Thursday, July 12, 2007
It's been a while, but we've been busy with all kinds of non-cycling activities, most of which involved searching for somewhere nice to live, and then moving there. After several months living in the flat beneath a herd of tone deaf karaoke-loving elephants, we finally found it. For all our travels, we've ended up in England - Dorset to be precise.
It's a lovely house, a quiet semi-detached farm cottage with lovely views over the surrounding farmland. It backs onto wheat fields and is frequently visited by pheasants, hares and all kinds of birds. There's a pair of swallows nesting in the neighbour's eaves who seem to be constantly flying back and forth and are rather lovely. We're only renting but are clinging to the hope that through a combination of hard work, luck and/or economics, one day we might be able to afford to buy a house this nice.
The past few months have been shamefully uneventful on the cycling front, mostly due to our living in a busy area of Guildford, where the roads really aren't much fun for cycling so, aside from the occasional trip to the shops our poor bikes haven't seen much action. We've been trying to set that right since we moved, but the weather's been so miserable that it's only in the past week that we've really felt like getting the wheels out.
Cerne Abbas looked like a good target for our first trip out. It's about 10-12 miles away, features a giant naked man on a hillside and looked like a pleasant enough place.
Our first attempt at this ride didn't quite work out. For us, going on a bike ride of more than a couple of miles requires various pieces of equipment - tools, repair kits, rain coats... and still being in a bit of a post-moving mess, we didn't know where any of it was. It took a couple of hours to find everything, after which we decided we only had time for a shorter ride. We made it as far as Glanvilles Wootton (a bit less than half way there) and turned round.
Dgym was away on Wednesday but it was still too nice a day to not take the bike out. I managed to get away nice and quickly this time and headed south through the villages of Stourton Caundle and Bishops Caundle towards Cerne Abbas. The roads up until Middlemarsh were really quiet, I only encountered a few cars in 6-7 miles, and there weren't any major hills.
From Middlemarsh there are two roads running down past Cerne Abbas towards Dorchester - the A352 and what looked like a quiet road running parallel to it. Unfortunately the quiet road is also rather busy (by Dorset standards anyway) and also involves quite a long ascent up onto the ridge overlooking Cerne Abbas and other surrounding villages. I don't mind climbing long hills, and I don't mind a bit of traffic but it's not so much fun huffing and puffing away when there are cars and lorries thundering past, or queueing up behind me and getting impatient and/or laughing at my feeble efforts. The view from the top was rather pleasant though.
The traffic mostly disappeared after the turn-off into Cerne Abbas and there was a lovely long descent down to the village.
Despite being home to a fairly famous tourist attraction, Cerne Abbas seemed like a quiet and pleasant little village, and has more to see than just the Giant. The 13th century church and surrounding area are worth a look - the adjacent street has some lovely old Tudor houses and you can visit what remains of the old abbey.
I headed out of town to check out the Giant, following signs to the lookout point and picnic area. I found the picnic area, from which the Giant was visible. He was more faint than I'd imagined, perhaps it was just the viewing angle and he looks more distinct from the air, but I didn't see him at first.
From the picnic area there was a footpath called "Giant Walk" so I decided to get a little closer, locked up the bike and started to follow the signs, up steeply ascending footpaths and steps, most of which were covered in slimy chalky mud. Unfortunately this turned out to be a little futile as you can't see the Giant at all from the Giant Walk - it takes you along the bottom of the Giant's field, which is fenced off due to erosion, and the angle of the hillside means you can't see anything. Never mind... I headed back down, got on the bike and went a bit further up the road to the lookout point on the A352, from which the view of the Giant is much better - although I suppose the best view would be from a helicopter.
I took the same route back - the road up from Cerne Abbas was a long and fairly hard climb but at least there was very little traffic, and the busy top road was an excellent descent which was over before I knew it.
It's great to be back on the bikes. Hopefully we'll go on more day trips and some longer ones when time, funds and weather permit.
Cerne Abbas photoset on Flickr
Update 17/07/07: Homer certainly wasn't there last week when I visited. Looks like I really missed out...