You’ve got to be skidding.
Words: Jane Hamilton
‘ ave faith.’ I am told. but in what‘.’ H God? The driving instructor‘.’ ()r
the £28k Land Rover Discovery I am about to drive down a very. very steep hill? As it turns out. you need a combination of all of them when off-road driving over marshy ground. up steep hills. across rivers and down rocky slopes.
With a little trepidation and a hint of excitement. I challenge Ronnie Dale. owner of
the 4x4 driving school. to teach me how to off— road drive. Dale shows no hesitation in giving me the keys of the Land Rover and throwing me in at the deep end with hill starts and emergency stops before taking me onto the ‘nursery’ field to check out my control of the car. When it comes to steering in mud. I have none.
So once we stop laughing — and skidding — it's into first gear and up a near vertical climb. through puddles cunningly disguised as lakes. wheel spinning and giving up my will to live as I tip the front of the vehicle over the edge of a hill without knowing what‘s on the other side.
As it turns out. it‘s a very steep slope with pot holes. rocks and a wall at the bottom. Thanks to the great invention of low range gears. a hill decline button. and not forgetting my stunning driving. I miss the wall. but leave hearts and stomachs half way down.
With the practice run over and my level of
daring assessed. it’s off to the forest for some wheel-clenching. teeth-gritting driving. This involves following a large number of tracks tip hill before heading down narrow. rocky.
16 THE LIST 14—28 Mar 2002
I tip the front of the vehicle over the edge of a hill without knowing what is on the other side
slippery and steep slopes with a very tight turn at the end. avoiding rabbits and fallen trees as
I go. Fear is the common emotion at the top of
these slopes. but once at the bottom I'm gagging for more. and the steeper the better.
Then it’s time for the final feat: driving through a river. Again. trust is of the essence as I bob my way across. the wheels occasionally touching the bottom to get me safely to the other side.
Throughout the afternoon Dale is an encouraging instructor who pushes me to my limits while keeping me on my toes and teaching me all about the car and its abilities. ‘Controlled fun' is how he describes the course and. although control isn’t exactly my strong point (let‘s just say I'll not be going in for any steering competitions). we do have loads of fun and a damn good laugh.
At the end of it all I‘m desperate to get my own 4x4 and drive home over the hills and through the rivers. btit once there I’d be just another twat driving an off-road vehicle in the city. What a waste.
Ronnie Dale 4x4 Off-Road Driving School, Whitebum, Abbey St Bathans, Duns, 01361 840244. www.mnniedale4x4.co.uk.
Details of outdoors activities, accommodation and special offers in the Borders can be found at the Scottish Borders Tourist Board website on www.scot-borders.co.uk or call 0870 608 0404 for a brochure. The List stayed at the Wheatsheaf Inn, Swinton, Berwickshire. 01890 860257. www.wheatsheaf-swinton.co.uk
Baby you can :drive my car
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