The ride from Milford on Sea was the third consecutive adventure around the New Forest. This week’s coastal route felt like a nice contrast to the previous two from Sandy Balls and Brockenhurst. Milford on Sea was somewhere I was aware of because of a trip a few years ago when I had taken the kids to Hurst Castle. I knew there was a great Fish and Chip shop in the centre of town so I enticed J with the promise of a post-ride bag of chips and mushy peas. We parked the van in the car park on Sea Road. Then unloaded the bikes and set off south towards the beach.
Milford on Sea to Barton on Sea
We followed Sea Road down to a T- junction they turned right onto Hurst Road. The sky was looking quite ominous and grey with a strong wind blowing in over the Solent. As we stopped to gaze out over the Isle of Wight, I hoped that the forecast would come true and blue skies were on their way. There was some building work going on so we couldn’t ride right along the front. Instead we cycled along Westover Road and took a left onto Park Lane. Back on the sea-front we came off the road and followed the tarmac path along the cliffs. Below us was the beach with its row of pretty huts. The skies were clearing and it looked like it was going to be a nice day after all.
In hindsight I wish we had carried along the Hordle Cliff path here. But I decided that it was best to follow the Kamoot route in case we got lost. Unfortunately this meant that we rode the tarmac around the edge of town, rather than the more scenic coastal trail. Too late I realised both paths would have brought us out in the same location anyway.
Barton on Sea to Wootton Bridge
At Barton on Sea we started riding inland. We followed the road through the houses on Dilly Lane then took a right onto Barton Court Avenue. The traffic was beginning to get busier and this only worsened as we joined Lymington Road. The ride towards Highcliffe on Sea was along this more major road, which made me a little grumpy. I really prefer off- road traffic free riding if possible. There was also a gentle but steady incline for the majority of the route. I was relieved when we finally got to the roundabout at the top of Christchurch Road and turned north. We were still on road, but most of the cars were on the opposite side. After another mile, once we had taken a left off Gore Road, I began to relax. This was much more like the sort of ride I had been hoping for.
The four miles between there and Wootton Bridge were a nice mixture of terrain. There was a byway past farms and fields, a cycle path along Stem Lane and country lanes past gorgeous houses. There were a couple of short stretches along busier roads but nothing too traumatic. Until this point we had been steadily riding uphill most of the way. Once we turned onto Station Road we were rewarded with a nice fast downhill that lead us down to Wootton Bridge.
Wootton Bridge Break Time
By this point we were almost exactly halfway through our ride. The sun was temporarily out in force. So we decided that it would be nice to sit by the water and refuel before going any further. The number of families sat around with picnics had increased noticeably from the week previous. It felt like the country might finally be emerging from lockdown. We tucked into cake and trail mix and drank lots of water.
There was a cute and curious foal who was frolicking by the waters edge, much to the delight of the toddlers who were paddling there. He was very skittish so the moment anyone got too close he ran back to his mum. J laid on the grass with the horses grazing just behind him and closed his eyes. I gave him ten minutes before disturbing his rest. I knew from experience that if I sat too long I’d pay for it when I got back in the saddle.
Wootton Bridge To Hincheslea Bog
On the bikes once more, we followed Station Road north to the T-junction then turned right up the hill on Burley Road. At the crest of the hill we left the tarmac and followed a trail across the plain. The next mile was all off road, past more horses on tracks through the heather and gorse. I loved this section of the ride. It had all the wildness of the New Forest but on really nice tracks so the riding wasn’t too hard. We picked up a gravel track and followed it over some small ponds by Longslade Bottom.
Finally we found ourselves back on the disused railway track from last week’s ride. This time we were cycling it in the opposite direction. We only stayed on it for half a mile though before taking a turning north over Hincheslea Bog. This wasn’t nearly as wet as it sounded. As usual the New Forest cycle routes did us right and we stayed dry. The trail took us into the tree line for a short while. Then we were riding open ground again, on a mix of hard earth and gravel which took us over a stream. Before long we were on National Cycle Route 2 which led us back to Sway Road.
Sway Road to Lymington
There was a half mile climb south along Sway Road and my legs were starting to feel tired. There was a head wind all the while which didn’t help. As usual, J’s fitness was better than mine. He stormed up the climb, then had to wait at the crossroads for me to catch up. We took a right turn onto another road that with the wind blowing in our faces, seemed to last forever. In reality it was just over a mile.
We left the nice, pretty part of the National Park here as we turned right onto the busy Southampton Road. There was a lot of traffic ad some road works to negotiate. The cars were fast and made me nervous. Fortunately most of the cycling was downhill all the way to Lymington. The town itself was busy. It was beginning to feel like Covid had never happened, save for the social distancing queues as people waited for their takeaways from cafes.
Lymington to Milford on Sea
We wove our way through the traffic and the town and out the other side. Both of us were starting to fatigue and I was falling behind. J had his rhythm and was steaming ahead. Unfortunately as I was navigating this meant that he powered up a hill before I could stop him. I shouted several times and then cursed a lot as I climbed to catch him. He was waiting at the top when I reached him, red faced, out of breath and trying not to show my annoyance. Back down the hill we turned off the road again to push the bikes along a footpath.
Although some parts of this route were a little tight, I’m glad that we didn’t skip it. Guiding the bikes over the narrow bridges through copses of trees beat breathing in exhaust fumes any day. Once we came out of the woodland, we crossed a couple of fields. Some of the tracks were footpaths rather than bridleways so we were respectful and pushed where we needed to and rode where we could. There we a couple of gates and stiles to navigate but nothing too narrow. We followed trails carved out by tractor tyres through fields of corn. Finally we emerged into a lane of houses on the outskirts of Milford on Sea. From there it was a easy pedal back to the van.
Not in the Pink
I’d love to say that J got his promised fish and chips at Mr Pinks. Unfortunately I mistimed the opening hours and the shop was shut. There was a little bit of grumbling at this point from J would felt hard done by. Luckily there is an excellent chip shop just down the road from my house in Old Basing. So we left the New Forest and drove there instead. One of the thing I love about a long ride is that I don’t have to feel guilty for eating what I like. So we split a large portion of chips and J had mushy peas and I had curry sauce. Happy days!
Ride Length: 25.3 miles
Time Taken: 2h 41 mins
Elevation: 850 ft
Suitable for: This isn’t a technical ride so it would suit a beginner who has good fitness and stamina. Because of the amount of time spent riding on roads, I wouldn’t recommend this as a ride for people with young kids. A shorter fun ride could be made from Wootton Bridge to Hincheslea Bog which would be mostly off-road.