Feel healthier and happier on your bike
By Richard Burke, New Forest Recreation and Public Affairs Manager, Forestry Commission
We all know that exercise is good for us and at this time of year you don’t have to be stuck indoors working out. Cycling in the forest is a terrific form of exercise and can make exercising great fun! Getting outdoors and keeping fit in the natural environment can be a real adventure, and an excellent way to boost your body and brain.
Over the past 12 months my team have been making significant improvements to Forestry Commission’s cycle trails across the New Forest. Working in partnership with the National Park Authority, we provide a range of cycle trails for different abilities, which are all maintained to a high standard and offer a safe place to cycle off-road.
Exploring the New Forest by bike is the ideal way to discover the magnificent beauty and fascinating wildlife that can easily be missed by car. To help protect this unique environment and improve visitor enjoyment an off-road and road-based cycle network has been created. The network covers over 100 miles and links the main New Forest villages and the railway stations at Brockenhurst and Sway, by the safest and most attractive routes.
The designated cycling routes are great for all ability adventures and the National Park Authority’s scheme, PEDALL, aims to engage any person in cycling, regardless of their physical or intellectual ability, age or confidence level. The project makes use of a range of adapted cycles including tricycles, recumbent cycles, wheelchair cycles, hand cycles and tandems as well as two-wheeled bicycles.
This is a fantastic opportunity for people with a physical or intellectual disability, a visible or unseen condition to benefit from the mental and physical wellbeing that cycling provides. Family members and carers are encouraged to join the sessions and share the experience of cycling in the forest. There is a varied fleet of cycles; these are specialist cycles built to cater for people with a wide range of needs. The adapted cycles are available to hire anytime from Cyclexperience, Brockenhurst, prices start from £4 per cycle, per hour.
There are plenty of cycle hire providers locally, so don’t worry if you don’t have a bike of your own. The National Park Authority has also teamed up with Garmin and local bike hire companies to provide cyclists with free hire of GPS devices to help you find your way around and make the most of the forest on your doorstep. You can find out more about this service by visiting www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/cyclenav.
Don’t forget, the New Forest is a working forest, with forestry, farming and equestrian activity on its narrow roads and tracks. Ponies, cattle and other animals are free to roam the forest and most of its roads. So, a cycling code of conduct aims to ensure that cyclists and other users can enjoy this special place in harmony. Find the code on our website, where you’ll also find information on any route closures to make sure your day goes to plan. It may seem obvious, but make sure you have the correct bicycle safety equipment to keep out of danger while you’re out cycling.
With over 1100km of Forestry Commission cycle trails nationally, from the easy family routes of the New Forest to bike skills areas and adrenaline fuelled downhill routes elsewhere, there's a trail for all bike adventures. If you are a more adventurous cyclist, then head to Moors Valley Country Park and Forest, which has a network of purpose built bike trails that are suitable for a range of abilities, providing the perfect location for families, as well as experienced off-road riders.
So happy cycling, we hope you enjoy the tracks we provide, whether you’re tackling an exciting woodland trail or enjoying a gentle route with the family.
For more information about cycling at Forestry Commission sites across the country and in the New Forest, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/england-cycling also check out www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/routes for all the best local trails.