Ewshot to Bramshill Test Loop
I was excited when I heard that Cycling UK had launched the King Alfred’s Way cycling route. This was for several reasons:
– I’m really getting into bike touring because you discover so many new places.
– It passes through Winchester which is one of my favourite places.
– I spent my 40th birthday I lockdown so this seems like a good delayed celebration for next year.
The route is a staggering 220 miles. I decided to do a test loop to gauge the riding conditions before I got carried away with ideas. Fortunately, part of the King Alfred’s Way cycle route passes within a couple of miles of J’s house. The boys were away for the weekend, so I stole few hours for myself to check it out.
Ewshot to Crookham Village
After leaving J’s, I cut through Velmead common and across the bottom of Tweseldown towards Caesar’s Camp. I then peeled off to join the route of King Alfred’s way at Tadpole Lane. I’d decided to ride this loop in reverse of the recommended direction (which would normally be down towards Farnham). I wanted to see how many miles were in my legs for my Shipwrights Way plan. the following weekend. This section of King Alfreds Way looked fairly flat. I cycled down the small, pretty country lanes of Ewshot. I then turned down Naishes Lane and passed by the newly created nature reserve. This was good road riding with well maintained tarmac and not too much traffic.
Once you pass through Naishes Lane, you have some off-road gravel track past a pond down into Church Crookham. After that there’s a mixture of road and cycle pavements until you’ve passed Redfields garden centre and turned off towards a bridleway that leads towards Crookham Village.
Crookham Village to the Basingstoke Canal
Unfortunately there was building work done on the corner house which blocked my path. So instead I had to cross a very shallow stream. (I’m confident there’s another path to the right that you can use as a bypass if you need to). The weather had been dry so I risked it. The stream wasn’t deep and I found myself on a really lovely dirt bridleway. This passed Zebon Copse Local Nature Reserve before crossing over the swing bridge of the Basingstoke Canal.
I followed the road around and back over the Canal again. This time via a little brick arched bridge that is steeper than it looks on the approach. The road ran parallel to the water and out onto Chequers Road. This leads to our favourite countryside pub, The Exchequer. Happy days! Door to door it’s a little over six miles so I mentally stored that route for a future, lazy Sunday ride.
Crookham Village to Hazeley Heath
From there you head into Crookham Village and left into Dogmersfield via country roads. I crossed the canal a couple more times before turning onto a bridleway at the back of Dogmersfield Great Park and the Four Seasons Hotel. This part is grassy and a little rutted from tractor tracks. It was dry for me but I can imagine could get muddy in the colder seasons. The bridleway is short and it wasn’t long before I was cycling the tarmac road down past Odiham Common.
The traffic got a little heavier again once I turned onto London Road but it was nothing too concerning. Before long I took the turning left leaving the worst of the traffic behind me. I then passed under the motorway and over the railway, the bridge here requiring a small climb to get over. The road was really only wide enough for one car to pass at a time but it’s a quiet road so it isn’t a problem. The worst thing you have to contend with on this section is trying to cross the busy A30. It’s supposed to be a 50 mph limit but people tend to drive a lot faster.
Once you are over though, the route returns to quiet country lanes in pretty countryside that takes you past large houses and green hedgerows. There was a steady but not unpleasant uphill feel to this part of the ride. Of course, if you were actually riding it the way you are supposed to, it would be a rather lovely downhill. I passed by some delightful, typically English cottages around West Green and to the south of Mattingley. Then I turned back onto a bridleway that lead me through some trees and out onto heathland.
Hazeley Heath to Bramshill
This was a really delightful part of the ride and would be a good time to stop and have a snack. I suspect it is quite the haven for wildlife and would like to explore it more in the future.
For the first time in years I saw a juvenile greater spotted woodpecker on the trunk of a silver birch. Unfortunately, he flew away before I managed to snap a photo of him. The riding all around here is lovely. There’s well worn off-road tracks and bridleways through the heather and past ponds through the trees. I followed them until I found myself at the gates of Bramshill House which looked impressive, even at a distance.
There’s more bridleway through nice woods before I came out on another B road. Here I faced a bit of a climb that most would tackle with ease but left me a little out of breath.
Hazeley Heath to Yateley Common
Just south of Bramshill Road, I peeled off the King Alfred’s Way Cycle Route onto a very muddy bridleway. The difference between the official route and my planned return was noticeable as my tyres skidded around on the deep mud. It was clear that this track was a favourite with horse riders who were probably less troubled by the overgrown brambles than my legs were. This track would probably be pretty grim in wetter conditions.
However, it didn’t last long before I came out alongside a couple of pretty ponds. I managed to scare a couple of young deer who careened into some fencing in their panic to get away. The tracks around there were mostly peaty, compacted earth beneath conifer trees. This soon became more open sandy gravel track the closer I got to Blackbushe Airport and Yateley Common.
Yateley Common to Home
The area around here is popular with walkers, runners and cyclists. It is worth taking some time out to explore if you can. I’m still finding my favourite paths around here, and still catch myself down dead ends and wrong turns. Mostly, though the tracks are wide and well worn. Either gravel or hard earth and hopefully won’t be too muddy come autumn. If they do, the disused runways around the back of the airport would be a safe bet for families who don’t want to a very grubby ride.
To finish the ride, I headed back over the A30 and in the top of Minley. Without J with me, I bypassed most of the single-track because I can never remember which turning to take. Also, to be honest my legs were starting to feel the miles by then. So I just took the most direct route back on the wide gravel track with a minor detour down a trail that I recognised from the Hawley Lake/ Minley ride we often do on a Tuesday night. From there it was a straight route back over the motorway bridge and home via Fleet Pond.
Ride Length: 28.5 miles
Time Taken: 3h 23 mins
Elevation: 1,075 ft
Suitable for: Beginners with good fitness. There is nothing technically challenging on this ride, but you’ll need good fitness for the ride length.