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jan/feb 2019



Win goodies worth over £100



We test the new 2019 Jeep Cherokee

Mercedes X


C Volvo X


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DAMIAN TURNER E d i to r - i n -C h i e f , w r i t e r , p h oto g r a p h e r , r e v i e w e r


(A.K.A. The Muddy Madam) C r e at i v e D i r ec to r , l ayo u t designer, reviewer




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ud Life por tant M im t s o m e Tiggs, th inks or so he th member -



ello and welcome to issue 2 of The Mud Life Magazine. To say I’m thrilled with the success of the first issue would be an understatement. It’s been read by well over 3,ooo of you, and that figure is still growing on a daily basis, so it’s a massive thank you from Muddy Madam and me.

because some on press days we get to sample cars for around an hour, which is great when you want to get a feel for a car, but not necessarily long enough for a decent review. This month we're kicking it off with the new Volkswagen T-Roc and Volvo's multi award winning XC40.

Now that the Christmas festivities are over, resolutions are faltering and we’re truly fed up with turkey curries, what can we do to cheer you up?

On the subject of something new, we’ve also created an outdoor cooking feature, because eating boring butties and watery noodles doesn’t float anyone's boat. Basically, it’s about what can you make using the simplest of stoves and just a few ingredients.

Well, in this issue I take a look at Jeep’s new Cherokee. They kindly flew me down to Sicily a few months ago to drive it, and because of the logistics, I endured 3 overnight stays and 6 flights, finally returning to Manchester airport 4 days later. It was a trek, but good fun. We've introduced a new section called 'Flash Drives',

We’ve got lots of other stuff as usual, and free giveaway competition too, and we'll introduce you to the Bugster, our 1970 Doon Beach Buggy! Seriously, I’ve no idea why it’s free! Editor-in-Chief








ollowing the success of their Tivoli inspired car in the 2018 event, SsangYong has unveiled the Rexton DKR that will compete in next year’s Dakar Rally. Developed by Motorsport in Spain, the new Rexton DKR utilises a dune buggy body style with, what they describe as the muscular design features of the new SsangYong Rexton SUV. I looked hard but I can’t see it!

The eleven day 2019 Dakar starts in Peru on January 6th, concluding in Lima on the 17th. With 10 arduous stages, competitors race over 5,000 kilometers, 70 per cent of which is across dunes and sand, with 3,000 kilometers of special stages.  This is the 40th Dakar Rally, and the tenth since moving to Latin America. The Rexton DKR is rear wheel drive and will compete in the T1-3 class (two-wheel drive petrol vehicles).  It is powered by a 450hp V8 race engine, and with a kerb weight of less than 1,900kg, accelerates from 0 to 62mph in 4.4 seconds, with a maximum speed of 122mph. The engine is mounted in a rear-central position for balanced weight distribution between the front and rear axles, and uses a new MoTeC programmable switch to allow engine mapping changes in real time while eliminating all fuses and relays to enhance electrical reliability.  There is an all-new sequential-manual 6-speed Sadev SL90-23 gearbox, tri-disc ceramic clutch that will take up to 1,500Nm of torque, and a Torsen self-locking differential unit with a high lock capacity under acceleration. It is equipped with 17” Yokohama Geolandar M/T G003 37X12.50R17 tyres for durability, traction and absorption, which are fitted to Raceline 17x7 alloy wheels and can be self-inflated from the cockpit.  Lightweight Pyrotect fuel tanks are also included. The body is mounted on a multi-tubular chassis made from chrome-molybdenum and TIG welded to give good torsional stiffness.  It has a good attack angle and aerodynamics, is agile and easy to handle.  Suspension features double arms, King shock absorbers and helical extension springs, with AP brakes providing good heat dissipation and resistance to fade. The car will be driven by Spanish driver Óscar Fuertes with Diego Vallejo as co-driver, the same team that competed successfully in last year’s Dakar Rally in a rally car based on the SsangYong Tivoli. 6





Rivian R1T The World’s First Off-Road Electric Pickup


nveiled recently, the R1T all-electric pickup offers more than 400 miles of range, water fording ability up to a meter deep, and much more. Rivian are offering three battery sizes - 105kWh, 135kWh and 180kWh, and despite a kerbweight of around 2.6 tonnes, it’s still capable of a 0-60mph time of just three seconds, (unladen, I’m guessing) and can travel between 230 and 400-plus miles on a single charge, depending on the battery. It isn’t a discreet vehicle either, at 5-1/5 metres long this five-seat pick-up is designed primarily for the US market, though Rivian

are planning a European launch in 2021. The R1T has 4 electric motors, each delivering up to 197bhp and 14,000Nm of torque which they claim will give it an impressive off-road ability. Staying off the beaten track, it has approach and departure angles of 34 and 30 degrees respectively, while adjustable air suspension means its ground clearance can be stretched to as much as 360mm it has a maximum wading depth of a full metre. more details at » https://products.rivian.com/suv/






Arctic Trucks' design one-off Amarok

This one-off Volkswagen Amarok has been designed exclusively for life in the Arctic Circle with a raised ride height, huge all-terrain tyres – and a cappuccino maker. This unique pick-up, modified by off-road specialists, Arctic Trucks, in partnership with local Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles dealer, Hekla, is currently being put to work in Iceland as a support vehicle for winter driving experiences, leading customers out onto the snow and ice. The Volkswagen Amarok AT35 features a raft of updates to take the standard Amarok to the next level including a 25 mm front and rear suspension lift. New flared fibre-glass wheel-arches have been trimmed to accommodate the larger wheels and the 315/70R17 all terrain tyres – plus larger mud flaps front and back have been added. Inside, the Amarok has been given an expedition makeover with a fire extinguisher, portable generator – and even a cappuccino machine. A VHF radio, toolbox, jack, first aid kit with defibrillator and work light are also included in the Arctic Trucks conversion. Under the bonnet is the standard Amarok’s 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine with 224 PS to ensure there’s plenty of power to get through any snow drifts. The AT35 also retains the standard Amarok’s 45-degree climbing ability, a payload of 1,154kg, Hill Descent Assist and the widest load platform in its class. Sadly, after a quick chat to VW’s press dept, they did confirm that it definitely is a ‘one-off’ even though they admitted to being inundated with enquiries. 8





Strong residual value for new Jimny


he eagerly awaited new Suzuki Jimny is now on sale and Suzuki is pleased to report that the model has just received a very strong residual value forecast from leading industry specialists CAP Automotive. Based on CAP’s long established three years and 60,000 miles formula in their January 2019 Gold Book, the Jimny SZ5 retains 52 per cent of its value, offering good peace of mind to customers from its very slow depreciation. If a lower mileage of 36,000 over three years is taken into account and perhaps more in line with historical Jimny ownership usage, the figure is a record breaker for Suzuki at 61 per cent. This figure places the new Jimny up in the Supercar league of cars for retained value. Ever since the first Jimny made its debut in April 1970, it has been a masterpiece of Suzuki’s 4WD technology. It is the one and only authentic off-roader that is small and lightweight, but still retains its core off-road performance desired by professionals. Two decades have passed since the third-generation model made its debut in 1998 and Jimny has now evolved to its fourth generation in almost 50 years of history. As you can read in last month's issue, the new Jimny offers a much higher level of equipment than the previous model, and SZ4 offers selectable 4WD with low ratio transfer, Dual Sensor Brake Support (DSBS), Air Conditioning, CD Tuner, Bluetooth connectivity, Cruise Control and front foglamps. Moving up to SZ5 adds 15-inch alloy wheels, LED Headlights, Climate Control, Navigation with Smartphone link, rear privacy glass, heated front seats and body coloured door handles. THEMUDLIFE.CO.UK


2019 Jeep Cherokee




fter arriving in Sicily for the launch of the new 2019 Jeep Cherokee, we were taken from the airport to a hotel where the full range was lined up waiting to take us on a 2-day adventure. At first glance there was an immediate difference between the new and old as the entire front has been refreshed to deliver a new, modern appearance and distinguished look.  Personally I like it, it looks sleek, yet purposeful.  It includes full LED headlamps and daylight running lamps as standard with fog lamps surrounded by bright trim details. After a quick briefing it was time for us to choose our steed and be on our way. I collected the keys for the 4x4 Overland edition, naturally, and set off into the distance towards a small town called Marzamemi.

