There are muddied trails, hard-packed gravel paths, and farm fields to tackle on our 120km ride, ideal for cyclo-cross, gravel, and adventure road bikes. The route uses quiet rolling country roads to connect pockets of woodland. We rode the Condor Bivio-Gravel frameset on the route.
Occupying nearly 200 square miles, the National Forest is often bypassed by outdoor folk in favour of the neighbouring Peak District—an older, bigger, grander area of natural beauty. Why? Because until 1991, the forest didn't exist. The National Forest was once a baron, desolate place, with a landscape filled with old clay quarries, open cast mines, and spoil heaps. In twenty-five years, a transformation has occurred, turning a treeless eyesore into a lush green panorama. 8.5 million trees have been planted with another 12 million to be added, marking a major transformation to the region and the first forest to be grown in over 1,000 years.
The ride sets out from Leicester, heading west into the heartland of the National Forest. Upon reaching the outskirts of Ashby de la Zouche, there is a 20km section of car-free, mixed surface riding, passing through Calke Abbey estate and dense woodland before joining a former railway line, now known as the Cloud Trail.
Things get interesting in the run back to Leicester with the route crossing Beacon Hill, the second highest peak in Leicestershire. The summit is reached via an off-road climb, opening views of Belvoir Castle and the neighbouring extinct volcano of Bardon Hill. A fast descent follows before joining the lake-lined cycle paths back to the city centre.
Rider notes: Mixed woodland, grassland, open heathland, wetlands and rocky outcrops await. The climb may feel like a struggle but the views are worth it at the top.
Cattows Farm Tea Room
Stonehurst Family Farm
Rider notes: Bike-friendly hot food stop serving everything including pheasant casserole.