A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

Cycling up the Lee Valley

Posted by Alan on March 12, 2012

Low Low sign
Low bridge is still low, now with added sign!

This weekend I went for an explore of the Sustrans’ route NCN1, north up the Lee Valley. I have a bit of an on/off relationship with Sustrans:  it is nice someone is trying to provide cycling infrastructure but so often the quality is compromised and it always feels like cycling is only a leisure activity, rather than a useful mode of transport.  This is a real shame – large parts of this route could be an excellent transport corridor through the summer months whilst it’s still light after work. I joined NCN1 via the low bridge at Coppermill Lane on Walthamstow Marshes. Most people struggle to walk under the bridge with a headroom of just 5’0″  but recently a sign has appeared telling all of exercise caution. Sigh: I guess someone had some budget to spend before the end of March. (NB I rolled through chin on handlebars!)

Lee Valley may conjure up images of a river lined with nature – it really isn’t, at least not for the first few miles. That’s not to say it isn’t interesting passing through industrial Tottenham and Edmonton, it’s just not all that pretty. A particular highlight was cycling under a row of electricity pylons along the ‘Lee Park Way’. As is my normal experience with Sustrans routes, there is an amount of randomness in it’s direction. Close to Northumberland Park, you’re suddenly directed off the towpath and onto a shared space footpath next to a major road. In fact you have to cross the road to use crossing the road twice in this short section – I reckon maybe 400 meters next to the road. Back on the towpath via a park, the next major problem (apart from the stench of Edmonton’s own Deephams Sewage Works – that was a fun 1/4mile) came at Enfield Island. Again this was on a diversion around the Enfield lock, where I guess a large number of cyclists might pose a traffic issue in a confined and risky space.

End

Dead end

Poor signage meant I followed a path that just ended in a pile of fly tipping and palisade fencing. Fantastic.  Doubling back and guessing, I eventually came through the Gunpower Park and into one of those new estates designed entirely for car use next to the giant Sainsbury’s distribution park on Meridian Way. Again poor signage forced me the wrong way down a wide straight fast road to a major roundabout.  Doubling back (I had a hunch I was getting further away from the river) I found I had missed interpreted one sign and missed a second. You mean I was meant to cycle along the pavement? Oh. Further into Waltham Abbey and the route led into park, next to the actual river Lee rather than the navigation. This section was really pleasant – in fact there were loads of people cycling here but judging by the rack fitted cars in the park car park most had driven there to cycle. To the north of the park at Holyfield Hall Farm I found time to stop and capture the signage standard that had misled me earlier:

Moo

Moo: more poor signage

On first glance I would assume the blue sign was directing me into the road to continue. But no, the red and white (with tiny writing) sign to the right indicates that this is not actually the cycle route – it’s actually the path out of shot on the right. Some proper signs wouldn’t go amiss along much of this route.  A rectangle with a point on it (like a road sign) would be fine, it could even include a way-mark as well as route number for ease of use.

Close to Lower Nazeing and I’d decided I’d gone about far enough, ~20 miles from home, close to Broxbourne station and with plans for the evening. 15 minutes after boarding the train and I was back in Tottenham again! All in all a reasonable ride – but punctuated with frustrating problems. Would I cycle it again? Probably but would I bring R? Good question.

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3 Responses to “Cycling up the Lee Valley”

  1. Amazing. I went the same way in June 2006 and took photos of the same low bridge and the same dead end. Apart from changing the signs, not quite well enough that people don’t take the same dead end route, it looks exactly the same. My photos from 2006 ended up in a blog post from 2008.

  2. pete said

    I’ve explored London by bike quite a lot.

    It’s surprising how such a big city seems quite small when you realise it only takes a few hours to pedal from the Hampshire countryside into Essex with a mini-tour of the capital’s main city centre attractions thrown in.

  3. […] as you might expect some more cycling particularly around the games time when I managed to cycle to work almost every day. We visited […]

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