The last Newport to Poole (130 miles over 3 days)

The first time we rode to Poole was just after the passing of my mates mum, it was obviously emotionally charged and very very cold. We decided it needed to be done again, in the warm and in a better frame of mind. Early in 2015 I broke my collarbone putting the ride in jeopardy, but I trained hard and it looked like the trip was on. Two weeks before that trip my riding companion broke his arm; I had to do the whole ride alone. In 2016, we tried again; this time the weather was warm and neither of us had distracting fractures or emotional issues. The ride was the same route I did in 2015, so I won’t bore you with a full description of the route, but it was different, it was fun with some classic memories. It’s unlikely we will ride to this destination in the near future, there’s much more of Britain to explore.

Day 1- Newport to Bath (42 miles)

The first days ride went as sweet as a nut, we had two stops for tea, the second tea was at Bitton station at the Avon Valley railway. This place is always a pleasure to visit, and it’s always different. Riding along the Bristol to Bath cycle track we hit Bath just after dinnertime, whether it was the moderate temperature or the effect of two people riding together, we felt as if we could have done another twenty miles.

Day 2- Bath to East Stour (44 miles)

Tunnel In the morning I took my mate around the Commonwealth war graves in the church next door, and then we hit the Two tunnels Greenways trail. Almost immediately the path was blocked with fences, signs were posted diverting us off the path on to the road and I had a feeling of dread that the two tunnels may be closed. Thankfully, the diversion was only across the main line railway bridge. The tunnels didn’t disappoint, and we arrived at Wellow where I showed my mate the old station. The station building was converted into a house by the artist Peter Blake in the mid-1970s. The station's canopy is still visible from the village car park, here the track ran south of the station. My chum took some photos and I rode fifty feet back to the main road, I sat and waited for him next to a mobile library, after ten minutes there was no sign of my riding cohort, I rang him, it was engaged. I left a message and waited, by the time he came back; I could have taken a book out of the library, read it, and booked it back in. He must have missed me sat on the road as I was looking the other way, he has the sense of direction of a house brick and had ridden back the way we had just come until he listened to the answerphone message.

We continued on and after a cup of coffee at Radstock, we headed for the colliers way cycle path. I was gobsmacked when we turned onto the path, the old GWR engine sheds had gone, a year ago they were there, now in their place was houses, a new housing estate had sprang up on the site. We passed Kilmersdon on our right side, famous for a child’s rhyme and turned off the route at Great Elm, then bypassed Frome heading towards Longleat five miles later. Both of our water bottles were now empty and we planned to refill them at Longleat. The estate was packed and it was a boiling hot day, perhaps an ice-cream would go down well? That was until we bumped into the Longleat Gestapo security guards. They turned us around and insisted we buy tickets at £33.95 (each) before we could buy a four pound fifty ice cream. We decided to yield; now all we wanted was water- still no. We rode on still thirsty and saw toilets; maybe we could fill up there? Another security guard appeared out of thin air, and though he was more sympathetic, it was still no. I could imagine the two original guards had put out an all park broadcast over their radios, “please note; we’ve just caught two fat cyclists wearing leotards trying buy an ice cream without a ticket, they must be prevented from doing this at all costs................ ohh......... and don't let them have water either. Over”.

In the blazing sun and dripping with sweat, the latter guard could see we needed water, he conceded and said we could fill up our bottles, but implied he would be reprimanded if we were caught, he suggested a pub just outside the grounds, not wishing to get him into trouble we moved on. We stopped at the Bath arms Horningsham a mere three miles from our confrontation with those nasty jobs worth’s. The coffees here were excellent and guess what? They filled the bottles up with their soft drinks machine behind the bar for free. I wanted to give the Bath Arms a mention for their kindness to two dehydrated cyclists, but imagine my surprise when I found out the property is owned under the Longleat umbrella. How can two establishments owned by the same company be so dissimilar in their treatment of their customers?

We arrived at Stourhead Manor and my chum just wanted to pop his head in the front door, but was prevented from doing so by another official, apparently he needed a ticket to stand outside the door and look in. Not wishing to create another national security breach we moved on to the cafe where we had that long awaited ice cream (this time we didn’t need a ticket to buy the ice cream). The day finished on a fast road at the Kings Arms Inn, a bistro pub with some accommodation. All in all it was a hard day, much hillier than the first and compounded by the Longleat ice-cream police.

