Spotlight: The New Forest
There are some beautiful places to ride in the South of England, but few can compare to the beauty of the New Forest. So named by William the Conqueror after he swept the United Kingdom in 1066, it was to be his personal hunting ground and the name has stuck for a thousand years. As a result, what you get whole rolling through is rich forest, grassy knolls and gentle hills. A stalkers paradise and perfect for a relaxed cycle with the family. There are more than a hundred miles over a multitude of trails to get lost on, be you on a mountain bike or on the road.
The forest itself is well suitable for the family, but you won’t be out of place in your lycra. For a calm ride, jump in the saddle and glide on through, admiring the gorgeous scenery as you go. There’s rich pine and oak trees, swathes of heather across open plains and rocky climbs, from the top of which, you can see for miles, with not a single building in sight. Hidden in the centre is the town of Lyndhurst, which is home to the grave of Alice Hargreaves – inspiration for the eponymous protagonist in Lewis Carrols “Alice in Wonderland.” Rose bushes cover her grave. A must-visit for fans of the fairy tale. With a mountain bike, head to Ringwood, just outside the bounds of the forest itself, where Moors Valley Country Park plays home to a selection of purpose-built mountain bike skills circuits. There you will find a network of forest road graded trails, as well as blue-graded single tracks, perfect to test yourself.
When you think of road hazards, as a cyclist, what might spring to mind could be pot-holes, cracks in the road, debris from fallen trees, etc. You wouldn’t necessarily think of animals. In the New Forest, however, you must. Roaming wild throughout the forest are semi-wild horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, deer and even donkeys! If you’ve ever driven past a horse on the road, the rider may bear a sign saying “SLOW” or “MAX 20MPH, AS YOU PASS.” Domesticated horses can be quite skittish and require a gentle touch when being dealt with by other road users. Not so in the New Forest. We may think of donkeys as obstinate creatures but, here, the same applies to the cattle as well, and especially to the horses. It is not an uncommon sight to see a group of them standing in the middle of the road, grazing casually at the overhanging trees or on acorns that have fallen from them. Don’t expect to stand off and wait for them to move, because they won’t, if they acknowledge you at all. You’ll have to slowly make your way around them and carry on. They think they own the road! If you find these disruptions acceptable, then the New Forest is a wonderful place to spend a weekend, or even just an afternoon, if you’re on reach, on the bike. Grab a bottle of Veloflow and you’ll be good to go for hours. You may need it too, as you won’t want to stop. There’s something new and fascinating around every bend and corner. You’ll need an energy boost if you want to see it all.