Off Roading

14th October found us at an off roading event organised by Land Rover Monthly magazine. The trail was a step up from the usual green lanes I’ve driven, on a 3 mile course expertly prepared by the chaps at Experience the Country near Milton Keynes.

a long line of land rovers

There were wooded sections to navigate, through some tight twisty turns between the trees:

following a Land Rover defender through the woods

There were some very challenging sections which I had to skip, due to ground clearance and the absence of low range and locking diffs on the Freelander. Oh for a Defender or a Disco. (sigh).

There was lots of mud!

muddy trail

Here, we are about to follow this chap over a steep hill:

discovery ascending the hill

Some stills from our in-car video:

approaching the hill starting to climb hang on!

Where has the ground gone? over the other side

Terrain Response set to Mud & Ruts throughout and much use made of Hill Decent Control. I continue to be impressed and pleased with the performance of “R2”.

My Freelander 2 and some mud

In a carpark full of Land Rovers he felt right at home. Parking Rules Applied.

Parking Rules Applied. A bunch of Land Rovers

It was great to be using the Freelander in the environment for which it was designed! And yes, we went round the course several times!

Time for the jet wash

I’d quite like to do it all again!



I had to take my Freelander into my Land Rover dealer today. I needed them to fix the passenger side exterior mirror. They’d replaced the glass and motor a while back but the adjustment controls were all muddled up: moving the joystick down made the mirror go up instead of down, and vice versa. It was driving me nuts but this was the first chance I’d had to go back.

It took two of the dealer’s excellent Americanos before they’d finished but it was worth the wait, as I had time to check out the local geocaches on my iPhone App. There was one cache very close by which I had been meaning to do on previous occasions (it had been temped last time I was here) so once my Land Rover visit was complete I made the short journey to GZ for a very easy find.

Funny thing was, the cache had been renewed within the last few weeks and only had one find between then and me finding it today. That last cacher had signed the cache page with a ‘no pen’ log, which I found puzzling as there was a perfectly serviceable pencil in the cache container. Then I noticed that their last find – just the day before that- had been a geocache in Zanzibar. Armchair cacher? Owner of a teleport device? Or maybe they got their dates mixed up.

Ho hum. I was just pleased to get a cache, something of a rarity for me these days.

Today I has been…

Today I has been mainly washing my Freelander. Last time it was clean was 4 months ago. It got to the point where I just couldn’t look at all that dirt anymore.

Now, if it snows tonight (it’s a possibility, apparently) then at least it will look smart and shiny for the mandatory ‘look everyone we’ve had some snow!’ pictures. 🙂

Getting The Freelander Muddy

My off-roading chums organised a green lane trip on Salisbury Plain.

The gang

It was billed as “non-damaging” so I decided to take my Freelander 2 (which we call “R2”).


The Freelander doesn’t have the ground clearance of the Range Rover or Discovery 3’s in our group but, apart from a couple of lanes with deep ruts (which I dealt with by straddling the ruts) and a water splash which looked very deep from where I was (and which I chose to miss out), R2 took everything in his stride. Most of the time I had Grass/Gravel/Snow selected on the Terrain Response, switching to Mud/Ruts when required. At one section – which was a bit of an axle twister – R2 had one wheel in the air several times! When we encountered a steep climb I let R2 negotiate the start in first gear with the engine pulling along at idle, once it got steeper I just gave him a bit of welly and he simply shot up the slope with no drama.

Here’s our navigator checking the byway signs. As the Plain is a military training area, access to civilians is controlled and we had to ensure the byway we wanted to drive was open. We didn’t want to get shot at!

Checking the Byway signs

The only lane I had a problem with was a fairly narrow one enclosed by hedges and small trees and it was inevitable that these would rub along the side of the vehicle.

A bit of a narrow lane

Half way along, we encountered a huge pile of fly-tipped rubbish. It’s so disappointing; some unscrupulous people will fly tip anywhere just to save a few bucks. Getting past this obstacle wasn’t easy to do without risking a scratch or too and unfortunately I collected a few. No lasting damage though. Now that I’ve washed the mud off I’m sure the scratches will polish out with a bit of elbow grease.

I love the openness of the Plain. If the weather’s nice you’ve got all that “Big Sky”.

