4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day – 20th Nov 11
Words by James Trembath, Pictures by Robin Watson

Robin Watson, an active greenlane member of the Bristol and West Off Road Club, contacted us in the summer asking after a day at Bampton on our now well known DRD route. A date was duly arranged and Robin booked the whole day for his fellow greenlaners. Being the first one of the Bampton season a few teething problems can be expected, these normally consist of traction issues for the lead one or two vehicles. As the routes have settled over the summer they pick up a fair bit of debris and silt. This normally means the first few through have to work slightly harder to break through and displace this sludge to find the hard traction further down. A few tree problems can also be expected from the odd deadfall, on the more isolated routes, but its all something that can be easily worked around and having the landowner on board in the lead vehicle certainly helps from a peace of mind perspective.

Sticking with tradition we started in warm up woods. As the first tree obstacle was on an initial warm up track there was a quick change of route which meant going up one of the steeper climbs in the woods. Lead vehicle made it, but the longer wheel base Discovery behind belonging to Stu Prowse was struggling. After his three attempts the tree had been cleared the decision was made for them to continue on the easier route. Warm up woods certainly provides plenty of opportunities for people to get to grips with the day and remind themselves of the basics. With its combination of water splashes, climbs, axle twists and side slopes it wakes everyone up, reminds them to use a diff lock and gives them a good indication of the conditions to come. There is also ample time for those that have forgotten and feel the need to drop tyre pressures and fit wading plugs.

Our destination for the first real section of the route was First drop. The route down went without issue and the drop down into the first river section was, as always, a joy to drive. Turning straight off the tarmac onto a deep rutted drop into the river makes a surreal drive. With all the vehicles sporting snorkels there were no issues with regard to water depth which was just as well. After the first climb Jeff in his green 90 truck cab and Rob in his Suzuki decided they didn’t like the look of first drop. They needed a little space to turn around to make a gracious exit which meant that Mark Bunting in his Discovery and Tim Jones were left waiting a short while in the river whilst they negotiated their turn around. First drop, a very steep but short drop back down into the river, is certainly a wake up call for all! Its certainly not a hill for all feet off the pedals and low first, you will just be going too fast down it! This didn’t stop Jo and Robin though, with Jo at the helm of her ex-military 90 they didn’t even pause at the top, its was straight around and straight down, as to be expected there was a wheel lift at the top and fair old smack at the bottom! With no damage done and smiles all round. Its just as well there is a soft landing!

We then took the route around to first long drop. After a little shunting and a few extra attempts by some to get to the top of the climb they were there and ready to go. Stu decided to tackle the large bomb hole at the bottom after the river crossing, but even his highly modified Discovery just wasn’t going to go up the climb on the other side. He gracefully retreated and took on the meandering climb around the river route and back to the tarmac.

With it now approaching lunchtime it was time to head up using some of the interlocking lanes and tracks to take us to deep ruts. With the field to the entrance recently seeded and the ground particularly wet it was a difficult approach with the first 4 vehicles having to winch their way into the section! Rob’s little Suzuki made surprisingly good headway through the ruts, managing to find traction on the inner rut edges with its slightly narrower track. Mike and Claire White’s Pajero didn’t find the going quite as plain sailing though and required a little assistance now and then from the front winch. Despite the recent rain and wet entrance the ruts themselves were still pretty much rock solid and the wish boned Pajero struggled for the clearance. Finding some sun at the far end was a welcome respite from the cold woods and made the perfect place for a lunch stop!

With wet corner next on the agenda people were soon keen to get on. We had a small delay when the Richard found his brother had locked the gate to the field – something he wasn't expecting! Taking the tarmac for the quickest route up to Wet Corner, Tim took a short cut to preposition himself at the end in order to recover anyone who didn’t make it. Meanwhile the rest of the convoy took one of the little twisty meandering routes around to the corner. Stuart’s ‘Big Boots’ Discovery had a little bother on the approach which called on the chain saw to take out some unruly saplings. Again another benefit of having the landowner along with us is these decisions can be made and damage to vehicles avoided.

Wet Corner then loomed ahead. Several took the plunge literally, and the going was certainly harder than anticipated. In fact so hard that no one vehicle made it in one go without the aid of Tim’s winch. Credit must go to the Pajero though, as all the Landrovers came out with a saturated inside the Pajero was dry as a bone – that will be the door seals helping to achieve that then, something Landrovers suffer with not having!

With vehicles now in need of a dry out it was off to middle wood and the axle twist. The route down is always fun on the first drive through, difficult to see it in its entirety and hidden in places with leaves and foliage from its rest over the seven months. Some of the bomb holes and twists enroute certainly made it an interesting drive. There is a new bomb hole forming just before the axle twist, which with time will no doubt develop into quite an obstacle with the water flowing down through it. The axle twist itself had improved with age. A Nice lean and drop into the hole on the passenger side but it now kept you far enough away from the bank so as not to catch the nearside wing. All the vehicles made it down through without damage or bypassing it. Jo’s 90 and Mark’s Discovery did need a little help from others though with a slight cross axle.

The route on down to the sunken river has also changed with time. There is now quite a big drop off some tree roots down to the base of the sunken river. Jo’s 90 just caught its rear quarter here but the others all made it unscathed. The sunken river itself is a wonderful drive with leans and axle twists all the way along but with plenty of traction. It’s certainly something to test the nerve and ability of both vehicle and driver alike.

With the end of the day now looming we had a quick stop at the end of the river, which then turned into a longer stop as Mark Bunting had picked up some ‘crud’ between the tyre and bead. With a wheel change quickly initiated it was then a potter back up through the adjoining fields to the main ridge access track and back to the yard.

All in all an excellent first drive round for the season. Most vehicles attempted everything, the route has matured well with age and looking at the drivers faces, they all seemed to sum it up with smiles alround.

Videos clips of the event...

Approach to wet corner

First drop wood descent

Axle twist

Deep ruts

Some pictures from the day