New Forest Gravel Taster, UK
63 Mi.(101 KM)
% Rideable (time)
While Out Riding
The New Forest, proclaimed as such by William the Conqueror in 1079 – it was his personal hunting ground – is one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land, heathland and forest in Southern England. As such, you can expect wandering ponies, donkeys, and horses to be as prevalent as fellow cyclists; at the weekend, the New Forest is a popular spot for road riders. In 2005, it was awarded the status of National Park.
This loop uses Brockenhurst as it’s start point – with regular, direct train from London – and makes a convoluted journey into some of the lesser-visited tracts of woodland and heathland. Much of the woodland is ancient and magical, with no shortage of soft mossy floors on which to take an afternoon snooze.
For the most part, it keeps to relatively wide and well graded forest tracks, intermingled with slightly looser/rougher sections and quiet woodland two-track. Although there’s climbing to be done, it’s mostly subtle and easily conquered, with only occasional rollers that may test you on a hot summer’s day.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of pubs and tea houses in which to rest and refresh yourself; one of our recommended campsites is slap bang behind a Public House, as fortune would have it.
Woods Cyclery Local Food Intel
Very much a hub for bikepackers, the Woods Cyclery in Lyndhurst offer a variety of bikepacking gear and bikes, including Bombtrack and Brother Cycles. They sell good coffee too… and all the specialist accessories you’d need to brew up a mug in the ‘wilds’. I asked where they’d recommend for tasty eats in the area:
“Ooooo food wise… The Oak Inn, Lyndhurst, The Cider Pantry and White Buck in Burley, Philly Inn in Setley, The Royal Oak in Fritham (similar to the Square and Compass, a Purbeck Bimble classic), The Forage in Lyndhurst, The Pig in Brockenhurst (posh but great food)… Off route: The Three Tuns in Bransgore, The Railway Inn in Ringwood, BH24 in Ringwood… Those are probably our top options!”
Thanks to ace photographer Simon Weller for joining me on this one (and sharing his photos for the post). And to Woods Cyclery’s Jon and Oscar for initially pointing me in the right direction, and to Tom for thoroughly revamping the resultant route. The New Forest National Park has a web of forest roads, so grab a copy of Cycling in the New Forest by The Little Map Company (that corresponds to markers in the forest) for more beginner-friendly options, or pop into the shop if you want to explore further.
- Forest bathing in William the Conqueror’s former hunting ground
- Wild, open, and fenceless heathland offers a refreshing sense of space
- Pubs and tea houses entice riders into stopping and lingering
- Communing with horses and ponies; though you’ll want to give the feisty ones a wide berth
- Picnicking in pockets of ancient woodland
- When to go: keep an eye on the weather and anytime is good, though May-September promise better weather and longer daylight hours, autumn being crowd-free but cooler.
- What bike: the bike you have, though a 700x40mm tyre is probably ideal.
- Getting there: South West Trains run a service between London and Brockenhurst (limited spots for bikes), which makes a good starting point for the loop. Pro tip – pick up a Network Card, which is good for a year, and enjoy a 30% discount outside of peak travel times. It only takes a couple of trips to the South West to break even (the Purbeck Bimble is on the same train line).
- There’s a free parking spot on the edge of Lyndhurst, at the junction of the A35 and Beaulieu Road, if arriving by vehicle.
- Bring some insect repellent for the summer, if mozzies bother you, and inspect yourself for ticks if frolicking in the long grasses and ferns.
- Note that this route occasionally crosses busy A roads (and follows one or two in and out of Lyndhurst for the briefest of moments) that are plagued by fast drivers, so take care.
- If you’d like to extend this route and you don’t mind easy asphalt miles, a loop can be made on country lanes out to the Solent, via Bucker’s Hard and Lymington.
- Be respectful and give way to other forest users; the area is popular with walkers and horse riders. Watch out for working forest vehicles that occasionally ply the tracks.
- Be aware of ground-nesting birds (particularly between March and July) and don’t stray off the route/bridleways/designated bike paths.
- Wild camping isn’t permitted in the National Park
- We’ve marked two recommended campsites on the map, at either end of the loop. There are plenty more around. The Roundhill campsite is definitely the more relaxed of the two. It’s spacious, the pitches are large and informal, there’s a 50% discount for hikers/cyclists, and even without a booking, you won’t be turned away. Note that it doesn’t offer charging points; best option is to ask to leave your phone in the office. The Red Shoot camp spot is well-positioned if you start in Brockenhurst. It’s more organised, pricier, and you’ll likely need to book, but it’s a well-run spot too. There’s a charging point in the area with the washing machines. See their website for restrictions during the holidays.
- A little off route, the Oknell Campsite is recommended too. It’s part of the group who run the Roundhill campiste, so similar prices and bike-friendly policies. It’s located between Fritham and Stoney Cross.
- There a YHA hostel in Burley, a few miles off route. The Land Pods look cool!
- Off route in Lymington, Teddy’s Farm (£8-12pp, depending on day of the week) is recommended.
- Check out the map for food spots; you won’t go hungry. As per the Woods Cyclery recommendation, look out for the Oak Inn, Lyndhurst, The Cider Pantry and White Buck in Burley, Philly Inn in Setley, The Royal Oak in Fritham (similar to the Square and Compass, a Purbeck Bimble classic), The Forage in Lyndhurst, and for fancier eats, The Pig in Brockenhurst.
- In the summer, parts of the route are exposed, so make sure you carry plenty of water – capacity for two to three water bottles is likely ideal.
- The camping ground behind the Red Shoot pub has a store. And, you can order fresh pastries for the morning. The pain au chocolat is excellent!
- Note that the Red Shoot pub only serves food at the weekend.
- Aside from some B-road connectors, the New Forest is family-friendly too; here’s some ideas for routes.