Fording The Way In Warwickshire

Originally Published: October 2015 Words: Noel Watson Pictures: Noel Watson
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The forecast for Warwickshire on Saturday 25 July was dry with sunny intervals. The reality was something entirely different: cloudy with occasional light showers and fairly humid. But whatever the weather, it’s always good to go laning.

This classed as a ‘long haul’ destination for the Cheshire LRC. The main group set off from the Red Lion at 8am, minus Steve J who had experienced a last minute cam cover gasket failure which became terminal in the process of trying to fix it! A pick up point at Stafford Services swelled the numbers, who then enjoyed rather too much M6 scenery and the joys of the Birmingham area rat runs following a motorway closure.

Meanwhile, I travelled separately, preferring to be sympathetic to my 200Tdi by avoiding the motorways and taking the scenic route via Bridgenorth. I did manage to get lost in the Redditch maze, resulting in a slightly late arrival at the first lane where Eddie and Tracy were exercising their dogs to pass the time. An hour later, White Leader hove into view, leading the remaining trucks – making a grand total of ten.

A quick briefing and a cuppa later, we split into two groups and set off in different directions to try and make up the lost time. We had the route on Mark’s laptop and my OS maps, but no navigator. Fortunately, new member Peter had hitched a lift with Fraser and volunteered to handle the maps, bravely jumping into the hot seat.

Lane 1 was easy and gave us the bonus of a shallow ford, but the following lane had been turned into a cycleway, which was confirmed by the large lumps of concrete blocking our way.

Lane 4 had a longish ford with an undulating pebble bed – genuine rock and roll masquerading as the River Alne. It started with a fairly steep approach, then disappeared around an island, getting beyond hub depth and then deeper again (cue snorkel). We then arrived at a river crossroads where the main river flowed through, the problem being that the exit route wasn’t obvious. With some encouragement from Peter to carry on, we headed for the least overgrown section of bank and hauled ourselves on to dry land, as luck would have it, coinciding with the continuation of the lane.

I think it’s fair to say that no one had been tending the hedges, thickets and fallen trees bordering all the lanes, and it was quite challenging in places just to make progress, even with frequent use of the bowsaw. Mike had chosen this trip to christen his D3 following six months of fixing an assortment of ailments that come with early models. By the end of the day, it was obvious that despite all their advanced electronics and trick suspension, D3s are slightly wider than D2s and Defenders!

The last lane of the day took us through woods and across several field tracks ending in… a farmyard! We had to ask for directions from farmer Giles (that is once his dog would let me out of the vehicle) and there followed a rather tentative discussion as to where we should be going – it seems he had suffered a number of thefts and was very wary of strangers. He seemed to take a liking to us and insisted on photographing all the trucks’ number plates… just for the record! We parted amiably (I think) with a set of much appreciated directions.

A strange end to an interesting if long day, with everyone heading back north – the Discos opting for the motorway while the Defender drivers took the scenic route home!

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