Arthur Vince the organiser of this event assures me that the name of the event (The Primrose Path) has nothing to do with primroses, but is a reference to Shakespeare no less.
An early appearance of the phrase in print occurs in Shakespeare’s 1602 play Hamlet (Act I, Scene III), where Ophelia, rebuffing her brother Laertes’ insistence that she resist Hamlet’s advances, warns Laertes against hypocrisy.
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads
And recks not his own rede.
The primrose path refers to a life of ease and pleasure, or to a course of action that seems easy and appropriate, but can actually end in calamity
A glance at the 1955m of climb in this ‘scenic tour of West Dorset lanes’ is enough to tell most people that although a grand day out will be had it will come at a price. There is not a lot of ‘ease’ about a hilly 102km excursion on West Dorset lanes. The riders had been warned in advance about the steep ascents and descents, blind bends, loose and potholed surfaces, mud, surface water and flood debris. The warning on the day was about the SW gale force wind. There was a possibility that lighter riders could be blown off their bikes on higher ground – particularly Eggardon. Lighter riders? I figured I’d be OK!
The turn out at Corscombe Village Hall was disappointing with only 17 of the 36 riders who had pre-entered showing up to ride. There were drinks and biscuits provided in the hall
and promptly at 09:00 Arthur sent us on our way.
The first control after just 8km was at Closworth
closely followed by the second control at Lyatts after 15.5km
Some of the descents after this point were steep and very rutted and muddy. I got off and walked a couple of them as my back wheel was skidding too much for my liking.
The first ‘proper’ hill is after 25km as the road climbs out of Corscombe to the A356. Arthur was there to check us through. The ride continued along the A356 in a strong crosswind and then descended to Hooke, now with a strong headwind. The next control was in Hooke and at this point we were sheltered from the wind again.
Not for long, as after the next control in Powerstock we ascended the second ‘proper’ hill onto the Eggardon Hill Fort. As I emerged from the steep ascent onto the flatter part towards the top I was blown off my bike. A strong gust just pushed my bike over and off the road. I had quite a nice view from my position at the bottom of the bank
and my bike was at the side of the road a few metres above me.
I wasn’t hurt and my bike appeared to be unscathed so I pushed it for a few metres and then as it appeared to be less windy I started riding again. Less than a minute later I was blown off again. After that I walked the rest of the way up until the route turned away from the wind (only about 5 minutes). The downhill run down to Maiden Newton, with a tail wind, was swift and the next stop was in Cattistock, at a cyclists house where we were treated to homemade soup and food – including delicious rocky road. (I’m sure the choice of cake was a coincidence and not a reference to the condition of the roads!)
After the refuel at Cattistock followed 3 more ‘proper’ hills. There was a brief interlude at Cerne Abbas for cards to be stamped and more fuel to be consumed.
It was with great relief that I ground up the small steep ascent (not a proper hill) out of the Piddle Valley as this meant that all the ‘proper’ hills were done with and what were left were mere undulations. Some may disagree with this. However the road onwards to the next control at Mappowder is very pleasant with a new surface and gently rolling countryside with the wind generally being helpful. After recording the name of the house near the post box at 74km as the last control
all that remained was to ride across to the A352 at Lyon’s Gate then across to the A37, through Evershot and back to the Village Hall at Corscombe. The route is never really flat but there were some nice swoopy descents in this section where it was possible to relax. The wind made this section more arduous than I would have liked and was sometimes on the nose.
The food fairy did a wonderful job on the Primrose Path. At the finish there was a choice of hot food which once ordered appeared very promptly. There was also homemade quiche and cakes as well as rice pudding and peaches. Unlimited tea, coffee, squash and biscuits. Thank you very much for all of this. It was just what was needed.