Category Archives: Dorset

The Lighthouse Tour

I have been thinking of doing a cycle tour to all the lighthouses in the South West for a few years and when my cycling buddy Jo expressed an interest in joining me I was galvanised into action. I decided arbitrarily to only include the lighthouses that are on the mainland and those that are working. Once I got into the planning it seemed reasonable to also include iconic lighthouse hotspots as well – like Smeatons Tower on Plymouth Hoe and Lands End with a view of Long Ships for example.

Longships Lighthouse

It is always good to have a theme for a cycling adventure: it adds direction and purpose. I live on the South Coast of England in Dorset and I have walked the South West Coast Path and kayaked around the South West coast over the last twenty years or so. The sea kayaking took us out to places like Lundy Island and Long Ships off lands End which were definitely not possible on the cycling tour.

Lighthouse on Lundy Island

A lighthouse is a structure, usually a tower or other type of structure, built as an aid to navigation for maritime pilots at sea. Back in the day people used to light fires on hills to aid navigation but the modern era of lighthouses began in the eighteenth century with advances in structural engineering and new efficient lighting equipment allowing the creation of larger and more powerful lighthouses including ones exposed to the sea. The function of lighthouses is to provide a visible and, in poor visibility, audible warning against shipping hazards such as rocks or reefs.

Today Trinity House maintains over 60 lighthouses in England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. These highly visual aids to navigation range from isolated offshore towers like the Eddystone to shore based locations like the Lizard.

In 2010 I took part in the Eddystone Challenge which involved paddling from Plymouth to the Eddystone lighthouse and back again. The race is intended for gigs but kayaks are allowed to join in. I was paddling a sea kayak not a gig. Although it was fabulous to paddle out to the Eddystone, I didn’t have the urge to do it again!

Paddling to the Eddystone Lighthouse

While lighthouse buildings differ depending on the location and purpose, they tend to have common components.

A light station comprises the lighthouse tower and all outbuildings, such as the keeper’s living quarters, fuel house, boathouse, and fog-signalling building. The lighthouse itself consists of a tower structure supporting the lantern room where the light operates.

The Lantern Room is the glassed-in housing at the top of a lighthouse tower containing the lamp and lens. Its glass storm panes are supported by metal bars running vertically or diagonally. At the top of the lantern room is a storm-proof ventilator designed to remove the smoke of the lamps and the heat that builds in the glass enclosure. A lightning rod and grounding system connected to the metal cupola roof provides a safe conduit for any lightning strikes.

Immediately beneath the lantern room is usually a Watch Room or Service Room where fuel and other supplies were kept and where the keeper prepared the lanterns for the night and often stood watch. The clockworks (for rotating the lenses) were also located there. On a lighthouse tower, an open platform called the gallery is often located outside the watch room (called the Main Gallery) or Lantern Room (Lantern Gallery). This was mainly used for cleaning the outside of the windows of the Lantern Room.

Lighthouses near to each other that are similar in shape are often painted in a unique pattern so they can easily be recognized during daylight,

Today all the lighthouses are automated and the accommodation has been converted for use as holiday lettings.

The list of lighthouses on the south west peninsula for our cycling tour were, in order:

  • Anvil Point
  • Portland Bill

    Portland Bill Lighthouse

  • Teignmouth
  • Berry Head
  • Start Point

    Start Point Lighthouse

  • St Antony
  • Lizard

    Lizard Point

  • Tater Du

    Tater Du

  • Pendeen
  • Trevose Head
  • Hartland Point
  • Crow Point
  • Bull Point
  • Lynmouth Foreland

I decided to start on the south coast with the lighthouse furthest to the east which is Anvil Point in Dorset. From there the route went to Portland Bill and then down the coast through Devon and Cornwall following the coast all the way down to Lands end. From Lands End the route went to St Ives and then followed the north Cornwall and Devon coast up to Lynmouth. The last lighthouse on the tour was Lynmouth Foreland.

