(All images by Julian Hanton)
List 10 August

5 of England's best short cycling routes

With the summer in full swing, now's the time to get out on your bike. Matt Carroll, author of UK cycling guide Escape Routes, shares his five favourite bike rides in England

Cyclists in Cornwall (Dreamstime)

1. Gwithian to Coombe, Cornwall

Length: 11 miles

Striking sea views and snack-seeking gulls accompany you on this coastal spin. Starting in Calize, perched high on a hill above the tiny village of Gwithian, near St Ives, you’ll find yourself in prime position for some truly spectacular sunsets. Speed past moorland ablaze with gorse, and pastures full of cows grazing the day away.

The second half of the circuit takes you through National Trust land near Tehidy Park, where you’ll find numerous footpaths to lure you from your saddle perch. A woodland forest track then guides you to Coombe. Silence your spokes and tune in to the sound of birdsong echoing off the gnarled trunks and the languid gurgle of a nearby stream.

After that it’s a cruise back to the coast and a well-deserved pint at the Sunset Surf Café as you watch the sun set.

Beach at West Wittering (Dreamstime)

2. Pagham Harbour to West Wittering, Sussex

Length: 18.5 miles

White sand beaches, windsurfing, and flip-flops… No, this isn’t Barbados. This is West Wittering. Temperatures aside, this stretch of pristine sand and blue-green water is the closest you’ll get to tropical paradise in West Sussex.

From Pagham Harbour, a five-mile jaunt through quiet back lanes brings you to the beach at West Wittering. Depending on energy levels and inclinations – you can either book a paddle-boarding lesson here with the guys at X-Train, or flop onto the sand in the sunshine.

Smooth-cruising lanes lead you to Itchenor, where you can walk to the harbour for a cracking view of the Chichester Channel, complete with flotilla of small sailing boats bobbing on the glassy swell. Thick, lush hedgerows shelter you from the breeze on the final stretch of this loop back to Pagham Harbour, where a portion of very British fish and chips no doubt awaits.

 

Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall  (Dreamstime)

3. Tillingham to Bradwell Waterside, Essex

Length: 11 miles

Indulge your inner history buff with a meander around Bradwell-on-Sea. Starting in the tiny village of Tillingham, you’ll find the Cap and Feathers - a 15th-century pub, which once doubled as an undertaker’s.

Pedalling out towards Bradwell Waterside another beautiful old pub, the Green Man, will undoubtedly catch your eye and tempt you off-course with its timber beams, whitewashed walls and solemn promise of a cold pint. Whether you abstained or indulged, the view across the Blackwater Estuary to Mersea Island will be just as splendid.

Push on and you’ll see the eerie outline of the power station up ahead. Its strange, industrial majesty obviously appeals to the local birdlife – this is a great place to spot nesting peregrine falcons. Continuing along the grassy top of the sea wall, you’ll come across Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall - an incredible 1,400-year-old church that was built on the site of a Roman fort. Onwards through Bradwell-on-Sea, it’s an easy cruise back to Tillingham.

 

Countryside around Matlock (Dreamstime)

4. Bonsall to Winster, Derbyshire

Length: 12 miles

Cycle over the hills and far away on this pleasantly challenging route in Derbyshire. Starting just outside Bonsall, you climb gently into the village and your reward is a view out onto lush, grassy meadows.

Soon you’ll spy the grey stone buildings of Matlock spreading through the valley like a lava flow. Keep an eye out for the odd car on the steep, narrow lane down to the town. Sailing on through Snitterton and Oker, you’ll pass verges speckled with pinky-purple flowers.

On through Winster you’re accompanied the whole way by wide, open views of the Peaks in every shade of green imaginable. After refuelling at the Old Bowling Green pub, the climb up East Bank soon wakes your legs up, but there’s an 180-degree view out over the peaks waiting for you. All that’s left is a jammy downhill coast back to Bonsall.

 

Yorkshire Wolds (Dreamstime)

5. Colton to Bolton Percy, Yorkshire

Length: 13 miles

Discover riverside pubs and a country-garden tea room on this easygoing circuit. Yorkshire is not all hills and dales. Out here in the low-lying Wolds, you won’t see an incline all day.

The first couple of miles are an easy spin from Colton to Copmanthorpe, after which the roads spread out into open countryside. The expansive fields seem to go on forever – more akin to those in Suffolk – but the sky is star of the show.

In Acaster Malbis, the Ship Inn provides the perfect riverside refreshment spot. It was once a favourite among barge crewman in the 19th century.

Push on for another five miles to Bolton Percy, through Appleton Roebuck and be sure to spend a while at D’Oyly’s. This is the kind of farmhouse tea room you dream about on hot summer days when you’re stuck in the city; tables are scattered around the sun-drenched garden and sparrows bounce about looking for crumbs in the grass. Now there’s only two miles left to burn off all that cake…

Matt Carroll's book Escape Routes is available in good book stores and on Amazon.

Escape Routes
A hand-picked selection of stunning cycle rides around England
Matt Carroll
(16.95, Punk Publishing)

Main photo: Cyclist in English countryside (Dreamstime)

 


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