For the ultimate in healthy staycations (or vacations) in England, the opening of a new 220 cycling loop through glorious countryside is the perfect opportunity for bikepackers to explore.
The charity Cycling UK unveiled this new route, called King Alfred’s Way, last week. It officially starts and ends at the statue of the 9th century king of Wessex in Winchester, and circles through parts of Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire and Surrey. This new off-road adventure route will take cyclists through 10,000 years’ worth of history.
As well as places linked to King Alfred, including a string of battle sites, the route takes in locations such as the stone circles at Stonehenge and Avebury and the iron age fort at Old Sarum, the site of Salisbury’s original cathedral.
One of the great things about the cycling trail is its accessibility. It's within an hour’s journey for 17 million people and, of course, there's no need to tackle the entire route in one go. A chunk at a time is likely to be just as popular but, if you fancy the full circuit, it's good to know that you will enjoy picture-postcard villages with ancient churches, orchid-dotted downland, hillsides with white horses etched into the turf - and a cafe or pub around just about every corner.
Cycling UK has spent the last three years creating the loop. The trail uses sections of the existing Ridgeway and South Downs Way routes. It also connects with the Thames Path and the North Downs Way riders’ route. King Alfred’s Way was developed by upgrading some sections of footpath to allow cycling and using existing bridleways, byways, towpaths and quiet roads.