Ho­vis there and back again – if you fancy a bril­liant one-day route to ride, this is a corker

Motorcycle Monthly - - Day Ride -

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.

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