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UK Traffic Free Cycle Routes

Last Updated: Tue Apr 18 12:34:23 BST 2006

UK Traffic Free Routes

This page lists some of the Traffic Free Paths I've explored by bike in the UK. Mostly I link these paths into longer routes using quiet roads - see my Cycle Rides page for more details of these routes. The list is by no means comprehensive, a good starting point for more routes is the National Cycle Network book, or the Sustrans web site.

Southern England

1. Bristol/Bath Railway Path. 16 miles. LR:172

The Path runs from St. Phillips Road, Bristol (ST601731) to Green Park Road, Bath (ST746646), and is traffic free in it's entirety, except for signal controlled crossings at Warmley (ST671735), and North Common (ST677724) (and a Car Park at Bitton Station (ST669703)).

Formerly the Path followed the trackbed of the disused Midland Railway for it's entirety, but the recent development of the Avon Ring Road has caused the path to be rerouted at Siston Common. Now the road is complete this has settled into it's final form, which is traffic free, but is no longer as flat as the original Railway Path was.

The surface of the Path is now tarmac throughout and is rideable in all weathers.

The path forms part of National Cycle Route 4 (St David's to London) and can be extended at the Bristol end through Castle Park to join the Avon Cycle/Walkway to Pill, and at the Bath end it can be extended to join the Kennet & Avon Canal Towpath. The Avon Cycleway (Regional Route 10), an 85 mile circular route around Bristol, also uses part of the Path and runs along a Northern Spur that runs from Mangotsfield Old Station to Lyde Green across Shortwood Common - formerly this was a gravel track running along the old railway trackbed, but with the development of the Avon Ring Road it has been replaced with a tarmac track that runs along side the Ring Road.

2. Avon Cycle/Walkway. 5 miles. LR:172

From the Create Centre to Pill.

Recently the section into Pill has been improved between Ham Green and Pill Harbour.

The path forms part of National Cycle Route 4 (St David's to London) and National Cycle Route 41 (Bristol to Gloucester) and continues (traffic free - unless you count cycling next to a motorway) over the Avonmouth Bridge and then onto the Lawrence Weston Greenway, you can also link it to Leigh Woods (via a steep hill).

The path is gravel surfaced and well drained, although it can be muddy in wet weather.

There is also a cyclepath alongside the Portway on the other side of the Avon, which, while traffic free, is next to a very busy road.

3. Ashton Court and Leigh Woods. 7 miles. LR:172

Traffic free paths that can be linked with quiet lanes.

4. Kennet and Avon Canal Towpath. 24 miles. LR:172,173

I cycled the sections between Bath and Devizes.

I understand it's rideable at least as far as Pewsey.

5. Fosse Way. 9 miles. LR:173,163

The Byway is rideable from near Ladyswood near Sherston (ST871843) to Kemble Airfield (ST952959) (where it ends abruptly in a large metal MOD fence). However the surface is variable and in places is liable to retain large muddy sections even during a spell of dry weather.

When I cycled it (June 2003) the bridge over the Avon near Easton Grey (ST889870) was being repaired, so I had to ford the river (it's about 1ft deep at this point).

This is a Byway open to motor vehicles, so is not technically traffic free.

6. Bridgewater and Taunton Canal Towpath. 14 miles. LR:182,193

7. Chippenham/Calne Railway Path. 6 miles. LR:173

Has a small on-road section along a quiet lane.

8. Marlborough/Chiseldon Railway Path. 7.4 miles. LR:173,174

Narrow in places.

9. Forest of Dean Trail. 11 miles. LR:162

10. Quantocks Ridge. 7 miles. LR:181/Ex:140

From Lydeard Hill to Beacon Hill - I rode this after a long dry spell and there were no problems although it looks as though it would get muddy in wet weather. The surface is quite a rough stone track in parts.

11. Stonehouse/Nailsworth Railway Path. 7 miles. LR:162

Can be muddy after prolonged wet weather.

12. Gloucester and Sharpness Canal Towpath. 2 miles. LR:162

Slimbridge to Frampton-on-Severn.

