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Simon’s Challenge- Day 6

June 7, 2011
By Simon Cripps

Day 6 – Saturday
My goodness I had trouble getting up. The day before I had to make it to a train station so that I wouldn’t need to drive to the start point today and have to go back with a 1,000 tourists across the Sandbanks ferry. It was therefore a bit further than my tired old legs could manage. I did it though and started today back at Hamworthy station. I was just thinking that Hamworthy wasn’t my favourite wildlife spot when a green woodpecker flew across me and landed on a tree in the middle of a square of busy flats. Ironically the only woodpecker I’d seen all journey. I shouldn’t be so snooty about urban areas.

A conservation boat for the DWT CE?

A conservation boat for the DWT CE?

Talking about snooty, as I passed the Sunseeker yard on Poole Quay I admired the boats and though I’d have one if I were wealthy enough, I wondered what DWT could do with the cost of just one of their middle sized palaces. I grew up in Poole and practically lived in Poole harbour and the beach, so this was a leg of the journey I knew an much enjoyed. I remember well cycling to Poole Technical College as a teenager along the harbour edge thinking how lucky I was and now I can look out an see our flagship reserve on Brownsea Island.

Brownsea and lagoon from Evening Hill.

Brownsea and lagoon from Evening Hill.

After an altercation with the yellow boats crew who declined to accept my 2 years out of date boat pass, I crossed the waters to Brownsea Island. The wardens wanted to ensure that any 42ers actually saw the reserve, so they put the stamp at the farthest point from the jetty at DWT’s villa. It was great to see so many people and families coming on to the reserve to look at the red squirrels and the birds on the lagoon from the great new Simon King opened MacDonald Hide. It was also interesting to my surprise to see how many were reading the historical information at the villa. I caught the wardens Chris Thain and Abby Gibbs in fine form and asked Chris about the nesting on the lagoon this year.

The three Brownsea wardens hard at work.

The three Brownsea wardens hard at work.

The trip across the harbour entrance on the chain ferry to Studland represented my lowest (in terms of altitude of course) part of the journey at 0.5m. I’m not sure which the highest was as several of our reserves are irritatingly high up impossible climbs. Cycling past Studland, where DWT is working with authorities, residents and boat owners to find a solution for conserving seahorses and seagrass, I surprisingly soon arrived at Swanage. A taxi driver pointed me through the millions of tourists in the direction of Townsend quarry. By way of a wicked trick the 42todo team unusually hadn’t coordinated with the warden team and so the stamp was at another entrance to the landing point in the instructions.

The lumps and bumps of Townsend Reserve.

The lumps and bumps of Townsend Reserve.

What a jewel this reserve is. Thick with butterflies the mounds and hollows, remnants of limestone quarrying, were full of interest. The views along the Purbeck hills and out across Swanage Bay make this a very worthwhile visit.

How’s that for a reserve?

How’s that for a reserve?

Possibly the hardest bit of the whole tour was still to come with a selection of sanity-breaking climbs through the Purbecks at 25°C. It’s funny, but wafting past in a car I’ve never noticed the gruelling hill though Langton Matravers. It’s a killer, but when you get on to the ridge you’re rewarded with fantastic views especially over Corfe Castle. The camera doesn’t show the blurred red haze I looked at the castle through.

Corfe Castle from 25,000ft.

Corfe Castle from 25,000ft.

I took a chance at Kingston (not Jamaica) to cut an hour off the journey by taking the track past Encombe House rather than back through Corfe. The track was rough but well worth the two broken wrists. The view at the top of Smedmore Hill is both spectacular and immensely depressing. At an impressive 200m I looked down to Kimmeridge to realise that not only did I have to skate down skree to get there, I had to get back over the ridge again. At this point I realised we should have made it ‘41terrestrialreservestodo’, but it doesn’t have such a ring to it.

Kimmeridge Voluntary Marine Reserve.

Kimmeridge Voluntary Marine Reserve.

I had a somewhat unusual experience on the way down trying to negotiate the precipice past soldiers in full combat gear. One was so tired he didn’t see me coming and I knocked my leg against the business end of his machine gun. I’m guessing I wasn’t near death, but a bullet in the leg would have slowed me somewhat.

Flying the flag for protected areas.

Flying the flag for protected areas.

The Fine Foundation Kimmeridge Marine Centre to give it its full name was looking fabulous and packed with visitors. The volunteers and staff were doing a great job of engaging and encouraging them all without even the aid of a much needed public toilet as an attraction.

After a cup of tea and a lot of prevarication there was no putting it off, I had to get back over the two ridges that lay between me and history in the making. At this point doing the 42 on a vintage motorbike, as someone is doing, was looking pretty appealing. Following the principle that many of our reserves are in the troposphere Stonehill Down is right up there on the top of the ridge. I didn’t have the energy to wander around this chalk downland. I was though relieved for Barry that Trish loved him so much that she would deface a reserve by writing it in chalk stones. A little further down the hill was Kilwood reserve in an area of ancient clay mining.

