Oyster Loop Day 4 of 8, a circuit of London for hybrid bikes using Oyster stations.
The Essex edge of London was a Royal Forest from the 12th century with hunting lodges later built by the Tudor Monarchs at the southern edge of what is now Epping Forest. Now owned by the City of London, it provides a recreational resource for both walkers and cyclists alike. Hainault Forest was similar, however was allowed to become wasteland before being deforested in the 1850s before reinstatement following a public outcry. Further on, the area around Havering-Atte-Bower was the site of several Royal Palaces from where the area could be enjoyed.
- Total Distance: 63.4km
- Total Ascent: 454m
- Highest Point: 113m
- Lowest Point: 1m.
Routes 1 and 61 head down the Lea Valley before using connecting roads to pick up forest trails through Epping and Hainault Forests. Another section of roads jins Route 136 down the Ingrebourne Valley to Rainham.
Rye House station is next to the River Lea and Route 61 is immediately picked up to link into Route 1. This descends the Lea Valley, staying close to the water passing a number of lakes on the way. Near Cheshunt, the route diverts up over a hill with switchbacks to avoid the worst of the gradient before dropping down again to the river.
On reaching Waltham Abbey, some pavement routes guide you through the traffic to Gunpowder Park, where we leave Route 1 and pick up some local roads to get access to Epping Forest. The first climb is steep on a minor road, but it soon flattens out at the forest edge. Hard packed gravel tracks then lead through the forest on an undulating route with some steep sections both up and down, and care has to be taken when crossing the roads through the forest, some of which are fast A-roads.
On leaving the forest, the route drops down to a B-road to the pleasant village of Theydon Bois with pubs and then on to Abridge again with pubs and a cafe. This. Road is busy, but wide and mostly downhill. At Abridge, a minor road is taken for the steady climb to Hainault Forest, with another pub opposite the access. Again the surface is hard-packed gravel forest tracks finishing in a permissive bridleway to Havering which provides excellent views across the countryside.
More local roads lead downhill to Noak Hill where Route 136 is joined. This route firstly descends through forest, and then cycleways and pavement routes lead on to Upminster with shops and a station. Finally the Route 136 heads back out into the countryside for a pleasant descent of the Ingrebourne Valley with its Essex Wildlife Trust cafe, and hence onto Rainham, where the ride finishes at the station.
UPDATE: I had been holding back my detailed information on the Oyster Wheel Days until I had the opportunity to re-ride them and check them for accuracy. However due to Coronavirus “shielding”, I will be unable to ride them for some months. I have therefore decided to publish the draft copies in case others get the chance to use them before me. The route card is a simple table of directions and distances, where the description is a book chapter with the same directions, but also detailed maps and a commentary on the route and places of interest.
As always, I am happy to receive comments on these documents.