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A New Forest Family Cycle Adventure

Updated: Apr 28

This was the second cycling adventure we’d been on as two families, the first being a cycle to the South Downs the previous year. So the bar had been set, the kids were all one year older and the lure of a two day trek across the wilds of the New Forest in Hampshire felt the right balance of distance, terrain and adventure.


Day 1

Our journey began in loose convoy, four bikes strapped to each car making our way out of London towards Hampshire. Our overnight accommodation was the Youth Hostel in Burley, and as it was located in the south west corner of the Forest, it was natural to start on the opposite side and make our route diagonally across the National Park from one side to the other.


We parked the cars in a small car park near the Lamb Pub in Normansland and by 10am were saddled up and ready to embark on our intrepid expedition. April can be a fickle month, I remember crowding round a barbeque to keep warm on an Easter camp some years earlier after it decided to snow, but this morning was a warm spring day, with blue sky stretching out across the tops of the tress and jumpers firmly relegated to the bottom of our bags.

The first fifteen minutes of cycling provoked a few unspoken reactions from the group. A gut buster of a hill on a reasonably busy road saw red faces, bikes being pushed and a slight look of apprehension from a number of the adults about my route selection. But this was quickly dispelled as the road levelled, the trees receded making way for one hundred and eighty degrees of heather and yellow flowered gorse and a flat road stretching away into the distance.

The New Forest never fails to amaze me. It’s a quiet, tranquil place, the real owners being the wild ponies and, as it has a distinct lack of fences, boundaries or significant hills across much of its seventy one thousand acres, much of it feels wild and expansive.

We stopped for an early lunch under the shade of a small wood near Long Beach Inclosure campsite. We knew the key to the success of the trip would be an easy pace, plenty of stops for food and drink and clear waypoints that everyone could recognise as we progressed along our route. The kids really warm to the latter knowing they have a number of landmarks to count down as the journey unfolds. A small reward (preferably one that they can consume!) at each point really helps keep them involved and motivated from start to finish.

We left the heathland behind us for much of the second half of the day as we passed through Newtown and slipped under the shade of the trees, enjoying the gravelled trackways that make so much of the route easy to cycle on. It’s still mildly undulating however, and a number of the inclines a little too steep for those with younger legs but a gentle push or a short walk was all that was needed in order to crest the rise and coast back down the other side.

A refreshing lemonade in the Queens Head in Burley just before our arriving at our overnight accommodation was a welcome treat and a few minutes later we were bumping down the dusty track, over the cattle grid and into the welcome arms of the Youth Hostel.

If you haven’t recently stayed in a Youth Hostel then please don’t be prejudiced by old experiences or unfounded hearsay. They are amazing places to stay whether you’re travelling solo, with a group or as a family. Since their recent national refurbishment programme, they are bright, well decorated, friendly places, with great staff and plenty of modern amenities including WiFi and USB charging sockets at your bedside.


We each had a family room, allowing us the space to spread out in privacy and the Youth Hostel supplied bedding was clean and fresh. Warm showers washed away the dust of the trails and soon after we regrouped in the lounge for a well-earned rest and a few rounds of Uno before our pizza dinner (and a bottle of red wine for the adults!)


Day 2

After a varied breakfast, cereal for some and a full English for others, we were back on the bikes and heading out into the warm but hazy morning. The route was pretty much a reversal of the previous day but in order to give the impression of continuing our journey we turned left out of the Youth Hostel instead of right to pick up the forest trail a little further north.

The morning cloud had burnt off by now making way for a hot sun and blue skies once again. We’d passed the Canadian War memorial on our way to the Youth Hostel the day before but we decided this time to stop and learn a little more about the Canadian soldiers who were stationed in the New Forest prior to the D-Day landings.

Everyone was still in good spirits and lunch time was approaching, but despite having food in our bags, the lure of “Acres Down Cream Tea’s and Ice Creams” was far too tempting and within minutes the bikes were slotted into the handy bike rack and we were stuffing our faces with tea, cakes, scones and ice-creams.

