What's the best flat trail in southern England?

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  • What's the best flat trail in southern England?
  • aP
    Member

    Only road or more crunchy?
    …and how west London?
    There’s some nice riding out round the back of Cobham which is easily cx-able and road bike able with some ‘body English’.
    Oh, we’re off next week, riding Roubaix this weekend but up for nice riding with cake in the week.

    lardman
    Member

    The ‘downs link’ trail that runs from Shoreham (near Brighton) to Guildford covers some nice Sussex scenery. It’s all gravelled, or light dirt trail. Flat as a railroad grade, and has plenty of stopping points/pubs on route.

    You can join/leave/turn around where ever suits you.
    Sustrans website has others like this such as the ‘cuckoo trail’ near Eastbourne.

    A little more crunchy would be fine, or quiet country lanes would be great too. But anything that require the bike to be man handled to any great degree is a no no as upper body strength has also been massively compromised.

    We are based near Heathrow between the M4, M40 and M25 so getting to most places South, West or North of London is pretty easy but Anywhere to the East of London (Epping/Essex) is a right faff.

    Just had a quick look and the downs link trail sounds like the sort of thing I was after. I’m off to get some sleep now but I’d be grateful for any other suggestions as it would be great to have a few options up my sleeve for other days if possible.

    When I say best I mean the prettiest, most interesting rural route with virtually no change in elevation and a smoothish but preferably not tarmac’d surface. I realise to most of you ‘best flat trail’ is an oxymoron but there is a good reason.

    Around 16 months ago Mrs mW splashed out on a new bike and two weeks later she was diagnosed with a brain tumour, having gone through surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy she’s been left feeling pretty weak and not able to ride up anything more than a very shallow incline but she is desperate to get out on her bike at least one more time before she starts another 8 month course of chemotherapy next week.

    So suggestions please for pancake flat beautiful routes within a couple of hours drive of West London.

    hs125
    Member

    The Grand Union Canal sounds like it would fit your bill, and also on your doorstep by the sounds of it. Even the suburban bits can be pretty. Definitely no hills and some good pubs every few miles. Also the option to detour along the rivers of the Colne Valley.
    Black Park, next to Pinewood Studios, is also a good flat venue. Miles of fire road and a lot of interesting singletrack, and a couple of cafés for a cake stop.
    Maybe neither is the ‘best’ in Southern England, but good riding and local.

    azarat
    Member

    Maybe a little further affield from what what your asking but the Tarka trail in North Devon ticks all the boxes you require. Braunton to Bideford is 15 mile each way with stop offs or bail outs if required. Scenery is pleasant. Plenty of beaches surrounding Braunton for a weekend retreat. The trail does progress further than Bideford – Torrington 5 mile and East Yarde cafe 10 mile each way with only gentle climbing. The trail is ridden by families. My wife rides the routes mentioned after double knee replacement with very little discomfort.

    mls678
    Member

    Can’t add anything on the trail front, but top marks to your wife. I wish her well
    Matt

    TurnerGuy
    Member

    There’s the canal paths like the wey navigation and basingstroke canal, and also the thames path close by – with suitable pub stops along the way it could be fun.

    Some of the canal paths have slight gradients around the locks or small bridges every now and again.

    gusamc
    Member

    hi

    brain dump – suggest doing a flatness/surface check but this is where I go with non techie gf
    canals – Kennet & Avon around Dundas Aqueduct/Bradford and Avon – well nice )
    – have a look at Test Valley Way, Stockbridge – pretty flat not sure about surface nowdays
    CTC website has a map which is pretty handy.

    Have a look at the Cycling without Traffic series (*poss by Nick Cotton and others)

    ex railway line, starts Brokenhurst New forest
    Bournemouth Prom – Christchurch harbour (*you have to do a couple of possibly for you biggish inclines to do full to Christchurch – front Prom is flat) to Poole(great views IOW, Old Harry rocks) *beware cycling restrictions in season and lots of bell ends with dogs, so if you’re are an early riser.
    Meon – Wickham old railway **not sure about flat.

    ?? Rutland water loop

    b r
    Member

    Probably also worth you doing a reccy first.

    Also, what about the Grand Union Canal – that should be within a couple of miles of your house.

    scottfitz
    Member

    Basingstoke canal path sound like it fits the bill:
    http://www3.hants.gov.uk/basingstokecanal-leafletmap.pdf

    brack
    Member

    Chichester harbour via canal and coastal path and villages. Back via Medmerry and route 88.

    IHN
    Member

    Tracks and tiny country lanes in and around the lakes South of Cirencester. Could possibly even show you round if the dates matched.

