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The Macmillan 4x4 UK Challenge 2003

David Kent and Mike Stapleton (Team 7)

Friday the 7th March – 14.15 Trip 01.2 Milometer 30421.8
Location: Cambridge

I left Cambridge at 14.15 to collect David (Kent) from my office in Ely. Left Ely at about 15.00 in torrential rain – the waving crowds of well wishers keeping well out of it – indoors.

Friday the 7th March – 18.15 Trip 209.4 Milometer 30631.2
Location: Hereford

After an uneventful journey, during which David and I began to get to know each other (as when we set off we were virtual strangers), we arrived at the Hopbine Hotel, our resting place for the night, at about 18.15. We met up with several other competitors – one was a chap I’d been chatting to, by e-mail, over the previous weeks, Mick Caswell, like myself a member of the Essex Land Rover Club made up the other member of ‘Team Essex LRC’. He was driving a Discovery, navigated by Chris Fiddy, an ambulance man (handy chap to have around). With him were two other vehicles: Chris’s son, James Caswell, was navigating a Range Rover automatic, driven by his stepfather, Mick Cox, (that’s Chris’s son’s stepfather – are you following this?), which had been brought the previous week. The other vehicle was a left-hand drive, ex Camel Trophy Discovery, complete with umpteen jerry cans on the roof rack, roll cage, winch et al, driven and navigated by Andy Smith and Ros Palmer. This group, who pretty much ran together all weekend, will in future be referred to as the ‘Essex boys’ (sorry, Ros). Also staying at the Hopbine Hotel were ‘the squaddies’ – two soldiers from the Army map making regiment in a military Defender 110 ‘Wolf’, a couple with an elderly 110 and another couple in a Nissan Patrol (more of that later).

We unpacked and having done so made our way to the Starting Gate, the evening rendezvous. Here we met several other competitors, one or two of the organisers and after a disappointing meal got our first sight of Charlie Dimmock! I was feeling very tired (a little worrying I have to say) so we left soon after 10 and headed for our beds.

Saturday the 8th March – 05.45 Trip 209.4 Milometer 30631.2
Location: Hereford

Up and at ‘em. Dressed, loaded and raring to go before breakfast at 07.00. Breakfast – a upbeat affair with a lot of good-natured banter between the various competitors.

Saturday the 8th March – 08.00 Trip 213.7 Milometer 30635.5
Location: Hereford Toyota Centre

Our first challenge was to find the start, (Ordnance Survey Landranger Map 149) but that was a doddle as it was straight down the road from our B&B. Arrived to the rather incongruous sight of lots of Land Rovers on a Toyota main dealer’s forecourt, and one on which they were trying to carry out a normal days business. They were most hospitable, pointing competitors in the direction of the coffee and the loos, a pity the local Land Rover dealer – which we passed soon after starting couldn’t have been so accommodating.

We were parked behind a white Defender 90, piloted by two (comparatively) young chaps. They and the ‘Essex boys’ were our companions throughout most of the event. Through scrutineering without a problem, but with mutterings from some quarters about having to rush around getting passport photographs which in the end, like our driver’s licences, insurance, and First Aid kits, weren’t asked for or checked. We were issued with our vehicle stickers – we were car number 7 (007), as I’d been the seventh person to send in the entry form.

A certain amount of hanging around until about 09.00 when we had the driver’s briefing and were issued with a Polaroid camera and Road Book One. Our task, to plot our route for the first part of the Challenge. The first of the typos in the road book showed up pretty quickly – it said ‘turn left out of then garage’ – wrong! We had to turn right!!

All too soon our turn to leave came – vehicles were sent out at one-minute intervals – so at 10.06 we were on our way!

Out along the A4103, our first challenge to photograph the name of Shakespeare’s birthplace. After Worcester, we picked up the A422 to Stratford, then the B4086, name of park, (Charlecote), B4455, Fosse Way, photograph chequered road sign (clue: road closed after that – not so, road works finished and road open!) near Copston Magma. On to the A5, then B4114 to the Leicester Ring Road.

