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The Great Solent Loop - Midsummer Saturday June 21st, 2014

The Great Solent Loop is a circumnavigation of the Solent by bike and ferry, happening on Midsummer's Day Saturday 21st June 2014.

Departing from Whitchurch Town Hall at 6am in glorious sunshine we ride down the Test Valley through Stockbridge and Mottisfont, then enter the New Forest climbing onto the plains around Stoney Cross. At the 55k point we stop for Coffee and Cake at Minsted Village Shop in the depths of the forest. Then it's through the enclosures and along Bolderwood Arboretum / Rhinefield Ornamental Drives -  the most beautiful roads in the New Forest and therefore, the UK (probably).

Past Brockenhurst it's all downhill to Lymington, where after 85km and 666(!)m of climbing we catch either the 10, 10:20 or 11am ferry depending on progress. (the TVCC average speed for this sort of all-day shenanigans is 20kph. So allowing 20 minutes for Minstead Cake, will be either the 10:20 or 11am ferries, maybe the 10am if folks are cracking on). The ferry also provides our second cafe stop of the day, complete with bar and free WiFi.

After a relaxing 40-minute crossing we alight at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight just before noon. Almost immediately we are onto a taster of the island's many car-free cyclepaths, although for the rest of the ride we will be sticking to quiet lanes for the vast majority of the route.

Following Cycle Route 22 into the countryside we climb over Brightstone Down for our first view of the Channel proper and the south side of the island. Then around the southern side of the island to Ventnor, and a pre-ordered  late lunch in the courtyard of the Bonchurch Inn, pub and Italian restaurant of great repute.

Around 3pm, suitably refreshed and relaxed we head into the interior of Wight following cycle route 231. At Brading we turn north and avoid the coast road, coming into Ryde from the south. The catamaran to Portsmouth departs from the end of Ryde pier every 30 minutes, taking 22 minutes to get over. There's a Costa at the end of the pier for those in need of refreshment.

Once at Portsmouth Harbour station about 5pm we follow the Pilgrim's Trail cyclepath out of the city, almost all off the road. Outside the city we head up Portsdown Hill for a look back over the Solent, then head down and into the South Downs National Park for the gradual climb up to Beacon Hill at 185m above sea level, the highest point of the ride. En-route to Beacon Hill about 6:30pm we stop at the White Lion in Soberton for a bite to eat, a drink and stretch.

From Beacon Hill it's a long, glorious downhill in the evening sun to Alresford, then the well-beaten path back home through Micheldever Station. We should return well before sunset which is 9:34pm.

Ferry tickets are a small faff involving buying a return at Lymington then upgrading it at Ryde, but £20 will cover you. Apart from the Minsted Shop which is the only place to get Cake at that time of the morning, all other coffee/Cake stops are TBC depending on progress and levels of hunger/thirst within the peloton.

Riders are asked to please bring their best flat-free tyres/tubes and to make sure bikes are in tip-top condition - it doesn't take many 10-minute delays to make an already long day longer.

You can see the route at http://my.viewranger.com/route/details/MjM1NDM= or the GPX file is attached.

A Google Earth photo-tour-flythrough-thing can be viewed HERE.

Subpages (1): Photo tour
The Great Solent Loop.gpx
Mike Stead,
10 Mar 2014, 08:43