If you’ve ever been to Sicily you’ll be acutely aware of how poor the roads are; the Cherokee’s ride, on the other hand, was good and it handled the holes and undulations very well. The 9-speed automatic gearbox that’s coupled to the 2.2-litre MultiJet II turbo diesel has been tweaked to give better performance, and compensate for the lack of horsepower over the current model, which is down from 200bhp to 195bhp. To be honest, you won’t notice it.  I also found the gear change to be fairly seamless, so yeah, first impressions were good.



Eventually arriving at the Donnafugata Golf Resort & Spa, which was our abode for the night, gave me time to reflect and read through some of the media bumf. A lot of fuss is made not only about its new sleek look, but how much safety equipment has been added. With a full 5 stars from Euro NCAP, including an impressive 92% adult occupant protection score, this is where the Cherokee shines.  As you’d expect, there’s a full quota of safety kit, including a multitude of airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and tyre-pressure monitoring as well as a special trailer stability system for when you’re towing. Our next day had a bit more excitement to it with quite a few off-road routes thrown into the mix, and for this I grabbed the keys for the 4x4 Limited with a colleague, Tim. Driving along rough dirt tracks, the Cherokee always felt controlled, especially at speeds that were probably far too fast. but hey, we have to check these things so you don’t have to! At this point I noted that the soundproofing was also pretty good as stones and goodness knows what else was thrown up into the wheel arches… Catching up to another group, we ventured onto the sea front at Punta Braccetto, and unfortunately the Cherokee in front was only a 2wd model which took a wider berth than they should have and sunk to the front bumper in the incredibly soft sand. After much pushing, swearing and sweating in the 35 degree heat, someone asked the obvious question; “You have switched the traction control off haven’t you?”  No they hadn’t. Once switched off, the Cherokee eased itself out from its sandy grave, with the help of people power.   Our turn and Tim selected sand/mud on the dial. He glanced at the correct route, but chose to ignore it completely and drove straight into the soft bit, and sunk. 12


Selecting reverse and first, the Cherokee inched back and forth, and with the slightest touch of throttle the standard road tyres, coupled to the Cherokee’s Selec-Terrain 4-wheel drive system, somehow found grip where it really shouldn’t have. We emerged on the other side without much drama. Our next off-road foray was about an hour’s drive away, and turned out to be a field in the mountains. To be honest, the drive to and from the ‘off-road’ course was far more entertaining, as it was miles of harsh dirt tracks.

Even the Sicilian dogs

The majority of roads we took the Cherokee along were atrocious. I don’t know whether that was a clever decision by the Jeep PR team or that all the roads in Sicily are that bad, but it proved that Jeep had done their homework on the Cherokee’s handling were smitten and ride. I’m not going to say that it wafts along like a Range Rover or Citroen, but the Cherokee‘s suspension did a good job of soaking up the neglected Sicilian roads, and coped well with the many potholes and undulations that presented themselves around almost every corner.  The chunky steering wheel felt good to hold with the steering itself offering decent feedback. The 9-speed ‘box coped well with whatever we asked of it, changing smoothly and dropping down a notch or two when hoofed!  Fuel consumption is rated at 38mpg from the 2.2ltr lump, I achieved between 18-32mpg, but I was giving it a hard time. For two long days in the hot Sicilian heat, the 2019 Cherokee was a pleasant place to be. Both front seats are comfortable and supportive, not to mention being heated and cooled, the latter being of particular importance in 35 degrees. The general ambience of the cabin was pleasant, with plenty of space to shuffle around, and storage space wasn’t too bad either.  Personally I was hoping that the dash layout and design had a little more style to it, I suppose I’d call it functional. THEMUDLIFE.CO.UK


Both the 4x4 Overland & 4x4 Limited editions I drove had the 8.4-inch high-definition touchscreen and incorporating Apple CarPlay and Android AutoTM technology that worked rather well, especially the sat-nav. Though it did take us down some rather sketchy side streets at one point, but that was probably down to driver error. Rear seat passengers have good leg and headroom, even if the front seats are set for six-footers, and no matter where you sit there’s always good visibility. The large 570litre boot is a massive 70litres larger that the current model.  That 570litres, by the way, is with the seats folded down and up to the tonneau cover. The 2019 Cherokee will set you back between £40-45k (UK prices haven’t been set yet), and although Jeep are making a manual and 2wd versions, only the 4wd with 9 speed auto Limited and Overland will be available in the UK.  And although it’s available across Europe from September 2018, they won’t be in UK showrooms until the end January 2019-ish. So, the big question is, have Jeep done enough to put it on par with the Discovery Sport and Sorento, who they see as their main competitors? 








What is it?

The last time I was in a Sorento it was being used as a taxi. It swallowed up 4 passengers and our luggage, and there was a lot of luggage, and hushed us through busy London traffic to our destination in air condition comfort and civility. This reminded me of what a cracking SUV the Sorento is, and as soon as I returned from my travels I booked one for a week. The Sorento, in case you weren’t aware, is Kia’s flagship model, and now in its 3rd incarnation Kia have not only given it a new look, but they’ve also brought it up to the premium segment.

On the road

Often there’s a moment when you’re driving a car when everything comes together, you begin to fully understand its purpose in the world. For me, I was driving the previous Sorento back from Wales, it was three in the morning, the roads were clear and Muddy Madam was fast asleep beside me. The Sorento cruised along at typical motorway speeds, with each mile passing like it wasn’t there and I remember feeling totally at peace with everything. OK, I’ll admit that that last bit came across as a bit corny, but it’s true. This latest version is the same, it’ll take you anywhere in comfort and you’ll disembark at the end of your journey feeling as fresh as a daisy. The new 8-speed automatic gearbox is effortless in its changes blending one gear into the next performing really well. I found the suspension, steering and overall handling to be comfortable on for a large 4x4. Though it isn’t a sports car, the AWD system and Advanced Traction Cornering Control gives you plenty of confidence on wet roads, but beware, the Sorento isn’t set up for that kind of spirited driving. Having said that, I’ve also driven the 6-speed manual Sorento, and what a difference it made! I’m not going to say that the 8-speed automatic is a lethargic barge, it isn’t by no means, but the manual transformed the 197bhp Sorento into an SUV that you can have real fun with.



Off road

Every time I’m on a Kia media event I tell them that they should organise an off-roading section because both the Sorento and Sportage are actually very good off the beaten track. The Sorento has Kia’s intelligent Dynamax AWD system that has never let me down whilst either on green-lanes or messing about on my friends farm. It comes equipped with a 4x4 Lock button which gives you 50/50 split in drive up to 25mph, but I’ve never actually needed it as the Sorento has always figured things out for itself and kept me going, even on road biased tyres. Like any SUV of this type, you need to be aware of its lack of approach (16.9º), departure (21º) and ground clearance (185mm), but careful spotting will get you places that will amaze other 4x4 owners whilst you’re out enjoying our network of green-lanes.


As I’ve hinted to above, the Sorento is a very nice place to be, the 8-speed auto ‘box enhances the feeling of calm serenity, as does the lack of wind and road noise. Our Sorento for the week was the KX-3 version and boasted improvements like a full length panoramic roof, 8-way power adjustment on the drivers seat and, well the list just goes on and on. 18


There’s a blend of leather upholstery and soft-touch materials which also feel quite hardy and long lasting. There’s plenty of space for your gubbins, even for rear passengers who also get plenty of legroom and reclining rear seats. At the rear there’s a powered Smart Tailgate, and when you’re within one metre of the rear of the car, and have the car key on you, the tailgate opens automatically after 3 seconds. The Smart Tailgate has the added benefit of being able to be set to raise to different heights depending on how short or tall you are, which is handy. The boot itself is 87mm longer than in the previous model (third row seats folded) which, along with the increase in wheelbase, significantly increases its carrying capacity.You now get 142 litres of luggage space when all seats are in use, 605 litres with the third-row seats folded (an increase of17.5%) and 1,662 litres with everything flat, which is 90 litres more than the previous model.

Engine ’n’ gearbox

In the UK you have 1 engine and 2 gearboxes to choose from and combined mpg for all models is almost identical at 46.3 47.1mpg, with C02 outputs being similarly matched at 157 for the manual and 161 for the auto.