Saturday the 8th March – 12.38 Trip 307.4 Milometer 30729.2 – 60.08 litres (13.2176 gallons) diesel
Location: Leicester Ring Road

A46 to A6097, photograph Lowdham (spelt wrong in Road Book) village sign, up A614, photograph gates of Clumber Park. The clue said ‘not the caravan entrance on A614’ so David thinking that the route setters were playing a fast one took us to the gates at the back of the park. This was our first mistake, as there were more than one set of gates on the A614. Stopped for a 10-minute break, then off up the A614, finding several other competitors and the correct gates to The National Trust property.

On to the A1, heading north for Ferrybridge, where we picked up the M62. West to junction 27, just north of Batley, where we stopped at a services (name on structure on skyline – the ‘Old Brickworks’ on a tall chimney) to get our instructions for the first, and only true, off-road section. Here David got charged £1.50 for a glass of ‘coke' and Charlie Dimmock was the absolute centre of attention with the clientele of the restaurant.

To Tong, where we had to drive round the off road section – being delayed along the way by a Freelander which was in front of us, who, to be fair, was being delayed by the Discovery in front of it. The instructions were a bit confusing ‘note down the numbers you see, not as you see them, but as you come to them’. So we saw number boards a bit off the track and didn’t mark them down thinking we would ‘come to them’ during the circuit. We didn’t, so probably dropped a few points here.

Off-roading done and off ever northwards, round Leeds and on the B6451 at Otley. (Ordnance Survey Landranger Map 104). We should have come to ‘Dangerous Corner’ on the B6451, where we were to note the distance to Pateley Bridge, carrying straight on across the crossroads. Almost as soon as we joined the B6451 – within a third of a mile, I now know that we missed a sharp right and carried straight on, on to the moors. Without realising our mistake, we got to Blubberhouses and carried on to Greenhow Hill on the B6265. When we arrived at Pateley Bridge, we knew we gone wrong and had to double back to Summerbridge at the junction of the B6451 and the B6165.

Question: What is New York? – it was an industrial estate. Now as we were travelling in the wrong direction, we had to turn round, and about a mile down the road I pulled into a church car park and did so. As we came out of the church, three other competitors’ vehicles, coming from the correct direction, saw us and assuming we’d just got the answer to the question there, all pulled up. Disinformation delayed the opposition!

Back on the B6265 to Ripon and back on to the A1 to the A689 towards Bishop Auckland, on to the A689, where we photographed the village sign of Toronto (Ordnance Survey Landranger Map 92 reference 195 310). From Toronto we travelled via Crook and Tow Law to Quebec, near Esh Winning, we photographed the sign and decided to have a quick coffee from our flasks as we were virtually at the night stop. As we did that the ‘Essex boys’ arrived to take their photographs.

Back to the A1 and the last leg to the Washington Services just south of Newcastle. We arrived there at about 20.45 and were provided with a Pritt stick so we could stick our Polaroid photographs into Road Book One. Having done that we exchanged Road Book One for Road Book Two.

Saturday the 8th March – 20.45 Trip 260.1 Milometer 30898.3
Location: Washington Services

David and I dived into the Burger King, just before it closed at 21.00 and brought a burger (veggie for me, chicken for David), we then went over the bridge to the main service area, where some of our co-competitors were tucking into their third fry-up of the day! To this point, after our cooked breakfast, David and I had only eaten a bag or two of crisps, I’d had a few crackers, whilst David had eaten two or three mini pork pies.

We spent the next two and a half hours plotting the rest of our route, using a normal Road map, some photocopies of Ordnance Survey maps and the seven Ordnance Survey Landranger 1:50,000 maps I’d brought for the event and one or two others I already owned.

At 23.45 we returned to the Land Rover to try and get some sleep – not easy in a traditional Land Rover, let me tell you! But I think I managed 40 minutes. At 00.45, we were up and refuelled, ready for a 01.06 start.

