Nature

Nine Fantastically Easy Bike Rides

Our gift to you is this definitive guide to the best cycle routes for Le Grand Depart de la Pomme de Terre Chaise Longue.
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It was a warm, sunny day in Devon and we were pedalling lazily along the flat path that once carried the Barnstaple-Bideford railway line and its cargo of ball clay, milk and passengers. We were thinking about a cream tea. Hark! There is in those two sentences everything I most like about cycling: warm, sunny, lazily, flat, railway, cream tea.

I know: it’s not fashionable. We should have been haring up a 15 per cent ribbon of asphalt, checking our heart monitors. That’s what they always do at Le Grand Depart. But let’s face it, there are those who want to wear the Yellow Jersey and there are those who would prefer to be in the car cavalcade, reading Le Monde and chucking free hats and balloons out of le window. Why put yourself through it?

Right now we were on the horns of a tactical cycling dilemma – almost literally, as the rivers Taw and Torridge curve down to the estuary like a pair of antlers – which was: to cross to Appledore by the cute little ferry for tea, or to stay in Instow, visit the signal box at the old railway station and hang on for beers at a pub near the beach?

I know. Je suis. Yes, chuck. It’s not the sort of dilemma that will occupy the Yorkshire racers, but it’s the sort of thing that occupies me for a pleasurable chunk of the day as I pedal desultorily across the British countryside. It varies. I may be thinking about, say, Bakewell Tarts in Derbyshire or Welsh Cakes in Gwynedd, rather than scones in North Devon. But I am never, ever thinking about buns of steel.

So. I like canals. I love fens, marshes and old railway lines. Fells bad. Valleys ominous. Downs invariably mean ups. I like public transport that takes bikes, luggage-carrying services and cycles with baskets and three gears. My gift to you is this definitive guide to the best cycle routes for Le Grand Depart de la Pomme de Terre Chaise Longue. Sit back, put another on the fire, enjoy.

Regent’s Park Canal to Victoria Park, London

The Prince Regent commissioned this canal so cyclists could zip past London Zoo, Camden Lock and King’s Place Arts Centre while making for the excellent Pavilion Cafe in Victoria Park. Or that’s what I reckon.
How: www.canalrivertrust.org.uk (find Regent’s Canal in list)
Tip: If you hear a ‘ping’ a real cyclist is coming. Fast. Get off and run.

Barnstaple to Bideford on The Tarka Trail, Devon

Decisions, decisions: south to Bideford (nine miles) or Torrington (15 miles), or a mere six miles north to Braunton? Just remember that, unless you hire a boat, you have to cycle all the way back again. 
How: www.devon.gov.uk/tarkatrail
Tip: Do not read Tarka the Otter: you will blub onto your derailleur.

Thorpeness and Aldeburgh Loop, Suffolk

Thorpeness has a shallow boating lake, the Meare, for children and a timber-clad water tower, the House in the Clouds. Cycle to Snape – Benjamin Britten country – and end at Aldeburgh for fish and chips. 
How: www.discoversuffolk.org.uk (click on ‘Cycling in Suffolk’)
Tip: Be at the Golden Galleon before 5pm: the queue is huge later.

Manifold Track, Peak District, Staffordshire

This nine-mile jaunt from Hulme End to Waterhouses runs along the old Leek & Manifold Light Railway, which carried dairy products until 1932. It includes the Manifold River, a tunnel and a limestone gorge.
How: www.peakdistrictcycleways.co.uk (see Manifold Track)
Tip: Cross the river near Wetton and clamber up to Thor’s Cave.

Melrose to Abbotsford, Scottish Borders

A five-mile loop from one of the great Border abbeys to one of the great baronial mansions belonging to one of the great Scottish poets...you get the idea. See the house. Lounge by the lovely, lazy Tweed.
How: www.cyclescottishborders.com
Tip: Enjoy the cracking cafe and museum in the free visitor centre.

Cardiff Bay to Penarth, South Wales

A six-mile swoop around the bay with tea half way in the Victorian resort of Penarth includes the tidal barrier known as the Barrage, so you can cycle across the bay and the 21st-century Bay development.

How: www.cardiffharbour.com (see Leisure/Cardiff Bay Trail)
Tip: If it all gets too much, there’s always the Doctor Who Experience.

Devizes to Pewsey, Kennet & Avon Canal, Wiltshire

This lovely canal has a hill! Gasp! West of Devizes is John Rennie’s Caen (pronounced ‘Cane’) Hill Flight of 16 locks, luckily with a cafe at the top. Its 26 miles to Pewsey and back. There are always taxis.
How: www.canalrivertrust.org.uk (Find Kennet & Avon in the canal list)
Tip: Go east first and freewheel back west down the Caen flight.

Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire

“Bike Rides for Little Legs” on the National Trust website includes this estate near Royston with three family cycle trails, all flat (don’t you just love East Anglia?) and including the grand 1.5 mile “carriageway”. 
How: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/activities/cycling
Tip: Some National Trust properties issue discount vouchers for visitors arriving by bike.

Sandown and Inland, Isle of Wight

Sandown is home to Dinosaur Isle and this five-mile route keeps the history theme alive by going inland to Brading, famous for its well-preserved Roman villa. It returns through the bird-rich Yar wetlands.
How: www.visitisleofwight.co.uk (Things To Do – Cycling Route 11)
Tip: AXcess in Sandown hire electric bikes (sshh).

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