4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day – 29th November 15
Words Mike Cuff and pictures by James Trembath

On Sunday 29th November 2015 James Trembath, ably assisted by Tim Jones, ran the first Drive Round Day (DRD) of the 2015/2016 season, the day attended by Steve and Curtis Purrington (Bob Tailed lifted Range Rover), Jeroen Van Der Hooft and Steve (Defender 90 Station Wagon), Tony, Becki and Toby Dunstone (Defender 90 truck cab), Will Mckean and Freddie (Green Defender 90 Rag Top) and yours truely with Kevin Williams (Jeep Cherokee).

For the majority of the group, the day started with a drinks stop at a local Motorway Services, before being led to the start point on a nearby farm by Tim - Great for those who’ve not attended a DRD before. In my case, after a 60 mile drive from Bristol I was a bit late for a drink, so I headed straight to the farm, I know my way as I’ve attended several DRDs before, though not for many years in my own vehicle.

At the farm, I met up with my old friend Kevin Williams, Kev and I go back many years, we’ve co driven for each other in challenge events and DRD style events, Kev is somebody I have complete faith in, something you need when threading a vehicle the size of Jeep Cherokee through tight trees.

At 10:30, following everybody completing the 4x4 Adventures paperwork, James gave us a brief safety talk (primarily targeted at ascent/descent discipline) and a quick overview of the day before arranging the vehicles so that if one got stuck, the proceeding vehicle had enough grunt to potentially act as recovery truck if the stuck vehicle had no winch. In my case I ended up being last so I could optionally bypass obstacles, this is because the Cherokee is not exactly what you might call a small offroader, plus James knew the air intake was still located behind the passenger head light and I had no side protection.

At this point I should give you a bit of background, this was only my second outing in the Cherokee since buying; the first was the week before at J33P. ORG Winter Warmer event at Seven Sisters (aka Walters Arena). After 10+ years of owning a very capable Wrangler TJ (affectionately known as the Model T), I took a three year break from offroading in my own vehicle, before buying the Cherry in Feb 2015, something that was meant to be you might say, it was posted on Autotrader at 5:15 Friday evening at a dealer that was 4 miles from my home, I paid for it at 9. 15 the following day and had it safely tucked up at home by 10. 00, compulsive purchase or what! Based on my years of experience of playing with Jeeps, the Cherokee went through a toughening process by Ivor Daniels of Road Runner Repairs (somebody I’ve known for years,somebody I trust implicitly to do a great job) before taking it Seven Sisters and the DRD for a shake down. So to cut to the chase, the DRD was a bit of a watershed day, first long motorway drive (it got trailered to Seven Sisters), first outing in tight woods and mud.

Going back to the DRD, post the safety brief James led us to Warmup Woods, after an initial guided circuit, we were left to our own devises (James parked up in the middle) for 15 minutes or so to blow away the cobwebs and get into the swing of it, in my case, trying to master an auto, tackling a series of short ascents/descents/tight turns/bomb boles. Conditions were wet, muddy and leafy.

The route taken after Warmup Woods depends on various factors such as the weather, ground conditions and group make up. The routes linking up a large number of “named” obstacles such as First drop, Middle Wood and Wet Corner, the routes consisting of long offroad tracks and the odd short road section. One track now having the name of “Slippery Side Slope”, after I drove a long at an angle of about 45% with my wing mirror perilously close to the bank!

In the case of this DRD, in the morning we tackled, First Long Drop, First Drop, First River Drive and Warrens Hill before breaking for lunch at Priestlands, an old Challenge Event Site. Lunch at Priestlands was a reasonably short 10 minute affair, even though the lunch spot was in the bottom of a small valley, the wind and rain managed to find us. After lunch, we tackled Priestlands, Wet Corner, Middle Wood and Last River Drive before a quick series of handshakes, thankyous and goodbyes, everyone heading off home at around 4:00pm as darkness fell and the rain came again.

First long drop is a 30 to 40 degrees 100m slippery descent into a river; the track having a big step in the middle. First drop is a 50 degree 10m slippery descent into a river; with a sharp 90 degree bend after the run out area. First long drop was ok, although by the time I went down the top surface had been well and truly polished so it was more like a toboggan run than a controlled descent, one with plenty of run off at the end, however I was forced to bypass first drop, I was simply too big to make the turn at the bottom, even the 90s were taking shunts.

First River Drive starts with a 50 degree 10m drop into the river followed by few hundred metres of river. I was offered the chance of bypassing the drop, however after watching a couple of 90s go down, I gave it go and with Kev spotting I dropped in surprisingly smoothly, where upon I spent the next few minutes snaking along the axle depth river, a foot or so to spare either side, the Cherokee being surprisingly manoeuvrable, with Kev squelching a long in the mud next to me until we found a spot where he could jump back in.

Warrens Hill is located in a Pine wood that hides a series of ascents and descents through the trees, including two new unnamed descents just opened up by the land owner – he likes to try and keep things fresh. The first being 45 degrees 80m in length, the second 25 degrees 70m in length, both slippery and technical, care being required to avoid the trees stumps. In my case I bypassed the new descents as there was just too much risk of body damage, at the time I had no side protection.

Priestlands is an old wood, one that has previously been used for Challenge Events; however since I last competed their many trees have been felled. We found the tracks in Priestlands to be very wet, deeply rutted and slippery, ascending/descending through the trees and stumps before exiting via a narrow log bridge. One short ascent proving particularly awkward, with a tight step located between two trees at the start, vehicles were unable to build any momentum so only those with some form of traction aid made it up without winching.

Wet Corner is located in another Pine wood, access to Wet Corner is via a long track that loops around the edge of the wood, a track that meanders between the trees and has a lot of dips and undulations. When our group got to Wet Corner everybody deciding to give it a miss as nobody wanted to get “buried” in mud, it had not been cleaned out for a while, once cleaned it’s about headlight depth with a good base.

Middle Wood is another old wood that has a rather interesting exit known as Axle Twist Alley. To get to Axle Twist Alley you drive a long a very undulating track that culminates in some deepish bomb holes that have shear drop going into them, certainly tested my Cherry’s fuel tank guard! At Axle Twist Alley, you have three options, depending on the size and make up of your vehicles. Option 1 involves an ascent with a deep drop off on the left and a 1m+ deep gully on the right, options 2 and 3 involve an ascent with either the left or right hand side of your vehicle in a gully. After watching four other vehicles take option 2, James asked me to decide with the words “Option 1 probably offers the best chance of NO body damage!”. Consulting with Kev, option 1 it was. With Kev giving directions and using a waffle to climb out of the ruts, the Cherry crawled its way down, the Cherry surprising a lot of people with its ability. As usual, thanks to Kev for his excellent directions.

Last River Drive, as it’s namely implies is a 140m river drive that leads back up to the farm yard. There are several entry and exit points depending on vehicle length, typically river is axle depth. It’s definitely an interesting drive, the river banks are higher than the vehicles and care has to be taken negotiating the tight bends. All in all, a nice end to a Drive Round Day.

Since writing this report, James has produced a video that does a great job of showing the terrain and obstacles you encounter when taking part in a DRD, for more info please look at this report.

Some pictures from the day