The route up Longsleddale, with the Gatescarth Pass at its headOff-road vehicle users face more restrictions on a Lake District route that is popular with walkers and cyclists.

Left: the route up Longsleddale, with the Gatescarth Pass at its head

Gatescarth Pass leads from Longsleddale to Mardale Head in the East of the national park. 4×4 vehicles and motorcycles are already restricted by a permit system, but the park authorities say changes are necessary to improve safety and maintain the route’s surface.

From the beginning of next month, new regulations will mean that only vehicles with a wheelbase of 100 inches or less will be allowed to use the route. In addition, all motorised users will have to start their journey no later than 1pm to ensure they are off the pass by nightfall. The Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) says the route is the most challenging in their area and can take up to six hours to negotiate.

The Traffic Regulation Order covering the pass will be amended to include the new restrictions. Vehicle users are also advised to travel in pairs and carry a tow-rope in case they encounter difficulties.

The park authority is currently contacting permit holders and motor clubs to inform them of the new restrictions. Trails advisor David Robinson said: “We have consulted with the Gatescarth Pass Working Group, which includes both 4×4 and motorcycle representatives, and have reached the conclusion that we must act now.

“We had to repair damage to parts of the surface last year and we know from our detailed monitoring that the damage was caused by the larger 4×4 vehicles.

“Even with these new conditions the route will still be available for the same number of days as before, with the necessary permit, to the majority of trail driving enthusiasts.”

Geoff Wilson from the Land Access and Recreation Association, who advised the park authority said: “This is a route for experienced drivers and riders only.

“There is no mobile phone contact on the pass and any accident or breakdown would require specialist recovery. We can’t legislate against driver ability but we can mitigate against damage by permitting only the most appropriate vehicles and by making drivers aware of the challenges they face.”

The LDNPA also says certain types of ‘tarmac-oriented’ 4×4 saloons should not use Gatescarth Pass because they are unsuitable for the terrain. Even models such as the Toyota Rav 4 or Land Rover

Freelander are advised against for the journey.

The Gatescarth Pass lies on one of grough’s routes around Harter Fell. You can see details of the route here or visit our groughRoutes section via the left-hand menu.