New Forest

Over the long weekend I decided to head over to the New Forest area in the South of England to do some cycling.  I'd heard of the area, as well as all the wild horses and donkeys that roam the area...

I based myself in Southampton which is close by and well connected to London by train, the New Forest area is about 10km west of this, and funnily enough is very close to the Isle of Wight where I went cycling previously

Many of the trails within the forest were reasonably well groomed gravel, reasonably popular with walkers, horseriders, cyclists and of course forestry...

There was a curious destination I had planned, I often see things on google maps that look interesting.  In this case, in the photo above was an old airfield near Beaulieu, which was used in WWII but had now overgrown.  I took this pic at the beginning of the big runway, most of the buildings are gone save for a few concrete shells here and there.  However it's quite apparent form an aerial shot what it is.

The other destination I reached was Hurst castle, to get there however was a bit of a chore... The green salt marsh was hidden behind a long 2km spit which the castle was at the end of.  The man made spit creates a safe environment from the strong currents of the Solent (the bit of water inbetween the Isle of Wight and the mainland of Great Britain)

I thought it was a good idea to cycle across the spit, however the pebbles were on average about 20-30mm diameter and quite loose which made it impossible to cycle on.  The beach was the only option, and even then the sand was not compacted and gave way whenever I put my weight on it... The parts closer to the water were somewhat compacted in patches, but it was still a major effort to get any momentum going.  It took probably 30mins to cover about 2km... and I was quite tired at then end of it.  It didn't help that I only had slicks on my bike.

The castle itself was interesting, it was originally built by Henry VIII and eventually renovated and used in WWII.   After a walk around inside looking at most of the abandoned guns and flooded basements, I decided to get the ferry back instead of schlepping across the spit again.

The next day I went back into the forest, down some more of the paths.  I only had a simple map on my phone of the paths, not all of them were labelled so I soon found myself following some which got muddier...

and muddier...

And eventually turned into marshy grassland which was more or less unrideable.  I ended up walking through a lot of this, getting my feet completely soaked in the process.  The fact that I had my slick Strada Bianca tyres on didn't help but even if I had my knobblies they wouldn't have saved me.

Eventually I came to a clearing with some solid ground and managed to escape to a main road.  I think sometimes I get a bit too optimistic, or maybe overconfident on what is rideable terrain on a cross bike.

Finished off with a Ploughman's lunch.  Thanks for reading.


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