A lovely day in prospect tomorrow – a train journey to Brockenhurst to hire a tandem and push off into the New Forest for the afternoon, culminating in tea in Rosie Lea’s Tea House before snoozing away the train journey home. This has become a tradition for me and my friend…

Our first visit was after a two-day cycling trip last year, which started in the rain in Burley and finished – in the rain – in Brockenhurst. It seemed no effort at all, manoeuvring our bikes on and off the trains at Surbiton, Woking and Brockenhurst on the outward journey. With high spirits and expectations we smugly ‘postied’ past the cycle hire shops, proud of getting this far unscathed. Who needs to hire a bike? We were adventurers, we had our own tyre levers and weren’t afraid to use them. With carrier bags to keep our seats dry and a set of cycle clips to share, we were prepared for anything. Uphill into the mist we pedalled, downhill through the puddles we wheeled, rabbits scattered in our path and we respectfully avoided brown-eyed ponies with their trusting stares. After a pub lunch, our views changed. Trusting stares? Think brazen.

We heard tales of ponies walking into the pub and helping themselves straight from the tables, being chased out by a barmaid armed only with a rolled-up lunchtime menu. Another yarn about a string of ponies helping themselves to a family picnic on the neigh-bouring green convinced us that the days of carrots and sugar lumps satisfying our New Forest friends had long gone. Here the fear of wasps has been replaced by the threat of hoof prints in the hummus, in other words, being trampled by a long-lashed downy-soft New Forest pony as it crushes your crisps and quiches underfoot.

After a total of around 30 miles cycling over the two days, we finished up at the Rosie Lea’s Tea House and Bakery. Soaked through, we thoroughly shared our wetness with the other customers as we struggled out of waterproofs with the enthusiasm of a wet dog. However the welcome from Rosie’s staff was as warm as a log fire and we gently immersed ourselves into a ploughman’s tea (cheese scones, locally-sourced cheddar slices and chutney) followed by a cream tea (no explanation needed), all beautifully presented on a three-tiered china cake stand. A pot of Lapsang Sochong served in beautiful mismatched vintage china was the pièce de résistance. Overall an ideal place to steam quietly and rest weary bottoms before stiffly wheeling our bikes back to Brockenhurst station.

 

This time it was no mean feat getting down the steps in one piece. The bike seemed twice as heavy as the day before and three times as awkward to handle and to avoid the front wheel hitting the next step and pitching us forward onto the platform.

Once on the train home, quietly aching and replete, it was hard to keep my eyes open, and it was only a lively and in-depth exchange with a golfer about his daily cycling habits that kept me going until Woking.  Unscathed, apart from a few bruises from my pedals (those steps again), we both felt we’d achieved something special. We always knew we’d return…

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