Part of National Cycle Route 41.

Gravel surfaced and well drained. Rideable in wet weather.

13. Severn Bridge. 3 miles. LR:162

Traffic free if you don't mind cycling next to a motorway.

14. The Ridgeway. 85 miles. LR:173,174,175

The Ridgeway National Trail runs from Overton Hill (near Avebury) to Ivinghoe Beacon (near Tring) (the last section being along the Icknield Way), although it is not all accessible by bike. I've cycled from Marlborough to Reading via the Ridgeway and also used parts of the Wessex Ridgeway, Old Ridgeway and Wansdyke to link routes together.

The surface is variable - it can be very rutted in places, and is rough stone track in others.

The Byway sections of Ridgeway are open to motor vehicles, so are not technically traffic free.

15. Exe Cycle Route. 9 miles. LR:192

Beyond Turf (SX963860) the Exe Valley Way continues as a footpath only, the best alternative way out is a mile north of Turf to Exminster.

16. Exmouth/Budliegh Salterton Railway Path. 4 miles. LR:192

The closed road around The Warren (SY075835) above the River Otter is also rideable and can be linked with this path to make a longer route.

17. Camel Trail. 17 miles. LR:200/Ex:106

Padstow to Poley's Bridge (via Bodmin).

Well drained gravel surfaced trackbed between Padstow and Wadebridge. Can be muddy in places between Wadebridge/Bodmin and Bodmin/Poley's Bridge.

18. Portreath Tramroad. 4.4 miles. LR:203/Ex:104

The Tramroad was impassible near Wheal Plenty - although I have since read that it has been improved and can be cycled as a continuous traffic free path from Devoran to Portreath.

19. Plym Valley Trail. 9 miles. LR:201

Clearbrook to Laira Bridge, Plymouth.

Wide and well surfaced between Laira Bridge and Shaugh Tunnel, beyond becomes rather stony for a short while before cutting up steeply to Clearbrook. There is a short section of the route that goes along quiet lanes instead of the trackbed - a steep shock compared to the railway.

If not heading into Plymouth it's probably not worth going all the way to Laira Bridge. Saltram House is nice, but it might be best to stop/turn around at the Park & Ride near the Plym Valley Railway.

Useful References


1. Elan Valley Trail. 8 miles. LR:147

An excellent traffic free trail (except for minor road crossings), from Rhayader to the dam at Craig Goch Reservoir. I returned to Rhyader via Pont ar Elan (steep uphill and long downhill).

It's also worth riding (on road) to the Dam at the Claerwen Reservior, which has a byway along the North side of it (although I've only ridden a short section of it).

2. Taff Trial. 13 miles. LR:160,161

The section of the Taff Trail between Merthyr Tydfil and Talybont-on-Usk contains traffic free sections along forestry tracks and quiet roads.

This can be linked (via the Taff Trail) with a 2.5 mile traffic free section along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal Towpath.

The Taff Trail itself is a 55 mile route from Cardiff to Brecon.

3. Usk Reservoir. 6 mile loop. LR:160

Mostly traffic free, on tarmac or forest tracks (there's a short section on-road by the dam)

Could be muddy in places after wet weather.

4. Sarn Helen.

I've cycled a section between Coelbren and Ystradfellte. Fairly stony track, wet in places.

Northern England

1. Keswick Railway Path. 3.5 miles. LR:90

From Keswick to Threlkeld.

The path forms part of National Cycle Route 71 (Coast-to-Coast), and the section East of Keswick includes some traffic free sections along side the A66 and also sections along quiet (some gates) lanes. There is also a short traffic free section to the West of Keswick through Wythop Woods - although part of this was too muddy to ride when I was there.

2. Hornsea Rail Trail. 13 miles. LR:107

Cinder surface - harder going than you might expect.

3. Hudson Way. LR:106

Market Weighton to Beverley.

A good gravel based track, although narrow in places.

The trail ends abruptly at a metal fence in Beverley.

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