In the 60′s the island was criss crossed with a network of small railway tracks but a chap called Doctor Beeching put an end to that and through the help of Sustrans these disused railway networks have been turned into cycling tracks that meander their way across the countryside. In fairness to Ramblers this is also ideal walking territory.
Once you are on the cycling route, it is very straight forward – the trick is finding the start. And so predictably not armed with the latest SatNav device I reverted to the old fail safe answer by asking local people. “Ah yes, take the next right, over the small bridge, through the estate, down the hill and you’ll find it next to a camp site” said the local man flushed with ruddy island cheeks and a soft Hampshire burr. And sure enough he was spot on. I joined the route at Sandown on what is described as the Sunshine Trail – hardly the Rue de Soleil that takes you through France to the Mediterranean but I like the ambitious description.
Now the feature of cycle networks is their ease of useage and they are absolutely perfect for family trips. You can safely send your children off ahead of you knowing that they are safe from any traffic. These are rural avenues dotted with cowslip, brambles, burdock and bindweed where startled birds spring from at the sound of a chattering child. In fact for kids this is cycling heaven as they can gawp at the docile cattle and try and engage with determindly chewing sheep. And its quiet. Its only when you stop to study the butterfly life do you realise that in fact you are in the middle of countryside nowhere, sheltered by the natural contours of an old disused railway track.
From time to time you cross minor roads at places such as Merstone and Blackwater but otherwise this is a gentle ride with limited chances to run through the gears.
It comes as a bit of a shock as you enter Newport, back out into real life with industrious shoppers buzzing round the large retail chains. Again finding the start of the next stage of the cycle network is a bit of a puzzle with the odd help of small signs on lamp posts that disarmingly stop at T junctions. Never the less I crossed town and found the start again at the Medina Estuary and followed through, all along the river to Cowes. On the route I found mostly families on hybrid bikes and occasional hikers with decent boots and picnics. This is a friendly environment and ride and not just because the IOW is a holiday island. You get the distinct impression that you are part of a cycle network family populated by young and old who want to safely explore and exercise off the beaten track. And for kids especially these are good old fashioned cycling adventures.
If you are looking for a cycling trip that will contain swooping downhills and steep climbs with views of the island and the sea then the cycling network on the Isle of Wight will not be for you. But if you are happy to pootle and especially if you want a day out with the family, Route 23 is indeed a sunshine trail.
- The National Cycle Network now on an App
- Would it be uphill or downhill on our Sardinian family cycling holiday?
- Sardinia Day 6: The jet set look on enviously as the Moore family complete their cycling adventure
- Happiness is a holiday on two wheels – cycling holidays grow more popular
- The Top Ten Mountain Bike Trails by the Forestry Commission