An eventful drive to the workshop in the coldest December in 100 years.
Snow precedes the one time all of us become welcome heroes and all anti 4x4 talk is forgotten as a blanket of white causes chaos across the Country. As I write this over Christmas, we haven’t actually had any snow here in central England, just gallons of rain to a point where it is not very funny any more. As Land Rover enthusiasts we are, however, ready! Fuel tank full, blankets and shovel on board and various ropes and straps checked just in case there is an opportunity to help out pals and neighbours. The irony is that I am usually miles away in my car when the snow suddenly starts to fall, streaking towards the windscreen like the scene in Star Wars when the Millennium Falcon goes into Hyperspace Warpdrive. Thankfully a small front wheel drive car with decent tyres is not too bad in fresh snow, it’s just the other idiots!
To recall a decent Land Rover drive in snow I have to go back to early December 2010. I was in the final stages of Expedition Preparation before heading off to the sunny climes of North Africa just after Christmas. There was an inevitable list of last minute tweaks to my Carawagon that I wanted to get sorted out at my son Matt’s place in Matlock, but a snow fall of Arctic magnitude cut off his hilltop workshop even to Land Rovers and it was two full days before a tractor eventually made a way through the 3 foot deep snow. Thanks to unrelenting sub zero temperatures the snow had lasted in crisp and crunchy form and despite the main roads being clear the final two miles to the workshop were going to present a challenge.
Various ‘phone conversations with Matt had highlighted the dangers of driving in deep snow, even in a Land Rover. In one vain attempt to reach the workshop in his Discovery, running on worn road tyres, he had misjudged exactly where the edge of the road was and slid gracefully into the ditch! A stark reminder that whilst we have the advantage of four wheel drive, all cars have four wheel brakes! Matt called me late on the second day to confirm he had made it in his 110 shod with a respectable set of Michelin XZLs and snow chains on the front (he only had one pair) and thought I would stand a good chance in the Carawagon with relatively new B F Goodrich All Terrain's.
I drove up early in the morning on a lovely crisp and sunny day and all the main roads were completely clear. It was only when I turned off a minor road and onto the lane near Matlock that things got tricky. A car was slithering about trying to get up the hill in front of me and I got out to offer a push, but there was no way it was going any further. The driver said she had been trying to get over the top for three days and would just have to accept a wait until it thawed. With her out of the way I had a clear run and opted for second gear, high ratio. The tractors had made deep ruts that I was forced to follow as they were frozen and inflexible. Being slightly wider than the track of the Land Rover meant that one side was in the rut and the other just on the edge of the second rut. Occasionally a rock hard lump of frozen snow would throw the Carawagon over from the left rut to the right. It made for an exciting ride! Fortunately, there was nothing coming the other way as there were no passing options without risking slipping into the ditch. Having conquered the lane I then had to drive down the pot-holed track to the workshop with ice crunching away under the tyres and snow falling from leaden tree branches above. Finally, after about half an hour of the sort of driving usually found on the Croisière Blanche, I was in Matt’s workshop ready for a days’ fiddling on various bits of Carawagon. Outside the snow was still well over two feet deep and looked likely to be around for a few days yet. By home time the temperature had plummeted to -18° and the snow was really crunchy. Land Rover heaters, being what they are, both Matt and I were well wrapped up for our respective trips home, but having negotiated the track and the lane all was clear, if a little icy. Fingers crossed we shall get our fair share of the white stuff, then hopefully we can all be heroes, help stranded motorists and get old ladies to the Doctors. Then maybe the media will for once praise our efforts.
The final two miles to the workshop offered conditions usually found on the Croisière Blanche.
The Michelin XZLs on Matt’s 110 made it after a Tractor cad cleared the way.