Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New Forest cycle tour

Not so long ago I stumbled across the new Forestry Commission map of cycle routes in the New Forest. I printed a couple of copies & put them to one side, not really thinking too much of it. But over the last few weeks successive people have come into my office & pilfered copies - so I keep printing more. Finally I got around to studying it a bit more closely last week & realised just how extensive the network really is - there's not much coverage in the corner of the Forest I live in, so I've never really investigated before.

With no real plans for the weekend, Sunday looked the better of the two days to be in the sun so I started to loosely plan an all-day ride. As it was, Sunday was a glorious sun-drenched day so I headed out early to make the most of it. The first part getting to the marked trails was ridiculously muddy & proper hard work - just as well it's flat; even so, it wasn't long before I had to shed a layer.

Mostly on the cycle trails, with a small amount on quite roads (except for crossing the very busy dual-carriageway A31 near Rufus Stone), I made steady progress and within a few hours I was pretty much on the other side of the Forest. This was not somewhere I'd ever considered riding before, so that was good going - and at sixty kilometres - about halfway through what I thought would be the day's distance.

There's never a shortage of nice pubs serving food on such rides, so at about one o'clock I happened on the Old Beams Inn & stopped long enough to actually take a photo. This one had the Sunday carvery going, which is quite popular; after only eating half a Clif Bar since setting out a huge plate of roast meat & veges really hit the spot. Pleasingly, I didn't get a stitch as I rode off.

While the first half of the day was mainly off-road, I'd planned the second half predominantly on-road as I was keen to get down to Christchurch or Highcliffe & see the sea. Heading south on the edge of the Avon flood plain, there was still an awful lot of surface water from the last weeks of rain on the lanes to ride through or avoid. I had a quick peak at Highcliffe Castle (didn't think to get the camera out) & enjoyed the miles of cliff top riding from Barton-on-Sea east towards Lymington as the sun slowly sunk. With just quiet country lanes left, the last twenty kilometres wasn't really as much of a struggle as I thought it would be. A great day out, not really rushing & with plenty of general exploring. While 125 km ranks as my longest ride in a day, it was nowhere near the hardest & I haven't suffered since with aching muscles - so that's a bonus.

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