Charlie, my tandem riding partner had a rest day scheduled by the coach. So I had the day to myself. The promise of the first fine day in an age had me reaching for the map. On many mapping sites these days you can plot routes to your heart’s content revising and redrafting to create something that appeals. With eager anticipation I pedalled out of Alresford shortly after 5am. I wanted to be through the New Forest nice and early. The rise of mass participation cycling events are making uncomfortable bedfellows with the expectations of locals, and today it’s an argument I don’t want to experience at first hand. Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole are left behind in the crisp early morning light as I make my way to Wareham onto Wool and down to Weymouth.
By now, I was into the easy rhythm of pedals turning as the miles passed gently beneath my wheels. A brisk North Easterly wind kept flags chattering and muffled friendly ‘hellos!’ from faces hidden deep behind warm winter scarves. The climb up onto the ridge above Chesil beach was stunning. Beautiful rolling hills on one side and the wide ocean on the other, time to stop for a photo.
I’d promised myself tea and a scone in Lyme Regis and after the 110 mile ridden, it felt well deserved. As the road once more wended its way inextricably upwards I passed into Devon, the fourth out of the five counties I would eventually ride through. The ride became a journey down memory lane as I rode passed the layby just outside of Sherborne. The town had played host to an Ironman Triathlon a few years ago. I recalled a race of contrasts. Brackish sediment rich water for the swim, a stunning bike leg followed by an interminably long and boring marathon run along a closed off section of dual carriageway. I passed a bus shelter where I had escaped a torrential downpour on a ride to Exeter just a year or so earlier.
By the time I had reached Shaftsbury, I had had my fill of the A30 and I turned right to join the delightful road that passes through Berwick St John onto Coombe Bisset as it tracks the river. The moon broke through the clear sky, so bright it was hardly necessary to need a front light.
There’s something special about quietly rolling through the countryside in the early evening. Riding through villages, houses with curtains not yet closed reveal families ensconced around the television, a couple were opening a bottle of wine, dogs lie sprawled in front of a fire – fleeting glimpses of untold stories feeding the imagination. In Salisbury, saturday night had started, chilly smokers stamping their feet to keep warm outside noisy bars and the rich smell of hot food from around the world. Just a few miles further on the peace and solitude of the countryside return.
By the time I reach Kingsworthy I’m both anxious to be home and ready for dinner and at the same time saddened that the ride is almost over. I have to admit, over a hundred miles of north easterly headwind made for a tough ride home. But my mind is already turning to the next ride. As my wheels roll over the gravel outside the front door, there’s 216 miles clocked up, but somehow the number seems irrelevant and will soon be forgotten. But the memories of the beautiful Jurassic coast will last much longer.