The total distance planned was 900 kilometres (550 miles) but with over 11,000 metres of climb (36,000 feet). We were planning to camp if the weather permitted so we had about 11kg of luggage each. I allowed 7 days for the ride but if all went well we could probably complete it in 6 days.

The first lighthouse in the tour was Anvil Point which is near Swanage. This is to the east of where we live so I decided to do this section as a day ride and stay at home the first night.

Anvil Point

The lighthouse was completed in 1881. Anvil Point Lighthouse was fully automated in 1991 and is now monitored and controlled from Trinity House Operations at Harwich.

Our route took us through the Lulworth Ranges (open on a Sunday) and along the coast to Weymouth. We rode along the sea front and the Rodwell trail to the causeway which took us out onto Portland and down to the Lighthouse at Portland Bill.

Portland Bill

The present lighthouse is the third to be built at Portland Bill. The two original lighthouses now known as Old Higher Lighthouse and Old Lower Lighthouse operated as a pair of leading lights to guide ships between Portland Race and the Shambles Sandbank. The present lighthouse was completed in 1916. It was de-manned in 1996 and control transferred to the Trinity House Operations.

From Portland Bill we rode back to Bridport. With 11,000 metres of elevation in this tour there were obviously going to be some proper hills. One of these was the climb out of Abbotsbury which is a long sustained climb.

Relieved to have survived Abbotsbury Hill

The next day we set off on our touring bikes heading down to the South West of England.

Setting off

Each of us carrying about 11kg of luggage carried mainly in Ortileb panniers.

Our route took us through Exeter and down the River Exe to Dawlish then along the coast to Teignmouth. We dropped down to visit the lighthouse there, which is a grade 2 listed building.
In the early 1840s Teignmouth Harbour Commissioners decided to erect a lighthouse as an aid to shipping, and a tower was built of blocks of local limestone during the years 1844 to 1845 with the light being shone for the first time in 1845.

The lighthouse has never had a keeper, resident or otherwise; never been open to the public, and because of its size, has mistakenly been referred to in Guides as a toy lighthouse. However it is not; it is a real navigational aid.

In Powderham Terrace and close to the Lynton House Hotel, some 200 feet behind the lighthouse is the second leading light, which is a tall pole with a red navigational lamp fixed on the top.

Today the lighthouse is kept clean and maintained by the Harbour Master. It shows a fixed red light visible for 3 miles and when lined up with the leading light behind it provides a safe passage across the sand bars at the mouth of the Teign.

Teignmouth Lighthouse

Our target destination for the day was Berry Head above Brixham where there is a vertically challenged lighthouse. Berry Head is reputedly the shortest lighthouse in Great Britain but also one of the highest. It is only 5 metres tall but 58 metres above sea level.

It was built in 1906.

Berry Head

Berry Head

We camped at Berry Head and the next morning with fresh legs zipped over to Kingswear for the ferry across the River Dart to Dartmouth.

On the ferry to Dartmouth

In my zealous effort to avoid riding on main roads we found ourselves on a hill too steep to ride which degenerated into a bridleway. So we had a longer walk than we would have liked.

Too steep to ride with loaded bikes

It would have been better to have taken the A379 out of the town.

As it was we joined the A379 and followed it along the coast to Slapton where we visited the Exercise Tiger Memorial.

Excercise Tiger memorial.

From Slapton we headed out to Start Point.

Start Point

Start Point lighthouse was built in 1836 to protect shipping off Start Point in south Devon. For us it involved an undulating ride along narrow lanes. It was worth it as Start Point is exactly what you expect from a lighthouse. A tall white tower built on a rocky promontory with a raging sea below. This being May, the wild thrift and bluebells were magnificent.

Eye candy

We were able to pick up fuel in the form of cheese and onion pasties (neither of us eat meat) and doughnuts before continuing to Kingsbridge. The road through the South Hams to Plymouth is scenic and undulating. The cyclists among you will recognise these word as euphemisms for very hilly.

