Hampshire’s New Forest National Park is an exceptionally popular cycling destination – and it’s easy to see why.
Covering 566 kilometres squared, it’s made up of woodland, grassland, heathland and woodland enclosure.
There’s miles of relatively flat roads which add up to a perfect playground for groups of mixed ability, and with winter weather in full swing it’s a good place to head if you’re looking to clock up base miles without an uphill struggle.
If you’re looking for summer targets, the area plays host to two events run by our sister company, UKCE.
Routes vary from 30 to 80 miles, with the promise of a food village, beer tent and live band for all to enjoy on return.
Much later in the year (ideal for those setting a distance target), there’s the New Forest 100, on Saturday September 19. Whilst the hero event of the day is the century long ride, there are 30 and 60 mile routes on offer too.
Buy why is it worth a visit? Here’s five reasons…
You’ll go quite fast
There’s much, much more to a good ride than a high average speed. However, getting tucked into a nice rhythm, perhaps with a steady chaingang or paceline among friends, is a fun way to spend a morning and does come with a certain satisfaction.
The highest point within the New Forest National Park is Pipers Wait, near Nomansland – its summit stands at 129 meters (423 feet). Which is, erm, not very high.
The roads are stunningly flat, so if you want a fast century ride, or would like to keep a group of varying abilities together, this is the one.
… or, chill out and enjoy the views
Flat roads don’t mean you have to go fast – if that’s not your style, you can just enjoy the expanses of heathland and woodland either side.
The park, and its surrounds, were classed as a ‘National Character Area’ by Natural England, thanks to its geodiversity – it’d take you a long time to get bored of your surrounds here.
Wild ponies make good companions
Nobody “owns the roads” anywhere, but in the New Forest, the wild ponies have a pretty good claim on the area, and everyone has to look out for them.
The park is home to the indigenous New Forest pony, as well as many other breeds of wild horse and cattle.
The beautiful creatures can roam as they please, over fields, through villages – and wondering across the road. They give the park a unique quality and are lovely to admire – just take care to give them plenty of space.
You’ll roll through quaint villages
You won’t find any sprawling towns in the New Forest – mostly small villages – the largest three being Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst and Burley.
Rest assured: there’s plenty of options for coffee and cake stops.
The UKCE sportives begins at the rather spectacular Somerley House in Ringwood – a 1750 designed stately home.
Riders cross the River Avon, thread through the lanes to explore the villages of Linwood and Fritham, with those on the long route heading off to Farley, West Winterslow and West Dean. The route back re-crosses the River Avon, to visit Cranborne, Verwood and Three Legged Cross.
Make a weekend of it
The New Forest is a popular tourist location – which means that it’s well set up for those looking for a good meal and a comfortable bed for the night.
Our UKCE team has of course been visiting every year, and thus had a chance to sample the local delicacies.
Recommendations include Brockenhurst’s Pig Hotel and Lime Wood Hotel for sumptuous food, whilst the village of Ringwood can offer up a host of pizza restaurants and cafes if you’re after something more casual.