4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Defender 2 Forum Wales Laning and Social Weekend
26th February 12
Words By Mark Morgan - Route Planner and co-organiser

A great event all round. It was always a worry to me and James, ably assisted by TJ and Anthony, attempting to lay on a non-damaging laning trip which also introduced a social element where people could get to know one another in a relaxed atmosphere. Many factors go through your mind when planning such a trip...

will the group dynamics work? will the lanes be hard enough for people to feel they have actually done something challenging enough, while testing their Land Rovers abilities, and, conversely, will the lanes be easy enough to offer people the chance to do something WITHOUT ever feeling they are getting outside of their comfort zone or running the risk of damaging their trucks? will the hotel accommodation and food be up to expectations? will the weather hold?

So many variables, many of which are outside of the control of anyone who takes it upon themselves to organise something for others. The fact that people are shelling out some of their hard earned in order to have an enjoyable experience just added to the pre-event worry that things might not run as hoped.

We needn't of worried.

We arrived in the hotel at about 6 and got in a quick swim and sauna before meeting up with everyone in the bar. I am hopeless with names so was stuck with using forum names to remember who was who. I make no apologies for not naming names in this write up as I fear I would get everyone mixed up and end up embarrassing myself, and not for the first time either. Following introductions and a swift drink we all went off for a group meal together. The hotel treated us well and the food laid on, as on the pre-tour recce, was top class. Having our own exclusive dining room and one big table for 18 initially felt a bit strange but by the time a few bevies had been consumed and people began to exchange stories and banter, followed by much laughter and merriment, it was clear that Hotel had made a good move. Such behaviour in the public restaurant would not have been possible. Breakfast next morning was also a feast and the hotel had reserved us tables together which was a nice touch.

So check out, into the car park and a brief prep talk and we split into 2 groups to do 2 different routes (effectively a similar route done in 2 directions). What we didn't want was for the groups to end up on the same lane at the same time. The sun was shining and the sky was blue. WOW, this was Wales in February. A weight was lifting slowly... Tim and Anthony left with the Grey group and headed over to start the day with Strata Florida, while James and I led our group to Rhayader to take the mountain road over to the top of the Elan Valley. There is one tricky bit on this lane and I had awoken early wondering if it would prove problematic. I need not have worried. All the 110s surmounted the rock step with no drama at all while the two 90s in the group had to have a couple of goes due to the unfortunate distance between the steps being identical to their wheel base! With this obstacle out of the way and grins from everyone we headed up to the top of the mountain to be rewarded with fantastic far reaching views across the Cambrian Mountains as far as the eye could see.

The morning continued in a similar vein with some beautiful lanes taking us gradually NW towards the Nant y Moch area, where we stopped for lunch on the edge of a huge drop into a deep valley with views out to the Irish Sea. By this point everyone was out and chatting and the banter was only briefly disturbed when a freak gust swept through our idyllic picnic.

Suitably refreshed we looped back south passing many signs of a bygon age of lead and tin mining followed by a short transit section to the start of the final lane of the day, which for us was to be the famous Strata Florida. This is a beautiful drive through a very remote and unforgiving landscape, on a very rocky surface that demands respect, as do the many river crossings. These should only be attempted if the water levels are low as they can prove very dangerous after heavy rain and have claimed more than one vehicle and, not so long ago, the life of a young woman. Fortunately there has been very little rain in Wales this winter and levels were as low as I have seen on many summer trips. The lane was passed with no dramas and it was a very happy group who reached the tarmac at the southern end, having completed something that many of the group admitted that they had never thought they would have had the confidence to do before the weekend started. Even the 50 minute drive back to Llandindod was thoroughly enjoyable with beautiful scenery and stunning roads. Back in the hotel bar, the remains of our party met some of the other group who had not yet departed for a post trip drink and a chat, and everyone agreed it had been a great experience, many vowing to come again if another trip was planned.

I want take this opportunity to thank everyone who came along for making the whole trip a great success and for the many great memories I now have. Thanks also to James for all his part in the organisation and Tim and Anthony for leading the other group.

As this route was not on private land please note we did not once drive off road. All the tracks used are unsurfaced public highways. Sadly this is not true for many people and the damage seen on Strata Florida, which gets worse every time I drive it, is testament to those who do drive off-road. It is a sad fact that the actions of these mindless individuals (there were fresh tracks even yesterday) will ultimately result in the closure of all these great unsurfaced tracks for all of us.

Remember folks. Tread lightly.

Further trips are being planned as I type. Hope to see you then.

Some pictures from the weekend