4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day – 10th March 13
Words by James Trembath and Pictures by Red Yeti Photography

March and a snowy start to the day in Devon. It seems this weather is never really going to turn to Spring! Today we were joined again by David Bowyer, David Webber, Steve Hollis and Nick Bolt with Keith Dare joining us for the first time in his new (to him) 300tdi hard top 90. We took shelter in the hay barn from the inclement weather for the drivers brief and developed a rough plan and route for the day, which obviously didn’t survive first contact! The benefit of using Warm Up Woods first is that it gives a good opportunity for vehicles and people to ‘warm up’ for what the day will entail. Unfortunately Keith’s truck wasn’t rising to the challenge to the extent that his difflock would not engage. Having extracted him from the predicament of a coming to with a small tree David Webber stayed behind to help encourage the diff lock to engage! Meanwhile the rest of us (all three) headed off to First Drop. Nick and Steve (with Jemma driving) took the harder river route complete with the tricky climb at the end whilst David and the lead vehicle bypassed the first climb coming in at the top. First drop wasn’t actually too bad with the steepest part of the descent at the bottom having now ‘eased off’ a little. With a by-pass option there for those that wished, we then headed on down through the river to the end of First Long Drop. Nick and Jemma had a go here at the small bomb hole, Nick’s Toyota almost clearing the obstacle – but just not quite making the last 3ft or so, the first deployment of the winch for the day! David and Keith had caught up with us by this stage and with difflock still proving a little temperamental David offered to take Keith across to Warren’s Hill where he could get the hang of the vehicle.

From here we decided to head across to Bear Down to tackle the ‘new for season’ woodland route. To say yet again the going was hard in there was an understatement! It would be a good 90mins before we would emerge at the other end from the 800m route. The entrance and first section had improved dramatically from previous visits with all being able to drive up onto the top ridge. The route along the top was a superb drive for most, the deep water filled ruts proving plenty of driving challenges and also gave us the opportunity to admire the new Bow3 powered TDS on an Xtra Large drum prototype winch fitted to the Goodwinch vehicle. With a few trees requiring moving after the recent high winds the progress was initially a little slower than expected. Having made the far end and the turn back point after approx 30mins we should have been out within the next 30mins but Bear Down (or Side Slope Woods) as it should now be know was to take it toll and soon most were resorting to winches to aid their passage through. Photographer Tom Lamb of Red Yeti Photography was keen to show us his codriving skills and soon exchanged his camera for a tree strop. The last descent off the ridge line down onto the gravel track was more than a little slippery under wheel! Thankfully the landowner from the adjacent field was part of our party as one of us decided to make use of the extra run out the other side of the fence. Driving to the end of the lane we met up with David and Keith for a slightly belated lunch stop. With the cold weather and snow still coming we did not stop for long. It was during lunch that Steve concluded a CV or shaft had let go in his Discovery (something he obviously blamed Jemma for, despite all the abuse its had on previous outings...) with the front axle now binding on driving Nick offered to take them back up to his workshop to strip out the offending parts. This left Keith, David and David with the lead vehicle to head up on to Middle Wood using the byways and interlocking tracks.

Once up onto the main ridge we tried a new route through Top Wood which then brought us back around to Wet Corner. Considering the snow and low temperatures we didn’t even offer the wade to anyone, it could well have been one obstacle too far! What we did do though was pick up some of the tracks again in around the back of Wet Corner which then brought us out nicely by the pheasant pens and the slippery decent down to the end of the sunken river in Middle Wood.

From here we had the opportunity to head up across the field, staying out of the wetter lower corners to take us across and down to the Final River Drive. Certainly a good finale; the Final River Drive is a great little stream drive and provides plenty of scope for some freedom of movement but needs due care and attention to escape the banks unscathed! Its also a good wash for the underside and wheels, but then again there is the muddy bank to contend with on the exit!

All safely out of the clutches of the river banks we headed up across the fields and back to the yard to seek shelter in the farm buildings whilst we reflected on the day’s superb off roading.

Some pictures from the day