4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day – 19th Dec 10
Words by James Trembath, Pictures by James Trembath

Well today must have ranked as the coldest start for a DRD! A nice -8 at home before leaving, plus a lot of snow packed lanes to contend with and the odd sheet ice section certainly added to the entertainment of driving to the site! Considering the weather and the tricky slippery ground conditions we were actually thankful of only having two vehicles along for the day.

Kevin Williams and Toby Cockbill came along in Kevin’s open top CJ7 with a monstrous V8 so where they lacked the interior comforts they made up with it from V8 noise, performance and heat. Roger Gowing also joined us for his second outing at Bampton in his 90 hardtop which from an off road perspective was in pretty standard form with respect to transmissions/axles.

Considering the poor weather the decision was made to spend a little longer than usual in warm up woods to get a good understanding of how slippery the ground was and how the vehicles were going to perform. Roger showed us all how to park up on a little axle twist, which after a bit of careful manoeuvring he soon managed to extract himself.

The first section of the day; first drop and the drive down through the river proved interesting! Even the route there was eventful enough with Tim stopping to recover a stuck Audi TT from a snow drift before then stopping again to tow the ‘paper man’ up into the village. The river drive itself did not pose a problem but the first climb with its 4” of snow certainly made finding traction difficult. The same could also be said for the first descent where even a little left foot cadence braking wasn’t going to help much on the frozen snow covered ground. Roger soon decided that the std feet off the pedals approach to basic off roading was a little lacking and something a little extra was going to be required for the day!

The route up to Deep ruts was a challenging picturesque drive with a few snow drifts enroute to contend with. The entrance to Deep ruts proved a little too much for Roger who came off the power a little too early whilst cresting the ‘entry mound’ and he grounded out. A quick winch from Tim and he was clear and then fighting his way through, well, the deep ruts!!

Having cleared the woods we headed back to the farm to seek refuge from the elements for a lunch break and took the time to finalise the afternoon route. Warrens Hill was added to the agenda and the intrepid convoy was soon making its way through the ‘tricky byway’ to the Hill. With a dusting of snow having made its way through the conifers and the south-westerly wind freezing the ground it certainly made the climbs ‘interesting’. Even more so for the first vehicle – Tim had now taken on the role and was probably wishing he hadn’t. Having cleared the snow it made it slightly easier going for the rest of us! Warrens Hills wouldn’t be complete without attempting Sam’s Climb. By now I was leading the group and with the deep snow combined with the stodgy muck under the frozen skin it was just not going to go up, even after 6/7 attempts – so for the first time in quite a few years we resorted to the winch for the lead vehicle! Needless to say Kevin Williams then ably drove it with a boot full of that V8 helping all the way! Both Roger and Tim also had to succumb to the winch although Tim did manage a creditable two thirds of the way up.

Wet Corner was viewed from the warmth of the vehicles, with the thick ice and the perils of the last few that had attempted it still fresh in our minds. No one was particularly keen to get wet with the weather as it was.

We were then into middle wood, the fantastic rutted tracks meander through the trees combing some nice side slopes and the odd small ‘bomb hole’ enroute to contend with. We then popped out at the top of the sunken river with the now infamous ‘bomb hole’ at the top. To be fair after seeing one vehicle safely negotiate it the confidence amongst the drivers grew and Roger, who had bypassed it last time he was with us, decided to give it a go. And superbly driven it was too. He took a good entry line to the obstacle at the appropriate speed and passed through unscathed whilst also managing to avoid the cross-axle which is now developing to give the hole a double kick to it! Negotiating the sunken river also calls for a bit of nerve and confidence in the vehicle as the side slopes are quiet severe , but then the river banks will stop you going too far!

We completed the day with the spectacular river drive. Well it would have been spectacular if I hadn’t become stuck on the first corner where the combination of ice and a tight turn did not bond well. So the winch was deployed for a second time in the day just to pull the nose around and clear the far bank. The remainder of the group seeing my predicament decided to take the easier route with the short drop into the river and drive the last section to the exit. With the group then complete we headed back to the farm for the final debrief and quick check/clean of the vehicles for the journeys home – which due to the snow meant staying in diff lock for some for quite a while!!!

Some pictures from the day