Tuesday, 7 August 2007

The Vic Skelton Birthday Rides in Dorset

Mike Stapleton writes: The Cambridge DA decided to run their own Birthday Rides to fill the gap left by there being no CTC Birthday Rides this year. We decided to honour one of our oldest riders and called the holiday the Vic Skelton Birthday Rides. Vic had just celebrated his 80th Birthday and is a credit to all of us. Vic never has a bad word to say about anyone and is always happy.

The popularity of the Holiday was even greater than when we went to the CTC Birthday Rides in Galloway and Dumfries last year. We had a total of 19 people who joined us for the various rides and meals. We try very hard to make the rides suitable for all and often there were two or three groups doing their own thing. We rode our bikes, visited Museums and Gardens, we met for evening meals at local hostelries. In fact we had a problem when we tried to book for “How many Sir?” and got the reply that there wasn't enough room. Fortunately the Greyhound in Beaminster (pronounced Bemster) was able able to fit us in even on the Sunday night when they said they were full. We came in in penny numbers and found space to eat in the back room.

The Greyhound.

As there were a great number of us Adrian who did the bookings had to split us up between three houses and Mike & Mrs Cousins brought their own Camper Van. The big house was Cambrian House half way up Skeet Hill. This was quite steep up to the house and then went on at 20% beyond. The house was built on a fantastic location cut into the hillside. It had a patio in front where you could sit and see the whole town of Beaminster in the dip in the hills.

Patio, Cambrian House

Cambrian House View

There was a house in the village for which I don't have a picture and the third house was on a farm beyond Broadwindsor. It was nearly four miles away from Beaminster and about 500 ft up so we got quite fit It had an equally impressive outlook over the vale towards Crewkerne. Being on a farm we had animals all around and Averil was greeted by Shawn on the first morning when she opened her curtains. The sheep were very curious. The farm had a large herd of Frisian Cows which paraded into the farm night and morning.


Sunday Most of the group met up in the square in Beaminster to decide their route.

Studying the maps

We decided to do a trip to the seaside at West Bay. We went via the lanes and had our first introduction to relatively easy Dorset Hills. Delightful lanes and villages. We of course found a café at West Bay Harbour and in fact never reached the sea. Here is a picture of Vic enjoying his elevenses.

Vic at West Bay

We left West Bay and went looking for a lunch place. We went back through Bridport and then had our first hill on the road to Broadwindsor. At the top of the hill we had the discussion where some headed west and some went home to view the Tour. The West group split up at the first Pub where some thought it too expensive and went on to Marshwood the next village. It was only two miles but there was a 500ft hill.

We stopped at the the Bottle Inn which was crowded with Tourists and Dorset CTC Cyclists. We considered it must be good so we stopped for lunch.

The Bottle Inn

Suitably refreshed we headed over the hills to Lyme Regis. Lyme Regis is at the bottom of a three mile hill. Its well worth the effort as its a lovely seaside town that never seems to change.

Lime Regis

After refreshments we headed back up the hill and then down the other side to Axminster. Again we found a pub serving tea and sat in the sunshine opposite the parish church.


The way out of Axminster is up a long steady hill and then the way up to the top of the ridge is a second climb via Cook's lane. Once on the top it is relatively flat with views over the hills to the sea.

View from the top

The way home then led via Pilsdon Pen which is the highest point in Dorset. Pilsdon Pen was a major ancient British fort which the Romans eventually took. It is a huge place and has nearly a mile of earthworks around the flat top which is still about 15 feet deep.

There are 360 degree views from the top. Which I rate as some of the best I have ever seen.

Pilsden Pen

Fortunately my house was just a mile down the hill so I was home in a few minutes. Which was just as well as I was very tired of Dorset hills.

The next day Monday I decided to take it easy with Vic, Steve and the dog Bailey.

Steve, Adrian and the dog, Bailey

It all started quite easily with a walk up the road but then we found a path so we followed it. It was a bit muddy but little did we know what was to come. Then up to the top of Pilsdon Pen to see the views again. Down the other side it got steadily muddier but still we kept above the mud. We reached the village of Drimpton to find the Pub was shut due to lack of trade. Fortunately the Publican saw us and sold us drinks in the garden.

After lunch we headed back home firstly up the road but then found a bridleway leading in the right direction. After a while it narrowed and became muddy then muddier and finally the mud came over my boots. The picture shows me wringing my socks out.

Mike, wringing out his socks

Cleaning up took quite a time. Adrian found another path just before we got home which flooded my boots again. I was getting used to it by then.

Tuesday I was back to cycling. The gang met in the Square at Beaminster ready for a visit to Abbotsbury. Abbotsbury is about 20 miles SE near the famous Chesil Beach. This is a shingle spit stretching all the way to Portland Bill.

Chesil Beach

Several riders including John and Greta went to the Botanical Gardens which were very good. The other visited the village and had lunch in the café.


After lunch we all climbed the narrow road towards Hardy's Monument. Its very steep and we all walked part of it. In fact a car stopped when he met me walking and said don't worry all the rest are walking too. I walked nearly all of it! You can see for miles when you are on the tops of the hills. Then on and up to the highest point before the main group turned north to return to Beaminster. I hear the route was very hilly.


I took a short cut home dropping down off the hills via a dramatic single track road with grass in the middle and pot holes into the valley at Powerstock. I hoped to find a pub open but no luck. I returned to my base at Broadwindsor via the easy road from Bridport.

Wednesday Alan and I had the day off. We went to the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton. This proved to be a really good show in four huge hangars. There were displays of World War one aircraft.

Sopwith Triplane

The piece de resistance was a series of displays showing the role performed by aircraft carriers. There was a whole hangar dedicated to a display of aircraft laid out on a carrier deck with simulated launchings and landings. There was a simulated Control Island with a series of internal semi active displays which you were guided through one by one.

H.M.S. Ark Royal

A view of the simulated flight deck

The final hall had one of the last Concorde to fly on the Atlantic route. I have always had a soft spot for Concorde. I actually was present when the Duxford one landed for the last time in 1977.


Thursday was the only day when it rained during the morning. I had decided to go and see the trams at Colyton figuring that even if it rained I could always get a ride inside the trams and keep dry. The trams were specially built to run on the old Seaton to Colyton Railway. They run on a 2' 9” gauge and are rather narrow. They run beside the Axe into Seaton and have great views of the Bird reserves on the way. I was joined by Joseph, Averil and Geoff who had come via some very steep hills. They waved me off at the station and then adjourned to the café.

The tram at Colyton

Friday was our last day and several riders decided to visit the gardens at Minterne but were put off when they couldn't get lunch there. They adjourned to Cerne Abbas where they found a good cafe. This also gave them a chance to see the famous chalk Giant carved into the hill.

The Giant at Cerne Abbas

In the evening we all had dinner in the Greyhound. I think there was nineteen in all. It was a great social get together.

They were a great team who all contributed to one of the best weeks we have ever had. It seems to me that Club weeks away are a sure fire way of having a great holiday. The company ensures that there is always someone to talk to even if the weather is bad. Of course it helps to have a week like we had with almost perfect weather. We kept hearing of scorching temperatures and fires in the Med. which sounded just too hot to ride a bike. England with good weather is unbeatable.

Finally a special vote of thanks to Adrian and Steve, not forgetting Bailey the dog, for organising the week. Without their efforts it would not have been possible. Mike Stapleton