For my brother-in-law the best way to mark a birthday is to celebrate with a ride on his mountain bike. A plan was hatched, and the location seemed to choose itself. But if we knew that the Isle of Purbeck ride would become a good walk ruined by bikes, we would probably have hit the South Downs instead!
If you’ve not been there, or even if you’ve seen it on a map, you may be forgiven for thinking “That’s not an Island!”. But there are things you can do to make it feel more Island like and add to the adventure!
Just a few weeks earlier, while visiting customers, the National Trust at Knoll Beach and Jurassic Outdoor in Swanage, I watched a couple of chaps on mountain bikes taking the chain ferry from Sandbanks to Studland. From the car, despite the grey day, I could see they were embarking on an adventure. It was etched on their faces and I envied them as the rolled-off the ferry and onto the island.
Single Track, the Mountain Bike magazine, featured Purbeck Island, proposing a great route, similar to that found on this link to Sussex-MTB’s website, a nice long circular.
On the day
So the plan was set! We were on that ferry for 8am on a cold and grey morning after a 45 minute drive from home.
It was Sunday, so parking within 200m of the jetty for nothing was easy. Rolling off the boat on the other side gave us a refreshing splash through the brine before wheeling past the toll station and the roady start to the ride.
Adapting the plan
A south westerly blew a consistent 20 mph after gusting to 40 earlier in the day. This determined our route. Checking the countours and routes of the main bridle paths on the SplashMap of the Isle of Purbeck we could adapt the days trip to fit the conditions.
By travelling out to Corfe on the landward side of the ridge of the Purbeck Way we’d be partly protected from the head-wind by the steep slope itself. We’d then follow the parallel bridle path on southern side of the ridge with the wind on our backs to help us back to Godlingston Hill and on to Ballard Down and onto the chalk stacks of Old Harry’s Rock.
Perfect for Mountain Biking
The Island is perfect for mountain biking. It’s criss-crossed with Bridle Paths with nearly all the main trails welcome to bikes and horses as much as to walkers. We came off the road at Greenlands Farm, starting on a raised wooden walkway before finding well drained gravel trails in the direction of Ower. All around the land was saturated from the recent run of wet weather.
Hitting tarmac again at Goathorn Farm we planned to skirt Newton Heath to turn south for Rempstone and the climb up to join the Purbeck way. The trail skirted woodlands and came out to a brad track, saturated in places, and a push against the wind even on the downhills. It was what we thought would define the day. Tough going!
“Think my mech is about to give out!”said Jonathan, responding to the agitated sound of friction coming from the bike as we rounded the 4 way intersection near Claywell Farm. I took a closer look and leant in to inspect at a crawling pace.
“BANG!!” I wobbled in the shock of a noise no-one wants to hear on a day out reliant upon wheels.
What was once a well pumped trail tyre was now a flat. A flat inside a tyre with a ripped side.
Spare tubes were no problem, pumps, no problem. But with no spare tyre it had to be a “make-do” job with what we had to hand. Looking back a pen knife would have helped to make a wrap out of the exploded tube (the hole was a jagged edged 50p sized void). This could have provided protection for the new Tube as it bulged within the busted tyre.
The completely saturated condition of everything inside the tyre (and possibly the age of the patches!) meant the tyre patches we had were no good.
A good walk ruined by bikes
So our adventure to Corfe and Old Harry became a good walk ruined by bikes! We advanced across Newton Heath back in the direction of the road. Checking the map, there were so many ways to achieve what we wanted. In fact so many trails that we accidentally took a wrong turn and added a painful extra mile to our return journey!
A great network of well drained trails
Still, the scenery was terrific; gorse yellows made a great foreground to the entrance of Poole Harbour. It’s a beautiful sea scape and still my favourite SplashMap by looks alone. The trails were mainly passable with some deep puddles at times. But with a bit of savvy, even in the worst of weather, there’s still a great network of well drained trails to take you round this stunning part of the world.