A varied ride from a popular village via 'Castleman's Corkscrew'.
Minimum time 1h00
Distance 6 miles (9.7km)
Suggested map OS Explorer OL22 New Forest
Start/finish public fee-paying car park, Burley; grid ref: SU 211030
Trails/tracks busy village centre, quiet lanes and an old railway route
Landscape bare open heathland contrasts with pretty cottages and wooded village lanes
Public toilets opposite car park, Burley
Tourist information Lyndhurst, tel: 023 8028 2269
Bike hire Forest Leisure Cycling, The Cross, Burley, tel: 01425 403584
Recommended pub The Queens Head, Burley
Notes Burley's streets get busy at weekends and during holiday periods. Good traffic sense required.
© Automobile Association 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
Burley village is on a minor road south east of Ringwood, between the A31 and the A35. Leave the A31 at Picket Post, 1 mile (1.6km) east of Ringwood, and follow the signposted route through Burley Street to Burley. Keep left at the war memorial in the centre of the village, and you'll find The Queens Head immediately on your left, with the public car park entrance just beyond the pub's own car park.
1 Turn right out of the car park, stop at the road junction, and continue straight ahead. Fork left at the war memorial into Pound Lane, signed to Bransgore. Pass the Forest Teahouse and cider shop, then follow the lane out over the heath to Burbush Hill.
2 Fork left just before the old railway bridge, following the waymarked off-road cycle track through the Forestry Commission's car park and down on to the old railway line. The Castleman Trail begins in a lovely sandy cutting, which is smothered with brilliant purple heather in late summer. Soon the old line emerges from the cutting onto a low embankment, with good views out over the boggy heath. You'll often see horse riders in the area and birdwatchers should look out for green woodpeckers, as well as for lapwings, curlews and redshanks, which nest on the heath in early summer. The trail rises briefly to the broken brickwork of Greenberry Bridge, which survived the closure of the railway, only to be demolished in 1995 when it became unsafe. Continue to the low wooden barriers that guard the minor road crossing at Holmsley Passage, where you can still see short sections of the original railway lines embedded in the road surface.
3 If you wish, you can shorten the ride by turning left here. To complete the full route, cross the road and continue along the old railway line. The trail becomes more shaded as it runs perfectly straight through an avenue of young oak trees. The track crosses two small bridges that herald the approach to Holmsley Station. Look out for the old brick platform on your right before dismounting at the wooden gate that marks the end of the cycle track.
4 Beyond the gate and across the road, the Old Station tea rooms are well worth a visit for morning coffee, home-cooked lunches and cream teas. There's a pleasant garden, as well as a gift shop where you can buy a souvenir of your visit to this unusual refreshment stop. Turn here and retrace your outward route to Holmsley Passage (Point 3). Turn right on to the quiet lane, follow it up the hill and stop at the 5-way junction.
5 Cross straight over towards Burley Lawn and zig-zag left, then right, past the White Buck Inn into Bennetts Lane.
6 Bear left at the next junction into Beechwood Lane and keep straight on through Lester Square until you reach a T-junction. Turn left here towards Burley, and continue past the little brick-built church of St John the Baptist for the final 400yds (366m) back to the car park.
Railway interest is all around you on the mid-section of this ride, which reaches its climax at Holmsley's old station. The Castleman Trail follows the broad, level trackbed of the original main line to Dorchester. The railway was promoted by Charles Castleman, a Wimborne solicitor, who planned the line through his home town. This wasn't exactly the most direct route, and critics quickly dubbed it 'Castleman's Corkscrew'.
The railway opened in 1847, but was swallowed up by the larger and more powerful London & South Western Railway in the following year. At this time Bournemouth was little more than a sleepy village, but passengers for Christchurch could catch a linking coach service from Holmsley station, which was originally known as 'Christchurch Road'. After Bournemouth and Christchurch were linked to the national rail network, Holmsley's traffic evaporated. The station continued to serve its small local community, and handled timber from the nearby inclosures. Its rural seclusion was interrupted for a few years during the Second World War, when the little station became the gateway for a new RAF airfield at Plain Heath. After the war, the railway fell victim to the growing popularity of road transport. Passenger traffic dwindled again and, in 1964, 'Castleman's Corkscrew' was finally axed in the notorious cuts made by Dr Beeching.
This route takes you through the heart of the bustling New Forest village of Burley, with its antique shops, tea rooms and horse-drawn wagon rides. In complete contrast, the Castleman cycle trail is the perfect way to experience the surrounding heathland from a level stretch of old railway line. There are good opportunities for birdwatching, and you can visit the Old Station tea rooms at Holmsley.