Tim’s Z Drives Pages - Lakes II -- May 2001
Lakes II -- May 2001
Backpackers in the Rocky Mountain National Park laughed when I told them the highest mountain in England was only just over 3,000 feet high. But some respect was gained back when I added that the tree line was 1,000 ft (in the Rockies it’s about 10,000 ft). Scafell Pike is in the middle of the Lake District National Park and you might better appreciate the dramatic nature of the scenery by the fact it’s only ten miles from the Irish Sea.
The Lake District has some of the most severe and spectacular roads in the UK—some are just single-track roads following the route of old pony trails over the passes. The most exciting of all is a thin ribbon of tarmac linking Eskdale to Langdale across the high passes of Hardknott and Wrynose. Hardknott Pass is a real challenge as the steepest parts have a gradient of 33% (1 ft rise for every 3 ft horizontal), with the inside corners of the bends in excess of 100%. Traction control and a limited-slip differential come into their own on these roads, however the long bonnet of the Z3 creates some horrific blind spots.
You won’t be surprised, therefore, when I relate that Jason Hooper’s offer to organise a second Z3 weekend in the Lakes was accepted with alacrity, and 23 Z3s with about 35 participants signed up, including three Americans and two Dutch. Lody and Hoekstra had bought their Z3 in the Netherlands, John and Linda Helton imported their Dakar Yellow Z3 from Colorado, whilst Wilmer Gaviria’s 2.8 coupe (a model not sold in the UK) was still on Texas plates.
Friday and Saturday runs
A dozen or more travelled up on the Friday, and enjoyed a fabulous meal at the famous Drunken Duck pub.
Two cruises were organised for the Saturday--a long one for those who had travelled up the day before and a shorter one for Saturday arrivals. I organised the long cruise; a circular tour deployed on the worst roads and over as many passes as I could incorporate.
We navigated over the col between Great Langdale and Grasmere to pass by the Gingerbread Shop in Grasmere [2 on above map], once the village school (built in 1660) where the poet William Wordsworth taught. From there we headed north on a forestry road  running alongside Thirlmere (one of the lakes) up to Keswick , then south alongside Derwent Water.
After passing Seathwaite , the wettest habitation in the UK, our first decent pass was Honister , a grim scene with its semi-abandoned slate mines. We couldn’t stop at the top of the pass as all roadside car parks and lay-bys were closed due to the Foot and Mouth epidemic being at its peak at the time (in addition to the cars having to go through antiseptic washes, we were under strict rules not to stray from the tarmac).
We then travelled west through beautiful Buttermere  and came within sight  of the Irish Sea and the Isle of Man. We stopped for lunch at Wasdale Head Inn , a bleak and miserable place in poor weather, but a scene of beauty in the sunshine and 85-degree heat.
I knew David Miles and some of the other participants had ‘super soaker’ water pistols, capable of unleashing a couple of pints of water in a single blast, hidden in their Z3s. So I have to admit I rather set Mandy Lenanton up when I lent her a really weedy traditional water pistol and encouraged her to squirt David. Mandy got a soaking, blamed it all on me, and encouraged David to blast me as well. What nobody knew was that I had a really huge and fully charged super soaker hidden in the foot well.
Lunch and children’s games over, we remounted our Z3s and headed for Eskdale and the big passes.
As we passed the ruins of the Roman fortress of Mediobogdum, I looked upwards to the summit of Hardknott Pass  and was reminded of the scene in the Wolgang Peterson film ‘Das Boot’ in which two U-boats meet by accident in the middle of the Atlantic, for high up on the skyline I could see the second convoy of Z3s that had anticipated our route and come to join us.
Turning the other group around at the top of the pass was fun, and we then descended down into Langdale , past the Langdale Pikes  and stopped for liquid refreshments at the Old Dungeon Ghyll climbers’ pub.
Some dedicated owners stayed up most of the night talking and drinking, and it was just as well we couldn’t wake them the next morning for the Sunday cruise organised by Roy Pakeman was a high-speed event on exhilarating roads with heart-stopping swooping bends.
"I won't go too fast", said Roy before blasting off into the distance.
Our midmorning coffee break was at a beautiful lakeside hotel at which Roy was once Chef.
The weekend finished all too soon and I left for the 380-mile drive home.
Many thanks to Jason for organising the event.