4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day – 22nd Nov 09
Words and Pictures by James Trembath

The first Drive Round of the season for Bampton was looking to be an eventful day even before we arrived!!! The weather had not been the best leading upto the day with torrential downpours over the last week meaning that some of the routes could be just too hard to even attempt. On the other hand we had a good selection of capable vehicles coming along for the day so there shouldn’t be too much outside of the groups capability.

Jeroen in his std hardtop 90 had now added a TDS winch to the front of his vehicle, not a requirement for a DRD but certainly a useful addition if you did get something wrong and wished to recover yourself rather than being recovered by one of the marshalls. A regular DRD attendee Jeroen knows the routes fairly well, and with some extra passengers to escort around the course we were struggling a little for seat space, knowing this Jeroen kindly offered to take the landowner along with him which now meant he was also the lead vehicle – not the easiest of jobs – especially as the routes haven’t been touched over the summer! To provide some immediate support should he require it Tim in his 90 auto hybrid dropped into 2nd place – thus giving him the option to be the first car down/through a section if Jeroen didn’t feel upto it. Kevin Williams was braving the elements in his rag top CJ7 Jeep which although lacking in creature comforts certainly made up for a heater with a lovely great V8 in it. Kevin was not the only jeep driver with James Ramsay and Mike joining a Bampton DRD for the first time in James’ TJ.

Tony Evens and Nik were also back for another day with us. The last time they had been down to Bampton they had driven a Classic Range Rover which although it had the power struggled with body work overhangs, this time they were in a tdi Discovery 1 - less body work to worry about but still plenty of room for the three girls; Ashton, Chelsea and Alanta. The family were in fact out to celebrate Chelseas’ birthday, Chelsea, being a sensible girl, when given the chance to choose what she wished to do for the day had jumped at the offer of attending a DRD – certainly a good way to celebrate – and even more so as they managed to complete the whole day without getting too stuck with some excellent driving and vehicle positioning from both Tony and Nik and that’s was on 7.50s.

Also joining us for the day was Johnny and Vince in Jons well prepared tdi 90 complete with North Off road cage and wing bars and a nice new bumper, certainly a very capable truck. Mark Walford was back for another Bampton trip in his blue 90, again caged and runner axle lockers too, Mark did well to avoid getting stuck during the day having tackled most of the trickier sections on offer, he also proved his worth helping out with some of the winching required with the other teams and was even kind enough to provide his vehicle as a table top for lunch plus allowing it to be used for some course alterations on wet corner – we think he just wanted to drive the water again!!

Talking of Wet corner, it certainly was wet, and being the first drive round this season the lead vehicle (Jeroen) had a fair amount of silt to try and power through which when the water is just below bonnet level takes some doing, luckily Jeroen had the forethought to unspool some winch rope and bring the hook back to the cab prior to entering the corner! Lets just say the TDS performed faultlessly underwater! Having cleared the silt and got down to the stone base wet corner is now back to its normal easily driveable state, the Discovery was advised to miss the section out being the only diesel without a snorkel and all the petrol’s took the sensible option of not going in, which left just Mark willing to prove it could easily be done.

Going back to the first lane of the day, which is a nice drive down some ruts into a river immediately followed by a steep haul out, we did have one small issue with the Discovery. Having been forewarned of a deep hole on the passenger side Tony took it gingerly through the river, as that side dropped in, (air intake side!) and popped back out the engine coughed a little, Tony immediately turned the engine off and pulled the airfilter to reveal a sodden mess! Caught just in time, no water had gone any further and she ran a treat still, just less the filter. This is a pertinent point to make to ensure that you continue to assess the lanes you are driving with respect to your own vehicles ability and make decisions yourself to rectify any issues, full credit to Tony for doing exactly that, a drowned engine on the first lane would not have been ideal!

As if it wasn’t cold and wet enough anyway we still decided to head up to what must be the coldest woods in Devon and drive the rutted tracks down through them. There was a little shunting and a few tugs were required on some sections. James Ramsay managed to power his Jeep through a particularly difficult sections which must have been down to having a few more ponies under the bonnet and knowing how to use them! A new section had been opened up through the woods and some of the more capable vehicles were sent off to the try it with Tim leading. Mark and Kevin made it through with little trouble – to only be let down by the organiser of the day, who bringing up the rear of the convoy managed to plant his vehicle on a small tree on a little side slope requiring some winching to extract him, not to worry they were still working on getting the other vehicles through the ‘normal’ route.

Whilst heading down to the sunken river and the infamous ‘hole’ we stopped for a quick bite to eat where we were all lucky enough to have some birthday cake courtesy of Chelsea – an excellent idea Nik, great thinking. On reaching the ‘hole’ several took the bypass route after watching Tim, now leading the route, show a little suspension flex! The potential for damage here is increased so time was taken to spot those through who wished to drive it and also allow the others to make the safe bypass before joining back in for the river drive which has a superb axle twist part way along. Even the exit of the section can catch out the unwary and may require the odd shunt as having just driven what you think is the hardest parts you get caught up on the simplest of sections!

From here we headed on down through a farm yard before taking another plunge off the road back into the river for another new lane we opend up this summer which follows the river on down with some nice deep holes now and then as you push through the vegetation. An excellent drive making many reminisce of various camel trophy scenes!

Which brings us to the last lane of the day, having completed the last river drive, dropping in off the tarmac road and with an hour of daylight left we decided to head over to Warrens hill. Not the most of forgiving places and the abnormal amount of rain had certainly made a difference to one of the climbs, aptly named Sams climb, Jeroen was first up and was literally going nowhere, with a failed hill climb, and limited traction combined with a sharp turn at the bottom the 90 slide sideways on the track – something very difficult to avoid on this climb, and it was time to get a winch out to hold the vehicle steady while the rear of the vehicle could be pulled back on course. Jeroen gave it another go and still no go, so out came the winch again to take him up. Hoping the Jereon had cleared some of the muck out of the ruts, Tim gave it a go, Simex, both lockers in and again things weren’t really happening resulting in another winch to the top. At this stage we turned the remaining vehicles around and took them the long way back to the top – it is after all a drive round day not a winch day!!

With darkness approaching we then took the shortest route back to the yard to clean the trucks up and say the goodbyes. An excellent day seemed to have been had by all despite the wet and cold weather. Some of the guys enjoyed it so much they immediately signed up for the next available one!

Some pictures from the day