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Old 08-13-2010, 02:46 AM   #1
motomal OP
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Location: Devon, U.K.
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Lawrence of Arabia's Dorset Years

This is a ride report with some of the route defined by one T. E. Lawrence, often referred to as Lawrence of Arabia. (Wikipedia Page)

He spent the last years of his life in Dorset, living in a small cottage called Clouds Hill near Wareham right in the middle of what is now the British Army’s tank training grounds. He crashed his Brough Superior motorbike SS100 just a few hundred metres from his house dying five days later in the army camp’s hospital from the head injuries he sustained.

There is an effigy of him carved in stone in a 10th century Saxon church in Wareham but he is buried in a small graveyard some miles to the west in the village of Moreton.

With a couple of days free mid-week I set off on my own on my KTM 950SM intending to camp overnight near the south coast. I live in east Devon just west of Dorset starting on the top left of the route you can see here:

I camped on the bottom right of the loop with the majority of the Lawrence sites at the beginning of the second day.

Here’s the view from my garage ready to go, first into a bit of Somerset before heading southeast into Dorset. No pictures of me this trip so you’ll just have to imagine a short dude dressed like a power ranger in KTM Powerwear jacket & trousers with the ubiquitous Ewan pattern Arai Tour X3!

Hit some heavy traffic on the road out of Crewkerne so headed southeast early and let the Garmin eTrex sort it out! It’s a great way to see new places you wouldn’t think to visit and I came across the rather peaceful Sutton Bingham reservoir. The name was just a taste of what was to come in the wonderful world of Old English town naming!

The village church of Bishop’s Caundle.

Old bridge too narrow, sir? No trouble, I’ll build you another, it’ll be ugly though!

A little deli I found on the edge of Sturminster Newton, lots of lovely olives to test before I get my organic ham sandwich.

Another quaint little cottage in the middle of nowhere.

Looks like a little wooded hill doesn’t it?

Well, it contains these little bends of fun! I must confess my riding mojo wasn’t up too much that day and I fluffed the first two hairpins before nailing the rest. Proper fun and down to first gear every time too!

Some like it thatched, some don’t…

I make it to Wareham after some great and mostly empty roads across the hills to find the church where Lawrence’s effigy lies. The sign states open Monday to Friday 9 to 5. It’s 2 p.m. on a Wednesday and closed. No problem, the sign directs me to A.F. Joys mens’ outfitters down the high street. For an idea of what this outfitter supplies, picture old men in tweed trousers that come up to their chests! As befits an really old fashioned shop, this one has kept up the fantastic English tradition of early closing on a (you guessed it) Wednesday! Hey ho, it’s been there since the second world war, it’ll be there tomorrow.

On my way to the coast I pass through Corfe, the home of the ruins of what must have been a rather imposing castle. Not sure of the history but suspect it was Norman. Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say… 11th century it is!

It’s the school holidays but I find a quiet enough corner at the site, (especially nice as there are no caravans!).

Time enough for a walk a mile or so down to the coast. I wonder which way the prevailing wind blows!

How do they get their names!

The ‘ledge’ was created due to quarrying a bit of this:

Popular spot with the novice climbers

and the fishers.

Day 2 and back up the way I came in to try the church again. Imagine that as a view from your back door.

The door looks suspiciously like it’s open today…

This is the chap we’re talking about…

There it is. Apparently a life size sculpture and I’m surprised to see it is quite short. Everyone has seen the 1962 movie where he was played by Peter O’Toole but he was in fact a stumpy 5’7” (like me!).

The effigy is in the style of crusader tombs so fits in this Saxon church quite well.

Right, off to Clouds Hill. You’d never guess that the tank driving school is down the road! I’ve driven one of these things with the 20 ton turret replaced by a cab like this one. (A Challenger II I believe). Soooo, much fun and even noisier than my exhausts!

Anyway, I’m parked outside the house which is owned and run by the National Trust but it doesn’t open for an hour and they want £4.50 to see inside a 4 room building! The nice lady tidying up lets me in to take a couple of photos. It has just been repainted apparently and if you want to see inside, Google is your friend!

Apparently he carved the Greek inscription above the door himself, loosely translated as ‘Why worry’. Too right.

Not too big on windows downstairs were they?

Just 400 metres down the road is a stone to mark where he crashed.

Placed by an old comrade.

Except, 50 metres into the trees back along the road some thought they knew better! The second stone is apparently closer to the actual tree he hit but the roads have changed since then so really, take your pick.

The first stone is right on the edge of the practice range. How much fun would it have been ragging your Brough Superior around here in 1935?

The village church in Moreton a few miles further west.

Seems well used and cared for inside too.

And here’s the grave of the great man himself. A very small and unpretentious graveyard. Fitting I think.

The weather is starting to turn as I head home along the coast. Here’s Chesil beach looking back east towards Portland Bill.

Home in time to clean up for work tomorrow. Hope you enjoyed the history tour. Mal
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Old 08-13-2010, 02:59 AM   #2
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Absolutely fantastic! Stunning countryside and yes, I'm a Lawrence fan.

You must be the lightest traveler ever. I was shocked when I saw the tent shot and scrolled back to see where your luggage was.

Thanks for posting this.
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Old 08-13-2010, 04:26 AM   #3
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great post. thanks for sharing. love these short rides that delve into a little slice of history.
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Old 08-13-2010, 06:46 AM   #4
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Wow, that was really cool. Normally I just look for pure off road reports but seeing the pictures of your countryside was really nice.

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Old 08-13-2010, 08:10 AM   #5
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The British Isles on my short (ok, long list) of places to ride befor I pass on...
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Me: Hey Dan-O. Just wanted to say howdy and Love ya!
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Old 08-13-2010, 08:21 AM   #6
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Mighty Fine.


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Old 08-13-2010, 08:24 AM   #7
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Great report... lots of history in the neighborhood.
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Old 08-13-2010, 10:38 AM   #8
motomal OP
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Location: Devon, U.K.
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Thanks for your comments guys. It's easy to look at the wide open spaces of the US and Canada etc and be envious but there are some amazing places to see and roads to ride on my doorstep. There are plenty of dirt roads to ride too but they're sometimes so rough I'm too busy hanging on so you won't see too many pictures of those!

Originally Posted by RedDogAlberta
You must be the lightest traveler ever. I was shocked when I saw the tent shot and scrolled back to see where your luggage was.
It is always so much nicer to ride a bike not weighed down with junk you don't need. I always start with the smallest bag and see if I can get away with it. The tank bag and 20 litre tail pack contained sleeping bag, term-a-rest, wash kit, clothes, food for dinner and breakfast and the gas stove/pan/cup etc. I had a 3 litre bladder of water on my back and the Macpac microlight tent strapped on the sides. Even had space for two small bottles of wine!
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