During the week I couldn’t quite match the official fuel figures as the on board computer told me I was averaging around 41mpg, which wasn’t bad, considering.


I reckon that the Sorento remains one of the most under appreciated premium SUV’s on the market, which is surprising as it really is a cracking car. Overall it’s a fabulously practical family bus that offers a comfortable and untroubled ride. And let’s not forget Kia’s Seven-year, 100,000-mile manufacturer warranty, which is unlimited for the first three years, and transferable if the car is sold within the time and mileage limit. You also get a 5 year, 100,000-mile paintwork and 12 year anticorrosion warranty. Website: https://www.kia.com/uk/ Prices from £30,225 for the KX-1 to £42,925 for the GT-Line S



A Touch of X-CLASS



Mercedes X-Class X250d Power What is it?

Before I begin, let’s deal with the elephant in the room.Yes, Mercedes-Benz have partnered up with Nissan to produce the X-Class, which means that it shares some parts with the Navara. However, it isn’t a Navara in a dress, as some folks like to call it, there are some significant differences. Ok, so it shares the same chassis, but Mercedes have extensively modified it to accommodate the new body and axles which enable the X-Class to have ventilated disc brakes all-round. Yes it shares the same engine and gearbox, though Mercedes has fettled with the software so the gearing is better. It’s also 20mm lower and 70mm wider to give the X-Class better on-road stability. Mercedes-Benz’ brief was simple, to launch a premium vehicle with a strong brand identity and to attack the market which is dominated by the likes of the Volkswagen Amarok and the Toyota Hi-Lux Invincible. Have they achieved their goal?

On the road

If you’ve been following us on-line for a while, you’ll probably be aware that I was invited on the X-Class’s UK launch that took us around Wales - we had a blast. Back then we drove the standard version, but this particular press car is fitted with the ‘off-road’ package, which means it’s a little taller, 20mm taller in fact. In truth you’ll never notice the difference. The X250d comes with the 190bhp version of the 2.3ltr diesel and the smooth 7-speed auto which was a delight to drive on the road and was always seamless in its gear change. There are quite a few details that you’ll notice if you jump from another pick up into the X-class, one of them is that there’s very little wind noise from the huge door mirrors and tyres, which a commendable achievement for such a large pick-up. The independent suspension on the X-Class means that it’ll handle potholes and dodgy road surfaces with ease - even when unladen. Overall Mercedes have done a fine job in making the X-Class an effortless cruiser, whether you’re nipping to the shops or embarking on a 7-hour round trip somewhere, it’ll do it with ease. THEMUDLIFE.CO.UK


Off road

It was so dry around my neck of the woods during our week with the X-Class that we had severe moor fires, so finding any kind of challenging green-lanes was just impossible as they were all closed. However, I was able to visit a friends farm and put it through its paces, it drove where ever I pointed it, pretty much like it did on the launch around Bala Off Road Centre where it was boringly capable. There was one particular occasion where I got it totally crossaxled, and with a two foot step in front it wasn’t going anywhere on the early morning dew soaked grass. Well, that wasn’t until I pressed the rear axle diff-lock button, which is a £495 +VAT extra, and quite worth it in my book.


As you would expect from Mercedes-Benz, there’s a definite air of quality about the interior, though apart from door bins, glovebox, central cubby and two cup holders, there isn’t a lot of other space in which to hide your gubbins. What else can I say about it, visibility is great, the seats are fabulous and the driving position is just right - the X-Class is simply a very nice place to spend your days.

Engines ’n’ tranmission

Mercedes give you 2 engine choices with 3 power options. You have the standard 2.3ltr diesel with either 163bhp or 190bhp, both have part time 4wd. Then you have the 3ltr V6 with permanent 4wd and 258bhp. X220 with 6-speed manual 163bhp - 37.2mpg combined - 105mph - 0-60mph in 12.9 seconds - C02 = 200 g/km X250 with 7-speed automatic 190bhp - 35.8mpg combined - 109mph - 0-60mph in 11.8 seconds - C02 = 207 g/km X350 with 7G-Tronic plus automatic 258bhp - 31.4mpg combined - 127mph - C02 = 236 g/km


As I mentioned at the beginning, the X-Class is aimed at the higher end of the pick up market, and while some will continue to grumble that it’s just a Navara in fancy dress, Mercedes has done more than enough to ensure that X-Class buyers will get a better experience. The end result is a double cab 4x4 that aims itself firmly towards those looking for a luxury 4x4 but with increased practicality and decent all terrain ability of a pick up. 22




Often on media days we get to sample cars for around an hour, which is great when you want to get a feel for a car, but not necessarily for a decent review. This month I’m going to kick off with the


itting beneath the Tiguan and above the forthcoming new T-Cross small SUV, the T-Roc is a car I have been itching to get my hands on now for quite a while now, though sadly it wasn’t a proper test, merely an 1/2 hour blast around Banbury during a Volkswagen media day. With 187bhp on tap and a 0-60 time of 7.2 seconds, the R-Line it ain’t no slouch! The fire-breathing monster under the bonnet is the turbocharged 2.0ltr 4-cylinder petrol engine which is mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox and drives all four wheels via 4Motion technology. Is it fun to drive along country lanes? You betcha! Is it also a little bit scary? Yeah, that too, it feels much quicker that the figures suggest. Driving in a more sensible manner the T-Roc offers a relaxed ride, though it doesn’t lose its sense of fun. 24


new Volkswagen T-ROC.

Being the 4Motion variant I couldn’t resist a quick off-road foray along a UCR. Although it had rained a little the night previous the going wasn’t difficult and the AWD tech’ made light work of the damp grassy incline which can be any 4x4s nemesis. Interior wise the T-ROC reminds me of a Skoda, as in it looks and feels functional, and a little bit plasticy, which surprised me for a Volkswagen. The front seats are nice and supportive and there’s just enough legroom in the back for 6-footers behind those in the front who are also 6-footers. After £300 worth of safety extras and the £575 orange paint job, the total cost for this car is £34,715, which is quite expensive, though they do start at just £19,270. My short jaunt in the T-ROC has only wetted my appetite for more, so I’ll be on the phone to VW later to ask for a proper loan…

Volkswagen T-ROC R-Line 2.0 TSI 4MOTION



Volvo XC40 D4 R-Design Pro


t was during the inaugural Northern Group of Motoring Writers Car of the Year awards that I finally managed to get behind the wheel of the multi award winning Volvo XC40. I had read and heard many good reports on it, so I was eager to give a try. Getting behind the wheel you can be forgiven for thinking that you’re sat in one of the other, larger Volvo’s due to its luxurious feel and interior similarities. Having said that, although the cabin is neat and functional with relatively few switches there isn’t a lot in the way of soft-touch fabrics. Once I’d gotten used to its arguably garish interior I took it for a quick drive out towards Aberford near Leeds were its 190bhp diesel zoomed along quite nicely. Although reasonably quiet, the tyres created a noticeable roar, but nothing too intrusive. Throwing it around corners the XC40 remained composed, even during sudden changes of direction, it felt nicely weighted and pleasingly direct. Sadly I wasn’t able to take the XC40 off the beaten track so I can’t comment, but in my experience both the XC60 and XC90 performed really well off-road, so I have no doubt the XC40 will be just as good.



Volvo XC40 D4 R-Design Pro

And that was it, 1/2 hour out and it was time to return and let someone else have a go. Apart from the road noise from the low profile tyres it was a pleasant experience, and hopefully soon I’ll have it for a bit longer so I can give you a more thorough report. The XC40 range starts at £27,610, but including options this D4 R-Design Pro will set you back £40,095 - which is quite hefty, but it is rather nice!



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lthough I’m not bird watcher as such, when I spot any kind of wildlife whilst out, I like to take a closer look. Therefore, in a safe place in Deux Smurf, or in whichever press car I’m driving, you will often find my old pair of Invincible 10x.30 binoculars, that I inherited from my Grandma, which have been quite adequate. Then, out of the blue I was asked if I wanted to test a pair of BARSKA 10x50 X-Trail binoculars, and of course I said yes. In case you aren’t aware, the number 10 in '10x50' means that the object you’re looking at is 10 times larger than the image will appear when seen by the naked eye, in other words the object is magnified by 10. The second number, ’50’, refers to the objective lens diameter, and the larger this number, the brighter the image in the binoculars will appear.

