Monday, 10 July 2017

CH2CH2CH Day Two - Dorchester to Wincanton

His decision was made. He was off. We were seeing no more of John S. He had thought long and hard about staying but looking back he’d realised his preparation for the ride had been nothing like last time he joined us. Still he’d joined us on our longest ever ride and he had also had a bang average curry in Dorchester. So he’d suffered just as much as us.

After our usual all you can eat breakfast at the Purple Palace we set off on our bikes once again, dropping John S and his bike off at one of the many train stations in Dorchester. Today we were to form our own train as we pedalled to the coast and then we would be jumping on a ferry.

The morning’s ride started swiftly, with lovely flat roads stretched out in front of us. “John would have loved this”, “if only he had seen how he got on with today’s course”, “has John gone home?” were just some of the comments as we rolled along at a comfortable but increased average speed of 13mph. Riding alongside a train, Spanners waved just in case it was John on his way home.

It was a great feeling heading to the sea, we were cycling through quiet fields and woods close to nature reserves and it had a real calmness about the ride. Managing to stay on track always kept the speed higher and we were doing fine until we took a little wrong turning as we came close to the coast. Seeing on the map that we could just take a short cut to get back on track we thought there was no reason why we should revisit our previous steps / pedal strokes.

Heading down a section that was more a track than a road we could see a man and vehicle parked up further down. Feeling this meant there was a way through we pedalled on. We were wrong, well according to the man we were. We were “not to come down there again”. Fine by us as we wouldn’t be back, not that we said that. Andy did however manage to catch the whole action on his GoPro and to make it even better Jukebox created a segment called “Don’t come this way again” on Strava. I’ve got a feeling he might have a few more cyclists he can remonstrate with passing his door in future.

Approaching the coast and where we would be catching the ferry, the area had that wonderful mix of sand, grass and road. We even covered a stretch of off road to let Chef show off the skills of his very nice looking, new Voodoo bike. Then we joined the queue for the ferry. Oh no, that’s not what you do. The (very kind) drivers in the queue waved out of windows and the top of their convertible to get us to go past, we had our own entrance and we boarded the ferry with barely any waiting time. This was fun!

On board we quickly had snacks and took photos (Strava wasn’t paused, you’ve caught us out here) and the chains clattered as they pulled the ferry from Studland and Godlingston Nature Reserve across to Sandbanks. Sandbanks, the home of Harry Redknapp as we all pointed out. You could see why it was a popular place to live and we soaked in the view as we cycled along the beautiful seafront at Canford Cliffs Beach.

Riding down the front in gorgeous sunshine we were looking for a place to put our front, or was it back wheels, in the sea? Spotting a point to get down on to the beach, Littlehorn announced “I wonder if I can get on the sand without dismounting?”. Two seconds later and lying in the sand we knew the answer was “no”. We pushed across the sand and had the obligatory photo, one man down on the previous morning’s tally.

However, we weren’t to be without our sixth member for long. John S had done some thinking on the train and decided to join us in Wincanton but this time in his car. He was going to follow us in the car, grabbing lunch with us on the next day when we planned to catch an important football match at the pub. Not only could he catch the game but he could carry our gear. So it became that John S became our Mule!

Back to the riding and it was twelve o’clock and we were thirty three miles in to what was thought to be a seventy five plus mile day. At Bournemouth Pier it was the signal to head off the beach and after a quick conflab it was decided we’d stop for lunch as soon as we spotted somewhere heading out of Bournemouth. That didn’t look forthcoming as we rode through the imaginatively titled lower, middle and upper gardens. It was a lovely, flat green area that got quieter and quieter as we headed further away from the sea.

Suddenly we were taken from sea and gardens to housing estates and that’s the beauty of bike riding and touring. The scenery changes so quickly and you can enjoy so much this wonderful country has to offer. Even if that is a short sharp uphill on a questionable surface (or Guest Ave Mountain Bike Groveller as it’s called on Strava). A quick Google and slight wrong turn (Littlehorn) we were on our way to have as much salad as we wanted in the Harvester. Free food, music to any Yorkshireman’s ears.

Blue sky and sunshine was still the order of the day and we stripped down to minimal wear before sitting down to a feast. The Harvester will always hold fond memories for the boys, whether that's because of the nice grub or the delightful waitress I'll leave for you to decide.

Now we were ready for the next section, a ride out to Blandford Forum to skirt Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs. A beautiful area where we saw thatched cottages and rode over lovely wooden bridges on quiet back roads.

In Blandford Forum we picked up the North Dorset Trailway for some great, traffic free riding and the miles just kept ticking away as we went through more small towns and, apart from the odd few metres, managed to keep on route. Spanners even had enough energy to time trial a segment on a long stretch of road.

As is usually the case, the frequency of stops and snacks increased as we went later in the afternoon. But somehow we just kept clocking up the miles. Thighs may have ached, bums were sore from saddles and backs may have needed stretching but we were all in good form. In fact we were starting to enjoy the flat roads and started playing games on the downhills, seeing who could travel the furthest without pedalling. This is a game of high risk, not because of the speed going down hill but because as you slower to crawling pace, it's a game of chicken who can click out of their pedals last before they come to a halt and fall over.

As Wincanton appeared on signs it was great to count down the miles. As we grew even closer the sign posts wanted us to come off route to head in to Wincanton. This is often the case as we may be staying on the edge of town and following the signs is not always the most direct route.

We cycled on, past a couple of turnings for Wincanton and then pulled up at our turning. It was a field. There was a public footpath down the edge but this was definitely a field. With football chants going around in our head for the next day we were singing “we’re on our way, we’re on our way, to Wincanton, we’re on our way. How we get there we don’t, how we get there we don’t, all we know is we’re on our way.” Well we soon, knew, we were turning around and heading back to that last sign for Wincanton. A bit of a blow to morale at this late stage in the day, 74 miles in to our ride. We just pushed on and got going again. Soon riding in to Wincanton under the A303.

Wincanton is a small place, Littlehorn had been telling the rest of the team and soon they saw that themselves. As we entered and exited the town in no time and finally arrived to see a friendly face waiting for us. Mule was there videoing us as we pulled in. But we weren’t done. Spanners announced that he was on 79 miles and he was going to keep riding until he was on 80. Littlehorn not wanting to be outdone followed him in laps of the roundabout and car park. “Done” announced Spanners. “Oh” said Littlehorn. He hadn’t checked his mileage when they got back. He was only on 79.1 and had a few more laps to do. Nine and half hours after setting off, the team were done.

Unloaded, showered and back out in good time, the short walk next door to the pub was achieved with minimal effort. The team stayed there for the evening as their search for any other decent eating establishment in Wincanton produced no results. Tomorrow they would have to search for somewhere for breakfast. Littlehorn would not be sleeping well without knowledge where his next meal was coming from.

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