I’m extremely lucky where I live. In one hour I can be on the Cumbrian Fells. In half an hour I can be on Tyneside or the east coast. Extend the travel time to an hour and a half and I can be in rural Northumberland or the majestic Lake District. It was the Lake District where I ended up yesterday, more specifically the Honister Pass.
I had been over the Honister Pass once before, however it was in the middle of winter. Whilst out the weather changed dramatically and the snow began to fall. Frankly, I decided it was safer to turn back and ensure I got home rather than pressing on over the tops, so I only really saw half of it that day.
Thankfully the weather held yesterday and I had the entire route to look forward to. Whilst not the most dangerous route in the world, the pass isn’t for the faint hearted driver. There are sections where you are quite near to some steep drops, however this is a bus route so if you go at your own pace, you shouldn’t have a problem in good weather.
Almost at the highest point of the pass is the famous Honister Slate Mine, Silver Award winner in the
Visit England Awards for Excellence 2012. Turned from a derelict former mine works into a thriving tourist venue by businessman Mark Weir. Mark was killed in a helicopter crass near the mine in 2011, but the passion and enthusiasm he had for the mine, as well as the warm welcome he exuded toward all visitors remains in the staff today. Whilst I didn’t have time to take the mine tour (I’ll be heading back in the not too distant future for that), I did get a chance to look around the shop and grab a cup of tea in the cafe. The shop holds a broad range of products manufactured on site in the workshops. You can even order a sign before your mine tour and it is ready for when you come back.
Pushing on over the tops the magnificent scenery abounds.
I did take several photographs, but found it really hard to capture the sheer scale of what is all around.
The high sides to the pass can make the road seem dark, even when there isn’t a cloud in the sky.
This darkness increases the menacing feel that you get when driving past the huge scree runs that you
can see on both sides of the road. There is almost an oppressive feel at one point, as though the pass will simply close up and swallow you and your car. This gives the place a marvellously atmospheric feel around dusk.
I took a few minutes to sit at the side of the road just looking all around. At worst, you will hear another car go by, but it is only by stopping, looking and listening that you start to get a feel for the place. Wildlife is there if you look closely, but the best thing is how the views change as clouds pass. Due to the steep terrain, and change of the sunlight is like a theatre lighting technician having fun on his console. All of which can totally change the look of the place.
Further into the journey, I came across a team of National Trust Volunteers repairing one of the many footpaths in the national park. Once again the photograph fails to capture the scale of the work, but if you click on the picture below you can zoom in.
There is a lot more history to the Honister Pass and I’m looking forward to digging into it on my next few visits.