    Cycling

    http://www.waterpark.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Walk-5_Layout-1.pdf

    lucien
    Member

    Anything in the New Forest would fit you bill, plenty of flat / fire road rides that could either be out and back or a loop that rake in most of the scenic elements of the NF. Maps from tourist info office, bike hire centres and I think also from NFDC.

    gusamc
    Member

    another

    *eraly morning, park at Maidenhead A4 bridge on Slough side of river S near rowing club, along river to Windsor (cheeky through Eton college to make loop) and then either back along cycle path next to M4 (*noisy) or work back via fields and Bray etc

    Premier Icon wwaswas
    Subscriber

    Cuckoo Trail? http://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/leisureandtourism/countryside/Walks/cuckootrail/default.htm

    Follows an old railway line.

    Gentle gradients and a sealed surface along the whole route, makes the Cuckoo Trail usable in all weathers, by all users.

    so not pan flat but pretty flat.

    aP
    Member

    Quite a surprisingly nice run actually would be to follow the River Crane from the Thames in Isleworth to Hayes, join the Grand Union (behind the nestle factory) and then take the canal (all downhill) to Brentford and back down to the river. Other options with Osterley Park, Syon etc.

    Cheers fellas loads of good suggestions.

    The grand union canal and black park do fit the bill but they are very close and familiar to us so won’t really feel like a day out. New Forest, the railway line from Brockenhurst, Cirencester, Chichester harbour, downs link and Rutland water all sound perfect though.

    Some of the slightly further afield ones would be good if an overnight stay is on the cards in a few weeks time. It’s difficult to predict how the chemo will pan out, some months Mrs mW was exhausted from start to finish and others she was sprightly a few days after completing the medication.

    b r: Ideally a reccy would be a good idea but time constraints make that unlikely to happen.

    IHN: Thanks for the offer of the guided tour but I think this needs to be something for just the two of us. Mrs mW is well aware of the type of routes we would previously have done and the pace that we would have done them. She already thinks it’s going to be a crap day out for me (it won’t be) so i think the fewer people involved the less she will worry about them having a good time.

    Can’t believe that on just about the only time it’s relevant, no one has mentioned the woods behind Nationwide in Swindon!
    🙂

    Directions & Trail Maps

    Premier Icon offthebrakes
    Subscriber

    Downs Link is indeed very flat and non-technical (if you skip the initial descent from St Martha’s Hill and begin on the other branch just south of Guildford).

    But it’s not all that scenic – being based mainly on disused railway lines, a lot of the time you’ll either be down in a cutting or in a tunnel of trees, with not that much of a view.

    There’s also a pretty steep climb near Rudgwick, but it’s not too long so you can just get off and push that bit, if indeed you go that far.

    Plenty of info here, including links to maps and a route guide at the bottom.

    IHN
    Member

    IHN: Thanks for the offer of the guided tour but I think this needs to be something for just the two of us.

    No problem. Come back when she’s better, I’ll show you the hillier bits 🙂

    no one has mentioned the woods behind Nationwide in Swindon!

    They’re surprisingly uppy downy…

    Premier Icon brassneck
    Subscriber

    Another vote for K&A Canal, Dundas Aqueduct area .. lots of nice pubs and tea shops nearby too.

    New Forest is good, but may require a reccy, there are some occasional short sharp ups and downs depending on where you are.. if she’d be all right with getting off and pushing for 5 minutes it’d be fine as long as you kept clear of the Avon valley edges (that’s where I remember most of the climbing being).

    Is there a standout section of the downs link? It doesn’t need to be all that long, I’m sure ten miles out and the same back would be more than enough to play with at the moment.

    Premier Icon benp1
    Subscriber

    What about Richmond Park. There are a few inclines but nothing major, I’ve towed a double trailer round the park. Its very cycle friendly.

    Failing that what about cycling the Thames, its flat and sceninc, and obviously plenty of places to stop

    Premier Icon brassneck
    Subscriber

    – have a look at Test Valley Way, Stockbridge – pretty flat not sure about surface nowdays

    The MayFly to Mottisfont bit is bridleway, probably a bit gloopy at the mo but would be a nice ride. Mottisfont (NT) is a nice place to end up, or park there and cycle up to the MayFly for a spot of lunch (CFH will be able to give you the current gourmands opinion I’m sure :-))

    Don’t do the north end of the Test Way, thats where I live – it’s not lacking in hills for the South. Lovely when she’s better though!

    woodsman
    Member

    Downs Link again!

    You can choose where to drive to start. I would recommend Partridge Green, then cycle to Shoreham – there’s a lovely pub at the end as the estuary widens and you can smell the sea. Ride back, stop off at Henfield for a coffee – amble back to Partridge Green where there is a Dark Star pub if you’re eating or perhaps drinking.