Front and back

In the middle distance, lots of evidence of the Army’s tank training:

Big sky

We didn’t see any tanks. 😦 The only Army activity we saw were a couple of platoons of squaddies doing some running, some of them carrying bergens or mortar ammo. At their RV they had a strategically placed Land Rover ambulance! 🙂


On Saturday night I went to pick my daughter up after her works do.

I arrived at the hotel venue just before pumpkin time, parking discreetly slightly back from the reception entrance/exit where a few revellers were mincing about. Then, shortly after midnight, the noise from the disco ceased abruptly. Chucking out time! Small groups of partygoers started leaving and cabs started arriving.

So there I was, sitting there contentedly waiting for my daughter to appear, when a slightly inebreated chap, accompanied by his girlfriend tottering on very high heels, approached my vehicle. He tapped on the front passenger window. I thought, he’ll realise his error shortly, I’ll ignore him.  He rapped on the window again so I gave him what I call my dismissive wave. By this time his girlfriend had made it to the rear door and they both started trying the door handles but were unable to open the doors (my doors lock automatically when I drive off so they were still locked). They both seemed perplexed by this development and tried the doors again. They’d obviously not read the memo about not getting into unknown cars. So I opened the passenger window an inch and engaged them in conversation.


This is a taxi

Me: “I’m not a cab.”

Bloke: “Uh?”

Me: “I’m not a cab. Or a taxi.”

Bloke: “You’re not a cab then?”

(Bear in mind he’s trying to get into a muddy Freelander)


This is not a taxi. You can see how they’d get confused.

Me: “No. I’m waiting for someone.”

Bloke: “Who you waiting for then?”

Me (still trying to be polite): “That’s none of your business.”

Bloke: “Uh, ok.”

Girl: “He not a cab then?”

Bloke: “No, he’s not a cab.”

After a minute or so of just standing there looking bemused, they wandered off. Luckily, at that moment my daughter arrived so I unlocked the doors, she hopped in and I drove off before any more drunks tried to join us. You can’t make this stuff up!


Freelander @ two years

So, I’ve had my Freelander for two years now and I’ve been looking at my mileage stats. In the last 12 months I’ve covered over 2,000 miles more than last year, up by about 17%. And that doesn’t include commuting because there isn’t any.

Seems my insurance company were correct when they said my mileage would go up when I retired…

Oh, and I had the Freelander serviced last week by Chipperfield Land Rover. At the risk of jinxing things, for once I couldn’t fault them. Long may it continue. 😉

Defender fun

Had another invite to the Land Rover Experience, so this time me and Bob decided to drive the Defender 110.

LR Defender 110

Our nearest LRE site is based on the Luton Hoo estate, so that’s where we went. Our instructor – Dave 3 – was extremely knowledgeable and a thoroughly nice bloke. So we spent 3 hours taking it in turns to drive a variety of terrains around the extensive estate; rock fields, steep climbs, very steep side slopes, and a ridiculously steep descent, all set in scenic farmland.

Here’s me driving. We spent a lot of time at this sort of angle.

Although it was the middle of July, Dave 3 was keen to give me some advice about driving in deep snow in my Freelander 2, which on the face of it sounds bizarre but was actually related to the use of my Freelander’s Terrain Response in gravel and deep sand. Of course, the Defender doesn’t have Terrain Response.What it does have is an excellent Traction Control system, buckets of torque, a low range transfer box and diff-lock. There’s nothing it can’t handle.

So long as you know what you’re doing. 😉

Here I am negotiating an extreme side slope. This feels and looks the most terrifying from the passenger seat, because the ground seems so very close to your side window and surely it’s only a matter of time before the Defender falls onto its side! Of course the Land Rover is more than capable of dealing with this sort of terrain provided, as I said before, you have the necessary skills.

side slope

Also out on the estate were a Discovery 4 and a Range Rover Sport. Here’s the ‘Sport doing a spot of cross-axle-ing. Just look at that suspension travel.

Range Rover Sport

And here’s Bob about to do a bit of wading.

After a great afternoon trying to get the Defender muddy it was back to the LRE base for tea* and medals.

(* Other beverages were available)

Here’s one last wistful glance back at the Defender. It is a real shame that production will end in 2015. It’s an absolute classic.

Land Rover Defender

Guess I’d better start saving… 🙂

Images © Steve Bryant & Bob Haigh


Cornish Wedding

This time last week we set off to drive some 300 miles down to Cornwall for a family wedding. I, Mrs WizzardPrang and our 2 daughters piled into my Freelander with enough luggage to last a fortnight, thereby increasing the Freely’s weight from about 1.8 tons to nearly 3. Despite this handicap the Freely performed superbly and we arrived in St Mawes raring to go. This was a 3-day event so we’d rented a house for the week.

It was an upside-down house, i.e. the living room was upstairs to make the most of the view. Here it is:

view of the living room

For some reason the WiFi was set to deliver just a single IP address, in other words it would only allow one device to be connected at a time. This was a bit of a problem for us so while Mrs WP unpacked 24 pairs of shoes I set about configuring our devices so that we could all access the internet at the same time (essential if I was to avoid a family mutiny). It was simply a case of assigning manual IP addresses so, 1 MacBook Air, 3 iPads and 4 iPhones later we were good to go. Before you reach for the “comment” button, yes I had tried to hack the router’s DHCP first.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. The view from our balcony.

view from the balcony

Stage one of the event was afternoon tea at the hotel, so after freshening up we made our way down to the harbour. Now, I had looked at the OS map before so I knew that there would be a bit of an elevation change. In other words, we were at the top of a steep hill and the hotel was at the bottom.

the hill from our house

This bit was 1:3

the steepest bit

As we found out later, going back up was much harder.

On the way down we found this old well.

Old well

So we arrived at the hotel, The Idle Rocks, for cream tea on the terrace overlooking the harbour. Very nice.

The Idle Rocks across the harbour

After tea we walked back up the hill (gasp!) to change for dinner, then back to the Idle Rocks for an evening of chatting, drinks, a cornish buffet and a quiz. My wife’s family always does a quiz. Then back up the hill again. (Gasp, wheeze)

Next day we had the morning to ourselves so we had a wander around St Mawes.

St Mawes Harbour

St Mawes is quaint with some interesting details. Two shillings & threepence a gallon. Good grief.

Petrol Pumps

The view from the other side of the hotel, with the Idle Rocks and its terrace on the right.

harbour view from The Idle Rocks

I haven’t mentioned geocaching yet, have I? There was a cache nearby. It would have been daft not to grab it, or the other one I found on the walk back to our house. If you are interested, they are: GC4JK3H and GC1RZMQ

In the evening we returned to the Idle Rocks for a champagne reception followed by dinner, speeches and dancing. And cake. And drinking. And, just so you know, I don’t dance. Ever. On Sunday morning, we returned to the hotel terrace for the last time for coffee and cakes, and to say our farewells.

We had a brilliant time with gorgeous weather and the whole weekend went off extremely well. Plus once we said goodbye to everyone else, we still had a few more days on our own before heading home.






Main Dealers

I have decided that I am not impressed with my local Land Rover dealer. A while back my Freelander went in for  warranty work on the clutch.

When I got my Freelander back I discovered that they hadn’t tightened one of two jubilee clips on the air intake ducting when they put it back.

Today I found that the rear window one-touch-close function didn’t work. All that was required was to reset the windows. According to the manual, after battery disconnection each window has to be reset. Seems the dealer’s spanner monkey only reset the front windows.

Hope they haven’t missed anything important…

This week I has been mainly doing…

I swapped the diesel-guzzling Rang Rover Sport for my Freelander. Despite the fun I had driving the RRS it was a joy to get my own LR back.

On Wednesday evening they tested the new Buncefield Siren which is designed to warn the local populace of imminent catastrophe. Unfortunately we were out so we missed it. I hope it was suitably loud.

In a moment of madness I decided to tart up the woodwork on the rear elevation of our house. Not completed it yet. I hate DIY.

I’ve had an intermittent problem with my MacBook Air dropping its Wifi connection. According to  Apple discussions,  it’s something to do with the latest version of Mountain Lion (10.8.4). While we all wait for Apple to fix that, I decided to delete all the known networks from System Prefs and Keychain, I also renamed  ~/library/preferences/ (to force OS X to create a new one). Made no difference. A suggestion on the forum was to reset the SMC but I couldn’t see how that would help. Instead I reset the PRAM. That seems to have cured it.

And I haven’t yet been geocaching in September.

An eclectic week.