Events (2015) pt 3
Three Pass Challenge
A few months prior to this challenge, our group went on one of the longest road runs we have undertaken. This set minds to thinking "what else could we do for a challenge?" The idea of taking on some of the Lake District's steepest and tightest passes came to mind and was quickly taken up by others to start the planning. What follows is Ian McCormack's report on the event.
"Friday 9th October saw a hardy group from South Cumbria and North Lancs MVT take on the challenge of the pair of toughest roads in Britain – Hardknott and Wrynose passes in the Lake District.
These roads present the driver with a succession of 1 in 3 gradients and hairpin bends, often combined; not a situation for the fainthearted.
The area was used for tank training during WW2 which tore up the existing track and, allegedly, it was only supposed to be re-instated to its pre-war standard but the contractors made a mistake and tarmaced it all, thereby creating for the first time a driveable link between Ambleside and Eskdale.
However, South Cumbria and North Lancashire MVT members are made of stern stuff and, showing true Northern grit (with a sprinkling of Southern endeavour) plans were made to take a small convoy of Jeeps across the passes.
Being based so close to an area of such outstanding beauty as the Lake District and with “Britain’s most outrageous roads” beckoning it was an over due excursion for the group.
Taking advantage of the reduced traffic on an October Friday, Jon & Susie Newbould, Keith & Celanie Ball, Simon Bromley and Ian McCormack set off from Preston for the Lakes, meeting at Boyan Holmes’ house near Kendal for delicious bacon butties and coffee. Stuart Reid stopped by to see everyone off (and have a brew) but, unfortunately, work commitments prevented him from taking part. Joined for the trip by Tony Howarth and David Clewes with Boyan taking on the role of Chief Navigator the intrepid gang headed for the hills.
A warm up for the passes presented itself at Ulpha with a couple of nice steep hairpins making sure that all the drivers could find first gear and showing how sprightly the Jeeps were at getting up hills.
Once past Ulpha and over Birker Fell, a stop was taken at Eskdale Green to set up for the passes – windscreens down (what rain?) and cameras at the ready.
With Jon and Susie bringing up the rear to pick up any (mechanical) casualties the Jeeps sprinted up the Western approach to Hardknott with scarcely a pause. A picnic lunch was taken at the Roman fort built between about AD120 and AD138 to command the trade route from the Roman port of Ravenglass. Stationed here was a detachment of 500 cavalry from the 6th Cohort of Dalmatians from the Dalmatian coast in present day Croatia. The fort is quite extensive including a large parade ground (the only bit of level ground for miles around), a bath house and two granaries.
The view from here is spectacular, even on a grey day, with soaring crags all around and a view down the valley towards the sea glinting in the distance.
To celebrate the historical association with the Roman spice route over the hills, and to fill everyone up for the rest of the day, Boyan produced a delicious Cumberland Rum Nicky, topped off with rum butter which went down very well.
By this time reports had filtered in from the occasional passers by of a camper van that had come to grief on one of the steeper sections further along the route and which was partially blocking the road. Sounds like a mission for the MVT!
The next section of hill was an especially steep and twisting ascent but was taken on and beaten then a descent (in first gear and with much on and off of brakes) took the team down towards a flatter section where, sure enough, a camper van had indeed slid backwards partially off the road whilst trying to drive uphill (did I mention that it was steep?).
The unfortunate couple with the van had been stuck since early morning (it was now mid-afternoon) and were getting increasingly concerned about being stranded in the middle of nowhere with no help on its way. A breakdown company had attended but said they couldn’t do anything and had left it at that. Cheers! Not being prepared to leave people in distress and with a professional at this sort of thing in the group, tow ropes were hitched up and Jeeps made ready.
Onlookers and idlers removed to a safe distance, the mighty Jeeps took the strain and in no time at all, the camper was back on the road and turned around to exit the passes via a flatter route. Between grateful thanks, the owners were heard to mention that they’d been through the Pyrenees and the Alps in the van with no trouble but Hardknott was just too much.
After all that excitement a gentle run through Wrynose Bottom preceded another stiff climb up to a photo stop at the Three Shire Stone erected in 1860 to mark the juncture of the historic counties of Westmorland, Cumberland and Lancashire.
With the road now leading down from the wild uplands to the fertile Langdale Valley thoughts turned to one more challenge to top off the day – Kirkstone Pass via The Struggle from Ambleside.
The good citizens of Ambleside having been treated to the sight of a convoy of Jeeps heading through town, The Struggle was ascended but, for Jeeps, didn’t live up to its name. Whilst not being on the direct route home it was decided to go through the pass and back just to add it to the collection. As an aside, Kirkstone Pass is actually named for a large stone situated towards the top of the pass and shaped like the roof of a church, hence Kirk Stone.
And so the day was (almost) done with the passes defeated, no breakdowns and a camper van rescued to boot. The run back through the fantastic Lakeland autumn scenery led towards Windermere and Kendal with just one major challenge remaining, the toughest of the day.…the dreaded M6 car park!"
Some pictures from our Crank Down meeting at Ye Horns Inn, Goosnargh. I just found them on my camera so thought I should load them.
The following report from Dave shows how well we did on the 2015 RBL Poppy Collection.
"Having started the poppy collecting on the weekend of our Crank down meeting , we were very fortunate to cover the 23 to the 25 October,a big thanks to the guys who covered the services at Forton on the M6 missing some of the crank down weekend.
The following weekend we had plenty of cover on the Friday and Saturday, but Sunday's are harder to cover we managed to do north and south. I was on the south side with Graham and his niece Abbey it's great when the younger members are involved although I'm sure Abbey would sooner been out on her horse. She helps out every year like most of our group.
Our last weekend 6-8 November was wet and we were lucky to “borrow” a table and chairs and found a brilliant spot indoors. I must admit it's much better collecting outdoors, we always have a good crack with the great generous British public.
We also had several of our members collecting again in Kendal town centre. This year together we raised over five thousand four hundred pounds for the RBL, and it would be remiss if I did not mention Tanker Dave who did most of the weekends and kept the poppy boxes full. There are cameras when you enter the car park area which record the registration number of the vehicle. We have to hand our registration numbers in but we still get fined. Fortunately the manager at Forton sorts them out, even with the best laid plans there are cock-ups. It's good to see that when we return each year the oil slick from last year has been washed away. If a Jeeps not leaking oil it must be empty. Thanks again to everyone who collects."