Sunday the 9th March – 01.06 Trip 0.00 Milometer 30635.5 – 52.74 litres (11.6028 gallons) diesel
Location: Washington Services

David took the wheel for the run up the A1 to Scotland. Just east of Eyemouth we turned left on to the A6112, and immediately turned right (well we did having gone up the road a bit and wondered what happened to the Land Rover who had been just behind us) to find a field near Abbey St Bathans (OS Landranger Map 67 reference 755 639), where we arrived at 03.02.

We were there for the Night Navigation exercise and were handed a sheet with 26 six-figure map references on it and a blank grid in which we were to record the number boards spotted en route. We had 30 minutes to plot our course across country (OS Landranger Maps 67 and 66), about 12 miles ‘as the crow flies’ – which would take us about three hours!

The Night Navigation was one of the highlights of the event, causing a lot of laughter along the way – but which also caused a few ‘grumbles’ from the crews involved – and probably a few from the owners of the outlying farms we passed. We left the field at 03.32, our task was to find the number boards, hidden in plain sight, along our route. The problem we encountered – possibly not suffered by those teams who had done the previous challenge – was that the boards weren’t at the actual map references. So before long there were as many as eight Land Rovers in convoy all searching the undergrowth and trees in the vicinity of the map references. No sooner would we give up on finding that number than, within a few minutes, we would spot a number half a mile or so from where we expected it to be.

It took quite a while – well it was the early hours of the morning – for the penny to drop. The number boards weren’t at the map references, because the map references were the way points and the number boards were somewhere between them!

We finished the Night Navigation exercise at a garage just outside Dalkeith (Landranger Map 66) not far from Edinburgh. Time for a quick break, to water the horses, and prepare for the next leg of our odyssey. I realised afterwards that I had stopped at the same garage before – back in January – but it looked a lot different in the early morning light.

On then to the A720, Edinburgh by-pass, the M8 and M9 to reach our next ‘photo call’. However, the Polaroid cameras we’d been handed at the start had only 12 shots and we were up to ‘take photograph of’ challenge number 14 by this time – added to the fact that our camera stopped working after 10 shots. So we had to ‘sketch’ what we found. After David took us on a slight diversion, what we found was the village sign for California – duly sketched and on our way again.

We dropped down to the A71 to our next sketching location – Moscow, just north east of Kilmarnock, not far from Glasgow. Then on to the A76, travelling south east to the next ‘off-road’ section just above Carronbridge.

Sunday the 9th March – 09.18 Trip 255.3 Milometer 31244.7 – 50.63 litres (11.1386 gallons) diesel
Location: Auchinleck, Ayrshire

We arrived at a small Forestry Commission wood, where we were handed another sheet with map references, to plot our course through the woods – again looking for number boards.

Half way round we met two or three other Land Rovers coming back – apparently an irate farmer was complaining that ‘no-one had asked his permission’ so they went back to the start to check with the marshals. Sadly, it was their map reading that was at fault and they shouldn’t have been attempting to enter the farmer’s land at all. Back on course and shortly afterwards the lead vehicles map reading let them down – they didn’t think we should be on this particular forest track. I did, so David and I took the lead, shortly afterward to be rewarded with the sight of a number board, proving that we were on the right track (if you'll excuse the pun).

We then followed a really nice (to drive) winding lane in to the hills, we photographed (sketched) the bridge at Garroch, and were in turn photographed by the Land Rover World photographer – god knows how he got there, in the middle of nowhere, as he was hitching a ride with various competitors. Then on to the village of Ae – another ‘sketching’ assignment.



Both David and I were out of the vehicle when the Land Rover World photographer took this photograph. We were both taking the same shot – so between us have three virtually identical photographs! The photograph on the last page was also taken by the LRW photographer as we sped away from this spot.

Here we went wrong again – at the previous nights planning there were one or two map references we didn’t like the look of and had meant to ask for clarification, but we’d forgotten. One of those rogue references was the next we were to look for, it appeared to be in the middle of the Forest of Ae. It was then that I spotted a red ‘motorsport’ arrow, the kind that had pointed us into various checkpoints along our way and so I decided to follow it.

