Caroline Crick – Cycling Around Nelson – The Gentle Way

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 Read more from Caroline here.

Work takes me into some interesting places, with wonderful people. A few weeks ago I went along on a bike ride in the Nelson countryside with Rose Griffin, who is the owner of Nelson’s newest bicycle-based tourism company, The Gentle Cycling Company.

Rose takes her customers out into the rural heartland of the Waimea Plains or the Moutere hills, drops them off with bike, helmet, map of suggested routes to ride and places to stop, and picks them up when they’ve finished.

“I’ve spent long hours biking out here so I know it well. There are so many lovely places to stop, old buildings and churches to see, plus of course there are wineries, cafes and restaurants dotted around the region, so I’ve planned the routes around the best stopping places.”

Rose’s riders are not fitness freaks or marathon cyclists. She has family groups that ride at the pace of the slowest person; couples who want to see the Nelson’s memorable scenery first-hand rather than from the seat of a car, and small groups out for a girls day out or to enjoy the food and wine on offer. The rides are, as the name suggests, gentle, with no big hills – in fact some routes are completely flat.  And you can always get off and walk if you feel like it.

Looking out over Sunrise Valley, Upper Moutere

“It’s designed to be a fun day out in the country,” said Rose. “All the routes include a country pub or café and the bikes have baskets on the back for your lunch – we provide the location and the picnic blanket – you just bring your sandwiches.”

It took us about 35 minutes in the Gentle Cycling Company van to get from the company’s base in Nayland Road, Stoke, to our starting place in Upper Moutere. Rose was my guide for the day as, although most of her trips are unguided, she wanted to show me some of the good places to stop and tell me about her business and how she has chosen the routes.

We set off into the rural Moutere heartland and stopped at the Mahana Settlers Cottage – a window on a world gone by. We ate our packed lunch outside the Gallery at Woollaston Estate Vineyard, which runs contemporary art exhibitions all year round, and then enjoyed stunning views of the Tasman Bay coastline as we pedaled our way through the countryside. The Chandrakirti Buddhist Centre in Sunrise valley was a real surprise set in a gorgeous old garden, and then it was on into Upper Moutere Village where I got a bit carried away buying locally made cheese and Moutere Gold preserves from the Old Post Office.  We visited the pottery gallery of Owen Bartlett and Katie Gold and then wandered across the highway to the Moutere Pub pick-up point where we enjoyed a boutique beer in the sunshine before heading back to the depot.

Riding through the back lanes of Upper Motuere

The whole day was a charming combination of off-the-beaten-track sightseeing, gentle exercise and gourmet treats. I’m keen to try the Brightwater Twilight Ride which takes you past three historic churchyards and ends up at the Sprig and Fern Pub in Brightwater – another boutique brewery pub. And then there’s the Secrets of Rabbit Island ride. They all sound like fun to me.

Rose also offers freedom hire from the company depot in Stoke, and her bikes are exceedingly comfortable. “We chose them for bottoms of all sizes, with comfort and ease of riding paramount.” Worked for me – I certainly wasn’t saddle sore after our day out.

After riding the Otago Rail trail earlier this year the Nelson day out was a lovely contrast – shorter, easier and punctuated with well-chosen stopping places. I do think bike tourism is a growing industry and it’s great to see a new business getting underway and encouraging tourists and locals alike to get out and enjoy the countryside actively.