We diverted to Plymouth Hoe where the centrepiece is Smeaton’s Tower. The lighthouse was originally built on the Eddystone reef in 1759. It was take down in the 1810’s when it was discovered the sea was undermining the rock it was standing on. The tower was dismantled and erected at Plymouth Hoe.

Smeaton’s Tower on Plymouth Hoe

It was a beautiful clear day and we were able to see the Eddystone Lighthouse. The Eddystone is an extensive reef about 20km SSW off Plymouth Sound and midway between Start Point and Lizard Point. The reef is submerged at HW springs and very much feared by mariners. The present lighthouse was built in 1882 and is still in use.

We cycled through Plymouth and along the Tamar to the Torpoint ferry where we crossed into Cornwall.

On the Torpoint Ferry

Cornwall

We rode, hugging the coast, to Looe. On this the third day of the tour had now ridden over 100km with over 2000m of climbing so another pasty was called for to fuel the last 20km – with a monster hill – to Fowey.

Looe

We dropped very steeply down to Polruan to catch the ferry to Fowey. There were several steps down to the small boat and fortunately there were 4 strong men – 2 to each bike – to help us.

Aboard the ferry from Polruan to Fowey.

We bought food in Fowey and climbed steeply out from the river up to our destination for the night at Penhale Farm.

Camping at Penhale Farm near Fowey.

After a great nights sleep we set off for our next lighthouse which was on the Roseland Peninsula. St Anthony’s Lighthouse is at St Anthony’s Head on the eastern side of the entrance to Falmouth Harbour which is one of the largest natural harbours in the world.

St Anthony’s Lighthouse

We then rode round to St Mawes –  and bought some pasty fuel at the pier while waiting for the ferry to Falmouth.

Looking back to St Anthony’s lighthouse from the ferry to Falmouth.

We skirted around the Helford River and crossed it at Gweek before climbing onto the Lizard.

The name Lizard is probably a corruption of the Cornish name ‘Lys Ardh’ meaning ‘high court’. It is a coincidence that much of the peninsula is composed of serpentinite bearing rock.

There are several nature sites on the Lizard Peninsula; Predannack Nature reserve, Mullion Island, Goonhilly Downs, and the Seal Sanctuary at Gweek. Much of the Lizard is a national nature reserve because of its coastal grasslands and inland heaths. The area is also home to one of England’s rarest breeding birds, the Cornish Chough.

We rode to the lighthouse – which has the brightest light of all and can be seen 100 miles away on a clear night.

Lizard Lighthouse

Lizard point beckoned to finish the job off and we were treated to some relaxation in the sun watching the antics of seals surrounded by beautiful wild coastal flowers.

Lizard Point

We cycled back up the Lizard to Helston and then continued to Mounts Bay and spent the night at Penzance Youth Hostel.

St Michael’s Mount.

We started the next day by riding along the coast through Newlyn. We paid our respects at the Penlee Lifeboat Station’s Solomon Browne Memorial.

Our first lighthouse of the day was Tater Du. Access involved some low grade trespassing but it had to be done. Tater Du Lighthouse is Cornwall’s most recently built lighthouse and was constructed after the Juan Ferrer tragedy in 1963 on nearby Boscawen Point.

Tater Du lighthouse.

The next bit of the ride through St Buryan to Lands End was fabulous and virtually flat – a welcome relief and some recovery ready for what was to come after Lands End.

We were at Lands End before 10am when it officially opens so it was mercifully quiet and free of tourists. We just rode out to the view point and took a picture as if we were ‘end to enders’!

Lands End viewpoint

We waved at the Longships lighthouse which is situated 2 kilometres off shore but couldn’t get any closer on this occasion.

Longships lighthouse 2km offshore at Land’s End

The next section of the tour from Sennen to St Ives is magnificent and was fuelled by an excellent pasty stop at St Just. The route follows the B3306 which has a couple of proper hills on it but the coastal scenery is fabulous throughout. In contrast to the sea views is the wild moor and heath inland. We diverted to Pendeen Watch Lighthouse.

