Great Coat in the Woods

Greatcoat in the Woods

Greatcoat in the Woods

Our kitchen has a computer that we use for web browsing, watching TV and films and when not in use runs a screensaver slideshow with all our photos, it’s a great way of being reminded of our adventures and regularly photos pop-up that bring back memories. Thes are a couple of photos that remind me of a particular place and time and a mystery.

While heading back along the White Sea coast we camped in some woods just off the track, we’d not seen anyone all day but had passed quite a few fisherman’s huts along sections of the beach. By hut I mean dwelling made from anything they seemed able to find including railway carriages, containers and what appeared to be an old tanker.

Where we camped, hung on a tree, was a greatcoat in good condition with shiny hammer any sickle buttons. There didn’t seem to be anyone about and it seemed too good to have just been thrown away. It was very tempting to take it as a souvenir but we thought better of it as the owner may be along later.

Hammer and sickle button

Hammer and sickle buttons

We half expected a fisherman to come along and pick up his coat but noone appeared and in the morning it was still there. So when we left it was still there and may well be to this day.

Wales Treasure Hunt, December 2012

The Impala Adventures Welsh Treasure Hunt was held from December 27th to 29th, we were to be based out of the Hafod Hotel which we’d stayed at a couple of years earlier on a previous treasure hunt. Clues had been sent out by e-mail with a road book section to get us to the start of the treasure hunt and hopefully to the hotel. As ever the clues were a bit cryptic referring to starting at the end and ending at the beginning or something like that. We inspected the maps and worked out where the track was and also where the pottery was where we might see a camel (the name given to Neil in Africa is White Camel so we thought they may be there).

Defender 90

Defender 90

Day 1

We made it to the pottery about 2:30pm and had a look around, couldn’t see any camels or anything else other than very expensive pottery so left to do the track. Ignoring the start at the end bit I’d decided to do the track in the road book order so drove past the end of the track to the start and plodded on down it. After a while we saw someone coming in the other direction and pulled over to let them by, turned out to be Steve & Kirsty in their Discovery, so maybe we should have gone the other way, said hello and continued on down the track.

After a short while we saw another vehicle approaching they were trying to tackle a rocky section and had decided to go round it. It turned out to be another Discovery belonging to Susan & David and Susan was driving but having a bit of difficulty getting round the rocks on the mud. We pulled up and I got out to offer encouragement and try not to offer advice as it’s not always a good idea to help people get their vehicles into worse situations. Eventually Susan called it a day and we agreed to winch them up the short section of mud so we pulled back onto the track and with engine running ran the winch to recover them. The winch started to labour and slow down and on returning to the vehicle, where Michele was sat in the driver’s seat with her foot on the brake to try and stop moving forward, there was a beeping as the split charge controller was complaining that the 2nd battery was flat. I’d forgotten that there’s a 10 minute delay after starting before the batteries are joined so the winch was running on battery only, quick press of the join button and the winch jumped into life and the Discovery was pulled onto the track and after thank you’s they were on their way again hopefully to make the rest of the track without event.

Defender 110 climbing into the hills

Defender 110 climbing into the hills

That was the end of our run down the track and our start of the treasure hunt, we headed to the hotel and were pretty much the last to arrive. The Hafod Hotel does great food and is an eating endurance test, we had dinner which was great as previously with a couple of veggie choices which we chose one each and shared. At the end of dinner the we had to choose what we wanted for breakfast and being stuffed from dinner this isn’t easy. This choosing followed through the next morning where after a large breakfast we had to choose what we wanted for dinner. This pattern followed for the duration of our stay and made it an endurance as we got fuller from the, what seemed like constant, eating.

Day 2

After a filling breakfast we had cryptic clues to follow and I busied myself moving the towing power connector which we had hit the day before on the track so wanted to move it before doing any more damage. By the time I’d moved the connector Michele had been to get the first clue and we headed off.

The problem with Wales is the distances you have to drive to get anywhere, it’s sort of the price you pay for such good tracks. The Sat Nav showed a trip time of over an hour to get to the first clue point on the coast. We spotted the Osprey (in one of the photos) driving along and stopped to take a photo, otherwise an uneventful trip to the coast. The clue from there was based on a location and heading but Graham had looked at the map and guessed the road we needed so we just followed along, sometimes I’m not really into the work involved in these things.

