However, the combination of a great driver’s road on my doorstep, a superb work route during my teens, naivety during those years and subsequently moving away meant that I never gained the knowledge and inclination to make a full exploration of the surrounding region.
I may now live closer to North Wales than the Lakes, but I regularly travel up there to see family and friends. With a bit of free time to kill on my most recent visit; I decided to take the opportunity to explore what the district has to offer.
First on my list of must-drives was a route just around the corner from where I worked as a teen. This immediate area is made up of some of the most incredible scenery, and I’m told, walking routes as well. The ramblers didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves though. Every group I passed looked unhappy. They were shaking their heads and when they turned to talk to each other they seemed almost aggressive. I didn’t let their obvious disheartenment in these beautiful surroundings spoil my fun though. And what fun I had.
Lower down, the route consists of an enclosed and rough single-track lane. It leaves very little margin for error and the first incline is extremely steep. After this, the road opens out, providing stupendous views and an exhilarating and technical series of crests, dips, bends and lumped straights. Most of these are accompanied initially by a rather precipitous drop on one side but later surrounded by streams and rolling hills as you twist and hop down into the valleys.
I expect that this road is just as demanding on the car as it is on the driver. It is a great test for handling, predictability and balance. My little Peugeot 106, I’m happy to say, performed faultlessly. Its fluidity proves it has what it takes to entertain and intoxicate in any circumstance.
This particular pass has one of the steepest climbs-or descents-in Britain, with sections of gradient measuring 1 in 3, which could punish an underpowered car and turn an eager driver’s enjoyment into frustration. My 106, was never less than nimble. And while I’m not entirely sure whether more power would be advantageous here, its power feels equally matched to the chassis; I’ve always thought that. The feather-like weight and boundless agility enable corner entry speeds to develop into scary affairs on these roads. And that’s on the occasions when most of the wheels are still on the floor.
My experience on these roads really was stunning, right up until a substantial alloy-wheel-and-rather-large-rock confrontation. My three week-old nearside front tyre has been left with a hole in it and the wheel it’s mounted on would now be described as dead.
Such was my elation prior to the incident that I never really got upset about it, not even when it later dawned on me that there would inevitably be financially shocking consequences. After the surprisingly restrained obscenities I simply changed the wheel, chuckled a bit, shook my head and then used the somewhat less enthusiastic drive back as a golden opportunity to take some photographs.
Have you ever had to turn down a no strings attached night of wild passion with an over eager Cheryl Tweedy and Keeley Hazell? I haven’t. I suspect though, that would be a bit like my homeward journey; beautiful hills and gorgeous valley roads summoning me to have a play, but painful as it was, I had to resist the enticement. Frequent stops were essential to calm myself down, but that scenery is awe-inspiring and creates a different excitement of its own.
A more sedate return journey enabled the technicality of the road and the sight of the surrounding panorama to be fully appreciated. The mood of the backpackers had improved by this time as well. They didn’t seem angry at one another anymore.
Anyway, back home now. I’m still looking forward to the Malcolm Wilson Rally, albeit with a much lighter wallet. Production of the type of wheels I have on my car ceased over a year ago now and while a ‘crystal’ finish may look good, it seems to make finding a replacement for my now distorted example unattainable.
A shiny new set of sixteen-inch OZs is on its way.