Today's blog post is by guest writer Alan King
Following an excellent (but extremely cold) weekend trip to Yorkshire in February this year, I decided I should try some green lanes when better weather was a possibility. Having enjoyed their well organised trip in February I had no hesitation in booking up for the Wales explorer trip with One Life Adventure.
Wales is a country that I have been fortunate to visit for holidays several times over the years, but any tracks have been traversed on foot rather that Land Rover! This would be a new experience and having researched some of the likely tracks it looked like it would be a challenge.
My Discovery 2 has a degree of off road preparation in that it sports a steering guard, front and rear differential guards and runs on General Grabber AT tyres. It also has the rear boot area kitted out for overland travel with storage, fridge, drop-down shelves on the inside of the rear door for a cooker, which together with a roof tent, makes it easier to live out of on a camping / overland/ green lane adventure.
Meeting up at the camp site nr Llandovery on the Friday afternoon allowed everyone to chat over dinner, or a beer or two round the camp fire. It was also great to meet up again with some folks who I knew from the Yorkshire trip. Saturday morning dawned and the forecast looked like we were in for a pleasant weekend of good, mild and bright weather. The aroma of freshly cooked bacon, sausages and eggs filled the camp-site so we were all suitably full for the exploits to follow.
After a briefing on the plans for the day and a radio check to ensure we all had “comms” the convoy set off from camp to explore some local lanes as an introduction to the weekend. These were easy to drive but with a little too much vegetation at the sides meaning a few minor scratches would require some polishing! Otherwise everyone succeeded and we broke for a coffee stop near a reservoir prior to starting our main lane of the day – Strata Florida. This is around 11 miles long and is regarded as a “Welsh classic” – it was one of my main reasons for wanting to undertake a trip to Wales.
Strata Florida certainly did not disappoint. The track varies from mild shale surfaces, to muddy, (sometimes very muddy!) then to hard rocky parts with some challenging rock steps, along with numerous water pools, and river crossings including one which was very deep and made for some spectacular photographs! It truly is a classic amongst green lanes and proved enjoyable for all the vehicles and their drivers. I should confess at this point that whilst Land Rover Defenders and Discoverys made up the lion’s share of the party there were also representatives from the Japanese manufacturers too!
The remainder of Saturday was taken up exploring other green lanes in the area, always heading vaguely northwards towards our camp site near Rhayader in mid Wales. A pleasant evening relaxing after a challenging day was spent sharing stories over beer around the fire. Catering was varied with some of our party choosing backpacker style foil packed food, I had taken along some top notch rump steaks which were cooked over the fire (nice work by Jonathan, my Brother-in-law!) and others choosing to prepare curry or a communal lamb stew made in a “potje” (a 3 legged cast iron pot which is placed in the open fire.
Sunday commenced in similar fashion after lovely sunrise hinted at the prospect of a second fine day on the trails. Any thoughts of an easier second day were dispelled as Paul explained our main lane for the day - Happy Valley – would be tougher than we had experienced so far and would in places be extremely tight and some spotting through would be required. Paul’s forecast proved correct with all of us at some point having a few moments where deep breaths were necessary. I was told the views were great too but concentration meant I wasn’t always looking at the views!
One fairly rocky section on a very narrow part of the lane did mean I managed to slightly alter the profile of one of the side steps on the Disco, but some temporary adjustment in the form of two of us well fed chaps standing on it and having a little bounce soon made it look almost right again. A further session of more targeted work with a sash cramp, trolley jack and a couple of heavy wooden blocks sorted it properly once I got home! Long term I think these “standard fit” steps may have to be replaced with some more robust rock slider style versions to reduce the risk of similar incidents.
All the party successfully negotiated this trail which was indeed “the toughest nut to crack” over the whole weekend and it was even suggested it was possibly the toughest green lane in Wales so a pretty impressive one to tick off the list.
A somewhat more relaxing lane to end the weekend was one that skirted the foot hills of “Cader Idris”, one of the higher mountain peaks in Snowdonia. Known by various names but all with a connection to the memorial to the crew of a US B17G Bomber which crashed into the hillside in June 1945, the lane proved a delightful finale to our weekend and we were treated to some beautiful sunny views of the estuary and golden sands near Barmouth, before a final meet to say our goodbyes in a picnic spot car park, before the group departed either to home or their chosen camp site if, like us they had opted to travel home on the Monday.
This proved to be a good decision in our case because soon after pitching Camp at the excellent Bala Camping and caravanning club site I notice one rear tyre looked to be softer than it should be. Re-inflation identified a cut to the side wall and a need to perform a wheel change on site meaning the beer we had promised ourselves was even more appreciated!
All in all the weekend was one of good weather, excellent tracks and trails, superb scenery and top notch organisation. If you have yet to try out your Land Rover in a proper off road situation I would strongly recommend this type of trip. A visit to your local pay and play site just doesn’t compare, in my opinion, to this type of adventure where the off tarmac driving has the added challenge of making you “vehicle dependent” ie having to make a journey and live out of, or in, or as a base for camping with your Land Rover. We are already looking at the dates for next year!
My thanks go to my travelling colleagues, Jonathan Lattimer (brother in law), and Russ & Terri Browning, with Jess, Twig and Amber their 3 Lurcher dogs (and their Toyota!).
Thanks also to our expedition leader Paul Blackburn of One Life Adventure.
Words and photos: ©Copyright Alan King 2013.
Big thanks to Alan King for supplying this article, if you would like to write for us, please get in touch!