A short ride with lots to see and do on the way. Discover historical buildings and modern constructions, with a chance to explore the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park.
- Route summary: Circular route, taking in Limehouse, Mile End, Victoria Park, the Olympic Park, Three Mills and Bow Locks.
- Distance: 6.5 miles / 10 km
- Difficulty rating: easy
Start: Limehouse Basin (start point can be anywhere and the route can be ridden in either direction. Instructions are given clockwise from Limehouse Basin)
Limehouse Basin has three entrances/exits: the Limehouse Cut, which enters the basin from the east, the Thames, which connects via a sea lock to the south, and the Regent’s Canal, which enters via a lock from the north. Head northwards along the Regent’s Canal. The towpath is fairly narrow in places, so take care, especially under bridges.
The towpath gradually rises up as you go past three locks. On your right you will pass Mile End park, with a go-karting track, a sports complex, a climbing wall and Ecology Pavilion. There are many routes around the park including a green bridge over Mile End Road.
Soon after passing Mile End park the canal opens out into a small basin and the towpath goes steeply over a bridge. This is where the Hertford Union Canal (or Duckett’s Cut, named after its promoter Sir George Duckett) starts, heading eastwards at a right angle from the Regent’s Canal. Take a right turn and descend to the towpath to continue along Duckett’s Cut.
Places of interest: Mile End park
So called because it connected the Regent’s Canal to the River Lea (which goes up to Hertford), without boaters having to go all the way down to Limehouse and round. The Hertford Union runs along the southern side of Victoria Park and is a lovely stretch of canal, with the park on one side and waterside flats on the other. There are three descending locks here, and the towpath goes down very steeply, with no barrier under the bridges. Take great care, or get off and walk.
At the end of the Hertford Union section, the towpath curves to the left then rises up to a road bridge across the water. Cross this then come down the other side to rejoin the canal, now heading south.
Places of interest: Growing Concerns, a waterside garden centre, next to the middle lock.
N.B. to avoid the steep sections on the Hertford Union, you could try this alternative route:
After leaving the Regent’s Canal, instead of turning right and descending to the towpath continue straight on (on the upper level). Cross the road and enter the park here, turning right to ride alongside the boating pond and past the Pavilion cafe. A main road dissects the two halves of Victoria Park, but there is a zebra crossing partway down. Continue within the eastern half of the park, parallel to the canal, and exit the park by the car park behind Growing Concerns. A slope leads down to the water from Wick Lane.
The River Lea rises in Leagrave near Luton and flows into the Thames at Leamouth. The section from Hertford to Bow is navigable and is named the River Lea Navigation.
The towpath varies in surface here, with some narrow paved sections and some cobbled and rutted sections. There is usually plenty of separation from the water. Ongoing development from the Olympic site means that temporary floating towpaths might be in place – please walk your bike here.
The river passes the Olympic stadium, with three sections where the towpath rises and falls over cobbles. Soon after comes Old Ford lock. Cross the bridge over the Bow Back Rivers and continue to follow the towpath south.
The surroundings now become very industrial, with gas works and warehouses lining the river. The A12 soon passes above – at this point, use the solidly-constructed and award winning ‘Floating Towpath’ that takes cyclists and walkers safely beneath Bow roundabout.
The river twists and turns here, and eventually the towpath will lead you up more cobbles to the large Tesco at Three Mills. Cross the river again and return to the towpath. The River Lea Navigation now runs parallel to the true River Lea. Follow the towpath down to Bow Locks, where you will cross a narrow bridge over the locks. Please dismount your bicycle for the bridge.
Places of interest: Olympic Park, Greenway, Three Mills studios and green, Bow Locks, River Lea
The water now returns to a true canal, running a dead straight mile down to Limehouse. The towpath on this section has a fairly rough surface and can be narrow with very close proximity to the water.
Places of interest: Limehouse Basin, River Thames
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