Surrounded by rolling hills, secluded valleys and quaint English-towns is the noble Wessex Ridgeway Trail, crossing through Dorset's rural heartland.
On the Spring Bank Holiday, six lads hiked the 23 miles section from Tollard Royal to Cerne Abbas, taking in the sites, the ales and ending with the giant with the big chalk dick.
To start our adventure at Tollard Royal we had to get a train to Salisbury and taxi to the Tollard Royal. As we purchased the train tickets in advance they only cost us £15 each from Cardiff. The taxi cost us a further £40, but when split between 6 it wasn't too bad.
Being a ridge-top trail, once you are top of the ridge the path is relatively flat and easily manageable. The trouble comes when you dip below the ridge to hit the few pubs dotted along the trail. After 1 to 2 or even 3 of Dorset's finest ales, it does make it particularly challenging climb back up the ridge to find the path again. These booze affected assents usually took up to 10 minutes to complete.
Marked with regular signposts, the trail is fairly easy to follow, taking you across some of England's beautiful farmland. We only found ourselves lost once or twice but were able to find our way again with our OS map and iMaps app.
Be sure to drop the ego when walking the trail. Due to it's rolling nature is easy to get the confidence to smash out the miles. However, the trail is demanding and regular rest-stops are adviced. I ended up injuring my Achilles Heel on the final day due to walking 3.5 hours with no rest.
As we had to get the train to Salisbury we couldn't leave without popping our head in (probably) Salisbury's oldest pub, The Haunch of Venison. A gorgeous old pub serving local and traditional ales.
A short break on our second day ended up turning into to a 2-hour break at the Ibberton. Again, a lovely pub with traditional ales and food. If you find yourself peckish, I do recommend avoiding the Ploughman's, instead opting for the fried-egg-topped Croque Monsieur.
Another traditional pub in the beautiful town of Cerne Abbas. Although dead, I sensed it was the more lively pub in the town.
A campsite at it's basic best. A field and a tap. What more could you want! A 15-minute walk from the local pub in the town of Child Okeford, the campsite is also home to a cool white barn owl which you can catch coming in and out throughout the day.
We rang the campsite early on in the day to try and book a plot only to be told they were full. With nowhere else to stay and warnings from locals that we wild campers risked being shot by farms, we tried our luck and pitched up before they could shoe us away. The campsite manager was fine and made a sweet extra £50 off us.
Plenty of good facilities and friendly staff, but be warned, the campsite is very family-focused, so expect kids running around and footballs hitting your tent most of the day.
In the evening, after returning from a Cerne Abbas (15-minute walk) drinking session, we sat and watched an awesome thunderstorm in the distance on the horizon.
It's not too often a giant dick disappoints, but for us young hikers the site was a bit of a letdown. As you can see for the image above, the suggested viewpoint looks up at the giant, meaning the long grass partially hides keys lines of the figure. Maybe you would get more enjoyment being up close and rolling down its shaft?
Packing light and comfortable sleeping are the keys to an enjoyable hiking trip. This year I invested in two items of hiking gear to ensure the best experience.
Extremely spacious and very light, the Vango Banshee 300 Pro tent is a worthwhile investment for any hiker. Quick and easy to erect (around 4-5minutes), the Banshee 300 Pro offers plenty of room for you and your equipment, plus at a mere 2.8kg for a 3-man tent its a comfortable carry.
This has to be the best hiking gear purchase I have ever made! As any hiker will know, a good nights sleep is incredibly valuable for recovery and keeping your energy levels high. No longer will I feel the lumps and bumps through my crappy foam role mat, the Inflatable Sleeping Mat by Hikenture ensures a soft and comfortable night's sleep.
Points of Interest: 6.5/10
Apart from the Cerne Abbas Giant being a bit of a letdown, the rest of the scenery is beautiful, even if it is just your standard farmland. Although there are frequent small towns you do feel isolated and away from it all enough. The towns are the Wessex Ridgeway's saving grace. Gorgeous with extremely pleasant traditional pubs.
Welshman, Terry Rosoman, ran 50-miles carrying a weighted load that increased by 1lb for every £50 raised during the challenge for Mind, the mental health charity.