Defender 90 in the fog

Top of the hill and can’t see much.

After a slight overshoot and back tracking we made the track in Happy Valley and started working our way along it. Climbing up the fog started to close in and at the top we were really lost in the clouds. Progress on the track was slow going, as ever we weren’t in a rush (it’s not a race) and were taking it at an easy pace, as we were getting to the end of the track Neil called up and asked us to skip the rest of the clues and head to the end as there were things to be done in the afternoon.

We got to the end of the track and pulled up to work out how to get to the end without following the points. At this stage we’ve no end GPS point but  headings to be taken after a certain distance so without driving the route it wasn’t easy to judge the route. Thankfully off-road tracks are few and far between these days (thanks to legislation changes) so it wasn’t hard to work out the route to get to the next track, that we weren’t going to take and where that would end up. The clue for the last location didn’t make much sense to me but as we were there debating the rest of the ‘treasure hunters’ arrived along the track and with a bit of knowledgeable guess-work from Steve we headed off to a pub in a town that sounded right. Thankfully Steve was right and Louise & Neil were waiting there for us. We had lunch of chips and bap and a lightweight pint of ale ready for the afternoon.

The afternoon route was handed out which thankfully had some British Grid references and I plotted these onto the supplied maps and then cross referenced those with our GPS so we might have an idea where we were going rather than just playing follow the leader and taking responsibility for our own destiny.

Mitsubishi ready for the trial

Ian Roy and Andy at the start of the trial section.

With a bit of discussion (for that read disagreement) with Graham who was following his GPS and didn’t trust my point plotting on the map we caught up with Neil who’d set-up a trial site for us to have a go at. Neil walked us round the course which looked straightforward enough, although it was boggy and the turning circle on the Defender 90 isn’t great so I wasn’t hopeful of clearing all the gates. I managed to get elected to go first with the usual might as well get it over with point of view. It wasn’t a timed test so you could take it slowly and just try not to hit any of the poles. All went well and I cleared all the gates until the last one where I mis-judged the turn into it and had to back-up to get through the gate. Everyone else had a go and all the vehicles got one penalty except for Ian Roy in his Mitsubishi who had a clear run.

By the end of the trial it was getting dark and we still had some more track to do before heading back to the hotel. One last clue referred to pippins and standing alone (or something similar), we’d done the track before and could remember a lone tree somewhere on it. Sure enough we could see in the distance and off the main track a single tree, we were following Graham and he missed the turning to get to the tree so we headed down it. Michele jumped out and headed off to the tree, which had disappeared out of view. Graham joined us and I explained the position and that Michele would get their item from the tree as well. We watched the other cars drive straight by without stopping, either they missed the clue or wanted to get back to the hotel. As all the cars were now in front of us Neil turned up doing his sweeping behind. Michele eventually made it back with the labelled prizes. Michele had to make a second trip to collect all the others as they’d been missed by not stopping, but this time I did drive some of the way up the track until it became too boggy to cut down the distance a bit.

The drive back to the hotel was in the dark now and we managed to pick up a few more Impalas’ on the way.

Day 3

Breakfast included the prize giving for the treasure hunt and then there were some more tracks to do before heading home. We elected to head straight home after breakfast to try and make it home in good time. We did hear from Neil later in the day as his Discovery had got a bit wet and he was in limp home-made with a damp ECU, all was well after it had been dried out though.

This treasure hunt was organised by Neil Hopkinson of Impala Adventures.

Goats In A Tree

Goats in a tree

Goats in a tree

I know this is a regular occurrence in Morocco but I’ve only seen it once out of my 3 trips there. We were happily driving along a track and there were goats about, we couldn’t see a herder though. Something looked strange about the tree but it wasn’t obvious from a distance that the tree was full of goats. They are truly adapted to their environment and the photo shows the white one right at the top.

Goat in a tree, close-up

Goat in a tree, close-up

Goat in a tree, close-up
Goat in a tree, close-up

Greenlaning in the UK, this is what it’s all about.