Pendeen Watch Lighthouse

Pendeen Watch Lighthouse

We dropped down into St Ives for the sake of completeness and enjoyed the picturesque harbour and the historic Smeaton’s pier.

St Ives

The next lighthouse on this stretch of coast is on Godrevy Island so outside our remit.

Godrevy Lighthouse in the distance

We continued our journey along the North Cornwall coast to Newquay and camped at Porth.

We enjoyed a beautiful evening close to the beach at Porth.

Fresh legs were required for the scenic undulating B3276 to Trevose Head. This is a magnificent lighthouse – another tall tower on a rocky headland with beautiful wild flowers in the environs.

Trevose Head

Wild flowers at their best at Trevose Head

We continued to Padstow where we were able to refuel on fantastic pasties before catching the ferry across the River Camel to Rock.

The last ferry of the tour crossing the River Camel from Padstow to Rock

We were unlucky to miss the last ferry from the harbour and had to walk down to the Lower beach as the tide was rapidly ebbing. The ferry took us across the river but left us with a half mile walk along the beach to the slipway.

A long walk on the beach

Aghhhhhh – it rained! So far we had enjoyed dry weather- quite chilly and breezy but no rain. The forecast was terrible and we hastened to Hartland Point to get ahead of the weather. We were lucky and the promised hours of heavy rain only amounted to a few showers.

Hartland Point with Lundy Island in the distance

Hartland Point is in Devon and marks the western limit of the Bristol Channel with the Atlantic Ocean continuing to the West

We had already ridden 100km for the day but decided to continue towards Bideford on the Torridge. The route was lovely and  followed quiet lanes which undulated more gently as the streams became more organised towards the River Torridge. We dropped down into the Taw/Torridge estuary area riding on the Tarka Trail and started to look for somewhere to eat and somewhere to stay. We finished up riding 174km all the way to Braunton. We had supper in a pub and then camped on Velator Quay on the Braunton Canal – unofficially.

I really wanted to find Crow Point lighthouse. Crow Point is a sandy beach backed by low dunes at the southern end of Braunton Burrows Nature Reserve. The beach looks south east across the River Taw and south west to Appledore. The point is a sand spit formed near the confluence of the Taw and Torridge Rivers. In reality it is little more than a finger of sand and mud protected by groynes.

The solar powered Crow Point Lighthouse also called Braunton Sands Lighthouse lies at the southern extremity of the spit. It stands just 7.6 metres above high water.

Crow Point Lighthouse

After visiting Crow Point we returned to the B3231 and detoured around Saunton and Croyde – finding much needed coffee and breakfast.

We continued to Mortehoe and then on the access road out to Bull Point lighthouse.

Bull Point

The lighthouse provides a visual aid to the villages of Mortehoe, Woolacombe and Ilfracombe and warns of the rocky coast in this area. Back in the kayaking days it was also a useful point to aim at on the mainland when paddling back from Lundy.

Bull point lighthouse

From Mortehoe we followed National Cycle Route 27. This was the easiest 5 kilometres of the tour. The route follows the London and South Western Railway Ilfracombe branch line from Morthoe and we freewheeled all the way. Bliss!

After a visit to the bakery in Ilfracombe we dropped down to the harbour to see Verity. Verity is a stainless steel and bronze statue created by Damien Hirst which has been loaned to the town for 20 years. It depicts a pregnant woman holding aloft a sword while carrying the scales of justice and standing on a pile of law books. Half of the sculpture shows the internal anatomy of the pregnant woman with the foetus clearly visible.

Verity

We climbed out of Ilfracombe, dropped to sea level again at Hele, climbed again and dropped to sea level at Watermouth Castle, climbed again and dropped into Coombe Martin. From Coombe Martin to Lynmouth it is hilly. We could have made life a little easier for ourselves by going up to Blackmoor Gate and then on the A39 but we took the scenic route up Buzzacott Lane, (walked some of this) then down to Trentishoe and down to the Hunters Inn. The climb out of the Hunters Inn was just too steep on our loaded touring bikes and we had to walk.

