Shakedown Ride, Day 2 – Ashurst to Litton Cheney

Well I made it to the coast and was greeted by a calm sea, blue sky, a promenade completely submerged in sand, and a double decker bus serving coffee. It all felt a bit too good to last, and it was.

  • Today’s Distance (miles/km): 72 / 116
  • Time in saddle: 7h 36
  • Max/min temp – in sun (°c): 36°/10°
  • Climb/descend (feet) : 2,447 / 2,194
  • Calories used: 4,893
  • Cafe time: 2h 50

To see a virtual aerial view of the route, click here

Despite the occasional loud whinnying of nearby ponies, I got a great night’s sleep. Breakfast included the novelty of trying out a new gas attachment that Susie gave me for the trangia cooker I take on these trips. It was amazing, it was fast, it was simple to use, but it felt like cheating. I think I’m too used setting a kettle on to boil over a meths stove, and then getting on with all my other chores. This thing is like the first time you use an induction hob.

A bit like the contrasting photos of bike paths on yesterday’s blog, today was very much a day of two massively different halves. The first half was sunny, balmy and fun. Second half, not so much.

It began in the. New Forest, where I spotted these three wild donkeys in Brockenhurst. They were the first company I had this morning after packing everything up and leaving the campsite, if you don’t count the morning traffic roaring past me. The donkeys were visiting their favourite drive-thru diner by the village primary school – the one on the right found a brown bag of discarded fast food, and pinned it to ground with one hoof before tearing it apart with its teeth and eating the contents.

As soon as I could I got off the busier roads and headed into the heart of the New Forest, where the gorse was in flower (I’m pretty sure it’s in flower all-year-round actually, but the sun and warmth make it smell wonderful), birds flew right past my head, and the roads were mostly flat. After yesterday, that felt like a luxury. I worked my way down towards the coast until I finally arrived at the last residential road before the beach. It’s not that hard around here to guess when you’re near the sea.

I began riding along the prom but it was slow going, rather than the easy cruise I’d been anticipating. The sand was obscuring most of it and was deep enough to make my heavy bike swerve unnervingly. I saw people having coffee at tables by the beach and decided that was a good idea. The cafe turned out to be an old 70s-type double decker bus parked right on the prom, but partially obscured by awnings.

The last time I did this ride it was a week or so earlier in the season, but today the promenade was incredibly busy once I got to the bit where the sand had mostly cleared away. Bikes are welcome but pedestrians have right of way. The biggest change since last time was the number of mums in running gear pushing their babies along at high speed, with the babies enjoying the rapidly-changing view from their racing-prams. I suspect that when I’m here again on Sunday afternoon for the return leg, I may have quite a crowed to contend with.

The quite ordinary looking spit of land on the left is Sandbanks, which I think is still the most expensive place in the whole country to own property.

The bike paths around Poole harbour are superb, and conveniently lead directly to the Quay Cafe, where my current near-veggie status had yet another second breakfast setback. I meant to order the vegan breakfast, but my bike-brain just wouldn’t let me. Thinking about eating en route next month, I’m going to have to either decide what to do about this, or leave all such decisions to the bike-brain.

The Full Grill
(with my bike, the sea and some boats in the background)

After Poole I followed a bike path for several miles before joining up again with the exceptionally beautiful Cycle Route 2 most of the way to Dorchester. This was where in 2017 I bumped into the Jurassic Beast Sportive cyclists, who let me tag along with them for a few miles getting some wind assistance from them. I’d done the ride myself a couple of times but had forgotten it was on. This time around I kept seeing direction arrows for the same event, but I’m not sure if I’m late for it, or early.

Ok, that’s a sign worth obeying

At this point the mood of the day began to change. The skies were darkening all the time, in every direction, and I just knew it was going to get me at some point. The rain began fairly gently, then stopped being gentle and became very wet. Just as I passed another of my favourite houses on this route, the rain relented and gave me the chance to risk taking out my phone for a photo. I’ve decided I’m going to buy this place the next time I win the lottery. Hope that’s ok, Susie?

Still thinking that it was quite wet, as I arrived in Dorchester I was forced to concede that I had been mistaken. A bank of huge black clouds gathered overhead, accompanied by a deep rumble of thunder. My phone rang at this point, and I pulled over under an archway in the area called Poundbury (the pet building project of the then-Prince Charles) to take the call from Susie. As I answered, a flash of lightning was followed by more thunder and the start of a prolonged spell of torrential rain. I waited it out for as long as I could, but knowing I still had the biggest climb of the entire four-day trip to do before arriving at my campsite, I set off at the first sign of it abating. Except it didn’t. I’m pretty sure it got worse.

According to the ‘RainToday’ radar weather service, the rain I experienced this afternoon was a figment of my imagination.

Hardy’s Monument has one of the finest views in the whole of Dorset because of its altitude, but I don’t think I really appreciated it today.. The rainwater was streaming down the hill towards me like a flooding river as I puffed and panted to get myself and my bike to the summit. Then just as the last and steepest bit of the climb came into view, the rain stopped, the sun came out a tiny bit, and I finished the hill in great spirits to my enormous surprise. Cycling can do funny things to the brain. Here’s the whole day’s climbing profile, just to get things in perspective:

Another wave of heavy rain heading towards me

There followed a swift and splashy downhill ride through the Bride Valley, to the village of Litton Cheney, where I set my tent up as quickly as I could in case the rain made it there too. Litton Lakes is a newish campsite that I haven’t stayed at before. No photos I’m afraid, due to frantic activity.

The lovely Bride Valley

Once the tent looked storm-proof, I hopped back on the bike and dashed to the White Horse pub for a fish & chips & beer Friday night special.

It’s been a crazy day, and I’ve yet to shower (sorry, everyone in the White Horse – at least I’ve had a really thorough rain bath) and get myself organised at the tent. I haven’t even changed out of my wet clothes yet. So I think I’m signing off for now before turning around and beginning the whole journey in reverse again tomorrow morning. Don’t forget to join me!

Here’s a sign that made me laugh today:

In business, people tell you to specialise, but there is a limit. No customers again.

4 thoughts on “Shakedown Ride, Day 2 – Ashurst to Litton Cheney

  1. Miranda and I were very glad that I called you then, because at least we saved you from getting struck by lightning!
    Yes, that house would be lovely, except a little poky for 2 people maybe.
    Have a good day retracing your steps! (Tyre tracks) xoxox

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good news! The weather app says sunshine all day everywhere! At least you can hopefully set off With a dry-ish tent. Finally I know where to take my woollen car for a clean…

    Liked by 1 person

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