Day 3- East Stour to Bournemouth via Poole (43 miles)

We set off under a glorious blue sky. After a few miles of quiet lanes we got lost in the tiny beautiful village of Sturminster Newton, with a mixture of terraced houses touching the road (no pavement) and larger 17th and 18th century thatched cottages, it was a pleasant diversion until we found the Dorset trailway. After a few miles we arrived at the North Dorset railway Trust, I think it was called the Shillingstone project last year. In the space of one year there was much more to see, a new steam shunter was next to the path and loads of people were busy painting and tidying the gardens. We sat in a carriage and had a coffee before moving on; the views from this trail are fantastic, all the way to Stourpaine a pretty thatched village.

It was now a real pleasure (for a few reasons) toddling along the National route 25 to Blandford. The busy A350 runs alongside the route, but we were far enough away from it not to smell the fumes from vehicles. Though the easiest reason is the terrain ahead began to rise, and it looked like we'd have to climb over it, but as we drew nearer a cutting opened up (courtesy of the old Somerset & Dorset railway route) enabling us to just sail through the hill. We passed through Blanford and back on route 25, at Spetisbury we turn onto quiet reasonably flat lanes. Heading for Shapwick, we reached the high street only to be blocked by road closed signs. The diversion would mean retracing our ride 5 miles and then riding on the dangerous A350, we decided to walk through the road works. I spoke to one of the workers; they were doing sewage pipe repairs, not the most interesting subject you’d think? But I was wrong, it was fascinating; they were lining the sewage pipes without digging the road up. They send a robot through a section of pipe dragging a small concertinaed tube, when the tube is in place, they send a resin through the inside of it which expands it pushing against the old pipeline, it then sets like concrete; clever stuff. On the other side of the road works was the Anchor pub described in gastronomy circles as ‘what must surely be one of the best food pubs anywhere in Dorset’. Today all we had was coffee, and as an avid fresh coffee bean drinker; it is one of the best I’ve tasted.

We reached Poole and had the traditional drink in the Lord Nelson pub on the quay front, it was absolutely chock-a-block with people. We made our way to Sandbanks and then walked all the way to Bournemouth on the promenade. You may remember last year’s ride on the promenade several overzealous Australian life guards accosted me and told me I have to walk on the Prom. I forgot to mention the road train that barged past me, the same happened this year; with the bloody thing toot tooting us out of the way. I am fairly sure (correct me if I’m wrong) that the train uses a Land Rover Defender engine. So it’s okay drive a twelve ton carbon-monoxide spewing train through a crowd of people, but cyclists (even though we may be a bit generously over proportioned) present a grave danger to the public? It was lovely weather, and there wasn’t many people on the beach, I feel we could’ve easily ridden along the prom without maiming or killing any pedestrians or dogs. To wash all that bitter hypocrisy down, we had a coffee from one of the beach front cafes and I have to say it was like gnats piss which kinda tainted the end of the ride.

We booked into the hotel and went for a swim followed by a couple of beers. We walked through the winter gardens park and noticed kids queuing up everywhere. We spoke to a woman who explained; she came here when she was eight years old and is now bringing her eight year old grandson to light the candles in the park, a ceremony lasting one hundred years taking place every Wednesday in August. When the sun went down it was quite impressive.

Day 4 (Just chilling)

We spent the next day milling around the pool and walking along the Promenade. In the evening we went to ‘Days’ an all you can eat restaurant, if you read ‘tripadviser’ about this place it has mixed views, but they are generally positive. There's no service you just help yourself. It's certainly popular, and we found the food to be of good quality even though some people moan. There's tons of variety and if you aspire to obesity it's ideal at only £15. After the effect of a few beers and in the spirit of the current Olympics we had Earth Jagua tattoo’s done. This produces a black tattoo and lasts a few weeks, before disappearing (hopefully).

