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New Forest Cycling

Cycle ride 1
Woodland near Ashurst: Churchplace, Deerleap and Longdown Inclosures

Location: 3.5 kilometres (2 miles) south-east of Ashurst.
Start: Deerleap car park on Deerleap Lane, close to the New Forest Wildlife Park (SU 353095).
Station: Ashurst, 3.5 kilometres (2 miles) by road from the Deerleap car park, but those travelling by train might prefer the alternative start point in Ashurst camp site.
Camping in the Forest campsite: Ashurst, 4 kilometres (2 1/2 miles) by road, but see details of the alternative start, below.
Alternative starts: Ashurst campsite - a cycle track from the camp site joins this cycle route on the edge of Churchplace Inclosure.
Distance: 6 kilometres (3 3/4 miles), including a short stretch of Deerleap Lane.
Extend or shorten the route: To optionally increase the distance covered, combine this cycle ride with nearby Cycle ride 2 (to the north-west of this ride). Alternatively, to reduce the distance covered, turn right at cycle track sign number 376.
Route map

Located alongside the north-eastern boundary of the New Forest and conveniently situated close to Ashurst campsite and Ashurst railway station, this relatively short cycle ride along well-made tracks features lots of level ground without any substantial hills. It is eminently suitable for families - although the route does include a short section of road - and those who prefer fairly gentle exercise in pleasant, woodland surroundings.

The ride starts in the Deerleap car park, although the campsite provides a convenient alternative start point. The New Forest inn is also nearby (between the station and camp site, on the A35) for those attracted to the prospect of cooling post-ride refreshment.

Encountered mid-way around the route, and bounded to the north by the suspected line of a Roman road, Churchplace Inclosure gets its name from the presence of a medieval keepers' lodge - known as Church Place - dating from around the 14th century, a lodge once erroneously thought to be site of a church swept away by William the Conqueror when the New Forest was first created.

Set aside for trees way back in 1810, the inclosure features a range of attractive mature broad-leaved trees, including many old oak and beech trees dating back to the time of the original planting. (The 1810 inclosure was planted, though, partly on the site of an earlier block of woodland known as Ashers Coppice (Ashurst Coppice) which occupied the eastern end and, indeed, shared much of the same boundary. In 1575, there was documentary reference to a coppice 'new made' - almost certainly this - and in the late 18th century, Richardson, King and Driver's map continued to show it as New Coppice. Old, badly eroded 16th century boundary banks can still in places be seen).

Cycling in Churchplace Inclosure
Cycling in Churchplace Inclosure

Wide tracks through the inclosure let in lots of light and in places encourage strong growths of brambles and thistles that provide late-spring and summer blossom and the prospect of autumnal blackberries, but more importantly, attract a wide range of butterflies that are best seen on bright, sunny spring to early autumn days. Look out, in particular, for magnificent silver-washed fritillaries, boldly marked white admirals (both primarily on the wing in July) and gaudily coloured brimstones whose main flight period lasts virtually right the way through from April to September.

Deerleap Inclosure, created in 1867, is primarily coniferous woodland with relatively few broad-leaved trees. The name recalls the ages old practice of encouraging deer to enter deer parks through or over 'deer leaps', gaps in the boundary fence or sections of fence of reduced height, with adjacent steep ground on the park side designed to prevent escape.

Adjacent to the start of the ride, Longdown Inclosure is also primarily coniferous woodland, and is one of the 'Verderers Inclosures', the group of inclosures created with the permission of the Verderers following the 1949 New Forest Act. It was set down to trees in 1960.

Fallow and roe deer may be encountered anywhere along the way and so might a wide range of woodland birds.

The route
(Only designated cycle tracks are usually mentioned below and shown on the map (as yellow lines), not footpaths and other tracks. Cycle route marker post numbers are also shown).

1) Follow the cycle track out of the car park and over a strip of grassland/encroaching heath running between Deerleap and Longdown Inclosures – Deerleap Inclosure is on the right.

2) After a relatively short distance, pass a gravel track on the left – it is not a cycle track – and eventually travel downhill to cross a narrow stream flanked by alder carr. Notice here the prominent pipes used to control the water flow.

3) Follow the cycle track to the right, through a gate into Deerleap Inclosure, and immediately reach a  ‘T’ junction – cycle track sign number 376.

4) Turn left, and then follow the route as it immediately goes right.

5) Continue parallel to the railway line (lookout along here by the trackside for the huge, domed nests of southern wood ants), and then after just over 1 kilometre (0.6 mile), ignore a turn on the left  and continue into Churchplace Inclosure.

6) Follow the cycle track until a ‘T’ junction is reached, turn right – note, straight ahead here is not a cycle track – and continue on, eventually back into the coniferous woodland of Deerleap Inclosure.

7) Reach a ‘X’ roads on the edge of a block of mature conifers. Note, straight on is not a cycle track, and the cycle track sign here is ‘sideways-on’ and therefore not particularly obvious.

8) Turn left to, after 0.75 kilometres (1/2 mile), leave Deerleap Inclosure through a gate. After a short distance, turn right along Deerleap Lane and the car park is not far away, on the right.

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** New Forest ponies and other animals**
New Forest ponies in the road
Commoners' ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but during 2019 agisters attended 159 road traffic accidents involving these animals, a small but disappointing increase on the 154 accidents attended in 2018.

Sadly, 58 animals were killed - 35 ponies, 13 cows, 8 donkeys and 2 sheep, whilst a further 32 were injured - 3 pigs, 9 donkeys, 11 cows and 9 ponies.

(Forty-three accidents occurred in daylight, 15 at twilight and 101 in the dark. Twenty-seven accidents were not reported by the driver involved).
** Always take care when driving **
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley