‘flocking on Anglesey, 2006

So here I am, doing a bit of housekeeping on the old computer, shifting this, deleting that, and being quite ruthless, well for me anyhow.  However, I’ve just come across something that has brought a lot of memories flooding back, so naturally I’ve stopped, as has my flurry of motivation.

For quite a number of years I was a bit of an addict on a wonderful generic 4x4 website called Difflock.com.  It wasn’t their unique range of 4x4 goodies at reasonable prices that made Difflock so special, but it helped.  No, what I really appreciated Peter and Simon for, Difflock’s original owners, was their forum.  With sections for most 4x4’s, it was a goldmine of information, it still is, though I haven’t been on for a while, but it was the community that really made it what it was.

Every now and again different forum members would organise trips, either green-laning or camping, often both.  Having enjoyed the company and appreciated the hard work put in by said members in organising past events, my mate Barny and I decided to put together a weekend ourselves at OTT Adventures on Anglesey.  

Now, I can’t remember why we chose OTT Adventures, but we did and it was a cracking choice.   They’ve been around for quite a while offering paintball, Air soft, tank driving, team building and Survival skill courses.  Then one day a bloke came around and said to Matt, ‘You know, this would make a great 4x4 centre.’  And that was the beginning of another ribbon to their bow, so to speak.

Brushing over a couple of months worth of organisational headaches and frustrations, the weekend of 1st & 2nd July loomed, and with 14 definite’s and quite a few maybe’s, there was no turning back.

And so the day arrived, Barny in his Nissan D71 Cypriot imported Double Cab known as the Tin Can, and Muddy Madam and I set off in the Smurf with caravans in tow to Wales.  We had hoped for a trouble free journey, no chance, we got stuck in an 8 mile tail back on the A55!

On arrival we unhitched our caravans and sorted ourselves out, Matt then proceeded to show us the planned camp site which was down in the forest.  However, it had become significantly overgrown since Barny had first seen it, and after a bit of thought they decided that the campers would be better off camping in the field just above where we’d plonked our caravans.

It didn’t take long for other ‘flockers to start arriving, first was Neil and Neil in their L200 double cab towing a slightly modified SJ, then Paull in his old 110 hard top towing another slightly modified Zook.  

Not long after that, Dave arrived with his son in his Unimog 404 and was first to go exploring.  When Dave’s wife arrived with the rest of his family in the car, Barny and I ventured into the forest to let him know.  We found him at the end of his winch cable as he was pulling himself through the mire that would see many an off-roader struggle with over the weekend.

And so it was back up to the caravans to crack open the beers, light up the BBQ’s and wait to see who else would arrive.  In no particular order due to a Guinness induced mind block, Allan and Wurzel (the dog) arrived in the Vitara, as did Kris in the Disco with his 2 mates,  as well as Martyn in his 90 and his mate.  Mark and Matthew arrived in their trayback zuki and well equipped 90.

Saturday morning arrived and we woken to the sounds of an array of softball guns in the forest, ‘rattatatat’, or something like that, it was 11 years ago!  How much did I drink last night?  Had I been transported into war zone overnight?  It was a bit surreal.

After the customary fry-up it was 9.00am and already the weather was far too hot!  First to arrive today was Dave in his black Discovery, then not long after Paull drove down from the camping field in his 110 minus its roof and doors, it looked spectacularly cool.

Whilst the others ventured down to the forest, Barny, Dave, Muddy Madam and I decided to go on the hillside where we collected Allan and Wurzel.  There is a track that zig zags around, but we were told that we had free range, so off went Barny exploring whilst Dave and I found what can only be described as large slabs of rock to traverse.  I was quite impressed that I didn’t catch the Smurfs rear bumper on any of the rocks as some of the drop off’s were quite steep.  Barny on the other hand ended up with a rear bumper that resembled a smiley face.  Driving around the other side of the hill we drove through thorn bushes that were a good 3 or 4 feet high, good for cleaning the chassis, not so good for the sills and door bottoms!  

After a quick photo shoot with the Disco, Tin Can, Smurf and Vitara (see main photo), Barny discovered a severe rocky hill to drive down.  Concerned for my mates safety, I asked that if the descent went horribly wrong, could have the microwave from his caravan?  We needn’t of worried, 1st gear, low box and everything went well, even the crunch from the tow bar wasn’t that bad!  When it was Dave’s turn in his Discovery, he decided on an easier way down - sensible lad.  

By this time Paull, Neil and Neil arrived in Paull’s topless 110 and wanted a go, so again Barny was on spotting duties.  ‘Drive down there, turn left at the biggish rock and head for the brown bush, you’ll be reet!’  Paull enjoyed it so much, he drove straight up for another go.

By this time it was midday, so we ventured back to the caravans for lunch.  The weather was still glorious, a bit too glorious for me as I nodded off for a couple of hours after being fed.

