— Thanks to Eric for the report!
The Campaign members had been discussing the subject of a ride in the New Forest at the recent monthly meetings and the agreed date of 17 May arrived. The weather forecast was not too good, so it was a case of deciding what clothes to take—or how much water proofing to carry anyway.
People travelled to the appointed start location at Brockenhurst station by various means—some arrived by train, some cycled , some went by car.
Whatever means people chose to get there, the idea was to meet up and travel along Forest lanes and tracks, following one of the routes in the little booklet of suggested Cycle rides that had been given away with a national newspaper last year.
So at between 10 and 10.30 , the group expanded until there was a gathering of eleven eager participants to start their way wending around the route which Lindsi had previously tested out for us with her son Robin.
The ride left Brockenhurst on the main A337 Lyndhurst road , but soon cut off eastwards into a forest campsite and then it was up a fairly steep forest gravel track, which Lindsi assured us was about the steepest on the circuit.
That over with , it was a case of follow the leader as we made our way amongst the trees on peaceful trails .
Another group of cyclist was encountered, but otherwise only a couple of other dog walkers before we emerged from the forest just south of Lyndhurst onto the busy a337.
A short pedal up the main road into Lyndhurst and it was time for a coffee stop at the Mad Hatter tea rooms for those who wanted to partake in shop bought refreshments.
Others chose to sit with their bikes and make sure they were not nicked whist having a break and watching the traffic passing through the village and guests arriving for a wedding reception at an adjacent hotel
Refreshed, we clambered back on our steeds, no problems thus far and off the merry band set towards Emery Down. A turnoff the main a35 at swan Green led up a short sharp incline that had everyone puffing, so a quick rest on the summit allowed a breather before turning left led along a pleasant lane towards the Boldrewood area.
The road was fairly level so progress was easy with little motor traffic to bother us and the ponies were steering clear of our approach as well.
After a couple of miles, it was a right turn into the woods again .
On and on we travelled into the back of beyond, it is easy to see why people get lost in the forest as it is difficult to make our which routes on OS maps are which. A group of walkers was encountered pondering with a map looking lost.
Being a goodly bunch, , we stopped to render assistance and direct then on what we hoped was the right path—nah—be positive—was the right path (or I heard no subsequent reports of fifty something walkers trying to be tracked by the Police spotter plane)
After this it was more steady climbing onward and upward until suddenly the forest ended and we popped through a gate on to the road by the Canadian monument.
This is a memorial erected to commemorate the role of Canadian soldiers in WW2 who were encamped in the forest. There was a memorial tablet and Lindsi kindly read the wording inscribed to the listening group.
Following the little history lesson, we crossed over the road and headed off downhill for a speedy descent on well graveled tracks, but in a valley bottom there was a few really bad pot holes that could have caused a tumble of they had not been spitted in time .
By this time hunger pangs and tiredness were beginning to arise amongst some members , so it was with welcome relief that the forest tracks eventually rolled out on to the Burley road which took us to our lunch stop at the King’s Head pub in Burley.
We had pre-ordered food, so after we set ourselves down at an outside table, it was not too long before the meals arrived.
So far the threatened rain had not arrived, though the clouds looked dark and menacing. A few spits came down and we thought that was the start of something more , but stopped again.
So we sat out and enjoyed our luncheon.
Some took the opportunity to join the tourists’ trail and wander around the huddle of shops in Burley, quaint little place that the village centre is.
The bike hire shop had a good range of cycles for hire and used machines for sale which I glanced over.
After everyone was replenished , there was discussion on which way to return to Brockenhurst, either by more woodland routes or via the old railway route known as Castleman’s corkscrew which had recently featured on TV.
A decision was made to take the latter, as it was to be on more open land and was flatter than through the woods.
We climbed out of Burley past the village cricket square where a match was in progress and were surprised at the apparent sudden drop of temperature in the more open heath land compared to when we were in the forest plantations.
On we rode , passing the Old Station tearooms at Holmesley and riding along a dead straight section of road formed on what was once the route of the railway for half a mile or so.
It was then a turn right which led on to the now grassy and gravel disused railway track bed that crossed Long Slade Bottom by way of two newly refurbished bridges which had been restored with Sustrans funding. This route forms part of the National Cycle Network Route 2 across the forest between Hythe and Ringwood.
Riding along this section was easy with it being level and well surfaced, more people were around both walking and cycling .good views from the top of the embankment on which the route runs gave views of wet boggy ground to the sides of the old railway route, the Victorians certainly knew how to survey, plot out and build the engineering works to support the railway tracks.
The railway corridor route ended on the B3055 Brockenhurst to Sway road, and we followed the B3055 into the centre of Brockenhurst, where we stopped for an afternoon tea break in village tea rooms.
Suitably refreshed, it was time for the group to break up and head off in their separate ways.
A jolly day’s excursion on some out of the way tracks, no soaking, no punctures amongst the group and no mishaps either.SCC rides strike lucky again!!
Many thanks to Lindsi and Robin for doing route checking and organisation.
For the records, bikes used by participants included two Dahon Speed D7 folders, one Brompron T3, an Edinburgh Revolution tourer the rest a range of hybrid and mountain bikes