Likewise when removing them, I haven’t yet managed to get them out the case without dropping one, or both, of the rubber lens covers on the floor. Admittedly, I don’t know that much about binoculars, so I did a bit of research and asked some hunting friends of mine what they thought of them - ‘Great value’ ‘Easy to focus’ ‘Good grip’ ‘Rugged’ was their feedback, so all positive.

My first impression was that although they’re much bigger than my old pair, at just under 850gms, they’re much lighter too. They’re also coated in grippy rubber, which makes them warm to the touch, which was handy over Christmas and New Year. Focussing is easy as the focus dial is wide and easy to roll, and the optics are incredibly sharp, to the point that when I’m using them I generally have a smile on my face due to the clarity. And that’s it really, I’m not sure what else to say, they handle well, focus well and offer a good amount of clarity, even when it’s getting dark. The only downside is the nylon case it comes in. The inner of the case is covered with fabric, which makes putting the rubberised X-Trails in a bit awkward.

The X-Trails use a reverse porro system which has a traditional M shape design where the eyepiece and the lens are not in line. This, according to those more knowledgable than I, means that they allow for a more compact design for the large 50mm objective lenses. As I admitted earlier, I really don’t know that much about binoculars, but what I will say is, that for the last couple of months they’ve allowed me to get up close and personal with many a bird of prey, prowling pussy cat and even the moon and stars! Price: £89.99 more at » www.outdoorsupply.co.uk THEMUDLIFE.CO.UK


GOODS & GEAR They boast that the 0.5L will keep contents hot for 20hrs and iced for 75hrs, the 0.75L - 28hrs & 90hrs and the big 1litre for 38hrs & 100hrs respectively; that’s just over 4 days! I haven’t tested these figures to the full, however, on Christmas Eve at around 3.30pm, I filled it with boiling water and waited for 5 minutes until it was 90ºC and then put it outside, on cold flagstones, until 3.30pm on Christmas Day. After 24 hours sat outside a minus temperatures the water was a balmy 61ºC, hot enough to make a lovely brew.



uddy Madam discovered Klean Kanteen products years ago, before they were readily available in the UK, and they have been in use at Muddy Towers ever since. Their products are practical and robust, good for the environment (no more plastic bottles chucked into landfill) and great for your wallet (for us the amount of money saved from not having to buy bottled drinks must be in the thousands by now), so when their new TKPro Kanteen(A.K.A. a flask) arrived, we were quite excited to give it a thorough test. The TKPro has some great benefits, like being totally plasticfree, thermal and a 360-degree pour-through functionality. All that is fine of course, but the only reason we want a flask is to keep things either hot or cold. Performance wise, the TKPro has Climate Lock™ double-wall vacuum insulation which keeps contents hot or cold for hours. 30


A point to mention here is that I didn’t do the TKPro any favours either, as I didn’t pre-heat the flask with hot water, and I left it unsheltered in the back yard at the mercy of the elements. I filled the TKPro with my favourite coffee mix: 8 teaspoons of sugar, 4 teaspoons of Maxwell House’s finest and 400ml of milk (I like my coffee milky). Once brewed the temperature was 58ºC, and I chucked it in the back of our press car, the Subaru XV and buggered off for the day. Three hours later and my first cup (of four) was 56ºC. Aaaahh, lovely. Using the TKPro is easy enough with its 360° Pour-Through cap, which means once you’ve removed the cup, you simply unscrew the cap slightly and out pours your delicious beverage, drip-free, from any angle. It comes in two colours, either brushed stainless steel or black, which is a chip-resistant finish. It’s leakproof, has an integrated

GOODS & GEAR double-wall stainless steel cup (the cup on the 0.5L holds 216 ml, and on the 0.75 & 1 L it holds 305ml),. It also has a electropolished 18/8 food-grade stainless steel interior that doesn’t retain or impart flavors. Prices: 0.5 ltr - £34.95 0.75 ltr - £39.95 1.ltr - £44.95 more at » www.kleankanteen.co.uk We’re so pleased with the TKPro that we want to share the lurve, so we are giving away a Brushed Steel one litre Klean Kanteen TKPro, as well as a Nite Ize Buglit, and much more (worth over £150) to one lucky reader. Just head to page 36-37. to enter (UK based entrants only).

N I TE I Z E B UGLI T Don't be deceived by its cute appearance, the BugLit is actually a powerful LED micro-light equipped with incredibly versatile gear tie legs. The bendy legs can be wrapped to hold the light in place anywhere you might need it. I tested it out using it as a book light for reading whilst lying down in bed, and I found the poseable legs really useful for getting the tilt correct. They can be bent or twisted in many configurations, and you can wrap the legs around the body to make it more compact when travelling. The light has 4 modes: high power (6 lumen), low power (1 lumen), strobe, and signal. They say that the bright white LED has an effective range of up to 50 feet, and one-mile visibility, but we haven't tested that claim out. yet Finally, it has a lightweight plastic S-Biner clip which allows you to attach, or hang, the BugLit on zips or keyrings. Price: £14 more at » www.gooutdoors.co.uk THEMUDLIFE.CO.UK


GOODS & GEAR tree, which it did with ease. I then cut many other bits of wood, just because I could. I even used it to cut a hole in my back gate so our new cat could get in and out of our back yard with ease. Satisfied it was as good and as sturdy as I remembered, I folded it back up and threw it in the back of Deux Smurf for green-lane emergencies. There isn’t much else to say about it really; when folded up it’s neat and safe, when unfolded and put into action, which takes around 5 seconds, its incredibly efficient, it handles well and is bloomin’ sharp.


What makes it special? Well, it’s lightweight and features four pivot points that allow it to unfold from flat. Once unfolded, simply connect the blade to a hook that’s attached to the grip, fold the grip upwards until it locks into position, whilst simultaneously tensioning the blade. When set in to place, it feels rigid, and manages cuts through all manner of wood with ease and efficiency.


he other week whilst out green-laning in a SsangYong Rexton I came across a couple of thick branches that were hanging quite low in the middle of the lane, and they were thick and heavy enough to have caused damage to the car. As usual, I had my box of goodies that I always take with me when exploring our ever diminishing Rights of Ways, and from it I pulled out a folding saw, and began pruning. It wasn’t the best experience, the blade was too short and it flexed quite badly. It was at that point I remembered using the Gerber Freescape Camp Saw at an event quite a few years ago, it was such an effective piece of kit that the experience stuck with me. On returning home I contacted the good folks at Gerber, and asked if they’d be kind enough to send me one to review. I know, there’s nothing like being cheeky, eh? When it arrived, the first thing I did was saw off an errant branch that has been encroaching into my garden from a neighbour’s



It folds up easily, and the sharp blade is secured away within the handle, allowing you to safely store it anywhere. Overall, having used it around a dozen times, I can’t seem to fault it. RRP: £62.99 more at » https://www.gerber-store.co.uk




while back I put a photo on social media of a stove that I was using that particular day, I forget what it was. A few people commented on it and gave it praise, but a lot more declared that JetBoil was far superior. This wasn’t the first time that I’d heard good things about the Jetboil, but I hadn’t actually used one. Serendipitously, the following day I was chatting Jetboil’s PR gurus, and, as I do, arranged for one to be delivered to Muddy Towers so I could put it through its paces, just for you dear reader, just for you. A few days later their new and improved, 2018 model Flash arrived with an ambitious claim that it can boil water in just 100 seconds. How much water? 2 cups or 473ml. It’s easy to assemble, simply… 1. Remove the lid 2. Remove everything from inside 3. Remove the measuring cup from the bottom 4. Attach the legs / stand to the gas canister 5. Screw the FluxRing to the gas canister 6 Fit container onto FluxRing 7. Fill the container with water 8. Turn on the gas and light using the built in ignition switch

Any problems? No, not really. However, when I first started to use it I found that it was quite difficult to remove the container from the FluxRing, but after many uses it’s become less ‘sticky’. Also, in windy conditions it can be tricky to ignite and can occasionally blow out, but shielding it maybe necessary. Overall I have to concur with what everyone told me, the Jetboil is a compact and incredibly efficient piece of kit. It’s very easy to assemble and disassembling as everything, including the 100grm gas cartridge, fits inside. The jacket keeps water hot, the stand that clips onto the cartridge keeps the whole thing steady, and the cover also has a sip hole so you can drink straight from the container. The Jetboil Flash is one of those products that’s difficult to write a lot about as it does exactly what it says on the tin, so to speak, it boils up water - in a flash! RRP £110 (Currently on sale at £75) more at » www.gooutdoors.co.uk

Just as it claims, water is brought to the boil in 100 seconds, and the best thing is, the flame logo on the side of the jacket changes colour from black to orange to indicate when it has boiled. How cool is that? THEMUDLIFE.CO.UK




GOODS & GEAR Now Muddy Madam likes the look and, most importantly, the feel (Ooo missus) of these trunks, but is a bit bored of seeing me in the same old black versions, so she thought it would be good to see if these new versions were just as good, or better than the originals. One royal blue and one of the patterned versions were hastily despatched to Muddy Towers for a test, and after a month or two of wearing, and comparing to my old versions, I can happily say that the new waistband hasn't changed the comfort around my portly middle, and they actually feel comfier than my old versions (which could be because they are nice and new, but I think they may have modified the shape slightly too, but I couldn't swear on it).

