Plain October

With the onset of shorter, cooler and probably wetter days I thought it would be good to return to the Salisbury Plain area for the October greenroad run. We haven’t visited the area since May and, if it had been wet, the tracks there are still mostly ok to drive. Just for a bit of variety I planned a route in reverse of previous trips with a couple of alternative byways thrown in too.

Come the morning of the run the weather was still dry and sunny, although a bit on the cool side. It was a small convoy that set off from the RV being me in my 90, Patrick and Lisa in their S3 88 and Andy Cookson in his very nicely turned out red Disco. I had been expecting Stoner to join us but the poor little lamb was struck by terminal ‘man flu’ so wasn’t allowed out to play.

As usual I had spent several hours planning the route, checking status on GLASS website and also checking that the ranges were open, including ‘phoning the MOD hotline. All pointed to it being a ‘non-firing’ day and that all areas should be open. They always use the proviso that changes may occur at short notice and so it was that on getting to the Plain the red flags were flying around the Larkhill Range area.

This wasn’t to cause any immediate problem though as I had planned to drive an anti-clockwise route around the perimeter track to the north before cutting back across the middle of the ranges towards Larkhill itself. This track runs outside of the exclusion area and runs right along the northern and western sides of the Larkhill ranges with fantastic views on all sides.

When we got to the point where I’d intended to cut back across the Plain the area was still closed off so it was a quick rethink and I decided to go a little further south than intended and try the ranges around the ‘german village’, a specially constructed replica for military training. The tracks in that area are much less prone to closures too.

As we were heading in that direction 3 Land Rovers came up the track towards us, Stopping to speak they asked if the perimeter track was open. It turned out they were from The Forest of Dean! They also decided to head south and we saw them again several times through the day. Later we also came across another group of 2 Landies and a Toyota Camper conversion.

We drove round 3 sides of the german village, stopping for a few pics, from outside the fencing, and then headed off along some great tracks. It was mostly very dry but we did manage to find a few puddles and muddy stretches to liven things up a bit.

Dropping into one small valley (that we had been through on a previous trip) we were faced with several alternative ways round a large boggy area in the bottom. Two in the middle were both deeply rutted and full of very murky water, one of which looked like a definite no-go. I took the sensible option of driving out wide to bypass the bog but Patrick, in the middle of our little convoy, was adventurous (or maybe he was pushed into it by Andy) enough to try the lesser of the two water traps. He gave it a good go but, with only standard size road tyres on his S3, came to a halt half way through. He was unable to move in either direction. Andy quickly had a tow rope on the Series and Patrick was soon free. Andy, in His Disco with mud tyres, also had a go at the same trap. The first attempt failed but he was able to reverse out and the second try, with a bit more oomph, saw him drive right through.

After a short lunch stop, taken on top of a rise with fantastic views, we headed north again, crossing a minor road, This lead us again to another small valley used on a previous trip. Here we came across the group with the Toyota Camper coming the other way. The Toyota was stuck firmly in one of the many deep, wet ruts and was in the process of being yanked out by a Landie.

Again I took the safe option and avoided the traps (been here before, remember) and Patrick wisely decided on the safe option too, Then, for some reason, he seemed to change his mind. Reversing as if to line up to try one of the less evil looking gullies, he got one wheel over the edge and sat with diagonally opposite wheels spinning helplessly. Once again it was Andy to the rescue and Patrick was back on solid ground. Andy then had a go at one of the deep gullies, forging through without hesitation, showing the Toyota how things should be done!

By now it was mid-afternoon so time to start in the general direction of home, trying a few more tracks on the way. Moving back towards Larkhill we took the southern perimeter track around the closed ranges, passing infamous Bustard Hotel and then on past the back of Larkhill Barracks and then on towards the Tidworth ranges.

I had intended to drive the Nine Mile River/Old Marlborough Road route in the reverse direction to previous outings but the change of plan and passing time meant that we again started from the Bulford end, going north.

Sadly the ‘river’ crossing was virtually dry. No running water, just a foot or so of standing water in the wider of the two ways through. When we drove it in March it had been hub deep in the shallower part. Likewise the return crossing a little further upstream was now completely dry. In March it was quite flooded and about 100m across. Then we had fortunately taken a route well to one side, still through hub deep water, rather than staying on the straight path through. With it now dry I’m glad we chose that way as we could see the main track ran through a long gulley that would have had about 4 feet of water in it March! A lucky escape!

From here it was a straightforward drive along some well defined tracks towards our last halt before heading home. It had been another great day out. We found some interesting tracks, great scenery and fantastic weather. All three vehicles coped very well and returned a bit muddier than when we started.

Thanks everyone for your company.

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