Looking back to Holdstone Hill after we had climbed up from the Hunters Inn (walking quite a lot of it)

We were able enjoy the magnificent scenery of Woody Bay.

Woody Bay

We continued up (again) past Lee Abbey Christian Retreat and on to the scenic Valley of the Rocks.

Valley of the rocks.

The route climbed up out of the Valley of the Rocks to Lynton and then dropped steeply down again to sea level at Lynmouth. We had done so much climbing as we neared the end of the tour that I had phoned ahead and arranged for our panniers to be taken by car up Countisbury Hill. With a maximum grade of 27.4% over the 4km hill we needed all the help we could get! We made it up to Foreland at an elevation of 300m. The last lighthouse Lynmouth Foreland was at sea level. Jo chose to ride all the way down to it –and back again. I didn’t!

Lynmouth Foreland

Phew! It was a great tour. The way we did it in just 6 days carrying all our camping gear required a good level of fitness and an ability to ride with tired legs. We really enjoyed the ferries and the lighthouses and enjoyed the magnificent coastal scenery. May was a lovely time of year to ride as it is before the main holiday season so the roads were quiet and the wild flowers were at their best. We were lucky with the weather. It was mainly dry, cool and sunny with just a few showers near Hartland in North Devon.

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Tour de Manche: the English section

The official route

Just as in France the English Tour de Manche uses a combination of small roads and greenways. From the ferry port at Poole the route takes to a cycle path through Baiter park and then alongside Poole Harbour to Sandbanks.

Poole Harbour

The Sandbanks chain ferry crosses to Studland and then the route goes to Corfe Castle.

Cyclists on the Sandbanks chain ferry

The route is not flat and after Corfe Castle, Creech hill is climbed before a descent to join Cycle Route 2 just east of Wool.

Tour de Manche on Route 2 in Dorset

Flat riding through quiet lanes on Cycle Route 2 brings you to Dorchester and onto Martinstown. There now comes an unavoidable Cat 4 climb over Hardy’s Monument.

Hardy’s Monument

Hardy’s Monument

The lovely Bride valley follows, still following Route 2 to bypass Bridport and start a series of steep climbs to Axminster.

Route 2 near Bridport

The route continues West along the Jurassic coast of Dorset and into Devon.

We found a lovely traffic free route through the city of Exeter emerging at Haldon, well on our way to Moretonhampstead and Dartmoor

Now we were in Devon who could resist a cream tea?

Cream tea

We chose to go across the middle of Dartmoor on the B3212. There are a few steep ramps on the climb onto the moor out of Moretonhampstead but it was very scenic and memorable.

The B3212 across Dartmoor

Beautiful view from Dartmoor down to the coast at Plymouth

On arrival at Plymouth there was time for a small celebration before catching the ferry to Roscoff.

Well deserved.

Tour de Manche: St Malo to Cherbourg

The official route

We arrived at St Malo on a boat from Dinard. St Malo is a busy ferry port and we enjoyed cycling past the fortifications to the sea front. It was immediately evident that we had left the undulations of Northern Brittany behind us and we were now in flatlands. We detoured off the official route to visit the oyster capital of Cancale which was lined with busy cafes full of people swallowing down oysters.

Voie Verte in the Bay of the Mont St Michel

Ahead we could see the spectacular bay of the Mont St Michel stretching out in front of us. The character of the route changed now and we were to be on off-road gravel cycle-tracks for the majority of the route to Cherbourg.

Early morning mist at the Mont St Michel

Although the idea of cycling on traffic free Voie Vert sounds quite appealing, the reality is actually quite tedious after the first couple of hours. The cycle track follows an old railway line and for hour after hour we had only brief glimpses of any scenery beyond the tree lined route. The route was very flat but cycling on gravel requires a lot of energy,even on slick 28mm tyres, so progress was no quicker than on the hilly paved roads of Northern Brittany.

