Summer cycling: NCN11 day trips

This article was published in 2022, in Magazine 155.

Background: OpenStreetMap (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The journey across the eastern Fens parallels the railway. That means it is easy to cycle in sections along with the train. For example, just Ely to Downham Market, rather than the whole trip (which would be ambitious for a single day). Because it is part of the National Cycle Network it is signposted. It’s not a coincidence that the NCN includes places to visit along the way:

  • Anglesey Abbey (National Trust property, café),
  • Wicken Fen nature reserve (cycleway runs through it; café),
  • Ely (cathedral, station),
  • Ouse Washes (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve, visitor centre, café),
  • Ten Mile Bank (alternatively side roads to/from Littleport station),
  • Denver Sluice (where several rivers meet at locks and big gates – Jenyns Arms pub, nice café/tea room at Denver Mill about a mile further),
  • Downham Market (shops, station, cafés),
  • Watlington (station) and
  • King’s Lynn.

Like most NCN routes, it follows cycleways and quiet roads. From Cambridge, follow NCN 51 (not NCN 11 as it doesn’t link up), along Riverside and Ditton Meadows. After the tunnel under the A14, leave NCN 51 and turn left, through Quy village, then join the signposted cycleway to Anglesey Abbey. Turn left to Lode, then just follow the NCN 11 signs (there’s a sharp right a mile out of Lode, easy to miss) and go into the fens proper: White Fen, Adventurer’s Fen, Wicken Fen (above). Note that the Cock-Up bridge over Burwell Lode includes steps which require you to lift your cycle – rerouting via Upware or Reach and Burwell avoids this. Then stay on NCN 11 as far as you like.

Wicken Fen

While the open Fens can sometimes mean headwinds, several sections are below the riverbank, which helps as a shield. If you get to King’s Lynn, further north to Castle Rising (castle!), Sandringham, Snettisham and Hunstanton (chips!) is also pretty, especially in spring. But the railway stops at King’s Lynn, so that part is a round trip.

Other day trip ideas