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  • Writer's pictureNathan Perrott

The New Forest Gravel Cycling Trip, April 2024

Updated: May 4

A cyclist riding on gravel in The New Forest with trees to the right

In Search of Gravel, Grinds and Gastro Delights

Pearce and I returned to the New Forest after the weather had put a dampener on our previous trip back in August 2023, but this time we decided to get off the roads and into the 'forest proper' and ride at a slower pace. And it didn’t disappoint!

Day 1: Friday, 26th April

Ashurst > Brockenhurst > Denny Wood Loop

We arrived at the lovely Ashurst campsite at around 1pm, pitched up the roof tent, got changed and headed into Lyndhurst to grab a late afternoon coffee at the gravel cycling Mecca, The Woods Cyclery.

After a lovely coffee (with some incredible latte art) and a delightful chat with very friendly baristas, we headed out of Lyndhurst towards Brockenhurst at around 3pm. However, we missed the turning for the gravel trails immediately and ended up on one of the main roads we wanted to avoid on this trip. But we stuck with it until we hit Balmer Lawn, then turned left off the road onto the gravel through the forest. We cycled through and around Denny Wood, up and down beautiful trails, nothing too taxing, which was beautiful and serene, even if a little damp and chilly. It was like cycling through a rainforest. Absolutely stunning.

After an hour and a half of exploring, we headed back to camp for a nice hot shower, as the temperature had really dropped.

After that, we went over to the local for a few drinks before heading to The Pig in Brockenhurst for a gastro delight, and it didn’t disappoint. We were sat in the beautiful drawing room while we waited to be seated at our table, so we planned our route for the next day on the ever-reliable Komoot app.

When it came to food, we selected from the 25-mile Menu. As you can probably guess, all the food is selected from within 25 miles of the restaurant. We shared the black Angus rib of beef. Sublime food, great service and a beautiful setting. It surpassed high expectations.

That night, the rain didn’t stop all night, but we stayed nice and dry, and much warmer than we expected, all thanks to the trusty Tentbox roof tent on the car. Being off the ground was a massive bonus since there was a lot of ground water by the time we left on the Sunday.

Watch Day 1 of our Gravel Cycling on Relive

Day 2: Saturday, 27th April

Ashurst to Milford-on-Sea return

The weather looked much more promising for this part-gravel-part-country-lane jaunt to the coast. Our destination; the Lighthouse in Milford-on-Sea for lunch.

We set out around 8.30 so we could catch coffee and breakfast at the delightful Forest Edge Roastery in Lyndhurst. We were there for opening, unbelievably after ample faffing from Pearce. The pastries and coffee were 10/10!

There was a slight dampener on such a promising start, however. Pearce’s Tesla app was telling him that he’d left the boot open back at the campsite 🙄. He was convinced he’d shut it, so we were trying to understand if the notification on his app was from when he was getting ready by the car. In helping the technophobe search for his notifications history in his app, I inadvertently opened the car’s ‘frunk’ (front boot). Now, a bit of a design flaw if you ask me, but you can’t close the frunk via the app - it has to be closed manually! I guess they didn’t think that two idiots would be so far away from the car that they would open the frunk if they weren’t close by.

After deliberating for a few minutes, Pearce made the reluctant decision to ride back to basecamp and check the car’s boots while I did something helpful and headed to the Woods Cyclery for a second flat white. As expected, he told me that the rear boot was definitely shut when he got there (a likely story!). That was an extra 10k on Pearce’s tally for the day.

We headed out from The Woods, making sure we took the correct turning off the main road this time and were greeted with more beautiful gravel trails through the forest into Brockenhurst via Hollands Wood campsite. With the temperatures pleasantly rising, we had to take off our jackets.

We then picked up the primarily asphalt back lanes and heathland all the way into Milford-on-Sea, where we were greeted with sunshine, sea and the Isle of Wight's Needles in the distance. We were a little early for our table booking at The Lighthouse, so we enjoyed yet another hot beverage while we perused the menu and basked in the warm sunshine blazing into the restaurant's window seats where we sat.

Two cyclists sat on the sea wall in Milford-on-Sea with the Isle of Wight Needles in the background
Milford-on-Sea seafront

Now, I have to say I had probably the best Fish Finger sandwich I've ever had. And Pearce's chicken, prawn and chorizo skewers look delicious too. Everything we'd hoped for - great food, great service, lovely restaurant and a great setting. Another 10/10 experience. They also kindly let me charge my phone too, which had been quite drained from running the Komoot app - must download the route and use for offline next time! (or get myself a proper GPS unit).

While we were at dinner, Pearce at a smart idea (for a change), that we should target a small pub on our route back, close enough to the campsite that should the heaven's open, which were expected, we wouldn't have far to ride. We identified a small micro-brewery called Pig Beer perfectly sited on our route back, just off the road.

After a couple of halves (I think the Session and the Sauber, both very tasty), we headed back into the Forest towards Lyndhurst for some more gravel trails.

Once back in Lyndhurst, now only a few miles from camp, it was time for one more beer in the pub opposite The Woods before heading home for a shower. We got the shower a little early as it hammered down for the last mile, which was pretty good timing.

The campsite were really helpful as they stored our sodden bikes overnight (both nights, in fact - a great help given local bike thefts that can happen to campers).

We then headed over to the local pub, The New Forest, for a couple drinks before a well-earned curry at Asha in Ashurst, then back to the pub for a few more beers and a couple espresso martinis to round out a great 48 hours in The New Forest.

A huge puddle formed by rain with a car and a horse in the background
Torrential rain brought flooding

The morning after saw us pack up soaking wet camping gear from another all-night downpour which had caused pockets of flooding around the campsite - so lucky we weren't in a tent on the floor! We headed back to Forest Edge Roasting company for breakfast and a flat white before hitting the road home. A much more successful trip than the previous one, and safe to say we're both now gravel fans.

Watch Day 2 of our Gravel Cycling on Relive

Part 1

Part 2

(after Pig Beer and a short distance of forgetting to start the GPS again)

Route details

View the details from each day on Strava and Komoot (coming shortly...)



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