I thought it would be nice to share our experience cycling in New Forest last month during the long weekend. It is a lovely place, and is very friendly to cyclists. There are lots of bike hiring shops around if you don’t have your own bike. And the bikes they hire out are quite good quality as well. Think they also have tandem bikes, bikes with kids carriage etc. At least those are the bikes I saw at the shop right next to the railway train, Brockenhurst, we got out of. If we know there are such good bikes for hire in New Forest, we probably would have reconsidered taking our bikes by train. Maybe because there were so many cyclists cycling in New Forest, cars seemed to treat us better by giving us plenty of space than are normally the case in other parts of the country.Anyway, we started our journey from Brockenhurst railway station. The map I’ve included here is a map of New Forest with some added information about the routes we have taken on our bikes during the three days we’ve been. It’s supposedly also a map for cyclist who want to navigate around New Forest. But I find that it’s not a good map. If you do not plan to cycle off-road (gravel path with no traffic, indicated by line with pink and white stripes) then the map is probably okay. But once you are off-road, the map doesn’t show you all the roads. We should have brought a compass with us, and we have thought about doing so, but somehow all four us just, forgot. Another thing is, although it is labelled on the map a number for each route, the actual roads are not properly signposted, if at all. I was surprised actually, perhaps I’ve expected Sustran-like type of signpostings.The B&B accommodation we booked was located in Ringwood, on the edge of New Forest, about 15 miles from Brockenhurst. The first thing we needed to do was to get there and check-in, as we have quite a bit of load on our panniere. It would probably be ideal if the accommodation is somewhere nearer to Brockenhurst. Unfortunately, we left the booking a bit too late, most of the accommodation were fully booked by the time we finally wanted to book. But, we thought, Ringwood is not too shabby either, only just an hour and a half away (assuming that we cycle at 10mph), so that was how we booked to stay there. It turned out to be not a very wise decision. First of all, the terrain is not all flat. Second, we have a lousy map, and the road signs are poor. We were alright on roads, but as soon as we were off road, hoping to take a short-cut, we got lost very quickly. We ended up having to climb over a fence to get back on road. And we scared a few ponies too.The journey we thought we could cover in 1 1/2 hours ended up taking more like 2 1/2 hours. I was still okay when I got to the B&B, but W and my two friends were a bit less okay. At one point, when we were really close to the B&B, one of them almost wanted to threw her bike aside and stop cycling 🙂 That evening we didn’t go anywhere else on bike anymore.
The train services in the UK are hopeless. We recently went on a biking trip in New Forest. Apart from the dreadful train journey, where we were turned down twice to board the train with our bikes, it was a really great outing. Not knowing that we need to reserve places for our bikes in the bicycle carriage, we were denied access to the Virgin train direct to Brockenhurst as there were only two available spaces. There were four of us. Fair enough, we have not done our research properly. But it’s really petty that the train has only got one bicycle carriage, with only just four spaces. The demand definitely outstripped the supply on a few occasions during our trip. We later found out that the bicycle carriage can technically fit more than four bicycles, albeit only securely for four. Anyway some of the personnels working at the train stations or on the trains have very low awareness of how they are supposed to deal with people who want to take bicycles onto trains. Worst of all, their attitude towards bikers are really terrible, as if we are pests. Particularly this “train manager” from Southwest train at Basingstoke railway station. He was just plain rude. What a contrast to the services and facilities I found in some other European countries like Holland, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. It’s little coincidence that the British have so much to moan about their country.