Blogs > July 2017

July 2017

Lesson 5 - STOP!

27th July 2017

Carl AshwinInstructor Man is a wily fox and I knew this already but little did I know what he would have in store for me today, a mock driving test!

We met in a different location today, Charminster! The focus of the first part of today's lesson was negotiating some of the more narrow residential areas. Charminster has a few roads where you feel inclined to breathe in but we then moved on to Victoria Park in Dorchester. Its an area I know quite well. As a schoolkid I lived in Poundbury Crescent and walked through Vic-Park to get to DMS and then later, Hardye's and then later still The Thomas Hardye School. The roads in Vic Park have parking on both sides and some blind junctions so it was good practice for me in control and safety. We made our way from Vic Park over to Poundbury, up through Normandy Way, down onto Poundbury Road and suddenly found ourselves in the Wessex FM car park. We did a reverse into a parking space manoeuvre and that was the moment Instructor Man unleashed his devilish instrument of torture.....a clipboard!

He told me we were going to do a mock test and he would mark it for me as with a real test. Suddenly I felt the pressure. He had a copy of the actual test form to work on. Whilst getting ready to leave the car park, Dave Goulden and Justin Gladdis emerged from the building to come and have a chat. We said goodbye and then the fun began. Driving out of the Wessex FM car park and up to the junction with Poundbury Road, I stalled it as I had selected the wrong gear. Still, we had come to a stop so not all bad!

What followed was a largely routine but somewhat edgy drive round. Though Instructor Man is an old and trusted friend, suddenly with his clipboard and official form he was a stranger making little marks on his sheet even when I hadn't done anything remarkable.

We went back to Vic Park and went over some of the roads visited earlier and generally drove one of the test routes before making our way back to the Wessex FM car park. That's when he gave me the verdict.

I had a total of 9 minor faults which would have meant a pass BUT unbeknown to me I had picked up 1 major fault. This was at the junction of Coburg Road and Maud Road where to my shame I had not noticed a STOP sign, painted road instruction and white stop line. Therefore my old friend told me I would have failed the test.

He did however assure me that aside from that one error, he was pleased with my progress. I confessed that I simply hadn't seen the sign and in truth, that can mean the difference between a safe journey and a trip to hospital. A point well made and very much understood.

We then drove from Wessex FM back to my home with no instruction from him. It was a smooth relaxed ride and even the dreaded roundabouts didn't trouble me today.

For next time though, I just need to remember to STOP!

Posted by Carl Ashwin at 8:16pm

Lesson 4 - The Hills!

18th July 2017

Carl AshwinWhat could Instructor Man possibly have in store for me in lesson 4? We’d arranged to meet earlier than usual and at a location leading to a frighteningly busy junction which in turn lead to the dreaded (cue thunderclap!) Football Ground Roundabout. Trickier was to come…..

It should be noted that I have started to really enjoy driving though why we persist in messing around with gears when we have automatic cars is beyond me but hey, it is what it is.

Instructor Man clearly had plans today. These plans involved more roundabouts….which I am more comfortable with but also hill starts and reverse parallel parking. Now, if there was some sort of Government contract I could sign to say that I, Carl Ashwin do solemnly swear to never attempt to park my vehicle by means of reversing next to an already parked vehicle, I would sign it!

Back to the plot, we were on our way to Wareham in no time today before we found ourselves on what very much looked and felt like army land…..because I think it actually was. We found our way back to Osmington with just a few hairy moments due to the somewhat narrow roads before making our way onto the mean, hilly streets of Preston. Instructor Man had plans that involved some three-point turns (no major issues there) and some practice hill starts and gear changes. This was a bit rusty of course but then he unleased the full horror on me – “we’re going to do Boot Hill!” (cue thunderclap…..again!)

Boot Hill is one thing but you have the delights of Asda junction to negotiate beforehand. Though to be slightly anti-clamactic, it all went reasonably well. Not exceptional but no cars were wrecked. We continued on towards the roundabout that would take us down towards The Causeway and took a right.

