To mark the end of my Easter holidays I did a nice long bike ride in the sunshine around the New Forest. I planned the route (GPX link) so that I took in a mixture of roads I'd never done before and some that I know are classics.
Went to: Hamptworth, Lover, Godshill, Frogham, Ringwood, Burley, Brockenhurst, Minstead, Calmore
Distance: 77.26 miles
Time on bike: 4:45
Average speed: 16.2mph (including stops = 13.9mph)
I set off at 9:44 and whilst there was a small nip in the air it was definitely shorts and T-shirt weather. The first 8 miles were the most direct route going north of Romsey to get to the good stuff. There's a really lovely lane named Coombe Lane leading west from Awbridge. It's narrow, has a fairly good road surface and has some beautiful houses and estates and a pretty pond. Definitely worth doing again.
Most of the roads on the route I took from Awbridge to Plaitford were really pretty - highly recommended, although it does seem that whichever way you go you'll have to ford a stream (or take the footpath bridge over it).
The route then followed the A36 for 0.8m but the white lines that define the sides of the road effectively provide a cycle lane and it's gently downhill all the way so it's actually quite nice.
Then I went along roads that are just outside the boundary of the New Forest but they are still picturesque. The village of Lover came next, which always makes me smile. The uphill route out of Lover finally got me up to 110m elevation which is not far off the highest in the New Forest.
Then it was through Hale and Hale Purlieu to Woodgreen where there were lots of roaming ponies and a horse drawn carriage. Then up and down some hills in to Godshill and down the main road, turning off for Blissford.
By this point I was kind of nervous as I was about to tackle a hill with a 25% warning sign. I stopped before the bottom and thoroughly enjoyed a gooey Caramel egg (many thanks to my in-laws for that; it really hit the spot).
In the end it was a bit of an anti-climax. It was definitely very steep but my bike didn't creak worryingly as Mark Halliday had warned me and it was all over very quickly. Compact cranks? Pah. But I did notice that I was panting quite hard for the next minute or so.
Then it was down through Frogham and along the flat roads through North and South Gorley. I caught up with a car that was patiently following a tractor. I drafted the car for a few seconds but then stood on the pedals and accelerated past the pair of them - whoooosh! Fun.
At the ford south of the Gorleys I saw a procession of old cars go by, then I saw them parked up for a meet 1/2 a mile further on. I also noticed a sign that you don't see very often:
Then it was south and over a bridge over the A31 and through Crow back in to the New Forest proper. The section between Crow and Burley is really pretty and has a nicely named parking spot: Smugglers Road (no apostrophe).
It was about this point that my suspicions that I'd been having a following wind were confirmed. For the next few miles as I went mostly east I had some quite strong headwinds.
I'd been through Burley once before, but this time I approached and left by different roads. The road east-south-east out of Burley goes up a short hill where there is plenty of car parking at the top. I'll be going back there sometime soon with the family to walk and explore Burley properly.
Then it was across the moors in to the outskirts of Brockenhurst before starting the beautiful wooded section of Rhinefield Ornamental Drive and Bolderwood Drive. At the top of Bolderwood Drive, rather than contuining under the A31 and crossing Ocknell plain (which is also lovely), I turned sharp right and went back towards Lyndhurst. At Emery Down I turned left and went along towards Minstead. As I stopped to check the map, I overheard a family of 6 on bikes who were "discussing" whether they were going the right way. I volunteered the services of my iPhone to familiarise themselves with the route and off they went. I hope they made it. Then I took a new, quieter, shorter route through Minstead to the A337.
I crossed over the A337 and enjoyed a flat section before leaving the New Forest at Bartley. Then rather than turning north and re-entering the New Forest to Copythorne and Newbridge (which is nice but I've done it recently), I carried on east along the road to Calmore and crossed the A36 to Hill Street which is a pleasant if somewhat under-maintained road towards Romsey. This finally pops out at the top flat section of the A3090. This route cuts out the longish and steep hill on Ryedown Lane which is on the way back from Blackhill and Wellow.
Then it was down the hill on the A3090 (40.4 mph) and back through North Baddesley to be welcomed home with some tasty sandwiches made by Emma. And some Galaxy Easter Egg chocolate. And a full-fat Pepsi. Nice.
This route would be about 60 miles if it started and ended in Romsey in stead of Eastleigh so would make a good training route for someone getting in to sportives.
So now I'm feeling totally ready for the Isle of Wight Randonnee in 3 weeks time. That'll be 8+66+8 miles which is more than today's ride but there's an hour-long ferry journey between each leg and we'll be stopping to get our cards stamped every 10-15 miles so it'll be nice and gentle.