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North Dorset Trailway - a travelogue

 I had a crack at this 14 mile route one weekday from near to Wimborne Minster to Sturminster Newton and back. I started from Pamphill just outside Wimborne Minster, tucked around the back of the National Trust’s Kingston Lacey (one of the ones where the facilities are inside the admissions desk).  I rode westwards on NCR 25 which is a lightly trafficked country road leading eventually to Blandford Forum (any Radio 4 panel discussion according to the Meaning of Liff).  

The route follows part of the old Somerset & Dorset Railway, one of the most bitterly fought Beeching closures (“sabotaged and defeated” as one book title puts it). You just wish someone had had the wit at the time to preserve these routes on a much bigger scale. 

The adventure begins off Lous Lane, Spetisbury. A couple of stations are semi preserved along this first part of the trail. I was running 28 Gatorskins - I got a pinch flat on the return leg, so be warned. 

Before long, you reach the outskirts of Blandford and a bit of a hitch of you’re riding with kids as for about 500 yards you are dumped directly onto the A350, with a roundabout for the Blandford bypass to negotiate. You soon turn off around the back of the Badger brewery and into the river fields. 

If the right way was signposted, I missed it and found my own unique way through Blandford to the site of its station (now a car park, inevitably) and resumption of the trail. Don’t be fooled by signs for the North Dorset Cycleway - that’s a different thing altogether. 

There are several instances where you leave the trackbed, so be prepared for gates, steep slopes, sometimes dropping you on to a road or active farm track. You pass through Stourplain which is very pretty, and near Shillingstone, where someone is trying to restore the station and 200 yards of track.  

Journeys End is another ex-station site turned car park. There was a public loo, a Co-op and they’d made a nice public garden out of the next 100 yards of track; the Poets Corner Cafe looked decent enough. 

If you’ve ridden trails like this, you’ll know that dog walkers are the price you pay for no cars. That’s dog walkers ambling along with 12’ leads, headphones, mobile phones, groups of 4; the ones that do spot you will be on one side, with the dog obliviously sniffing around on the other - they react by calling the dog. 

When I got back to Blandford, I tried and again failed to find the way through to pick up the trail, but I did pick up NCR 25, so a pleasant on-road ride back to the start.

If you're new please join in and if you have questions pop them below and the forum regulars will answer as best we can.

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mark1a | 1 year ago

Thanks for posting this, the North Dorset Trailway is on my list of former railways to ride and is fairly local to me.

Another one to try round here is the Castleman Trailway, which I've done as a 70km / 43m loop a couple of times before. Leaving Upton Country Park (just outside Poole), head north towards Wimborne, emerging behind the Willett Arms pub. A short stretch of road towards Ferndown later (you can use the so-called "widest cycle path in the UK" that has caused so much outrage), over the A31 bridge into Ferndown Forest. The trailway now goes all the way (via a small break at West Moors) to Ringwood. Now for the longest stretch on road to Christchurch, once there, head towards Hengistbury, and get on the promenade. Cycling is not allowed on here between 1000-1800 July & August, but OK all other times with 10mph limit, giving priority to pedestrians. You can then ride the 14km alongside the beach seafront past Boscombe, Bournemouth, Branksome, Poole, and finally to Sandbanks. Head back to Poole on road before dropping into Whitecliff Park and Poole Park, around the perimeter of Holes Bay and back to Upton Country Park. 

A splendid few hours on a bike, route is mixed gravel, hard pack and tarmac, with both on and off road sections. Could just as easily be done starting and finishing at Poole Station, which is very close to Holes Bay Road, on the route.



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