4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day – 7th April 13
Words and pictures by James Trembath

Our last ‘public’ Bampton Drive Round Day of the season. With five vehicles along on what was going to be the driest day of the year for us we were looking to be able to take in the last new track, yet to be drive, up at Side Slope Woods.

Keith Dare and Matt Mills were along in Keith’s red tdi hardtop, hopefully with some new found confidence after a two day training package with us the previous week. Rob Phillips and Paul Bryan in Robs Red hardtop 90, David and Nicola Webber in a blue truck cab 90, Maddock and Sandfort in Steve Bartlett’s Suzuki Vitara, and Bill Turner and John Cox in Bill’s black 90 hardtop.

Having completed a short convoy drive around Warm Up woods, followed by a ten/fifteen minute familiarisation of the ground conditions where John was keen to demonstrate his prowess on Lardy’s Drop, we regrouped and took a mix of tracks and tarmac to get us to Warrens Hill.

Sam’s Climb was first on the agenda and proved little trouble for those on 33” or bigger tyres, some of the smaller tyres struggled a little due to ground clearance although Matt and Keith found sufficient purchase to get their 90 to the top just leaving one 90 and the Suzuki to take the bypass.

Warrens quarry was looking good for drive and a possible lunch stop option. With favourable ground conditions meaning we would be able to get both in and out it seemed a shame not to take advantage of the quarry and all the slopes it can offer. Whilst everyone made themselves at home we took the opportunity to remove a large beech tree that had fallen prior to the start of the season and thus re-opening one of the longer drops into the quarry. This drop leads straight off the main access field and we seldom have the opportunity to attempt it prior to Apr due to the wet ground. The drop itself has plenty of run out (and run up) so as long as the wheels are pointing straight ahead there is more than enough ground to slow the vehicle. After much speculation John and Bill were at the front again to try the hill. Coming up it first, on the first attempt too, some good momentum from Bill at the onset and pure V8 power worked a treat. I didn’t think it would do it, but then I don’t think I was alone with those thoughts. To be fair that first time was also the last time anyone went up. The Suzuki put in a credible performance and Keith was so taken in by it all he went off to drive some of the other climbs, possibly just so he could show us his failed hill climb recovery techniques?!!

Warrens Quarry took its first casualty of the season too, well not in the real sense, more so of a certain V8 failing a climb and parking itself on a tree as the failed climb went, a little bit off track on the recovery side of it. Nothing a lump hammer and a few good swings wont help resolve. Interesting how a bit of a theme with the driver was starting here though. (and it wasn’t the owner)!

Having joined forces at the top of the hill we then headed out to Side Slope Woods. Tim took on lead vehicle role I went to find (and drive) the previously recce’d and cut, but undriven end section. With it being the driest we’ve had in a long time the side slope was not likely to cause any issues. Some of the ruts on the way in were though! A few gentle tugs from the vehicle in front helped the stricken vehicles through what has now become a very enjoyable mud/rut run along the top section of the woods. The turn at the far end and route back, including the side slope was also all going well until the aforementioned driver No2 of the V8 90 decided to dig out one of the bank crossings!!! Lots of power equals lots of digging when you are not going forward if you park on a tree. Tim’s vehicle came back around the front for an acute angled pull whilst David winched the 90 backwards to pull it back off the tree, this enabling Tim to then pull him back up the slope and sideways onto the track. Rob and Keith also needed similar assistance, and then David drove the section with minimal fuss. (don’t tell him we had filled in most of the hole by then though!) Keith was not without incident in the section either when his Transfer box opted for Neutral on Bowyers Drop, which resulted in a slightly uncomfortable moment of sideways action down the hill!

First River Drive was awaiting our arrival and even with the lower than previous water level it still gave everyone plenty to think about with some nice deep sections to contend with. From here it was up the long stony climb to First Long Drop. Some of the ruts at the top First Long Climb caught a few out, however with a short bypass very close by it was nothing that wasn’t quickly overcome.

With the light now beginning to fade (we had taken a little longer in Side Slope Woods than anticipated!) we followed the Rights of Way and tracks to bring us around to the Final River Drive. A lovely meandering river it has plenty to keep you on your toes and is a fantastic final drive. (its just a shame there is a gate across the river to open/close at the end!)

Some pictures from the day