    No idea if this floats your boat (no pun intended) but there is something calming and visceral about being near the sea…..

    All the best to you and your lady, and do let us know how it went whatever you choose 🙂

    willjones
    Member

    Muppetwrangler – I helped set up and now work for an organisation that does a great deal to help people battling this disease. Drop me a line – will [at] brainstrust.org.uk if you’ve any questions around treatment, later effects, getting active again (this is important) etc. 80% of the people we work with are carers, so may have some useful ‘stuff’ for you too. Tons of info over on http://www.brainstrust.org.uk

    Failing that what about cycling the Thames, its flat and sceninc, and obviously plenty of places to stop

    This. Train into London, cycle out. Lovely scenery as you go further west, Hampton Court Palace etc and miles of flat ‘tow path’ lots of stopping points, and always things going on on the river to lok at, rowers and boats etc etc. The first time I rode it, I couldn’t believe London could be so beautiful on a nice day.

    willjones: You may well get an email from me in the near future but not today. Today is a day to plan a bike ride.

    willjones
    Member

    willjones: You may well get an email from me in the near future but not today. Today is a day to plan a bike ride.

    Quite right too. Forgot to add – +1 for the Thames.

    Is there a standout section of the downs link? It doesn’t need to be all that long, I’m sure ten miles out and the same back would be more than enough to play with at the moment.

    IMHO it’s a bit dull. As has been said, you spend a lot of the time in a tree tunnel so you don’t see much. I’ve ridden about 30 miles of it (London to Brighton Off Road Ride) and wouldn’t choose to do it for fun.

    Premier Icon timidwheeler
    Subscriber

    As above, much of the New Forest is made of short ups and downs. My last ride there ended up with 700m of height gain.

    hs125
    Member

    Gusamc has suggested a good area. The Thames Path and Jubilee River in Berkshire fit your bill exactly.
    Between Datchet (The Murke) in the east and Bray in the west is the perfect loop. The path along the Jubilee River is wide, fast, smooth gravel with minimal change in altitude. The Thames Path is also gravel, but more sinuous.
    There are plenty of cut shortcuts between the two if needed, through Dorney and (round) the rowing lake. Stops in Eton or Windsor too.
    I’m sure the cut through Eton School grounds is an official route, certainly never an issue using it.
    Best to try and avoid sunny weekends though as it’s a popular area.

    The MayFly to Mottisfont bit is bridleway, probably a bit gloopy at the mo but would be a nice ride. Mottisfont (NT) is a nice place to end up, or park there and cycle up to the MayFly for a spot of lunch (CFH will be able to give you the current gourmands opinion I’m sure :-))

    😀

    These days, I’d be trying to stop at Thyme and Tide in Stockbridge instead. Lovely place, and if you can get a seat outside, even betterer. The Three Cups in Stockers turns out a rather good lunch as well.

    The Mayfly is OK, and helped massively by the location. But only OK, IMO.

    belugabob
    Member

    Walton-on-Thames to Richmond, along the river. (Free parking)

    My hill fearing wife loves it – boats, pubs, swans, posh houses etc. (And no hills)
    I even manage to enjoy the sedate pace myself – especially if there are plums to be scrumped from the riverside trees by Hampton Court 😉

    Premier Icon jezketley
    Subscriber

    The Phoenix Trail between Princes Risborough and Thame is a pleasant flat ride on a disused railway at the foot of the Chilterns. Any undulations are very slight.

    stumpy01
    Member

    There was a mention above of potentially Rutland Water. While the trail around Rutland is not hilly, it is quite undulating in parts. And unless you were looking at an out and back, then it’s 17 miles not including the peninsula.

    But, Grafham Water would be closer to you, is a shorter distance (about 8 miles) and not so undulating.

    Thanks again for all the suggestions, with a bit of luck we’ll still get to ride a few more of them but yesterday we opted for The Salterns Way.

    Parked up in Chichester Marina and then followed the way marked route down to West Wittering, sat on the beach and marvelled at the range of clothing that the British will wear at the seaside in April, ski jackets down to bikinis. Lunch was had in a local cafe, sat outside in the sun with obligatory ice creams for dessert and then back along the same route with a second ice cream stop back at the marina.

    Altogether the route out and back was a fraction over 20km through fields and mostly quiet lanes. It was a very good day within no mention of treatments or prognosis or any of the other stuff that has preoccupied us lately, just riding along, warm spring sunshine, taking in the scenery and savouring every minute of it.

    Premier Icon offthebrakes
    Subscriber

    Great stuff mW! Sounds like you got exactly what you were after 🙂

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