Weekender: New Forest

Ride level Beginner cyclist
Distance 23 mi / 37 km
Type of bicycle Mountain bike
Traffic free
Circular route
Enjoy stunning trees, varied landscapes, wild ponies, and great cycling. Ben Searle guides you on this varied, family-friendly ride

Start/finish: Brockenhurst (by railway station).
OS grid reference: 302020.
Map: OS Explorer OL22 New Forest (1:25k).
Ride length: 38km (23 miles) or 33.5 km (21 miles) with shortcut.
Climbing: 375m.
Bike type: tourer, hybrid.
Ride level: reasonably fit beginner/family.

William the Conqueror named his former hunting ground Nova Foresta. Today verderers and commoners continue historic grazing practices that maintain the forest’s semiopen landscape – expect wandering animals. 

This ride incorporates heathland, railway path, village tea stops, fords, beautiful forest trails, meadows, and picturesque country lanes.

It is easily accessed from campsites, Brockenhurst railway station, the New Forest Youth Hostel at Burley, and cycle hire at Burley or Brockenhurst. Shortcuts are limited. Unlike other public forests, cyclists must keep to the approved routes.

These are shown as orange dots on the OS Explorer map and have numbered waymarker posts. The New Forest Tour bus carries cycles and helps make shorter rides possible, but pricing is weighed against one-off trips.

1 Roydon Woods

Just off the route, the bridleways in Roydon Woods nature reserve are rideable and take you to stunning bluebell displays in spring – worth the diversion!

2 The railway path 

This largely flat railway path strikes across the moors and commons, providing easy cycling.

3 Wootton Coppice

The former railway course becomes a busy B-road for 2km. My hillier alternative is to follow a quiet road to marker post 185, joining a green lane. It then becomes a forest trail that climbs to the A35, which has fast traffic; cross with care!

4 Burley

Once home of ‘white witch’ Sybil Leek, the village has several tea rooms and pubs. The Cider Pantry is a popular café, with home-made cider and food. 

5 The ornamental drive

A quiet, narrow road with lots of characterful beech trees. (It’s worth turning left for a potter gently uphill before turning back.) Again, take care crossing the A35.

6 Queens Meadow

Turn off the Ornamental Drive and there’s a ford – fun on a warm day. At Queens Meadow nature reserve, you might see deer. Or stay on the road to get back, saving 3.5km.