Wetroads 2005

An Alternative to Sunday Roast

So what do you do on a really wet Sunday if you’re not into roasts and overly thick newspapers 😕 Go fording and get even wetter, of course 😛

Especially if you’ve a not too precious Doka sitting outside that needs a good wash, a mate with a Defender 90 that’s keen to come along, have a go and compare off-road notes – and happened to be the one to suggest it months ago! The deciding factor was needing to get some fresh air after a pretty fair skinful of pretty good Bordeaux after a pretty spiffing firework display the night before. So having assured Jenny I wasn’t either still drunk or hung-over… I slunked under the truck and re-fitted the bash-plate, just to get nice and wet and in the mood before we left (and in case this turned into a bit more than ‘just a recce’)

Oh, and a particularly good idea if you live within an easy Syncro lope of the North Herts/Essex border – the area offers rich pickings – check this excellent link out and scroll down to Furneux Pelham, a 5* . . well over 1/2 mile long when in full flood… http://wetroads.co.uk. Check your own county out – there should be something of interest to all Syncronauts – even if you’re not too keen on filling your sills with muddy water. We had marked up just three, with another 5* . . at Standon being the second; however, we aimed at Furneux first and then, inevitably, the plan changed… 💡

With just a normal road map to go by, it took a couple of good guesses from Jenny before finally coming across the well-placed ‘Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles’ sign. I checked Simon was right behind while we found our boots and checked the floor for loose items – and then were off down this ever narrowing track, entering from the South. As the banks either side steepened we began splashing through ever deeper and longer flooded sections, rising up onto gravel and sandy highpoints at roughly 50 yard intervals. Having seen or heard no other vehicles since entering the lane, after 300 yards of sploshing through maybe 1ft of water, we stopped to check out what looked a bit longer and more ominous section – Simon in his Defender hung back on the high spot while we waded through – Mmm, no problem, about 18″, so on we went and despite the recent rains, a guess is that we didn’t go through anything much deeper, though it’d be easy to imagine it might have been a couple of feet in the odd trench. Anyway, enough to clean up the tyres and wheel wells nicely and as I discovered later, find it’s way into the locker… This was probably the depeest bit…

but heralded what was in store should we return later this winter -hopefully with a full complement of floor plugs and after some locker door catch tightening!

We had serious problems with the cameras and got a load of grossly under-exposed shots and many completely blank videos – batteries, poor light and settings? We messed up royally – bad planning? – Yes, yes! But here’s a reasonable shot showing us parked up on a high spot…

Then we came across a smartish looking Range Rover head on who I apparently upset – he seemed to want to back up to pass on dry ground, but I moved right up to the edge in the middle of a much wider flooded section and flashed him to come through. Sunday drivers! I’d called his bluff and as he inched past (yet with a yard or more to spare on his nearside – the local gentry off for a tipple at the local I reckoned) gave me a right snotty look, so at that I didn’t wait any longer, watching in amusement as my drop-side ever so slightly grazed his ever so expensive mirror :). Simon, waiting behind, got the feedback :x. Ignoring the first few insults, the last bit was that there was a vehicle on it’s side up front – Wow ❗ How did that happen 😳

[The bad news for voyeurs – This is a placeholder for non-existent piccies of Merc G-Wagen on it’s side in a very wet & sunken lane – The good news – a video might be on the way!]

Arriving a minute or two after it had been righted, the place stank of diesel – the best part of a tankful – and a fair bit of glass was being happily ground into the sandy gravel. Another Range Rover (a VC equipped auto!) ahead us had helped get him upright and gave us the lowdown later…

having dropped his pax off for some ‘fun’ – one a child with a quad bike – he drove away whence a deer ran straight down the bank right in front of him. Probably not being used to this sort of thing (in Herts!) and going a bit quick, he shot up a bank, stopped, thinking he might roll over. Being about 50 – 60 degrees, he did, slowly toppling right over onto his side

… cracking screen, losing side window completely and doing precious little else; some trim was off down the side and the odd nick, here and there – bad photo (again), but judge for yourself…

Also out for a spot of fun, the Rangie’s owner, Chris, had recovered the Merc with a high-lift jack together with hand winching off a strop around a tree high up on the bank… I climbed up to retrieve it for them – needing to pull myself up with it and lower myself back down on branches and undergrowth – steep – even in a G-Wagen :lol:.

Despite (or in spite of) having a child and other passengers in tow, the Merc’s driver laughed it off and waved away any help getting sorted and out of there, so we now set off again, soon climbing back up to drier land stopping for a chat with Chris at a fork in the road. Mentioning he knew a few green lanes around and about, he wondered ‘did we fancy following along?’ Er, what would you say? – so off we went in hot pursuit, no questions asked.

