Dorset - Wareham Forest
by Robert Budd
Southeast Dorset is not renowned for rough stuff routes but local cyclists often use Wareham Forset for such excursions. Wareham Forest, one mile north of Wareham Town, is a small forest of about 12 square miles and is a mixture of conifers, mixed woods and heathland on an underlying strata of gravel, sand and heathland soil and contains the S.S.I of Morden Bog.
Running east to west across the forest, from Organford SY939921, to Stroud Bridge SY889916, and onto Bere Lodge SY868914; is a bridleway, which when using a mixture of bridleways and quiet lanes; can form part of a quiet route to Dorchester, 25 miles to the west.
In Wareham Forest there are two dedicated cycle routes, marked by posts with either a red or yellow band, but providing that cyclists keep to the main paths, access is generally permitted. The terrain of the Forest is undulating with only a couple of steep climbs. In the south, near Ovens Hill, SY915899, is the steepest of the climbs at the top of which is a seat to admire the view across Decoy Heath and the Morden Bog.
Going north at SY911904 is a memorial called Parsons Pleasure dedicated to the man who drained most of the Forest in the 1950s, and at the northern end of the Forest is the iron age hill fort called Woolsbarrow; now rather denuded but with excellent views from the summit.
Although only about 12 square miles, I have managed a route in the Forest of about 18 miles without re-crossing my route twice. Parking for cars can be found at several locations; the main site being at Coldharbour, SY906894. Cyclists approaching from Poole should enter the Forest at Organford SY939921, via a private road.
Although not a spectacular area, there is much to see, especially if you are interested in flora and fauna, containing as it does, one of the last areas of surviving heathland left untouched in the area.