Parts of London make you forget you are in a major city. We’ve all got our favourite spots – from Hampstead Heath to The Lea Valley. Today, we’ll cover a nice easy to follow cycling route around the Hackney, Wathamstow and Tottenham Marshes. This area is perfect for cyclists.
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If you are after a fast training ride route, this is not for you, but if you want to take your time, look at the view and see some water birds, this is the route you need.
There are parts of this route where you are looking at the city across fields and marshes. There are others where you can easily forget that you are still inside the North Circular. There are lots of birds and its great for waterfowl. If you have young children this can be great. Some of the paths have barriers along the water, or vegetation. The parts directly along the navigation are right on the water, so keep that in mind if you are with new riders.
The great thing about the waterways in East London is they are all connected somehow, so if you can easily get to one canal or waterway, you can make it to the marshes. You might just have a bit of a bumpy ride, depending on which path you have to use!
Stratford is pretty easy to get to along a cycle superhighway or on the DLR (bikes allowed off peak). Therefore, this is a pretty good starting point for a day ride route. From Stratford, there are a few ways you can go. I personally like heading over the marshes in a windy route, but you can follow the full Lee Navigation from the outset.
Heading North, go past the velodrome and over the A12 and you will hit the beginning of Hackney marshes (its the dogleg bit in the first circle on the map, not the red line) . At the weekend these are often filled with people playing football on the endless number of pitches. The true River Lea runs through the marshes and you can follow this for a while. Its lovely and wooded.
You then hit Walthamstow marshes, where it runs in a pretty straight line for a while with some great views across to Clapton. There are a few railway lines here too which are nice and add to the views. Walthamstow marshes lead on to the navigation and from there up into Tottenham. However, just before you leave Walthamstow marshes, there is a large picnic area, a great stopping point to have lunch. There are also some pubs just as you get to the navigation.
For the most part the path is pretty good for cycling, although narrow in places. One side is all gravel, so avoid this and cross over to the paved side where you can. There are a few rough parts up over bridges. The cobble strips are still in place to help horses walk up and over when towing barges. These can be ridden across, but if you are unsure or have thin tyres, it’s best to walk. After a while the route goes along one side only, but the really bad gravel doesn’t come back.
The navigation continues and you can follow it and look at the marshes in Tottenham, or you can explore these too on a slight detour on the West side of the water. They are not as open as the other two, and there are more industrial units backing on to them but they are still nice. You can even make a side trip to Ikea should you wish.
A great thing about this route is you can dip in and out and take different paths. Therefore, you can cycle a couple of miles or well over 30 if you so desire. There are plenty of train lines along the way so you can get back to Central London easily enough (trains into Liverpool street). The route is pretty much flat. There are some bridges and inclines, but I have faired fine on my single speed along it.
For the most part the surface is ok. I have been along most of it on 25mm slick tyres and managed, but it was more comfortable on wider tyres. Really it comes down to your bike handling skills and willingness to walk rougher sections. The path along the navigation North from Walthamstow is mostly hard packed gravel/dirt. It is busy and well used, therefore well packed, but I have never been along in the wet. From Stratford up to Walthamstow the path is all paved and very nice.
Have you been along a part, or all of this route? What are your favourite sections?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.