Between Stansted, Stevenage and Royston to the North is obviously good territory for off-roaders, one small town to the east of Stevenage even having a 4×4 club all of its own, so good are the local lanes… news to us, but now we know!

We’d noticed the lovely villages, mysterious churches and thatched abodes earlier, whilst having some navigational fun approaching the Pelhams, so as we drove down miles of deserted lanes (does nobody live around here?) at a pace embuing me with even more confidence in a Macho shod Doka, Jenny was taking in the very different landscape and style of villages to our hillier side of the county (edge of the Chilterns).

Suddenly, slowing at yet another village green, we seemed to drive right across it, aiming at a smartly gated gravel drive – tea at the vicarage maybe? – Oh No, straight through the hedge and into a hidden lane 👿

8) – a few hundred yards of sploshy ruts and average to easy enough lane – a few threatening branches and undergrowth requiring a quick window up jobbie and out into some nasty rutted tracks alongside the fields – sets a fair to cracking pace this Chris guy – but Simon with his nearly bald Mud Terrains was keeping up well behind and apart from the odd shriek from Jenny when we went up into 2nd gear to catch up, no big problem for the Syncro with it’s gorgeous suspension and those Machos.

Another lane later – mostly pretty narrow tree lined drovers tracks at the edges of fields, occasionally a bit of thought around a tree, down a gulley and up and out, some nasty leaf covered patches sloping down to a drainage ditch you wouldn’t want to end up in – we shot across a main road and with the back hopping about wildly in a massively holed lorry park (I’d left the rear diff-lock on :oops:) we parked up at the A10 cafe.

The Range Rover’s doors opened and out stepped Chris’ brother and three boys all under ten! Ah! forgot to say, tinted windows… bit of a surprise that, but it was indeed tea this time and whitebread sarnis. No bone china 🙁 , nor genteel conversation 🙂 though – more important things to discuss! More surprises – Chris told us he’d only been off-roading for 6 months or so, and had dropped into a hole and wiped the nearside out a while ago, buying a complete set of bolt on panels, perfect nick and all the right colour from a trader’s addy sorry mate, they’re that awful mud colour they did in the early 90’s – d’ya still want them? £150 do ya? – OK, twist my arm. – Result!

Warning us that the next one might require a walk though first, we set off for another two lanes. Stopping a short way in, and by now really peeing down again, I guessed I might not fit the Doka under a fair sized bough crossing another tree on the nearside. Chris knew his lower Rangie had done it once a while ago, so reckoned I might squeeze through too (saying that he’d never convoyed with a Transporter before). Further up, it got quite nasty around a tree, maybe not so bad when dry, but it was dripping now – though I still fancied my chances. Simon, with his dubious tyres and nice straight bodywork, didn’t. The alternative route was even worse: Chris thought it wasn’t just sliding into a tree, but a roll-over on the climb out.

Back we went, he got under the bough and we didn’t – just pushed the roof in a bit… and when we sized it up from outside, we had it right but it wouldn’t go without flattish tyres or a lot of weight in it. Simon had a tintop with no protection bars on his Defender, so measured it up and reckoned he was the same height and wasn’t wanting a damaged roof either – so as his is a very nice condition 2.5TDi, fair cop guv. That branch has a good few old war wounds – and one more graze now!

Chris came trudging back and said he’d had to nose against the tree further up and power around it in a slid… so getting soaked by now, we agreed to rendezvous at the other end of the lane, via tarmac, for one more small lane. Backing out I spied a rather handsome looking horse ambling under the low bough, with an equally handsome lady rider – as she edged past trying not to catch our eyes, I knew exactly what she was thinking, having had to negotiate Chris’s Range Rover somewhere in those woods and now us – truly, this is land of the gentry.

Herts CC are considered a pretty good council all round and have published all their BOATS, RUPPS, FPs and BRs on the web as they should, unlike a few other counties; we saw plenty of those short footpath / bridleway marker posts throughout the afternoon and at the start of some lanes there were small green square signs on 6 ft posts. Where they are known to be bad is general road maintenance, especially ‘our’ side of the county, which is a bit of a dog-leg sticking into Bucks and Beds.

So, with the first signs of evening approaching, we were led another merry chase across to the A505 at Royston Downs, where we thanked our man for a great afternoon’s driving, before setting off in different directions… As we cut across out of Baldock and down to Hitchin, the weather dried up and we found ourselves heading straight towards a very pretty pinkish sunset at the far edge of a dark sky – quite unexpected – just as our whole day had been.

Sunday Roast anyone – or wash the car instead?

Clive Smith