It led us into the forest, and although there seemed to be no one else around, we sped on through the trees. Lots of fun driving at 30 to 40 mph along the forest tracks – which were very well graded. Then we saw another Land Rover coming towards us – we must be in the right place after all – we pulled over, but he just passed us by – not a fellow competitor at all. Onwards then, until four miles into the forest I tried to ring the Clerk of the Course to check we really should be there – no signal, unsurprisingly. Well, fun as it was, if we were meant to be there we’d have seen someone else, and if we weren’t we were going away from our general direction. So we retraced our steps – or wheel tracks.

Through to as near to the next map reference as the road took us and saw at once the answer to the next question: Engineering? The name of the engineering company whose property extended to both sides of the road at the T-junction. A left and a right to pick up a minor road to Lockerbie, where we had to ‘photograph’ the statue in the town centre.

This section of the Challenge pretty much done, so we stopped for a coffee in the High Street (from a flask I hasten to add – not a shop!). We were confident at this point that we were last – not so apparently, as Mick Caswell and the ‘Essex boys’ breezed by.

On, ever onwards, down the M74 towards the Gretna Green Services. This was another of the map references we should have queried earlier, we’d been given a photocopied map on which to find our location and at planning we’d identified the approximate area we were heading to – and that’s where we went – to Longtown. We barrelled down the motorway, making up time and catching up with the Essex contingent, who watched open-mouthed as we tore past the Services (where they knew we were supposed to go) in the outside lane. Longtown is about 3 or 4 miles beyond the motorway services, on the A6071. Once we got there we realised our mistake and headed back – our problem was getting to the services without going back up the motorway to the previous junction and coming down again. David got us there after one or two wrong turns and in the face of my outright insistence we wouldn’t be able to ‘get there from here’.

We met an official, who told us that we were the penultimate team – the last was two lads in an old Series 2 diesel Land Rover! We were supposed to take a 15-minute break, but he recommended we press on. The last team arrived as we departed. Our next challenge was to travel down the M6 to our next map reference near junction 34 of the M6, travelling at an average speed of 60mph.

Difficult as it is for me to travel at 60mph, in this instance I had no choice, as torrential rain brought a 50mph speed restriction most of the way and we were lucky if we managed that – coming to a halt more than once. Leaving the motorway at junction 34, we had to travel about 2 miles along the A683 to a picnic area between Halton and Caton (we were now in north west Lancashire, with Morecombe about 10 miles due west on Landranger Map 97).

We arrived at the picnic area and handed in our time card. In exchange we received another sheet with map references and questions to be answered. ‘Leave as soon as you like – you are the last vehicle leaving from here’, we were told. The ‘Essex boys’ were there – queuing for burgers when we arrived, but soon departed. Route plotted and on our way at 15.30 (I thought we were supposed to be finished by 13.30!). Out of the car park, left across the river, left and then first right, climbing back into rural country.

On to Landranger Map 102. First challenge: Name the pub (The Hall Arms). Then we spotted an excited lady waving at us eagerly from the side of the road. I recognised her and at first thought it was one of the organisers flagging us down to tell us that as we were so late we had to give up and head for the hotel. But no, it was the navigator of the Nissan Patrol. She pointed downhill to our next challenge: extricate the Nissan Patrol from the grass verge, where its 2-tons of weight had sunk it to its axles! So roped up and I tried to pull it – I should have tried low range first gear I realise now, but tried second and didn’t manage to budge it. The ’Essex boys’ turned up (behind us again?) and the Camel Discovery joined on the front of the train – I tried first gear this time and the Patrol popped out easily – but well splattered with mud.

Off we sped, followed by the Camel Discovery and ultimately the Patrol. We three leap frogged (metaphorically) over each other for the rest of the event. The other two ‘Essex boys’ retired as the Range Rover needed yet more fuel and by the time they’d got that, thought ‘Sod it!’.

