Cycling and Camping in New Forest
There are few things I love more than cycling, holidays, being outdoors and spending time with my family so when an opportunity arose for us all to go to the New Forest to ride bikes and camp out in our new tent, I was packed and ready before you could say ‘go!’
I love to travel but not just abroad; I’ve long spoken of my love of the UK, both here on Bikes n’ Stuff and over on my Instagram account because I think all too frequently people have a ‘grass is always greener’ mentality and neglect to see what’s right in front of their faces.
Our very own island is a paradise of green rolling hills, fog-shrouded crags, gently sloping pebble beaches, peaceful woodland and attractive waterways that makes exploring close to home an absolute pleasure. I love our robins, wild ponies, kestrels, cowslips, voles and ducks, all the creatures, fauna and flora that we’d be so sad to see gone, yet sometimes fail to really appreciate.
I’ve recently become a little more mindful of my carbon footprint – I do travel abroad to race and ride several times a year (due to the nature of what I do, it’s unavoidable) but I’m trying to chooser closer, greener options when I can. So, camping in the UK fits the bill very nicely.
Camping In The Forest manage 15 woodland campsites in the UK, many of which are in the New Forest – a place I remember fondly from my childhood when I’d visit my Grandma and gaze adoringly at herds of ponies grazing next to the road. Keen to create more memories with my husband and daughter we chose to camp at Roundhill, a sizeable site with a pond, open heathland, secluded spots and trees to pitch under. Plus, of course, showers and everything else you’d expect from a decent campsite.
We managed to erect our new tent in the 15-minutes Coleman had advertised, quite a surprise given I’m used to dealing with small Bikepacking sized tents rather than the multi-roomed home I’d invested in.
I love the ritual of cooking outdoors and The Little One was fascinated by our meal prep, stirring coconut milk into lentils then tearing big handfuls of kale into bite sized pieces. Whilst our meal simmered on our tiny Bikepacking stove (might have to upgrade that!) she rode rings around the tent on her balance bike, a smile emblazoned on her adorable face. She is only two and we have a really small garden so it was lovely to see her enjoy a bit of freedom and space, safe and away from any traffic.
Sleeping with a toddler in your tent is pretty hilarious. We’d decided to leave books and stuff at home so at bedtime (a late one for her but still an early one for us) we clambered into our sleeping bags for some storytelling. Whilst Dave came up with ever inventive tales, The Little One grew more and more excited, jumping up and down on us and giggling whilst we (as in the Grown Ups) had nips from a hipflask. A couple of hours later we were all sufficiently tired to fall asleep, The Little One by this point nestled in my bag with me – a tight squeeze but a lovely one.
The Bike Trails
The following morning it was time to ride my very own bike trail! As part of my collaboration with Camping In The Forest’s Map My Adventure, I’m promoting an amazing route, one of the most scenic in the area. Accessible to all and largely traffic free, save the odd road crossing, I couldn’t wait to get rolling. Check it out here.
The National Park has over 100 miles of waymarked routes, many of which are ideal if you’re looking for a short, gentle ride but equally, they could be strung together to create something challenging that would certainly require plenty of cake from the local tearooms.
My route, at around 15km was designed to be enjoyable for all kinds of cyclists with plenty of flat, easy going riding, a couple of hills and mixed surfaces to keep you on your toes.
We rolled down to the ranger office to pick up a copy of the route with detailed directions, some local information and route highlights and there was my photograph on the map, much to everyone’s amusement. Go grab a copy if you visit the New Forest or download your own here.
Astride my gravel bike, from the minute I left the campsite I felt so relaxed and free – it’s liberating having your route already chosen, planned and easy to follow, no traffic to contend with and the whole day stretching out in front of you.
After a pleasant few kilometres enjoying (unexpected) sunshine and spotting deer I came to Denny Wood where I paused to admire the ancient woodland and eat a snack perched on a fallen tree. It was a lovely spot for a proper picnic but I only had a bar and some water so nibbled and sipped my basic rations. Next time I’ll bring proper supplies in my bags because I LOVE picnics.
Dave and The Little One went on their way whilst I filmed some stuff for Camping In The Forest then I took a moment to enjoy total peace and quiet, relax and do nothing. As someone who frequently hammers it really hard on rides or does fifty million things at once, this felt nothing short of amazing. It was probably only about five minutes but memorable nonetheless. Ever heard of Forest Bathing? It’s therapeutic.
I continued to Beaulieu Airfield, now disused and the site of numerous enticing looking gravel tracks and our route back to Roundhill Campsite. With coconut smelling gorse in full yellow bloom and shiny, chestnut ponies nibbling lazily in small groups, it was nice to see a place formerly associated with war and attrition enjoying a new life as a place of pleasure and wild beauty.
A Weekend Well Spent
Back at the campsite, The Little One wasted no time in jumping on her balance bike and showing us how very much she thought she needed an upgrade to the pedal kind, inspired by the families she had seen riding together on my route.
It was time for tea, so I fired up the stove, pulled up the chair and got a brew on. A packet of Wagon Wheels was all we needed to make a good day a great one and they were dispatched in about 30 seconds, even before the kettle boiled. Then it was time to discuss the route and all the New Forest has to offer cyclists and families; in a nutshell, easy-going adventures, accessible bike trails, traffic-free riding, fantastic tea rooms and Roundhill Campsite. There’s potentially some of the best gravel riding in the UK too – I think I really need to visit again to fully investigate.
Please check out my route and the Map My Adventure page here.
If you’d like to download my route, please click here.
And for more information on Camping in the Forest click here.
This blogpost is sponsored by Camping In The Forest who invited me to create a route and experience a weekend at Roundhill Campsite.