29 June 2022
Pat and friends go laning in the Lake District, using both old and new Defenders
It certainly doesn’t get much better than the UK’s Lake District if you are looking for somewhere to go for a weekend packed full of outdoor adventures and some of the most scenic lanes on our beautiful mud island. The lovely Lake District is home to the UK’s biggest national park and England’s highest peak of them all, Scafell Pike. Its glacial lakes are an absolute pleasure to paddle on or swim in or even just to look at from a lovely viewpoint on a greenlane.
I recently had a weekend in the Lake District with some good mates and we spent the Saturday driving some of its better-known lanes: the stunning Old Coach Road that we did was a first drive for most in our group. It’s a track I would highly recommend and can’t wait to do it again!
Lots of Defender variety in our little line up
We were a group of five Defenders, including two of the new variety, I was in a new 110 P400, which belongs to my friend Andrew Robinson. He wanted to drive his soft-top 90 instead and was a little deaf when we arrived in the Lakes, while I felt as fresh as a daisy. Oh, the joys of old Defender vs new Defender. Andrew’s partner Libby Williamson was in her very tidy 90 pick-up while our guide John Morris Smith was in his old 110. The most important person in the convoy was Simon White (accompanied by his wife Bridget) in a new commercial 110. Simon and his wife run a vineyard in Lincolnshire and he has worked on large commercial farms in some rather challenging and remote places on our planet. Simon knows how to be self-sufficient and does not have AA membership, he carries a good set of tools with him. Every laning trip needs a Simon.
Andrew enjoying the views on Breasthigh Road
We based ourselves at the posh Stoors Hotel for the weekend and it was from here that we launched our assault on some of the finest greenlanes in all of the Lake District on the Saturday morning. For those that don’t know the new Defender is wider and bigger than the old one so unfortunately we were not able to do some of the tighter Lake District lanes because of this.
From our base on the shores of Lake Windermere we headed north passing through Ambleside and to the east of Thirlmere as we made our way to the Old Coach Road, which lies due east of Keswick.
Old Coach Road
This almost five mile long track has to be one of the most spectacular lanes in all of the Lake District. That is if you find yourself in the Lakes on a blue sky day; sadly not so for us. It was overcast and rainy just like many other summer days. We did not let that dampen our spirits however, as it was great to just be out and about in such a special part of the UK.
The Old Coach Road is fairly easy driving for the most part, so if you have any newbies in your group then this might be a good lane to start on. The hard gravel track did not pose any significant technical challenges for our Defenders but it was more about being in a part of the Lakes where you don’t really see any other people as it can get crowded during the summer, especially in the holidays.
Simon's 110 just ate up the tracks
The P400 new Defender is just a beast when off-road. I raised the ride height and then just left it in auto so the computers could process the millions of bits of info from the sensors and then decide for itself which off-road setting was the best. The cameras came in handy during a climb up some rather big rocks as I used the footage to ensure that I was not damaging any expensive panel or part of the new Defender.
I was reliably informed that in the winter there is a lot more water on this track and some extensive damage was caused during a few storms. Fortunately greenlaning fans united to help facilitate repairs and today the Old Coach Road is one of the must-do scenic lanes in the Lakes for any type of 4x4. I know it is one lane that I will be visiting again the next time I am in the Lake District.
On the way to our next lane we did allow ourselves a quick tea and pee stop at the Tebay Services farm shop and kitchen on the M6 as we made our way south. If you don’t have the time to do a BBQ while laning but still want some quality food then do stop here. I can confirm that the wild boar sausage rolls are the finest in all of the Lake District. I had a second one just to confirm it.
We drove the famous Breasthigh Road from east to west. While on a previous trip here a few years ago we did it the other way round. Just like our first lane this one had had its fair share of repairs done to it over the years which often sanitises the lanes somewhat. This is better than having no lanes to drive on though.
It was not all plain sailing
Things changed pretty quickly once we began the very steep descent. I put the Defender into low range and rock crawl just to slow everything down. The side slopes and washaways were rather severe and I would be lying if I said there weren’t one or two squeaky bum moments especially when it felt as if one of the back wheels had lifted higher than the roof! After safely negotiating this tricky section I quickly parked up and ran back up the hill to watch the others. Simon took a wider left line but his left rear tyre also rather dramatically lifted into the air. This was a proper off-road track.
Brace yourselves as this is a rather rocky lane and if you drive it the way we did then there is a very long decline to negotiate. Take your time, crawl slowly and safely and enjoy the spectacular landscapes. This was laning in the Lake District at its best. The original plan was to do the nearby Stile End and High Tilberthwaite lanes too, but due to the size of the new Defenders we decided to give them a skip.
As we made our way towards the classic lane that everyone does when in the lakes, I noticed that Libby was struggling in the white 90 behind me. We pulled over and noticed that one of the bolts that holds her new slick shifter together was loose. Simon took out his box of magic tools and within minutes we are all going again. The lane started at the visitor’s centre and this is a good place to stop for a comfort break if some people in your convoy don’t like using trees or bushes as lavatories. I’m from Africa, where every tree is a lavatory.
Libby gets back on the road again
Take care when driving through the centre as there are many walkers, MTBers and visitors about. The lane started with a long rocky climb and if you have chunky mud tyres I would recommend a slight deflate for a comfier ride. Take care when choosing your line on some of the lane as there are some big rocks about.
The lane did settle somewhat especially during the bits where it crossed tracks used by others such as walkers and MTBers. Once again the descent did contain some big, rocky steps and side slopes but that only adds to the excitement, right?
To get to our final lane of the day we passed to the south of Lake Windermere and our hotel to get to the start at High Nibthwaite. This is without a doubt one of my favourite lanes in the Lake District. Not only because of the incredible views over Coniston Water but also because of the technical tracks. I once again opted for low range and rock crawl and boy how I needed it. The first section of the lane was fairly easy and the medium-sized rocks that we climbed over were easily negotiated. There was even time to enjoy the views over towards Coniston Water.
Unfortunately the hole was too big to be plugged
Despite the use of the cameras the ancient walls just seemed to get closer and closer to my Defender. I had to fold in the mirrors. This was not great for camera use as they are on the bottom of the mirrors. It then sounded as if a bag of angry rattle snakes had been released next to us. I stopped to find out where it was coming from. One of the snakes must have decided to rip open the sidewall of my Goodyear Adventurer 255/65/R19 tyre.
Simon ran over with his Defender doctor’s bag but even after inserting two thick plugs it was still letting out too much air. It had to be changed.
Still we hopped upwards and onwards towards the viewpoint where Jon called a welcome halt. It was still overcast but the views over Coniston from here make this lane oh so worth it.
Lake District splendour: without a doubt one of the best laning destinations
I am happy to report that on the way back along the same track I did not do any further damage to any of the tyres. That is a good thing as we did not have any more spares. Simon was running a different size tyre and wheel though his spare would have helped if needed.
It was already late afternoon when we came off Parkamoor and so we decided to head back to the hotel instead of taking in more lanes.
Lots has been written about the erosion on the greenlanes in the lakes, there is also lots of opposition to 4x4s driving these lanes. We only saw well-maintained lanes and friendly people. Maybe we just got lucky? The UK’s Lake District is one of the jewels in its phenomenal landscape crown, it needs to be protected and enjoyed. So when you do go greenlaning there please do so in a responsible and caring manner.
See more great greenlaning adventures here.