Day Four – Beer to Ivybridge

The first night in the tent went quite well – I slept, although, it must be said, not as well as in a proper bed. After a breakfast at the YHA I gingerly got on the saddle to tackle some more hills. The first of which took me into a valley to Branscombe, with a beautiful and unusual church nestled in the quiet valley

Another climb (spotting a pattern here?) and a another 35mph drop into Sidmouth for a coffee stop and a ponder about my plans for the night. I had booked a site near Exmouth, but on current progress I would probably be there by 2 o’clock… a bit early to finish, so I cancelled the booking and decided to get the ferry from Exmouth to Starcross  that afternoon and see what was left to do from there. Leaving Sidmouth, I was introduced almost immediately to Peak Hill, which deserves it’s name – another walker, but more gorgeous views at the top

The worst hill of the day out of the way, I went on to Exmouth. I stopped for a breather in a secluded valley, staying for about half an hour just taking in the peace and quiet and timeless beauty of it all – it’s moments like that, that make it all worthwhile.

A short drop into Exmouth and I was at the ferry…

I had to de-bag the bike to get it on (then carry it up the steps at Starcross) I love being on the water in any kind of vessel – and Exmouth is a beautiful stretch of water

Arriving at 1500h at Starcross terminal next to the train station I pondered what to do. Find a camp site and tackle Luscombe hill (253m) the next day to complete the last 25 miles, or jump on a train and get a bath and welcome from my Brother and his family that evening? I wavered, cycled 3 miles down the road to Dawlish to find a site, but it was full of holiday homes and resort camp sites that quoted £35 for a night in the tent! The £6.50 fare to my brother was too tempting, and I cycled back to Starcross to catch the train via Newton Abbot to Ivybridge. A hot bath beckoned! 

I’ve had an incredible four days – seen Lizards, big hairy caterpillars and huge birds of prey on the road or over my head. The hills have been tough with such a heavily laden bike – something I will think about on my next trip… YHA beds are perfect – cheap and comfortable. But you can’t beat proper travelling and exploring by bike. Until my next trip…. Thanks for following! 


Day Three – Portland to Beer

I knew this was going to be a long, tough day before I started. It was a lovely sunny morning, although the wind was still there, going in the wrong direction for me. I set off back up the NCR route through Weymouth back up to the ridge, with lovely views of Portland bay.

The ridge gave me fantastic views of South West Dorset. A quick stop at a village stores for a Coke break and I had a security detail for my bike! 

Along a section of track, then another climb, and I arrived at the Hardy Monument with a commanding view. I hadn’t planned to see this, but it was a bonus, as Hardy is without doubt one of my favourite authors. The climb up felt like a pilgrimage.

Coming off the ridge, I came down  into lower, rolling country, following the NCR2 along lovely lanes

I had a coffee break at Brigport as I girded myself for the pain that was the roads to and from Lyme Regis. Every route around involved getting over two or three big hills, dropping into the valleys in between and climbing out again… I made the mistake coming out of Brigport to stay on the A35 up the hill. Running out of puff at one stage I was basically marooned on the single carriageway with no pavement or hard shoulder to keep out of the traffics way – nightmare… I got off it at the next possible chance and continued the hill on a slightly longer, but quiet side road. Then a huge drop down into Charmouth, the joy of which was tempered by the knowledge that I was going to have get up the other side to get into Lyme Regis. Another walk up this hill (at least there was a pavement). Then an unexpectedly big drop again into Lyne Regis, with the dawning realisation (I could see it straight ahead)  that, yes, I was going to have another monster climb to get out of this valley. 

The top of this hill saw me arrive in Devon. Hurrah! Not too far too Beer YHA now, but it was getting late. The last few miles went reasonably quickly and I arrived at the Youth Hostel at 1830h. The tent went up without any problem, and I had a shower and self-catered tea. I was nervous about how well I’d sleep in the tent, but with my long johns on and earplugs in, in the event I slept reasonably soundly. 

How would day 4 turn out? More hills in the offing, but it will be a shorter day…. tbc

Day Two – Swanage to Portland

I slept well in the Youth Hostel, although my legs felt a bit sore in the night, which made me nervous about setting off on day two – would they cope with another 40 mile session, which I knew was going to involve some decent hills, starting almost straight away. After a cracking breakfast, I set off on my way to Corfe Castle nearby. I chose to climb the ridge south of the castle, following a recommendation  by my breakfast chef, as it afforded spectacular views of the castle. It was indeed a good climb to the ridge, and I’m not ashamed to say some of it was done on foot, but it was worth it. Corfe Castle sits in a gap in the South Dorset ridge, which traverses Dorset (I’ll be reacquainting myself with it tomorrow on my way through West Dorset). It’s almost like the castle was hollowed out from the ridge… 

From the top, I had a hair-raising drop down – an incredibly steep and winding road, it tested my handling ability of the laden bike , and my nerve!

From Corfe the land undulated and  I followed the NCR2 along lovely quiet lanes for some miles – with a break taken at the cycle-friendly Ruby’s Tea Room in Wool. Highly recommended – especially for vegans & vegetarians. (and lovers of a good cuppa). 

After a few more undulating miles along the NCR2 I passed through Woodsford, and came across a gem – Woodsford Castle, a C12th fortified Manor House, now a Landmark Trust property… incredibly interesting features on it, I could have spent the rest of the day there…

But no, I had to plough on to Weymouth. From Woodsford I climbed again onto the ridge, then dropped down onto the Dorchester to Weymouth cycle track

Staying on the track, I arrived at the spot of land connecting Portland to the mainland. I had lovely views of Portland harbour, and before I knew it I had arrived at Portland YHA. I’m self-catering my tea tonight. Watching the sunset now, in the grounds of the YHA. Tomorrow is a good, hilly 50 miler, so I’m having an early breakfast here, then setting off pronto. The bike is running well. Tomorrow night will be my first camping stop, so a testing day is in prospect…. tbc tomorrow!

Day One – Southampton to Swanage

At last I was setting off! After saying goodbye to Alex, Dawn & Imogen, I heading across So’ton, passing the docks on the way 

Then I headed out to the New Forest. The headwind that was to prove the bane of the day was there from the start – about 13mph head on, which made every flat seem like a hill and every drop seem like a flat. Still, I  had plently of energy at this stage, and the forest was beautiful – so peaceful 

Once out of the forest I headed for Bournemouth along lanes that reminded me of the ones I cycle frequently in Staffordshire. Then, following a short tea break, a quick drop into the madness that is Bournemouth promenade on a sunny Sunday in August. Cycling is banned here in the summer – even though the route form part of the NCR2. I had to walk the bike along the front, dodging the throngs…

My next stop at the end of Bournemouth front was Sandbanks Ferry – a short hop across Poole Harbour and then my final destination felt close. 

By now my legs were beginning to flag, with a build up of lactic acid they were stinging. The headwind was ceaseless, but the stunning scenery and warm sunshine compensated. I had plenty of time, so took regular, short breaks

The final push through Studland, and a killer hill, and then a lovely 2 mile drop into Swanage itself. Hurrah! The sting in the tail was the last 800 yds to the Youth Hostel in town – a murderous hill that had to be tackled on foot – but I was there! A lovely old building. I locked the bike away, sorted my gear out – showered, changed and headed into town to enjoy some live music in the local hostelry beer garden, where I find myself now, about to enjoy a chicken dinner. Until tomorrow folks! Hopefuly a peaceful night in the dormitory beckons! 

Trains and ales….

Well, we got packed in the end and off we set. The bike handled very well. It took some adjusting to the weight on the front end, but after a few miles down here in Southampton, I’m getting used to it… 

A bit of a squeeze…

Once here in So’ton I repaired to a camping ‘superstore’ to get a sleeping bag – here I must big up the ‘Meet Point’ butty van – the finest Bacon & Egg baguette I have had in some time… good work sir!
From there a lovely short ride along the Itchen to my friends house in Bitterne. The Cycle Streets app really does take you down the good cycle paths and by ways through towns – avoiding the main roads. 

All set now for the off early tomorrow morning to the first stop Swanage, all being well…. Just a light bit of bike spotting and ale tasting this evening in the excellent Butcher’s Hook Micropub in Bitterne Triangle.

Victorian porcelain … they don’t make ’em like that anymore!


Last Minute Packing…

I arrived back from a week away with work at about 1300h. Having picked up various parcels, I realised the self-inflating mat had not arrived! Que a dash into town to buy one. Upon my return and the commencnent of actual, real-life packing – it became clear my sleeping bag was hopelessly large – and was shelved… I guess I’ll be looking for one in Southampton tomorrow!

The panniers look well on the bike – I have enough room, and the weight seems manageable… although I may not be saying that up the hills, in a forecast headwind of 15mph!

I have adjourned to the local hostelry for a fish supper and pint or two…. a check over when I return and then an early night for an early rise. Excitement is overriding trepidation at this point. It all starts tomorrow!

Join me for the ride….

Ivybridge or Bust…