Eventually we ended up on the Granby. As if the horror of Boot Hill and Asda Junction hadn’t been trying enough, Instructor Man now wanted to do parallel parking. Again, I gave it a go. It was not great so I had another go and it was better.

We made our way down Abbostbury Road, stopping at the lights before crossing Swannery Bridge and onwards to home.

I enjoyed todays lesson and as for Instructor Man’s evil plot to thwart my plans to drive, he hasn’t won yet!

So onto my song choice for today’s lesson. In honour of the focus on hills lets step into the always bizarre world of Kate Bush.

Number of stalls: 1

Posted by Carl Ashwin at 7:59pm

Lesson 3 - Turn Around Bright Eyes!

12th July 2017

Carl AshwinTuesday could be summed up in one word – rain! It was with some relief therefore that I discovered my lesson was postponed until today (Wednesday). Thankfully the weather today was a little less…..wet.

Being on the radio generally means you get to listen to a lot of music and it got me thinking about what songs I would choose to represent my driving lessons so far. My first lesson would have been The Beatles with Drive My Car thanks to Instructor Man confidently handing me control of the vehicle. My second lesson, entirely focussed on roundabouts (see Lesson 2 blog for more) would easily be The Average White Band with Let’s Go Round Again (and we did!). This, my third lesson however has been a mix of roundabouts and more importantly some three point turns. My song choice for this lesson is……… the end of this blog (see what I did there?)

Instructor Man who by this point is becoming a Stig like figure protected under a cloak of anonymity has very good taste in music but I’m sworn to secrecy.

So today we encountered more of those pesky roundabouts and my confidence is definitely growing in this area. It’s all down to feeling comfortable with my own control. Yes, we did some focus time on three point turns and even a bit of the old reversing around a corner and I think I did OK generally. Not an expert but quite smooth I think.

We did some parking and even stopped at a garage and I filled up for the first time and no, I didn't go a single penny over the amount I was told on the meter....those steady broadcast ready hands have other uses it seems!

We also did the Swannery Bridge junction in Weymouth and the dreaded Asda junction but it was a left turn in towards North Quay so not too bad. A quick trip through town and back along the sea front saw out a smooth lesson.

I will say this though. Experienced drivers couldn’t wait to get around me today. Let’s say I was driving through a 30 and coming towards the end of that zone. In spite of the fact I too would speed up to the road we were on, some people just couldn’t wait to overtake and speed off even though I was going to be headed for the same speed. It seems foolish to me.

So then, onto the song that most fits this lesson…if you’ve gotten this far. In honour of our three point turns, it can only be…….. 

Posted by Carl Ashwin at 8:30pm

James v Maria at Cattistock Tennis Club

11th July 2017

Have you ever visited Cattistock Tennis Club?

It's a little gem, hidden away just off the road just past the village on the road to Maiden Newton.

With Wimbledon back on, Maria and I have been bitten by the tennis bug, so we decided to go and play ... the problem is, neither of us have played before!

So who won?



Thanks very much to the lovely team at Cattistock Tennis Club for hosting us!

Visit their website here

Take a look at their Facebook page


Posted by James at 5:35am

Lesson 2 - The Day of The Roundabout!

7th July 2017

Carl AshwinOn reflection it was a schoolboy error to admit to Instructor Man during lesson 1 that I didn't much care for roundabouts. He had warned me that for my second lesson we'd be focusing on these....a lot! So as Thursday dawned I woke up with that same sense of dread I used to get when I was at school and it was the day of a French lesson. As the afternoon approached however I started to feel quite excited about my second lesson. I was buoyed by my first lesson and hadn't stalled even once so I felt with Instructor Mans sure and calm guidance I could nail this one no problem. Little did I know....

Instructor Man picked me up and drove off in the direction of The Trumpet Major and on to Came View Rd where we stopped for a debrief. With his trusty clipboard and mighty pen, Instructor Man set about drawing a roundabout and explaining the various lane layouts. Yikes! He really was intent on doing a lot of these today. We pulled away with me at the wheel and did a few circuits of Came View Road and Casterbridge Road with some stopping and pulling away to get me in practice for the upcoming roundabout-a-thon on which we were going to embark.

