4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day – 19th January 14
Words by James Trembath and Alan Stealey, Pictures by Martin Webber

For once it was not raining! With Jeroen running late on the day we started without him to get everyone moving and up into Warm Up woods. With Tim leading the convoy we had Matt close behind in his newish to him TD5 Ragtop 90, Alan and Callum were along for their first Bampton driving day with us in Alan’s blue TD5 truck cab 90, followed by Keith Dare in his recently modified Puma 90 (with new roof!), Shane and Shane in the 110 with Steve and Curtis Purrington bringing up the rear in their very capable lockered Pick-Up Range Rover bobtail.

Warm Ups woods was certainly slippery, Tim managed the first entrance and a gentle side slope before the surface gave way to offer little traction to the later vehicles (with the exception of the last one) – all soon resolved with the majority taking a lower bypass route. People soon began to find their feet and refresh their driving skills and it wasn’t long before good progress was being made on the intended route!

To add some variation for the regulars we broke from this year’s norm and headed off down to the First River Climb, First Drop area. Whilst the main body went around the first climb out of the river Tim took Steve on down the river to attempt the climb. Its become particularly washed out at the bottom of late with a difficult axle twist to negotiate. Anything without axle lockers we advise to miss it out. Both Steve and Tim succeeded (some with a few attempts) but got there in the end. V8 power helped a lot there too! First Drop looked at intimidating as ever. With the lead vehicle down, Keith, Jeroen (who had now joined us) and Steve both followed whilst the remainder took the more sedate, gentler entrance into the river. Once down the river (its deep in places!) we took the long track climb up to the top of First Long Drop – well it wasn’t quite that easy as we had our first long wait there whilst a few winches (and waffles for some) were deployed to ease a couple of the vehicles up the slippery slopes. The rutted climb up takes a lot of confidence and commitment to succeed – it does have the potential for mechanical failure too! Nothing wrong in being cautious and getting that winch out early, or better still if in doubt take the bypass route.

After First Long Drop we took the river drive back up to the tracks to take us around to Wet Corner. Ok it was a cold(ish) day and it didn’t look that inviting (ie it looked deep) no one was that keen to go in – not even Jeroen! So lunch it was!

We discussed the axle twist in Middle Wood over lunch and opted to let Tim and Steve proceed on down that way whilst the remainder took on the delights of the top section of Middle wood before heading off to Steve’s Bumps and Dips. Jeroen was keen to get stuck in here – which he promptly did, very quickly! Matt relocated his vehicle to provide a secure anchor point to aid his extraction whilst the majority took the p*ss – sorry I mean took pictures!

Steve and Tim had fun tackling the bomb hole/axle twist in Middle Wood. The water torrents have certainly made it an interesting feature over the course of time. It certainly beyond the scope of a standard vehicle now but nothing that can’t be rectified over the summer ‘rest’ period with a bit of work on for the next season.

Still breaking from the norm we took on the delights of the Last River Drive after the fantastic route down across the fields adjacent to the streams. There is a great, although very short, drop into the river at one point with a steep old skyward looking exit up (normally to be greeted by the cows (now in for the winter)). Again Tim and Steve took on the extended version of the Last River Drive – over the bonnet depth water and the V8 was still purring – that must be a good sign! Unusual too! Meanwhile we took the steep drop in off the fields to make our way down the meandering river, criss-crossing the banks and river enroute complete with climbs, axle twists and side slops. The force of the water has ensured the tree near the exit (making it a tight squeeze out) is no longer, which is a joy to see for the slightly wider vehicles.

Warrens Hill was still beckoning; we took the more arduous over through the twisting farm tracks to keep everyone on their toes, it was down here the very same lane that Nicks truck had a little lie down the other week on a side slope! Warrens Hill itself had managed to escape the torrents of water of late which meant on entering we could take a different route and approach from the off. We followed a long climb right up to the top of the course before heading across to tackle Sam’s Hill. Still coming up it but with a different approach. The lead vehicle had a couple of attempts, the first one really forcing a route through into the existing ruts. The climb is a long, old hard struggle with anything on 33” tyres having the diffs just catch plus there are plenty of axle articulations in the first half which require a fair bit of momentum to conquer. Quite a few took the bypass route from the off not wishing to push their luck on the ‘last lane of the day!’. Steve Purrington meanwhile came up it with few problems, his larger tyres and ‘special’ diffs certainly earned their keep that day! We finished the day with a few of the harder descents to take us back to tarmac.

Alan Stealey, who had joined us for his first time as a driver certainly enjoyed himself and gives his view on an outing with us:

For people thinking of joining in the fun... just do it!

With an early start, from Bristol, Calum and I had an hour’s journey down to Junction 27 looking forward to a coffee and a bun at the meeting point, Costa! We also benefited from seeing the sun rising above the flooded levels of Somerset, circling buzzards and fieldfares (or perhaps that was just me).

I had some niggling doubts about the condition of my Defender - loosing coolant and strange lights flashing - but Tim and James put my mind at rest and diagnosed that I didn’t have a head gasket leak... I had been having nightmares. This free advice is another benefit of attending a group with such practical experience.

I have ‘mudpluggers’ and steering guard, but otherwise my truck cab is unmodified [Oh...and a CB radio from my ‘Series’ days]. The day proved challenging but not overly so; the Defender can comfortably do more than a Series vehicle... and without breaking your arms, bonus!

So what did I learn?

Amongst other things:

  1. Watch the vehicle in front and learn from their approach/mistakes
  2. Follow directions and not necessarily other peoples tracks
  3. Listen to the advice from more experienced drivers
  4. That you don’t have to reverse to release the diff lock (James can explain that one)
  5. Don’t follow Keith down the scary slope into the river- there is always an alternative route
  6. Let the vehicle do the work – it is impressive what it can achieve
  7. Don’t get stuck
  8. Oh... and avoid the tree stump!

So we, and the Defender, survived the day. And having cleared the lights and checked the indicators we made our way home in order to book our next visit.

Some pictures from the day