4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day – 31st January 16
Words and pictures by Richard Watson

An early start saw a group of us converging on Costa for a hot drink and a catch up with some of the regular visitors, along with a few new faces. We met up with James and the rest of the group after a short convoy drive across to the farm. The group of 6 vehicles ranged from a classic Series 3, through a variety of Defender 90's to two nicely kitted out TD5 Discovery 2's.

Having seen the video from January's DRD I was expecting it to be wet, but luckily the water levels have dropped back to normal over the last few weeks so my less-than-complete snorkel was less of a concern. James welcomed us, gave us a brief on the plan for the day before putting us in a running order which gave the best mix of experience and winches in the right places.

First stop was warm-up woods, an area that gives everyone a good introduction to what is to come, and those of us who haven't been out for a while a chance to re-adjust to the levels of grip available. We started off with a gentle follow-the-leader run around the woods before having 10 minutes to explore by ourselves, or follow others around as they did so. There are a number of nice climbs and drops through the woods, mud holes and greasy slopes ready to catch you out just when you think you've got a feel for the place.

Once we'd had our fun there we drove back onto the lane, past the farm and along to the drop into the river. Tony and Steve elected to try heading through the river and up the bank whilst the rest of us started from road level. Tony gave it a number of ever more enthusiastic attempts, front wheels bouncing in the air but with no progress up the slope so the winch rope was pulled out, before he realised he hadn't engaged the centre diff lock! A final attempt saw the 90 drive itself up the hill unaided. Steve then moved into position in the Discovery 2 and gave it a few strong attempts, before admitting defeat and pulling the winch line out.

James lead on down into the river via the steep drop, which the rest of us chose to bypass via an easier slope and followed the course of the river down to the exit. Whilst this looks and feels strange, the river has a good solid rocky base and any Land Rover product would find it easy to negotiate, although the exit is a little tight for the shinier models.

We looped around into the woods again and headed to the top of long drop. The top section of this track has become gradually more worn and requires some commitment to get over the tree roots next to a large tree. James and then Jay made it look easy (on taller tyres!), then it was the turn of the Series 3. A gentle approach didn't quite give the momentum to pass the holes around the roots, but the second attempt; flat out in first saw the little Series scrabble through and to the top in an impressive display of what gave Land Rover its reputation. Jonathan followed with a few attempts in my 90, trying to take it gently but realising after two attempts that sometimes you just have to floor it through. The Discovery’s and Tony’s 90 all made it up on the first attempt, the extra wheelbase of the Discovery helping to avoid the holes dug by shorter vehicles before.

The long drop back down the hill didn't seem as slippery as it has been previously, the slippery fallen leaves having been washed clear of the ruts. It was whilst at the steepest point of this hill that the Series decided that it needed a rest and stopped running. Russell managed to nurse it down the hill and into the river, where it still refused to run - the joys of carburetors are quickly forgotten with today's engines! James brought his 90 back round the track to winch Russell out of the way so the rest of the group could continue on, then Tim stayed on to wait for things to settle on the Series.

The rest of us headed up the track and onto Wet Corner for lunch, although given the weather on the day it seemed more apt to rename it Windy Corner. There was a lot of discussion on who should give it a go, but ultimately we all agreed that none of us wanted to risk a wet seat so we moved on to another wood section.

A long track leads to a steep drop into a large puddle, which I have learnt previously is best dropped into slowly. It's not ideal for vehicles with large overhangs but Steve isn't expecting his vehicle to last beyond May so pushed on anyway, taking a little more of the rear bumper off as he went through. Rod liked the shape of his rear bumper so opted to backtrack slightly and miss that section out. Again, the Series pushed on through without any problems, the narrower track width probably helping it to miss the biggest holes.

James slowly edged up to the large bomb hole which seems to get deeper every time I visit, his 90's rear wheel lifting high in the air as the front dropped in, the wing bars proving their worth by carving their way along the bank. Liking the shape of my wings and having taken the right hand option on a previous trip, I advised Jonathan to follow that route. "Just keep as far left as you can and keep the wheels turning, don't brake as you'll just slip towards the hole" I advised, before running away to take a photo. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to take a picture as Jonathan took that advice to mean "go go go and don't stop" and before I knew it he was off! Unfortunately the nearside rear wheel crested a normally helpfully-placed lump rather than hooking itself round it and into the ruts, causing the back to slide round towards the very hole he was aiming to avoid. He handled it well, sliding to a stop with the offside wheel just on the edge, then powering forwards before anyone had time to suggest what to do next, although I'm sure the seat was not that shape before! Surprisingly, nobody else elected to take the same route.

Jay followed on through the bomb hole, his wider tyres keeping the bodywork off the scenery. Steve elected to take his Discovery through as well, proving just how capable the D2 is when you don't need to think about the state of the bodywork. He just needed a short winch pull to get him out of the end of it. Russell’s Series also needed a short winch pull to pull it down the hill through some deeper ruts where it had grounded out. The group then split, half taking the harder route through a gulley, the others the easier route out into the fields. Again, the Discovery 2 impressed with how easily it handled the route.

A sodden field provided some entertainment as we moved onto the next section, trying to avoid following the same ruts to spare the grass, and then sliding down a gentle slope to the track below. No matter what tyres anyone had, they all slid on this section but luckily grip reappeared before going too far off the track.

Another river drive from the farm is always good fun - a sharply twisting route with high banks and trees either side, seemly made to just squeeze a Land Rover through, with the odd headlamp deep hole to surprise you before climbing out of it again. The field on the other side also provided more entertainment as it was so soft, Jonathan and Rod both getting caught out and ending up in the soggy lower part and Rod needing a winch pull out of the bottom of it.

The final challenge for the day was the river drive we'd done earlier but in reverse, heading upstream and up the hill we'd descended previously. This was a challenge for the Series 3 which struggled to keep all its wheels on the ground to provide traction, but it made it up after a few attempts. Having cleaned the lights in the stream we followed on up the hill and out to the road, time to say goodbye and book in for the next one...

Some pictures from the day