Cycling The River Lea & Regents Canal

It was Easter Saturday and time to start proper training for July's Ireland Cycle Adventure. My normal cycling friends all opted out due to being "broken", "in Germany", "painting" or, ironically, "not fit enough to start training", so I was on my own for this one. 

The route is a combination of National Cycle Routes (NCN), starting near the source of the Lea at Luton and ending at Limehouse Basin at the Thames in London. Getting back is easy enough as the Regent's canal takes you from the Basin to  St Pancras station where there are frequent trains back to Luton.

The Lea starts in Leagrave, north of Luton. Although NCN 6 passes through it, I opted to start the trip 2.3 miles down at Wardown Park where the river fills a lake. Its also the venue for Luton parkrun which, as it was Saturday, had to be done too.

The trip is a nice combination of NCN routes 6, 57, 12, 61 and 1. It's easily navigable with only a small amount of planning and keeping your eyes out for signs along the way. The first 22 miles to Hertford is mostly disused post-Beeching railway lines, with the remainder following the Lea Navigation Canal.

Here's the full route. Mileages are approximate

  • Mile 0 - Finish line of Luton Wardown parkrun at north end of park. Exit the park and follow NCN 6 south through Luton Town Centre.

  • Mile 7 - Leave NCN 6 and continue onto NCN 57 at Batford / Harpenden.

  • Mile 8.5 - Short diversion onto Lower Luton Road as NCN 57 stops for about a mile. Rejoin NCN 5 at Wheathampstead.

  • Mile 12 - NCN 12 joins the 57 ... keep following both.

  • Mile 14 - NCN 12 and 57 split at Welwyn Garden City - Take either as they rejoin just south-east of the town centre.

  • Mile 15.5 - Leave NCN 12/57 and take NCN 61 east.

  • Mile 22 - Route goes through Hertford Town Centre. Good place to stop for a break. From here, the route follows the Lea Navigation Canal to the end at the Thames.

  • Mile 29 - NCN 61 meets NCN 1. Follow NCN 1 south, continuing down the Lea Navigation.

  • Mile 37 - NCN diverts briefly from the Canal just before the M25 underpass. Take either the NCN 1 or just continue on the towpath as they join up again in about 1.5 miles.

  • Mile 45 - Similar diversion at Stamford Hill. Keeping on the towpath is easier.

  • Mile 48 - Route passes the Olympic Park. Another good place for a break. Here the NCN 1 turns west along the Hertford Union Canal. This is a shortcut, meeting the Regents Canal at Mile 53 of this trip. Alternatively, continue down the Lea to ...

  • Mile 50 - Leave the Lea at Bow Locks and take the Limehouse Cut

  • Mile 51 - The Lea Navigation reaches the Thames at Limehouse Basin. Cycle around the basin until you reach the Regents Canal and head north.

  • Mile 56 - The Regents Canal enters the Islington Tunnel. Take the steps up to the road and follow the streets west until the canal re-emerges at Muriel Street. Rejoin the towpath.

  • Mile 57.5 - Leave the canal at the Lighterman pub. Here you'll see Kings Cross and St Pancras Stations just to the south.

  • Return to Luton by train from St Pancras

Richard gowerComment