Skip to content

Simons Challenge – Day 5

June 23, 2011

Day 5 – Friday

One stop behind schedule I started today at the car-park I ended up at last night in Tarrant Rushton. Rural crime and particularly thefts from cars is quite an issue, but I knew that no-one would mess with a DWT car, after all who would harm a wildlife charity?

start point tarrant rushton

start point tarrant rushton

Ashley Woods was only just down the road past The True Lovers Knot. I took a chance that I was riding up someone’s drive, but as expected the entrance also led to Ashley Woods Reserve. Though a sizeable 12ha this wood is nevertheless just a remnant of a much larger ancient hazel and ash coppice. The paths through are kept cut back, so true to form, the reserve was swarming with butterflies warming themselves in the sunny spots.

ashley woods

ashley woods

I deserved this section of the ride. After the huge hills of west and central Dorset, this bit: the Tarrant valley and the edge of Cranborne Chase, was my payment for the pain of previous days. I earned this and was going to enjoy it. Wafting by Witchampton I called into the house of one of DWT’s Trustees for a cuppa, but was sorely disappointed as they were out. By a coincidence I passed the front door of 3 of DWT’s Trustees. I’d never seen the imposing 18th century Moor Crichel House which to my non-expert eye seemed markedly different to any other country house in Dorset.

Moor houses to see

Moor houses to see

I have long had an interest in Roman history in Britain so it was great to see that the Romans built their road so that it passed through our reserve at Sovell Down. Very forward thinking. The Ackling Dyke which connected Exeter with London – a sort of A303 but without the lorries. As you stand in the reserve and look down the track as it purposefully marches on to Salisbury you can just imagine the legions passing through. The reserve reminded me of Greenhill Down as it is also in a hilltop position in a sea of agriculture.

Looking up to Sovell Down.

Looking up to Sovell Down.

Passing Gussage All Saints, is a wonderful Dorset name that sounds more like an ecclesiastical outfitter for some reason. Just after Knowlton the countryside seemed to change. It wasn’t until a while later that I realised that it was looking more like Hampshire than Dorset. I don’t know where the border used to be, but I wonder if it was near there.

River Allen.

River Allen.

Sutton Holmes wasn’t easy to find. I cycled some distance up the wrong track before a resident set me right. We really must mark some reserves from the road. At the end of a long rough track was one of the smallest, if the not the smallest of our reserves, though it has woodland, meadows a pond and hedges. It is important as it’s designated an SSSI. While I had my lunch there a couple of barking dogs came to sort me out, but soon became my best friend when I bribed them with some cowardly flapjack.

Sutton Holmes.

Sutton Holmes.

From this point I entered the domain of the white van driver and things got distinctly more sporty on the roads. I guess Verwood wasn’t busier than other Dorset towns, but after four days in the countryside it was quite a culture shock. Bugdens Meadow behind the Morrisons supermarket wasn’t much larger than Sutton Holmes but was absolutely packed with spotted orchids. I even found the albino variety – well worth seeing.

Orchid at Bugdens

Orchid at Bugdens

From Bugdens I took the recommended shortcut to Sopley Common across my first bit of heathland. The trouble was I missed the turning and ended up trying to cycle across sand. Like walking the wrong way on an escalator in wellies full of water. After a strange long straight track with all sorts of businesses tucked away behind a selection of portcullises, I popped out at Bournemouth airport. Laughing at the long queues of traffic I sailed past, I came onto Sopley Common at the start of the Avon Causeway. Sopley reminds me of the Surrey heaths and is hugely important to the local communities. I’d have loved time to walk around it again, but Troublefield beckoned

A panda on a Dorset reserve.

A panda on a Dorset reserve.

Troublefield has quite a reputation as being difficult to find. I remember the wardens expecting I wouldn’t find it when I first started at DWT. I was proud to tell them I found it without any trouble (ironically), but until this time I never admitted I was actually looking for Sopley! I like Troublefields. It’s a lovely stretch of very wet grassland and woodland at the side of the Moors River. The sign showed it was one of several of our reserves the purchase of which was supported by my previous employer WWF. I worked with the person who sent out the plaques.

Inappropriately named Troublefields.

Inappropriately named Troublefields.

Crossing the River Stour on a thankfully flat but long stretch through Wimborne you head back out into more traditional Dorset countryside. I had to ask for directions to find Corfe Mullen meadow praying that I hadn’t missed the turning at the top of a long hill. I missed the orchids it’s famous for but it’s still an impressive reserve clearly much used by locals with two and four legs. It’s been obvious that dog walkers are a major group who use DWT’s reserves.

Corfe Mullen meadow.

Corfe Mullen meadow.

Tired as I now was, I plodded the short distance on to Beacon Hill. I was so late that the team at the Urban Wildlife Centre on Upton Heath had long since gone home. Cruelly they had told me that had I been there on time I would have had beer and cake. The truth was though that they left it for me at the 42todo sign. I’m more amazed that the wardens didn’t swipe the beer than that the team kindly left it for me. Upton Heath is a large and impressive reserve that can take a couple of hours to walk around. It’s an important time of year for nesting birds and has thankfully been free of fires so far in this dry spring.

Beer and cake at Beacon Hill

Beer and cake at Beacon Hill

As I headed towards Hamworthy station I though back over the day which was the most diverse yet. Starting in flat Cranborne Chase, I passed through Hampshire-like countryside into Urban east Dorset, emerging into the Stour valley and finished up on the Dorset heaths. Quite a day.

Manna from heaven.

Manna from heaven.

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: