Cycle route : Wivenhoe and Elmstead Market

Most of my cycling routes are circular ones to the south, west and north of Colchester. I tend not to look to the east, as getting out of town in that direction isn’t particularly easy, and you’ve got the busy A133 and B1027 heading out to the coast in that direction, and they aren’t particularly cycle-friendly.

I thought I’d ring the changes this morning, and headed out to Wivenhoe, on to Elmstead Market, and explored an interesting option to cross the A133 that I spotted on one of my CycleEssex maps. One of the most successful birthday presents I’ve received in recent years, this handskome collection of maps and folder came out a few years ago, and provides nine maps covering a lot of Essex. They do ignore anything south of a line drawn from Loughton in the west to Burnham on Crouch to the east, although that’s a gap in EssexDaysOut’s coverage at present, so we can’t really complain! Here’s a piccie of the set of maps :

They are probably unavailable now, but some of them are available as PDFs on the VisitEssex website : click here for the page that provides links to the various maps, and click here for the PDF of the map I used today.

As I mentioned at the top of the page, getting out of Colchester to the east isn’t fun on a bike – it’s fiddly enough in a car!  As before, I’ve set up a Gmaps Pedometer route – click here, and below is a thumbnail.

I’ve started at Colchester Town (aka St Botolphs) station as usual, from which you turn left and head along Magdalen Street, which has improved markedly in recent years. On the right is the old tram shed, location of one of the first of our Essex Days Out blogs – click here to read the review of ‘Depot’.

Watch out for Carter’s reclamation yard on the right – we’ve had three fireplaces from there over the years, and it’s one of the cheaper yards, albeit without a huge stock (but a good place for getting furniture stripped and dead bodies dissolved). Carry on ahead at the lights and go down Hythe Hill and turn right at the mini roundabout, bear to the left and turn right at the next roundabout (or make a left to a bigger, more expensive reclamation yard) and you’re heading along with the Colne on your left, marvelling at just how many flats are being and have been built hereabouts.

Turn left at the next roundabout and over the bridge to cross the river, and you have some choices now!

Option 1 is to pull up once you’ve crossed the river and use the zebra crossing to get onto the Wivenhoe Trail, a nice dedicated cycle/footpath running on the north bank of the river all the way to Wivenhoe. It’s a bit gravelly though, and if you’ve got narrow tires you might want another option.

Option 2 is the one I took – head over the roundabout at which B&Q is the right turn, and up the hill to the next roundabout, at which Tescos is the left turn. Turn right at that roundabout. That gets you onto the old Elmstead Road, and head up past the university, going up Boundary Road. That used to be open to cars back in the day, but barriers at the bottom of the hill restrict cars to those with permits.

Option 3 is the one to take if you’re a mentalist – go up to the multi-mini-roundabout-madness and turn right onto the A133 heading out of town, and go up Clinghoe Hill to the lights, and make a right turn to head towards Wivenhoe. But you really, really wouldn’t want to chance that.

At the top of Boundary Road (it’s a steep hill!) you turn right and follow the Colchester Road/B1208 into Wivenhoe. You could turn left onto Rectory Road if you want to avoid Wivenhoe itself, but if you want the scenic route carry on straight down into the town, down The Avenue and the High Street, which is a treat, almost something out of a film set for a bijou boho high street. There’s a grocer’s on one corner, and a Bakehouse opposite that are particularly charming. There are a number of pubs to choose from, and we can recommend the fish and chip shop! The only slightly incongrous element was what looked to be an Eastern European peasant woman begging for money outside the supermarket. Maybe the good people of Wivenhoe have adopted one?

one of several pubs

grocer's shop

The aforementioned CycleEssex map suggests you go up Anglesea Road and Ballast Quay Road. Let us just say that I wouldn’t want to park my car on the unmade Anglesea Road, as when I cycled up it my tyres were spitting out stones left and right. Best to follow Valley Road and make your way through the fairly undistinguished 1970s estate until you get to a t-junction and turn right onto up Rectory Road. Turn left up Keelar’s Lane and at the top turn right for a 100yards or so on the B1027. If it’s busy, don’t be bullied into the gutter, exercise your right to cycle where you feel safe. If the cars or lorries have to wait behind you, then let them wait (I should point out that I do drive a lot, so this isn’t a pro-cycling rant, just a pro-road safety point).

You’re not on the road for long – take a left up School Road, keeping an eye open on the right for Hubert’s Happy Healthy Turkeys. I kid you not – here’s their website.

If you’re feeling a bit thirsty there is a pub at the junction with the A133, and shops nearby. And a the junction, a quick left onto the very small industrial estate, and you’ll find the Sticklegs Brewery, whose website is here.

The CycleEssex map suggests a route to the right, but I’m taking you straight over the junction and up Church Road. According to the map in question, at the top of Church Road you can cross the A120.

It’s not easy to find. As you get to the top of the Church Road, there’s an option to turn right and look at the church (not one of Essex’s prettiest), there an option to go straight ahead up the drive of a very nice white house (not really an option!), or to turn left down a gravelly narrow lane. There will be a footpath sign pointing in that direction. Ignore the metal gates to your right and carry on down that lane (there may well be lots of chickens in the field to the right). The lane bends to the right. Follow that and you’ll come to a locked metal gate with a stile to the right. Shoulder your bike and climb over the stile (look, I’m fat, fifty and have dodgy knees, and I managed it!).

If you’re a rambler you’ll be used to walking through farms, but it’s a bit strange if you’re not! Follow the lane, down the side of a barn, and you’ll see the lane heading out towards a narrow footbridge over the A120. You come out on the Bromley/Colchester Road, and here you have two options. The option I would have liked to do, time permitting, would have been to head to the right and go round some of the country lanes thereabouts. But I turned left and followed Bromley Road all the way into town, until it joins up with Harwich Road.

Drop down Harwich Road, across a couple of mini roundabouts, over the railway lines, admire some of the older buildings in Colchester, some renovated to a high standard, and you’ll heave up East Hill. At this point bear in mind that during September the Tour of Britain finishes here, and the pros will be heading up this hill towards the finishing line after several hours in the saddle. And after me looking forward to this day for months, there’s now something cropped up at work which I simply can’t get out of on that day -arrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggh.

At the top of the hill, turn left and drop down to Colchester North Station to get back to the start point.

2 comments

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  1. John Milne

    Mark,
    The remarkable thing about the tour finishing on East Hill was that the riders who weren’t ‘going for it’ were riding easily and chatting. I live in Roman Road and think about watching them do that every time I puff up the hill.