Name by the seat – road sign: Proctor; name the border – the Trough of Bowland; at a junction – what’s 2 miles distant – a Wild Boar sanctuary. At a red telephone box: find a number board. Do a double take – two ex-Camel Trophy Discoverys (what is the plural of a Land Rover Discovery?) side by side! Name the view: up a hill, round a sharp bend and there spread out besides us was the view, with a tourist Information board, and there on our inside flank was a Camel Discovery!

Down the edge of Landranger Map 102 we went, and right on to the B6243. At Longridge, the colour of the Bull (White) and on to Grimsargh and our last clue. The name of the video rental supplier. We found the village shop, the only place to rent videos, and David went in – he got the name of the company renting videos, though was it the shop name they required? We will probably never know, as we didn’t get our Road Books back once they’d been marked.

So that was it! Back on to the M6, to a service area where we handed in our route sheet and saw one or two fellow competitors filling tanks. We were instructed now to head to the Hotel, and that there were still a few cars behind us. I don’t think there were as I’m fairly confident we were last at this point.

Sunday the 9th March – 17.30 Trip 272.1 Milometer 31516.8
Location: Daresbury Park De Vere Hotel, Junction 11 M56

We arrived at the Hotel at 17.30 having been driving that day pretty much non-stop for fifteen and a half-hours! We handed in our road book, checked into the Hotel and David put the kettle on and we enjoyed the first of the cakes made by my colleague Debbie that we’d carried with us throughout without trying.

We didn’t have much time to relax before we were due in the bar at 19.30 for dinner. I had a very deep, very hot bath and got dressed for dinner. David had a shower and like me found it all a bit hot.

We made our way down to the ground floor to the restaurant to find that it was on our (the first) floor – navigation not improved then! It was quite weird walking into the bar – everyone cleaned up and smartly dressed. It was really quite difficult to recognise people you’d spent hours with. Dinner was duly served – vegetable soup followed by some sort of chicken dish which looked good enough, pasta in a rather too creamy sauce was the veggie option, and there were two bottles of red wine and one of white on each table (between eight). Sweet – (was it apple pie?), coffee and mints and we were done eating.

Now came the highlight of the evening – prize giving, amongst lots of applause and well-meaning banter. Trophies were awarded to the ‘winners’ – First overall with 88 points, the father and son team, David and John Standring driving a Land Rover Discovery TD5. They’d entered last year and came in eighth and last, driving a Land Rover Series 2. The highest sponsorship of £2,699.24 (just beating last year’s total of £2635.00) raised by Andy Handford and Katie Vandersteen-Hague driving a Range Rover 3.5 Vogue. The winners of the off-road trophy were Nick Bevan and Richard Price in a Nissan DZZ 2.5d. The trophy for first place in the Night Navigation exercise went to Darren Parrott and Neil Herbert driving a Land Rover Defender 2.5 Tdi. And the ‘Spirit of the Event’ trophy went to David and Karen Griffiths. They’d apparently broken down, got recovered home by an AA recovery truck, and returned in another Land Rover to finish! Honourable mention went to two young chaps from London, who were seated at our table, and had just arrived at the hotel – they’d got to within a mile or two of the finish when their elderly Land Rover 90 had expired.

Then there was an auction with Charlie Dimmock doing her best to get the most money for the items on offer. The most interesting items, as far as I was concerned, were brought along by ‘the squaddies’. They had liberated from their stores ‘Escape scarves’ from the 1950s – silk scarves each with a road plan of a different town (mainly Russian or East German I think). If the authorities were after you, suspected of spying perhaps, you had the map to get you out of town round your neck! The other lots they had – about 3 or 4 sets, I think – were complete sets of Landranger 50,000 maps – 260 of them! They retail at £6.99 – so they were offering £1800.00 worth of maps and looking for a minimum of £200.00. The only down side was that they were flat (in other words, not folded). I don’t know if they actually sold any.

The rest of the evening passed and later I found myself talking to God on the big white telephone. I blame the over rich sauce on the pasta and a stomach that wasn’t used to food at all, George says it was probably the two pints of Guinness and the glass or two of red wine.