The endless Voie Vert gravel tracks around Sourdeval on the Contentin Penisular Normandy.

The route tracks up the middle of the peninsular largely following the River Vire and does not go to the coasts.

We had not expected the Voie Verts to be so rough and had only one spare inner tube each so we were delighted on the 7th day in France to came across a bike shop in Vire.

stocking up on spares at Vire

As it turned out we didn’t have any punctures in the 1200km tour. A vote for Continental 4 seasons tyres.

A point of interest to break the tedium of the Voie Vert was a dismantled Viaduct at Souleuvre. It was built in 1891 by Gustav Eiffel as a railway bridge. It has been dismantled leaving 6 pillars to leave a ‘unique work of art’. You can see that this area of Nomandy is short on tourist attractions! Anyway, apparently 10,000 people a year use it for bungee jumping. We didn’t make it 10,002. We did enjoy the steep descent into the valley and the climb out made a change from flat gravel Voie Vert.

The viaduct at Souleuvre

We followed the River Vire towards St Lo and there were some beautiful sections along the River but we also enjoyed a 10km stretch on little lanes with 3 really steep hills between Conde sur Vire and Pont Farcy.

Pont Farcy

We were making great progress up the Contentin Peninsular and the warm sunny weather helped a lot.

Cherbourg 179km

As we approached St Lo, still cycling along the River Vire, we enjoyed several sculptures.

Art along the River Vire

North of St Lo we were very aware that the area saw ferocious action in the Second World war and was close to the Normandy Beaches. We were crossing the marshes on our approach to Carentan and stopped on a bridge dedicated to the 82nd Airborne division of the United States Army. The Battle of Carentan was an engagement which took place between 10 – 15 June 1944 to consolidate the beachheads (Utah beach and Omaha Beach) which had been taken during the Normandy Landings on 6th June 1944. 74 years later there was not much evidence of the carnage from the war.

Dedication on the bridge near Carentan

We continued across the marshes enjoying some excellent single track on our approach to Carentan.

Approaching Carentan across the marshes which had seen fierce fighting in 1944.

Carentan was quiet and peaceful.

After Carentan there was more Voie Vert as we headed west to La Haye du Puits.

Voie Vert near La Haye du Puits

As we got closer to Cherbourg the Voie Vert gave way to paved roads. We enjoyed the downhill run into the city where we easily found the ferry port. We boarded Barfleur in the late afternoon and enjoyed a smooth crossing to Poole.

Barfleur

Sunset in Poole harbour

Tour de Manche: Roscoff to St Malo

The official route

The overnight ferry from Plymouth brought us to Roscoff on the North coast of Brittany.

We had planned the route we were intending to follow in advance. There is a Tour de Manche website which provided some information but generally it wasn’t very helpful. One of the main problems was that we were riding it backwards, in that we had decided to ride the French section of the TDM with the prevailing wind and the route is described on the website from Cherbourg to Roscoff, which is against the wind. The downside of this idea was we would have the wind against us in Southern England.

The route is mostly well signed. However, the signs did tend to peter out just when we needed them most.

Signage on the Tour de Manche

We were riding our normal touring bikes which have sturdy steel frames with 28mm Continental 4 season tyres. We carried the small amount of stuff we needed in panniers.

Our trusty steeds

We were not camping or applying heat to any food and that meant we were travelling light.

Travelling light (on the gravel tracks)

We expected to be riding on good surfaced roads the whole time and had only brought one spare inner-tube each. We expected to pass plenty of bike shops in France if we did need help with any mechs.

As it turned out the route alternated between tarmac and off road sections some of which we would have been more at home on our mountain bikes.

Nice bit of single track!

There were no bike shops! Luckily the Continental 4 seasons did not let us down and we did not have a single puncture despite the rough tracks we were riding on.

The route along the coast of Northern Brittany was very scenic but constantly undulating with some challenging hills. We took time to enjoy the scenery and points of local interest.

