Category Archives: Dorset


In June my husband, Ian, suddenly decided that he would like to try mountain biking. I think he just got a bit fed up with being left behind while I was out cycling, yet didn’t fancy doing the long miles on tarmac. I love riding my bike so I assumed that I would also love mountain biking – especially with him.

We hired bikes from our local cycle shop, Bridport Cycles, and went out on a Bridport Cycling Club mountain bike ride.


Nice wide flat trail with a good firm surface.

Our first club ride was for beginners and although we found it quite difficult and tiring we did enjoy it.

We then went off to our nearest trail centre at Haldon. Again we hired bikes and cycled around the green trail which was very pleasant. Then we tried the light blue trail – more interesting but manageable. We then tried the dark blue trail. Too interesting. I found the steep, stony descents really frightening and couldn’t stay on the bike. There was no point in looking at the red trail, that was way beyond our skill level. We did have a play in the skills park and although I avoided all the drops and stony paved areas, I did think that I had improved.


Haldon Skills Park

We took advice from a couple of experienced MTB riders at BCC and Ian, being an impulsive sort of guy, just found a couple of good deals online and we bought a full suspension bike each.

The shiny new bikes were both blue and we were very pleased to be out riding in the beautiful countryside in West Dorset where we live.


First outing on the new bikes

We found routes that were not very technical but managed to find some mud even in the dry summer.



Riding the MTB was really good fun after the serious stuff of the Exmoor 70.3 ironman in the summer. The sole reason for riding the MTB was to have fun.


Having fun in the sun!

We enjoyed some lovely rides in the summer. We are fortunate to live in a very scenic area close to the sea. Scenic also means there are plenty of hills, of course.


Scenic Dorset

We returned to Haldon quite regularly and gradually improved. Ian improved more quickly and was much braver on drops and stony descents. We no longer bothered with the green and light blue and were able to ride around the dark blue more quickly.


Starting the red run.

We ventured onto the red trail. Ian could ride about 50% of it and I couldn’t really manage much of it at all. However I kept trying and pushed my limits in the skills park. We have returned to Haldon regularly and each time there is significant improvement. We can now enjoy riding the red trails. Some intensive sessions on the regulated trails at Haldon have really helped improve our skills and confidence. The next step is to travel to a different trail centre and frighten ourselves there!


Pushing my limits in the Haldon skills park

Back in West Dorset we became more adventurous and challenged ourselves on more technical routes. At this stage, some of the time I was not having much fun.


More technical routes


Making progress on more technical routes


The Colmers Shute Strava segment! (Ian doesn’t do Strava!)


Sometimes it was a bit too challenging for me.

We continued to go out on BCC Club rides. Club rides tend to be challenging and hilly but take in some beautiful coastal scenery.


On Eype Down – Golden Cap the next challenge on the horizon.

We took the bikes with us on a visit to the Gower Peninsular in Wales and found some good routes and had some fun times again.


Gower Peninsular. Getting up there was a grunt but we had the best fun on the descent.

As the weather changed and the trails became wetter and muddier we faced new challenges. In the summer I would worry about the smallest patches of mud and puddles and really hated the back wheel squirming. I soon had to get used to puddles and lots of mud as well as wearing lots of gear in the cold, wet weather. We even venture out in the dark occasionally which adds another dimension to our riding. Often hilarious.


Darkness is falling.

I’m pleased to say that I have improved a lot over the last few months and I am enjoying the MTB riding much more. I am much more confident on steep stony descents and am able to ‘stay on my bike’ most of the time. It’s still really hard work and very strenuous –especially with all the mud and puddles, but we usually have a lot of fun on our rides and it’s great that we can enjoy cycling together.


Muddy winter riding

We are planning some cycling trips away this year as my focus moves away from competing in triathlon back to cycling just for the sheer enjoyment of being out on my bike. I love riding my bike – but riding my bike with my best buddy alongside me is the best!


Swimming around Brownsea Island

GPS track of our swim

GPS track of our swim

Brownsea Island is spectacularly located in Poole Harbour. It is the largest of Poole Harbour’s islands and has been owned by the National Trust since 1963.

There is evidence of settlement, pottery production, agriculture and trade in the area since the 5th century BC. It has been a hideout for pirates and a gentleman’s estate. In 1907 the first Scouts came to camp on Brownsea and in 1963 a permanent 50 acre camp was opened by Olave Baden-Powell.

With regards to swimming around the island there is a large event organised by Poole RLSS which takes place in September. Entries for this event are booked up very quickly when they open in February.

A group of us swim regularly in the Bridport area and we decided to organise our own swim around Brownsea Island. We did a bit of tidal guesswork and Ian came along in his sea kayak to keep us safe and to carry the food and drink which would help us keep going for an estimated 3 hours in the water.

Ready to swim at the Castle slipway

Ready to swim at the Castle slipway

We met at Sandbanks and caught the yellow Brownsea Island Ferry.

