To help motivate myself to keep riding through the winter months I have selected 2 Audax challenges. One is to ride a Randonnee every month (RRTY) and the other is to gather some Audax Altitude Award points. It is quite easy to combine AAA points into the RRTY on the long summer days. I am not experienced at riding in the dark so for now I am choosing 200k routes with less elevation so I ride them quicker and keep riding in the dark to a minimum.
This ride was to get December’s Altitude points and was over the shortest distance allowed – 100k. I(Audax is after all a long distance cycling Club) I live at sea level in West Dorset so it’s not difficult to find hills. For this ride I went north to Shipton Gorge and then up Eggardon Hil. Then followed a big downhill freewheel to Maiden Newton. This pattern followed over Break Heart Hill and a freewheel down to the ford at Sydling St. Nicholas.
Next up Hog Hill to Dickley Down before the freewheel down to Cerne Abbas.
Up steeply once again to cross the Old Sherborne Road before freewheeling into the Piddle Valley at Piddletrenthide.
That was the end of the proper big hills for a few kilometres and we followed the undulating lane to Cheselbourne, and on to Ansty. It was a still a little early to stop at the pub but it was tempting.
The main objective, to gain precious metres of elevation, was Bulbarrow Hill. Bulbarrow isn’t the highest hill in Dorset, that accolade belongs to Lewesdon, but it is the highest paved road in Dorset, at 270 metres. The hill overlooks the Blackmore Vale, and offers views of Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire and Devon.
More freewheeling followed, all the way down to Okeford Fitzpaine – although I did have to turn the pedals at Belchalwell Street. Here the lovely St Aldelms Church stands out on a small hill – seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
Okeford Fitzpaine was listed in the Doomsday Book and is very picturesque with no less the 55 of the cottages in the village being listed buildings. I was more interested in the fuel the village shop had to offer but had time to admire the green telephone Box (also listed)
and the fine telegram sign.
Soon it was time to retrace back up Bulbarrow. The day had been quite warm and bright so far but I could see a large shower tracking across the scarp of the North Dorset Downs and reached for my jacket as the rain began to fall with a plummet in temperature.
The North Dorset Cycleway (Route 253) passes over Bulbarrow.
Once again it was a long freewheel down through the lovely woods at Delcombe to the picturesque village at Milton Abbas – an early forerunner of Milton Keynes. It was rather grey and damp today but there were still plenty of tourists. On the lane down to Milborne St Andrew we passed Hewish Farm with its large flock of geese.
Michael Coleman became a goose farmer almost by accident when he was given three birds to look after. 35 years later his flock has grown to several hundred and he now has a thriving business supplying birds for the Christmas table. After Christmas the field falls silent until the spring. Then the new chicks arrive to make up the following year’s flock and the cycle starts all over again.
The next twenty kilometres were relatively flat and we made our way along the Piddle Valley through Tolpuddle
and stopped at the village shop at Puddletown where there is a wonderful range of pies, slices and pasties. Just what was required. They also have Peanut Butter Chunky Kit Kats – my current chocolate bar of choice. I followed the route of the old A35 through Troy Town and then up through Dorchester and down to Martinstown. Then followed the next big hill up onto Black Down the site of the Hardy Monument
with fine views down to Portland.
I had a choice now – down into Abbotsbury and up the 17% kilometre of Abbotsbury Hill or take Cycle Route 2 down the Bredy Valley to Burton Bradstock and home.
I opted for the latter. Winter riding is tough – and 114k and 1980m of elevation was quite enough.