When I get an invite to a press day in the UK and I know I have a couple of hours spare, I like to go on TrailWise and source out a few easy green-lanes to drive. On this occasion I was invited to the Vehicle Testing Facility down in Millbrook, not far from Bedford, for a Mercedes Benz Unimog experience. I know, cool right?
The event didn't begin till 11.45am, so after another lovely stay at Upper Wood End Farm Guest house in Marston Moretaine, I set off in search of the 3 lanes that looked interesting.
The first lane, ref TL0037-01, or Moneypot Hill is only 1.3 miles long, according to View Ranger, though it felt much longer, though I suppose it will if your travelling at a blistering 5-10mph!
According to reports on TrailWise it was closed for a while during the building of the Woburn Forest Centre Parcs and has a seasonal TRO on it. (Traffic Regulation Order which means it’s closed during our winter months to prevent potential damage).
Turning off the A507, Moneypot Hill skirts around the edge of a ploughed field on your right, and to your left, into the woods you occasionally become aware of a high wire fence that I assume stops people from escaping, umm, I mean entering Centre Parts without paying.
Moneypot Hill is in really good condition with only one section where off-piste driving is evident. There was one rutted section, but the lane is wide enough to be easily avoided.
A little further on and surface becomes sandy as the lane threads its way through trees, but not in a tight way, there’s plenty of space for a LWB. At this point I understood why the local council would want put a TRO on it, the surface at the northern end is quite soft, and after a good downpour and quite a few 4x4s, I suspect a lot of damage would be incurred.
There was an abundance of wildlife that crossed my path, from grey squirrels, pheasants and other birds that I couldn’t identify, bet they'd taste nice though!
Although I didn't need to, I left Deux Smurf in 1st gear low and just trundled along at tickover, there was no need to rush.
By this stage the lane was straight, narrow and cut its way through trees, the ground was solid and mildly rutted in places. Passing through an open metal gate the lane continues to be quite narrow but eventually opens up with access tracks to fields on both sides.
On reaching tarmac I carried on towards the T junction and turned right onto Cobblers Lane which takes you under the M1. The next lane was SP9233-01 or Sandy lane and only a couple of miles away.
Following the directions on ViewRanger I arrived at the southern end of Sandy Lane which can be mistaken for a large car park, but on closer inspection, in the distance you can see a gap in the tree line. At this point I decided to get out and have a look to see what I was getting myself into.
As I reached the start of the lane I spotted a young chap in a modified 300Tdi Discovery heading towards me, we exchanged pleasantries and chatted for a few minutes about the state of the lane, and of course 4x4s. We didn't swap names but I did give him a business card, so if you're reading this - hi!
Although it’s only around 913 metres long, Sandy Lane is fairly wide with some interesting twisty bits that give your suspension a mild work out. Near the end of the lane, heading north, there are some deep bomb holes which when flooded could make it interesting. Due to the lanes width it’s difficult to know which line to take as tracks wander on either side of the trees. The surface, as its name suggests is like hard packed sand and there are some undulations, but nothing tricky.
Eventually reaching the carpark at the northern end I wasn’t tempted to veer right, but it looked like a back street with access to houses, so instead I carried on along Church Road passing Aspley Heath and on towards Woburn Sands and my final lane.
I’d read that SP9236-01, or Mill Way has it’s own unique challenges. It’s a solid dirt track and less than a mile long, but it passes through the middle of Aspley Guise Golf Club and someone suggested that it’s wise not to dawdle much as you’ll be the accidental target of errant golf balls, so I didn’t. Being honest, I wouldn’t go out of my way to drive Mill Way again, it wasn’t that exciting.
And that was it, all three lanes were driven and thoroughly enjoyed, and on a day like this can easily be drive in more modern SUVs, like the Skoda Yeti or SEAT Ateca
With an hour still remaining before I needed to be at Millbrook I took the obvious decision to drive the lanes again but this time in reverse order, well, it would’ve been rude not to!