Some of the younger members struggled with a few of the longer inclines but one particular incline, a long gentle downhill the day before, proved a test of mental strength as well as physical. Some walked, parents encouraged, but they all made it to the top in the end proud of their achievement.

As the last few miles passed we hopped on and off the roads as the trail dictated, competent in our new found peloton riding skills. The final leg was a speedy decent down the "gut buster" hill we struggled up the previous day, across the green, avoiding the ponies to our waiting cars.



Route:

Terrain: Gravel – 60%, Paved – 30%, Dirt – 10% (approx.)

Total: 32miles (52km), 705m total ascent.

  • Day 1 – Normansland to Burley - 16 miles (26km), 340m ascent. Normansland, Longcross Plain, Kings Garn Gutter Inclosure, Stoney Cross, Newtown, Canadian War Memorial, Outer Rails Inclosure, Burley.

  • Day 2 – Burley to Normansland - 16 miles (26km), 365m ascent. Burley, Outer Rails Inclosure, Canadian War Memorial, Newtown, Stoney Cross, Kings Garn Gutter Inclosure, Longcross Plain, Normansland.

Day 2 is slightly different to Day 1 around the Kings Garn Gutter Inclosure. Otherwise it’s pretty much a reversal of the previous day.



Accommodation:


Eating and Drinking:


Equipment:


Adults:

  • Hybrid or Mountain bike (in good working order)

  • 30 litre rucksack

  • Cycling clothes: Helmet, gloves, glasses, cycling shoes / trainers, padded cycling shorts / shorts / leggings, cycling jersey / t-shirt, fleece / long sleeve cycling top, waterproof jacket

  • Spare clothes: Underwear, socks, t-shirt, shorts / leggings, jumper, sandals / flip flops

  • Wash kit, pack towel and first aid / medication items

  • Mobile phone, battery, cables, charger

  • Bike lock, lights, 2 x 1ltr water bottles

  • Lunch and snacks for the first day

We also carried between us: a GPS, bike tools, pump and bike spares


Kids:

  • Hybrid / Mountain bike (in good working order)

  • 10-15 litre rucksack

  • Cycling clothes: Helmet, gloves, trainers, socks, padded cycling shorts, t-shirt, fleece, waterproof jacket.

  • Spare clothes: Underwear, socks, t-shirt, shorts / leggings, jumper, sandals / flip flops

  • Wash kit, pack towel and first aid / medication items

  • 1ltr water bottle

  • Lunch and snacks for the first day

The adults carried the kids spare clothes, wash kits, towels, and bicycle accessories. The kids carried their own water, lunch, snacks and waterproof jacket.


The Youth Hostel supplies all bedding which significantly reduces the amount of kit required.



Notes:

  1. Our party consisted of four adults and four children. The youngest child was seven and the oldest was thirteen. The youngest needed some assistance on the climbs but otherwise completed the adventure as well as everyone else.

  2. At first glance it may look as though there aren’t many bridleways in the New Forest and that off road cycling may not be possible. Thankfully this isn’t the case as the entire area is crisscrossed with dedicated cycle routes, many of them marked as orange dots on an Ordnance Survey Explorer (1:25.000) map. However, off road cycling is only permitted on these routes so if you’re planning to design your own route then it’s a good idea to get familiar with the rules and guidelines. Dedicated cycle trail routes and other cycling relating information can be downloaded here: https://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/things-to-do/cycling/cycling-routes/

  3. Some of the route we took is on B or C roads. Aside from the first road out of Normansland they are all pretty quiet country lanes. However, please make sure all the members of your party are confident riding on public roads and there are enough adults to supervise.



Attachments:

The attachments below are .gpx files of the entire route. Please feel free to download and modify to suit your own adventure accordingly.

Newforest-D1
.gpx
Download GPX • 28KB
Newforest-D2
.gpx
Download GPX • 28KB

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