Freezing nighttime temperatures and mad cows didn’t put a dent in our enjoyment of the New Forest. My good friend Paul and I spent two days riding its roads, gravel trails and single track.
Day one: Brockenhurst to Pondhead
We arrived at Brockenhurst station, mid-morning. A ten-minute journey from Southampton but a whole world away. From here we headed south-west along Burley Road, then turned East towards Beaulieu. With our bikes fully laden with gear the going was gentle, so we soon found an excuse to stop: The beautiful old church of St John the Baptist in Boldre.
Day one was all about little exploring villages, drinking tea and generally taking it easy. We found a great coffee shop in Beaulieu that sold terrific cakes. There’s also a fresh-water refill station nearby, favoured by cyclists and wild donkeys alike.
We made good time to our overnight stop; Pondhead Farm campsite. Pondhead is a simple, minimalist site that I booked through Pitchup. “Go anywhere you want,” said the friendly lady at reception. There were loos and a tap for fresh drinking water. Good enough for us.
One of the more unusual aspects of Pondhead is the cows that wander the campsite. The little ones were cute enough, but the larger ones were quite alarming, seeming not to care too much about walking directly through our camp area. I did feel a little exposed in my tiny tent at the thought of half a ton of cow trampling me in the night. They also made their presence known by scream-mooing into the small hours. Earplugs were a blessing.
Day two: Pondhead to Brockenhurst
After an interesting nights sleep and a hearty breakfast of porridge cooked on my trusty Trangia, we set off again.
The plan for today was to head north to Firtham before turning back southward towards the train station at Brockenhurst. But not before we’d explored the nearby Bolton’s Bench. Built to celebrate the Duke of Bolton this huge bench runs around a Yew tree. There are some spectacular views from up here. But time was slipping away, and we had kilometres to cover.
Eventually arriving at Fritham, we found a great pub called the Royal Oak, where we stopped for a drink. Our mistake was to have already had lunch en route from a less-than-glamorous petrol station. We should have waited as the food a the Royal Oak looked delicious.
Now heading south, the riding was epic, with long, flowing descents through the deserted forest. Now this is what we came here for. What a way to end two fantastic days of cycling!
Having lived close-by for years, I feel that I’ve only just discovered the New Forest. With our recent holiday here and now this cycling trip I’m a bit in love. How lucky we are to have this glorious place only two hours from home.
I’d planned for us to follow the New Forest Gravel Taster from Bikepacking.com. But, due to COVID restrictions, a lot of the campsites recommended were closed; I couldn’t find anywhere halfway, and I didn’t want to slipt the course 70/30.
Thankfully, Komoot is fantastic and let me easily plan an alternative route with Pondhead Campsite at its centre. I’d maybe just change a couple of things: I certainly would avoid any main roads next time. There was one section on day two along the A35 which was particularly unpleasant. I’d also plan for lunch better — putting at least one pub between us and lunchtime would have been more enjoyable.
Still, all in all, it was a pretty decent route. If you’d like to follow in our footsteps (or should that be wheel groves?) — then you can do so on Komoot: