Coffee, Cogs, and the Unpredictable New Forest Weekend
Friday, 4th August - Sunday, 6th August 2023
The New Forest. A land of enchantment, rain-soaked campgrounds, and... playing card games you're pretty sure your friend just made up on the spot. Welcome to a weekend adventure on two wheels (and occasionally on four wheels when the British weather decided to be, well, British).
Friday: The Day of Tent Pitches and Tuneful Pubs
After arriving at Ashurst campsite, Sam 'Pearcy' Pearce and I transformed my car into a car-camper: a Tentbox roof tent above and a Kampa tailgate awning stretching behind. Prepared for England's renowned summer drizzles, we felt pretty smug with our setup.
Then, we set off to The Happy Cheese we went (a short walk from camp), where the beer was cold, the sun oddly warm, and the price tag friendly. We feasted at The New Forest pub, and let's just say their food and the live melodies of Carley Varley are the perfect match. Acoustic pop-rock never sounded so good.
Speaking of matches, ever played the card game Sh!thead? Pearce tried teaching me. I'm 90% sure he made up half the rules as he went along. But hey, that's half the fun!
Saturday: Rain, Coffee, and Mission Impossible
We woke up to rain. Not the delicate drizzle, but the type of rain that makes you question our decision for a weekend camping and cycling. Undeterred, we made our way to Lyndhurst to sample its coffee and breakfast offering.
Image: Forest Edge Roasting Co
Our spirits were lifted at Forest Edge Roasting Co. This coffee haven is a gem. And if you can resist their pastries, you're stronger than we were. Especially the pan au chocolat with hazelnut dream topping (or whatever it is).
Image: The Woods Cyclery
Another pitstop? The Woods Cyclery – a sanctuary for cyclists, coffee lovers, and well, basically everyone. They're the Swiss army knife of the high street, with a cafe, workshop, retail shop and cycle hire, very geared towards gravel and MTB cycling.
With the rain refusing to take a hint, Pearce and I sought refuge in Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1. Tom Cruise and Hayley Atwell in action? Never going to disappoint.
A plot twist awaited us post-movie: Pearce’s bike tyres were more scarred than a horror movie victim. Cue a frantic dash back to Southampton and Decathlon to pick up some replacement tyres and inner tubes. Phew!
Dinner was a little more challenging than we'd have liked. The New Forest is a gourmet gastro smorgasbord. But luck was on our side. After a brief flirtation with the tantalizing La Pergola in Lyndhurst (only had tables outside, so book ahead if you want to dine!), we found solace at The Oak Inn, about a mile away. Gourmet delights awaited.
Sunday: Sun, Supercars, and Sourdough
Finally! The sun graced us, and our bikes beckoned. We cruised to Beaulieu, enjoying every twist and turn, except for the unexpected roar of supercars overtaking us who were headed to the Beaulieu supercar weekend.
The path then wound through the picturesque countryside, leading us to Lymington.
There, we discovered Coffee & Drift. Let me be clear: their bacon sandwich is life-altering. Perfect streaky bacon inside toasted sourdough. It's an experience, especially when paired with a view of the glistening harbour and a 'flatty'.
The return ride? Let's just say it won't make our top rides list. Busy roads and worn-out cyclists don’t mix well.
In conclusion, our weekend might've had more cafe stops than cycling, but the New Forest's magic is undeniable. Cycling, nature, and unexpected adventures: it's what we came for (as well as a proper long-overdue catch-up between old friends).
Cheers to more rides, rain, and roof tents! 🚴☕🌲⛺️