4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Wellington Drive Round Day – 25th September 16
Words by Mike Cuff and pictures by James Trembath

This Drive Round Day (I’ve done quite a few) started with pleasant drive down from Bristol, I say pleasant as I’d just fitted a new set of BFG KM2s, much better road manners than the old set of BFGs, the only downside was the odd heavy down pour. Arriving at Wellington about 15 minutes before the start, I found everybody else, bar one person, parked up on the access track. After some hello’s, a bit of paperwork, the arrival of the last attendee and watching Kev W (the guy who keeps me out of trouble) found somewhere he could safely stash an 8274 he’d bought off James, James gave a brief safety briefing before we headed off to explore an area referred to as the Island, the group for the day consisting of five Land Rovers, a bob-tailed Range Rover, a Discovery and yours truly in a Jeep Cherokee.

As usual James was trying to start the day with a reasonable gentle “ramble” to get us into the mood. However, the ground conditions did catch a few out, one particular climb we encountered early, with a very muddy tight “momentum zapping” corner at the start did cause a few folks to have to break out their winches. Plus, it gave Scott “fresh from his class win at SWMC” in his Land Rover 90 Truck Cab, to demonstrate a very high degree of persistence, making it nearly all the way to the top before being pulled up the last few feet by Jeroen.

The Wellington site consists of two sections, the Island and the Moor, the sections being separated by a main road. The Island can be best described as large wood that slopes around in a big curve that is criss-crossed with tracks, offering descents/accents, bomb holes, water holes, mud holes, deep ruts and bizarrely the occasional sighting of artificial Deer - archery targets! Using a bit of horse racing jargon, I’d describe the going as soft too boggy (especially where the water pools at the bottom of the slopes), anybody with heavy right food and aggressive tyres can find themselves going down rather than forwards!

Unfortunately, whilst going for our not so gentle ramble, one of the tracks caught me out and I dropped off the edge of a deeply rutted undulating track heading towards some bemused sheep. However, with a quick tug from Scott I was soon on my way again. Personally I put my little mishap down to being very careful, on the last two occasions going along this track, things have gone with a bang! The first occasion was competing in one of James’s sadly missed Challenge Events in my TJ, I tried to redesign the rollcage (I was not the only one) when I hit a tree at speed. The second was when Kev also clipped a tree (possibly the same one) when doing a DRD in his little Willy’s Jeep, forcing the windscreen almost back to the steering wheel. That said, Tim was highly suspicious, I believe I may have heard the phrase “senior moment” and “you were chatting weren’t you” – maybe!

Once the group had reformed, we continued our guided tour, sneaking through the trees, eventually ending up very close to where we started. The tracks claiming a few more victims as we went, allowing folks to practice their recovery techniques and winching. Unfortunately, Paul was not so lucky when his Discovery ended up with one-wheel drive, he had to be pulled off site by Jeroen, before safely making his way home. The only two people who didn’t get stuck were James and Steve in his very capable Rangie. All in all, we were in the woods for about an hour, a bit longer than James was anticipating.

Crossing the main road, we headed to the Moor. This is totally different, it can be best described as a flat rectangle, bound by a road on one long side and a river on the other. The area is covered in trees and is criss-crossed (and do I mean criss-crossed) with tracks that snake in and out of the trees, tracks that in places are deeply rutted, stony, boggy and riddled with tree stumps (land is used for forestry). I must admit I was very wary taking my Cherokee in, as the last time I drove the moor was in a Hotchkiss M201 (French equivalent of a Willy’s Jeep build under licence), and that didn’t escape unscathed, and an M201 is positively tiny compared to a Cherokee. However, my fears were unfounded, the Cherokee was perfectly at home, thanks to very impressive steering lock, Kev’s expert spotting and the fact that some of the tracks had been widened due to forestry work we made it through, impressing not only myself and Kev, but other folks with the Cherokees manoeuvrability. The Cherokee getting through some sections in one go, where the 90’s had to shunt. That said I did choose to miss out one section, in fact everybody did except for Will who made it about 10 feet before sinking into deep mud! Whilst in the wood Kev pointed out some of the areas that he had helped clear in the Wellington DRW working party weekend, a huge amount of hardwork had been done to makes routes passable by James and his willing band of volunteers, without them DRDs would not be possible, so thanks to all.

After some more tree hugging, James led us out of the woods via what can only be described as a hay meadow to our lunch spot, arriving just as the some came out. Lunch time being the time to discuss all things offroad whilst demolish various goodies, I spent the time catching up on Tim’s rallying experiences his classic Sierra Costworth, now there is an expensive hobby.

After about 15 minutes, just as the rain arrived (brief shower, you know the kind of thing that only the UK offers, bright sunshine and rain!) we re-entered the woods eventually making our way back to the main road and the Island. On route Kev spotted something hanging down from Tony’s Land Rover, it turned out to be his very bent steering damper. This was the perfect opportunity for the Land Rover owners to show off the number of tools they carry, this time Will producing a very large and impressive Halfords set, an opportunity for a bit of Tom (or James) foolery as the tool gets misappropriated!

Not wanting to bore you (plus I’m half way down a second side of virtual A4), we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the back end of the Island, the far end of the curve so to speak, covering the same kind of terrain we encountered in the morning including one track that can only be described as a roller coaster of bumps and dips. One track we encountered in the afternoon even caught out James who had to winch to clear it, as you’ve probably guessed, every group member then tried to make sure they cleared the track, giving Scott another chance to demonstrate (and prove) that persistence does indeed pay off – impressive in small tired non-locked truck cab 90!

Eventually we ended up at what I call the “bomb hole” section, a section that has changed greatly due to the forestry work, here you can spend time weaving in and out of holes via tight turns and sunken tracks. I thought I’d come to grief in one hole, I just couldn’t quite make the turn and when I tried to take a shunt I got hung up on something. However, after a bit off pedal I eventually moved (bounced) backwards enough to allow me to make the turn.

To end, I had a great day out, as usual Kev was an excellent co-driver keeping me out of trouble. The company was great; I find these days very reminiscent of my outing to Ireland to do the Three Peaks, everybody in the group mixing in to make progress. The weather was good and the drive home uneventful, the 10 mile tailback I drove past in the morning had melt away. As usual, I cannot recommend these days highly enough, yes, I’ll be going back.

Some pictures from the day