Soon enough we were leaving Came View Road and taking a left onto the A352 where there are a couple of nifty little roundabouts ideal for the terrified learner. The obstacle I had to overcome was a combination of acceleration, braking, signalling and looking around me to be sure what was on all sides. Things were a little bumpy at this stage but Instructor Man knows no fear and calmly dispensed his learned words "Drop into 2nd gear, you must". OK he didn't exactly say that but for the purposes of entertainment, let's go with it.

Over the course of the next hour or so we took in Stinsford, Football Ground, Monkeys Jump (no, I don't know why it's called that either), Top-o-Town and by the end I was starting to show improvement.

At some point though before my new found confidence I broke my spell and stalled the car. In fact I did so 4 times throughout the lesson which caused me to say some words I wouldn't use when on the radio! Instructor Man laughed it all off in that confident way of his.

Before very long we were making our way down to Weymouth and this time took the bypass and the Southill exit from....yes....the roundabout before making our way back in towards Weymouth and onto those dreaded King Street lights where traffic turning right seems to line up with the lane for straight ahead, before heading onto home.

Overall it was a positive lesson and my handling of the roundabouts felt noticeably better. Though I was annoyed at the number of stalls, I guess it happens to all drivers from time to time. Hey-ho.

Number of stalls: 4

Until next time then.

PS: Almost forgot, we passed Julian Fellowes house on our travels. It's very nice and quite befits the man who writes Downton Abbey. If you're reading this Julian then yes, I shall be delighted to come for dinner.

Posted by Carl Ashwin at 5:58pm

Happy 50th birthday to Tesco in Weymouth

6th July 2017

tesco weymouth 50


Staff at Tesco in Weymouth have celebrated the store's fiftieth birthday!

I popped along to meet two of the longest serving members of staff, Mike and Julie, who've been there since 1977 and 1978 respectively!

Take a listen to find out what Mike thought when he first took the job, and who he met while he was there...



Posted by James at 1:22pm

Wessey the engineer...

5th July 2017

Wessey Engineering...

After a bit of a rest yesterday, I have been back to it today working in the engineering department at Wessex FM.

Now, what does this yellow cable do...

Posted by Wessey at 1:12pm

Lesson 1 - The Day of Reckoning!

5th July 2017

Carl AshwinIt was 20 years ago (!) that I booked up some driving lessons with the AA in Birmingham. Then I didn’t really want to drive but it was a necessity for my job at the time. Back then, my first full time job was installing traffic lights and to this day there are parts of the midlands where I can still admire my handy work. I’m particularly proud of an overhead signal around Merry Hill Shopping Centre which I placed and wired up whilst atop some rickety scaffolding, on a hill, with the wind blowing and some wooden chocks on the wheels some 30ft+ below, stopping the scaffolding from rolling down the hill, with me and a traffic light on it! On reflection I have to admit that does sound kind of fun though I’m not sure it would have ended that well for me.

Truth be told, it was a tough job and very hard work. You were out working in all weathers, all seasons and no matter how clean you were when you left home, you’d come back filthy each and every day. For instance, you might be surprised to learn that natural gas can accumulate at the base of those grey metal poles that hold traffic lights. When you pop up to the top of the pole and touch a screwdriver to the terminal inside, the resulting spark can ignite the gas below giving you the temporary effect of one of those chimneys on an oil platform in the north-sea….right into your face! Quite unexpected and not ideal when you’re swinging about at the top of some ladders trying to hold on for dear life whilst not getting your eyebrows singed! I decided it was time to knock the job on the head and with it, stupidly, the driving lessons. Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t?

