Dorset on a fine day is a lovely place to be. Such was my good fortune today. The rolling hills shone bright green in the low sunshine and the views were seemingly endless. Everyone I met talked about how awful the weather has been in November, and there were big puddles everywhere. But this morning began with bright blue skies, and the day pretty much carried on in the same vein right through until dusk. I cut down on my October mileage expectations and managed to finish in daylight. That is hopefully a good blueprint for the rest of the week. It certainly beats ending the day in the dark.
I had a lovely evening as the sole guest at the White Hart in Wilmington, three miles east of Honiton, after a long and complicated journey down the country by four trains. I am rarely defeated by breakfast; but this was too big even for me. Perhaps a sign that I had not been cycling for eight days. I didn’t even feel hungry today until lunchtime, which is unusual of late. Before then I had cycled up and down many a hill along mostly very quiet roads through rural Dorset. The villages and small towns, Axminster and Beaminster, were extremely pretty, with a predominance of thatch and some splendid churches. The local accents were as West Country as they come and it almost at times felt like I was riding through a film set.
There was really nothing to spoil the experience and every now and then, something extra special was thrown in, like a ford, or an ancient manor house. Notable among the highlights was the village of Cerne Abbas, which is very old and very pretty. It was the site of a large abbey; but is more famous as the location of a unique hill figure, carved into the chalk hillside that rises above the village. The Cerne Giant is of unknown origin. It was first documented in the mid seventeenth century. He is also known as the Rude Man of Cerne, and it is easy to see why. His gender is not open to question and the smile on his face may have something to do with his impressively large nether regions. Unsurprisingly, his image features widely on pub signs, beer glasses and even the sign on the door to the gents toilet in the pub where I enjoyed an excellent bowl of soup.
I rode on tiny lanes, up steep hills from one hidden valley and back down into the next, time after time. It was all delightful today. Towards the end was the unexpectedly uniform thatched rows of Milton Abbas, clearly a planned village. Large cream sided thatched houses are arranged opposite each other along a broad, sloping village street with grassy margins. Some of the houses were having new thatched roofs. At the top of it all was a large thatched pub. And for all its beauty, it was as quiet as could be.
The forecast is set fair for the rest of the week. At the moment, coming back to ride in November feels like a good move.