Nine members plus one pillion gathered at the Dorchester Market Cafe at 0915 for an early morning bikers' breakfast prior to riding off at 1015 for Old Sarum Airfield, near Salisbury, to attend their Vintage Sunday event. It was good to see Simon Gudgeon attending his first group rideout as a full member having only recently passed his advanced riding test - congrats to Simon.
The idea of a bikers' breakfast before heading out was well received by all but especially by Frank Lea who had time to pop out to the near by car boot sale and buy himself a really nice cast iron Harley Davidson plaque which I am told now hangs on his living room wall - real bargain Frank says. Meeting for a bikers breakfast prior to the ride is worth consider repeating for future rideouts especially in the winter.
Prior to completing his usual map reading exercise and safety briefs, ride leader Brian confirmed that he had ridden the route the previous day and his assessment was that such were the poor road conditions on the A352 through the Cerne Valley, an alternative route out would be taken. So at 1015 bikes started up and the group headed off initially out of Dorchester, down to Loaders and then north towards Sherborne via the top road. Initially, we had overcast skies with decent visibility and not too cold.
Out of nowhere, we suddenly found ourselves riding in thick fog with ambient temperatures no higher than 3c - even as low as 1c on occasions - brrrrr - it was cold. The challenging riding conditions lasted well past Charminster, Middlemarsh and Longburton before temporarily clearing as the group headed down the hill into Sherborne and taking a right turn past Sherborne Castle and onto the A30 to Shaftesbury via Milborne Port, Henstridge, East Stour and onto Shaftesbury. This is a road made for riding a motorcycle but such were the poor weather conditions and low visibility that maintaining safety became even more relevant. After passing through Shaftesbury the group headed off east on the A30 towards Ludwell, Fovant, Wilton, Salisbury and Old Sarum Airfield.
This stretch is also a great road to be riding a motorcycle on but thick fog and cold conditions returned with a vengeance so much so that the famous Fovant Regimental Badges weren't visible. Thankfully, the weather was clear when Brian did his route recce the previous day and he was able to take some photos of the Fovant Badges (see above). A quick stop in a lay-by on the A30 to check that everyone was happy to continue received full house approval. Frank took the opportunity with this brief stop to put on his inner thermal silk gloves as his poor hands were almost numb with the cold.
By the time the group had arrived at Wilton the visibility had improved but not the cold. Out of Wilton, we continued on the A30, crossed over the A360 Devizes road then followed the B and C class back roads before joining the A345 Amesbury road, third exit off the roundabout, past the Park & Ride and to Old Sarum Airfield, arriving at approx 1150 having left Dorchester at 1022 - 57 miles - good progress considering the conditions encounter for the majority of the route.
The Vintage Sunday classic displays was restricted to vintage cars as little if no vintage aircraft flying was talking place due to the poor visibility. Sky diving was also scheduled to take place but this too had to be cancelled.
Neil, Cheryl and a few of the others headed off to see the vintage / classic cars whilst the rest of us piled into the Skies Cafe for some well earned hot refreshments. A time of 1230 was agreed for departure (so that Brian could get back home in time to watch the Wales v Italy 6 Nations Rugby game starting at 1400).
Thankfully conditions were much improved for the return leg which was via a different, longer route. This enabled a brisker pace to be set and everyone enjoyed the ride back. The route back headed back west via the A30 passing through Wilton, Bradford-St Martin, left at Ludwell up to the B3081, left for Tollard Royal, Sixpenney Handley, over the A354 to the B3078 Wimborne road and then the B3082 Bradbury Rings road back to Blandford Forum. This circuit after joining the B3081 never disappoints - it's is cracking route for riding a motorcycle and more often than not on a Sunday, only light traffic is encountered but it still offered ample safe overtaking opportunities and thus maintain progress.
From Blandford, the group followed the A354 to Dorchester via Winterbourne Whitechurch and Milborne St Andrew and then joined the A35 Puddletown dual carriageway by-pass before pulling into the first lay-by prior to everyone dispersing and riding home independently. We didn't quite make it back to Dorchester by 1400 but Brian did arrive home for 1430 and at least saw the remainder of the Wales v Italy game (which Wales eventually won - next up England !). Total mileage on this leg 67 miles approx.
Many thanks to Neil Fuller & Cheryl Harmer, Linda Ashmore, Jeremy Weekes, Simon Gudgeon, Stephen Baker, Frank Lea, Andy Burton and Ray Perring for supporting the rideout and to Brian for organising and leading it and also for selecting two good routes. Post ride feedback was 100% positive. Subsequent to arriving back home, Brian learnt that Charlie Fox also rode to Dorchester to join in the rideout but he went to the wrong cafe - Top of Town - had a breakfast and as no one has turned up by 1010, Charlie returned home. His excuse - he says he only saw the word 'cafe' when the ride was advertised. Missed an observation link there Charlie !
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