So here am I 20 years later, about to embark on an intensive month and this time determined to see it all the way through to passing my test. I’m sitting behind the wheel in Manor Road in Dorchester. It’s quiet here. Lovely houses and only the occasional bit of traffic as I prepare to make my maiden voyage on a balmy summer evening. Getting a feel for the “biting point”, the point at which the accelerator and the clutch meet to engage the gears and propel me along is a little bit rusty but hey, it is my first time in twenty years and I didn’t stall. We take a right turn onto Rothesay Road, then another right turn onto Melstock Avenue before driving to the end and turning left onto Heringston Road and heading towards Weymouth. It isn’t long before we’ve passed the golf club (yes they really do where those trousers) and we’re heading on to Broadmayne. Quick check: still not stalled and no insurance claims in the offing and I’m starting to feel comfortable.

All those years ago, I racked up 20 lessons. I was very close to doing my test which makes me feel all the more stupid now for quitting back then. Never-the-less, as I take a right turn onto the A352 heading towards Owermoigne, I encounter my first horse, something which I never saw learning in Birmingham. I make my way slowly round before picking up the pace and before long I find myself going over the level crossing at Wool. By this point we’ve already encountered my arch nemesis, the Roundabout. It’s fair to say roundabouts confuse me not least because the number of lanes approaching doesn’t always match the number of lanes on the roundabout itself. Combined with the business of choosing your lane, indicating and checking your mirrors and controlling your speed all at the same time, it makes for a moment of drama for me! Thankfully the L-Plates liberally slapped around the car alert other more experienced drivers that here is somebody who is on a wing and a prayer.

I lose track of precisely where we are after Wool until I suddenly recognise that we’re on the Puddletown Bypass. It flashes across my mind as we pass the turning on the left to Fordington Fields that I’m headed in the direction of Stinsford and the Football Ground Roundabouts. I exchange a few honest words about my feelings on this approaching situation with my instructor who laughs in that sage, knowing way of his. I’m not entirely sure but I think Mr Miyagi in Karate Kid may well have been based on my instructor though we haven’t done any car cleaning yet.

It’s a left turn down towards Weymouth at the roundabout. Simple enough in the hands of a seasoned pro but this particular roundabout which seems always busy gives me some cause for concern but I manage it…..just about and we’re soon making our way down to Jurassic Roundabout on the relief road and left at Veasta roundabout before heading past Sainsbury, up Mercery Road and out the top down towards central Weymouth and onwards taking me homeward bound.

We were out for about 2 hours in all and I feel pleased with myself for slipping back into it all so easily after all those years. My instructor however has now focused in on my weak spot, the roundabouts and told me that will be our focus for the next lesson. He’s a scoundrel of course.

Number of stalls: 0

Until next time. Wax on. Wax off!

Posted by Carl Ashwin at 11:49am

Wessey with DJ Owen...

3rd July 2017

Wessey and Owen

After a busy weekend... I must admit that I had a bit of a late night in the studio with DJ Owen on 'Sunday Night Legends'.

We drank lot's of tea, ate loads of biscuits and of course enjoyed lot's of legendary songs.

Posted by Wessey at 2:42pm

Wing Walking - done! Watch the video!

3rd July 2017

Challenge 5, complete!

What were you doing last weekend? Some of you may have been enjoying the sunshine on the beach, maybe enjoying a Sunday afternoon walk or firing up the BBQ in your back garden. For me, I was flying through the air at 130mph whilst strapped to the wing of a plane.

10 other supporters joined me on Sunday at Compton Abbas Air Field as one by one we all went Wingwalking for Weldmar!


The views were incredible, the feeling amazing and the money raised, even better. On the day alone, we helped raise over £10,000 for Weldmar Hospicecare.

Thank you to all of those who took part in the Wingwalk to for Weldmar:  Ruta Beadle, Patrick Butler, Brogan Du Plooy, Ivonna Poplanska, Sadie Antell, Niki Davis, Luke Pope, Ella Cane-Mould, Nicky Dyer, Shirley Pugsley and Jo Rolls.

So, that’s five challenges down so far this year and another five to go. Don’t forget, you can join me on our upcoming cycling challenge in September, 170 miles over 3 days between all of our charity shops across Dorset.

Find out more at or to donate please visit

Posted by Matt Smith at 12:00pm


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