On the ferry to the island

Waiting for the ferry to the island

Ian met us at the Island close to the Castle. We changed into wetsuits and loaded all our gear into the hatches in the kayak.

At the start

At the start – nutrition on the kayak deck

The essential jelly babies and isotonic drinks were kept on deck for easy access during the swim.

Loading supplies into the hatches

Loading supplies into the hatches

As we swam away from the Castle at Brownsea Island we had a strong push from the flooding tide and for a few hundred metres we flew along.

Swimming with the tide behind us was very fast

Swimming with the tide behind us was very fast

This was to be short lived unfortunately and for the next 2 kilometres up to Pottery pier it was quite a hard swim which became harder as we got closer to the top of the island. The wind increased and it got choppy and then there was more boat traffic so we got wash.

Approaching Pottery pier

Approaching Pottery pier

Once round the other side of the Island things calmed down quite a lot and we had wind and waves behind us. We still didn’t get much tidal assistance but it was a lot more fun. There was the added bonus that this side of the island is shallow with little boat traffic so we could stop and stand up to get our food and drinks from the kayak.

Our land support team member, Jane, swam out to meet us.

Jane swam out to join us

Jane swam out to join us

Navigation was easy with land on the left all the way and after just under 3 hours we found ourselves back at our starting point.

Another great adventure.

West Bay Triathlon

2016 was the inaugural running of the West Bay Triathlon. It was organised by a local fledgling company Beyond Events.

West Bay is a perfect venue for sports events. It is in beautiful rural Dorset and on the spectacular Jurassic Coast.

West Bay from Thorncombe Beacon

West Bay from Thorncombe Beacon

Beyond Events are very keen to encourage inexperienced athletes to have a go and push their limits. There were 2 distances – Sprint and Olympic. The Sprint course was very flat and aimed at newcomers to triathlon. The Olympic distance course had a challenging bike and a very challenging run and all though there were some athletes who took this on as their first triathlon the majority were more experienced.
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Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge

Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance

Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance

Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance (DSAA) is a registered charity to provide relief from sickness and injury to the people of Dorset and Somerset by provision of an Air Ambulance. There is no direct funding from the Government or the National Lottery and they rely totally on the generosity of the public to run the service.

The service was launched in 2000, and since then over 11,000 missions have been flown. The helicopter can be at any point in Somerset or Dorset from its airbase at Henstridge in less than 20 minutes and then at any one of the major trauma centres in the South West within a further 20 minutes.

Operational costs exceed £2 million a year with each with mission costing £2,500.
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AAARTY 36 Months

There are many challenges to be tempted by when riding Audax. However, a lot of them involve riding for a very long way and for a very long time. At present I do not find it fun to be out for more than about 12 hours, so I am limited to 200km rides or less.

I have found that one challenge I can maintain and use to keep up my cycling motivation is AAARTY. (Audax Altitude Award Round The Year). This involves riding a minimum of 50km with at least 750m of elevation every month. I have ridden a hilly ride every month since June 2013 so this was my 36th consecutive month!

Occasionally I will ride a hilly Calendar Event like the Dorset Coast 200km in April 2016 which attracted 2.75 AAA points with a total climb of 2850 metres. But usually I ride a 100km DIY with over 1500m of elevation. Living in the West of West Dorset it is not difficult to plan hilly enough rides from my back yard.

For Audax DIY planning purposes Burton Bradstock to Shillingstone is a very convenient 51km with 1015m of elevation. The return trip makes for a very neat 102km with only the one intermediary control necessary. Perfect.

The second week in May the weather warmed up nicely and I set off to meet my cycling buddy Jo ready for a hilly 100km.

Setting out from home

Setting out from home – nice jersey!

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Challenge Weymouth Long Distance Triathlon

I have to admit that I am very pleased with how the ironman went. All the factors I could control went according to plan. Inevitably it was the weather that produced the only significant imperfection to the race.

On 13th September race morning we were up at 04:30 and I had my usual porridge and banana breakfast with a pint of strong coffee. Then it was off to Weymouth. As the day dawned we could see big, threatening black clouds and sure enough as we arrived at transition the heavens opened and it poured down for an hour or so – soaking everything.

I went into transition and asked the Just Racing bike mechanics to check my tyre pressures (didn’t trust myself) . The bike was OK – just wet. Phew. I changed into my wetsuit and went over to the swim starting pens. I was quite nervous but felt in control. However, I didn’t realise my goggles were upside down until the starting horn blasted at 07:15!

Tiptoeing across the shingle with upside down goggles

Tiptoeing across the shingle with upside down goggles

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These last three weeks

I entered the Challenge Weymouth last September but I didn’t tell very many people. There is a lot of stuff that can go wrong when you start to train an ageing body to do stuff it used to do.
I started running again. I went out with Egdon Heath Harriers on Club nights and did a few low key races.

Running the Weymouth 10

Running the Weymouth 10 back in October 2014

I had to face the reality that I was now running at a much slower speed than I was a few years ago. I still find this difficult to accept and will keep working at it – even to hold the status quo.
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