24 October 2022
LRM Editor Patrick Cruywagen takes on some select Hampshire greenlanes with the London Mud Club
Most of my greenlaning experiences in the UK have been in places such as Wales, Yorkshire, the Lake District or the Peak District. All of them great locations in their own right. I have done some lanes local to me (see landrovermonthly.co.uk/articles/travel/bedfordshire-greenlanes), but who drives to the English counties of Surrey or Berkshire just to go greenlaning? Locals I suspect, as they are familiar with the lay of the land there.
When I recently got an invite from Rob Tasker (aka Capt Ratty on Instagram) to do a run of lanes in the Hampshire area, I have to admit that I was a wee bit sceptical when accepting. The day of laning would be combined with a night of camping with the notoriously popular but impossible-to-join London Mud Club (LMC). The venue for the camp-out? The farm of Bob Ives, the Camel Trophy legend and great friend of LRM.
The route wasn’t terribly taxing, but the Hampshire countryside was attractive
Greenlaning – guaranteed to make you smile. Pat's mates Harry, Johnny and Stan joined him
At the 2021 Billing Off Road Show I was surprisingly awarded (cost me a case of fine South African brandy) with membership of the exclusive LMC but this was to be my first official outing with them. To ensure that they did not take advantage of me I invited the Three Musketeers along. A trio that consists of Harry Shipton (you want this man by your side if you are in a scrap and we have been in a few during our short friendship), Johnny Nel (the man responsible for making Front Runner great again in the UK) and Stan Scrooby (the man with a plan and gadget for every situation). Johnny was in his D4 while Harry hopped in with Stan who was in his tidy Td5 90. I was in the Green Mamba, my gas-guzzling 110.
Series III doing what Land Rovers do best
Our hosts, the LMC, kick off proceedings in the appropriate fashion with an early morning meet-up at Rob’s local, the Phoenix Inn near Hook, where the owner Andrew has prepared a delightful buffet of bacon and egg rolls which we wash down with copious amounts of coffee. I think that GLASS (the UK’s Greenlane Association) should make it law that all greenlaning outings must begin with said breakfast. The world would be a better place for it, even if its inhabitants might have to take more regular cholesterol checks.
On the weekend prior to our day of laning, Rob and the LMC president, Lord Trousers, had done a recce of the route and cut away any overhanging or scratchy branches. I suspect our rooftop tents and awnings will be safe today. As we have ten Land Rovers in attendance, we split the group in half as laning should be done in convoys of no more than five.
At the briefing Rob shows me on a map where we will be going. Basically, it was to be a morning of laning that will finish up at Bob’s farm. Our first lane is only a few minutes from the pub, which lies to the east of Basingstoke. All the lanes we are about to drive lie to the south of the M3 and to the north of the A31. According to Rob we will be spending most of the time off-road with very short tar road transits between the lanes. I do hope that is the case.
Boggy conditions in places proved no great obstacle to this group
Myself and the musketeers are in the second group and I am given a handheld radio to ensure sound comms at all times, a vital ingredient for any successful campaign. We let the first group head off while we deflate tyres and check recovery gear. Hopefully we will not be needing the latter. Our first lanes start just outside of Greywell and from here we head in a south-westerly direction towards Upton Grey. I decide to stay in high range for now to see how we go. Normally if the going gets rough I just stay in first gear which I find is more than adequate in my high-revving straight-six-engined station wagon.
It wasn’t just a muddy day out for the boys
Dressing dapperly seems to be a prerequisite of a London Mud Club outing
Who needs a spare wheel when you have a whole spare vehicle?
Our outing starts off with good quality gravel tracks but this is the English winter for heaven’s sake, and after about 15 minutes the conditions become somewhat boggier. This seems more like it. The ruts progressively become deeper and there is lots of water to splash about in. Some might call it a hippo’s dream. Maybe make that a baby hippo as it is not that deep – knee-high at best. Still, nothing gets the heart beating like lots of water and having to power through deep mud and ruts. My BF Goodrich T/A KM3s were made for conditions like this; while others spin and slide, my tyres have plenty of grip and propel me forward without any drama.
Johnny Len’s D4 leads the convoy for a splash in the mud and water
About halfway down the first set of lanes we cross an old Roman road and pass under a beautiful old railway bridge before rejoining the tar stuff at Upton Grey. From here it is a short transit on tarmac roads to Tunworth where our second set of lanes start.
The weather gods have been kind to us. Despite the overcast and cold conditions, the rain seems to stay away. More ruts and water take us through manicured farmlands, and after crossing the A339 it’s off into the green woodlands for a change of scenery. Some of the tracks through the trees are rather tight and I watch in my rear-view mirror as Johnny expertly steers his big maroon D4 between the unforgiving trunks of the trees.
It doesn’t take long for us to exit Allwood Copse and it’s at this point Rob calls a halt and a leg stretch. Stan fires up his Jetboil for a brew. Harry forgot the bloody biscuits. Mutts escape from their owner’s Land Rovers and go for a sniff and a wee. After about 30 minutes we roll on towards College Farm where another tar transit takes us to our third and final set of lanes.
Track through Allwood Copse tight for the D4
From Moundsmere Manor we meander east over more rolling farmlands. The lanes are not challenging at all but it is just great to be out and about in Hampshire. There are one or two places where the ruts are a bit deep and the mud rather sticky, but nothing my Defender can’t handle.
At Preston Candover we head east to our final lane of the day. It has been fun exploring a county I don’t really know by only using greenlanes. We’ve not seen any other 4x4s though we did pass two bikers and moved over so that they could pass.
4x4 tracks on Bob Ives’ farm were slippery if you didn’t have the right tyres
Checking out Bob Ives’ Camel Trophy Defender
From where our final lane ends it is only a chip and a putt to Bob’s farm. The magnificent LMC team have prepared pulled pork rolls for all of us to enjoy for lunch. Bob is the perfect and most gracious host and afterwards he takes us out onto his private off-road tracks. I have visited his lovely farm several times before but for most in the group it is their first time meeting this Camel Trophy legend. Bob leads us along his 4x4 tracks in his new Defender D240. On one of the inclines, it struggles a bit because of tyre choice. Rob has a go in Blue, his Series III, and makes it no problem.. Well, after his sixth attempt… The sun has set by the time our convoy makes its way back to the campsite.
The day’s play done, time to head to the campsite
Fires are lit and the LMC eating festival continues long into the night. I hear that cheese and biscuits were served at 2.00am but I was asleep by then. Prior to heading home in the morning all attendees are served sausage and bacon baps. I enjoy greenlaning somewhere new and this outing to Hampshire has been memorable in many ways; the company, seeing Bob again and driving new tracks. Did I mention the food? While it might be easier to get a free FA Cup Final ticket than an invite to an LMC event, at least our maps will make it easy for you to follow in their tyre tracks. These lanes will keep you occupied for half a day and there’s every chance that you just might just enjoy them.
LMC camp was convivial – cheese and biscuits not served until 2.00am…
Where we had breakfast
The Phoenix Inn, Phoenix Green, London Rd, Hartley Wintney, Hook, RG27 8RT. Andrew the owner will happily accommodate groups or clubs. A great spot to start or finish a Hampshire greenlaning adventure. See phoenixinnhw.co.uk.
The London Mud Club
Thanks for inviting LRM on this Hampshire laning excursion. You may have seen LMC stalwarts Lord Trousers and Captain Ratty up to their usual tricks on Instagram. How do you sign up for a trip or join the club? You don’t. Check your post box every day for an invite. Curious? See londonmudclub.com.
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