4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Wellington Drive Round Day – 22nd May 11
Words by James Trembath

The first DRD for the Wellington season kicked off today with a superb start. Glorious weather in the preceding weeks meant the ground was nice and dry and we could therefore tackle some of the harder technically demanding climbs. Wellington remains a misleading site at the best of times. It is a complete contrast to the Bampton DRD routes. At Bampton you will find traction and the routes don’t tend to hold any hidden surprises, if it looks hard then it is, if it looks straight forward then it will be. At Wellington a track that looks to be pretty straight forward can hold plenty of surprises to catch out the unwary. A great deal of this is due to the peat ground conditions and the leaf mulch, both of which are in plentiful supply. Wellington also has a clay base on the moorland sections and this in itself can present plenty of problems.

Stephen White joined us for his first day at Wellington with us in his V8 full bodied Range Rover. The V8 was certainly the engine of choice at times, especially for some of the longer climbs where the instant pickup made light work of the getting the vehicle up and moving. Traction then became more of an issue! Ian Stokes rejoined us after a busy few days on Dartmoor. He was accompanied by Gemma and Jon who were down for their first off road experience with us. Ian’s 90 is pretty much standard less the 255.85 R16 MTs and a few underbody protection pieces courtesy of Southdown.

Starting on the island we used the wider tracks to allow everyone to get a feel for the ground. The tracks are more defined here and the island provides a good starting base allowing drivers and vehicles to settle into the pace of the day. That’s not to say they are easy tracks! There are some interesting descents down through the woods with a few stump obstacles to negotiate on the way down. Some of the climbs can prove to be pretty tricky as well – one of which Ian will testify to after tacking several attempts to find the right line!

Moving about the island we took the slightly tighter side slopes across to windy woods. The side slope and the proximity of the trees gave those in a full bodied vehicle a fair bit to think about! Windy woods saw the first recovery of the day with Steve tacking a slightly different line after a descent and being sucked down into one of the peat bogs. Ian soon had a rope on the back of him though a short tug to safer ground. Steve then took a slightly higher line avoiding the worst part of the sticky ground and powered through the remainder. Leaving windy woods gave us our first real long climb. With the soft peat ground and a fair few tree routes on the way up to contend with there were certainly several attempts by most of the vehicles in the group! Again momentum and the choice of the correct line being the key deciding factors on making the climb.

Heading across to bumps and dips again proved an interesting time with side slopes playing a major part in the route choice the group took their time to make sure it was done right the first time! We were also able to incorporate a new climb up a power line route. We normally use the route for descents only but the weather as it was a good ground conditions we gave it a go – the first and last vehicles made it but Steve and Ian both had to take alternative bypass route. Traction was just not great enough for the vehicle tyre/power relationship.

We transited back to the main car park field for a quick bite to eat before heading down to the Moor for the afternoon. The moor provides a good contrast to the Island with its clay rutted and water tracks between the conifers with very little leaf mulch to be seen.

On entering the moor Jon had his first taste of driving which as the tree tightened around the tracks proved a testing time for him giving him an ideal opportunity to get to grips with the vehicle. The lead vehicle took a new’ish route soon after entering the moor and was immediately caught out in the clay and peat based ground sinking up to its axles. A quick deployment of the front winch soon had them extracted whilst the rest of the group took a short bypass across to the main track. Tight corner, which as the name suggests is tight through the trees and then combines this with a side slope on some bumps and dips certainly proved a testing time for all. Ian was back driving his vehicle for this stage and Steve did well to manoeuvre the full bodied range rover through without contact. Our first real drop down onto the moorland tracks was via a deep rutted section that has caught out the unwary in the past. The vehicles made light work of the rutted section and we were soon heading on down to the ponds and the various river climbs and drops to test the vehicles suspension to the full. Steve demonstration a perfect decent into the river off one of the drops making it look very nice and smooth as he dropped down the bank. Ian did the same section and achieved the crossing but just displayed a slightly different level of finesse!

With the moorland and the river sections complete we headed back up to the Island to tackle a few more of the steep climbs on the way to the bumps and dips. All the vehicles made this one with a little gusto although Ian did have a bit of a moment on the initial climb up onto the route and then again on the side slopes on the way across. It just goes to show that you can drive the ground conditions all day and they can still catch you out!

The Wellington site as ever has proved it needs respect and concentration throughout the day. It also shows that you don’t need it to be wet to find testing and demanding conditions as both Steve and Ian will testify to! Our DRD season now continues at Wellington through until November when we will be heading back down to Bampton for the winter.

Video clips from the day

Some pictures from the day