After last week’s Sandy Balls loop, I was really excited to do another New Forest ride. I found another ride on Kamoot that looked promising. This time it was a 23 mile loop from the centre of Brockenhurst.
We left early on Saturday, still amazed by how quiet the roads were because of lockdown. The restrictions had been lifted enough that we could travel to ride, but campsites were still closed. So the usual tourist traffic that we would have hit heading south on the M3 just wasn’t there. As we entered the National Park, J pointed out the Hollands Wood Campsite. He used to stay there as a child but because of Covid-19, it was now empty of tents and caravans. The new world we were in still seemed a little eerie and surreal.
Brockenhurst to Wootton Bridge
Soon we arrived in Brockenhurst and found some on road parking without restrictions right by the train station. We ate our rolls and kitted ourselves and our bikes up. Then set off along the B3055 Sway Road, following it out of Brockenhurst past the golf club. Crossing over the railway before getting to a T junction and taking a right onto the road. We rode this for a few hundred metres before peeling off onto the off-road gravel of National Cycle Network Route 2. We had only gone about a mile and a half but already I was struggling. I kept peddling, determined not to stop. Inside I was wondering if I was going to have the energy to ride another 21 miles.
The gravel track led us past open ground and some houses. Then rose up to join the path of a disused railway line. This was a mostly tree lined path, popular with cyclists and walkers with good views. My legs were starting to feel a little better and I was finding my rhythm. We followed this path for around 3 miles passing into Set Thorns Inclosure before joining the road to cross Wootton Bridge.
Wootton Bridge to Burley
Wootton Bridge is a really pretty location so it’s no surprise that there were a lot of families picnicking in their social bubbles. We stayed only long enough for a quick photo before following the red cycle route signs into Wootton Coppice Inclosure. This was another nice gravel track, lovely to ride that guided us through the trees. It was fairly flat until Brownhill Inclosure which got a bit steeper and meant that we were climbing almost all the way to the A35. This is one of the main roads through the New Forest so it is busy and care is needed when crossing.
We left Cycle Route 2 here and instead followed the tarmac of the quiet country lane that heads north through Holmsley Inclosure towards Burley. The surface was easy, the gradient less so. The road went from nice stretches of flat to quite short steep hills. It was a bit of a slow ride up until we left the trees and looked out on Goatspen Plain. The reward was a nice downhill to the plain and then another slight ascent to reach Burley.
Burley to Bolderwood
Burley is clearly a popular location for cyclists. We passed several groups of all ages riding around the edges of town. We stayed on the roads as we passed through, gaining speed as we overtook a big family group down towards Woods Corner. Here we turned off the tarmac to rejoin another gravel cycle path, this time leading north through South Oakley Inclosure. This was another pretty stretch of riding showing off the best of the New Forest National Park. We saw a big herd of deer through the trees, unperturbed at our presence. There were lots of walkers and cyclists on this section and several cycle paths criss-crossing each other. I would imagine a whole day could be spent exploring the various trails.
We kept pushing north, crossing several brooks and streams. Then we came to the bottom of a upward slope that looked like it had no end. On this hill there was no talking between J and I. We both found a gear that was comfortable and pedalled and panted and pedalled some more. The incline felt like it was going to go on forever. My stubbornness kicked in and I refused to give up. Various walkers shot me sympathetic glances as they saw my red, sweaty face pass them at a snail’s pace. J was ahead of me, but I was keeping up. Just. Slowly, so slowly the ground began to level out and we found ourselves at the top of the hill. Here we took some time to catch our breath, drink some water and take in the glorious views.
Bolderwood Arboretum Ornamental drive to Poundhill Inclosure
Once we had rested a few minutes, we remounted the saddles and took the road south. We passed the Canadian Memorial and the Deer Sanctuary before taking a right onto Bolderwood Arboretum Ornamental Drive. This road was an absolute delight with over 2 miles of downhill through glorious forest on smooth tarmac. Neither of us really needed to pedal so we let momentum carry us onward through the trees. We took in as many of the sights as we could. It was so much fun that I would happily ride the hill all over again just for the joy of that descent. At the bottom of the hill we carefully recrossed the A35 again onto Rhinefield Ornamental Drive. After a quarter of a mile we left the road and took another cycle route left towards Poundhill Inclosure.
Poundhill Inclosure back to Brockenhurst
Once the exhilaration of the downhill had worn off, both of us were starting to tire. There was still a little over five miles left to ride, and fortunately it was mostly flat from here onwards. We had yet to stop for food, which was probably a mistake. But now we were so close that we agreed to keep pushing back towards the van. The riding was good, back on cycle routes that led us through conifers and across a short open plain. Before heading back into the deciduous canopy of trees by Bolderford Bridge. This was another popular spot with families and little ones were giggling and splashing in the shallow water around the bridge. We crossed here and rode past the open grass of Black Knowl towards Ober Corner car park.
The chat between us was getting less and less as we concentrated on using the last of our energy to guide us back. We followed the tarmac out of the car park and towards the main road. I think we were both relieved to see the sign welcoming us back to Brockenhurst. The last mile back to the van was hard. I thought of nothing else other than keeping my legs moving. It had been an awesome ride but it was a blessing to finally dismount and take off our helmets and backpacks. Once everything was loaded and secured we drove the short distance back up Rhinefield Road. There we parked up and finally eat some much needed lunch.
Ride Length: 23 miles
Time Taken: 2hr 37 mins
Elevation: 1,150 ft
Suitable for: Beginners with good fitness. The ride itself is not technically challenging. There are a few climbs that will require good fitness and stamina.