S U EME T R EE TRU NKS OK guys, listen up.


hen I used to do a lot of walking I’d have all the fancy clothing that wicked sweat away from my clammy skin, but for some reason I’d always end up wearing the same cotton type boxers that soaked up moisture, which wasn’t pleasant. That changed when I came across SueMe at a trade show a couple of years ago, and got my hands on a pair of their Tree Trunks. Without getting too, ahem, personal, as soon as I put them on they were supportive and felt quite silky.

Created by the person who headed up the design team of Iain Thorpes Olympic Gold medal winning skinsuit means that they’re incredibly comfortable with seams that are placed out of the way of rubbing or chaffing points.

After just a few days of wearing (they were washed between each wear) I spent my own hard earned cash on half a dozen pairs, and it’s not often I do that!

You can be sure that your nether regions will be kept in the manner they deserve! Manufactured from Beech Tree pulp, these trunks are super soft, comfortable, fast drying and naturally antibacterial. During that ridiculously hot summer we had last year, wearing undies was actually a pleasant experience for a change! At that time they came in black, and only black, but since then things have moved on. They've slightly changed the waistband and now come in 3 colours - Grey, Royal Blue and Black, and they've even ventured into patterned.

Whether your walking, working, or just clambering in and out of your vehicle on hot or cold days, you can be sure that your nether regions will be kept in the manner they deserve! So guys, if you fancy treating yourself, and your nethers to a bit of luxury for 2019 you need to invest in some of these Tree Trunks. Price: Single - £20, 3 pack - £46 more at » www.sueme.com



W IN WIN WIN We are giving away this 1 litre Klean Kanteen TK Pro along with all the products on page 37 too!

Worth over ÂŁ150 This month we have a brilliant Klean Kanteen TK Pro thermal flask to give way to a lucky reader, and we've also got loads of other goodies we thought we'd throw in too.

Open to UK based entrants only. Winner chosen at random. Entries close February 15th, 2019.



Click here to enter Top left to bottom right

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Klean Kanteen TK Pro 1 litre Platypus Soft Bottle 1 litre New Soda Big Peeler X-Mug collapsible mug Brita Fill & Go New Soda Sink Station

7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.

Goal Zero LED Light Nite Ize BugLit OSOMount Vent Luxe Backpacker Thinsulate Hat Storacell Battery holder (batteries not included) Charles Viancin Bottle Stopper THEMUDLIFE.CO.UK




o, quite unexpectedly, I own a 1970 VW beach buggy, or to be more specific, a LWB Doon Buggy. I say unexpectedly not because it suddenly landed on my doorstep with a note saying 'Love me forever.' No, because as a 50th birthday present to myself I was originally looking for a 1967 Series IIa Land Rover. How it all came about was, a friend on Facebook posted a photo of his newly acquired beach buggy next to his Land Rover, which for some strange reason got my juices and imagination flowing. Out of curiosity I asked Muddy Madam what she’d prefer, an old Land Rover, or buggy. I think her answer is obvious.



My knowledge of buggies basically extends to, find an old Beetle, remove its body, bolt on another and there you have it. Evidently, I had to do some homework. Fortunately, these days there’s a forum for everything, and in the UK we have www.beachbuggy.info which not only is a font of all knowledge, but friendly to.

bigger budget. That night at Muddy Towers we sat down for a chat, there were a few tantrums, but in the end I agreed with Muddy Madam, we wouldn't spend more on a toy than what we spent on both her Skoda and Deux Smurf together. The following morning I sent Gavin an e-mither with my offer and expected never to hear from again.

And so the search began, and what I learnt straight away was, as well as the beautiful styled original Meyers shaped beach buggies, there are some really ugly ones! Muddy madam and I went to visit a couple, and although gravity helped me to slot into the drivers seat, it was no help trying to get out again. We quickly learnt that neither of us get on well with bucket seats.

A couple of weeks went by and to my surprise I received an e-mail from Gavin accepting my offer, I was excited! The only problem was arranging to collection as the weather had been quite wet recently it didn’t have a roof of any sort. Didn’t I mention that?

Anyway, cutting a long and frankly quite tedious story short, I found a Doon buggy that was for sale, and although it wasn’t that far away, it was twice the amount that I wanted to spend, but we arranged a test-drive anyway.

Keeping a watchful eye on the weather forecast, the following weekend was supposed to be cloudy, but dry, so we arranged a time. My initial plan was to collect the buggy with Muddy Madam, leave her car at Gavin’s and drive over to Mynytho via Ffestiniog and spend the night at Muddy Madam’s seniors house, and collect it the following day.

Three things stood out for me; first was that you can still buy a Doon kit from http://www.volksmagic.com down in Walsall. Secondly, the quality of build was top notch, and thirdly the seats were reupholstered units from a BMW Mini, and therefore really, really comfy! We left Gavin and his Doon with a new perspective, if we wanted a no-nonsense quality buggy, we would have to have a

Unfortunately Muddy Madam was at a conference that weekend, so I bullied young Keiran into taking me. Instead of driving straight home again, with Keiran following me we made our way from Buckley, North Wales over to Abergele via Ruthin and Llanrhaeadr for a drive on the beach.



Although it was quite cloudy to start with, and the occasional spot of rain on the windscreen, the weather held up, and as we reached Ruthin there was a break in the clouds and the sun began to shine - yeh! My first impression was that it’s just like driving a go-kart - there’s no power steering or ABS, and I know that it has suspension, I can see it, but I can’t feel it working! When you want it to be it can be fairly quiet, but then press the accelerator and the sound from its ceramic coated Tri-Mil exhaust is great! Something else that I got used to quite quickly is the short shift EMPI 4 speed box, there’s no more than around an inch between gears. Arriving at Abergele we made our way onto the beach, took a few photos then went for some lunch, and as you can imagine in a carpark full of ordinary cars, she caused a bit of a stir.

Conscious of the time we set off for the 1-1/2 hour journey home via the A55, M56, and M62. Keeping it around 65mph it performed faultlessly, but by Frodsham when the clouds appeared, I was wishing for a roof, or a heater!  Arriving back at Muddy Towers windswept but happy, I really couldn’t stop grinning, she was an absolute joy to drive, all 3 of her previous owners had really looked after her and added some worthwhile improvements. However, there are some things that I need to address, and I've already started a shopping list, but I’ll share those at a later date, in the meantime I have a tracker with a motion sensor to fit…



Muddy Madam, wrapped up and raring to go!



acebook Page of the Month Once, not so long ago, if you wanted to catch up with like minded ???, you’d join a forum. It appears these days however that Facebook has taken over the mantle for the place to go for information. So, in the aptly titled ‘Facebook Page of the Month’ every month I will invest hours of time, effort and energy searching Facebook for interesting and relevant groups so you don’t have to. It’s serious work, or so I tell Muddy Madam!

www.facebook.com/ groups/579643618902617


WHO STARTED THIS? Rudy Chadwick-Smith writes… I started the group in November 2016.

Rubicon, the make and model aren't discriminated here. 4x4 Life is a group for all 4x4 related photos, articles, questions banter and sales posts, we welcome all makes and models!

