A NEW 220-mile cycle route around the ancient county of Wessex has been created, which bike chiefs hope will "quench" the public's thirst for adventure.

Named King Alfred’s Way, the off-road route has taken charity Cycling UK three years to create and takes riders through 10,000 years of history.

The loop of gravel tracks and off-road trails cuts through the heart of Hampshire, as well as neighbouring Wiltshire, Surrey and Berkshire countryside.

The route connects four of England’s National Trails: North Downs Way, South Downs Way, Ridgeway and Thames Path.

Sophie Gordon, Cycling UK’s campaigns officer behind the creation of King Alfred’s Way, said: “The pandemic has understandably changed the British public’s appetite for foreign travel but with King Alfred’s Way we’re hoping to at least quench its thirst for adventure.

“There’s no need to fly or, for many, even travel far for a challenging trip. King Alfred’s Way is 220 miles of literal ups and downs looping through a quintessential southern England made up of thatched cottages, Iron Age hill forts and stone circles.”

Named after the Anglo-Saxon ruler of the ancient kingdom, riders will pass iconic locations including World Heritage Sites at Stonehenge and Avebury and Iron Age hill forts at Old Sarum and Barbury Castle, while also riding straight through the heart of quintessential England.

The route was developed by upgrading certain sections of footpath to allow cycling, and also includes existing bridleways, byways and quiet country lanes.

“73 years ago, legislation was passed which led to the creation of our national parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and long-distance trails,” added Sophie, referring to the Countryside Act 1947.

“It’s a godsend for walkers, but for ramblers with bikes not a lot has been done since then in terms of improving access for cycling.

“With King Alfred’s Way we want to show what is possible if we fill those missing links between our national trails and start making the countryside accessible for everyone – walkers, horse riders and cyclists.”

To date, six riders have ridden the complete route.

Sophie added: “This is a truly fantastic route which will take you past well-known landmarks and along some hidden gems.

"However, Cycling UK would urge everyone contemplating riding King Alfred’s Way to make sure they are aware of and observe current public health advice related to managing the pandemic before doing so.”

To view the route, visit: www.cyclinguk.org