4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day – 18th January 15
Words and pictures by Mike Cuff

When first hearing about the Bampton Drive Round Day on the 18th the plan was to pop down for lunch and present Kev Williams with a J33P Tankard as a thankyou, at Christmas Kev retired from the J33P Jeep Adventure Club committee after roughly 10 years of service. However when James heard what I was planning, he said I could sit in with him, I could just picture the mental cogs going around in James’s head, passenger seat = write up! Hence you get to read my prose!

The day started with a 60 mile drive from Bristol to the motorway services at M5 J27 to meet Tim and several other attendees at about 9. 00ish. At the services, over Hot Chocolate (highly recommended) we all got talking about cars from our youth, Cortinas, Escorts, Fiestas, you know the kind of thing, that we ended up leaving the services a bit later than expected – I blame Tim – anyway, as per my last Bampton Drive Round Day about four years ago, I nearly got totally lost again because I couldn’t keep up with Tim due to getting stuck behind a VW Camper!

Arriving at the start point, a farmyard owned by Richard, the land owner, we all signed in and introduced ourselves. As usual, all of the attendees had already been to previous Drive Round Days and knew the form. It was at this point James broke the news that his Landie was DOA, the rear spring mount had broken whilst driving down so no spare seat. Lack of maintenance apparently according to Tim! Luckily Keith came to the rescue and offered me a spot in the back of his Black Puma 90, not the most comfortable of spots but better than no spot at all, plus I wasn’t expecting to be in the back for a lot of the day, I like to get out and about and use my legs, especially as I was missing the daily dog walks.

After a quick brief from James during which he announced that as everybody was experienced Drive Round Dayer’s, if everybody agreed, after a little potter around “warm up woods” we’d head over to “slippery side slope woods”, where there was a good chance of getting stuck. As you’d expect, there were no dissenters! So off we headed, Keith leading the way (James acting as navigator) followed by Jeroen (Red 90 hardtop), Kevin Luxton (Red 90 truck cab), Tony (Black 90 truck cab), Tim (Green 90 truck cab with canvas tilt – he likes to buck the trend) and Mike (Suzuki Jimny). Arriving at “warm up woods” James took us around a route that offered several obstacles that were all drivable but required a bit of commitment to clear, some folks needing several attempts, but no refusals! I had a good view out of the rear window. After about 15 minutes, we started to make our way to “slippery side slope woods” via the river, where Keith (luckily for my rear end) opted to take the bypass leaving Jeroen and Tony to enter the river via “first drop”, a safe but slippery steep descent into the river.

Clearing the river and after a short drive we arrived at “slippery side slope woods”. Entry into the woods was via a long twisting, deeply rutted, wet and boggy track. After very good initial progress (you have to remember that these are stockish vehicles) Keith got bogged down, where upon it turned into one of those winch a bit, drive a bit, winch a bit tracks. The passengers acting as WBs, myself for Keith and Kev Williams for Jeroen, sorry, can’t remember the other folks names. Reaching the end of track, we had naturally through the pace of moving along split into two groups, the second group, with the modified vehicles (under the control of Tim, James’s helper) were having a of lot of trouble navigating the track, this was primarily due to them all getting stuck, Tony due to very wide tyres and Mike due to very small tyres. Initially when we started the day, the plan was for Mike to follow Tim (90 with Simex and Lockers) so he could pull Mike if he got stuck, however they unfortunately entered the woods in the wrong order so things went a bit a rye.

Rather than sit around, James told us to push on and so we discovered where the name “slippery side slope woods” came from. Doubling back on ourselves, James started to lead us slowly through the trees, doing some tree husbandry with his chainsaw to clear a path - there were a good number of broken branches due to winter storms – the three vehicles searching for grip on a leave covered slimy slide slope. At some points, when grip was lost, all four tyres spinning and the vehicle remaining stationary or there was risk of sliding into a tree, we resorted to winching. Once out of the trees, there was one final surprise, a toboggan run to the main track, a 50 foot 45 degree descent to the exit track. Being the first vehicle, Keith opted to drive it, however by the time he slithered to the bottom removing what little top surface and grip there was, the following two vehicles opted to winch down, a task complicated by the vehicles only having front winches. Please note I’m not complaining, getting through stockish vehicles was alot more fun that a full on challenge trucks.

Once we were on the main track, thoughts turned to the second group, so we walked up to meet them and do a bit of friendly winding up, you know the kind of thing, “what’s been keeping you, we’ve had lunch, were ready to push on etc”. Finding them at the end of the track, they had decided to turn around, this time with Mike behind Tim, after a few minutes of enthusiastic towing, they all made it out of the woods. At which point we all headed off to the lunch spot, where Mike opted to leave us because his Jimny had a suspected broken gearbox mount – it was very hard to tell due to the amount of mud stuck to the underside.

After lunch (and a lovely cup of tea, thanks Keith) I jumped in with David Webber (he had arrived just before lunch) and we headed towards “top wood” via the river past “first drop”, a short tarmac section and various Byways. After about thirty minutes, arriving at “top wood” we looped around on several different tracks, before heading down to “middle wood” where Tim took the lead down to a new section he had driven with the landowner on the last outing. It took a little searching to confirm the exact route, but we got there in the end.

We found the right track and eventually found ourselves at the edge of the woods, our path blocked by steep very steep and muddy slope. Tim powered up it, his lockers and Simex’s working hard, at the top he acted as a winch anchor. Regardless of how hard everybody else tried, they all had to winch. In the case of Kevin, it “did” for his winch, the wiring to the motor burning out forcing him to be winched the last few feet by another vehicle. Once we were all up, we headed back to the farmyard via a couple of fields and a final river section, a river section that consisted of driving between sheer banks that were three to four feet high and navigating several very tight corners, multiple shunts required. Clearing the river we parked up for goodbyes. I then headed back to the farmyard to present Kev Williams with his well deserved J33P Tankard.

Thanks to everybody who made it a very enjoyable day out. I’m really looking forward to driving my own vehicle at a future Drive Round Weekend.

Some pictures from the day