By Jane Thomas
Photograph: Graham McDermott
We met at the Pavilion on a fine and bright, if somewhat cool morning, and set off for the railway station. After a slight confusion of destination - a member bound for the swannery had got mixed up in our little party - we boarded the train for Maiden Newton. We planned to cycle from there to Cerne Abbas to see the famous Giant and then come back to Weymouth via Dorchester (where we could get the 4 o'clock train back if anyone was feeling a bit waffy). The tip-up seats in the bicycle storage area were all occupied, so we had to stow our Bromptons as best we could around the carriage. We couldn't quite get Norbert (who'd come all the way from somewhere near Munich) to understand exactly what we were going to see. I think he understood we were going to see a chalk figure something like the one above Weymouth....
Maiden Newton was much warmer than the seaside, so after much shedding of fleeces and discussion of where to go now, we set off down the hill from the station. Unfortunately, after 500 yards we had to start climbing up the first big hill. I think most of us had to get off and walk at some stage, and at the top we had to contemplate packing Rob Cope back off to the station, as his bike was a bit poorly. Thankfully it was only a jammed chain, and we were soon off again. The descent down to an idyllic ford made all that hard work pushing the bikes up the hill seem worth while. Janette Edge was unfortunately suffering from a bug that had gone in her eye sometime earlier, so we thought that the eye-watering descent would help flush it out. It might have done, if Janette had come down the hill with her eyes open....
The ford was fun, and Janette spotted a bus that could have taken us to Cerne Abbas avoiding all this unseemly hill climbing - but no, onward and up Cowdown Hill, and I think we were all pushing our bikes again. A get-your-breath-back stop was made very pleasant by the all pervading aroma of wild garlic, or beerlauch (sp?) as Norbert informed us. Norbert was thoroughly enjoying himself - his bike had been washed in the ford, the views and the hedgerows were lovely, and he especially liked the sheeps in the fields all around. The reward for all this hard work, was another marvellous descent into Cerne Abbas village. Glimpses of the giant were just about visible for those who didn't have their eyes full of tears or bugs.
Cerne Abbas is a very picturesque place - full of quaint thatched cottages, tea shoppes and pubbes. We had a bit of a split for lunch - Norbert, Chris and myself opting for a tea shop, and Rob Cope and famille Edge going for one of the pubs (well David hadn't had a drink for days). In the tea shoppe, surrounded by souvenir teatowels and press cuttings, Norbert finally realised just what he was going to see.....
After lunch, while we were trying to reassemble the whole party we got accosted by a strange man who wanted to know where to get a pair of walking boots, or a Brompton (or a life). He wandered off into the village shop, where Chris was trying to buy a stamp, and caused a large queue to build up by trying to get the shopkeeper to order him a load of magazines for tomorrow.
We were off on our way again, and a very short distance up the hill brought us to the giant viewpoint. He was a little in need of a good weeding, but it wasn't the tourist season yet. His name is Hillis or Hillith, and he is of uncertain age - possibly around 2000 years old, but the first written mention of him is from the 16th century. After the viewing it was back though Cerne Abbas village, and up the road towards Piddletrenthide. And I mean up. I'm glad it wasn't down, as the road had just been surface dressed, and was still covered in a layer of loose gravel. Not nice to ride on (or walk on). The top bought some more splendid views, and I decided that the day had warmed up enough for me to reveal my legs.
Onward and mainly downward we set off to Dorchester. The lads forged on ahead, leaving the lasses and Norbert behind. We had a short photo stop at a sign for Frome Whitfield, then zoomed into busy Dorchester. Afternoon tea was taken at the Oak Rooms - reputedly Hanging Judge Jeffries' courtroom - now a very pleasant tea room above a gift shop. 7 teas and 8 cakes were ordered as our youngest member (Ralf) was a little peckish, and needed some sustenance to keep his strength up for the final push back to Weymouth. A short trip to the teddy bear museum and we were lost. Rob found Dorchester cycles while we were looking for the way out of Dorchester, So we all piled in there. Janette bought an attractive pair of bug shields (glasses to you and me), and we convinced a lady that she was doing the right thing in buying a Brompton (she'd seen David Henshaw at Weymouth earlier, and he'd sent her along to the shop). Off we set again, in the right direction this time (hurrah), when David got a puncture (boo). Luckily it wasn't a major one, so after a few quick pumps we were off again.
A very pleasant ride though more of Dorsetshires finest country lanes, and a Spectacular vista of Weymouth and Portland hove into view. All downhill now, and back on the cyclepaths though Weymouth country park to our respective B&Bs for a well deserved afternoon nap before tea.
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Copyright (C)1999 Text: Jane Thomas, Photograph: Graham McDermott
Last updated: 2 June 1999