Leicestershire Green Lanes.
A drive around our rural County and a barn find.
A glorious day, with light frost rapidly melting as the sun rose in a crisp blue sky, heralded the time to wake up my 80 inch from its winter hibernation. The old girl lives in a lock up garage some 3 miles away and I drove there armed only with a bunch of keys. Clearing the bonnet of jerry cans, sand ladders and the odd old tyre, I squeezed into the drivers seat. There was the creaking of stiff leaf springs, a smell of old canvas and as I turned the key, the reassuring rat-a-tat-tat of the fuel pump. I reached for the starter button and after a hesitant start the engine fired up. I eased it out into the sunshine and did a quick check of all the levels and drove home.
My partner Jo and I planned to drive a few local green lanes so we put in the high lift jack and a winch rope, a flask of hot chocolate and some biscuits. As it was still very cold we kept the roof and door tops on. Hats, scarves and gloves were essential, but the heater was there to offer a smell of warmth. The first green lane we tried was quite rutted from continuous tractor use and at one stage the ruts were too deep for my worn ex Range Rover tyres and we bottomed out on the diff. I always adopt Tom Shepard’s approach to getting stuck. Tom points out in his book, 'The Vehicle Dependent Expedition Guide', that once stuck you are unlikely to get more stuck by doing nothing. I got out, assessed the situation and began to jack up the front of the Land Rover. A bit of heave-ho and I managed to jack it clear of the ruts and onto the hard ground in the middle of the track.
We continued and met up with a cyclist on his mountain bike, then a woman out riding her horse. Friendly chat was exchanged with both, based on what a nice day it was and how good it was to be able to get out into the countryside. I have never had any negative comments when greenlaning in the 80 inch. Maybe its because it looks so unthreatening and almost a biodegradable part of the countryside itself, with its dented panels and faded paint work. We stopped for lunch in a village pub and warmed up a bit before pressing on. Jo had opened more gates than she really wanted to, so I let her drive for the afternoon. While I held open a gate, Jo drove through, straight into some more tractor ruts and got stuck. This time there was mud as well, so I didn’t fancy using the High Lift Jack as it would have slipped on the mud. Fortunately there was a stout tree trunk in the hedge and I was able to use a tree strop and the capstan winch to ease the Land Rover gently out of the ruts and back onto the dry byway.
We had been quite high up and from this point on it was downhill and easy going. Views of Northamptonshire opened up before us, bright green in the low winter sun. We had the place to ourselves and stopped for a cup of hot chocolate to warm our hands. The map showed we should emerge in the back of a farm just before rejoining the main road and we could see it in the distance. As we approached something caught my eye through the hedge. I’m sure I’m not alone in always scouring the countryside for old Land Rovers and possess the uncanny ability to recognise a Land Rover body panel at a hundred paces. To my enormous surprise, tucked behind a barn, was a circa 1951 80 inch. It was very straight and looked as though it could have been there for about 20 years. Close inspection revealed it to be a rare aluminium bulkhead model and it was complete except for a battery. I resisted asking at the farm as to whether it was for sale or not. I have a weakness for such things and really, really, don’t need any more.
Feeling as if some devil had been conquered within me, we left the retired farm Land Rover to be snapped up by some other eager enthusiast and joined the main road to drive back up to Leicester. It had been a great day out and both our faces were flushed with fresh air and sunshine. The 80 inch had performed perfectly and all that remained was to ease it back into the lock up, pile it up with all the junk again and wait for the next opportunity to indulge in some 80 inch Landy fun.