How I channelled my inner petrol head
‘Foot to the floor, keep it going, go go go…’ I’m sitting in the driving seat of a brand spanking new Land Rover Discovery on a muddy hill in the Cotswolds, trying not to panic about the possibility of sliding £60k of gleaming machine into the ditch below. Thankfully, off-roading expert Nick is in the passenger seat, all reassuringly calm and collected when things aren’t looking good. ‘Ok don’t worry lets just roll back and have another go,’ he says, as I spectacularly fail to get the car over the ridge.
Thankfully, the Discovery is more than capable of adapting to novice adventurers like me, as it automatically selects terrain response mode and takes control every time I’m about to lose it. I’ve been lent one of these dream machines, the fifth and latest incarnation of the iconic Discovery, for a weekend of country escapades. Just fifteen minutes into the drive from London to the Malvern Hills, I’ve fallen in love – plush leather seats, adaptive cruise control and in-car wifi make for a really comfortable ride.
The first pit stop is Eastnor Castle home of the Bathurst family for some 200 years and since the 1960s, Land Rover’s testing ground, thanks to the extensive woodlands, rivers and hills within the castle grounds. The ‘Land Rover Experience at Eastnor’ is open all year round and is available to anyone who wants to get behind the wheel of one of its models. Today is all about the new Discovery, and we’re part of a small group of eight cars, driving in convoy around the course.
As luck would have it, I’m not going first so hope to watch and pick up any tips en route. Soon we’re in dense woodland climbing steep hills, descending rocky slopes using controlled braking and sliding sideways on mud-filled tracks. I have absolutely no idea where I am or how I’m doing, but it’s brilliant fun, and the howls of delight and encouragement from my husband Neil and twins Esme and Kit in the back spur me on. But it’s Nick’s precise instructions that are really keeping us out of trouble – especially when it comes to wading through a muddy river, bonnet deep.
The two-hour drive flies by and with massive grins all over our faces we make our way back to the Castle and reunite with the rest of the team. Having survived part one of the adventure, we’re given a new set of coordinates and dispatched to our overnight stop. A 25-minute drive later we arrive at The Wood Norton, a charming country house hotel, which was built by the Duc D’Orlean in 1894, then bought by the BBC in 1939 for broadcasting during the war (which explains the circa 1975 Blue Peter pictures on the walls in our bedroom).
After dinner, drinks and a good night’s sleep, we prep for a seven-mile romp along the Cotswold way with a hearty breakfast in the wood-panelled dining room. I do a good job feigning interest in the Os Map Neil has unfolded, and despite having a Geography A level decide it only requires one of us to know where we’re going – I’d much rather take in the gorgeous scenery. (If you don’t have a capable navigator, download one of the many detailed guided walks at fancyfreewalks.org).
The route is a simple circuit starting and finishing in the pretty Cotswold village of Broadway. We’ve allowed two and a half hours to complete the seven miles, and booking a table for a late pub lunch is a good incentive to keep up the pace. We wind our way across fields, up through woodlands and along the rise and fall of the Cotswold Way, passing through the small hamlets of Stanton and Laverton. It’s perfectly picturesque and with the sun shining all the way, our feel good hormones are buzzing as we marvel at England’s green and pleasant land.
As Broadway tower comes into view we know we’re in striking distance of The Crown and Trumpet pub. We reward ourselves with carb-loaded pies and fresh veg then it’s back into the Land Rover for a smooth drive home to London. It’s been an exhilarating weekend, just a shame we have to hand back the keys…
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The All-New Land Rover Discovery is priced at £43,995.00. landrover.co.uk