Cycling in the New Forest, southern England
A delightful day of cycling, tea drinking and ale supping
Story and photos: editor, May 2005
We got the train from London to Brockenhurst, a village close to the New Forest dating back to Pagan times.
Right next to the station - situated in a converted railway carriage - is the Country Lanes bike hire shop, who furnished us with bikes, water bottles and a map for the day.
Along Mill Lane, just out of Brockenhurst, we came across this charming mock French Renaissance style gatehouse to the Brockenhurst Park Estate.
The ride took us along a few miles of quiet B roads until we reached the forest.
The New Forest is a former medieval royal deer hunting area created in 1079 by William I (aka William the Conqueror) and his 'Nova Foresta' is is still largely in the possession of the Crown.
Now of significant historical, ecological and agricultural importance, the area has clung on to many of the rural practices conceded by the Crown in medieval times to local people.
These include the right of pasturing ponies, cattle, pigs and donkeys in the open Forest by locals known as Commoners.
The New Forest has also been an important source of timber for the Crown for many years, with its timber being used for naval shipbuilding and, more recently, commercial timber production.
The area uses an ancient definition of the word 'forest', which described a legally defined area - subject to special laws - where the 'beasts of the chase' (that'll be deer & wild pigs to you and me) and their food were protected 'for the pleasure of the monarch.'
This area need not be wooded, which explains why nearly half the New Forest is open heath, grassland and bog
After a couple of hours in the saddle, we were ready for a pint or two, so we stopped off at the Turfcutters Arms in East Boldre, between Beaulieu Viallage and Lymington town.
All the ponies, cattle and pigs that can be found wandering around the open forest (and on the roads) are owned by the 'Commoners', and their right to graze their animals is protected by rights dates back 900 years.
Our ride took us on the site of a disused Second World War II airfield, where there wasn't much about apart from tons of gorse and New Forest ponies.
Occasionally, I'd cycle on ahead just to enjoy a few minutes of the solitude of the forest.
Old thatched roofed building. Note the straw birds!
Included in the hire of the bikes was afternoon tea at the Thatched Cottage in Brockenhurst. The scones were lovely!
Tranquil scene near Brockenhurst.
A classic summer scene as the sound of leather on willow echoes across the fields in the late afternoon sunshine.
« back to photos index