National Cycle Route 23: Part 2 - Sandown to East Cowes, Isle of Wight |
National Cycle Route 23: Part 3 - Southampton to Eastleigh, Hampshire |
National Cycle Route 23: Part 4 - Eastleigh to Alresford, Hampshire via Winchester |
National Cycle Route 23: Part 5 - Alresford to Basingstoke, Hampshire |
National Cycle Route 23: Part 6 - Basingstoke, Hampshire to Reading, Berkshire
National Cycle Route 23 is part of the National Cycle Network. It takes cyclists from the picturesque seaside resort of Sandown on the Isle of Wight to Reading. in Berkshire, the route taking 80 miles in total. This, the fourth section of the route is a hilly 18 mile trip from New Alresford, often referred to simply as Alresford, to Basingstoke in Hampshire. The first section of the route is almost entirely uphill, with the rest of the route undulating. It can be cycled in under two hours.
Getting To The Start Of The Route
This is the first section of the route not to have a mainline railway station. The nearest mainline stations are Alton or Winchester, although there is the Watercress Line Steam Railway station at Alresford, which runs trains from the junction with the mainline station at Alton. Trains to Alton run from London Waterloo every half hour, or hour on Sundays. The Watercress Line allows bicycles to be carried on their trains from Alton to Alresford for free, although restrictions can apply during busy times. Alresford is also accessible from the M3 from either Junctions 9 or 10, following the A31.
Attractions On Route:
This section of National Cycle Route 23 seems to avoid many points of interest in the local area. The parts of interest that the route actually passes include:
- Watercress Line Steam Railway
- Moundsmere Manor – an attractive, modern manor house dating from 1908, not open to the public.
- Viables Miniature Railway - run by the Basingstoke & District Model Engineering Society
- Basingstoke War Memorial Park
- Eastop Park, Basingstoke
There are attractions within five miles of the route that the route does not actually pass. These include:
- The site of the Battle of Cheriton, a battle of the Civil War1.
- The South Downs National Park. This section of the route manages to avoid being in the National Park all the way.
- Northington Grange - A Greek Revival style house transformed between 1804-9 to look like a Greek temple supported on eight gigantic columns
- Hinton Ampner - a stately home from the 1790s famed for its 1930s garden.
- Milestones Museum
Signs and Maps
This section is well signed, although some signs are located close to hedges and can be difficult to spot. It is recommended that an up-to-date Ordnance Survey2 map is taken.
This section overlaps on two 1:25,000 scale Explorer maps. Explorer 132 Winchester, New Alresford & East Meon covers the section between Alresford and Low Wield, while Explorer 144 Basingstoke, Alton & Whitchurch covers from Medstead onwards. Landranger Map 185 covers the whole route on a 1:50,000 scale. On an up-to-date ordnance survey map the route is included as a red/orange3 circular dotted line clearly labelled with '23' in a rectangle.
The route starts in New Alresford near the Watercress Line Steam Railway's station and ends in the large suburban town of Basingstoke. This section almost entirely takes place along narrow country lanes, with the only cycle paths reached on arrival in the outskirts of Basingstoke, a town renowned for its plethora of roundabouts.
Alresford to Bighton
From Station Approach head north along Jacklyn's Lane, away from the Watercress Line, the affectionate nickname for the Mid Hampshrie Steam Railway. At the T-junction turn east into West Street, the busy B3047, heading uphill. At the crest of the hill turn left (north) down the wide Broad Street, following the road as it jiggles around a couple of houses on the right and passes watercress beds and Old Alresford Pond, crossing the River Itchen. This river has been a constant companion since Southampton, and this is the last view of it.
After crossing the river, as the road bends to the left, turn right into Malthouse lane, heading east. This will pass more watercress beds before heading uphill and north-east, passing a short copse on the left. Follow the narrow country lane up and up before the road twists and turns and heads gradually downhill, entering the small village of Bighton, location of a pub.
Bighton to Medstead
Medstead is over 700 feet above sea level, and is one of the highest villages in Hampshire. This regrettably has the result of making all of this section of the route uphill. The route itself is straight-forward. After entering Bighton, which is 86 metres above sea level turn right (south) down Bighton Lane followed by an immediate left (north-east) into Bighton Road. Follow this country lane up and up and up and up, passing West End Lane, Chalky Hill and reaching a junction with Homestead Road. Keep left heading north and uphill along Common Hill, and eventually you reach the top where the hill crosses High Street on the right and Wield Road on the left, 197 metres above sea level. This junction is the outskirts of the historic village of Medstead.
Although the route to Basingstoke does not enter the village and heads left (west) at the junction, a spur of the route leads from this point to Alton. This is variously labeled as 'National Cycle Route 23', '24' or even 'Local Cycle Route 224' on different Ordnance Survey maps, and links the route with Alton.
Medstead village itself is a short distance on the right (east) and contains a pub, shops and a Norman church. A short distance away is Medstead and Four Marks railway station. This is part of the Watercress Line and the highest railway station in Southern England.
