Hovis there and back again – if you fancy a brilliant one-day route to ride, this is a corker
If you like the sound of villages with names like Sixpenny Handley and Middle Wallop, then this trip is for you – it’s a mix of A and B roads through Hants, Wilts and the New Forest. I can’t tell you how far it is as I forgot to check the mileage, but it took good friend Hume and I the best part of a day.
We start in Shaftesbury, hilltop town in north Dorset and home to the famous Hovis ad, not to mention Dorset’s highest concentration of hairpin bends.
The most spectacular bit of this ride comes in the first few miles. Take the A30 out of Shaftesbury (signed Salisbury) and almost immediately turn right followed by a left through Cann Common to Zig Zag Hill. A series of five hairpins, this is the road which got Top Gear into trouble for inferring that testosterone crazed drivers could whaz up here as fast as they liked. However you do it, it’s still spectacular, the hairpins followed by a couple of easier bends to climb 70 metres in less than half a mile before bursting out onto high ground with brilliant views to the north.
The B3081 bounds over these chalk uplands, but like most things in this ride it doesn’t last very long, dipping down into Tollard Royal, a picturesque village with a 20 limit, thatched cottages and pond. Beyond the village, the road is twistier and runs through more woodland to Sixpenny Handley. Climbing away from that village we’re back onto chalk downland, crossing the A354 at one of the loneliest roundabouts in the southwest and heading for a section so straight that there are speed blobs to guide the police helicopters. Past a sign for Bugad Classic Bikes, then turn left for Cranborne and follow the B3078 for Fordingbridge, a pretty little town, though a bit of a honeypot in summer. Crossing the Avon (which we’ll meet again further upstream), we’re well off the uplands now, still on the B3078 and passing under the A338, heading for the New Forest. A blanket 40mph limit announces that we’re officially in the New Forest, though it doesn’t recognisably start until Godshill, where today a crowd of donkeys are waiting at the bus stop. Just up the road, over a cattle grid and the New Forest proper starts with wide open heathland – despite the name, it’s been a mixture of heath and woodland since William the Conqueror’s time. Avoiding the ponies, we ride down to Cadnam, head straight over a big roundabout and left at the next one for Romsey via a retro dualcarriageway (A3090) with trees on the central reservation rather than Armco.
Getting out of Romsey to find the A3057 and after a few miles turn left onto the B3084 signed Mottisfont, very twisty and slow with 30 and 40 limits for the first bit, though it finally opens out after Broughton, climbing to cross the A30 and A343 in quick succession.
The road is fast to Grateley and beyond as we’re now into the wider open spaces of Salisbury Plain. It finally stops at the old A303, where we turn left and ride a short distance down to a roundabout then right onto the A338, up to the military town of Tidworth. Apart from the Collingbourne villages this is fast and open to a set of bends before a roundabout where we carry straight on along the A346 for Marlborough. Running through the ancient Savernake Forest which the Normans appropriated in 1066, and it’s been in private hands ever since.
Further on, just past Woodhenge (its more famous stony brother is a mile or so to the west) we cross the A303 and, still on the A345, skirt the edge of Amesbury, then up to the brow of a hill to see what looks like an obelisk on next ridge. Of course, it’s the spire of Salisbury Cathedral about three miles away. We don’t get tangled up in Salisbury centre but follow signs for A30/A36 westwards out of town. Once past Wilton and its Italianate church we can take the A30 straight back to Shaftesbury, but that can be busy. A more fun alternative is to fork right onto the B3089, fast in places and twisty to the A350, then left back to the hilltop town where Hovis boy lives on.