Family outings are rarely like the holiday brochures. The sun is usually too hot or not available. The children are normally fighting. The café you planned to visit is usually closed.
We experienced a brief moment of idyll on a recent cycling trip, along one of the Isle of Wight's best routes for families of wobbly cyclists. I'm working on a top five, but I want to try them all out first rather than relying on my fuzzy childhood memories.
The route we took links the Causeway at Freshwater to Off The Rails in Yarmouth. It's about 1.8 miles each way or can you easily extend it by heading to Freshwater Bay or Yarmouth - if you don't mind a bit of cycling on roads.
A couple of options
There are two ways to do this car-free cycle ride.
Option one is to start at the Causeway. This is probably the best choice if you have your own bikes as the café is a good half way point.
Option two is to start in Yarmouth where you can hire bikes from Wight Cycle Hire next door to Off The Rails and then finish the ride at the café. There is some free parking at the Bouldner View Car Park, which is an eight minute walk to the start of the cycle track.
If you can cope with a little bit of time on the road, I would carry on to Freshwater Bay where you can buy an ice cream from the lifeboat shop or from Dimbola's café. The most direct route is to carry on along the path at the end of the Causeway which leads to Tesco and the End Of The Line café. It is then just under a mile on the road to the beach via Afton Road. It's a 40mph road and is fairly wide. You may want to walk on the pavement or wiggle through back roads.
We went for option one as we have our own bikes.
Dadmin before the bike ride began
The younger child is far too wobbly for roads so I dutifully did multiple car journeys to get the bikes locked up against a post at the start line (The Causeway). The children were then able to just turn up and pedal off like they were royalty. Neither of them questioned how their bikes had appeared at this random location.
We later noted that this must have been our least environmentally friendly bike ride of all time, since I had covered many miles to prepare the ride.
There is some free parking on the road at The Causeway and it is a pretty place to start the ride with swans and other birds squawking away. My mother's friend can usually be found feeding the swans.
The cycle track is a former railway and is very good for novice cyclists. It isn't completely smooth but our children coped with only minimal whining.
The first 50 metres pedal alongside water, but it was low tide when we visited. After that, the track widens so that you have a better than average hope of not crashing into another group of wobbly cyclists coming towards you. We had lots of conversations which went "Keep left!" followed by "Which one's left?".
The moment of idyll arrived at the widest point in the track when the sun shone through the leaves and everyone pedalled happily. Couples who were walking along the same path gave us a smile which - almost certainly - was meant as a congratulations to us for being outstanding parents.
After about 25 minutes we reached Off The Rails, who found us a table and served us drinks. If you want food I would book in advance.
The café is the former railway station and is truly lovely. One of our party even ordered ginger beer to complete the Enid Blyton moment. It's a fairly pricey café but I personally think it's worth it.
Of course, the idyll was demolished by summer's greatest peril - Mr Wasp. I suppose we can't blame him for arriving when we sat drinking sugary drinks and eating Jammy Dodgers.
After some wasp dancing we went inside and finished our sugary drinks before pedalling back to the car.
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