Soggy Salisbury

I’ve often been asked “Why do you do so many greenroad days to Salisbury Plain?”  Well, there are several simple reasons. 1) It’s easy to get to (about an hour’s drive); 2) There is a fantastic network of really interesting tracks in a small area; 3) The tracks are well signed; 4) Most of the tracks can be driven in all but exceptional weather conditions. Just take a look at the photo of the OS Map I’ve included and you will see how many tracks there are!

That’s why I again decided to head for Salisbury Plain for the first greenroad run of 2017. I’d also checked the MOD websites and noticed that most of the areas often closed off for military activity were likely to be open as the ranges weren’t re-opening until the day after our trip, giving us a good chance of driving a few tracks not normally accessible.

Come the day 5 vehicles headed out in damp, foggy conditions for the Plain. Myself, Mike Stone, Rob Holland in 90s, Matt Hunt in his Disco conversion and newcomer Ann Constantine in her very nicely turned out 90, complete with fancy LED headlights with integrated sidelight/indicators. For once I had a navigator for the day, Rob McCausland grabbing the chance to see the Plain in daylight rather than the pitch black of a BAMA event. We mustn’t forget that we were also accompanied by Shadow, Matt’s beautiful 12 month old German Shepherd.

The weather forecast had been for a dry but misty start to the day but with the murk expected to lift by late morning. They got it wrong again! We drove down through scattered light showers and when we got to the area the visibility was still only a couple of hundred yards, the mist never really clearing all day.

As hoped the red flags were down so full access to the area was possible, Starting near Upavon we stopped for a quick coffee break and then set off round the northern edge, and then to the western side of the Plain. Conditions on the Byway were wet and slippery in places but nothing to cause any problems.

Reaching the Market Lavington area we turned off onto a track running across the middle of the Westdown Artillery Range, usually always closed off. As we drove along there were dire warning signs spaced every 100m or so telling us, in no uncertain terms, not to leave the carriageway because of the danger of ‘military debris’ that might go bang and bring tears to our eyes. We stayed on the track!

All was progressing quite well until dropping into a valley we were faced with several options of passing a very wet area. The main gulley straight through was full of water and on either side were other ‘channels’ of varying depth/stickiness. Being cautious I swung round to one side, through a hollow with about a foot of water in it and passed the hazard easily.

Not so “Swampy” Stone. He decided to be the superhero and went for it through the deepest gully. Mistake! Stranded about a third of the way through in headlight deep water, water in his footwell and no traction in either direction. Recovery would have been straightforward except nobody seemed willing to wade into the water to attach a tow rope. Not that we could have anyway because Swampy didn’t have a tow point attached to the back of his motor! (He had tried to fit it when we first stopped for coffee but didn’t have right spanners, I had also said I didn’t anticipate anyone getting stuck either so he’d left it off.)

Stoner had no choice but to get out of his truck and wade through the freezing water (almost up to his “Oh” zone), reach underwater to attach the tow hitch and a recovery rope and climb back in before being rescued by Rob Holland. There’s always one!

After a delay of 20 minutes or so we were once again on our way but I decided to cut out part of the planned route and just head on to keep up the schedule, heading on over the Plain to the village of Orcheston.

From here we cut back north towards Tilshead via a main road and then turn back into the ranges towards the ‘German Village’. Stopping near here for a quick lunch we saw the only military activity of the whole day when a squadron of 4 tanks passed us not far away.

After lunch we continued south for a while before turning back north. This route took us through a couple of valleys we’ve passed through on previous trips, all with deep, water filled gullys in the bottom, with a choice of bypass routes round them.

Once again Superhero Swampy threw caution out the window and went for it through one of the deep bits. To be fair he got through unaided this time but in the process managed to shed his alternator drive belt! Good thing he had a spare! Another delay whilst he replaced it and we were off again. Sadly though the repair wasn’t sufficient to see him through the rest of the day and He decided to head for home before darkness started to fall.

Our depleted band carried on for a few more miles, again using tracks we can’t often get to across the Larkhill Artillery Range.

It just wasn’t the same without Swampy to entertain us so, with the mist threatening to return and darkness coming we decided to reluctantly cut the day a little short and head home.

All the trucks returned with a liberal coating of mud (90 minutes to clean off this morning) and intact (other than Swampy’s minor problem) and everyone seemed to have enjoyed the outing, all driving enthusiastically when the opportunity arose!

We hadn’t done all of my planned route but we did get to some of the “Out of Bounds” areas that I’d hoped we would and there’s always another time to try out more tracks in the area.

Thank you everyone for making it an entertaining and enjoyable day.

At the moment, I don’t know if I will be free to lead a day in February but if anyone has any ideas of where we could try please let me know.

 

 

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