4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Wellington Drive Round Day – 3rd June 12
Words and pictures by James Trembath

Wow, what a contrast. A week ago we had glorious sunshine and not a drop of water to be seen. Today, up at Wellington for our second DRD of the season, it could not have been further from it! A fair amount of rain the preceding day had done a fantastic job of turning the ground in to a sodden mass and the weather was not that much better for the jaunt around either – a light dusting of rain and stuck in mist for the majority of the day!

One of the great joys of the Wellington site is the technical driving that is required to get the vehicle safely around the various tracks and courses. Although the distances are not great between sections the level of concentration required throughout the day makes it a good testing ground for driver and vehicle alike. This combined with the recent downpour was to make for a very interesting day.

Running with a slightly smaller group than normal we were pleased to welcome several newcomers to the Wellington site. Steve & Curtis Purrington, regulars at our Bampton days had made the journey up in their bob tailed Range Rover Classic (running taller and wider tyres with a diesel auto) They had convinced Caroline and Jess to join them for the day out. Caroline was driving her very capable blue Discovery auto with some purposeful looking machos and the odd battle scar from previous off road forays. Also joining us, Rob Phillips and Paul Bryan in Rob’s red 90. The standard looking vehicle has the uncanny ability to get any and everywhere and seems to make it look so easy to! (It also had a godsend of tools in the back which proved very beneficial later in the day – thank you Rob!) The final vehicle belonged to Nick Calcraft, who was not only new to us but also completely new to the off roading world having only just picked up his 90 a few weeks previously. Nick was joined by Stuart Thompson for the day and to say they both had a bit of an eye opener would probably be an understatement! The cheers and banter throughout the day emanating from their truck spoke volumes for the fun and experience they were having.

There had obviously been some heavy winds up on the Blackdowns in the last week or so too with a tree down blocking the first real tricky track that we came to! A few mins delay and the route was re-open giving us access along the side slope cutting through to the Island section. The rain had played a key part in making some of the tracks deceivingly hard. What looked to be a gentle climb with a few tree roots to contend with soon turned out to be far harder. Having completed a few ‘warm up’ climbs and descents we started to tackle some of the more demanding climbs and side slopes that the island has to offer. Steve’s wide wheels were certainly of benefit enabling him to maintain traction without breaking down through the wet leaf mulch. On the other hand the impressive digging ability of the machos certainly lived up to their reputation on Caroline’s truck – the plumes of mud and mulch flying backwards are testament to the fact that she certainly gave it her all on the climbs! Nick’s truck was performing well on the climbs once gear choice had been mastered and the confidence had developed to maintain the momentum.

Heading back through the cut out to the ‘windy’ section we tackled a small loop off to the right hand side. A sharp drop down takes you through a very short wetter section before you are faced with an innocuous looking exit climb back to the main track. As lead vehicle we needed two attempts, and we weren’t the only ones! The climb is well protected from rain by the trees and was particularly dry. The dry pine needles combined with loose sand made the power sapping hill something of a mini challenge and it certainly took a combination of the best line and power delivery to achieve it. Caroline opted to bypass this section where as Nick was straight in there. A little shunting, and few ‘trial’ attempts were concluded with triumphant shouts of joy as the 90 just crested the hill on the 5th? attempt. Rob then proceeded to make the hill look easy, or so he thought, having seen the others and learnt the track he thought he was onto a winner and would complete in one, but not so, caught short just at the top!

The long climb out of the island back onto the main track turned into a winch for all. Pretty much all the vehicles made it to within a few feet of the crest but were then succumbed to the tree roots and the odd stump! A short pull and the group was safely complete back on the main track.

Heading across to the bumps and dips we stopped for a drink and some lunch. It even managed to stop raining for long enough for everyone to get out which made a welcome change! After the short stop we were soon straight back into the course with the long diagonal drop above the pump house down to the 1st steep drop. The rutted track of ‘1st steep drop’ ensured everyone stayed on course and with a short but soft run out at the end there was plenty of cushioning to slow the vehicles down. The twisty climb out at the bottom was wet to say the least. It needed a good combination of steering to avoid the trees but bottle to keep the power in to get you up past the trees and avoid a slide back down onto them. Having all made it through unscathed we headed back up to the few water splashes at the bumps and dips (if only to keep Curtis happy) prior to heading across to the ‘long steep drop’. With ground conditions as they were it was a descent straight to the bottom rather than opting for the side slope exit route part way down. A daunting drop with some tree stumps and roots to negotiate on the way it was a joy to see all the vehicles successfully negotiate their way down through to the main track.

With the island now complete we moved on to our next section at the moor. Starting with the infamous ‘tight corner’ there were plenty of grimaces and strained smiles as the vehicles negotiated the tight turn combined with side slope and wheel lifting articulations. Paul’2 and Stuart’s faces (being on the passenger side it’s slightly more daunting) were pictures in themselves. As we then negotiated our way down to the bottom part of the route starting to take in some of the muddier sections Caroline picked up two punctures on the driver’s side of the vehicle. With a group stop and Steve’s and Rob’s help the front was re-inflated (thank you for the compressor Rob) and the rear changed for Rob’s spare. Steve then accompanied Caroline back to the main track where they could then continue to change the front wheel leaving Nick and Rob to continue on the route.

Now being a smaller group we moved on down to the ponds and took in some of the shallow river sections and the bomb holes, not to mention Sam’s pond. Staying on the slightly easier tracks we were able to remain mobile and get some distance covered over a variety of terrain before heading back up to collect Steve and Caroline (wheel now changed) and returning to the main car park field.

With smiles all round (even Caroline was jovial despite the two punctures) we had a chance to reflect back on the day and the terrain covered. Vehicle lights and number plates were given a quick wipe over and soon everyone was back on tarmac and heading home.

Some pictures from the day