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A very good turnout of around 22 people for Sunday’s ride to the western side of the Forest and back via the Three Bs – Burley, Brockenhurst and Beaulieu. We have to thank Andy Murray for his early departure from the Wimbledon tennis tournament; had he got through to the Men’s final, then we would have had a few less riders. It was Alan’s first ride as leader and, as leader, he gets to choose the coffee and tea stops. It may have been Bob Damper that us tipped off about a new cafe in Ringwood that actively welcomes cyclists and Alan built a route to allow us to try it out and then on return leg to include one of his favourite stops, the Old Bakehouse in Beaulieu.

Because of the number of riders, two groups were formed with Marcus leading one with Nigel sweeping, and then Alan leading the second with Gordon as Tail End Charlie.

The route out went via Totton, Calmore, Copythorne, Newbridge and up the first uncategorised climb to Furzley Common and on to Bramshaw. Bramble Hill then followed with the first points available in the King of the Mountain jersey competition. We “pulled over” (gettit?) at the top and then Phil joined us, having used the leadout train of Sotonia Cycle Club to bring him up to us, having been late at the start.

The route levelled out and headed across Ocknell Plain; luckily the usual hurricane-force winds were reduced to a breeze. The ponies across Ocknell Plain were rather frisky but fotunately did not cause any issues.  We then dropped down through Linwood and on to Rockford and Poulner and then Ringwood. Cafe Velo was the chosen stop and the quality of the food did not disappoint. The cafe had only been open for six weeks and the manager admitted that they were still finding their feet in terms of speed of provision of the food. The Sotonia Cycling Club then arrived and, together with us, gave the cafe their busiest day since they opened.

Marcus left us at Ringwood and so we had one group for the return trip. The route took us through Crow, Crow Hill, Crow Hill Top and on to Burley Street and then Burley where some of the riders left us and heading directly back to Southampton. The rest of us continued on towards Burley using part of what was many years ago, the route of the main railway line from Southampton to Bournemouth.  Having enjoyed a downhill before joining that part, naturally another uphill followed and then it was a very pleasant downhill and then a flat run into Brockenhurst (ignoring Rosie Lea’s Teashop and at least two other cafes).

Once beyond Brockenhurst, there was another slog up hill before levelling out to cross Beaulieu Heath and passing Hatchet Pond before dropping down to Beaulieu. Joanne joined us for essential refreshment at the Old Bakehouse Tearooms where the portions of cake appeared to be even bigger than their normal very generous size. Alan seemed to forget that he was supposed to be leading the ride and was quite happy to sit there for the rest of the afternoon until Simon suggested that perhaps it was time to go.

There remained just one final mountain stage to go to get us to Hill Top (should be renamed “Mountain Top”) and then it was all generally level-ish with a nice downhill at Dibden Purlieu, before heading through Applemore, Marchwood and finally Eling.

A good day out and everyone appeared to have enjoyed it.

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