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Total distance: 182 miles (291.2 kilometres)
There are parts of Dorset that are quite hilly. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
As usual, our route splits the ride into two days, and we spent the night at a friend's house, this time just over the county border in Honiton, Devon. Our start point, the car park at The Compasses Inn at Fordingbridge was therefore at virtually the most Eastern point of the ride, and meant that we probably had a day of headwinds to start with, and an easy second day of tailwinds, given that the standard wind direction in this area is a brisk South Westerly.
Of course, things never turn out the way you expect, and day one dawned sunny, bright, and with an Easterly wind. This meant that the run down to the coast from Fordingbridge was reasonable, but when we got to the coast at Christchurch and turned West along Undercliff Drive it was superb. The path is flat, right by the sea - as in between the beach huts and the sandy beach - and on this day we had sun and a following wind. These things are rarely found together, and when they are, the moment is to be savoured. So we did, stopping for breakfast at a beachfront restaurant, watching the joggers, keep fitters and surfers start their days.
It was altogether a very pleasant morning, continuing West along the beach, taking the chain ferry across Poole harbour, and making good time.
Then we got to the Purbeck hills. It was still sunny, and we still had a tail wind, but suddenly it was a lot harder to keep going forwards, possibly because "forwards" had just become "upwards". Past Abbotsbury swannery and up Abbotsbury hill was the steepest section, so we stopped at the top for an ice cream as a reward. The rest of the day went downhill from there.
The following morning it was raining. We had 85 miles to do, and the wind was in our faces again.
As was the rain.
It was a cold day, and I'm not sure it is possible to have a bigger difference between day one and two on a cycle ride. Wet, miserable and tired, (and unfit, but that's my fault!) we covered a grand total of 33 miles in 3 hours that morning. The whole day was a slow, depressing, cold, wet grind.
But that's why we cycle, isn't it? [Er, no. Ed.]