Leicestershire Thanksgiving greenlaning

LRO editor Neil Watterson heads out with Series 2 Club friends

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Black Friday is one of those events that has people in the UK glued to their computers, seeking out the biggest bargains. We’re bombarded with deals for this, that, and the other – things that will undoubtedly enhance our life – when in reality, the thing that would make most of us happy is a great day out with friends.

That’s about the gist of the East Midlands area of the Series 2 Club’s Thanksgiving greenlane run. Meet up, drive some green roads, have a laugh and enjoy some good food.

I missed last year’s run, which looked a lot of fun, so I shoved this year’s date in my diary as soon as it was announced. And when John Stokes, the organiser, put out a request for group leaders, I volunteered my skills.

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Because it’s strange that although loads of people want to go greenlaning, there are relatively few who want to take on the role of the navigator. Obviously, I’m used to it, when I’m driving the greenlane routes for the mag each month, but others are just happy to let others lead. TBH, I just like having a clear road ahead of me…

Anyway, as the day approaches, the number of people attending fluctuates, with some dropping out at the last minute and others asking to join at 4am, but 22 Land Rovers, ranging from Series I through to Defender – but mostly Series II/IIAs – have arrived at the start in Uppingham. And some are even on time.

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The market square has been closed off to allow us to muster (well, actually, it was closed to allow the Christmas tree and lights to be put up, but we promised to stay out of the workers’ way), and we split the vehicles into four groups, keeping the numbers down to GLASS guidelines, with two groups going in each direction.

I lead my group off first. I’m in my 1969 Series IIA 88-inch and we’ve three more SIIA 88s and a Series III 109 and we head off north to drive the lanes in an anti-clockwise direction.

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The first half, north of the A47, includes some green roads that I’d not driven before, including some gated ‘Field Roads’ as Leicestershire County Council signpost them. Some are simple tracks, others are tarmac roads that have deteriorated to the state where most drivers of hatchbacks would find alternative routes.

Farmyards have become makeshift car parks for shoots, and Tweed-clad beaters chase pheasants out of the sanctuary of the woodland and into the guns’ sights.

Up hill and down valley we bimble, crossing small fords and getting the tyres dirty. It’s not heavy going – we haven’t needed to engage four wheel drive yet – just a nice day in the country.

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We cross to the south of the A47 and are now on some of the lanes we featured in our October 2018 issue. I’ve no idea what sort of pace I should be making – I don’t want to be caught up by the group running 15 minutes behind us – but equally, I don’t want to get to the meet point at the finish ages before the other groups. After all, they’re carrying the food.

So we cross a slightly rutted section and stretch our legs. And 15 minutes later, the group following us, and one heading the opposite direction, arrive. Clearly, we’re running about right on time, and this is halfway.

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Rather than amassing too many vehicles in one point, we head off again. More gravel field roads beckon and more fords. I know these lanes well, so I just elect to stop at the fords to get pictures – it’s a bit dull and grey for big scenery shots.

We loop round and start our run in to the end point, crossing the ford near Thorpe Langton. This is one of the larger fords in the area, but today it’s just right, being just about bumper depth on the Land Rovers.

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Some gravel sections follow and Adam and Chelsea, in their heavy 2.25 diesel-engined Series III 109 are struggling to maintain speed up some of the steeper hills, so we back off a little. Good convoy etiquette is essential on a trip like this. Always keep the vehicle behind in sight and stop or slow if you lose them – if the group gets split, it’s always the car in front’s fault, not the car behind.

We concertina at a junction and tackle the last couple of firm and gravelly green roads before finishing at the Eyebrook reservoir. We’re the first group back, but are soon joined by the others.

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John Stokes has sorted out trays full of turkey sandwiches, Vicky Turner has brought along two massive vats of home-made butternut squash soup, one of which is re-heated on the door-mounted stove on her Land Rover, while Richard and Lesley Oldfield warm the other on their one. Gordon and Wendy Lowe and others have brought along mince pies. It’s a proper feast.

Chatting to people from the other groups, we’ve a right mix of people along, with a contingent from East Yorkshire and others from Lincs, Notts, Cambs, Northants, Leics and, of course Rutland. Vehicles range from ones owned for decades to recently-purchased ones, from tatty to immaculate. Land Rovers really are a vehicle for anyone.

As the light starts to fade, people drift off, the tarmac strips being picked out by the dim glow of Series Land Rover headlights.

It’s been a fantastic day: good driving, great scenery and magnificent food. Now, I wonder if we should do a Boxing Day run…

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