A ride on the wild side.

I finally finished cleaning the truck at 17.00hrs tonight and I feel like I’ve just cleaned a whole fleet of dirty hire cars, I had to take all the wheels off and jet washed EVERYTHING, it’s now the cleanest truck in South Yorkshire..especially underneath, though I’m looking out at the truck now and can still see some piggin grey residue on the bonnet!

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Why so filthy you may well be asking? Well today we went to Frickley 4×4 centre near South Elmsall for some proper off roading and to get some experience for next years adventures in the truck. Julie came along too, she will never ever forget this day….”Hell on wheels” didn’t even come close in her mind!!

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 Frickely 4×4 Centre is situated on the site of Frickley Colliery. It came into existence in 2005 as part of a diversification project and measure approx 75 acres. Most of the area is made up of a grey shale, both stoney and a powdery cloying substance, it turns to a quagmire when wet and sets like concrete when dry. Up here in the north its known as slag. The slag being the other material that come out of the ground along with the coal. Small trees and surface soil is beginning to blow in and cover the grey stuff that has come up from over 900 feet underground. 

When digging for coal a large amount of the grey shale is also dug out, digging roadways to the coal also produces thousands of tons of useless virgin soil, it’s not the lovely brown soil you know, it’s grey rock and stone, loose dry and brittle and fairly easy to dispose of. When brought to the surface by conveyor and mine tubs it goes through a process of washing and seperation, its moved along onto huge vibrating plates with different size holes in, rather like a cheese grater only these are 30 by 60 foot, this seperates the smaller lumps of black gold from the rest…slag.. gets conveyed away to be piled up around the pit. I worked in “The Screens” for a time and remember how noisy dirty and dangerous it was…and thats before I went to work on the coal face!

How funny now then that I am driving over grey stuff that 30 yrs ago I was digging out from Mother Earth! Over the next 50 or so years Mother Nature takes over as fine soil slowly blows over, the winds deposit seeds and things begin to grow, eventually it become stable enough to landscape and/ or build on.

We paid the £25 fee, this was per vehicle and was for the day. No rules or regulations just a degree of common sence and keep your eyes open, says the young lad who took the money and got me to sign a disclaimer, Aha common sence, how refreshing! Official marshalls with their vehicles where dotted around to help and support, also several heavy tractors where about in case anyone got really stuck. They had a designated CB channel to call on and everyone on site was prepared to help, it was part of the fun, even I towed someone out of a swampy bomb hole.

We drove around the perimeter to “suss” out the terrain  it was nice and bumpy I selected low box and trundled round in second, Julie was a bit quiet to start Hmmm, she’s a tad nervous I thought. Then it got a bit bumpier and the bomb holes appeared, it was still dry though and I was quite enjoying myself, Id done this once before and felt fine with it, but it was Julie’s first time and I understood her apprehension, she’ll be alright in a minute I thought. We took a turn down the hillside towards the woods, I saw a ridge up ahead and a bit of a drop beyond it. “Right then Julie this will be a bit of a bump but it’ll be fine honest…The ridge came closer and closer but we couldnt  see over the bonnet then we began to tip down, I came off the pedal and let the engine slow us down as we tipped even steeper. Oh Fkc its like going over the cliff edge at Whitby! “Oooooooh Nooooo” Julie went as the bonnet dropped suddenly and the huge quagmire came into view way down there “Dont worry love its OK I’ve got it” I lied…we plunged sharply down to certain death, the engine growled loudly and helped slow us down as the bonnet sank into the sludge and just kept going in deeper, finally we leveled off and I accelerated hard, the bonnet surfaced it was brown ans sludge slithered onto the screen just in front of us then the tyres bit deep and the engine roared, I give it large and we head skyward leaping up out of the hole and over the lip. “Fook me that was a bit fooking steep wasnt it?” I laughed across at Julie, poor lass was rigid, her feet were straight, still trying hard to push her imaginary brake pedal through the foot well. Her face was a bit white and she voiced some objection. “Aha don’t worry lass it’ll be fine” ( I lied again) “Lets go into the woods shall we?” and we trundled through the gate before she could answer. It was very pretty but the track was very sludgy and when it was dry it had very deep ruts with gallons of water, just waiting to flood over the ridges. I guess it would have come up to ones knees judging by the stuck Toyota up ahead and the four or five waiting trucks behind it. “Right then lets just turn here shall we?” A slithering right turn slewed us out of the woods. “Stop the truck now and let me out!…Ill take some photos” she added.

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                                                            Climbing the step

2_edited-2                                               Getting closer to the next assault!

I tried to get some idea to where I was going first, giving Julie a clue as to where to stand. But turning round at the top proved challenging and I bounced in and out of ruts holes and tried driving around the more severe holes. I had to stop and plot my back to Julie who must have been wondering where the hell Id got to!

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I quite fancied following the green truck but thought better of it considering Julie’s earlier shock.  So we had a drive round to the pond and see what was happening there. Apparently some trucks where going to have a bash at it.

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Half a Land Rover Discovery growed into the arena and plunged into the pond without a pause, the mud churned and steam blew out from the hot wet engine block.

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Remember to place your cursor over the small photos and double left click to enlarge them to HUGE size.

This lad made light work of the pond, though his girl got with out with the little one as a precaution and watched from the water’s edge. She had her own green black roofed 90 Land Rover up at the tea bar so wasnt a novice around Land Rovers…just a bit more sensible I guess.

21_edited-2                                                     Watching daddie sink

We took a long drive back for lunch it was very boggy and deep but we just picked our way through the less watery sections, engaging low diff as well as low box made a huge difference and we bog hopped all the way back to the tea bar.

15_edited-2                       A very helpful chap offering advice about “stuff”

Some lads were busy with spanner and hammer on a couple of broken trucks a girl was walking about with a busted half shaft. Just the kind of thing I didn’t want to experience! In spite of that reminder of what could happen if I got it wrong I was still enjoying it very much, Julie was a bit more relaxed now too as the truck showed off and took us through some horrible grey sludge holes with relative ease I was careful about where I was going to plant my wheels, aware that I didn’t have a diff guard fitted…thats next on the shopping list!

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                       The mud level from that first cliff edge bomb hole!

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                                Having the right footwear always helps….

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                               …..To get up and over obstacles like this!

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           Taking a five-minute break and look at the surrounding views

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           Taking a close look at the terrain…Im not marching honest!..Left right left right left right!

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                                  A nice day to play on the old slag heaps!!

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Lee came along with his gas fueled truck with David and friends in his green Disco/ defender hybrid. But it’s too clean to show to be honest, David had a white shirt that actually stayed white. Perhaps he just rode around on the grassy bits? (kidding mate) I on the other hand was wel l”clarted up” with grey sludge!

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Julie looking more relaxed and happy she kept her eyes open more in the afternoon and actually enjoyed the latter part of the day but perhaps will give the next visit here a miss, So anyone fancy coming along? its better than Alton Towers!!!

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