MAD (Mud And Dust)
Ok, let’s get the embarrassing bit out of the way before rumours spread. I got stuck, well stuck, needed a tow out. There, I’ve said it so you can get the sniggering out of the way!
Anyway, on with the report.
For our June greenroad trip I had hoped to try some local UUCRs and byways but the heavy rain the week before forced a change of plan, knowing that a lot of the local routes were not good after heavy rain. Instead I opted for the reliable and safe option of Wiltshire and Salisbury Plain. But rather than head straight for the Plain I thought it would be better to drive the Ridgeway from Barbury Castle to Avebury and then a couple more byways on the way.
Four vehicles set out from the RV, myself, Mike ‘Mudlark’ Fry, Rob Walpole and his friend Matt, all in 90s (3 green, one blue). It didn’t take long to get to the first byway, starting just off the A346 at Chisledon, a firm gravel surface, that took us towards Barbury. The Ridgeway proper offered no surprises, being fairly dry and dusty and we only encountered a few walkers, a couple of bikes and another small convoy of 4 Land Rovers that passed us when we stopped to admire the view. It didn’t take long and we soon reached the end of the first leg, the A4 at East Kennet.
Crossing the A4 we were soon on our next byway. This started as a hard farm track but then split away and climbed a steepish bank onto open farmland. The track itself was easily followed but was fairly deeply rutted, needing careful attention. The grass was quite long and there were no signs of recent use. The track varied from open grassland to wooded areas and the only obstacle found all day was a large broken branch hanging down partially blocking the way. We were able to quickly remove it sufficiently to get by. At the southern end there were 3 or 4 closed gates but they weren’t locked.
This byway emerged onto the minor road just north of Alton Barnes so we headed north again on this road to our next lane which would take us over the hills and through woodland towards the A346 again at Oare. Although a little overgrown in a couple of places the track was well surfaced and easy to follow, climbing and dropping as it twisted through the woods, at times running alongside the ancient ditch and bank of Wansdyke.
Another short road section took us through Pewsey and up the road at Pewsey Hill before we branched off onto our next byway across the downs towards West Everleigh. Mike and I had driven this byway on our last trip but in the other direction. A short stop for refreshment and we continued, going down the lane towards Manningford Bohune. No sign of the friendly land owner this time though.
From there it was down to Upavon and then onto the Plain proper. It was good to see that the red flags were down again (two trips running now!) so it did mean that we could drive the tracks across the middle of the ‘danger area’ again once we got to them. Rather than just follow the gravelled all-weather military track (a permissive byway) we stuck to the original track along the edge of the training area as we headed round the northern perimeter, slightly slower but less dusty and more interesting. Eventually though this route runs out and there is no option but to use the gravelled route. (a note of caution here for potential users….the track alongside the inner fence is a permissive BRIDLEWAY, not a Byway, and the couple of interesting ‘quarries/holes’ alongside to track are not part of the public right of way so keep off of them!) The track was very dusty and I was glad to be at the front rather than in the dust cloud behind. Even then I was getting a liberal coating of dust inside my truck.
Near Market Lavington we turned onto the track crossing the Westdown Artillery Range. We have driven this before without problems, mainly firm surface with just a few damp bits and potholes here and there. As we got further south we started to find a few bigger and deeper wet areas on the track, nothing difficult but just enough to add interest. It was at one such puddle that we picked up a ‘guest’ vehicle. As we approached the watersplash we saw a very nice black Tdci 90 coming the other way, obviously not sure if the water was negotiable and had backed off. It turned out to be a young couple visiting from Nottingham, their first foray into the area, and they ended up tagging along behind us.
And then we got to Swampy Stone’s mildly damp patch.
It had to happen. Somebody (despite the warnings) thought they could do better than Swampy, just had to try it. Epic fail. Fortunately he had taken advice and attached his tow rope to the back of his motor before charging into the mire. He failed to get any further than Stoner had! Still deep enough to get water in the cab and half fill his headlights though. Well done, Mudlark. Fortunately extraction didn’t take too long this time and we were soon on our way again.
Through the village of Orcheston and then westwards in the general direction of the German Village with a slight diversion south on byways we found a few more water holes to try but everyone was playing cautious and not trying the more challenging ways through. No dramas here but a bit of fun for everyone.
Eventually arriving at the German Village we were faced with a choice of a track though water or a diversion to one side. Well I thought “It doesn’t look too deep, I’ll try it” After all I had been egging the others on all day and couldn’t expect them to do things I wouldn’t.
Just a few yards in I did my own ‘Swampy’. Grounded out with wheels spinning hopelessly. Water/slurry coming in under both doors. I didn’t, however, have my tow rope already attached. Only one thing for it… get out and attach it!. Up to the “Oh Zone” in cold filthy water (not as cold as when Stoner did it, I bet) rope attached and quickly out (not before the others had taken lots of pics and finished laughing).
At least my headlights didn’t fill with water though. (But, like Stoner I found out that the ‘waterproof’ thing about my boots was they didn’t let water OUT once they were full!)
Ok, enough tittering there at the back! Let’s move on.
A quick stop at the Village and then back towards the main road at Tilshead, down to Orcheston again and then a couple more byways to take us back to The Bustard Inn.
Pulling up in the car park here it was now about 4.15 pm so time for a quick clean up of lights, windows etc before we said goodbye to our new friends and then set off, via one last gravel byway, towards home.
In all, a very enjoyable day out with good company. We found good routes, water, mud and a lot of dust but all returned intact. All the way home I kept wondering who was in the mud coloured vehicles following me? Where were the green and blue Landies I set out with? Under that coating somewhere!
It took 2 hours to clean my truck this afternoon, inside and out, what wasn’t plastered in mud was coated in thick dust.
Here’s to the next time.