Ride Report – Gillingham to Horton

Saturday 7 March 2020

I spent some time hunched over a map trying to select a route to Horton over country that did not offer many alternatives. I eventually selected a route that would avoid some of the busier roads, but decided that a recce was called for, as the ride two weeks earlier in the same area had discovered flooded roads.
So off I went on my recce to find that the road through Gussage St Andrew and St Michael was under water and the ford was impassable to bikers. Also an alternative route via Tarrant Gunville was still a river so I was forced to select the single viable route to Horton and back with a few diversions to avoid as much of the busier roads as possible.
Saturday dawned as a bright day with light winds that were forecast to strengthen later with the possibility of the odd shower. These conditions were to have an impact on our ride, but more of that later.
Eleven riders turned up at Orchard Park but Jill, Roger, Richard and Mary offered various excuses as to why they were not going on the ride, which left Ben, Paul, Charlie, Martin, Jackie, Ron and I to set off on the ride.  I had decided to take the direct route to Shaftesbury but soon had some dissent in the ranks as the improved weather appeared to have attracted every car in Dorset onto the roads. Anyway we all survived the harrowing ride up the hill and we took to a back route through Shaftesbury to avoid the blue badge abandoned car lot that is Shaftesbury High Street on a Saturday.
Then on to Cann Common and a left turn up Zig-Zag Hill followed by the long climb over Charlton Down all the time being followed a Phalanx of traffic which continued until we were able to turn on to the quieter road via Farnham. This respite did not last for long as the flooded roads forced us back onto the fast and busy road via Thickthorn Cross.  After about a mile of being buffeted by fast traffic we turned off down the hill into the valley and picked our way through Gussage All Saints and back up the hill to re-join the main road for the short ride to the Horton Inn for lunch.
The Horton Inn lunch proved to be excellent and very good value with Charlie commenting that it was one of the best bowls of soup he had ever tasted.
After lunch we retraced our steps for a short distance before turning south west to Witchampton where after a short map check we continued on to Tarrant Hinton on roads with almost no traffic. Then on through Tarrant Keyneston to pick up Cycle Route 25 up the Stour valley to Blandford and on to the Trailway.  Considering the weather we have had the trailway proved to be in a lot better condition than anticipated with only the odd muddy patch.  Ron left us at Stourpaine as he said he did not want to ride the potentially muddier part of the trailway.
We managed to arrive at Shillingstone Station in time for a quick coffee and cake before the café closed, leaving Ben to find his route back home to Yeovil, while we pressed on via Child Okeford and Manston to Todber.  Charlie left us there while Jackie, Martin and I pressed on towards Gillingham and home.
A day on which the weather was kind to us as the rain did not appear and the winds remained relatively light. Although the traffic was heavy at times with one or two exceptions most drivers showed a degree of patience when stuck behind the peloton.
A ride of 84km (52miles) with 846m (2775ft) climbed and no punctures.

David Matten


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