Gravel-bike owners will be disappointed with smooth upgrade for cycle route beside a New Forest road

A cycle route through the heart of the New Forest has been upgraded with a smooth asphalt surface. The work was paid for with £325,000 from the New Forest National Park Authority’s £2m cycling fund from the Department for Transport. Earlier in the year there were fears that the “cycling” money would be spent on a scheme that widened the road for the convenience mainly of motorists. However, one of the leading campaigners for improved cycling in the New Forest has welcomed the resurfacing work.

The 3.5km route alongside the A35 links Southampton, Totton and Ashurst in the New Forest National Park.

“Replacing the former gravel surface on the path next to the busy A35 with the smooth tarmac surface means commuters, students and people cycling for pleasure are now able to use the popular route away from the danger of traffic,” says a statement from the New Forest National Park Authority.

New Forest National Park Authority member and New Forest District Councillor for Lyndhurst Pat Wyeth said she had been campaigning to improve the route for years.

“Only people with tough mountain-bike tyres were able to use the gravel surface previously so people commuting or using road bikes with thinner tyres had to either risk a puncture on the path or dodge the many lorries and cars in the road.

“The upgraded path is already well-used as different sections have been opened. We’re keen to get more people out of their cars and using bikes as it’s better for the New Forest environment, as well as [bringing] health benefits.”

Photo: New Forest National Park Authority member and New Forest District Councillor for Lyndhurst Pat Wyeth officially opens the Ashurst to Lyndhurst route with locals and (front left to right) NPA member David Harrison; Hampshire County Councillor and NPA member Keith Mans; HCC Highway Engineer Steve Eleftheriou; NPA member Sally Arnold; NPA Chairman Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre.

Cycle campaigner @forestcyclist told BikeHub he welcomed the upgrade.

“The previous gravel surface which was actively avoided by most cyclists. It appears that in places there’s been a bit of a ‘land grab’ to facilitate the new 2m wide tarmac path, something which I very much welcome.”

He added: “The legal arguments between Verderers and Highways have been resolved and, in effect, have laid the foundations for proposals of more new tarmac cycle paths alongside the A337 from Cadnam to Lymington, as it’s now clear that within the fenced roads of the New Forest that the highway authority are the sole regulatory body.”

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