17DTM Verwood to Portland Bill

Yesterday was a lovely rest day with Bette and Colin. The rest consisted of a demonstration of navigation skills as we meandered around Broad Chalke. Lunch was in the Hub, making good use of a church.

The overnight thunder storm cleared the air. Venturing south, the first 15 miles or so was quite busy roads. Not always sympathetic to cyclists. Sometimes you wish the polite driver holding back overtaking would get on with it; sometimes you wish the drivers weren’t in such a hurry.

Everything settled down going through Wareham which felt quite a thriving wee old place. Woodsford Castle caught our attention: turns out to now be a Landmark Trust rental. Noted.

West Stafford’s sign, near Dorchester, recalled when it was once an important place, with a sophisticated meadow irrigation scheme. The cottages by the church have iron railings to protect them from the hoards of sheep once rampant though the streets. We’d passed Wool, perhaps they were heading there.

Skirting Dorchester, Weymouth marks the approach to Portland Bill. Just a wee hill to go up and we’re there. Here’s the route.

891 miles from Bettyhill. Sun to sun. A once idiosyncratic hotel to a still idiosyncratic hotel. All memorable.

16DTM Avebury to Verwood

Salisbury Cathedral towered over today’s ride surrounded by a lovely quiet green area. We sampled two of the services. The first was from a cheery chap manning the entrance. “Just a cup of tea? No worries, leave your bikes and I’ll look after them, I’m here for 3 hours”. He must have known about the service in the canteen. I hope their religious ones are shorter or people will make the transition from font to ash in one sitting.

Before that we’d stopped at Avebury at the start of the day. No other tourists, a morning sun showed it in its best light. It takes admiration as only a 4000BC structure knows how to.

Amesbury is the UK’s oldest continuously inhabited settlement, from about 6000BC. It has a distinct new town feel to it today, enjoying roundabouts. The fields of white poppies came as a pleasant, unusual surprise.

The signposts on the large RAF barbed wire fencing left no doubt you weren’t allowed to photograph. Barbara’s finger twitches. The police can’t park here: the sign read “Police, no parking” . The fencing needn’t worry about being called into service. Two large gates were wide open, the seats for the guards empty.

We navigated a bit of heavier traffic for a while. Wiltshire and Dorset thatched cottages and kept us distracted, as did the Red Kite appearances.

Salisbury town centre was very quiet, a recurring theme of this tour. The tour of the Cathedral to be returned to, we headed off to Verwood and Bette and Colin’s. My last cycle ride here I’d ended up in a muddy field. Determined not to repeat that, I’d carefully checked the route every inch of the way, bar the last mile. Thankfully the unsurfaced bumpy unadopted lane was dry…

15DTM Chipping Campden to Avebury

Or rather Winterbourne Monkton. There’s a few Winterbournes around: chalk streams that run in winter. How they’ve checked the flood maps before building.

Gloucestershire’s finest Cotswolds landscape unfolds before us today. Really quite lanes, rollercoastering across the hills, avoid the honey spots. The Lavender farm was easily identifiable, a new colour on the horizon.

Northleach was a good find, a thriving smallmarket town, once on the stagecoach route to South Wales. Some of the residents seem to have survived since it was given its market charter in 1290. The person making our sandwich, a good decision as no further shops appeared, seemed to think we could wait until the next Millennium. They were good though, munched outside another pretty church in Driffield.

Running parallel with the A419 reminded us what road noise is. The various developments on the Cotswolds Waterparks reminded us of the idyllic adverts in the Sunday supplements: reality is different.

This also is a transition into the Wiltshire landscape. More arable than pastoral and the reappearance of bricks. The hill reappears with a vertical jolt at Clyffe Pypard. The clue was in the name. Then a rolling descent towards Avebury.

Grand day’s cycling. Tomorrow to Verwood.

14DTM Atherstone to Chipping Campden

Today’s ride started with some memory joggers. That’s the spot where the person stopped watching his canal tv as I was providing more entertainment falling out of a canoe into the (stinking) Coventry Canal: it’s easy said Barbara. Then via Hartshill to Galley Common and the lovely wee miner’s terraced house we left in 1988 to move to Swansea. No plaque as yet.

What’s interesting in these outskirts of Nuneaton is the sheer amount of house building going on. I think only the spoil heap on Tunnel Road is safe. The new estates do look good though, well spaced.

Soon enough we’re at Meriden and the ‘old’ centre of England. They mark it with more style than Fenny Drayton, so good luck to them. The Hatch coffee bar is the best value coffee and cakes we’ve had all trip.

We’re getting into HS2 build territory now. The scale of the site we pass is impressive. Having lunch later in a great church yard in Snitterfield, who hide their Shakespeare family connections, and looking at the crumbling fabric of the building, I can’t help but think the HS2 money might have been better spent on the social infrastructure of communities.

Onto Stratford upon Avon (strangely quite) we head along the Greenway rail to trail for 5 miles. Ending at Long Marton, there’s a view of what turns out to be a huge train coach and goods wagon knackers yard.

And an almost sudden transition into Cotswold land: fine stone houses with that lovely orange glow. Gates the people of Alderley Edge’s Cheshire would be proud of. Chipping Campden is the stop after the lumpy bump over the hill to get here. Quite a few shops and pubs closed for good here too, still a grand wee place.

So it’s up and over straight after breakfast heading to Avebury.

13DTM Ashbourne to Atherstone

Yesterday was a rest day. This consisted of: looking for a cafe that did breakfast (that’s the one with the queue), and enjoying the public park. Meeting Steve and Andrea after 30years, an ex colleague of Barbara, passed the evening. The other activity was gaining a reassurance the bikes locked in the store will be accessible in the morning at 8. It’s all sorted.

Set off late today. No one to unlock the bike store until the cleaner showed up at 09:15.

Ashbourne feels slightly down on its heels. It’s also down in a dip. Heaving the bikes up was today’s only real hill. The rest was a long slide down onto the central plain through rolling countryside. Derby and Burton negotiated via old railway lines and Sustrans ways, we entered Leicestershire.

Here we find two central points. Well close by as private (farming) land is sacrosanct around here. Coton in the Elms is the first point from the sea. Fenny Drayton is the new (as of 2012) centre of England. The farmer we saw on the BBC article proudly showing a post has obviously changed his mind. His wife politely but firmly told us to bugger off.

We were welcomed to Atherstone with a sign proudly stating “a historic market town”. Must look for the market towns that have no history I thought. The other sign which made me think was “humped pedestrian crossing”. Is this legal? Or did it mean humped pelican [whilst] crossing?

Tonight we met up with Mick and Jane from Nuneaton. 25year catch up. Tomorrow Chipping Campden.

Here’s today’s ride.