Total tour distance: 105 miles
Daily tour distance: 30 miles
Difficulty: 40 / 100
Discover the secret South Downs from a luxurious country house in the heart of the National Park
3-night stay in country house with ensuite bedrooms; 3 days of cycling, on-road with occasional stretches of cycle path and the option of some easy offroad trails. Some hills.
Mention the South Downs National Park and most people think of the white chalk cliffs of East Sussex. But Britain's newest National Park has far more to offer than that, stretching as it does in a broad band across Southern England through West Sussex and Hampshire.
From our base near the market town of Midhurst in the centre of the Park, we venture into some of its lesser-known but no less beautiful regions: west through the meadows of the Rother Valley to touch on the wooded hillsides of the Hampshire Hangers; north to the sandy heathland and ancient commons of the Sussex Weald; south over the chalk downs themselves into the flatter coastal plain.
Whichever direction we go, we find picturesque villages, historic sites, dramatic views and quiet lanes.
Our base for the weekend is a rambling 19th-century country house set in 60 acres of private woodland. We have exclusive use of the house with its comfortable bedrooms and relaxing lounge and bar area. The bedrooms are a mixture of double, twin and single rooms, all with their own ensuite facilities. There's secure indoor accommodation for the bikes too!
The Beano starts on Friday evening and finishes after the last ride on Monday afternoon, giving us three full days of cycling. Rides are mostly on quiet roads, with a few well-surfaced cycle paths and the occasional short section of track where it lets us link two roads together. As usual there will be shortcuts and detours (some of them offroad) so you can choose how far and how fast you want to go.
As you'd expect in the South Downs National Park, there are a few downs... and a few "ups" to go with them. However the rides are not especially hilly overall: each day may have one or two significant hills to climb with some long easier stretches in between. And as always on a Bicycle Beano there's no rush, so you can take your time climbing the hills and enjoy the views on the way.