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Hobbies and Interests

How I Discovered Off-Road Driving

 

Rosemary Martin shares with us her adventures driving far from the open road

 

Trapped in a car embedded up to its axles in sticky mud, not knowing when help would arrive, thoughts of a  blazing log fire, a hot bath and food came to mind. No, we hadn`t been in an accident, this was a  planned disaster. We were on an organized off-road safari, and it was brilliant. 

There's something about off-road driving - the adrenaline rush, the sheer fun and excitement.  Exhilarating and liberating.

We'd been thinking about the idea for some time, me and my husband. Here was an outdoor pursuit that took into account our variable British climate. It seemed suitably challenging.  And different.

 

 We found a local 4x4 training site on the edge of Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. The first step was to have a two-hour taster session using our own vehicle, a sturdy Isuzu Trooper. This session is described as:  “A drop in at the deep end”.  It certainly was.

 I managed to get stuck in a rut - the story of my life  - but the session was well worth doing.  We were shown correct recovery procedures for different difficult situations.

 Next we decided to go on a Peakland Trek with the same people, who describe this trip as: Off-road driving adventures at their best.This involved taking 4x4 vehicles into challenging wilderness areas of the UK, either driving our own 4x4 or one of theirs whilst under instruction from one of their fully qualified instructor/guides.

 We arrived in the Derbyshire Dales at 9.30 am, meeting the rest of the party at the local hostelry, and after coffee, biscuits and a briefing we set off in convoy. The day can only be described as “magical.” It was one of those cold, sunny, clear days when you can see forever. The views were breathtaking even without the added spectacular  of  hangliders leaping off the edge of  cliff-edged hills, their vivid coloured canopies contrasting with the clear blue sky.

 We travelled  some challenging tracks – taking care to always: shut gates behind us,  follow the tracks without making new ruts,  be courteous to the walkers we came across.  After a substantial lunch, we traversed a track aptly named  “the coffin trail .” It was an old road ,  once used by the surrounding high villages as a route to the ancient burial ground  at low-lying Castleton. I couldn`t believe that our trusty steed would make it along this track but it surpassed itself.

 Needless to say by now we were hooked on this strange outdoor pursuit and decided to go for the “big one,” which brings us back to the beginning of this article, stuck in a forest in deepest Wales, up to our axles in mud!  They said this trip was not for the faint hearted……

 We had arrived on the Friday afternoon, -  twenty four strangers from varying corners of the UK -  to this delightful  working sheep farm set 200 metres on the southern slopes of the Cambrian Mountains foothills, in the middle of nowhere.  (Seven miles north-east of Llandovery to be precise.)  

There were people from all walks of life, from computer buffs to the two lads who arrived in their military ambulance, store managers in real life. A motley crew, as were our vehicles.  Some – vehicles, not people - were cobbled-together hybrids; others had bizarre paint jobs, but they all performed wonderfully, for on the Saturday we were on the road from 9.30 am until  8 pm, an incredibly long and tough day.  We climbed mountains, crossed rivers, drove along forgotten tracks, played in quarries and forests,  then ended the day with a trail in the dark along a river. When we got back to the farm we only wanted a hot meal and the warmth of a blazing log fire – forget the shower, that wasn`t a priority – and  didn`t we all sleep like babies that night?

The brief for Sunday was: pack up and leave the farmhouse, head east to Hay-on-Wye , play in the forest for one hour then all split to head for our respective homes.

Only it didn`t quite work according to the brief…

Somehow our convoy of vehicles was separated and four vehicles – including us, but without a guide or instructor – took the left route whilst the rest turned right.  Very soon it became obvious that the “one hour`s play in the forest” was not an option, and when we emerged three hours later having been winched several times out of the deep mud by our newly-found instructors, we were very relieved to be back in civilization. 

 At this point, we said our sad farewells,  swapped e-mail addresses and headed for the nearest jet wash garage.  We can't wait to try it again.

 

The more remote areas of our countryside are littered with old tracks and trails. These include cattle drovers` trails,  old country roads and Roman roads, more commonly referred to as  “green lanes”.  They offer some of the UK`s finest and most dramatic scenery including dense pine forests,  rugged mountains,  open moorland,  river crossing and steep rock and hill tracks.  Tour organisers work with local authorities to ensure minimal  environmental impact on the areas used.

   

Before you go off-roading…..

 

  •      Have some professional tuition, then have a short outing before attempting  anything more strenuous

  •      Don`t use a vehicle that is going to be expensive to repair

  •      Don`t use a vehicle that you want to keep  in a  pristine condition

  •      Do take protective and warm clothing and a tow rope

  •      Do make sure there is more than  one vehicle in case of accident

 

Useful website addresses:

 

  • We went with Lee James 4x4 who runs a very professional outfit

          

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