When I awoke, I drearily ventured down to the forest where I could hear the moans and groans of winches, the high revving of engines and scraping and slurping of tyres digging frantically in the mud.  So I parked up behind Barny’s Tin Can and walked the rest of the way down.

The first thing I saw was Dave’s Discovery stranded in the mud, and the other Dave had his 404 Unimog in a position to winch him out.  Once both Dave’s were in a safe position, Paull gave his 110 a bit of welly to try and escape the muddy ruts, but could only manage about ten yards at a time.  We threw branches that scattered the forest floor into the deep ruts for traction, and after a couple more attempts Paull was able to find grip and found an easier track through the trees, or so he thought.

Then Dave got his 404 in a bit of a situation, not even difflocks on all four wheels, huge tyres and portal axles could help, so it was out with his Tirfor winch, again.

Back to Dave in his Discovery, and he was going nowhere.  Along came Matthew in his highly modified 90 with front and rear winches, rear difflock and really big mud tyres and began the slow process of winching him up the badly rutted, muddy track.

Meanwhile, Paull had managed to get the 110 hung up on tree stumps, luckily Neil had an air jack.  Without this fantstic tool, heaven knows how we would have got Paull out.  An air bag is basically a rubber bag that, when inflated by the cars exhaust fumes, turns into what can only be described as barrel shaped balloon.  We placed the deflated bag under an axle, put the tube onto the exhaust, gave the 110 a little rev and within seconds the vehicle was raised sufficiently for us to shove logs under its tyres.  Two hours later we reached the top, and Dave (Disco) arrived to help, he to had just reached safe ground with help from Matt.  We had to laugh as he was covered from head to toe in mud, well he looked happy anyway.

It was now getting late in the afternoon, so we all decided it was time for BBQ’s and beers again.  A fire was lit in the old oil drum and muddy tales were shared, It was a great atmosphere with a great bunch of people.  Matt and his colleague collected some money from us and left to buy more food, beer and ice, not that we needed any, our eyes were bigger than our bellies.

Sunday morning arrived far too soon and bright for my liking, I wanted the thundery showers that the BBC weather forecast website promised me.  Through my bleary eyes I saw the shape of a 3rd generation Surf coming towards us, ‘This must be Andy.’  I thought.  During the night, around 1.00am, Ashley and his mate arrived in his huge green Suzuki SJ410 and had set up camp.  Another bunch of 4x4’s arrived from the LLRC that had booked separately with Mat.

After a quick shower and breakfast, Andy, Muddy Madam and I followed Barny into the forest and down into a particularly gnarly looking track.

‘It’s okay’ he said over the CB, ‘The tank has cleared a nice easy run through this part of the forest, and it’s nice and wide.’  

We started off with a three foot drop to negotiate through, and although it was a wide track there were many fallen trees to cross.  At one point Barny fell foul to a tree stump, so I had to pull him backwards.  Our next obstacle was another fallen tree, only this time it was right across the track and hovering about two feet off the ground.  Figuring that this could cause a bit of damage, we stood on it whilst and let Barny go first.

We decided to hook a rope to the end of the tree and attached to the Tincan so Barny could hopefully drag it out of the way.  All that happened was that it bent slightly, which was ok as Andy and myself could just about squeeze past in our Surfs.

Venturing deeper into the forest we again heard the moans and groans of winches and motors as they fought with tree stumps and sticky mud.  This time we found Kris in his nicely prepared Land Rover Discovery in difficulty.  It appeared that he had driven down the tree stump ridden track and had reached the bottom only to find himself stuck between trees!  Lots of winching, a Hi Lift jack and people power got him extracted.

Then it was all eyes on Ashley with his massively modified green SJ Zook.  He was going to attempt part of the mud run and it was going well until he broke a transfer box mounting.  As luck would have it, one of the guys from the LLRC had a spare!  So we left ‘em to it.

After lunch Muddy Madam began packing things up, and so as not to get under her feet, Barny and I went for another mooch into the forest to explore even more tracks.  Arriving back to base, Ashley in his fixed Zook, decided to flex his suspension muscles on an old Fiat that was lying around.  Matt was going to squash it later anyhow with a tank once they’d drained all the lubricants from it.  It was an impressive sight I have to say.  Not to be out done, Martyn had a go with his modified 90, trouble was, he didn’t have the approach angle and ended up pushing the poor old thing up the embankment nearly hitting the sites caravan in the process.  Laugh?  You had to be there.

And so that was the end of our weekend.  Did we have fun?  Hell yeah!  Would we go back?  Hell yeah!  Would we recommend it?  Hell yeah!  The feedback we received on the Difflock forum was all very positive, though it didn’t take long for news of damaged vehicles to began to trickle in, from damaged bumpers, scratched and dinted body panels, bent steering arms, to broken track rods!

As I said, that was in 2006, and OTT’s website is still up and running, in fact Matt has just told me that they're open most weekends, which is great news as I’d love to return someday.

For Matt's details, visit: www.ottairsoft.com
For Difflock, visit www.difflock.com