4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day – 7th December 14
Words and Pictures by James Trembath

Our first Bampton Drive Round Day for the Season got off to a great start with glorious weather and a good turnout. With the regulars knowing how good the Bampton day is the day had filled up as soon as it was advertised. Martyn Middleton was the only non Defender in the Landrover group with his 300 man Discovery. The vehicle has changed discreetly over the last year, now sporting some nice Ashcroft internals in the axles and some good old BFG MTs to replace those Insa Turbos. Shane Coats brought his td5 hard top 110 and was joined by Keith Dare within the hardtop gang with his TDCi 90. Jeroen in his trusty 300tdi CSW 90 made up the trio of hardtops whilst Tony Dunstone brought along his well specc’d 90 truck cab complete with lockers and cage. With the exception of Tony everyone else was running the tried and tested MTs from BFG which work well down there on the mix of routes we have to offer. Mike Joslin made up the six with his Jimny now sporting a lift and with Mike behind the wheel he proved how capable such a light well equipped vehicle can be.

We started the main part of the day, after the customary visit to Warm Up woods with a jaunt over to Warrens Hill taking in some of the scenic Byways enroute. The steep sided coniferous plantation is always a firm favourite. There are some great descents combine with some testing climbs, such as Sams Hill, to keep everyone on their toes. Its also a good wood to remind people of convoy etiquette as if you don’t look after the vehicle behind you they can easily become misplaced! Sam’s hill proved a formidable climb for our first outing with only the extra clearance offered by Tony’s tyres (and of course his driving ability...) ensuring he was the only one to make it clear to the top, the lead vehicle had some good attempts but just couldn’t quite clear the last 2m of the 50m climb due to the deep ruts and slippery conditions.

Having regrouped we made our way back via the road network to head up to Warrens Quarry. Now, if Warrens Wood is a good starting place, its accompanying Quarry is a good testing place. With the ground conditions as they were we knew it was going to be hard going in there, and, it was! Knowing the ground we opted to leave three vehicles out of the quarry and at the top of the hill at any one time to act as anchor points/recovery vehicles as needed should anyone become stuck. Well, the drop in to the Quarry (Keith’s drop as its recently being named) was a tad slippery to say the least! Once in there all was fine and progress could be made, sort of! The exit route within the quarry was fine, until we came off the track to come up across the wet grassy climb combined with side slope of the field! Lets just say there as many an 8274 and TDC Goldfish winch earning their keep that day on any vehicle that had ventured in regardless of tyres, engine size or vehicle weight, we all ended up on the end of a rope of some description! With the recovery taking a moment or two for some a few opted for lunch with the rest following suit. This gave us the opportunity to watch Jeroen demonstrate the effectiveness of waffles, well in showing how well they held mud anyway! The winch came out in the end! Tony watched all and then drove on in for his own unique experience. Unique in that he was the one with the 8274 to be extracted, everyone else in the group running Goodwinch TDS!

Post lunch we headed on down to what had always been the first section of the day some 6-6 years ago, hence named first drop. The section is accessed directly off the tarmac road so remembering to select 4wd or locking the middle diff is quite key as you come off the road, quite a few people over the years have made a small error here. Thankfully Tony was along with us today to remind us all of the importance of putting her into diff lock! There are two entrances to the section, once directly into a small bunded water course which after a short 80m section tackles a very gnarly steep rutted stepped climb up to the second entry point of the section. Both these then lead across to the top of First Drop – a near 45deg drop into the river down a 12m section of rough rutted and rooted ground. For those not wishing to push the limits too far there is a bypass with a shallower slope that brings you down to First River Drive. The River drive is some 400m long section down through and across the meandering river before exiting back up onto the road to continue on a loop across to First long Drop. Tony had a go through one of the bomb holes near the exit of the river driver but the conditions were just too wet and dug out to make it feasible for any serious attempt without the risk of damage so he duly and sensibly took the bypass route. The little climb up to First Long Drop was a really good test. Keith and Jeroen both gave it a good go before opting for the bypass which in itself is still a great little climb complete with nice sideslope. The long Drop is a lovely drop down through the woods with a little glissading on some of the stones/rocks at the steeper sections before the final drop into the river. With the upstream river sections having been cut back between the seasons the route is now nice and wide with plenty of clearance for the wider tracked vehicles should they wish to venture back with us. For Mike in his narrow Jimny it must of seemed like a motorway!

Having spent around an hour on the ‘First’ sections we headed across to Middle Wood on the network of Byways passing up across the entrance to Deep Ruts. Middle Wood is a great little drive, lots of nicely established tracks with some good leans and bomb holes to contend with enroute. There is plenty of traction there, you just have to look for it sometimes. The large axle twist is Middle Wood provided plenty of entertainment for those that both drove and spectated. Meanwhile the bypass sections also proved quite entertaining for some, momentum seems to be the key here, you don’t want to ‘dilly dally’ on some parts of it!

Last River Drive proved a spectacular finish as always. With the exception of a few we drove the whole new longer section all the way down through the river, around 500m or so. The waterway meanders on through overhanging banks and trees to our final exit out into the fields and fading light as the winter evenings draw in.

With a quick wipe and clean of glass, headlights and number plates everyone is soon happily on their way after another spectacular day out at Bampton.

Some pictures from the day