RETIRED engineers have been reminiscing about the completion of a Cumbrian leg of the M6, regarded as Britain’s most scenic motorway.

The 36-mile stretch, between Lancaster and Penrith, is one of the highest in the country and was part of a post-war motorway building mania.

This month marks 50 years since its completion.

Opening in October 1970, it includes a section at the spectacular Lune Gorge, a few miles north of Shap - 316 metres above sea level.

It’s part of the longest motorway in the country. The M6 is 236 miles long and starts in Warwickshire.

It saw many road workers and their families move to the area.

Civil engineers Laing built the 14-mile Killington to Tebay section, a stretch of motorway which is frequently voted the most beautiful in the country.

Other sections included Carnforth to Farleton, Farleton to Killington, Tebay to Thrimby and Thrimby to Penrith. Conditions in the Lune Gorge were some of the most challenging.

And engineers Mike Gellatley, Harry Macdonald Steels, Selwyn Charles-Jones and almost a thousand road workers had to battle the elements.

Mr Gellatley said: “It was an amazing project to work on, an isolated greenfield site with difficult terrain and pretty hostile weather a lot of the time. In the days before the M6 a journey up to the far north was a torturous adventure with vehicles often having to queue in winter to get past snow along the A6 at Shap.

“At one stage I had on every piece of clothing I had taken up from London with me - including my pyjamas - under the protective clothing.”

Project manager Mr Charles-Jones said sheep were one of the biggest problems.

He added: “On one occasion some had worked out how to jump the fence and lead the rest of the flock onto the construction site - it was our job to clear them off before we could start work. We solved the problem by putting them on a lorry and taking them to next section above and let them out, that was the last we saw of them.”

Councillor Keith Little, Cumbria County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “It was a vital part of the development of Cumbria’s transport network.”

Nowadays, the M6 is operated by Highways England. Alan Shepherd, regional director for the North West, said: “Our motorways and major A roads are the arteries keeping businesses, commuters, tourists and goods and services on the move.”