Last week we were in Dorset cycling (among other things). My post on Cycling in Suffolk mentioned that the former Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich wrote a book on cycling in the county. Sadly I can find no such Episcopal recommendations for Dorset. Perhaps because the area, or least the area we were in doesn’t lend itself to cycling on a typical vicar’s (or bishop’s) bike.
Probably the main difference between Dorset and Suffolk is that Dorset has hills. It was the first one that I noticed anyway. The ride started off innocently enough, just a gentle meander down to Maiden Newton following NCR 26. It was climbing out of the Frome valley that reality hit home. A wall suddenly appeared in front of me. A hill about 1.5 km in length with gradients up to 15% and generally averaging over 10%.
I had my sixtieth birthday a few weeks ago. I have decided that now I am sixty I can get off my bike and push if I think that a hill is too hard. So about half way up I concluded that I had a choice; I could get off and push, or have a heart attack. I got off and pushed.
Grace of course was already at the top waiting for me. The joys of having an e-bike.
The next section of the ride followed a Roman road along the ridge so we had brilliant views all the way along. The route continued going up and down, fairly steeply, but not quite as dramatically as the first hill. We would descend into wooded valleys then climb out to the open downs. Until we got to a place called Mount Pleasant.
Just down the lane I could see a tractor. Not a problem, modern tractors go about 30 to 40 m.p.h. then I noticed that we were catching it quite quickly. I also noticed that the road conditions had changed to slippery and slightly smelly. It, and its driver, were herding about sixty cows to the farm for milking. I always irks me to push down hill, but we didn’t really have much choice. Constantly riding on the brakes with the road surface well lubricated with cow poo would almost certainly have ended with one or both of us locking a wheel and ending up in it.
After the cows turned off to the milking parlour I thought it would be plain sailing, albeit up a reasonably steep hill. However just before the start of the hill a woman in a very old four-wheel drive vehicle came past us trailing a cloud of dense black smoke. We decide to let her go, although I thought that I preferred the exhaust from the cows to the exhaust from her vehicle.Grace set off up the hill, which was narrow and fairly steep with a promise to wait for me at the top.I was about half way up and thinking that I might get away without invoking my sixtieth birthday resolution, when a van appeared behind me. There was no room to overtake so I pulled over to let it past and discovered that the hill was too steep to get started again, so I had to push. Up ahead I noticed that Grace and the FWD appeared to have come to a halt as well, the van that had just passed me stopped as well. The hill was too much for the FWD and it didn’t even have the excuse of being over sixty. We managed to squeeze by and pushed on up the hill to where it was less steep and carried on, leaving the van and the FWD to negotiate their way past each other.
The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful, a downhill (mostly) run along the Frome valley to Cattistock. Despite the cows and the FWD it was a lovely ride, with some great scenery. The only minor problem was that there was nowhere to stop for a cup of tea or a pint. The only tea room and the only pub on the route were in Cattistock (though there are probably pubs and tea rooms in Maiden Newton I wasn’t looking for one at that stage of the ride).
The Cattistock Tea Room, however does a good cup of tea and excellent fruit cake.