Wareham, Dorset: Land of Big Hills & a lot of Cider
So, apologies up front if my report is not what is expected. As it is my first time writing one, I will unintentionally not follow the guidelines, and probably miss out important information.
To begin… the tour was organised by our lovely Koko (Mariko) Whyte, to her hometown of Wareham in sunny Dorset, and the surrounding area. Most of Team UL shared lifts from London, or rode down on motorbikes (Dyer), but the brave few met up at London Waterloo early on the Friday morning, armed with bicycles, helmets, energy snacks and booze.
The train journey through Dorset was picturesque out of the windows, but pretty turbulent and tricky on the train, as (much to Rupert’s dismay), South West Trains had opted to run a short four-carriage train in place of its usually 100-carriage one. Meaning, we were all cramped into the tiny corridor near the smelly disabled loo because the designated bike area had already been taken over by a large group of tourists and their large number of suitcases. Rupert spent most of the train journey, marching belligerently up and down the carriages making passive aggressive remarks to the tourists and our lovely train manager, who kept us smiling with cheeky remarks over the tannoy announcements.
Alors, when we arrived in Dorset, the sun was shining, the weather was sweet… We cycled up the hill to Koko’s house, where we found Mr. Whyte happily running a bicycle workshop in his front yard, busily trying to kit out all members of the UL with machines for an early evening cycle. The cycle was really gorgeous, with a few steep hills to pedal up, and then wondrously glorious downhill stints too. The views were incredible, especially at that time of day.
We spent much of that evening having drinks in one of the local pubs, The Quay Inn, followed by takeaway dinner back at the Scout Hut. Everyone opted to buy a takeaway of their choosing, and we all ate together like one, big, happy, drunk family. A game of Dodgeball ensued, with most of the girls out in the first round, and then the boys gave up soon after to continue with the debaucherous drinking. At one point we decided to pop out to the local pub, but soon decided drinking on the floor of the scout hut was a much better idea, and got back there to continue. The rest of the night is a blur.
On Saturday we rang at many lovely towers, with a few really good games of Human Knot taking place outside of some of the smaller towers, and many a Daisy Chain was fashioned and worn by Jacqui Brown throughout the day. I wish I was able to comment more on the quality of ringing, but neither my memory, nor my knowledge of ringing will allow it. Sorry about that!
Saturday lunchtime, we were lucky enough that the sun was beating down upon us, so we ate lunch in the beer garden of the Lion Pub in Swanage, after which a bunch of us took a stroll down to the local sandy beach. It was blooming cold, but sunny enough that Rupert and I stripped off and sneakily popped on our swimmers and went for a swim in the sea. We attracted quite a crowd of tourists who stood pointing/laughing/staring in amazement. It was cold. Very cold.
The afternoon continued with more tower grabbing, including St Edward the Martyr at Corfe Castle, which we had spied the previous evening on our casual jaunt on the bikes. We finished off the day ringing at Lady St Mary in Wareham, where most of us retired to the local pub, dropped off bikes, collected more booze and went to a really cute, albeit slightly bizarre, Roast Dinner Restaurant (whose name escapes me). It was buffet style, very delicious, and much wine was consumed. The server took quite a shine to Becca, who was gifted more meat than most others, it was a meal enjoyed by all, especially the cyclists who really needed it after a long day of many ups and downs!
After our bellies were full, we retired back to the hut for more drinking, downing and debauching, with the evening finishing with lots of singing and merriment in the porch of the hut. Memories are blurry, but that is probably for the best.
Sunday morning started off with a terrible hangover and a light drizzle outside. The cycle to Wimborne was sunny and really enjoyable, ringing for service at St Cuthberga was too! This was followed by a much needed ‘Spoons fry-up. With full stomachs the cyclists reluctantly mounted their steeds again for the ride to Poole, which was wet and windy, but pleasant enough. The keeno cyclists arrived at Poole harbour just in time for the ferry to Brownsea Island, splattered head-to-toe in mud, especially LukeO, who looked like he’d crapped himself for the rest of the day.
The short ferry ride was enjoyed by most, but not particularly by Becca or myself, who both suffer from seasickness. We endured it though, and it was worth it to see the island. A national trust property, impeccably kept, with a lovely, albeit windswept café to welcome you onto its shores. We were granted free entry onto the island because of ringing, which was a bonus. Some adventurous types wondered off to picnic on the hill, discover the views from the cliff tops, whereas a small group of us opted to staying the café to drink beer for most of the afternoon.
Later that afternoon, a bunch of us (Mariko Whyte, Chloe Grimmett, Becca Cullen, Ryan Noble, Rupert Littlewood, Timothy Forster, David Phillips and Benjamin Meyer) rang a quarter peal of Cambridge. The bells were really light and fast, so it was hard to keep up with what was going on, especially for me as it was my first quarter treble bobbing. Anyway, we got it in the end, and then a small group rang for the evening service.
Back onto the boat we jumped, I was nearly sick, the boys drank more, and then we were at the next tower, St James in Poole (the hardest bells of the tour). A bunch of the boys (Naked and LukeO) dropped off slowly to slink into the nearest ‘Spoons for a cheeky few, which is where the tour ended for most.
Now it was time to say our farewells. Those in cars sped off, and the few of us who had return tickets trundled towards the train station led by local Tony Matthews, armed with bags of booze, crisps and pots of humus, only to be greeted with the most unfortunate of sights: A Replacement Bus. The bus driver would not allow our booze on board so we reluctantly stowed it below and bagged ourselves the back row. What followed next was probably the most traumatic train journey of my entire life with very inappropriate loud jokes. I’m pretty sure at least 3 of us were nearly fined or arrested that night. Bags were lost, I cried, some balls were revealed, Rupert was disgusted (that’s when you know it’s gone too far!), but it all worked out in the end: most of us made it to the Liberty Bounds before last orders, where we all agreed it had been a superb weekend.