4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Wellington Drive Round Day Ė 18th Feb 09
Words by Sam Woodbury and Pictures by James Trembath

We started the day in the main field at the Wellington site, Tim in his V8 90 Hybrid, Jeroen in his standard 90 station wagon, me with my 90 V8 station wagon and were shortly joined afterwards by James in a nice Jeep. After the initial briefing about where we would be going and an overall plan of the day, we formed up in convoy and headed off to the site just a few hundred meters down the road, an interesting mix of tracks through woodland, riverbeds and large marshland clearings. We started off by taking a narrow track leading to a sharp right hand bend where vehicles pass through trees very close to the track, meaning that a spotter is required to guide vehicles through undamaged. Tim made his way along the track spotted by James Trembath and watched closely by the rest of us, particularly James in his Jeep who had not been on this site before. The track disappears under the bonnet from the drivers seat down a steep slope, which is unnerving the first few times you try it. I was next, guided by Jeroen who safely got me through the trees, made all the more difficult by my roof rack providing an extra foot of height to the vehicle. Next was Jeroen, who also made it through unscathed, followed by James, who passed through without incident.

This smaller track joined with the main access track down through a boggy area between woods, where a few challenge events and DRDs in the winter had made sizable ruts. The start of the ruts is marked by a large step down into them, meaning that knowing when to apply throttle to avoid nose diving into the ground while not lacking the momentum to push through the ruts is important. I got this wrong, on the side of caution, I lacked the right foot and came to a stop, grounded out. This gave me the perfect opportunity to try my brand new winch, fitted just two days before. Attaching to a tree 50 feet or so ahead and with Tim guiding me, I winched forward with slight throttle until I was free of the ruts. Jeroen who was next also became stuck just a few feet onwards from where I had. Backing up to his truck, we attached a tow rope to mine and pulled him out of the ruts.

Following the track round, the ruts grow again through a patch that is always full of water. Another step in to the ruts is followed by a smooth climb out, progressive application of throttle once over the lip of the step sees the vehicle regain traction and then keep it as speed increases. The vehicles all make it through this time, no recoveries required.

Travelling through the woodland, it gets much more overgrown, the recent snow having brought the vegetation down in places. This meant a few trees needed chain sawing by James, which was swiftly done and we carried on our way. It also served to make the track look very different from the last time I had been on the site, adding variety. We came to an obstacle that is familiar, another water filled set of ruts, this time with a much steeper entrance than any of the previous ones, with the option of an easier drop down into the ruts a few feet further on. Without a winch vehicles are not encouraged to try this entrance as itís so easy to get stuck. I was spotted in to line up with the ruts again by Tim, I inched the vehicle up to the ruts. Again momentum at the right time is the key, but a tree on my left hand side just millimetres from the side of the car meant I could not apply the power, and the car slid into the ruts without the momentum, getting stuck. Again, the winch was pulled out as far as it would reach, which was just feet from a suitable tree. Using a strop borrowed from Jeroen and a bridle, I winched the 100 feet out of the bog. Next was Jeroen, who drove in through the slightly easier entrance and made it through until a particularly deep section and again I towed him free of the ruts.

Next through was James in his Jeep. He bottomed out where I had, and we set about deploying his winch. That is to say, I did. James T decided to show me that my decision to buy a synthetic rope instead of the steel cable, as James in his Jeep uses, was the safer and easier option. Pulling out the cable, it was a lot heavier, and I forgot at one crucial point that you need to keep pulling the cable out or it gets pulled back in by the drum (8274!) as itís being powered out, sending me knee deep into the mud filled ruts. Eventually I pulled the cable to the tree I had used, and we all retreated behind the safety of the trees.

We arrived at a spot on the track where vehicles can take a left, up a slight bank, then down into a river bed that leads round in a U shape back out again. The first vehicle in was Jeroen, who dropped down into the river bed and up to the exit. To get enough momentum up the bank leading out, a shunt is required. Jeroen reversed back into the bushes that line the opposite bank and then back up the exit, stopping a few feet from the crest, and reversed back down. One more attempt starting a little further back gave a better run up that saw him out of the riverbed.

I was next, dropping down as Jeroen had into the riverbed. I didnít try to make it out in one go and as soon as I was down the bank, I was lining up for the exit. The bushes obscure how much room you have to make your exit, so I reversed as far as I could before bringing the revs up, powering up the slope and out. The others tried this before we moved on through the marshland and around some other tracks before stopping for lunch.

After lunch we headed back onto the tracks, through the woodland until a very boggy area was met. James with lockers made it through after creating a new bypass route around a bank, he was soon followed by Jeroen who chose to come out of the ruts before they became especially boggy with the aid of a quick winch. The ground was so waterlogged that even this was a problem, the 90 digging down until it was unable to climb out and was winched out by Jamesí truck. I decided to try to get through the bog, as it would be another opportunity to try my winch. I pulled into the ruts then floored it, coming to a halt just a few feet onwards from where Jeroen had. I felt that I still had traction, and reversed and then again throttled up into the bog further. After repeating this, each time making a small amount of progress, I eventually made it out of the marsh. I had expected to get stuck so it was quite satisfying to have driven out! However, James in his Jeep then made his way into the ruts, powering through with comparative ease, lowering my sense of achievement! The route was obviously getting easier!

We continued on the tracks and then headed off to the main site. This is usually where we start the DRD at the Wellington site, so it was a change for it to be the second part of the day. We then went across the main field and to the back of the site, where there are some great climbs up into a wooded area. Completing these James then lead us back down a slope with little grip, making for interesting descents to the main track, before heading back up again along a heavily rutted track that provides its own challenges. We then found ourselves looking down a slope that is notable due to its lack of traction. (The ground surface of the Culmhead site primarily being leafy mulch in this section makes grip a scarce commodity!) There is also a large tree on the right as you slide down the track, but you narrowly avoid it by following the ruts of the vehicle ahead of you. So in actual fact its not quite as bad as it first looks. Still very unnerving though!

We came to another steep drop, this time with roots of the trees either side in it, raising the rear of the vehicles up and close to the trees, making it unnerving as you try to control the vehicle on the brakes while avoiding stalling or locking up the wheels. I donít like this section much for this reason, but we all made it down without incident.

We made our way to an area that is covered in dips and rises, with a tight bend through a banked area which is easy to become cross axled, as I have been many times there. Climbing in and out of these dips, we then came to a track which lead to the top of the hill that separates the top of the Wellington site from the lower part. We made our descents down this slope and along the lower track leading towards the main access track. We then turn right up an incline, which is lacking in grip, sending my 90 sideways as power was applied, but eventually the leading wheels gained grip and the vehicle turned the way I was pointing them. We ended up on the main field, where we had a short debrief and made our vehicles road legal again. It was another fantastic day off roading, with some great driving by all, especially James in the Jeep, who said he had done little off roading before, but it didnít show.

Some pictures from the day