I wondered about my sanity as I headed out early in the light rain to a deserted Black Hill car park, joined shortly by Mark R and Helen, with the remainder arriving by bike from Chandlers Ford – Mike, Andy and team Young (Steve, Lynne & Jack). The route had plenty of New Forest highlights including Pipers Wait (nice “warm up” hill), Roger Penny Way, Blissford Hill, Linwood, both ornamental drives, Portuguese Fireplace, and the runway.
Blissford Hill was wet with traction difficult on its 25% gradient which made the rear wheels slip. We were in the clouds at the top of Bolderwood Drive with the mist swirling around the trees and it almost looked like mountain scenery. The roads were wet on the descent and then we passed through the massive trees of Rhinefield Drive. After going through the water splash at Brockenhurst it was the first quick stop of the ride, Tesco Express. We pushed on to Lepe Café. There was no usual view of the Solent on the 5 or 6 mile run in to Beaulieu but a good tailwind. My chain snapped half way up the hill climbing out of Beaulieu towards Lepe. Fixing it was complicated by a bent link, but we soon got it sorted.
Lepe Café was a welcome sight, although looking autumnal with grey skies and a strong onshore wind. We sat inside for the first time ever, even in the winter we can sit outside! I said goodbye to everyone except Mark & Helen a few miles north of Lepe as we re-entered the forest whilst the others headed up to Eling and home. It was a Relaxed ride back to the car park, with sunshine and blue skies developing as we rode, making it rude not to have an ice cream at the top of Bolderwood!