4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day – 21st December 14
Words and Pictures by James Trembath

Our second Bampton Drive Round Day of the season saw the firm favourites returning yet again, this time Jeroen, Keith, and Tony in their 90s and Mike in his Jimny were joined by Matt with his Bowler Hardtop 90. Matts 90 is another discreetly capable vehicle with Ashcroft lockers and up rated axle internals plus a few Bowler ‘bits & pieces’ here and there!

The day started a little damp to say the least, but that was the weather alone, spirits were high! We took the obligitary route to Warm Up woods where Matt was able to demonstrate the lateral ability of his STTs on a sharp muddy corner. Luckily no one saw – or mentioned it after!

We tried to stay with the regular order of sections for the day, this will change with our next DRD when we have some new sections to add in and Priestlands to visit after its long (2-3yr rest) So we headed to Warrens Hill, after the usual mix match of tracks we pushed it a little further with a long attempted climb up one of the usual descents. It certainly took its toll on the tdis where the vehicles had to dig deep, more so with Tonys and the larger wheels too. The TDCi noticeable worked hard too but came up with minimal spin; a credit to Keith and his driving for one of them, the opposite to Matts vehicle with a load more grunt which spun out near the top, the STTs struggling a little more with the change in direction than perhaps the other shod rims. Tony showed us how to climb Sam’s Hill (again) the ruts there are certainly hard work, but he made light work of it, the rest of us took the easy option and bypassed that section.

Warrens Quarry proved amusing for all, less Jeroen that is, with his exception, everyone made the steep wet grassy transit from the road up onto the slopes above the quarry without much trouble, Jeroen decided to invest some time in ploughing so we left him, under Tim’s watchful eye too it. There is proof that Jeroen made it in the end, but it seems to have been lost! The Quarry as expected was pretty wet but easy going once you were down in there. Tony decided to make his own route out and was glad of both Keith as an anchor point and the fact that he had a winch. Meanwhile the thinking Mike and Keith both drove, with ease they would add, up out of the quarry coming back up Keith’s drop.

With the wind and drizzle dropping the temperature we headed on down to First Drop area for lunch. Richard – the landowner kindly went to work with his axe, whilst we ate, to adjust a tree route on the river climb exit. This meant the step at the top of the exit route out of the river was now more achievable and allowed both Tony and Tim to clear the section. With time this will prove a more acceptable route to the more standard vehicles and also allow us to drop back down there once there have been a little attrition of the ground around the step. First Drop itself was pretty easy going, all things considered. The drop in is much more controlled than that of the past. It also has a large silted area at the bottom that serves to slow your momentum. We then headed down First River Drive before taking the bypass exit out onto the road to follow the route back up and around to First Long Drop. The climb up there was surprisingly easier than previous DRDs. Maybe the shear ‘wetness’ of the mud aided tread clearing but it made it much more achievable with Keith, Matt, tony and Tim all making the climb leaving Mike and Jeroen to take the bypass. It should be noted that Mike had not yet needed a tow anywhere at this stage which his passenger Chris, kindly remarked was unusual! I am not sure how they got on for the rest of the afternoon!

We didn’t have many takers for wet corner! The Suzuki would of faired well, at least its door seals would of worked! So with that we headed off to Middle Wood. On approaching Middle wood, Tim led Matt and Mike off, under Richards guidance, to take in a new route that Richard had found. I believe there was a little winching for some at times but it went well and makes a circular route of Middle wood now possible. Meanwhile the remainder headed on down the ‘traditional’ Middle Wood route. With two vehicles (the lead car and Tony) taking on the axle twist the reminder took the new route off the Left. With the water course having being diverted this New route was a little wet underfoot but it will, with luck, develop with time to bring on its own challenges. Tony and the Lead vehicle then continued down the Sunken River section, a first for Tony and a while since the route has been completed on an actual DRD rather than just recces. There are some great axle twists and a locker in the rear is a massive aid as you negotiate the side slopes through complete articulations. Its certainly not a route for the fait hearted and its probably not far off the limit of how far you can go without tipping over (this coming from the man who has rolled a fair few times). Jeroen and Mike meanwhile headed on down the usual route to meet Tim and his group at the gate.

With Last River Drive to contend with the day was drawing to and end. The rain over the last 24hrs had certainly helped swell the depth over the river course and the pools made it even more noticeable. I believe the end verdict was Mike didn’t want to take the little Jimny much deeper than that! – There was always the Bypass he could of taken!

Some pictures from the day