IBIKELONDON has been running monthly rides for many years now, combining a love of music with a passion for cycling. IBikeLondon is organised by a community of cyclists with the support of Cyclehoop, the innovative cycle parking company known for creating the Bike hangar and Car Bike Port. Recently reaching out to more diverse communities, and those newly discovering the joys of cycling, the team has many fun, themed rides planned in 2021 and beyond.
This route includes cycle paths, quiet streets, woodlands and parks, and makes a great day out. If you enjoy it, check the listing for details of other rides at facebook.com/IBikeLondon/events.
DISTANCE: 44.5km (27.5 miles)
SUITABLE FOR: light hybrids, touring, road, gravel/cyclocross bikes (with a decent spread of low gears).
NEAREST STATIONS: Lower Sydenham
ONLINE MAP: ridewithgps.com/routes/35503482
Your journey begins at Lower Sydenham station (a stone’s throw from Cycle hoop’s offices). Immediately starting off on the NCN 21 cycle path on Kangley Bridge Road, it’s only a few hundred meters before you join the Pool riverside path, with the HSBC sports ground on the left. After meandering through Cator Park (enjoying its abundance of trees and birdlife), and past some lovely allotments, you arrive in Beckenham. Even though you have only just started the route, you may wish to stop for hot beverages and cake at this point; Eat well and Fee & Brown both serve some of the best. You may choose to grab drinks and and sit in nearby Kelsey Park (opposite the lake is very relaxing) to spot herons, swans, ducks, geese, and if you’re lucky, kingfishers and woodpeckers too!
By the time you reach this point at approximately 14km in, you are likely to be very glad you stopped for coffee in Beckenham, as you’ll have climbed a few hills by now. Turning right from Skid Hill Lane onto NCN 21 again, you rejoin this classic cycle route which stretches 154km (95.6 miles) from Greenwich to Eastbourne. Further south on NCN 21 at Heathfield, East Sussex, there’s the Cuckoo Trail, 23km of traffic-free, peaceful riding. This former railway line is full of dramatic sculptures and an abundance of wildlife, prior to its finish at Eastbourne’s stunning Victorian pier. For now, you will just spend several hundred meters under the shade of this tree-lined track. Enjoy the flattish terrain here, as there are a few up hills and down hills coming shortly.
COL DU SKELLY & THE NORTH DOWNS
After wending your way up the Col du Skelly, and continuing up to the top of the North Downs, you turn left onto the B2024 and head along the top, taking in the glorious views over Kent and East Sussex, before taking Chesnut Avenue, which comes just as you start the steeper descent. There is a short off-road section further down here, so another chance to simply watch the fields roll by. Dropping down New barn Lane and then climbing the other side, keep your eyes peeled. We were lucky enough to see five deer in the woods to the left, just before reaching the summit. At this point, you might be delighted to know, is a pub, the Blacksmith’s Arms. Depending on your energy levels, you may wish to stop and indulge or push on.
FOAL FARM / THE OLD JAIL
If pushing on is your thing, you will be rewarded with a long, flowing downhill almost straight away. There are a couple of options here too. You can take a slight detour at the start of the downhill, taking the left on Church/Berry’s Hill. Carrying on along Jail Lane and taking the right of the two tracks 100m after the pub, you’ll find yourself approaching Foal Farm Animal Rescue Centre. With a café, shop and lots of animals to visit, you can easily spend a few hours here if you’re in need of rest at this point. You might even end up rehoming a small animal –there are all shapes, sizes and breeds looking for owners. And if you decided not to indulge at the Blacksmith’s Arms, there is also The Old Jail just near the entrance to Foal Farm.
DOWNE / DOWN HOUSE
If you diverted to Foal Farm, simply retrace along Jail Lane, turning left down Single Street. You’ll then rejoin the route in the village of Downe. Any last culinary requests can be made here, at the pub or café, before the final leg back towards London. If you took the diversion, you will have passed Down House, once home to Charles Darwin and it’s where he wrote On the Origin of Species. There are beautiful gardens to look around, along with the house of course. A quick drop down New Road Hill and up Downe Road, then you’ll go left by Keston church and by the Roman villa, heading along the lane back to Coney Hall, with some lovely views as a bonus. A few gentle miles of suburbia takes you via Beckenham to ride’s end.
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