Leda Reynolds comes prepares to climb the stairs... in a Range Rover!

Leda Reynolds comes prepares to climb the stairs... in a Range Rover!

It's pouring with rain as I clamber into the Range Rover with a smile on my face.

I'm at the Land Rover Experience in Solihull, a multi-acre site at the Jaguar Land Rover plant set aside for drivers to test the vehicles to the limit.

I'm grinning like a Cheshire cat as I've heard a lot about this track over the years.

Sipping a gin and tonic in a pub five years ago, a fellow journalist told me that if I was ever lucky enough to have a go at the off-road "experience" I should seize the chance.

"Just don't eat first as your heart will be in your mouth - it's really hairy in parts," he'd chuckled.

Now, having been sitting in the back of a Range Rover Vogue SE while a journalist from a trade paper drove us around the jungle track, I knew my old friend had been exaggerating.

Yes, there had been a few large ruts as we ploughed through deep water, squeezed through the trees and enjoyed gravity-defying angles, but nothing really to set a pace maker racing.

"Who's having a go next?" chirruped our friendly instructor.

I leapt at the chance.

"Have you driven a Range Rover before?" he asked.

"Nope," I smiled back.

"Have you driven off-road before?" he queried.

"Never," I replied, meeting his gaze.

"OK. Have you driven an automatic then?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.

"I shook my head, and, as the only female on the Press trip that day, I was keen to stave off any jokes about "women drivers" so I added:

"But I have driven a Warrior tank - and in a war zone too."

After a brief introduction, we were off, with me interviewing him about the vehicle's capabilities as I drove.

We turned a few sharp corners and I hardly glanced at a wooden sign saying "adventure" track.

After emerging through a tunnel on a simulated track we arrived at a steep flight of steps.

"You've got to be joking," I said, horrified. "We're not going up there?"

Grinning, my instructor nodded his head.

Then I spotted an even steeper flight of stairs, towering ominously above the first.

I laughed nervously, all bravado of having driven a tank vanishing as quickly as a sticky bun after a weigh-in at a dieting group.

"Would anyone else like a turn now?" I asked meekly, turning to the other journalists in the car, suddenly feeling like the epitome of a stereotypical woman driver who can't reverse at a supermarket.

They shook their heads.

"Too late to back out now, Reynolds," I muttered to myself under my breath as I gently squeezed the accelerator and inched up the steps.

"More, more, more!" shouted the instructor as I obediently accelerated faster up the stairs feeling my heart pound with each bump.

We reached the plateau for a quick breather, but the next set of steps was up ahead.

"We'll need more power this time as it's steeper and keep the wheel straight. OK?" the instructor asked.

"Not really," I whispered. "Can I have five minutes?"

"No we can't - there's another vehicle behind us so we have to crack on," he said.

Gulp. Pedal to the metal, we bumped upwards - and then to my abject horror started to slither and slide backwards.

"Aaarrgh" I wailed in anguish.

Flicking a switch in the Range Rover, the instructor said soothingly: "It's alright, we'll do a controlled descent before trying again."

In desperation to get the ordeal over with as quickly as possible I roared up the steps in one fell swoop before turning sharply at the top as instructed,

I whooped with delight - before realising that the law of physics dictated that what goes up must come down.

"Just take your foot completely off the brake and let the vehicle do the work," I was told.

And amazingly it did. In fact it was so smooth creeping down the almost vertical steps I relaxed enough to look through the window at the unpicked blackberries on the bushes!

The next time I'm faced with any driving challenge, I won't even mention the tank.

I will proudly declare that I've been on the Land Rover Experience. And survived.