Milford on Sea to Lymington, Hampshire by Josie Dew

Milford on Sea to Lymington, Hampshire by Josie Dew

Josie Dew

Cycling UK's vice-president and cycling author Josie Dew explores the wetlands between Milford on Sea and Lymington.

This is a fun 8-10 mile adventure, depending on whether you feel like dragging/carrying bikes along the spectacular shingle spit to Hurst Castle (it’s worth the effort!). From the end of March to the end of October there is a little passenger ferry that is very fun to take with children and bikes that runs back and forth on the 20-minute trip from Hurst Castle to Keyhaven. 

This year, on New Year’s day, I set out in freezing torrential rain with Jack and Daisy to travel The Solent Way — Hampshire’s 60-mile long-distance coastal route that stretches from Milford on Sea to Emsworth Harbour and passes through and around some very lovely estuaries, harbours, shingle spits, marshes, beaches, creeks, lagoons, castles and forts all steeped in seafaring and maritime history. 

After leaving Milford on Sea and the splendid promontory of Hurst Castle (a mere stone’s throw from the Isle of Wight), we had the wonders of the Keyhaven to Lymington nature reserve. A flat hard-packed stony path for walkers and cyclists crossed this amazing area of salt marsh and mudflats — a haven for busy birdlife. Everywhere were gulls, terns, egrets, cormorants, oyster-catchers, brent geese, ringed plover, redshank and little grebe, also known amusingly as dabchick (always a good thing to strive to be). We spotted some fine wildfowl too — teal, widgeon, shovelers and "eiderdown ducks", as Daisy calls the eider duck.

Another unusual species to hover over my head was not quite such a welcome sight. With no one around I had taken the opportunity to climb down the sea wall to have a quick pee. I ‘whipped down me trollies’ (as Jack calls it) and was in position on my haunches admiring the view (bird-teeming mud-flats, the wind-whipped Solent, the hump-backed mound of the Isle of Wight, the-out-on-a-limp-lump of wave-lapped Hurst Castle - 5-star hotel toilets are never this good) when blow me, what should appear above my head than a flashing blinking buzzing drone. My trollies were whipped up faster than you could say 'dabchick' and I clambered back up the seawall to see who was flying this airborne Peeping Tom. Ah ha! Up ahoy stood two figures of high-viz-coated men. As we approached I saw one of them had a control panel in his hands. We got chatting and it turned out they were from the Environment Agency and in the midst of surveying not just toileting cyclists with their UFO-like 3D camera but the whole of the nature reserve’s sea wall to watch for flooding weaknesses and breaches in the sea wall. Anyway, Jack and Daisy found it most amusing that I had been caught on camera with my pants down. By heck — the lengths we go to in order to make our children happy.

Anyway, for anyone who lives in Milford on Sea and works in Lymington this must be one of the most perfect commutes by bike you could imagine. And for children it’s just a magical ride of seawalls and big skies and teeming birdlife and quiet pathways overlooking a sea bustling with ferries and pleasure boats and the impressive-looking hulks of container vessels that ply the busy shipping routes of The Solent. 

Level of ride 
Beginner cyclist
Type of bike 
Mountain bike