Take to the hills with a Bath & West 4×4 experience

If you feel that 4×4 Range Rovers are – and should only be – driven by rich Chelsea mothers, then you won’t want to take the passenger seat with Matt Smith.

This off-road professional has competed at many levels of the sport and now runs Xtreme Off Road, offering off-road training and experiences at the Bath & West showground in Somerset.

And visitors to the Royal Bath & West Show can get a taste of what it’s all about with a range of off-road activities running all day, every day.

So buckle up. “This will be the ride of your life,” grins Matt, as he fastens his seatbelt in a V8 competition two-seater Land Rover. The engine roars into life and he guns it towards what looks to be a near-vertical wall of earth. Tyres scrambling for grip, the car surges skyward and reaches the pinnacle before lurching forward to tackle a similarly steep descent. “Inexperienced drivers tend to hit the brakes at this point, but that unsettles the car – you have to power down when the slope is this steep,” he explains.

A bit of opposite lock as the car slides around a corner to the next obstacle – a twisty mound, on which Matt demonstrates balancing on two wheels, before descending once again.

The purpose-built trail was created with the help of Formula One track designer Apex, and it really does have something for everyone, whatever your appetite for adrenaline. For those who are after a slower, but still buzz-inducing, experience, they can opt for the fully enclosed five-seater Land Rover Discovery, which admirably negotiates even the trickiest of terrains. Or there may also be the option for a white-knuckle ride in a Bowler Tomcat, negotiating jumps and high-speed obstacles powered by a five-litre V8 TVR race engine.

Whichever you choose, be sure to enjoy the final challenge – a massive metal see-saw. As Matt drives onto it all he can see is sky. “I’ll try to balance it, but it takes a bit of skill.” The see-saw tips forward, so he reverses back a nudge, finding that magical balancing point. And then he’s off down to earth again, pulling out of a sideways drift just in time to slip through the finishing gates and killing the engine. “Do you want to go again?” Oh yes.

Xtreme will be running three types of motorsport at the same time throughout the Bath & West Show – the solo thrill ride in the 200BHP Land Rover, group drives in the slightly more comfortable Range Rover, and for the first time this year, mountain biking with a difference.

“We have hooked up with the Electric Bike Shop in Bristol to offer the chance to try out some electric mountain bikes; we’re looking to the future with an eye on the environment,” says Matt. Originally scorned as a lazy man’s bike, these have grown massively in popularity, both among professional competitors and older people struggling with fitness or mobility.

“Sales grew by 50% last year.” For those seeking greater speed or distances, they are ideal, while also being an aid to anyone who is struggling with fitness, enabling them to get out on a bike when they otherwise couldn’t.

Visitors to the Show can try their hand at the off-road mountain bike course; something which is normally impossible to do without first buying one of these £4000 bikes. And if they really get hooked, they can even head over to the Electric Bike Shop stand to make a purchase.

And for those who are keen to take their skills one step further, they can always book direct with Xtreme after the Show and get behind the wheel themselves. “We train a diverse range of people from stag parties to those who are heading off to African rallies, as well as a number of emergency services personnel,” says Matt.

“On this five-acre site we’ve got one of the best off-road courses in the country – and its location means you can experience it at the Bath & West Show. You can’t turn up to many shows and do this – we have people who come back year after year because they love it so much.”

  • The Royal Bath & West Show will be held on 29 May – 1 June. Tickets are available from the website: www.bathandwest.com or by calling 0844 776 6777. Children – for the first time – can go free during the May half term, with a £3 discount on early adult bookings.