Miles of stones at Stonehill.

Miles of stones at Stonehill.

Oddly enough at this point I’d got my second wind and switched to autopilot so I flew along to Coombe Heath. It wasn’t hard to find, but you had to have the confidence in the instructions to go right the way to end of a long track. I’m embarrassed to say this sizeable reserve hadn’t crossed my radar to date and so I’ll be back there soon to explore it. A tip though, don’t go on a windless evening as I did. As a result the mosquitoes now have more of my blood than I do. I put up a couple of roe deer but couldn’t get a picture of them.

Coombe Heath having missed the deer.

Coombe Heath having missed the deer.

A mere stone’s throw away was mysterious, enigmatic, introvert East Stoke Fen. I’ve long suspected this reserve never existed and was purely a ruse to keep the reserves staff in beer money, but now I was to mount an incursion and seek it out. With the help of invaluable instructions from a neighbour I tracked it down and to be fair it was exactly where the instructions said it would be had any roads actually been named. It looks to be a very sensitive and fragile site and so we probably don’t want to encourage too many visitors, so its location should certainly help with that!

Flying arrow that led me to the reserve.

Flying arrow that led me to the reserve.

At this point I had planned to stop, which would also have kept this blog thankfully shorter, however bad weather was forecast for tomorrow and I had turned into a cycling machine no less. I therefore decided to attack the last two and try to reach for the summit, so to speak, today.

Higher Hyde is a sizeable and highly diverse reserve which stretches far further than its initial impression. I’ve seen a kingfisher from the hide before now, but this evening there were just mosquitoes the size of kingfishers. I was to meet DWT President Tony Bates there tomorrow as this is his adopted reserve and I wanted to speak to the creator, along with Fiona Sansom, of 42todo, but cycle-machine-Cripps was on a deadline and so I passed through at lightning speed with the end in sight.

High time to hide in the higher hide at Higher Hide.

High time to hide in the higher hide at Higher Hide

I knew I was in with a chance of finishing when a searchlight appeared in the sky to illuminate my passage. Would a comparison to the star of Bethlehem be to pretentious at this point?

A verily did Tadnoll appear unto me.

And verily did Tadnoll appear unto me.

With the light fading and rain approaching I skirted around DWT’s large reserve at Winfrith & Tadnoll. Not only a model of heathland management with many invertebrates and reptiles, the recent wetland creation there has been a notable success for birds. This was my last reserve of the 42 and so at 20.43 on Saturday 4th June 2011 I stamped my last reserve to roars of the crowd (mosquitoes). I then cycled my euphoric way to the Red Lion for a celebratory pint of cider before being collected to be transported back to Dorchester to what I was sure would be a surprise victory parade through the High Street.

Simon ecstatic at finishing the 42todo cycle challenge.

Simon ecstatic at finishing the 42todo cycle challenge.

I’ll write an epilogue separately, but my first thoughts are that despite the pain, this was a wonderful thing to do and I’d highly commend to anyone to visit all DWT’s reserves. Perhaps not all in one fell swoop, but anyway and at any speed that suits you. It confirmed to me that DWT has some of the finest bits of natural Dorset in the county and together they make up a picture of the huge diversity of this wonderful county. It’s been a great and inspiring week.
You can donate to Simon’s Challenge by following this link

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2011 5:48 pm

    Well done Simon on a great achievement as well as an excellent and amusing blog.

  2. mary thornton permalink
    June 8, 2011 2:43 pm

    What a fantastic thing to do. Wish I could mend my bike puncture, any DWT bike enthusiasts are very welcome to come and mend it for me? Great blog, very inspiring Simon, well done: Is it the picture or do you look really fit at the end of the ride?

  3. Emma R permalink
    June 9, 2011 6:27 pm

    Well done Simon; grand effort and interesting blog full of Dorset wonders and curious oddities. Never knew the warden at Brownsea was so hairy! ;-). I’m sure you have inspired many cyclists to venture forward and visit our beautiful Dorset.

  4. Tony B permalink
    June 17, 2011 11:46 pm

    Just fantastic Simon a great effort – and you don’t look much thinner (sorry!). just got round to reading all your blogs after getting back from my European jollies. I got the impression that our instructions were generally OK – I knew Girdlers and Townsend and East Stoke Fen would test your map reading skills particularly when mine weren’t perfect in planning the route!. I really like your short cut to West Bexington. I think Peter found a few more short cuts. Sorry I missed you at H Hyde but I know the Red Lyon called ( t’was my local pub when I worked at Winfrith) 3 cheers from all of us~!! Looking forward to doing it in a more leisurely way in July.

    Tony

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