2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the National Cycle Network (NCN). NCN is a series of safe, traffic-free paths and quiet on-road cycling and walking routes that connect to every major town and city as well as more local routes across the UK. This Network passes within a mile of half of all UK homes and now stretches over 14,000 miles across the length and breadth of the UK.
Sustrans, a leading UK charity promoting sustainable transport, have produced a complete range of maps and books, including the new ‘Traffic Free Cycle Rides’, which lists the Red Squirrel Trail on the Isle of Wight as one of “150 Great Days Out”.
This new guide includes maps, routes for all ages and abilities and the best cycle friendly places to stay, eat and drink along the way. It is a fitting tribute to the National Cycle Network on its 20th anniversary and has a foreword from Olympic gold medallist, Joanna Rowsell MBE.
Featured as, ‘family friendly’, the Red Squirrel Trail has been tailored for cyclists who prefer car-free cycling on mainly flat, gentle routes. Much of this trail runs along purpose-made tracks along the Island’s disused railway lines, ensuring a leisurely cycle through the countryside.
This trail runs between Cowes and Sandown and has been well used and much loved for over a decade allowing cyclists to see some stunning wildlife habitats from woodlands to wetlands and farmed countryside, whilst the shared seawall path from Sandown to Shanklin gives a beside the sea ride. After following the flat off-road sections, the Red Squirrel trail becomes slightly more challenging, winding back along bridleways to Merstone.
Tom Ransom, Sustainable Transport Marketing Executive for Visit Isle of Wight said: “It’s great to see the Island’s top family-friendly, rail trail cycle route in the Sustrans’ book. As our cycle network gradually expands, it will garner even more notoriety providing opportunities for landowners and Island businesses to reap the rewards from an increasing number of cycle tourists who choose to holiday on Bicycle Island.”
Councillor Luisa Hillard, Isle of Wight Council Executive member for sustainability, environment and public realm, said: “We have an excellent cycling network on the Island and it is fantastic to see it recognised in this important guide book. We are working hard to upgrade many of our cycle routes to make them as accessible as possible to riders of all ages and abilities. The Squirrel Trail is a great example of an accessible family ride, which I’m sure will grow in popularity as a result of this endorsement by Sustrans.”