Little Used Track

Little Used TrackOvergrown Track

Spent last week on an adventure in the south-east of England greenlaning and camping. The trip was organised by Impala Adventures and used route books so after a morning briefing we set off in our own time, no rush and no convoy, just study the route book, set your GPS and off you go.

Being on your own can be a bit daunting at first but other vehicles aren’t usually too far away, so if you do have trouble or feel unsure it won’t be long before someone comes along to offer assistance or advice. There’s also the support guys that follow up and are usually sited at difficult points of the route to provide assistance and assurance.

Full gallery for this trip is on Google+

Land Rover Defender 90 – 5 Day Stress Test

Land Rover Defender 90 in Russia

Not necessarily a Defender stress test so much as a personal stress test. On our Russia adventure we had a 5-day track that seemed to get worse by the day. This photo was taken somewhere in the middle of the track and we were finding it tough going. On this day my GPS showed us covering about 800 metres in 5 hours to get all 5 Land Rovers through the section.

As I say it was as much a physical endurance on the Defender as a personal endurance learning patience and teamwork. We had to work as a team to get the vehicles through the bog and rock, making slow progress with groundings needing the hi-lift to raise the chassis over the obstructions and winches to pull through the mud.

From the photo you can see that the rocks weren’t massive but they were relentless and you have to pick your way carefully, it didn’t take much to get grounded. There would also be sections of larger rocks to be crawled over and I remember having to inch over rocks where the weight of the vehicle finally took over and the Defender slid onto the steering guard and front diff guard with a loud bang, thankfully the 5mm steel from Southdown is heavy duty stuff and we suffered no actual damage through this. The thing to think about here isn’t the one off impact, it’s the 5 hours of hard work picking your way through and clearing a section of rocks which was then followed by hour after hour of more concentration.

Oh and to add to the situation we’re in the middle of nowhere, miles from any support so you need to be very careful not to break anything so there’s no putting the power on to get past an obstacle as if you do break anything it’ll need fixing or you’ll have to be towed out adding to your own and someone else’s problems.

This adventure was ran in August / September 2008 by Neil Hopkinson of Impala Adventures.

Salisbury Plain Green Laning

Don't Stray From The Track Or Else

Don’t Stray From The Track Or Else

Last June we had a weekend of green laning on Salisbury Plain, as far as green laning goes it’s pretty easy going with long dry dusty tracks criss-crossing the plain. As it’s still an active military training ground there are things you won’t see in many places in the UK.

Still Smouldering On The Firing Range

Still Smouldering On The Firing Range

One such view is of still smoldering ground on a tank firing range indicating that there had been recent training activity.

We were being guided on the Plains by a local who was in the military and knew the do’s and don’ts of the plains and when he spotted one of the security vehicles that patrol the plains checked the situation as the plains are closed during training. It turned out that they were in the process of opening up the plains after the training session so we were good to go but not to be surprised if we encountered flags ricpar.indicating that they were still closed.

Later on we found the section where Top Gear did the tank v car episode and there were security and police there, apparently to stop everyone playing in the area.

Stonehenge Very Busy

Stonehenge Very Busy

It’s a long time since I visited Stonehenge and not sure I’d want to go now looking at how many people there are viewing it here. We’re parked on the byway which runs along side Stonehenge right next to the Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon’s delapidated caravan protesting about the possible closure of the byway!

Overgrown Lanes Need Some Lopping

Overgrown Lanes Need Some Lopping

Considering the lack of green lanes these days due to closures it was surprising to find quite a few overgrown lanes and this long one required quite a bit of cutting and lopping to clear some of the bigger branches. We were being particularly careful as there was a brand new 110 in our group that didn’t really want big gouges out of their paintwork just yet.

Warming Feet

Warming Feet

And finally doing a bit of green laning gives opportunity for a bit of camping and we’d found a good camp site for our group which has a field away from the families with the rampant kids which plague camping these days. Although there was one other person in the field that wasn’t happy about us disturbing his peace and quiet in the field.

The site was ran by a slightly eccentric gent that added to the appeal, the facilities are basic but that’s good for us only being there for 2 nights and not really too bothered things like that.

http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk/sites/reviews.asp?revid=1010

They did have their own web site (http://thebellcampsite.co.uk) but it appears to have gone off the air.