4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day 2nd March 14
Words by Tom Lamb and Pictures by James Trembath

I stood in the petrol station filling up the truck I looking out in the direction of Bampton watching the grey merking morning sky turn to rain. I know the Bampton site well from co driving for others but had never driven there myself and with all this rain we have been having, today was going to be an interesting. My co driver Matthew and I made one last gear check under the shelter or the forecourt roof and then made our way up into the hills.

It was steadily raining as the 4x4s gathered in the yard but even with the wet conditions it did not dampen the friendly banter and enthusiasm for what lay ahead.

The drivers briefing was held and we were divided into two groups. There was a good mix of capabilities and truck spec but with a slight byest of winch challenge style vehicles in Tim's group were they where lead off first to some of challenging places that the Bampton site had to offer. This is not to say what the group I was in was not challenging by any stretch of they imagination. Our group was lead by James and consisted of Tony in a tasty Maxxis tyred black truck cab 90, Shane Coats in a blue 110, Myself and Matthew my co driver in a 90, Mike Joslin in a suzuki jimny, Martyn Middelton in a very nice caged disco and Jeroen in his 90.

We headed out to Warm up Woods, its a nice little arena where you can get yourself in the right frame of mind for off roading and get a feel for ground conditions. The first obstacle was a set of three mud holes. We follow James through and I start to find even in the slimy mud there was good grip to be found. We wound our way round utilizing some of the great obstacles, climbs, water features and mud holes warm up woods had to offer. We pick our way throught the trees to a tight slightly banked corner with tree roots to climb over and round. With James spotting for us we were through and on to a nice decent.

We watched Tony as he started his decent and what must of been an arse clenching moment as the back of his 90 went light, but he controlled it easily he made it down and then it was my turn. It felt so step at the top as I gently eased over the edge. This being me co drivers Mathew first time out in any 4x4 he looked at me with and expression that said a thousand words (all of the being four lettered and starting with the letter f. Letting the truck and first gear make me look like an off roading god (if only in my own mind) we crawled our way down.

After a few little climbs and a water splash later we were back at the top and James gave us the nod to explore by ourselves. Knowing that James and others were there to advise or rescue me if I needed it and given the hint by James I drove round to a large pool of water under the tree. A short drop in and we were wading our way across. You could feel the mud sapping the engines power but we kept the wheels moving and my little 90 did me proud.

Soon enough we were on the move to Warrens Hill, a bit a woodland just down the road. We drove up into the tall pine trees along the tracks to the top. The first decent down through the trees was a nice long decent with soft but good ground conditions. James explained the trick to this one was spot the tree stump. Everyone tried it and succeed. The stump sucked the back end of the truck in to it but with care you can use a rockslider and tyre to slide round it rather than getting hooked up. With everyone down we drove back to the top for decent two. We all made short work of it and moved round the corner to a short gnarly deep rutted climb. With James first he set off to show us how it was done right up to the point we he couldn't. With air to the locker failing him he backed down and pulled out the way and set about his truck. With James arguing with his truck and winning Tony lined up. With the snarl for his engine and the Maxxis tyres fighting for grip you could tell it was tough going but there was determination from Tony to get to the top.

As Tony stood at the top surveying the hill he had climbed you could see the grin for were I sat far below.

James with locker now working he backed up in front of me and me moving further down the track we could tell the James was not ready to be defeated by this climb. With the run up gaining him momentum and the roar of a diesel power filling the air he progressed steadily upwards powering past the point were he stop before and on to the top.

As I don't have such toys as lockers or achcroft half shafts I decided to trundle round the bypast and enjoy the views over the stunning Devonshire country side. Most chose to leave this climb and except for Martyn in the disco who gave it a bloody good go but admitted defeat before testing the reliability of his cv's or drive shafts. We all met at the top and with a little tree surgery later we were heading toward first drop for lunch.

We stop over looking the river for lunch where we were met by the other group. Tails were told of epic battles between Landrover and terrain over lunch as more tree surgery happened to clear the river run to First Drop. After lunch our respective group made there way in different directions. Our group gently climbed into the woods followed the river and at the top of our climb James hung a tight right and drop down a long decent into the river below. Tony was taken off to put his lockers and winch to the test with Martyn and the rest followed James down the river. The ground was greasy which made the decent one to keep an eye on as you made your way down. With quick splash in the river we were climbing our way up the shallow bank the other side. Once everyone was across we headed back round to First Drop.

