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Leaving Britain – London to Weymouth

Length of trip:

353km (daily av. 70km), 6 days (5 cycling, 1 rest), 6th-13th June

Route:

Kilburn (home) → Putney → Epsom → Haslemere → Winchester → New Forest → Bournemouth → Corfe Castle → Weymouth → Ferry to Jersey → St Helier → Gorey → St Helier → Ferry to St Malo

Highlights:

Leaving Kilburn

Cycling out of our front door in Kilburn

Cycling out of London. It was really fun leaving London, such a relief after the hectic week that had preceded it. As we cycled down Kilburn High Street, our old flatmate Chris cycled past on his way to work which was a nice surprise. We went through Hyde Park, out through Putney and Merton, around the outskirts of Epsom, past Box Hill trying to follow the Surry Hills Cycle Way on the minor roads. When we realised we were running out of time, we hotfooted it to Godalming and then on to Haslemere by the A roads. At the Mitchell house, Nick and Sue had cooked up a feast, a very much appreciated end to our first day on the bike, (a longer than expected 100km!).

The New Forest. I couldn’t leave the UK without a cycle through the New Forest, I’d heard about it so much. Despite the heavy showers and strong winds we experienced, it really was beautiful and the roads were great to cycle on. We tried to follow the cycle route 3 through the forest, but at some points it’s not signposted and if it wasn’t for the compass, we would have got lost. Most of the villages are full of retirees, but the forest trails around the villages are great and we even managed them on our Marathon Supreme tyres. Definitely worth a day trip for a cycle if you haven’t done it already.

Bournemouth to Weymouth. I’d heard about Bournemouth before and having been to many other beachside towns, such as Blackpool, I was picturing horror. I was quite surprised that it wasn’t. The houses around there have a completely different feel to the rest of Britain, it’s almost as if they think they live in a warm climate. The seaside promenade that goes on for kilometres (10-15km I think), and apart from a few horror sections of seaside tat, it’s rather nice. You can’t cycle the prom in summer because it’s too busy but in May there was plenty of space to make it all the way to the ferry across Poole Harbour. Sand on the path was the only real pain the ass/drivetrain.

Military firing zone

Rolling hills between Corfe Castle and Weymouth

At Poole Harbour a ferry takes you to the other side where you cycle past wetlands and up and down hills, with beautiful views of the sea and towns below. The small town of Corfe Castle is worth a stop for lunch before continuing on up and down the hills, past military bases and past the deserted town of Tyneham that Bill Bryson talks about in Notes from a Small Island. It’s a cyclists paradise all the way to Weymouth, definitely worth a trip.

El Camino Paul: We found ourselves camped on a hill in a Weymouth campsite overlooking Portland and Chesil Beach next to Paul, a recently returned pilgram from the El Camino de Santiago trail.  This is the first cycle tourist we met and the first of many people we would see with a scallop shell attached to their tent, bike or backpack.  He explained that it meant he has completed the trail which runs from France or Belgium to the west coast of Spain.  Paul had completed it by bike and was now back in the UK living in his tent while he decided what to do next.  He told us about some of the hills in the Pyrenees and Phil and him talked bikes for the rest of the evening!

Phil standing on the back of the ferry

Farewell to Blighty

Jersey. We were only meant to stay in Jersey for a couple of hours while we waited for our second ferry to St Malo. Unfortunately this was cancelled, so instead of staying in Weymouth, we decided to spend a night on Jersey. The nearest campsite to the ferry port was 10km away, but we made the trek out there and stayed the night. We paid a visit to town and had a look around; it’s English with a bit of French thrown in like street signs and tasty food. Would definitely be a nice place to live, if you could afford it!

The ferry is great for touring cyclists by the way; no extra cost, (just tell them you have a bike to reserve a space) wheel it on fully loaded and head upstairs to enjoy a disgusting on-board coffee! Nice.

 

Lowlights:

It’s hard to think of lowlights because we’re used to all the rubbish things about cycling in the UK.

Give yourself time to pack. Unfortunately for us we made the decision to finish work on the Friday, have a farewell party on Saturday and leave on Monday morning. Somewhere between all of this we were supposed to finish packing and labelling all of belongings into boxes, clean our room and ensuite, disinfect our shoes and tent for quarantine, say goodbye to everyone and make sure we were ready to cycle out on Monday. It was ambitious and on reflection we would recommend giving yourself a whole day between finishing work and your leaving party to pack.

The weather. I was expecting that the day we left London would be lovely and sunny and we’d have a great day cycling out. Of course it was grey and drizzly and we had our wet weather gear on. The bad weather was disappointing but on the other hand there were no regrets!

Check your maps early. In the rush of packing, cleaning and preparing to leave I’d forgotten to check the maps for our first days ride to Haslemere on the West Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey border. We were planning it to be a short days ride to my cousins house (Nick, Sue and Johnnie) so as not to overstretch ourselves. As it turned out, I didn’t quite have maps for the whole way so I photographed some maps off the computer. As you can see from our route map, we zigzagged our way to Haslemere with the help of some phone calls to Sue as the route I’d picked from the computer was a bit indirect! Our short day had turned into 100km, which was a bit far considering our training for the trip had dwindled to nothing in the previous weeks.

Kat standing on Chesil Beach

Kat, Chesil Bach and the Weymouth wind

Headwinds around Weymouth. The hill into Weymouth is quite long and steep so you build up some speed, but be careful because on the way down you go over a saddle and the wind knocks you hard. But it doesn’t stop there, you then get buffeted around all the way down, I was just glad no cars decided to pass at the wrong time because I’m sure I would have been blown into them. With all that wind, it’s no wonder it’s Britain’s centre of sailing!

Roads/ paths:

Getting out of London using the London Cycling maps is pretty easy, you can see which roads you can cycle on and which you can’t. The Surrey Cycle Way was a nice quiet ride for a while, we went past Box Hill and made it as far as Shere before we realised we’d better cut straight to Godalming and Haslemere due to the time.

Cycling through the New Forest and then on to Christchurch, Bournemouth, Poole and Weymouth is great and we followed the National Cycle Route 2. Getting into Weymouth at the time was very confusing, there were roadworks for the Olympics happening and we found it quite hard to work out where the town centre was. Some help from some local young people saw us on our way.

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