My pal Paul and I spent three days cycling in the beautiful New Forest.
Day 1: Onward to the sea!
The train unloaded us in Brockenhurst around lunchtime. After a stressful change at Southampton, it was a welcome relief to head out into the Forest. We cycled south, stopping briefly to admire the church of Saint Nicholas just outside of town.
Next was Lymington for a spot of lunch at Lounges. This fantastic little cafe is tucked away in a side street. Katie and I were here with the kids last year, but today’s meal was an altogether more gentle affair.
Later, we rode to Keyhaven, where little boats bobbed in the picturesque harbour. A stone’s throw away — in Milford on Sea — I sat lazily on the beach while Paul dicked about in the sea. From here, the Isles of Wight looks so close it’s easy to imagine swimming the distance. We didn’t try it, but others do.
Leaving the beach, we were equal parts envigorated (Paul) and sunburned (me). We reached our accommodation after another few kilometres of furious cycling. In contrast to last year, we’d decided to go upmarket and book something with a roof. Woodcutters lodge in Sway was a world away from a freezing one-man tent in a field full of noisy cows.
Day 2: A jaunt through the forest
“Now I’ve cheered you up, mate we’re gonna go for it today.” I’m not sure Paul was convinced, but he agreed to follow my route that took in the best cycling the forest had to offer.
And it didn’t disappoint; loads of fun on gravel paths and forest trails. I’d even had the foresight to book a pub for lunch; this was a bit scummy but the food was fine. I did eat entirely too much cheese, then suffered from the cheese farts most of the afternoon. I sure was glad I wasn’t riding behind me.
I love the New Forest. There are ponies around every corner, beautiful views galore and lovely riding. I’m also very grateful we got to do this trip in such glorious weather; it felt like we’d cheated somehow and got away in the one week of glorious weather between the rain.
Day 3: Wet feet and remote control boats
Halfway across the scrubland, we came across a small stream. It didn’t look deep, so we forged on. Luckily I had spare socks but, even now, my shoes still have the stank of the water.
That morning we’d packed up our shit and headed out. I got a slight tinge of that “last day of holiday” feeling, but it quickly dissipated as soon as my feet hit the peddles. By the time we reached Setley Pond, I was back in the embrace of the magic of the forest. It was a nice surprise to find the fellows of the Solent Radio Control Model Yacht Club sailing their miniature boats. Is there anything more quintessentially British than a bunch of grown-up men playing with toy boats?
Alas, we eventually came upon the station. One moment we were riding an idyllic forest road, the next we were on the train to Southampton. All over for another year, then. See you next time, New Forest.