4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day Ė 5th Jan 09
Words by Sam Woodbury and Pictures by James Trembath

We started the day at the farm of the Bampton site, the cold morning providing ice at our meeting place that one or two found difficult to traverse on foot! After the initial briefing on other users of the site, my passenger and I got into our vehicle and the 8 vehicles in total headed into the site. I could tell this was going to be a bit rougher than the only other site Iíve used, the Culmhead one. There was a lot more caution recommended and we were told that there were bits it is better we do not try, especially as I like to keep my bodywork intact as much as possible as the truck is also used for my 4X4 Response activities and I need it looking presentable!

We agreed on an order with winch vehicles interspersed between non winch vehicles. Heading through some narrow lanes, we reached the first area, an area with lots of crossing tracks leading up climbs and descents on the other side. We drove through these areas, the only challenge being to select the correct gear before starting the climbs and descents, and staying in the rock hard icy mud. It offered grip but was very unforgiving and could bounce vehicles off course if they were travelling too fast.

There was one particularly intimidating track that dropped steeply while also sweeping to the right, giving a kind of corkscrew, lining up on the lip of the drop was key, which James spotted vehicles on to, before letting go of the pedals and controlling the vehicle down.

After everyone had tried the route, we reached a small water hole about 20 meters long, about wheel depth. This was not too challenging in itself, but the water obscured a slight step on the exit of the hole and applying too little momentum, I had to take a second attempt at this. Jeroen in his standard 90 was next, and managed to clear the section without mishap.

Next we lined up along a shallow riverbed to a steep climb near a road, the land cruiser of Jim Pugh effortlessly pulling itself up, followed by a very steep drop the other side back into the shallow river. I watched Tim Jones attempt this in his very nice hybrid, and having seen him expertly guide it down with the minimum of wheel slip or lock, we were next. It took several shunts to get the vehicle lined perpendicular to the hill, the last thing we wanted being to end up at an angle to it and having the tail slide out. Satisfied the vehicle was at least pointing in the right direction, I gently released the brakes and we slid down the hill at a much more comfortable pace that I had been expecting. Unfortunately my CB Ariel mount took a branch and twisted so it was pointing downwards. I simply removed it and carried on.

After everyone had tried this obstacle, we grouped up again and headed along another track. This met another steep hill with ruts running down, across a small track halfway down and then another steep drop to a river bed. We waited in turn behind Mark Walford in his blue 90 truck cab while he traversed the hill, watching any points where the vehicle lost traction or accelerated to see where we may have trouble. It came to our turn and applying a small amount of left foot braking to stop the vehicle running away from me but keeping the wheels from locking up. We reached the track which gave us a place to pause and look at the rest of the descent. Happy it had no hidden surprises such as tree roots, we set off down the second part. Reaching the bottom of the track, we crossed the stream and followed the bend round to a part of the track that was flanked by deep walls of mud and a steep lip, making them like giant ruts. Walfy had already climbed out of this obstacle by the time we reached it, so I gave it a try. My low slung track rod guard and smaller tyres counted against me, bringing us to a sharp halt. I was not grounded out though, and with spotting from Mark, Timís passenger, we were guided around an alternative route which also proved too steep an angle and with a slight turn in it, turning it into a cross axle. I found my difflock kept disengaging by itself too, which didnít help. We had to be winched out by Walfy, we then parked along the road nearby and went to watch the others trying this obstacle.

Next was David Webber in his bright orange challenge truck. He attempted the first route and effortlessly climbed out of the ruts, making it look easy. Next was Joreon who tried the same route as we did, and made it just a few feet from getting out. After being winched out, Kevin Williams tried the same route. Myself, Jim Pugh, Jo Walford and a few others had gathered the opposite the exit for a better view, which proved a mistake as the V8 of Kevinís rumbling Jeep sprayed us with mud. Eventually he made it out and the other vehicles all were winched or powered themselves out.

We drove in convoy once more along some tight country tracks until we came to a field which led into a woodland. The entrance to this was a steep bank which proved to need rather more momentum than I applied, and subsequently beached out. After being pulled back off, we once again attempted it with more throttle and cleared it easily. The Land Cruiser had formed some good ruts for us to use, but the mud was still frozen solid in places and we grounded out after we slewed out of the ruts. Mark once again pulled us free and with a bit of power made it clear of the ruts into the dark wooded area. Kevin Williamís jeep found the ruts to also be some trouble too, itís slightly narrower track meaning it couldnít follow the other vehicles routes out.

I followed the track through the wood, it being dark enough to require lights to make sure I wasnít going to hit any hidden dips. The track was marked with the odd deep rut or drop, until eventually we reached a section which was across a ditch with logs forming a small bridge, deep ruts forming the exit with a slight curve to the left. With a bit of power it proved to have no real drama. There was a slight pause for Mark to remove a bit of what looked a lot like a Land Cruiser wheel arch trim from the rut in front of me!

We stopped for some time while we waited for the others behind us to clear the ruts at the top of the wood and make their way down to us. We then progressed further along the tracks, which became deeper and rougher, with deep holes on the odd side to make things a little bit more bumpy. It was also filled with part gloopy mud, part frozen, offering little and then a lot of grip. We came to a section where the track suddenly drops about two feet into a pool of mud, which then rises out again in huge ruts. We were talked through them by Walfy who had just driven them, offering advice. We dropped down into the pool and applied power as soon as the vehicle had levelled more or less out, so the most momentum up through the ruts was given. We came to rest feet from the rear of Walfyís truck, but were grounded out. Some rear winch application on his part saw us free.

Jim Pugh had trouble with this section before we reached it, the LC making some very unpleasant noises from its transmission during the climb out, which it struggled to do. The more attempts making the noise worse. The noises were so loud while standing around waiting up the track for someone to clear an obstacle we could hear them quite clearly! It later transpired the front diff of the LC had failed.

We had formed two smaller groups in the wood as progress was made at different paces and we found ourselves at the back of the first group. We made our way out of the wood to a small field where the LC was taken away to the farm house for inspection while myself, Walfy and one or two others waited for the second group to make their way to us, some amusing chatter over the CB about the famous reliability of LC diffs from us Land Rover drivers, the more common sufferers of drive train problems filling the time.

After the two groups met up again we made our way to another track which we followed until it reached a river which was filled with water up to half of the radiator grille in places. The water was covered in an inch-thick layer of ice, and volunteers for icebreaking were sought as Jeroen had broken a light surround when he had last been on a DRD through the route. It was not hard to see why, when the vehicle is pushing against a horizontal surface across the width of the vehicle. We watched Mark Walford do this making it through without problems, then we were next. It was the deepest I have taken the vehicle in to water, and being a petrol engine I didnít know how it would do. Half way through the water got a lot deeper and the car began to struggle so I had to change down to 1st, and we carried on out the other side and where the other vehicles were parked. After those who wanted to had attempted the water we drove on through a wooded area where there was still snow, providing a great view and then we stopped on the track for lunch.

After lunch we followed the track which twisted along the edge of a wood until it got to a hill which sloped downwards towards another riverbed. Just after the start of the hill was a large rut which was much deeper on one side than the other. The first vehicle through was Timís, and as it did so it waved its offside rear wheel in the air a good few feet off the floor while the nearside front slipped into the hole, and then eased it out until all four wheels were on the ground again. The blue truckcab 90 of Chris Jennna was next, and as it slid into the hole, the front wing contacted with the rock hard mud on the other side, ripping off their repeater light. By now I had decided that the number of crunches being made by other vehicles was enough to put me off, and under Jamesí advice I took the alternate route around the hole and joined the other vehicles at the bottom. Mark Walford was after me, his wing bars on the roll cage taking the brunt. Jeroen took his vehicle down the slope and into the hole, brushing against the mud as well and putting a small dent in his wing. As other vehicles made it through, the ones at the bottom were making their way along the riverbed which had banks of mud partly collapsed into it, forcing vehicles to rise up on one side or another nearly to the point of rolling. The end bank was the steepest, Mark Walfordís rear wheel being so far off the ground it was at shoulder height to those who posed for a photo by it (and then tried to push it over!).

I chose to bypass this route as well, as did Jeroen. After all the vehicles had been through the route, we moved off along another track to a road, then took a sharp left off the road into a riverbed from a deep drop, Mark once again spotting my vehicle down after he had been through it and making what looked like very sharp drops into smooth descents. This is where I did sustain some damage, however, the rear wing of my vehicle having the capping pulled away slightly.

After this, we joined up in a field for the short debrief and a chance to make our vehicles roadworthy again. A good day was had by all judging by the smiles and it was a great social event as well as off-roading.

A 'Drivers View Video' by Sam Woodbury

Some pictures from the day