A Dorset Bimble

Ride level Beginner cyclist
Distance 31 mi / 50 km
Type of bicycle Any
Traffic free
Circular route

Speak to Cycling UK's Senior Campaigns and Communications Officer Sam Jones and he'll soon let you know he's from Dorset. In this route, he pedals down the less commonly known parts of the county while taking in a hard fought for link route by a local Cycling UK campaigner.

When most people think of Dorset, they’ll imagine the dramatic Jurassic coast, the Iron Age hill forts or perhaps some TV adaptation of a Hardy novel. North Dorset usually barely gets a look in after people have visited Shaftesbury and Gold Hill.

This loop along largely quiet lanes starting and finishing in Gillingham station (pronounced with a hard “g” as in “gills”) will help correct that.

There’s a short stretch of a main road out of the station, but it’s wide and has a 30mph speed limit, so traffic is never too threatening – though you can always walk the short stretch on the pavement should you wish. You’ll soon be on a quiet lane that takes you out of Gill, into shrouded lanes where the only traffic I usually encounter is of the agricultural variety.

Three miles later, you’re back on a main road at East Stour, but again it is fairly traffic light. If that doesn’t bother you too much, you can head straight down the road until you hit Todber, but for this route I’d advise taking the first left at the top of a small rise and keep to the narrow lanes. It’s a small detour, but much more peaceful.

Past Todber lookout for the inquisitive piggies on your right – always a highlight for me! If you’re up for a swim in an old mill pond, take a right just before Hinton St Mary. A holloway will lead you down to Cutt Mill where you can have a splash. If you had a packraft, you could drift on down to Sturminster Newton, but otherwise mount back up and the road will take you there in no time.

If you happen to damage the bridge at Stur, the sign promises to send you off to the colonies – the choice is yours!

Carrying along NCN 253, you’ll pass through Okeford Fitzpaine and will then take Little Lane. Thanks to the efforts of Cycling UK member and volunteer, Dilys Gartside, this safe cycling link to Shillingstone was opened in January 2018.

There’s a fast road with a tight bend at the end of Little Lane, but Dilys and her team are working to fix that. In the meantime, do take care as you cross and head towards Child Okeford, where you’ll see Hambledon Hill, an old Iron Age Hill fort on your right.

It’s more country lanes and farmers’ fields as you head north until you pass Stour Row, and see the ancient woodland crowning Duncliffe on your right. A pleasant climb takes you onto a short stint on the A30. If you fancy picking up some local produce and having a cuppa, stop in at the Udder Shop on your left, otherwise turn right onto Brown’s Lane and back into East Stour where you can have a pint at the Crown instead.

It’s a fast road into Gillingham from East Stour, but you’re heading down Hunger Hill for most of it. When you come to the traffic lights in Gillingham turn left over the railway bridge and look for the path leading immediately after it on your left – that will take you straight down to the platform where this ride started.