There is nothing so nice as cycling on the 192km of wide logging trails in the New Forest. It is peaceful, safe, beautiful, flat (ok there are a couple of gentle hills…. but essentially it is flat) and there are pubs scattered about the place which make wonderful pit stops. The New Forest didn’t start off as a good place for cycling. It has become a great place because of the commercial logging.
Let me explain. The Forestry Commission owns and manages large parts of the forest in partnership with the National Park Authority. In order to keep the forest thriving it cuts down the trees in places where there are too many and they are competing for light. This means that there is always some little corner of the 94,000 acres of park where there is a bit of tree felling going on. The areas are cordoned off and visitors are re-directed around any logging activity. With the logging comes the need to get trucks and heavy vehicles into the forest. This means wide, flat, well maintained logging trails. When they are not being used for vehicles (which is most of the time), they are used for walkers, horse-riders and cyclists.
When you look at the network of trails criss crossing the park as logging roads it all suddenly makes sense. The trails take you through open moorland, dense forest, Californian forest and past some of Europe’s most ancient trees. Norwegian Maples grow beside ancient oaks. Bluebells, gorse, rare orchids, all grow undisturbed, except for the occasional logging truck. So it is no wonder that there are plenty of places in the New Forest where you can hire a bike.
At the Cottage Lodge we have a small fleet of 10 bikes for our customers and two tandems. We keep a few bikes here because we have had some customers who want a bike and the whole stock across the forest is out cycling. Hundreds and hundreds of bikes. It doesn’t happen very often. Mostly at bank holidays. But, when it does happen it is a real pain. My favourite cycle from Cottage Lodge is across the open moor to Aldridge hill, where there is a possibility of seeing red deer. Then across the stream, through the bluebell wood and up the hill to the pub at Bank. After a refreshing drink and lunch it is past the deer fields and a look to see if we can spot some fallow deer, across to the ornamental drive (which is described as the garden of the forest). Often there is an ice cream van here with wonderful New Forest Ice Cream. Then home via the amazing Rhinefield House hotel. It is such a treat that I often do this cycle route a couple of times a month. It is different every time you do it. Different foliage, flowers, animals and people.
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