Without even looking for them we would regularly come upon cycling route signs while bike touring in England. From converted rail tracks, to quiet back roads to river paths we would favour these routes instead road cycling and competing with trucks and buses. The UK’s National Cycle Network stretches over 14,000 miles across the length and breath of the UK and is based on the theory that if a cycle route is well-built, it becomes well used. We can definitely vouch that most of the tracks we came across were spectacular!
The bike paths we couldn’t do were if the route was mixed use for horses and bikes (a bridle/bike path). Three times we went onwards only to discover the path was pretty much off-road, narrow and overgrown.
Our panniers were just too big for the tracks not to mention the gates.
If we were on mountain bikes or bare bikes this would have been fine, but being on loaded touring bikes we had to give up and find our way back to a road quick smart. But if the path only had a bike symbol it was great! Wide, well maintained – just perfect. Taking bike paths can also lead you to unexpected yet very welcomed detours, such as the ancient Sherwood Forest, home to the Major Oak, supposedly Robin Hood’s meeting place. This ancient Oak is thought to be between 800 to 1,000 years old with wooden struts supporting the heaviest branches.
Camping in England has been so much fun as the campsites are always well maintained, one of our campsites was actually situated within the grounds of a very magnificent and stately Hall.
Let’s just take a closer look at that shall we?
Yup, that’s a helicopter. There was a wedding the night we were there so the grounds were full of fancy guests. The camp bathrooms are actually located on the side of the Hall so it was hilarious to see tuxedos and floor length dresses glide past scruffy campers with towels and toiletries.
After our pork pie taste testing we definitely had to stop in the Rural Capital of Food – Melton Mowbray, home of the pork pie.
Stuffed and sleepy with porky pastry, we both were done cycling for the day. Using a Boots free WiFi we booked a BnB room at The Grange and relished in the comforts of an electric kettle, TV and a fridge filled with continental breakfast that we ate for dinner.
The next day we plotted out an easy 30km day to allow for a sleep-in. Because it wasn’t a big distance we took the scenic route, riding the entire loop of Hambleton Peninsula which we nicknamed Sheep Island due to the many freely roaming sheep.
Finishing the 12km loop to our google pin we discovered that our campsite didn’t exist. No signs of life, no buildings, no campervans, just empty countryside. Giving up we back tracked off the peninsular and onto our backup campsite. This turned out to be tent camping but ONLY if you were a member of the sailing club (to be able to use the club’s bathroom facilities). We barely got past the gate before the campsite caretaker moved us on. We had run out of fresh water with only half a water bottle between us so wild camping wasn’t an option. We decided to do which ever came first: a shop to fill up on water or our next day’s campsite.
65km later we ended up at Sacrewell Farm a day early. It was actually fantastic as we used the extra time as an extra rest day. Not only did we get hot showers and WiFi but we also got to see lamb racing as well!