WHY? At the time there were too many groups focussed on the Green oval, and all other 4x4 makes were being slated or dismissed all together. The purpose of 4x4 Life was to bring together a bunch of members who enjoyed the benefits of owning a 4x4, whether it be an Impreza, or a tricked out Jeep

HOW MANY MEMBERS SO FAR? Currently a small membership of 630,


AREA? Mainly from around the UK but also Europe.

ARE THERE MEETINGS? There are no pub meets planned due to time planning. CAN MEMBERS ORGANISE THEIR OWN TRIPS? Yes we welcome all events and trips. ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD? We welcome all new members with any 4x4 vehicle and aim to do some trips in the new year, social camping as well as ‘laning. We also attend events and 4x4 Life is the hub for any media, this way everyone gets go see what happens at 4x4 shows.

4x4 Life is a group for all 4x4 related photos, articles, questions banter and sales posts, we welcome all makes and models!

If you, or your group, would like to be featured as FB Page of the Month send us a quick email to:

POTM@themudlife.co.uk The Mud Life is on Facebook too:

www.facebook.com/TheMudLifeMag THEMUDLIFE.CO.UK



a lilla bit of Swedish heaven arly on last year, Muddy Madam received a message from her friend Lucy. She had been fortunate enough to have won 4 glamping weekends, but unfortunately she wouldn’t be able to attend one of them, and that’s where our little adventure begins.

After a couple of e-mithers with Martin who runs Lilla Stugan with his family, I set about planning our 3 night stay in a Swedish style cabin in an orchard in Worcester. After checking the weather and local pubs for evening meals, I set about checking the important aspect of staying in an different county for a few days, and that was checking out Trailwise for suitable green lanes in the area. Doesn’t everyone? Arriving home from school on the Thursday evening we threw our kit in the back of Deux Smurf, and after a few errands set off for Alfrick Pound, which is around 20 minutes from junction 7 off the M5, Worcester. Now, on first impressions, Lilla Stugan, which is Swedish for ‘little house’, looks tiny, but looks as we know can be deceiving. Granted, we needed to stoop through the doorway, but inside was really quite large, perfect for two people. Once unpacked we made ourselves comfortable, and whilst Muddy Madam acquainted herself with the outside shower and toilet block, I prepared our evening meal. I say prepared, I turned on the Firepod pizza oven and created a couple of to-die-for pizzas! 44


I often find it difficult to sleep in a new bed for the first few nights, but not here, after an evening chugging down a complimentary bottle of red wine whilst sat in front of the log burning stove, I was totally zonked out by 10.30pm. Friday started earlier than expected due to the dawn chorus, seriously though, what have birds to say to each other that early in the morning? I forced myself to have a lie in till around 9.ooam, I was on my hols after all! After breakfast our plan was to explore some of the lanes that I’d found on Trailwise, and after consulting with my scribbled map, and of course my ViewRanger app, we set forth. Our first lane was Trailwise reference SO7252-01 and SO725404, or Highfields lane. We arrived at the southern end and drove past a few houses before reaching 2 gates which you go through the one on the left. Just as I was closing the gate I spied a figure in who was one of the residents, so I went over to exchange pleasantries. He told me that the old lady who lived at the opposite end of the lane used it as a short cut in her Allegro, but she couldn’t these day due to damage and overuse. As we said our goodbyes I wandered back to Deux Smurf a bit worried over what state the lane would be in. There was a bit of mud and a large puddle next to the first gate, but other than that, it was easy. It’s a single track with trees and hedgerows on either side, and very quite with plenty of wildlife to spot. The weather had been kind, therefore the going was good, though after a downpour I can imagine it would be a tad slippery in sections. I stopped a couple of times to take photos, as I do, and immediately caught the attention of the cows in fields on both sides of the lane. The ones on the left casually strolled over to see us, whilst the cows of the right literally charged at us, they were pretty eager to get to know us, or just hungry!



Our next lane, Knightswick Old Road, Trailwise ref SO7254-01 was pretty much straight on, and once you reach the barn, veer left along a pair of ruts in the verge just before you reach the farmhouse. At this point Muddy Madam had doubts we were on the right track as the deep, yet dry ruts that continued straight along the hedgerow seem to vanish at the gate at the bottom of the field. Another concern for Muddy Madam was the dozen or so cows were grazing in the distance, and how enthusiastic the last herd was. They were fine and kept on grazing almost oblivious to us. As I said, the ruts are quite deep, but not enough to trouble Deux Smurf, though there was a few scrapes from underneath at times but all was good in low-range second gear. I knew that when we reached the bottom of the field we took a sharp right turn, but was it before or after the gate? Enlarging the map on my iPhone didn’t really help, but just before we reached the gate I could just make out some ruts in the deep grass that followed the contour of the hedge. Up until this point I had had Deux Smurf just in low box, but because the grass was quite lush and the ground looked a little damp, I decided to engage her centre locking diff. I’m not certain if this did the trick but this last bit caused the wheels and tyres to get quite muddy.Although only a short lane I think it could get quite difficult during wet, wintery months, especially if you’re travelling north to south.



Because I’m thoughtful, and Muddy Madam was beginning to look a little bored, I figured now was a good time to explore some of the local towns and villages in the area, and as it was coming up for dinner time, that’s lunch if you live in the south, we decided to stop off at the Mayfly cafe just off the B4204 for some much needed sustenance. On the way back we decided to find a particularly long lane that looked quite interesting, which is locally known as Hayley Dingle lane, or SO7455-01 and SO7554.01 on Trailwise. Starting at its northern end, the lane narrows and becomes surrounded by overhung trees, so be careful if you have a roof rack with lights fitted. I appeared that this section doesn’t get a lot of sun so remains wet and muddy in some sections, but no hassle and I’d imagine good for all terrain tyres. What I haven’t mention thus far is that whilst searching on Trailwise for suitable lanes, pretty much all that I’ve driven so far had recent comments on them describing their surface conditions, etc. On one comment the author wrote that his Range Rover Sport had managed to navigate the steep inclines with ease. I mention that now because because as we turned a corner guess what we saw coming in the opposite direction but a Range Rover Sport shod with mud terrains, coincidence? Of course not! We chatted briefly about the condition of the lane, and the other lanes that we’d driven, and of course his comments on Twailwise, then we went our separate ways. From this point the lane continued as a single rut and quite narrow, threading our way through the trees, which reminded me of the tracks around Eastnor Castle. Just as the lane widened it went into a steepish incline, again being very dry this wasn’t a problem, but after a relentless downpour I could imagine it being a bit tricky.



At the top we took a sharp right along a boundary fence, and to our left was lots of evidence of off-piste driving, it’s such a shame. Then, as quickly as we turned right it was a sharp left along a narrow track with some fairly deep ruts that can be straddled if you’re in a 4x4 with smaller tyres or not a lot of ground clearance. From here it was another 90 degree left and another incline into a wide section that looks like it’s used as a turning point for heavy farm machinery, then another incline, then a dusty single track lane to the main road. I was quite tempted to turn around and drive the again, but we were also quite hungry, and our belly’s often take priority, so we headed back to Silla Stugan for a shower and change. Martin had put a list of local eateries in the welcome pack and one that caught our attention was the Roots Family Farm Shop who, on a Friday served pizza on a bus. Oh yeah, you read that right! Outside their farm shop is an old double decker bus that’s been been converted for eating in. It was a great atmosphere with even better pizzas, what more could we ask for? Sadly there was no muddy green-lane adventures on Saturday, instead we spent all day and lots of money in Ledbury. In the evening we found a fantastic pub with amazing food called the Chase Inn at Bishop's Frome, (Worcester WR6 5BP), we can’t recommend their food enough! Once we arrived back to Lilla Stugan, Muddy Madam switched on the radio to listen to the EuroVision song contest, a major event in her calendar... I just fell asleep. Sunday arrived with that strange yellow globe still in the sky, the cool breeze shook the apple trees and the ground was once again 48


enveloped with white apple blossom petals, it really was quite a visual delight. Muddy Madam and I lounged around for a bit and enjoyed a late breakfast, and after packing most things back into Deux Smurf we had a lovely walk around the nature reserve that backs onto the farm whilst pondering life’s mysteries - and what to eat for dinner, or lunch! I wanted to drive the lanes we drove on Friday and a few more we didn’t drive, but on acceleration Deux Smurf had acquired a worrying metallic rattle from her nethers. I had a quick rummage underneath but couldn’t find anything wrong, but I decided to give them a miss this time and take our time driving home. Overall, Muddy Madam and I had a great time, Lilla Stugan was a fun place to stay and one which I would heartily recommend. Not only is it cosy with beautiful surroundings, but Martin and his parents were the perfect hosts and made us feel welcome. more at » https://www.canopyandstars. co.uk/britain/england/worcestershire/ lilla-stugan/lilla-stugan



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< < < < BAC K T R AC K It’s great to look back at older articles that are just gagging to be read again.

