On the weekend Oli and I had our first night away since Alex was born last October. Obviously, we have had nights away from home since becoming a family of four but the kids have always been with us. Last Saturday was the first time we have had a whole night child free since our babymoon in Reading last June and it was so needed. If you read my blog regularly you may have seen my post the other week about how I have been desperate for a break from parenting these last couple of months. To make the most of our freedom, Oli and I decided to do something we are nowhere near brave enough to do with our 3 year old and baby – we spent the day cycling in the New Forest and decided to drag out our child free time even more by camping just half an hour from our house.
Cycling in the New Forest.
After giving both the boys lots of hugs and kisses, early Saturday afternoon Oli and I loaded up the car and headed over to Lyndhurst, ready for our blissful child free weekend to begin. We arrived at the beautiful town of Lyndhurst, also known as the capital of the New Forest, and hired some bikes from AA Bike Hire. We had a bit of a ‘mare finding the cycle shop, it is not advertised from the road but if you follow signs for the New Forest Centre and Museum, AA Bike Hire is just as you drive into the car park there. It is hidden away but definitely worth the hunt. The man who runs it is very knowledgeable on cycle routes throughout the forest and you can tell he knows the Forest like the back of his hand. For just £10 each, Oli and I hired two bikes for the day and headed out through Lyndhurst and into the forest for an adventure.
I haven’t ridden a bike in a couple years but, as we all know, you never forget how to ride a bike. The stony cycle paths in the forest didn’t make for a completely smooth ride but they were manageable, even for a fair weather cyclist like me. We were given a map at the bike hire shop so we tried our best to follow a proper route but we got ourselves a bit lost at times. If we had had the kids with us I would have been freaking out but it was actually quite fun not knowing where we were going, as the New Forest is so massive it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves, we saw way less people than I was expecting. It was lovely to feel like it was just me and Oli alone in the forest, it was the quality time together we have desperately needed for months.
We cycled through the forest from Lyndhurst to Brokenhurst where we stopped off at a pub for a much deserved drink in a pretty beer garden. It was hard to get back going once we’d stopped but we managed to hop back on the bikes and head back through the forest, not going to lie my legs were burning going up some of the hills but I still had a lot of fun. The New Forest is so beautiful and it was funny cycling past ponies who were just hanging out all over the road and wondering up and down the pavements too. Being in the New Forest kind of felt like being in a different world, it is a place where no one bats an eyelid to there being more cyclists on the road than cars and it is totally normal for the human to horse ratio to be more in favour of the ponies.
After we dropped our bikes back in Lyndhurst we jumped back in the car for ten minutes and headed to Ashurst where we would be spending our night beneath the stars at Ashurst campsite. The pitch for our tent on a Saturday in July cost just £25 , once we had checked in at reception we were free to choose any of the available pitches and set up camp. Setting up our little 2 man tent was easy, I could not imagine getting it done as efficiently with the two kids with us though. We will definitely be returning to Ashurst campsite with the kids soon, it is a lovely site where you can hide your tent amongst the trees and the ponies even pop by to say hello too. I was sort of ready to pass out in the tent after we got it all sorted but Oli and I decided to make the most of our mini break in the New Forest (did I mention we were child free?!) and headed out for drinks and dinner at The New Forest pub, literally a stones throw from the campsite. It made such a change to be eating a meal past 5pm, where we could talk about whatever we wanted and not have to worry about feeding two little people as well as ourselves. Meal times are an exhausting affair in our house so a peaceful meal just the two of us was wonderful, as were the couple glasses of gin I washed it all down with.
We didn’t have to be off the campsite until noon on Sunday so, although we still woke up early, we enjoyed a morning off just being lazy and popped back into Lyndhurst for a big breakfast. We were only away from the kids for just under 24 hours but I felt like we had just been on holiday, just having that tiny bit of child free time did us both the world of good. It felt amazing for one day to not have to worry about sticking to a routine and to not have our day dictated to by the children’s schedules. We missed them and talked about them loads but having some time to just be a couple and not ‘mum and dad’ was just what our relationship needed. I was ready to get back home to my babies and felt like a much more relaxed and happy mum when I saw them. Parents, ditch the guilt and have some child free time every now and then – you deserve it!
If you are ever in Hampshire I really recommend you visit the New Forest, it is a beautiful part of the country and there is so much exploring to do and adventures to be had. Oli and I may have visited on our own this time but we have had several walks in the New Forest with Leo (we have even been in the pouring rain!) and we are already planning on taking Alex and Leo there for a little camping holiday over the summer holidays. If you are not a regularly cycler though, be prepared for some achy legs if you decide to bike ride round the forest, 4 days on and my legs still hurt.
It was a wonderful weekend spent with my equally wonderful husband – here’s to our next adventure Babe, I can’t wait!
Have you ever visited the New Forest? What is your favourite place to visit? When you have a weekend without the kids what do you like to do? I would love to hear your thoughts.
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