At the end of last year I wrote a list of ten experiences I wouldn’t mind ticking off my list in 2013. Well it turns out my mother-in-law reads my blog, as for Christmas she gave LincsGeek and I a tank driving experience each! Fantastic!
It’s actually several weeks ago that we made use of our experience vouchers, and yes I am a bad blogger because it has taken me far too long to write about it (it’s taking me far to long to write about anything at the moment, sorry!) – but I’m doing it now so never mind!
Our experience took place at Armourgeddon (the vouchers had been purchased through buyagift), based at Southfields Farm in Leicestershire. It was very easy to find, although parking was a little chaotic (mind the potholes/craters!), and we definitely couldn’t argue with the gorgeous sunny Saturday we’d managed to pick (yes, there was one gorgeous sunny Saturday in April!).
On arrival we signed in and headed outside to watch the group before us take their turn. Our experience included entry into the Military Collection, a museum of tanks and other military vehicles, that we looked around after our experience. A small but interesting museum that added to the enjoyment of the day. Anyway, when it was our turn we were called and headed inside to get kitted up – coveralls to go over our clothing and lids to protect our heads and eyes. We were given the opportunity at that point to swap our tank driving experience for their tank paintball experience – something unique to Armourgeddon that seemed to be pretty popular. They explained that the paintball experience meant less driving of the tank, and as that was the bit we really wanted to do we declined and stuck with the one we’d booked.
As we were on our own (we’d not brought any spectators with us), we were taken down to the bottom track for our experience, which actually meant we got a little longer in the tank than if we’d stayed up on the top track. The tanks take three people each but LincsGeek and I were joined by a trainee instructor instead – a tank mad bloke who wanted to drive tanks every weekend for fun – which was even better for us, LincsGeek and I had the experience to ourselves as well as two very knowledgeable instructors.
The endless rain of the weeks preceding our experience meant the ground was nice and muddy. Excellent! The experience was organised so that the instructor would drive us down to the track and then around the course once so we could sit up in the gun turret and learn a little about what was going on (or simply watch the world go by and enjoy the sunshine and the ride!). Then each of us had three laps – the first with the hatch open so we could see out over the top of the tank, the second with the hatch closed, and then the third whichever way we chose. I was up first – LincsGeek stayed sat up in the gun turret to “enjoy” my driving!
I don’t know what kind of steering system I was expecting, but what I was faced with was an accelerator pedal and two lever brakes. To go left you pull on the left lever, for right it’s the right lever, and to slow down or stop it’s both together. Simple! Actually it really was simple, and so much fun. The instruction was excellent, and I really felt like I was in control! You need lots of power to go up hill and have to take it steady over bumps and down hill so you remain in control of the tank (and don’t make your passenger feel sick!), but that was quite easy to get the hang of. My second lap wasn’t so easy – the visibility in those things is rather minimal through the letterbox-sized periscope, and I struggled to remember I was all the way over on the right hand side of a massive tank – no accidents or even near misses though, just a little slower! For my final lap I chose to have the hatch open again – well it was a glorious day – and I was given very little instruction as I made my way around the lap at what I felt was full speed (I’m sure it was very slow really!). I had serious good fun in that thing, I was smiling from ear to ear, loving every moment.
LincsGeek took his turn while I sat up in the gun turret – manoeuvring yourself when inside a tank with a helmet on is really not very easy, the gaps are very small and there are bits of metal protruding all over the place! I think LincsGeek did his laps faster than mine, well I wouldn’t expect anything less, and then at the end he got the chance to drive us back to the main field which meant going up a really (really) steep hill and reverse parking. Yes, he reverse parked a tank! At the end of our experience we were both buzzing. What an awesome way to spend a Saturday!
The photos that include LincsGeek and I were taken by the Armourgeddon photographer. To be fair I think they need a little practice composing and focussing in time as the tank went around the course, but we did find a good handful of shots in amongst the many we they took (the benefit of getting the whole lot is that we have been able to choose, crop, etc).
Would I recommend the tank driving experience at Armourgeddon? An absolute yes. Fabulous fun, and a new skill (can I put driving a tank on my CV?!). My only regret was that I didn’t get to drive the tank over a car…!