the Wessex Ridgeway, an easy/not-so-easy approach to BikePacking

So, after a few short expeditions road-based, I guess it was time to evolve those 20+yrs of XC mountain biking, into longer adventures. Call it BikePacking.

There’s a few options in UK, and I didn’t want to go abroad, nor had the time for a trip over 2 days. It had to be a micro-adventure again.
And because I believe that one learns in small steps, there it goes, 130+km between Wiltshire and Dorset seemed appropriate.

The original track is shorter, starting from Tollard Royal, so I’ve managed to do a patchwork of bridleways/tracks in between very few B-roads. Those 30+km added from Salisbury were actually enjoyable.


And since I’ve started, I was actually grateful to NOT having changed the tyres to something less knobby. Thinking that it would all be flat-ish bridleways with a bit of gravel, and the odd rocky section; my thoughts were like the Pilgrim’s way, which I did in May on a road bike with 700×25 road tyres…. erm, it wasn’t like that. Bless the Mtb and Continental X-King tyres for their supple ride and brilliant grip.




The Wessex Ridgeway trail is not “that” technical, but it can be demanding.
You’ll be riding many times on proper grass/ploughed fields, so yes you DO need >2.1″ tyres to float above that mess. Most of them hills can be short but steeeep, so low gears come to help, but sometimes you just have to push.
There’s lots of gates to open and close, and the route is not always well signed; but that does spice it up. Also, cattle and sheep in the field can be a surprise. The latter, get pretty noisy so it may be necessary to make a diversion!

Another thing to put into account for this ride: nettles and brambles. Some parts can be like a jungle, it’s not “single-track” but “quarter-track”: you’ve got 15″ or room in between two walls of sweet thorns ripping off your skin/clothes, and lovely nettles gently carresing your exposed skin until it becomes red.
After the first day my arms and shins were a real mess. Lesson learned: next time bring long sleeves and shin-guards!



Aside from that, the ride was rather enjoyable, the campsite at Cerne Abbas was nice and reasonable priced, on top of being right on the track. Before that, the hill in Shillingstone is brutal, it’s probably 2km very, very steep going up, and with some of the jungle mentioned above to keep you company. I have to say that I had lost loads of time there, forcing me to take a shortcut (oh, the shame, the shame!) to reach the campsite on a decent time. I was running out of water, too; 2.5lt proved not to be enough on a hot sunny day of July. Thankfully, water can be obtained in one of the many Hamlets/Villages along the route. Cemeterys most often have a water tap, oh, and you may be lucky to find some of those ladies setting up the saturday afternoon tea&cakes. I was unlucky enough to leave when they arrived with piles of cake :-(


Some of those villages have amusing signs around their streets!




The second day proved to be harder for me, for some reason my legs felt empty, so the average speed dropped below 15km/h.
I had to reach Lyme Regis before 6.00pm, or Axminster before 7.45pm. I managed to arrive at the former destination just before 6pm, so I could enjoy a good 45 minutes sitting on the beach. That was a good reward for all that effort, it was actually a lovely day and I felt very happy.




I took my time to reach Axminster, nearly 1hr, but still plenty of time ahead of the train scheduled time. I like to wait for the train and not the train been waiting for me.
It all went smooth, albeit the train was packed (always reserve the space for your bicycle, especially on sunday evenings!), so I reached home before midnight and fed my cat who was waiting for me :-)

Here you can find the track that I’ve used:
Note that I made a diversion, to end in Lyme Regis rather than Charmouth, the two are pretty close.