Paimpol

Near Cap Frehel

On the fifth day we decided to take the waterbus across the Rance from Dinard to St Malo rather than riding up to Dinan on the Voie Vert where the official route went. We did this because a boat trip was more interesting than a city!

Ticket office for the Water bus from Dinard

On reflection  the first five days of the TDM from Roscoff to St Malo was the best bit for us. The cycling was interesting and the coastal scenery spectacular.

After St Malo we detoured to Concale and then we started the ‘Petit Tour de Manche’ which is much flatter with long sections of Voie Verte – the green roads.

Our introduction to Voie Verte near Le Mont St Michel. Beautiful.

 

An introduction to the Tour de Manche

The official route

The Tour de Manche is a 1200km cycling adventure which links the coasts of Brittany, Normandy and the Jurassic coasts of Dorset and Devon. We live a few metres from the route as it goes through Dorset, so we thought it would be a good plan to ride from home to home over a couple of weeks.

The Tour de Manche passes close to home.

The English section of the Tour de Manche goes from Poole to Plymouth. The route follows quiet roads and lanes.

Arriving at Plymouth for the overnight ferry to Roscoff

West of Weymouth the English section of the Tour de Manche follows a route suitable for more experienced cyclists, with some challenging hills.

The Tour de Manche in France has 2 distinct sections. From Roscoff the route follows the coast to the crossing of the Rance to St Malo and is very scenic but constantly undulating with some steep ramps.

Scenic coastal roads in Brittany

From St Malo to Cherbourg the route is less challenging with long sections of Voie Verts which are gravel tracks along disused railway lines.

Flat straight gravel tracks in Normandy

On the face of it this sounds quite attractive, but it is actually quite slow and tiring pedalling along the rough gravel and, when enclosed in a cutting for long stretches, much less interesting than the hilly, open, scenic roads along the coast of Brittany. The Cherbourg to St Malo section is a stand alone route called Petit Tour de Manche and is more suitable for families – with just the occasional hilly bit to catch the unwary.

The route is signed throughout. We didn’t follow the prescribed route religiously and occasionally went off route to visit places of interest. We carried maps and had the bones of the route on the GPS.

Just off the ferry we were pleased to find the tour de Manche on the sign posts.

We used Brittany Ferries for the channel crossings. We went overnight from Plymouth to Roscoff on the Pont Avent.

Bicycles secured for the overnight crossing from Plymouth to Roscoff

After cycling through Brittany and Normandy we came back from Cherbourg to Poole on Barfleur.

Returning to Poole on Barfleur

There are no lanes in the sea…Swimming Pool Wars

There are no lanes in the sea…fighting for position at the start of a race.

Swimming pool rules are designed to keep all users safe. The Lifeguard’s job is to keep all pool users safe, not to police the lanes so that the ‘best’ swimmers can complete their training session unimpeded.

There seems to be scant regard from most pool users for those of us who wish to follow a training plan and not be impeded by other pool users.

I am fortunate in a having a local swimming pool which is often  underused during the day and sometimes I have the luxury of a lane to myself.

It is not always the case though and it is a constant source of frustration when slower swimmers get in the way. We’ve all met the breast stroke swimmer with dry hair and intact make up oblivious to everyone else in the ‘fast lane’. We’ve all suffered the slow head down crawler who refuses to give way when turning at the ends. The person who is there first and therefore ‘owns’ the lane. The swimmer who always comes at 06:25 every third Thursday and therefore has priority over everyone else. Or even as one young man informed me ‘old women should be in the learner pool’. So far out of line and in this case the lifeguard did intervene as he was becoming aggressive. Multiple swimmers in a lane often lead to lane wars .We all need to be polite, communicate, and treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. For swimming pool lane harmony all that is required is for everyone to adhere to one golden rule of pool swimming.

Be aware and adapt to what is going on around you.

If all swimmers using lanes adhered to this one simple rule all anger and frustration would be gone.

However – not only am I lucky to have an underused public swimming pool close by I also have that greatest of resource a short walk from my home. There are no lanes in the sea.

There are no lanes in the sea!!

The Four Red Posts Of Dorset.

The Four Red Posts of Dorset

In October 2017 I decided I would try to do another year of RRtY having previously completed a year back in 2014. For the uninitiated this is an Audax challenge: Randonnée-Round-the-Year (RRtY).

It is regarded as one of the tougher challenges on offer from Audax. RRtY requires a ride of a minimum of a 200 km ride in successive calendar months at Randonneur pace. You can start in any month, but miss a month and you have to start all over again.

In a year of milestone family occasions which seemed to coincide with local Audax Calendar events, I have found myself devising a DIY 200 km most months. I have always been intrigued by the red fingerposts in Dorset so I created a 200 km ride to take in the Four Red Posts Of Dorset.

There are four red fingerposts in the county which are a source of much debate, without any consensus becoming apparent. Are they the locations of gibbets? Or are they the position of a hanging? Or maybe they are the place of an overnight stop for convicts on their way to the port before transportation to Australia? Whatever the case, these four are widely dispersed through the county, the best known one being on the main A31 at Anderson which allegedly signified to prison guards to turn here for Botany Bay Farm, where they could rest the prisoners overnight. The others are situated in quiet, less frequented lanes at Hewood, Poyntington and Benville. They all have white lettering on the red fingers.

While researching how to devise a sensible route taking in the four red posts it became apparent that the posts were not situated randomly. The prominent sign near the Botany Bay pub on the A31 is just under 14 miles from the site of the County Gaol in Dorchester. The red post at Benville is also about 14 miles from Dorchester. Hewood is due west of Benville and is just under fourteen miles away from Benville. The post at Poyntington is also 14 miles from Benville to the North East. This supports the theory that the posts were to guide transportation of prisoners.

To me these 14 miles distances did not seem random. 14 miles would be a reasonable distance for a group of shackled prisoners to march – Google reckons it’s a four and a half hour walk. Coming from the west (from who knows where) they would arrive at Hewood, then 14 miles to Benville , 14 miles to Poyntington . The jump to Anderson is 28 miles so I am going to say that there is a red post missing there – maybe somewhere around Sturminster Newton. From Anderson on the A31 it is 56 miles to Portsmouth where the prisoners would board a ship to Australia. 56miles – 4×14 – 4 days march.

It is quite likely that there were other posts that are no longer there. In the 1950’s there were 1285 fingerposts in Dorset with only 717 surviving today.

To me this does not look likely to be a random coincidence. Could it be that these red posts were on set routes for those moving on foot? Did they all mark resting places? If so for whom? Were they solely there to mark the route taken moving prisoners, or did others use them too?

Back to the bike ride: I started from my home in West Dorset at sea level and headed west to Hewood.

The red post at Hewood

In order to make the route into a 200km I then went North to Chard Junction before heading East to the Red Post at Benville.

Unfortunately this sign has suffered some damage probably through vandalism.

The vandalised sign at Benville.

I have a picture from August 2017 when the post wasn’t damaged.

The same sign before it was damaged.

Dorset AONB Partnership have a Fingerpost Project which repairs and safeguards these fingerpost. The County Council no longer have a remit to repair them so hopefully this initiative will restore this sign.

I had never visited the next red post at Poyntington which is North of Sherborne. On my route it was about 25km north and east from Benville. We were pleased to find this post intact and looking lovely.

Poyntington

Our onward journey was to Anderson to the most famous red post near the Botany Bay pub on the A31. I took a meandering 65km route South East to get there and managed to avoid riding on the very busy A31. The red finger post looked as if it had been newly restored and was in pristine condition.

The pristine red post at Anderson.

Now with 134 km completed we just had to head for home in a westerly direction. The route we were riding was mandatory having been submitted in advance to AUDAX DIY SW area organiser. On completion I would submit the GPX file from the ride for verification.

It was a grand day out and If you fancy it the GPX file is here for you to use.