Velmead Common lies to the east of Fleet, between the A323 and Aldershot Road towards Farnborough Airport. It is often the place I ride through to get to Caesar’s Camp and Tweseldown. I pass through it so much that I forget that it offers really good riding itself. During lockdown it was our favourite place to walk.
Velmead Common Wildlife
J always used to tell me that there were free roaming highland cattle on the common but every time we went there there wasn’t a cow to be seen. I began to think they must be a figment of his imagination. I started calling them the mythical cows. He was delighted the day we finally stumbled upon them and I had to admit that they did actually exist. There is plenty of other wildlife if you know where to look. There is the usual grey squirrels and garden birds as well as less common sightings like woodpeckers and slow worms. Because of this, Velmead common is a popular place for families, runners and cyclists.
Cycling around Velmead Common
The wide gravel fire roads that lead around the perimeter mean that you don’t have to have a mountain bike to ride here. Although, if you do have a more off-road bike there is fun to be had. Just veer off the gravel and follow some trails across the meadow in the middle or into the patches of trees scattered around. A ride around Velmead is quite adaptable. For those who are looking to improve their fitness, a few circuits of the perimeter will be a nice workout. The entirely traffic-free tracks are perfect for youngsters who are learning to ride without stabilisers. The pretty location is a good place for a picnic or a quick drink at The Foresters pub. I however prefer to use it to improve my stamina and technical skills.
Fun Mountain Biking Bits
One day as I was exploring some of the trails and stumbled across a nice short downhill section. Some industrious people had created their own bike park in a secluded patch of trees near the roundabout on Norris Hill Road. I found that I could do a loop up the hill, down the dug-out sweeps and curves and along a dirt track. Halfway along here is another hill climb with a set of drop offs on the right. These led me to cross back over the gravel track onto a path that veered left through the woods. I followed the trail to ascend another slope which took me back to the start to ride the whole thing again.
This has been really good training for me as it has improved my fitness from the short hill climbs, helped my technical ability with the downhill sections and forced me to be brave and trust the bike to get me to the bottom safely. This means I am becoming a more confident rider for those longer ride outs. If you can find this trail on Kamoot.
Getting to Velmead Common
If you don’t live close enough to ride to Velmead Common, there are several places to park. Some do that along Velmead Road but it is better to leave your car in one of the free car parks on Aldershot Road. Entrance into the Common is either via cattle grid or gate. We tend to cycle over the grid on Norris Hill Road but the gates are also wide enough to get a bike through if you lift it onto its back wheel.
The riding is safe and traffic-free on good surfaces. Most people stick to the gravel fire roads, but off them, there is some tracks over hard earth with some sandy patches. Keep an eye out for tree roots and stumps that you might catch your pedals on. At the very edges of the common (if you are well off the beaten track) there are some streams that the bike will need lifting over and are best avoided. In the centre of the common in the open ground there are a few deep cracks. I have taken a tumble or two into these on occasion so be warned.
Except for The Foresters pub, there aren’t any facilities on Velmead Common. So be sure to bring any food or water that you might want and use the toilet before you leave home. I’ve only been to the pub once for a couple of real ales so I can’t comment what the food is like. The outside seating is good, with a big tent to sit under if it is raining.
Extend the Ride
If you get bored of riding Velmead and want something more challenging, then Tweseldown and Caesar’s Camp are to the south over the Aldershot Road. Or cross over Fleet Road to join a cycle path that will lead you either to the Basingstoke Canal or Fleet Pond for more sedate riding.