Day 5 (train home)

No matter which cycling trip we go on, returning home from Southampton on the train is always an unpleasant task. Why? Because the train is usually 3 cars long and always crammed, thankfully there were two bike carriages. A chap just pushed on in front of us and dumped his bags in the cycle space even though I reminded him there were two bikes coming on. His answer was ‘what do you want me to do mate?’ I pointed out this was a dedicated cycle space, he reluctantly moved them. In total there were eight bikes on the train, and standing room only. With a two hour journey, screaming kids and a boiling hot day; I’ve had better rail trips.

It’s a shame Bournemouth’s hotels are in general expensive, for the price we paid for ours; we could have had a week in Spain all inclusive, but without doubt, this was a fantastic trip, Bournemouth is a great place. We hadn’t specifically trained hard for the ride (we don’t anymore anyway) as previous miles on the bike should carry us through it. All of this year I had academic commitments and my mate had several long term social commitments which has resulted in less miles on the bike, but we did it. For sure, I know it’s a cliché, but we are defiantly getting older, we take longer to recover, and even though as my mate says ‘we’re not in any rush’, I can’t help thinking; are electric bikes just over the horizon?

  • Gallery

    gallery page Why not have a look at the gallery relating to this ride. Click the image or the title.

  • St James' Cemetery Bath

    St James' Cemetery The cemetery was established in 1861 to the south of the River Avon. Ordnance Survey maps of 1888 illustrates the landscaped cemetery located between the Great Western Railway to the south and the Midland, Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway to the north. Some forty graves from the two ‘great wars’ are laid to rest here.

  • Wellow station

    Wellow station Wellow railway station was on the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway. It opened in 1874, the station consisted of two platforms, a goods yard and sidings, controlled from an 18 lever signal box (also now private residence). The station closed in 1966.

  • Did Jack & Jill really go up the hill?

    Kilmersdon's best claim to fame is being home to the nursery rhyme 'Jack and Jill', the story of which can be found in the inscription on the wall of the Church of England Primary School at the end of a footpath up the hill, where the 'well' linked to the rhyme may be found.

  • Two ice-creams for £77

    The relationship between cycling organisations (and therefore cyclists) and Longleat has historically been unsettled. The NCR through this beautiful estate is under licence to Sustrans, and there’s no question we are privileged to be there, but I can’t find any rules or suggestions from Longleat or Sustrans as what etiquette is acceptable when riding through the area. Though I do feel it’s a little illogical to ask us to pay £68 so we could have the concession of buying two ice-creams, especially when the monkeys have it for free.

  • Sturminster Newton’s museum

    Sturminster Newton’s museum is a thatched building prominently located in the market place. The museum holds exhibits showing the history of the town including the cattle market, the railway, the milk factory, and local poets together.

  • Blanford fire

    Blanford fire Any mention of ‘The Great Fire’ immediately brings to mind the Great Fire of London in 1666, but for many in Dorset, it means the Great Fire of Blandford in 1731. The fire began in a tallow chandler's workshop on a site that is now The King's Arms public house. Within a few hours almost 90% of the town's fabric had gone.

  • The Shapwick monster

    The Shapwick monster A local legend tells how in 1706 a fishmonger was passing through the village of Shapwick, when, unbeknownst to the fishmonger, a crab fell off his cart. The local villagers, had never seen a crab before and gathered around the creature poking it with sticks believing it to be a devil or monster.

  • Mobility madness

    Reckless driving on mobility scooters have hit the headlines in recent months in some bizarre incidents. In May, a pensioner in West Yorkshire was filmed as he drove his scooter down the hard shoulder of the M1. A month later, startling footage showed a man pulling wheelies and going through red lights on his scooter in Eccles, Greater Manchester. And these treacherous machines are allowed on the promenade.

  • Tealights in the Park

    Wednesday evenings in August transform the Lower Gardens into an enchanting display of twinkling tea-lights, providing a very magical feel to the gardens in one of Bournemouth’s oldest traditions.

  • Bournemouth special Olympics

    Bournemouth has its own links with the Olympic movement- the special Olympics fosters community sport year-round at all levels for those with intellectual disabilities, the Bournemouth area offers seven specific sports for athletes to focus on.

  • Bournemouth is beautiful

    Get your buckets and spades ready as Bournemouth has seven miles of award-winning beaches. Nestled beneath a magnificent cliff line, the bay enjoys its own micro-climate, and some of the warmest sea temperatures in the UK with stunning views of the Isle of Wight and the Purbecks.

    Go to top