‘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.

overgrown since Barny had first seen it, and after a bit of thought they decided that the campers would be better off pitching their tents in the field just above where we’d plonked our caravans.

For quite a number of years I was a bit of a regular on a brilliant 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. What I really appreciated Peter and Simon (Difflock’s original owners) for, was their forum. With sections for most 4x4s, 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’d 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 Mat, ‘You know, this would make a great 4x4 centre.’, and that was the beginning of another ribbon to their bow, so to speak.

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, 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 offroader struggle with over the weekend.

Brushing over a couple of months worth of organisational headaches and frustrations, the weekend of 1st & 2nd July 2006 loomed, and with 14 definites, and quite a few maybes, there was no turning back. The day arrived and we set off with caravans in tow heading towards Anglesey. Barny in his Nissan D71 Cypriot imported Double Cab pickup, known as the Tin Can, and Muddy Madam and I in our Toyota Surf, the original Smurf. On arrival we unhitched our caravans and sorted ourselves out. Mat then proceeded to show us the planned camping site which was down in the forest. However, it had become significantly THEMUDLIFE.CO.UK


Whilst the others ventured down to the forest, Barny, Dave, Karen Lee and myself 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 rocks to traverse.

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 Jimny and spectacularly equipped 90.

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 good for the sills and door bottoms…

Saturday morning arrived and we awoke to the sounds of an array of softball guns in the forest, ‘rattatatat’, or something like that. How much did I drink last night? Had I been transported into war zone over night? 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. After a quick photo shoot with the Disco, Tin Can, Smurf and Vitara, Barny discovered a severe rocky hill to drive down. Concerned for his 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!

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 and muddy track. Meanwhile, Paull had managed to get the 110 hung up on tree stumps, luckily Neil had an air jack. Without this fantastic tool, heaven knows how we would have got Paull out!

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 woke, I sluggishly 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 next to 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,

An air bag is basically a rubber bag that when inflated by the cars exhaust fumes turns into what can only be described as 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 it’s 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, just as these gatherings should be. Mat and his boss 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. THEMUDLIFE.CO.UK


During the night, around 1.00am, Ashley and his mate arrived in his huge green Suzuki SJ410. 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. Another bunch of 4x4’s arrived from the LLRC that had booked separately with Mat. After a quick shower and breakfast, Andy, Karen Lee 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 all stood on it and let Barny go first.

We decided to hook a rope to the end of the tree and attached to the Tin Can 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 winch 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. Mat was going to squash it later with a tank once they’d drained all the lubricants from it. 56


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 although OTT’s website is still up, they haven’t responded to my e-mails asking if they still do 4x4 days, I hope they do as I’d love to return someday. For their details, visit: https://ottairsoft.github.io



Each month we give you an easy menu that any buffoon can make whilst out in the great outdoors, and when I say ‘any buffoon’, I obviously mean me. I’m going to kick off this series with a firm favourite of mine, Chicken Fried Rice. The great thing about this meal is you can prepare everything at home before you leave, and to cook you only really need one gas ring,, pan & spoon. On this occasion I used the stove and non-stick skillet from MSR's WindBurner Stove System Combo (below). The ingredient list for this magnificent feast is based on a meal for one, as Muddy Madam is a funny bugger when it comes to food, and it's easy to make when you're doing a bit of solo wandering.

Read our review of this

WindBurner Stove System Combo in our next issue.



Damian's delicious Chicken Fried Rice.

Equipment needed

a cooking stove with at least one gas ring a medium sixed pan

1 cup or bowl chopping boards a spatula or wooden spoon

Ingredients - SERVES 1

1 - 62.5g bag of boil in the bag Long Grain Rice (I used Uncle Ben’s) 1 Chicken breast (cut into bitesized pieces 2 eggs 1/4 onion, chopped (or spring onion - or both!) Soy sauce - a couple of glugs (to your own taste) A good teaspoon scoopff of butter 1 teaspoon of sesame seed oil 1 clove of garlic, chopped (or garlic powder if you prefer) Handful of peas (I like to use frozen petit pois) - can also use sweetcorn or carrots Salt and pepper

Method NOTE: Step 1- 4 can be prepared at home before you head out. 1. Crack 2 eggs in a cup or bowl, and beat with a fork until mixed (add a bit of salt & pepper to your preference) 2. Cook the rice (see manufacturer's instructions) and let cool 3. Put a bit of oil in a pan and the cook the chicken pieces 4. Whilst the chicken is cooking chop the onion and garlic 5. Heat butter and sesame oil together over medium heat until melted 6. Add onion, garlic, peas (& whatever other veggies you fancy) and sauté until tender 7. Push mixture over to the side third of the pan, and reduce heat to medium 8. Add sliced chicken to a third of the pan and heat thoroughly 9. Add the slightly beaten eggs to the last third of the pan and scramble whilst cooking 10. Add the rice and soy sauce to the pan, mix everything together, and cook until hot 11. Lick your lips and devour The usual precautions apply - make sure everything is fully cooked through and safe to eat as, obviously, no one likes food poisoning. Knives are sharp, fire is hot, so don’t cut or burn yourself. I take no responsibility for your buffoonery! THEMUDLIFE.CO.UK


Toys for the Boys The other day, whilst I was out taking photos of the Mitsubishi Shogun Sport on a local green lane, out of the corner of my eye I noticed another group of 4x4s heading towards me.

Of course, by now you will have noticed that they’re all remote controls, and if you follow us on Facebook you will have seen this post just before Christmas.

This particularly eclectic group of ‘off-roaders’ were Dave Atkinson with his 6x6 G-Wagen, Edin Frizina with the Jeep XJ Cherokee, Alex Fildes in the black and red first generation Bronco, whilst the black ’79 Bronco belonged to Phil Maher.

They continued past and carried up the rocky green lane, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a tiny bit jealous. They looked incredible! Anyway, enjoy the photos and happy ‘laning… And the





Trips &Training - Coniston off-road centre


t was decided during a meeting with the Northern Group of Motoring Writers, the oldest regional journalistic writers group in the UK, that a day out was required for all its members, and cutting a long story short, it would be at Coniston Hotel (between Skipton and Long Preston). It was chosen not only because it’s central to most members, but mainly because it has an off-road driver training course and spa.



Arriving on a wet and miserable Friday afternoon we all caught up over coffee and biscuits, and after a quick safety briefing we walked out and chose our steeds. Our choices were either a D-Max, Discovery 5, Defender 110 and a new Mitsubishi Shogun Sport. I opted for the latter as I have one coming to test out and review soon, and I wanted to see how well it would perform in a tougher environment than I’m willing to take the press car.

coniston off-road centre Of course, it isn’t all about tearing through forests and mud holes, nope, green-laning or off-roading, which ever you choose to call it, is all about steady control and knowing your 4x4. Of course there are always going to be times when you require a bit of momentum… Initial impressions of the Shogun Sport was that it was roomy and comfortable, but our first obstacle didn’t exactly go according to plan. As instructed, I pointed the Sport at a line of tarmac moguls, aka diagonally opposing mounds of concrete that test the vehicles articulation, and ability to carry on forward motion if its opposing wheels are off the ground.  

We almost reached the end when there was a painful crunch from underneath. It transpired that the ground clearance wasn’t up to the job and we ground to a halt on the near-side (passenger) running board - ouch. A quick inspection found that there was no damage, but in order to minimise any more, it was decided that I should reverse back. Slotting the Shogun Sport into reverse I gently did as he asked.  On a couple of occasions it became cross-axled, but maintaining a steady throttle the Sport figured things out and sent traction to the other wheels and got us out without any further drama. There were further obstacles to overcome, from wading to steep declines during which the Shogun Sport proved to be a competent off-reader - but watch out for its non-removable running boards! Of course it wasn’t all about me, and soon it was someone else’s turn, Muddy Madam didn’t fancy a go, so a colleague’s wife took the reigns. It was Kay’s first foray behind the wheel whilst off the beaten track, and it’s fair to say she was a bit nervous, but after only a few minutes with the expert guidance of our driver, whose name escapes me, she had it all under control, from less severe moguls to the steep decent in which you have to take your feet off the brake and trust the vehicle.

