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!


Hatley Heart Attack

Last weekend we had planned to take the Freelander greenlaning. Then this message came up:

error message - terrain response system fault

That meant the 4 wheel drive system was U/S. Greenlaning was off!

So instead, Bob and I went geocaching in his car. We decided to go for some numbers and chose the Hatley Heart Attack series. This comprises 533 caches (!) but Bob had worked out a small loop we could reasonably achieve in a few hours.

We parked in the village of Sutton and started with a simple offset multi, GC5ZZKX. After that one, the rest were simple trads. Some were easier to find than others:

A simple base of post

There were a couple of caches mixed in amongst the HHA ones which were quite interesting so we incorporated these in our route. The container for  GC6MC7F was this Matryoshka.

Russian nesting dolls

The other one (GC6N4JJ) took a bit of finding because to begin with we found ourselves looking in the wrong ditch. When we did finally locate the cache it was simply huge! A veritable pirate treasure chest. If you find it you’ll see what I mean.

We also made a small detour to collect a Trig Point – GC4WBZG.

trig point view

After that it was mainly a series of trads, through farmyards and across fields. Luckily the farmers left lovely trails across their land so we didn’t have to trudge across energy sapping ploughed fields. It was more like:

wide track across ploughed fields

If we had any problem at all it was with the wind. No, nothing to do with beans 🙂 , Storm Doris was trying to make a comeback and most of the paths seemed to be on the windward side of any available hedgerows which could otherwise have provided some shelter. Nevertheless we found a secluded wood for our lunch break which sheltered us nicely.

Suitably fortified and refuelled we carried on and eventually arrived back at the car with a respectable bag of caches:

Our route with smileys

On our way back, we picked up 2 more caches as drive-bys and a cheeky village sign just before the A1.

So that was a total of 43 finds and no DNFs. My second best day EVER!

A slightly sad footnote. One of the COs (MarcusMaximi) has posted on the HHA FB group to the effect that, because he no longer works in the area, he will not be able to maintain the series going forward. The series will be archived starting after Mayday 2017, starting at the Biggleswade end. It’s a shame because this was a spectacular undertaking. I was never expecting I’d get them all anyway but I do hope to pick up a few more before they go. There is still time!


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! 🙂

Is it an Evoque Plus ?

The other day, I parked my Freelander nose-to-nose with an Evoque. At least that’s what I thought it was.

On walking back to my car, I noticed that the “Evoque” wasn’t. What it was, was a Discovery Sport.

Looking at it properly, which I didn’t do when I was walking away from it, it seems to share design cues with the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport. It doesn’t have the boxy side view of the Freelander it replaces – which is a shame as far as I’m concerned as I like the square shape of my car (and that of the “proper” Discovery 4).

So I’m wondering who would buy it? Someone who wants an Evoque with more “rear” perhaps? It’s a bit like the choice facing an iPhone purchaser, i.e., buy the iPhone 6 or the 6+ ? In other words, you’d buy the “6+” if you needed an iPhone 6 that was, um, bigger.

Probably a poor analogy. Stop rambling, Wizzard Prang!

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


I built a Defender

Until I can get me a real Defender I’m making do with the occasional model.

This Airfix one is a bit more interesting than a bog standard civilian version, it’s a Land Rover Snatch depicted with an 8-man foot patrol as used in the early days of Op Herrick. Of course, the military soon realised that the Snatch was wholly unsuitable for use in Afghanistan but this was the best Land Rover model I could find and it was fun to make. The paint job on the squaddies isn’t brilliant, mainly due to my eyesight (!), but it’s only for a bit of fun. Making the scenery to mount it on was a super messy job – I enjoyed that!

Op Herrick

Op Herrick


Mud, glorious mud

Yesterday Bob and I had a day out getting his Range Rover muddy.

With a small group of LR Discoverys we spent the day driving on Salisbury Plain.

Discovery driving on the plain

Much of Salisbury Plain is MoD land used for army training. Luckily it is criss-crossed by numerous lanes which we can drive legally (byways open to all traffic). The MoD also allows civilians to use some of their other lanes – “Permissory Byways” – which they close when they are using the area for training or live firing. You have to watch for the signs and the red flags.

Permissory Byway

Part of the training area was closed today and for much of the day we could hear the artillery firing on the Larkhill ranges while we pottered about at the other end of the plain.

Thanks to the rain we’ve all had to put up with over the last 4+ months, there is still a large quantity of water everywhere, some of which we could drive through and some we couldn’t. The Land Rovers collected assorted mud and vegetation negotiating the watery bits, on one such occasion we were lucky enough to dredge up this fellow.

it's a dead frog

Judging by the state of him he was long gone, although no one wanted the job of unhooking him from the bumper.

It’s worth mentioning: the SPTA DIO have imposed voluntary restrictions on some byways to give the land time to drain & recover from the flooding and to stop damage from vehicles. Please bear that in mind if you are thinking of going there yourself.