Christmas and New Year 2010, The Lake Distict
One of our shortest adventures (just 16 nights) but certainly one of the most challenging and one that almost ended up as Game Over!
A rather rubbish map of the route taken in Hank

Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail!

A couple of weeks in the Lake District for Christmas and New Year. How hard can it be? It’s only an hour or so away. December has been like Siberia here in Teesdale. Most of my jobs in the Dales have been cancelled as the rural areas in the upper Dales I am working with are likely to be under 20 feet of snow until July.

I’m sure I drained the van properly after the last boys trip in November, didn’t I? All should be ok but I leave it until the day we are setting off (Christmas Eve) to start checking. Ah well too late now let’s go.


The drive to Penrith is ok. The A66 is finally clear of snow but at Penrith when we get out to fill up the LPG its -10c! The drive down to Hawkshead from Keswick takes us past the mighty and very beautiful Thirlmere and it’s completely frozen. Not just at the edges like we have seen before but completely frozen solid everywhere.

The road up to the CL (Keen Ground) has snow on it but we manage to get Hank up and onto his spot (just). All the outside taps are frozen apart from one tap at the house so we fill up there but after that I’m going to have to carry the water in a 20 litre tank. No bother I need the exercise. We are the only guests and I get the impression the old couple who are running the CL think we are slightly mad. This is confirmed by the bemused look on the old man’s face when he sees me unloading the motorbike.

Sorted! We can relax. Err not quite. We are full of water but there’s nothing coming out of any of the taps and the loo doesn’t flush. This doesn’t go down well with Michelle. Its Christmas day tomorrow and she likes to be all clean and presentable. What is it with Women and water and being clean? We have a 20 litre plastic jerry can with a tap wont that do?

Actually it has to do. After several posts bleating for help (again) on the Motorhome Facts forum somebody suggests I haven’t drained the water off properly before winter and some is trapped in the pipes that can’t be seen. You would think it would thaw out quickly once the van is warm but the blocked bits of pipe are hidden and because I didn’t open the taps when draining, some water is still in the tube frozen solid. It takes 3 days to clear and when it finally works the shower head breaks in two. Apparently you’re supposed to remove it each winter otherwise they freeze and break in two. It says so in the manual Mrs D tells me. I’m a bloke and proper blokes don’t read manuals! I lag it and stick it back together and smile at Mrs D who knowing my DIY skills suspects it will fall to bits as soon as she uses it.

Hawkshead is delightful at Christmas and when the snow comes (and it does come) it’s a real winter wonderland. Problem is after 4 days we get a bit stir crazy. We had planned to go to Windermere, Ambleside and of course the stunning Tarn Hows. Tarn Hows is right out unless we can get hold of a helicopter but on the 5th day we decide that the 1ft wide furrow in the road is wide and safe enough to risk a bike trip to Windermere.

Slow Motion near Death Experience

We slowly creep our way through Sawrey and down to the Windermere Ferry 4 miles away on the bike. It’s ok if we take it easy although the ferry staff stare open mouthed as we turf up on a scooter to use the ferry in these conditions. All of Windermere is frozen apart from a 25 meter slice across the lake where the chain ferry goes.

We have a nice afternoon but as it starts to darken and get ever colder I think it’s time we headed back. We left it a bit late really and by the time we get off the ferry and start the ride back it’s getting darker and colder. It seeps through to your bones and it becomes harder and harder to react. On the hill down in to Sawrey I hit some black ice and there is nothing I can do. In slow motion the bike slides away. This time unlike the CL last year it’s not a snowy grassy field we are going to hit its solid hard icy tarmac. I feel nothing at first as we hit the deck and my immediate thoughts are for Michelle on the back. She is trapped and shouting and I immediately realise her leg is trapped under the bike on the exhaust side. The exhaust gets so hot it would burn through skin in a second so I have no choice but to kick the bike as hard as possible off her leg. She is lucky and isn’t burned but her knee is badly hurt. It looks bad and I suggest a trip to hospital but Michelle being Michelle wouldn’t bother a doctor if her head was hanging off. A few car drivers offer help but being British we just smile and say “no thanks we are fine Ha Ha Ha!”

We decide to try and continue the 2 miles back to hank. We are both in pain now but I think we will live. Well we won’t if we get stuck out here as it is now about -10 again. The bike takes an age to start but eventually we are on our way back to a lovely warm van to nurse our wounds.

The next day I get round to checking the bike but it hasn’t a mark on it which seems strange. Perhaps Michelle and I saved it I don’t know.

We don’t go anywhere for a day.

After 6 days we are stir crazy enough to make a break for it and get out and head north. Apparently if you can get there the north lakes is pretty much snow free but still cold.

A lot of digging and scraping ensues and somehow we get out.

A real test of us and the van

We manage to escape the snow and end up in the snow free (ish) North Lakes to do some wild camping around Crummock Water and Honister.

We manage a wild camp where the recorded temperature hits -18. The van stays warm, in fact I’m sitting in a T shirt. Hank passes his Arctic test with flying colours

New Years Eve is spent quietly on the Honister Pass. It’s so dark you can’t see a hand in front of your face. There are sheer mountains on each side and thick cloud and nobody for miles around. It is hard to imagine but you really can’t see a thing. Unbelievably we are joined around 9pm by a small van and then later somebody is up the mountain setting fireworks off!

After a few days wilding for Michelles Birthday we head to a CL with electricity at Bassenthwaite. We manage a good tour around on the bike but it really is too cold. Much colder than last winter and anything more than 7 miles without a break is just too much.

Eventually we end up at Ullswater and spend a couple of night’s wilding by the ferry terminal at Glenridding. This is a lovely spot right next to the lake and the steamer. The ferry people don’t seem to mind us being here but I would imagine it would be frowned upon in the summer.

We find a new spot near Brothers Water but when it starts to snow we end up heading back to Glenridding further down the valley to avoid getting snowed in.

We use a lot of LPG and end up back at Penrith to fuel up and a night at the Eden Ostrich World CL.

Eventually we have one more night of wilding before heading home after 16 nights on what seemed more like a survival course rather than a holiday.

I am delighted with Hank though. He has proved himself capable of anything on this trip!

Some valuable lessons learned.

The bike is better suited to St Tropez Harbour

Read the manual

Drain the van properly

Check the van properly days before you leave

Don’t eat yellow snow

Next adventure? God knows. Italy?

Even the modern houses in Teesdale were snowed in

At last we have arrived

The slippy drive up to the CL, scary on the bike

View from near the van

There are 3 pubs in Hawkshead, Very warming!

The winter wonderland walk to Hawkshead from CL

Crash day, windermere frozen

The gap in the ice for the chain ferry

Hawkshead Church


Wilding in north lakes

Honister Pass New Years Eve

Wilding at Glenridding

Steamer Ullswater