London towpath bike rides: Lower Lea Valley River Ride

Spot wildlife among the marshes on this East London cycle

Towpath bike rides: Lower Lea Valley River Ride


Distance: 6.5 miles (one way)
Suitable for: Hybrid bike, due to varying terrain
Starting point: Victoria Park

This cycle ride allows you to explore some of the capital’s most vibrant green spaces, from historic parks to wildlife-rich marshes. Who’d have thought you can spot water voles and woodpeckers in East London?

The route starts in Victoria Park, London’s oldest public park. It’s a key link in a green corridor that stretches from the Thames at Limehouse, along the Regent’s Canal and through Mile End Park. The park is famed for its summer festivals and open-air concerts, as well as its epic fireworks display on Bonfire Night.

Follow the Hertford Union Canal, skirting the park down to where it joins the Lee Navigation at Hackney Wick. Pass Hackney Marshes and you’ll soon come to Middlesex Filter Beds Nature Reserve. The filter beds were built in 1852 to supply clean drinking water to London after the city’s devastating cholera epidemic. Today these beds are a thriving nature reserve, home to great spotted and green woodpeckers, kestrels and sparrowhawks.

Further along the river you’ll reach Walthamstow Marshes, a remnant of the ancient grassland that would have covered much of the Lee Valley. Today it’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), home to a vast array of butterflies as well as kingfishers and water voles. There’s a café in the beautifully restored Engine House on the reserve, serving hand-roasted coffee and freshly baked cakes.

From there it’s a short ride to the end at Tottenham Marshes – yet another wildlife haven where you can see sedge and reed warblers over the ponds in the summer months. Refuel at the Stonebridge Lock Waterside Cafe before your ride back to Victoria Park.

Plan your next day out on the Lee Navigation on the Canal & River Trust website.

Share the space: drop your pace
We want everyone to enjoy visiting our canals and rivers. More than anything we want people to be safe – and with our towpaths busier than ever this is something that all visitors need to play a part in. When cycling, please pay attention to safety and warning signs, and be considerate of others. Read more about our ‘Share the space: drop your pace’ campaign on the Canal & River Trust website.

Maureen Barlin