Medstead to Bradley
Medstead to Bradley is the most rewarding section of the route to cycle, as you go from 197 to Bradley 121 metres above sea level. At the junction follow the signpost left along Wield Road on the crest of the hill. The road gradually descends and at the first T-junction turn right into Ashley Road followed by a left into the country lane into the hamlet of Low Wield, passing a pub on your right. After the pub the lane narrows and you are faced with a short uphill slope. Take the next right turn, passing the last few scattered houses of Low Wield and follow the country lane down Berryhill Lane, up a minor hill and then downhill, passing the sign welcoming you to Bradley.
Bradley is a small historic village, with a duck pond, flint-faced church, Victorian postbox and pub. As the lane through the village is single-track and includes blind bends, cycle through the village with caution.
Bradley to Ellisfield
From Bradley continue northwest, heading uphill as the lane has minor lanes forking off on the right. Pass a field on your right and an avenue of trees on your left and cross a junction with a minor road, continuing to head north-north-west and uphill. This lane heads in a straight line north passing an occasional house, uphill most of the way, reaching a height of 168 metres above sea level. After passing a view overlooking the attractive Moundsmere Manor, the road finally begins to descend, followed by a sharp right bend. The road then heads north-east, passes another bend to the left and then again begins to climb through an attractive, wooded area, Fliscombe's Copse.
Follow the lane along the outskirts of the Copse on the right and Cannon Wood on the left. This area is popular with deer, and cyclists may be rewarded with a view of deer, possibly even crossing the lane in front of them. After a couple of twists and turns, the lane arrives at a crossroads with Berrydown Lane on your left and Axford Road on the right, with Green Lane ahead. Cross this road and continue north and uphill up Green Lane. This again is uphill and passes High Wood on the left. When the road forks, stay left. The road leads by the scattered houses which is the settlement of Ellisfield. Near the top of the hill passes the Fox Inn on the left, a pub which contains an electric bicycle E-Bike Charge Point. This pub is in the centre of Ellisfield and is 186 metres above sea level.
Ellisfield to Cliddesden
The road carries on to the top of the hill, curving north-west, up to 199 metres above sea level when Green Lane reaches the junction with Church Lane. Stay left on Green Lane, passing picturesque thatched cottages, and then stay right at the next junction where Green Lane becomes Northgate Lane. This lane follows several twists and turns but is fairly flat and on a windy day feels exposed. The lane reaches the highest point of the route shortly after Kingsmore Copse, 201 metres above sea-level, before descending to 142 at the junction with Church Lane, where a cyclist should turn left and continue the descent to Cliddesden. Pass Cliddesden's Grade II Listed St Leonard's Church on your right, and at the bottom of the hill, next to the junction with Farleigh Road you will find the village of Cliddesden's central duck pond and bench. This duck pond is 115 metres above sea level.
Cliddesden to Basingstoke
From the duck pond head north-east (right), taking the narrow road, Wood Lane, uphill on the left opposite the pub. This narrow lane winds uphill rewarding the cyclist with a view overlooking Basingstoke, before plunging down beneath the M3 and entering the large town of Basingstoke. Naturally, the first thing encountered in Basingstoke is one of their many roundabouts. Follow the cycle path around the roundabout and north-east along Hatch Warren Way until just before the second roundabout, where the cyclepath crosses the road, passes through a short path and to the road called Jay's Close, where the cycle route turns right (west), following the road in a circle passing close to the Viables Craft Centre, location of the Viables Miniature Railway run by the Basingstoke & District Model Engineering Society. This is the third and last miniature railway that the route passes in Hampshire, with trains running infrequently.
Following Jay's Close will take you onto a cycle path just before the third Basingstoke roundabout, which you cross following the accompanying cyclepath on the pavement heading straight ahead, north-east, along Cliddesdown Road. Halfway along Cliddesden Road a subway will take you beneath the busy A30 dual carriageway Ringway South, go through and emerge the other side, continuing down Cliddesden Road, passing a pub, before the road ends at the junction with the busy Hackwood Road. Follow the cycle path on the pavement left (north) alongside Hackwood Road to the toucan crossing. Cross at the crossing, and enter Basingstoke's War Memorial Park.
Follow the path around War Memorial Park to the right, following the signs. The path heads south initially before curving left and bearing north-east to the quiet road, Crossborough Hill. Follow this road north to the busy road, London Road. A cycle path takes you right (east) to cross the road, once over the road on the pavement turn left (west) and then take the first road north down Eastop Lane. When Eastop Lane stops heading north and curves right (east), head onto the cycle path on the pavement heading East. This cycle path leads into Eastop Park, where the next section of the route, to Reading, begins. However Basingstoke Railway Station is only a short distance north from this point and can be walked to via the town's subway network.
This is the end of this section of National Cycle Route 23.
Read about the final section - National Cycle Route 23: Part 6 - Basingstoke, Hampshire to Reading, Berkshire