This sportive route really is about beautiful scenery, history, wildlife and getting the miles in
When is it?
Saturday 24th or Sunday 25th September – this event takes place on two separate days
Where is it?
Somerley House, Ringwood, Hampshire, BH24 2DF
There are a number of cattle grids on the route, mostly you’ll approach them straight-on so they won’t be an issue, however watch the turning onto Ornamental Drive. The grid’s right after the turn, so you’ll want to straighten up quickly.
There are 20mph limits on some of the roads and a lot of animals lining the route in certain areas so understandably the event organisers ask that we all respect the National Park and abide by the rules of the road at all times.
The New Forest is well equipped to welcome tourists, especially at this time of year. If you’re looking for a nice meal the night before Brockenhurst’s Pig Hotel (www.thepighotel.com/brockenhurst) and Lime Wood Hotel (www.limewoodhotel.co.uk/home) offer excellent food. However, if you’re kitted up and want something a bit more casual there are a number of pizza restaurants and cafes in Ringwood. Our pick of hotels in the area include www.sandyballs.co.uk, www.tyrrellsford.co.uk and www.littleforestlodge.co.uk.
I’d enthusiastically raised my hand to volunteer to recce the New Forest 100, an end-of-season event with three distances, up to 100 miles as the name suggests. As soon as I heard the word ‘flat’ I was in, plus I also knew this was a stunning part of the world. We decided to ride the ‘Standard’ 79-miler rather than the ‘Epic’ and really savour the sights. That’s the excuses out the way.
When we arrived at Somerley House, the official start point of the ride, we felt as if we’d wandered into someone’s back garden and this wasn’t far from the truth. The estate isn’t normally open to the public and so the event day is a rare opportunity to view the grounds. Lord Normington currently lives here and as an added bonus, riders of the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive and supporters will have the chance to view some of the state rooms and access to the gardens on the event day.
This area is absolutely steeped in history, with the house being built between 1792 and 1795 for the retirement years of Daniel Hobson, a Salford wool stapler, who died in 1805. The architect was Samuel Wyatt, an admirer of the contemporary Louis XVI style and on this particular morning the grounds couldn’t have looked more stunning.
When we arrived early doors, the typical, ‘arm-warmers or bare it?’ conversation didn’t take long. The sun was already beaming down, bouncing off the golden-coloured walls of the estate. Normally I’m one to repeatedly refresh the weather forecast app ahead of a long ride until it shows what I want to see; on this occasion we left it to chance. Luck was on our side and it really was scorching from the off, meaning we were to see the New Forest in all its summer glory.
You’ll soon reach the pretty market town of Ringwood and then you’ll really start to appreciate the full extent of this area’s beauty. The first incline takes you up Down Thorny Hill and you can start to see out across the forest, it’s nothing too leg-sapping but look out for traffic coming the other way as it pinches in a bit. After cresting this section you’ll roll into Burley, a popular tourist destination known for its excellent ice cream and, here’s the best bit, the animals roaming the streets.
Having visited this area as a child I’d forgotten just how breathtaking the sight of the ponies and horses lining the roads, and wandering across them is. There was a lot of noise from us as we couldn’t silence our rather vocal adoration of the most beautiful little ponies I’d ever seen. Obviously it’s a good idea to keep your wits about you before approaching a horse, but they were so tame, we slowed and rode around them. This is probably a good time to mention that there’s a 20mph limit on most of the roads around the forest. The distinct lack of traffic makes this quiet, idyllic route feel a bit like you’ve stepped into a hidden world. Threading through country lanes on the outskirts of the park, you’ll soon head into the Forest itself where the wandering ponies and other cyclists will likely be your only company on the road.
Once you’ve passed through Burley you head deep into the Forest towards Rhinefield House, taking a left up the narrow Ornamental Drive. The climb proper isn’t too long and has a steady gradient peaking at 14 per cent for a small section — the Strava segment is longer, but we were too busy chatting to chase any Q or KOMs on this occasion. Mind you, I’m speaking for myself, as Jordan was already well up the road. There is a cattle grid straight after the turn onto this climb so be aware not to hit it diagonally — you will have time to straighten up.
As we crested the first real test in the way of gradient I was starting to think I might be in trouble until Charlotte shouted in a cheery voice that she thought that was the last of any real hills. I smiled as we bombed over the other side.
By this point we were heading in a fairly direct route back towards Ringwood over the top of the forest, before turning right along a WW2 airstrip which took us towards Fritham. This was just an absolute highlight of the ride, the views, the smooth, flat road — you can see for miles. Then, the icing on the cake — or rather ice cream — was that before you turn left to Fritham you will see an ice cream van… surrounded by donkeys.
Past Fritham you head to an area less well known in the Forest, past some beautiful houses and back on to the top of the Forest before passing the Lamb pub and snaking down a nice descent out of Nomansland, you then head into more open countryside towards Romsey, and up a small hill before turning towards Salisbury.
Before you hit Salisbury you head left back towards Ringwood on this standard route and the course undulates with a short hill before Godshill where you will go past the famous ‘Sandy Balls’ holiday park and into Fordingbridge over a beautiful stone bridge and the Avon river. This sportive route really is about beautiful scenery, history, wildlife and getting the miles in, you’ll really want to absorb your wonderful surroundings from start to finish. You then take the pretty back roads back to the Somerley Estate and the finish line.
1 Pound Lane — Burley Descent
This segment will start at Thorny Hill as you start to look across to the New Forest National Park. This is a gentle incline that will really warm the legs up. If you’re on the 100-miler, this won’t take much out of the levers if you cruise up, especially in a group.
2 Bolderwood climb
Overall, this ride could be described as flat — this is the only real test of the day in the way of climbing. Topping out at 14 per cent, this ascent allows you to have a bit of competitive fun and stretch the legs. The full segment comprises 6.4km after turning on to the hill, with a cattle grid at the base.
3 Runway dash
This may not be a hill but it’s certainly a highlight of the ride. As the segment name suggests it’s a dead-straight, pan-flat strip of tarmac to really string things out and have some fun. Enjoy, but abide by the rules of the National Park!