Cycle from Lowestoft to London off-road with this route along bridle paths, byways and quiet roads. Starting close to the nature reserves of the Suffolk coast and ending at the eastern outskirts of London. It’s suitable for all types of bike that can handle British bridle paths. In this section it’s largely sandy tracks and well packed gravel of an old railway line, but you may need to walk some of it depending on your skills and recent weather!
This is the first leg of a coast-to-coast route from Lowestoft in Suffolk to Land’s End in Cornwall, England’s most Easterly and Westerly mainland points, nicknamed #LowLE. It is an adventure bike ride off-road through some of England’s finest places. This site will also help you prepare for this adventure or any similar trek, covering everything from planning, bikes, equipment, fitness to navigation. Of course, you could visit the same places by car, but Two Wheels Better!
Lowestoft to Woodbridge
45 miles, 750ft ascent
The start at Ness Point is buried at the back of an industrial estate near a Birds Eye factory. Fortunately it’s not far from the train station and you soon join the sea front cycle path. However, it runs out on the outskirts of town and the safe cyclable option is to take minor roads inland along Cycle Route 30 before heading back to Southwold on route 31 for what I consider to be the spiritual start of the journey.
From Southwold there is a cycleway across the river and you can mostly follow the Sandlings Way to Ipswich. However, it meanders and much of the beauty can be enjoyed while using good stretches of Route 42 to Snape. From there, ride on tracks through Tunstall Forest heading for Chillesford and the fantastic Froize Inn. If you stop there, it’s unlikely to be brief!
Next head for Wantisden Corner and a Sandlings bridle path through the forest, joining Woodbridge Road near Spratt’s Street and heading into Woodbridge. The houseboat owners on the river near Wilford Bridge use bikes to access their homes, but the road past the train station is intended for bikes. Although there aren’t any hills, in dry weather the soft glacial sands of this area are like riding on a beach. It can be hard work, and is the only surface I know where a bit of rain makes it easier to ride!
Woodbridge to Coggeshall
40miles 1300ft ascent.
Leave Woodbridge on Cycle Route 1 and continue until you get to a retail park with an Evans bike shop and a big Tesco. Head onto the cycle route under the A12 and emerge heading north past the Police HQ and immediately left onto an old piece of runway and past the control tower. Scant remnants of a WW2 air base. From there continue on NCR1 but head south on Dobbs Lane and shortly right onto the Long Strops bridle path. Tracks will then take you to the Hospital to join NCR1 again.
The rest of this the route to Coggeshall is pretty much on road but the terrain begins to undulate and you’ll start to feel it if you’ve packed too much luggage! It’s about half way on the cycle from Lowestoft to London off-road. Take Cycle Route 1 through Ipswich to Copdock. Continue on NCR1 if you want, or cut the corner through Great Wenham, passing to the north of Holton St Mary and briefly re-joining NCR1 at Stratford St Mary. If you’re not used to hills you will feel the climb away from the A12. It’s surprisingly steep and can be busy. As the cycle route goes into Colchester strike north through Boxted and Great Horkesley, heading to Fordstreet, Aldham, Great Tey and then Coggeshall where the eponymous TV series about roguish antique dealer Lovejoy was filmed. It is picture post card pretty with a particularly friendly congregation at the parish church of St Peter Ad Vincula, who let us use the loos during a service. The town also boasts eateries and shops for refreshment and plenty of places to stay.
Coggeshall to Cheshunt
50miles, 1300ft ascent
The first part of the route into Braintree is very pretty and seemingly untouched by its proximity to the bustling town of Braintree. Getting into Braintree on a bike is not for the faint hearted. There is some cycle provision but it’s poorly signed, on the pavement and very, very busy with the traffic for the Freeport shopping centre. Once in the centre it is quite pleasant with plenty of stops for refreshment and it’s where you can pick up NCR16 and the old railway line that is the Flitch Way. You can stay on this to Takeley and head south through Hatfield Forest or turn off a little sooner for a brief stretch on Route 50 before turning south to go through the stunning villages around Matching, where we saw cricketers on well turned out greens in several villages. Then pick up NCR1 once more towards Waltham Abbey and the Lee Valley Youth hostel at Cheshunt.
So that’s how to cycle from Lowestoft to London off-road through the Suffolk and Essex countryside. Of course there are many other ways of cycling it – Two Wheels are Better! If you’ve got some improvements please leave a comment below.