The days are lengthening, the weather is getting milder and that itch to get out on your bike and immerse yourself in the wonders that spring brings with it is getting stronger.
So as spring settles in across the country once more, what should you do and where should you go to take advantage of this precious time of year?
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The bluebell is a harbinger of the change in the seasons. Once the dainty bell-shaped flowers start to appear in hedgerows or under trees, you can be sure that winter is behind us and the warmer months are on the way.
And there is nothing quite like the sight of bluebells carpeting a woodland floor to gladden the soul and lift the spirits. The flowers are at their best and most prolific from the end of March until the beginning of May, so now is the time to go and see them before they hide underground again for another year. There are plenty of places across the UK where you can go and take in this stunning floral spectacle by bike.
One of these woods is Beechenhurst in the Forest of Dean. Here you will find a range of routes and options, to take in the sight. From the family-friendly 5km Hicksters Way Loop, which has a specially surfaced path making it suitable for everyone of all ages and abilities, to the extreme orange MTB route for the experienced thrill seekers who want the excitement of a challenging ride as they take in the wonders of spring.
West Woods in Marlborough is another location that turns blue with the visit of these flowers. There are no MTB tracks here, but you can do a spot of gravel riding and follow the stone-surfaced roads and bridleways that cross the woodland to enjoy the beauty around you.
But you need not travel far, as there is bound to be one of these woodland delights near to home. Check out the Forestry Commissions website, to get ideas on the best locations for you and your needs, www.forestryengland.uk.
New Life, New Horizons
With the spring comes new life, not only in nature but in farming too. It is the season to see lambs frolicking in the fields, their playful nature a joy to behold. One place you will be sure to see them this spring is on Alston Moor in Cumbria. The sweeping vistas here are as severe as they are beautiful. They are also home to hundreds of sheep. The route across the moor is part of the C2C (sea to sea) Cycle Route, one of the many National Cycling Network rides and the Pennine Cycleway. Both these routes pass through the historic market town of Alston, a lovely spot to stop for refreshments and rest the legs.
If you follow the route across to Hartside, you can feel a certain kind of pride knowing you are cycling the exact same roads used in the Tour of Britain in 2021, where the likes of Van Aert, Alaphilipe and Cavendish raced. In fact, you can still see ‘Cav’ emblazoned on the climb to give you some motivation. If you need to stop to catch your breath, take a rest at the car park at the top. The views (weather permitting) are truly fantastic. You can see all the way across to the Lake District, and on clear days make out the mountains of Scotland beyond. It’s an amazing spot to stop and take in the wonder of the countryside and see the green and vibrancy return to the lands after the hibernation of winter.
If you can’t make it to Cumbria, the National Cycling Network has routes which crisscross these islands, all of them free to access. Started in 1995 the aim of the network is to encourage cycling and walking throughout Britain. Now there are 20,501km of cyclable route of which 8,400 km are car free.
It’s not only warmer, sunnier days that are a sign of Spring. Wildlife starts to become more noticeable too. One of the best places to go and see it for yourself is one of the nature reserves that are dotted around the country.
Many of these reserves have routes which are ideal for cycling, including Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire. This 785-hectare, ancient fenland site, is one of the oldest nature reserves in the country dating back to the 1890’s. The reed beds and wetlands are home to a multitude of birds and insects, and in the spring you may see an elusive Bittern or maybe even a cunning cuckoo. It is also possible that you may catch sight of one of the Konik ponies along the way. These hardy grazing animals were introduced to help maintain the landscape in a sustainable way. And with it being spring you may be lucky enough to see some foals.
It has well-marked and accessible cycle routes making for a great family day out or providing the wonderful opportunity to get some precious alone time to just let yourself be.
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If you want to discover new places to go, check out Cycling UK’s route page here
Spring is such a unique and precious time of the year, don’t let it slip past, go out there and enjoy it.
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