4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day – 16th December 12
Words James Trembath and pictures by Nick Calcraft, James Trembath and Rob Phillips

Another wet start to a DRD at Bampton. Not unusual and at least it does make for some testing conditions plus it was warm for Dec! The plan had been to run two groups but with several calls on Saturday from people cancelling we were left with a group of seven. So one group it was! Joining us for their first Bampton Experience we had Martyn Middleton in his very well kitted out Discovery. Steve & Curtis Purrington were making a return visit in their modified bob tailed pick up Range Rover and we were also joined by repeat offender Rob Phillips in his standard red 90 hardtop. Darren and Darren were back after the last Bampton DRD to join us in their green 200tdi Discovery and were also kind enough to loan a seat to another Darren, who was joining us for the day. Bill Turner (Black V8 90 hardtop), Nick Calcraft (Blue tdi pickup 90) and Steve Hollis (Blue 300 Discovery) also returned to join us for their second Bampton jaunt.

As is custom we started off in Warm Up woods where the guys could get a feel of the ground conditions and test some of the puddles after the recent deluge. This also gave Darren, Darren and Darren a chance to tighten up the alternator belt on the Discovery before heading off onto the ‘proper’ tracks.

First Drop was a challenge, more so than normal as it was actually quite hard work to get out of the stream and up to the top of the drop. The recent flooding of the stream had meant the bank and exit route had deteriorated a fair amount. Three attempts for the lead vehicle and a winch for the second (but there could have been some driver error there, hey Rob?) and the route was cleared and re-established for the remaining vehicles. First Drop itself worked well, the bump at the bottom caught a few out who had ‘exited’ the top with a little too much speed – Bill and Nick!! The drop completed for those that wished, we headed up to First Long Drop where again it was proving hard work for the lead vehicle having to clear some of the debris out of the ruts to find some traction on the climb up to the start.

Completing First Long Drop we then took in the New River Drive heading back up stream towards the exit from First Drop. An exciting drive with a few deeper sections here and there the route is still manageable with care for vehicles without snorkels and even the V8s can manage it too!

Having not made it as far as Warren’s Hill last time out we then took the opportunity this time to head across there. The Hill itself has had a fair bit felled resulting in a good covering of brush on most of the descents. Whilst this ruled out some of the climbs it certainly helped on the descents providing a little more traction than has previously been found there. With the timber contractors having made some new access tracks we could also get across to, and some of us even got up Sam’s Hill. The long rutted steep climb is certainly more achievable with the longer run up that the new track has given but the dragging ruts and the loose soil soon suck the engine power on the climb. Rob, for the first time I believe had to take a bypass here after three fails, but he was soon joined by Darren. (Both vehicles probably lacking a bit on the tyre tread which with the severity of the climb and loose shale/stone didn’t help)

With lunch time fast approaching it was back up to the main drag and across to Wet Corner. Here the keen swimmers could recce the route and make up their minds of whether they wished to go through whilst enjoying a bite to eat. Steve Hollis and Nick Calcraft were not deterred by the corner and were soon splashing their way in and through.... well sort of through! Steve made good progress around the corner before becoming hung up on something (deep ruts dragging the axle?) and started to dig in. Here the pre-positioned winch rope was called into play with help from Bill already poised to aid their exit at the far end. Nick didn’t fair quite as well and stopped just on the corner, lack of commitment comments seemed to be flowing from others watching until it was pointed out that Nick was committed and had given it a go.... Another winch pull to the rescue. The water is only headlight or so deep but wrong positioning on the corner means the vehicles can easily become hung up, as a few have shown.

With two vehicles to dry out Darren changed his mind about attempting Wet Corner and decided he would give the section a miss. This gave us time to head across to Middle Wood with its axle twists, deep rutted tracks and bomb holes. Everyone gave the axle twist a go which is always slightly nerve racking to watch and even more so ‘unnerving’ if you’re in the vehicle! From here it was down into the sunken river. To be fair it had sunk a fair bit more since we were last down it. The first 100m were as expected but then water erosion had certainly done its work on the last 200m giving some impressive leans and a fair bit of grounding. The Discoverys of Martyn and Darren were extracted to take a route around the edge of a field to avoid the large leans and the possibility of damage whilst the rest of the group trudged on down the sunken section. Nick Calcraft had had the foresight to bring some waffles which played a vital role in allowing some of the vehicles to drive out of the river on one of the last adverse camber climbs. All credit to Steve Hollis for keeping his toe in at the appropriate time and getting the disco through the section. A few had to resort to the winch on that particular last obstacle. The lead vehicle had made the climb with the benefit of lockers, but that was only after a longish winch through the previous section where it had become hung up on the rut in the middle of the river! Luckily after some tree pruning by the land owner an alternative route could be found for the remainder.

With it now dark and five pm fast approaching we called it a day at this point and headed off back to the farm yard. Well that was the plan, but when a local decided to cut and run the others all decided to follow him rather than the vehicle they had followed all day! Not to worry, everyone got home safely and with a number immediately rebooking for our next DRD, they must have enjoyed it.

Some pictures from the day