James made the decision to bypass the steep bank and take the more sedate slope back into the river. We drove down stream to the exit we had taken on the crossing moments before. We regroup with Tony and Martyn and headed for Middle Woods via the byways. This was I relaxing little drive along some greenlanes that let you prepare for the bomb holes waiting ahead.

The drive through Middle Woods was greasy but beautiful amongst the trees. 4x4s drifted slowly and gracefully around trees as we made our way round the edge of the woods. We shuffled the running order as we got closer to our biggest obstacle of the day. The track throw up some gnarly ruts and holes as we got closer. One of which was big enough to attacked my truck with a bang. It sounded worse than is was and my 90 dug itself out with ease. The jimny behind me had much more luck on the way in but ran out of ground clearance on the way out. With Jeroen man of action already on hand after crashing his way through the undergrowth from his landrover at the back helped sort out the towing arrangement as I reversed back my truck. The little jimny moved with gentle persuasion and we all walked down to where James was waiting and everyone else was starring at a massive gouge in the ground.

Everyone stood back as James slowly lined his truck up and drove it deep into the hole. With lockers in and the passenger side sliding along the bank of the gorge stopping it from tipping over he made it look easy. Tony was next and drove it exceptional well with only a little dink in the wing to prove he had done it. The rest of us chicken out and tried to make it round the edge. It was a squeeze to get past the top edge of the gorge and the trees on on either side. Shane chose left and with plenty of team work and a winch line deployed for safety he made it down the left side. I chose right and with some guidance from James and the magic push from Richard I sneaked round. Mike in the jimny scampered around the left side with no drama at all. The Disco was next. This being slightly wider great corrosion was taken but with a bit of bravery Martyn squeezed past the tree and on down the side. Jeroen used a waffle board to gain that extra bit of grip needed to past after all the traffic before him but made it through the gap.

Smile all round we jumped back into our truck and I immediately got stuck at the bottom the gorge is a big step created by a tree root and I had beached my truck. With Matthew giggling at me like a girl I look out to see Jeroen and Martyn there ready to help. With Herculean strength they shoved and rocked the 90 until it gripped and heaved itself free. We drove along a shallow gully under trees hanging heavy with rain towards the rest of the group and up out, through a gate into an open field.

Now driving around some field might not seem like a challenge but there was less grip here than there was in the mud that we had spent the last hour driving through. With the drive down to a gateway at the end of our field crossing becoming more like a bobsleigh run with each passing car this was an chance to put left foot braking to good practice.

From there we drove through some river crossing and along to Last River drive. When we got there I stepped to one side to let other go so I could watch. I was not sure how deep the river would be after all the rain and with out a snorkel I was not sure what to expect. I asked James earlier in the week if a snorkel was needed and was assured it wasn't necessary but faced with the river this assurance had faded from my mind. I drove tentative into the river and start to shunt for the tight left turn. After shunting round I thought I had made the turn but was prove wrong as the truck slide to the right into the bank. I tried to reverse but a fallen tree blocked my escape. As announce at myself grow Jeroen once again appeared with winch rope in hand and a solution. winch the nose of the truck free. Once off the bank and free to move on we set off down the river until I plunged the nose of my truck under water. My heart stop as my truck fill with water. A voice came from the bank as Jeroen again helped. He guided me through the water watching the level against the air intake on the side of the truck. We made it through and the truck lives. Once at the end and out on the bank I breathed a sigh of relief.

The end of the day finally caught us up and I got out to chat to other. James asked if I had an issue with a tree and my roof line but I explained that I was to busy having a heart attack over the depth of water to even notice. James laughed, knowing exactly where I had plunged the truck in the water and told me that I wasn't the only one and that even Tim had panicked at the same point thinking he had drowned his v8 many years before.

This was an awesome day that I would highly recommend. Matthew and myself thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was a great opportunity to practice the skills I had learned on an off road training day with James and grow my skill base with help and advice for fellow off roaders (that are also there to winch you out if you need a little bit of rescuing).

It admonishes me how capable a standard 90 with a set of good off road tyres is and I was chuffed that she had put up with my driving and made it round with no issues.

The most important thing I learned about off roading is take Jeroen.

Thank you for all your help dude I owe you a beer or three.

And with all that said and done sign me up for the next one James

Some pictures from the day