Monday the 10th March – 08.30 Trip 272.1 Milometer 31516.8
Location: Daresbury Park De Vere Hotel, Junction 11 M56

I still felt very rough but we decided to go and have a bit of a swim in the hotel pool – the entrance to which as just 20 feet away down the corridor. I’d checked it out the night before and although only a small pool, a swim might be refreshing – it was out of order!

I also had to pass on breakfast, I felt so rough.

Monday the 10th March – 11.30 Trip 284.6 Milometer 31529.3 58.71 litres (12.9162 gallons) diesel
Location: Knutsford Services, M6

Monday the 10th March – 14.30 Trip 196.9 Milometer 31726.3 36.23 litres (7.9706 gallons) diesel
Location: Haviland Way, Cambridge

Back home after a thoroughly enjoyable event – and looking forward to next year.

The next day, back at work, I e-mailed the following: ‘Well we did it! We didn't win – or probably come close – but we had a fantastic fun weekend and raised some money for a very good cause’.

What we didn’t realise then was that we actually came sixth – an achievement of which David and I are extremely proud. Many of those with higher placings had taken part the previous year and the navigator had probably seen a Landranger map before the start!

We raised £1505.00 – and were one of only four out of the 40 teams to raise more than £1000.00. The top amount raised, a little under £2700, was slightly up on last year (£2635). I haven’t heard the final sum raised but I understand that it was approaching £20,000.00 and I was gratified to learn that all of the money raised goes to Macmillan Cancer Relief – none of it is used to run the event, which is funded out of our entry fees.

Trivia

We drove 881.3 miles during the event (from 10.00 Saturday to 17.30 Sunday) and between leaving Cambridge on Friday 7th March and getting back there on Monday 10th March I travelled 1297.8 miles!

We used 258 litres of fuel at a cost of £209.96 – average consumption was 23.066 mpg (I do push on!).

David had a baptism of fire, but soon learnt how to read an OS Landranger 50,000 map - and to follow our position whilst being thrown about somewhat!

We got about 40 minutes sleep between getting up at 05.45 Saturday and going to bed at a little after midnight on Sunday (42½ hours later).

We ate amazingly little between breakfast on Saturday morning (07.00) and a piece of Debbie’s cake, 35 hours later, at 18.00 on Sunday, at the Hotel (Dinner was at about 20.30). I ate one veggie burger (Saturday night), three packets of crisps, half a packet of Thai Bites, a Mars bar, a can Red Bull, a small (75ml) flask of coffee and plenty of water. David ate one chicken burger (Saturday night), three packets of crisps, half a dozen mini pork pies, a glass of very expensive Coke, a small amount of tea and plenty of water. Not a lot!

We thoroughly enjoyed it – and have already put our names down to do it again next year!

MIKE

Full results for first six places:

1st overall (88 points) David and John Standring – Land Rover Discovery TD5.
2nd overall (86 points) Giles Lowther and Stewart Hobbs – Toyota Landcruiser.
3rd overall (75 points) David Roderick and Chris Wright – Nissan Terrano II 2.7D LWB.
Joint 4th overall (74 points) Russ Brown and Charlie Dimmock – Land Rover Defender 90 300 Tdi.
Joint 4th (74 points) Martin Madge and Lynda Edwards – Land Rover Freelander.
6th overall (72 points) Mike Stapleton and David Kent – Land Rover Defender 110 Double cab. (That’s us folks!)

1st off-road (42 points) Nick Bevan and Richard Price – Nissan DZZ 2.5d.
2nd off-road (41 points) Nigel and Kat Christopher – Land Rover 110 County.

1st Night Navigation (21 points) Darren Parrott and Neil Herbert – Land Rover Defender 2.5 Tdi.
2nd Night Navigation (20 points) Russell Hobson and Chris Vowles – Land Rover Discovery Tdi.

Highest Sponsorship £2,699.24 Andy Handford and Katie Vandersteen-Hague – Range Rover 3.5 Vogue.
Spirit of the Event David and Karen Griffiths – Land Rover 110, Land Rover 90 and an AA recovery truck.