In The Dark And In The Rain: Poole to Quarry Camp Nine Miles North of Dorchester. - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

April 20, 2014

In The Dark And In The Rain: Poole to Quarry Camp Nine Miles North of Dorchester.

The policeman says its a well travelled passport. "Looks like you've got it wet too", he comments amicably on the bleeding dye from some of the stamps, while flicking through the pages. Then stops two pages from the end and focuses on the most recent stamp, the postage-stamp visa for Turkey, studies it for a moment, then shuts the passport and passes it back through the window and waves me on.

I ride through the port gates and turn left upon a well-lit street with not a lot of traffic, just the occasional passing taxi. Nevertheless, because I don't have lights on the bike, I mount the pavement to the side and continue onwards on bumpy uneven flagstones, having no idea where I will end up tonight. I don't see any guesthouses, which would be great, just to get off the street. Though, I expect if I ride far enough out of Poole, I should come to somewhere with a possibility of camping, or even just to lay down for the night. Thing could be worse; it could be raining.

I come to a big Edwardian house with bay windows, a garden at the front and a Bed & Breakfast sign by the gate. I open the gate and push the bike up the path to the door. I'm just about to press the bell, when I see in the window to the side of the door, a "No Vacancies" sign. My heart sinks a moment as I wheel the bike back down the path.

I pass a pub full of Saturday night revellers and merriment, then a fish and chip shop. Further on a man is staggering along, blocking my path. On drawing level with him, I drop down off the pavement to get round and utter a mute hello to which, he suddenly lurches towards me, swinging his fist in a drunken outburst screaming "F**king.....!!!" I don't quite get the end of what he said. He has a bruised eye and bloody nose. It looks as though he's been in a fight as I instinctively get safely away.

Just a few hundred metres ahead there's a park on the left where I halt. I'm worried to stop too long in case he catches up with me; if he does, he'll really have a go. There's a gravel driveway along a playing field, which I turn into and ride along. Then I'm startled when five-or-six drunken youths appear from the shadows of a clump of trees. I make to turn the bike, thinking this is trouble, but they shout a greeting and pass. I think if I'm going to camp anywhere here I'll need to be well out of the way, as not to be discovered by anyone.

Riding further in the gravel drive, I get off to push as the street-lights dim, not wanting to crash into anything in the darkness. The drive leads to a pole-barrier blocking further access, so I wheel the bike round the side of the barrier. The track onwards is overgrown with just a narrow walking trail remaining along the middle with trees and undergrowth closing in on either side. It comes to an end at a wire-netting fence with padlocked gates; by which, is level and a big enough clearing for the tent, and is as well hidden as I could wish for. I use my head torch to shine light on the situation while pitching the tent, finding miraculously the tent rises to its normal height, after the morning's lack of room to sit upright when inside.

I think this is a water pumping station.
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It is nice waking next morning, having found a near perfect place to camp inside a city. The sky is very grey and I can hear a dog walker not far away through the undergrowth. I have just the makings of breakfast left in my bag; a small bit of baguette, camenburt, porridge and raises.

Eight miles out of Poole, I turn off for Wareham as I need cash. The bank has free Wi-Fi and the signal is strong enough in the bus-shelter outside where I sit and browse for nearly half an hour, by which time it begins raining lightly.

I ride on in the rain towards Weymouth, thinking it'll only be a shower, which will soon be over, but there's no let up; if anything, it becomes heavier. I pass through many roundabouts, veering left for Weymouth. The road straight on is to Dorchester. Then I'm on a busy divided highway, riding with the spray from passing cars and the grey gloom. I thought it wouldn't have taken so long, but the road goes on and on and I don't see any sign for Weymouth town-centre yet.

Weymouth beach.
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At last I'm heading into town towards a boating marina, then over a bridge and a long a street to the seafront; on the inside of which, is a terrace of grand Georgian town-houses and a wide promenade along the beach. It isn't a good day for the seaside. It feels raw in the wind as I'm almost soaked to the skin. I lean the bike by the railings and go down the steps to the beach. The tide is in, so I don't have too far to walk out to the surf rolling in.

To the right of where I come in, there's no end of fish and chips shops, cafes and tearooms. I wheel my bike further along the promenade spoiled for choice. Because its Easter there are lots of visitors despite the rain and most of the eating places have lots of cliental. I come to the end of the row, finding an establishment with a sign on the window saying "Award Winning". An invitation to enter.

"Not a nice day for cycling" comes from one of the two old ladies sitting at a table by the window. "Yes. Its horrible out" I reply pleasantly while wiping my steamed up glasses, and ask "Do you know the forecast for the week ahead?" "Couldn't tell yeah. We re waiting to see the forecast on Countryfile."

The girl brings out my all-day breakfast; eggs, bacon, beans and hash brownies, which aren't brown at all. More a yellowish batter on the outside and white on the inside, looking like a fish cake, though on the menu-card, they're on the vegetarian breakfast, so they can't be fish. The tomatoes are disappointing, being from a can, and the mushrooms are not too appetising, being soggy and flavourless.

"Awful weather weer havin for Easter Sunday dear" comes from a couple just entered to the girl serving "And we had such nice weather all week" Such sentiments are echoed by everybody that enters, as the café begins to fill up. Looking out, I see no umbrellas up now. Most people that walk by are no-longer bent against the rain, but are walking more upright. It looks like the rain is easing off, so I can get moving again.

I find the Subtrans cycle-route north to Dorchester. It took quite a bit of watching out for the blue signs while riding out of town. The path follows the modern highway upon the old county road which rolls up a great hill, going up from the coast. And the rain intensifies to a persistent drizzle as the day grows greyer and darker. Near the top of the hill, the old road bridges the highway in the deep cutting below, where bumper-to-bumper cars beam their headlights through the gloom.

On reaching Dorchester the rain becomes heavier and my front brake is washed out and ineffective. On the way in there's a Tescos inside a fabulous restored nineteenth century railway building. I disappointedly find its not open, then remember its Easter.

I buy a road-atlas in a WH Smyth's and then round the corner in the Corn Market, there's a Costa Coffee where I get in out of the rain. I spend the time writing and hoping that the rain will soon ease. Then, I try to use the Wi-Fi, but there's a complicated landing page in which you most enter a valid telephone number.

The rain stops around five and I head out of town north towards Yeovil, stopping on the way at Spar shop at a petrol station, buying two Cornish pasties and milk.

The cycle-route onwards is a path alongside the A36, then I follow a minor road which splits off to the left towards a place called Frampton. By now I'm on the look out for a place to camp, but there's nothing but fields of sheep and lambs. Then on turning a corner, I'm dismayed as the road ahead goes up a great big hill. But, as I climb, I come to rusty padlocked gates into an old limestone quarry. There's a gap to the side of the gates, through which I wheel the bike, then push up a slope out of sight from the road. The quarry looks like its used for trails-bikes, as there's a circuit marked out with jumps and a rutted track of motorbike wheels. Though, there's plenty of level grassy area in among the gorse.

Today's ride: 71 km (44 miles)
Total: 14,764 km (9,168 miles)

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