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!

 

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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”).

Freelander2

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! 🙂

A boy’s day out

In which we do some green laning, move a tree, rescue a horse and FTF a geocache.

Plain lane

At silly o’clock, Bob picked me up in his Range Rover Classic and we set off for the byways of Wiltshire. I don’t normally do early mornings but we had to be at the RV just north of Devizes by about 08.45 and it would take us a couple of hours to get there. As well as us, there was our geocaching mate Jeff in his Discovery 3, plus four non-geocachers in two more Disco 3’s. The day was officially a geocache-free day, however Jeff managed to get us a “pass” to look for a cache he’d DNFd some time ago – GC36MA9 – Log it. It was on the first byway we were going to drive so while the 2 non-caching Discos drove on, we paused to find the cache. As we drove to catch the others up, we met a fellow cacher, who happened to be standing right next to another cache – GC36M9G – It’s miles!  – so we jumped out of the Land Rovers and found that one as well!

After that, we caught up with the others and the laning began in earnest; we set off in the general direction of Avebury and its famous stone circle. Unfortunately, the winter weather had left several of the byways extremely wet, these had voluntary restrictions on them which we complied with and so we didn’t drive them. This meant a bit of “recalculating” by our navigator but he soon had us back on our planned route.

Later, we were driving along a rutted lane which followed the hedge line of a field, when we came upon a fallen tree completely blocking the lane. We could have driven “off-piste” around it but we stopped instead. Jeff made short work of the branches with his trusty bow saw, until the tree was sufficiently manageable for us all to lift the tree and move it off the track and into the hedge. At that point, Jeff managed to get his Disco stuck in the rut and it took a gentle pull from one of the other Discos to help him get going again. At that point we all decided to back up and leave the lane for another, drier, day.

After a while, we agreed that it was time to find a suitable lunch stop and we parked up in a secluded lane which ran next to a field. This field contained several horses and a couple of donkeys. We stood around munching our sandwiches and chatting to the friendly horses who came up to the fence (presumably hoping to snaffle our lunch). I noticed that one of the horses had got a back leg caught in the strap of his overcoat making him a three-legged horse . He was hopping about trying to free himself. Along with Nick (one of the Disco drivers) I hopped over the gate and the two us approached the horse. He wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry so we soon caught him. With Nick holding his head, I, being careful to keep away from his legs (as I didn’t fancy being kicked), reached under said three-legged horse and pulled his foot clear of the strap. As soon as he was back on four hoofs he scampered off across the field. Not a word of thanks. Typical horse!

Anyway, after we’d finished our lunch we continued on our route, navigating our way in a southerly direction towards the byways which crisscross the eastern side of the Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA). The army are using most of the SPTA for a major exercise but the eastern side was (fortunately) open to civilian traffic over the weekend. Finally, skirting Tidworth, we reached the end of our planned route.

End of the route

cleaning the Rangie
Just enough cleaning to keep it road-legal.

Looking at the map, we found that we were very close to a cache (GC401F7 – Devil’s Ditch #3), so, freed from the no-caching constraint, we set of to find it. On the face of it this was an easy one, although we still made a meal of it, eventually finding it in a place we’d allegedly searched thoroughly a few minutes earlier. Duh! After that, we drove a short way up the byway opposite and made another quick (and easy) find. Back on the blacktop, we stopped once more for what we thought would be our last cache of the day, then we set off for home.

As we drove homewards along the M3, we discussed some new local caches which had been published that morning while we were en route to our RV. I called them up on my iPhone and discovered that one of them had not had a find logged. Could it be that nobody had FTFd it all day? I input the cache’s coordinates into Bob’s satnav and we continued on our way with a slightly amended plan. When we got closer, I checked again – still no log on the website!

So, at about 19.05 we arrived near to GC5NXZT – A cache with a view too. It seemed only a minute or so before I spotted the container. We opened it and… a clean log. FTF! Incidentally, that was my first FTF for a whole year – partly due to my unwillingness to compete with the local FTF hounds – so it was a super result. Bob and I were pretty pleased with that; we jumped back into the Range Rover and drove to the other new cache (which had already been FTFd) and found that as well. Well we had to pass it on our way home anyway.

After that it was back home for tea and medals. For a non-caching day it had turned out to be pretty successful: 7 caches found and one of them a FTF. Excellent!