4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day – 27th Mar 10
Words by James Trembath

Things did not get off to a good start for a few of the guys along for the day. Jeroen rang us when he was about 10mins out stating he was having problems with his gearbox only bring able to use 4th gear. No sooner had we headed off up to warm up woods than Tim Jones who was escorting Tony Bauer for the day started to have fuel delivery problems with his V8 Trayback while Jason Davies who was along for the first time with us in his bobtailed V8 rangie started to have problems at idle! It was just as well some of the regulars were along with their reliable vehicles! Kevin Luxton was joining us again for the day and Kevin Williams was back in his CJ7 (with a 5.7L V8 and a mere 300bhp on tap!) having not been out with us for a little while. Ben Stenner who had attended the last DRD was also back to give his truck an outing and was also proud of the fact it was his 3rd consecutive off roading weekend!! Lucky man.

Tim resorted back to the trusty Hybrid after taking the trayback back home for a quick vehicle change. Tony meanwhile hopped in the lead vehicle leaving Jeroen who had been making use of that passenger seat move into the fresh air grass routes of off roading with Kevin’s open topped jeep. With Jason’s idle issue resolved with a few cable ties to hold together the plastic mounting case we headed off to warrens hill for the first proper lanes of the day.

Warrens hill certainly provided a good introduction for the guys. With its nice twisty long climbs were you need to balance the power early on to avoid running out of grunt through to some sharp turn’ins into some steep descents there is enough to challenge the experienced off roader without the deep ruts or mud issues that normally plague a route. Tony Bauer had his first introduction to a few descents as we progressed further along the hillside tackling Sam’s hill the opposite way to normal. We then headed back to the top sections to complete the ‘side of a cliff’ tracks, complete with spectacular view before hitting tarmac for a short drive down to 1st drop.

The approach to the drop is along and through a nice rutted rut that’s takes you into a shallow (0.4m) water obstacle before what soon becomes a slippery exit onto a small mound next to the road for the drop. Not advisable to long wheel base vehicles due to the lack of departure angle plus the tight turn required at the top the drop has changed recently with a sharp step at the bottom increasing the risk of catching the front bumper. With the last rutted, tree rooted climb to do, catching a few out, it was then across to Deep Ruts.

Steve in his Pajero had an interesting introduction to the start of Deep ruts needing a little help with extraction out of the first bombhole where his wishbone suspension was catching the inside edges of the ruts. Kevin Luxton was soon to the rescue and to be honest it was lucky for Steve that Kevin was around to help for the whole of deep ruts! Kevin and Ben Steener between them helped escort the Pajero through the section which with its lower clearance certainly found the going easier. Kevin Williams meanwhile took the alternative route, (again being a low and also narrow vehicle the ruts are not ideally suited to the vehicle), mind you the alternative route is also to be taken in care as it showed with both the lead vehicle and then Kevin’s vehicle needing a winch through on the last section where a misleading side slope combined with the recent rainfall made the surface a little ‘tricky’. The simplest way out being to resort to the winch to avoid slipping down towards the trees and potential damage!

Jason Davies having taken the sensible option and avoided the last part of Deep Ruts which even for a Bobtailed Rangie is still pretty tight on the departure angle had a better time in deep ruts with the vehicle being more suited to it from a clearance point of view, tyres soon filled with mud though and despite the airing down it was not a complete walk in the park! Nor is it meant to be!!

After a quick bite to eat it was upto wet corner, where only Ben decided to take the plunge whilst Kevin W and L along with Jason’s V8 took the bypass route leaving Tim to head back out to get some extra lanes in for Tony who had missed out on an earlier section.

Middle wood was soon on the horizon and with Tim having now rejoined us he took the lead down through the rutted tracks along edge of the woods towards the ‘bomb hole’. The ‘hole’ has been formed by the water running down one of the rutted tracks on a small gradient which over time has eroded a lot of the surface soil away down to the subsoil and clay. This now take the form of a large hole on the passenger side which the front wheel just wishes to go into!! There is the potential for wing damage here and a bypass is available. Kevin W and Steve took this option which although easier is by no means easy and still needs a level of competence and experience to negotiate safely. The other alternative is to head back the up the entrance wood, so there are always plenty of options available.

Kevin Luxton was soon in, through and out of the hole without much hanging around, he knew there was a good chance of being cross axled if you hung around at the max lean point!! Ben had a more sedate drop into the hole and did some obligatory posing for the camera before clearing the section.

Taking the direct route on down through the sunken river, Kevin Williams rejoined the route (winching himself across from the bypass route) while Steve continued on the bypass out across a field to rejoin us at the end of the river section. The sunken river has also changed recently with some lovely sideslopes and cross axles now making it a good challenge where you need to match momentum against comfort to avoid being stuck! All the vehicles cleared it with minimum issues.

After completing the rutted section combined with a river crossing we were soon down through a farm yard and onto tarmac for a couple of hundred meters. The short road section is immediately followed by a sharp left off the tarmac straight in to a shallow river accessed from a steep drop. Jason had a few ‘issues’ on this part with an overhanging tree but that negotiated it’s a short climb up a rutted section into a field before handrailing the river for three hundred meters. With one last drop into the river its then a meandering drive though the river, up and down its banks and various silt deposits under the overhanging trees before emerging back into daylight. It certainly makes a fantastic section to end the day on.

A quick jaunt back on tarmac and we were all back at the start point where lights and VRN plates could be given a quick clean, combined with some reminiscing of the day as people finished their coffees before setting off home. A great day out and certainly enough there to keep all on their toes, they must have all enjoyed it as every last man immediately signed up for the next one in Apr!

Some pictures from the day