Of all the vehicles I could have chosen next I opted for the least comfortable, that’s right, the Defender. I decided on this because I know what a Discovery 5 can do, and it’s easy, but in a Defender you have to actually drive it, and even though it still has traction control, you still have to utilise your own skills. Jumping out from the Shogun Sport into the 110 was of course a culture shock, I had to wind down the driver’s door window just so I could turn the ship-like steering wheel. THEMUDLIFE.CO.UK


Trips &Training - Coniston off-road centre

Again, our instructor guided us up a stepped incline, water sections and mad side slopes, and of course the fully laden 110 took it all in its stride. When it was time for someone else to take the helm the only seat available was one in the back, and I



mean back, back. I’m a 6ft 1inch, nearly 19 stone bloke so the struggle to get in there was real, I’m glad no one had a camera, it wasn’t flattering.

coniston off-road centre All too soon, our afternoon’s off-roading jaunt was over and it was time to retire to our rooms until later when we all congregated downstairs for our evening meal. Set in a 1400-acre estate, the hotel and estate originally started life as a farm shop selling produce from the estate and, some 50 years later, has grown to become one of North Yorkshire’s premium landmark destination hotels. Although Muddy Madam and I didn’t get to sample the spa, due to a forgotten swimwear snaffoo, I’m led to believe that it’s very nice, as was our large room with its balcony facing the lake and hills. We would have enjoyed breakfast on the balcony if it wasn’t for the constant drizzle.

After a cracking nights sleep we were up at the crack of dawn for a lovely breakfast and a mad dash home so that Muddy Madam could leave for a Sci-Fi convention in Sheffield - don’t judge her! Overall we had a great time, Coniston Hotel is a beautiful place stay and the off-road course, along with the instructors, provided an exceptional afternoon experience for both the experienced and novice ‘mud-pluggers’, it’s well recommended.




Tink, The Series 1 (pt.2)

All the usual suspects were tried without success, so I looked on the Series 1 club website, and among their list of parts suppliers was a company called Red Dragon Restorations, and to my relief they had one.


ast month I left you with the news that, whilst manoeuvring Tink around to inflate her tyres for her MOT, her steering box snapped in half, and after using my Hi-Lift jack to get her into a position to reverse her straight back into my yard, I promptly ordered a pizza, opened a bottle of wine and proceeded to sulk. 'Now then,' I pondered to myself a couple of days later, 'where the ‘eck do I find a 1955 steering box from?'

When our ‘new’ steering box arrived, I read through the instructions that the owner of Red Dragon, Stafford Dovey, had given me with regards to replacing the old unit. After I’d stripped the steering surround, I had to remove the two bolts in the footwell that hold the steering box to the bulkhead, the three horizontal bolts that hold the bracket onto the chassis and another bolt that holds the bracket to the wing. Next I had to break the ball joint and feed the whole lot through the footwell, and fitting the new unit would be the reverse of the above. All sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well it wasn’t, it was a horrible job. That said, if I was to do it again, I could do it in half an hour. Old Land Rovers, great aren’t they? With the old unit resting securely in my vice, I used my mates Chris’ hydraulic bearing puller to remove the drop arm, and loads of WD40 to help remove the chassis bracket. They were then swapped onto the ‘new’ unit, and I went and removed the ball joint that I had destroyed, and fitted the new one onto the steering arm that goes to the relay. By this time it was getting dark, so I donned my head torch and fitted the new steering box back onto Tink by sliding the unit up through her wheel arch, and feeding it through the hole in the bulkhead. I then fumbled my way through fitting the nuts and bolts



PAST JALOPIES The other jobs I'd noted for her MOT were to get the windscreen wiper working, replace the snapped axle strap and give her a thorough service. However, the dark nights were closing in, it was raining everyday, my bad back began to flare up with the miserable weather, I had more work to do, oh and general apathy! See, I have some very good excuses for not doing anything to Tink for the following five months.

securing it to the footwell, whilst wishing I had longer arms, then the securing bracket to the chassis and wing. All that was left was to fit the steering column bits. Phew, I was feeling very, very pleased with myself, things were progressing nicely. All I had to do in the morning was to connect the new ball joint to the drop arm, fill it with oil and move on to other jobs I had noted for the MOT. The following day, after I’d given Chris his bearing puller back, I donned my ‘lying under the Land Rover’ clothes, and went to fit the new ball joint to the drop arm... errrr, no. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t fit the ball joint into the drop arm, I then realised that what I should’ve done was to fit the drop arm last. I went and borrowed Chris’ bearing puller again, removed the steering box again, pulled off the drop arm again, and refitted the bloody steering box..... AGAIN! This time I fed the ball joint into the drop arm, then slotted the arm onto the steering box, tightened everything up, filled with oil, and jumped for joy; sorted.

As March arrived with lighter nights and warmer weather I began to notice that I had a Land Rover parked in my back yard, and so with new enthusiasm I set about her again. I remembered that she had an issue with spluttering when the accelerator was pressed. The engine would ‘psssst’ every time I pressed the accelerator then die for a short while. As it was at least twenty years since I last looked at an ignition system, I invited my mate Barny around to share in my confusion. Nothing much looked out of order, but we did notice that all the ignition parts, except the coil, were a mish-mash of old and new bits. £50 was spent on new leads, new dizzy cap, new plugs, a new coil, new rotor arm and new points. Once fitted there was a noticeable improvement straight away, but she was still ‘pssss’ting’. ‘Okay, let’s look at the fuel supply.’ I thought confidently, forgetting for a while that I was a complete novice at this. Although Tink had been run every fortnight or so, she hadn’t been driven for about five years, so maybe the fuel system was blocked. The first thing I did was to clean the sediment bowl, I don’t know why, it just seemed like a good idea at the time. I then proceeded to strip the fuel pump and fit a new diaphragm for the accelerator pump. That didn’t solve it either.




The next move was advice given to me by an experienced Series 1 owner, ‘Take the carb off, and blow it.’ Hmmm, do I really want to be that friendly? Anyway, after staring at the carb for a while I removed it and blew into everything I could, and do you know what? It worked, she wasn't pssst'ing anymore. Okay, time to look at the windscreen wiper. Yes, it was there, so was the motor. What wasn’t was any kind of wire and plug to give it the energy it needed to fulfil it’s obligations. My mate Chris told me I needed a ‘banana plug’, so I rang another mate, Julian, who gave me a couple. Once I fitted the plug and attached the bare wire to the motor, I switched on and it still didn’t work, until.... I persuaded it. However, once it did work, it was next as useless, so a quick trip to Buckley Bro's in Darwen for a new wiper arm, blade and little adaptor thing, so it would fit onto the old motor arms. Woohoo, another step forward, I was becoming confident!



And then I remembered that the near side axle strap was dangling in two pieces and the bolts holding them secure on the chassis had their heads snapped, great. As I didn’t have time to start drilling the bolts out, I cut the strap and soaked the bolts on t’other side in penetrating spray before removing them. If it ain’t there, it can’t be MOT'd! Last minute checks meant I had to find my small ratchet strap to secure the battery in place. I then noticed that the brake lights didn’t respond to the call of the brake pedal. The brake light switch is in the most vulnerable of places just forward of the drivers footwell, so I removed it, cleaned out all the muck and goodness knows what else, and refitted it. I now had two working brake lights, and it was time to book her in for an MOT. The time had come, and with only 37,373 miles on the clock, off we trundled, slowly, to see Simon at Horwich MOT Centre. My confidence in her grew with every mile we drove, hoping that her new steering box would last longer for me than her last one did. And?


Well of course she passed! I was well chuffed, my Land Rover was now legal to drive for the first time in around six years, and it felt great! Driving home with no roof, and her doortops removed, I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t help but grin like a Cheshire cat as I thought to myself,

Let the adventures begin! THEMUDLIFE.CO.UK





1991 Plymouth

Can you spot you or your motor in these photos from bygone mud adventures?



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The Mud Life - Issue #2 Jan/Feb 2019