Dorset Highlands

This was the last of the Dorset-focused day tours that remained on my ‘to do’ list, each of which are described by Jack Thurston in his excellent book ‘Lost Lanes West’ (on the one hand it seems lazy to simply ‘follow the guidebook’ but, since time is so often at a premium, having so much of the initial route planning done for me enables me to focus on the actual cycling … and, to be honest, all of these routes are located in areas I’ve wanted to explore by bicycle anyway).

Warning: this route may (does) contain hills

So, what about this day tour? The clue is in the title: this is a hilly ride (although most of Jack’s other routes seem to sneak plenty of ups and downs into the itinerary). But it takes in so many of the gems that make up rural Dorset that the effort is all worthwhile.

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The Thrill of the Chase (Dorset): Inbound

Jack Thurston’s Lost Lanes West cycling guide describes a 65-mile tour starting and finishing at the railway station in Gillingham, Dorset. I adapted the tour to create a two-day 80-miler, starting and finishing where I live.

This blog post focuses on the second day, inbound from Gillingham. The first day is covered here.

The road out of Gillingham, heading east in early morning haze
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The Thrill of the Chase (Dorset): Outbound

Jack Thurston’s Lost Lanes West cycling guide describes a 65-mile tour starting and finishing at the railway station in Gillingham, Dorset. This tour takes in Cranborne Chase, Blandford Forum, the Stour valley and Shaftesbury (including the iconic Gold Hill, of Hovis advert fame).

Witchampton, which is the furthest point on the tour from Gillingham, is only about eight miles from where I live, so I decided to be a little creative: I split the tour in two days, starting it and finishing it at home, and making Gillingham an overnight stop. In planning it this way, it turned out that each day would be – purely by coincidence – a very manageable 40 miles (i.e. with time for stopping, pottering, and brewing drinks on a new stove, which I was planning to ‘field test’).

This blog post focuses on the first day, outbound to Gillingham. The second day is covered here.

Joining The Thrill of the Chase route at Witchampton, heading west towards Blandford Forum
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Winchester Winter Warmer (in Spring)

This day tour follows a route recommended by Jack Thurston, in his book ‘Lost Lanes South’. I had already followed a couple of the day tours he had recommended in his follow-up cycling guide – ‘Lost Lanes West’ – but decided that this time I would travel east for a change (I live in Dorset) – to Winchester, just for a change – from where this tour starts (and where it finishes, at the railway station).

There is much to commend Jack’s guidebooks, including the fact that he makes .gpx files available for each recommended tour, which you can download from his website. This would be my first cycling trip using Komoot – a navigation app – for turn-by-turn navigation, using the .gpx file that Jack provides for this route. I had recently ordered an adapter from Bike Fun (in Taiwan), which would enable me to use a Topeka phone mount on the top of my Bike Fun bottle cage bracket, so I was keen to see how well this set up worked.

My cheap and cheerful Nokia 1, sat nav extraordinaire, held in place by a Topeak phone mount on my bottle cage bracket
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Around the Purbecks (Dorset)

This 46-mile day tour is recommended by Jack Thurston, in his cycling guide ‘Lost Lanes West‘. It is the second tour from the book that I have ridden (I described my first – Hardy’s Hills – in an earlier post). The Dorset coast is a varied landscape, combining geologically-stressed rockforms with green valleys full of pastoral activity.

This tour of the Purbecks takes the up-and-over approach to a number of steep-sided hills, with one notable elevated section – Povington Hill – offering extensive views of the ‘Jurassic’ coastline, from Poole Harbour in the east to Portland and Chesil beach in the west.

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