weekend?

 

Something about Long Mynd I think it was.........

 

....anyway, would love to be out doing a few lanes next weekend, but sadly looks like I will be working, unless we have a very productive last week of the month, and it will be all hands to the pumps. I will see how it goes. However, it would be great to see if we could sort a little impromptu non-commercial laning trip in the near future.  :great: Did you have anywhere in mind?

 

I think I’m doing the Surrey Lanes trip with the Club if that’s still on on the following weekend, then a Lakes trip planned ending up at Parkwood mid May, looks like June is probably earliest, hopefully doing some Herts/Cambs lanes in June.

 

TROs come off in Northants/Beds/Cambs in just over a week so would be nice to be out and about again if something can be organised. 

 

 

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Stew the Jeep

Doh it’s been wet and I’m lazy

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fen01

Something about Long Mynd I think it was.........

 

....anyway, would love to be out doing a few lanes next weekend, but sadly looks like I will be working, unless we have a very productive last week of the month, and it will be all hands to the pumps. I will see how it goes. However, it would be great to see if we could sort a little impromptu non-commercial laning trip in the near future.  :great: Did you have anywhere in mind?

 

I think I’m doing the Surrey Lanes trip with the Club if that’s still on on the following weekend, then a Lakes trip planned ending up at Parkwood mid May, looks like June is probably earliest, hopefully doing some Herts/Cambs lanes in June.

 

TROs come off in Northants/Beds/Cambs in just over a week so would be nice to be out and about again if something can be organised.

 

I’ve got my route from north London to Peterborough

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TimC

Counting on doing that sometime in June Fen  :great:

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fen01

Counting on doing that sometime in June Fen  :great:

 

I need to get some more interest for it..

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