Family travel: Hampshire

From mountain biking to zip-lining, muddy fun awaits in the wilds of Hampshire

By Natalie Jackson
Published 3 Aug 2015, 11:30 BST, Updated 5 Jul 2021, 09:44 BST

Perched at the peak of a Tree Top Junior zip-wire at Go Ape Alice Holt Forest, I hesitate. A queue of sniggering 10-year-old boys is forming behind me. My son, Noah, gives me the necessary push and I'm flying down the wire, not sure whether to laugh or cry. I land in the 'soft' bark, looking up at the sky. It's OK, I think: I'm already covered in mud.

Glorious mud! There's plenty of the stuff splattered up our legs, back and face from our cycle through nearby Queen Elizabeth Country Park. Noah has only been cycling without stabilisers for a short time, so the muddy trail is too much of a challenge. Instead our guide, Scott, takes us around the flattest part of the forest, the Novice Bike Trail, revealing tracks built by mountain bike enthusiasts. He's part of QECP Trail Build Collective, which uses money raised by sponsored rides and events to create new bike trails.

We wheel past a group of volunteers raking loose twigs and stones to make way for a new track, and stop for Scott to say 'hi' to his buddies. I use the pause to catch my breath, while Matthew and Noah make a brave attempt at a mid-level ramp — one of many cut into the forest. Scott then shows us how it should be done, launching his bike high into the air and, with a twist of the handle bars, landing gracefully with minimal splash-back. Impressive.

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Who travelled: Natalie and Matt Jackson, and their children Sophie (11), Leah (8) and Noah (6).
Highs: "I've done the bigger course eight times," says Noah. The only way we could get him to leave the park was to wait for it to close.
Lows: Having to carry Noah's bike on some steeper trails. Be prepared to get dirty and go at a slow pace with very young cyclists.
How to do it: Two nights at Maplescombe, a three-bed holiday home at Inadown Farm, costs from £415.
Go Ape Alice Holt Forest: Mini Tarzans (over 1 metre) £18; Gorillas (adults) £33.
Queen Elizabeth Country Park.

Published in the Summer 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller – Family


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