Mendip Challenge 2006, West Harptree, Somerset

Hosted the the Somerset & Wilts Land Rover Club


Just 3 weeks after the Majors, and Ian and I were off again for the annually run event by Somerset and Wilts LRC. Again a 2 ½ hour journey there, but we knew it would be well worth the trek! We arrived at about 5pm, having travelled through all sorts of weather, including glorious sunshine, but unfortunately we arrived at the site to pouring rain and a to be greeted by a damp Melvyn Rose! We could see people out on the site, no doubt wondering how drivable the sections would be if the rain continued. I decided that me and Ian should bite the bullet and get out in the wind and rain and set the van up, not really knowing if it would ease up or not. After a nightmare finding the right spot in the lumpy field, we were set up in time for the rain to stop. However, the wind picked up, and Ian was glad he had put the storm strop on the awning.

An hour or so later, Roy and Sally arrived, having had problems with the motor home en route. When Ian had managed to tow Roy into position, after getting a bit bogged down, me and Roy went off to scrutineering. I was already feeling a bit on edge about trialling the next day, but the handbrake hole always makes me feel even worse. I got stuck in it last year, and not having learnt my lesson, got stuck again. Nothing that a bit more momentum did not sort out though! The rest of scrutineering was straight forward for me, but Roy had to do sort out his towing point on the rear of his vehicle before they would pass him. Then it was a case of waiting for Tricia to arrive who was being ferried up by John Jennings, and both were staying in our van.

Once Tricia and John arrived, we had tea to the sound of the wind buffeting the van, and awaited the arrival of the rest of the crew. Mark A arrived on site, and we watched (from the warmth of the van) a he managed to manoeuvre the lorry right up the field until he was parked next to us. Certainly a sign that the field was a bit drier than last year, but also helped by the fact that Mark did not have the trailer this year. Instead, he has built an extension on the back of the lorry to accommodate all three vehicles. Matt arrived sometime later, after having to be given directions due to a temporary loss of knowing where he was! Everyone in place, we piled into the van to keep warm, make sure all were fed and chatted until late. Alarm set for 6.30am, we settled down for the night to the fragrant sounds from John’s sleeping bag.

Up and about early , Ian went about cooking breakfast for all but me and Matt (both too nervous to eat) while John, Roy and Matt got scrutineered. Mark F and Claire arrived in the meantime, and set up their van. Mark A and myself went to sign on, as Mark had previously (not in a drunken stupor!) agreed to passenger me for the RTV. It was a late start, about 10am, due the volume of drivers being scrutineered. There were 85 drivers listed to do the RTV this year. We all headed off for the first section of the day and a taste of what was to come! Roy and John got off to a good start, with a clear and 2 respectively. My start was not so good, when I clipped the 6. My tutor was none to pleased either, and I knew at that point that nothing but the best was expected of me.

A lot of the sections were pushing me to my boundaries in respect of the fear factor, and I had to do a lot of listening to Mark and trusting his judgment to get through these. Mostly these entailed going down a slippery slope and then having to turn across a side slope to make the turn. There were also some interesting rocks to contend with, which were in such a position that they were unavoidable. Those without side bars paid the price quite heavily, as did some peoples rims. John also came a cropper on some rocks going down hill. With the full weight of the vehicle behind him, he managed to bend his indestructible winch bumper. Ouch! Got it on video though, so you can all join in with his pain! Unfortunately, Roy broke his motor after just 5 sections, and was unable to carry on. Matt was in a different group from John and myself, so we were not able to keep up with how he was getting on. At the end of a hard day, with all of us sporting some scrapes and dents, John finished on 45, Matt on 46 and myself on 48. I was really pleased to be able to keep my scores so close to the other HBLRO team, and finished 3rd overall in the ladies class, and 17th in class out of a field of 43 class 4 vehicles. A big improvement from last year! (when I finished 33rd in class). John ended up 14th in class, but the best has to be Matt, who won 3rd place in his class. I must say a big thank you to Mark for putting up with me for the day. I gained a lot from one trial of having him ‘instruct’ me through the sections, and having to go back and learn from my mistakes. I have got over some of my gremlins, but some will need a bit more work!

Not much of an evening by the time we got back, and even with the fire going, it was too cold to sit outside, so once again we piled into the van, joined by now by Jonathon and Lindsay, to have tea. We were able to have a lovely bit of ‘bacon’ steak for tea (for a butchers son, you know very little about meat identification, John!) but we managed to fill the van with smoke due to the foil catching alight! Not such a late night on Saturday, as we tried to catch up on some sleep ready for the CCV the next day. Not much chance of that though, when you have John wanting to share all his secrets in his sleep…..

Sunday morning, and John had managed to survive the night without taking his pants off in his sleep, so the first sight of the morning was not so bad. It was great to be able to enjoy the cooked breakfast, as my fears do not extend to Marks driving, only my own! There were 4 HBLRO members signed up for the CCV, Mark F with Claire, Matt with Roy and Ian, Jonathon with Lindsay and Mark A with myself. Having seen some of the sections the previous day, we knew it was going to be a good days trialling with some interesting sections. Unfortunately, all but Mark A and Jonathon were in different groups, so not much opportunity to take photos or clips of each other driving. Our group managed to survive the day without any roll overs, but Mark F was just queued up on the start line when the previous driver managed to roll coming down a particularly steep hill. Recovery took some time, and so they had a while to wait for their turn. Matt also had a couple go over in his group. Mark A suffered some damage when we hit a tree going a bit fast round a side slope. We knew we had bent the bumper quite a bit but when I was unable to open the door, it was clear it was not just the bumper (and my neck) that had suffered. Back for lunch, and quick repairs to the bumper ensued with a large hammer, and some door adjustments. Although Mark F said that I just needed to get in and out Dukes of Hazard style. That would look good on the start line. I am not sure I could have got my leg up that high anyway! John also had to remove a rather large stone from the rim that we had managed to pick up somewhere along the way. All that done, and some quick lunch made by Tricia, and we were back to it for the afternoon.

The last sections proved interesting, with a very steep drop down between exposed rocks. It was a case of point the nose down and go for the ride. I do confess to shutting my eyes at the top of that one! Unfortunately, we picked up some knocks to the body work on that section too. We were just on our second to last section, when Matt came past, having broken his motor (two events in a row now). The end of the day came very quickly, despite the fact that it was about 5.30pm before we finished. Matt ended the day on a score of 76, Jonathon on 75, Mark F on 41 and Mark A on 30. This earned Mark 12th in class.

After a quick coffee, and some packing up, we all headed off for prize giving……well the raffle anyway. Mark F was convinced he had been sold the winning ticket by Beulah, and was made up when his number was called and he walked away with a new high lift jack. Eric from Cornwall and Devon, and who marshals everything going, had his number called 3 or 4 times (but always turned them down after the first), and then went on to win the marshals prize. Well deserved certainly.

Me and Ian had a great weekend and were very reluctant to come home. I must say a bit thank you to Mark for sitting next to me for the RTV. I am sure him and John will hope they don’t get the short straw again. Cheers to Tricia and John who packed up the van for us. To the CCV drivers who gave folks a seat for the day. And thanks to all at SWLRC who set up and ran another superb, if not a tad extreme, trial. But then they do advertise it as a ‘challenging event’. They were as ever friendly and helpful, and we will be set again for coming next year. In particular I want to say thanks to Sara and Barry, our clip board marshals for Saturday and Sunday respectively. And finally, I must say a big thanks to all the HBLRO members who went, for yet again providing the laughs and great company for another brilliant weekend doing what we enjoy the best!


Pictures from the event



Videos on You Tube


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