Those who follow my blog regularly will know that this summer I have been enjoying many cycle rides around the lanes of Dorset, so much so that, for the moment at least, walking has taken a bit of a back seat. This was a ride I did earlier this month but I haven’t got round to posting.
I set off along a regular route of mine, going out through Wimborne and the back lanes, taking in Furzehill, Holt, Holt Wood, Horton and into Gussage All Saints. The last mentioned is a delightful village which I always enjoy cycling or walking through. On this occasion, I stopped at the church and I fell into conversation with an elderly resident of the village who was out for her daily stroll. She told me that she had lived in the village since she was four years old and had been there for 80 years. I commented that she must have seen a lot of changes over the years and she said, somewhat sadly, that the heart had gone out of the village. I assumed that she meant that a lot of the properties were now owned as weekend homes for city dwellers as is the case with many of our villages, but this wasn’t her reason. In fact her reason was that at 8am and 5pm, the village is really busy and noisy as people go off to work. Again I made a wrong assumption, presuming that it used to be a place for retirement but in fact I don’t think this is the case. I believe what she meant was that historically this was a working village, with the people being employed in or around the village on local farms etc, whereas now people who live there are employed in larger towns farther afield.
The church by which we were stood has changed a lot too, going from a stand alone parish to now being just one of ten local parishes that form The Chase Benefice. It is a lovely church that dates from 14th century and it is in a delightful setting. The village pub has also changed, and in fact was almost lost until the villagers got together and bought it. This was a great success story that is all too rare.
Whilst I was talking to the elderly resident, I asked a question that had been puzzling me for some time, and it concerned the village that was coming up later on my ride. This is the village of Farnham. The first time I went through Farnham, I noticed that a lot of the cottages were built side on to the road rather than facing out onto it as houses do today. She gave me what I think is probably the right reason, and that is that they were built to face the sun in order to warm them up better – there was of course no central heating in those days so getting as much warmth as possible from the sun was far more important than facing the road.
Farnham is another lovely Dorset village with picture postcard cottages, lots of thatch, and a pub called The Museum. It bears this name because Farnham was at one time home to the famous Pitt Rivers Museum although this has now moved to Oxford.
A few short miles on from Farnham is one of my favourite lunch stops, Chettle Village Shop. Housed in a tin hut, this traditional village shop does some amazing pies, award winning pies I might add! I stopped off and bought a pie and coffee for my lunch and sat outside at one of the picnic tables. Usually I am accompanied here by free range chickens but they were missing on this day. This little shop can sell anything up to 140 pies in a day, such is their popularity.
Chettle itself is another village that I love. It has the appearance of a working village rather than a ‘tourist’ village and I like that. It is home to the rather elegant Chettle House which we used to visit when I was younger, but no more, since it is in private ownership and has changed hands recently.
Leaving Chettle behind, I had to go out onto the A road for a short time before turning off onto another country lane that passes through the tiny hamlet of Long Crichel. This cluster of cottages has an air of the past about it and it also has another of those lovely Dorset churches. Invariably when I stop here, the church is locked and although the key is available from one of the cottages, I have never got round to collecting it so that I can look inside the church, partly because I would have to leave my bike unattended.
There was much activity on the farms all along this route, with harvesting being in full swing. I stopped awhile to watch this wonderful rural sight. Right opposite is my favourite resting point, the ‘Rest and be Thankful’ seat which surrounds a horse chestnut tree at Witchampton. There was talk several years ago of refurbishing this seat that is looking somewhat the worse for wear, but there are still no signs of any work taking place.
I love these sorts of ride. I had no particular plans so I sat on the seat thinking about where to head for next and I decided that I would head for Tarrant Rushton and the Tarrant Valley. I passed the WW2 airfield, famous for its gliders that carried troops across the channel, which is now part of a farm, and stopped at the top of Hogstock where there are panoramic views over the valley. This point is also the start of a lovely downhill section as the road curves round and down to the village of Tarrant Rawston.
From here, I decided that I would climb up onto the ridge and drop down the other side into Blandford because from Blandford there is a lovely country lane that takes you through Shapwick into Wimborne. This 10 mile stretch of road is always enjoyable to ride and I do it often as part of a wider circuit.
Along the way, I took a short detour to stop at the top of the old bridge that spans the River Stour at White Mill. Often this road forms part of my route but not today, but I visited anyway before retracing my steps……or should that be wheels 🙂 ! I like to stand on the bridge looking up the river to see what wildlife there is around. The bridge itself is actually older than the mill that stands beside it, dating originally from the 12th century. Although the current structure dates mainly from the 16th century, carbon dating of the pilings on which it stands shows that they are the original timbers, making this one of the oldest bridge sites in Dorset.
I often think this would be a great place for a seat, but the bridge is narrow so it is not possible. Having enjoyed the view for a time, I made my way back through Cowgrove and Pamphill to Wimborne again.
This had been another awesome day along the Dorset lanes. I might visit these places many times each year, but they are always fresh and different each time.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my ramblings, and I hope you enjoy exploring with me.
Until next time,
The Dorset Rambler
If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@– comments and feedback are always welcomed.
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