Just a month ago when we did the last greenroad run to Salisbury Plain most of the trees were still in full leaf with just a hint of autumnal colour starting to creep in. What a difference a few weeks have made, many of the trees now leafless and the remaining leaves full of the reds, browns and golds of autumn.
I had decided to head in the general direction of T’Plain for the November trip again knowing that most of the tracks in that area would still be driveable after the recent rain and also thinking of the many routes we hadn’t tried before anyway. My planning had shown that large area of the training ranges were still off-limit due to military activity so I decided to approach from further east and work through a route from Burbage to Ludgershall and then the Tidworth Range area.
Joined by Dan Devereux in his 90 and Mike Pollock in his Disco we set out from the RV for our first byway, starting near East Grafton near Burbage. Starting near the village church our little convoy drew a few dirty looks from the few villagers heading for church and we came up to a narrow closed gate at the start of the byway. Fortunately this proved to have a lift-out central post so we were soon through and on our way onto a good track, a little rutted and a few holes in places, that lead alongside open fields. Sadly, after about 2 miles we came across what appears to be an unlawful obstruction placed across the byway, consisting of large concrete filled metal containers. With no means of bypassing or removing them we were forced to back-track towards East Grafton. We halted briefly on the way back as it was now 11am and Remembrance Sunday. The obstruction has now been reported to Wilts CC, let’s hope they get it removed promptly as this was a good route.
Quickly re-planning our route we looped round towards the Collingbournes and the villages of Upper and Lower Chute (missing out Para). We passed the other end of our first lane, noting the Byway sign still prominent. The next byway started out looking like a private drive, tarmac surface and white post and chain on either side, leading through a posh stud-farm before becoming a wide, clear gravel track up through woodlands. No problems at all here other than more scowls from locals as we drove through.
The next lane was again wide and firm but after about a mile we came up against a narrow gate with a ‘No Motor Vehicle’ prohibition sign firmly attached. This lane was still shown as a Byway on Wilts CC and GLASS websites but further digging when I got home showed it had been subject to a temporary restriction some time ago and this seems to have become permanent but other records haven’t been updated. Forced into retreat again we pushed on towards the next byway.
This next one proved to be the most difficult as it ran though woodland and became ever narrower and more overgrown as we progressed. Eventually we were forcing our way through the undergrowth, wing-mirrors in. We all picked up some bodywork scratches on this lane, not one I will do again.
Our next lane started through a farm yard and then though a series of gates across farmland. It was quite narrow and rutted with crops newly sown right up to the edge of the track. Eventually we reached a point where the track climbed gently up the middle of an open field. The track had been virtually ploughed out by the farmer but he had left enough of it unplanted to show where it went. I think an eye needs keeping out here to ensure its not erased ‘by stealth’!
After a short lunch stop we then headed towards the Everleigh area and the start of the real Plain. First we did a couple of good lanes just to the north of Everleigh, both firm surface, fairly wide but with a few wet and muddy hollows to drive through.
From here it was onto the open training areas towards Netheravon Airfield and the Tidworth Ranges. Firstly driving south on the wide gravel Old Marlborough Road (an all-weather track) and then cutting back across more byways and turning north again along a valley bottom. The track here was quite well surfaced but there were a large number of water-filled dips which had huge signs hanging over them saying “Drive Through Here”. Well, it would have been very rude to have ignored them so we had to try, didn’t we!
Nothing challenging here really although one long muddy, rutted section, did stop Mike who had to take a couple of goes before getting through.
By now the afternoon was wearing on so, after a short stop to clean lights etc, we decided to finish the day with one last part of The Old Marlborough Road which conveniently headed back towards Burbage. This part of the road was interesting but not difficult. Quite wide with a gravel surface it dropped into a valley with a few washed-out bits before climbing and opening out to give great views. On this Byway we were treated to the spectacle of the air being filled with a flock of about 20 Buzzards with, unusually, a few Red Kite mixed in with them. Magnificent!
From here it was soon back to tarmac for the drive home and back to reality.
All the vehicles picked up a decent patina of mud and we had discovered a few new routes. A successful and fun day out. Thanks Mike and Dan for your company.