Spoke 12 Hadley Wood to Romford via Epping on Spinoff 2

The previous week’s ride was powered by a firm westerly wind; today’s was even more blustery. I rarely tackle a headwind, so this eastbound spin tested the mostly on-road conditions from Spoke 12 Hadley Wood via Clay Hill, Enfield Lock and Epping Forest. I hope the first road section is temporary: NCN12 will run from Enfield Lock to Spalding via Stevenage (Spinoff 12), but after only 3 miles an abrupt gap from Cuckold Hill to Stagg Hill opens up. Once incorporated, this should be a short off-road section largely shared with the London Loop (section 17) path. It will also complete the C25’s S12-S1E link. But for now to traverse Enfield Chase it has to be the rather too busy Hadley Road.

But then the ride joins S1E from Crews Hill station at Clay Hill (yes, Herts is hilly!) and descends Turkey Brook on NCN12 hoggin-surfaced track to the Lee Valley. I stop for coffee at Myddelton House, the home of horticultural pioneer Edward Augustus Bowles, which is now administered by the Lee Valley Park, London’s largest and most diverse recreational complex.

Once across the Lee Navigation (and the C25 proper at Arc 2 – this is a C25 hub crossroads!) Spinoff 2 takes over, and before long the climb up to High Beach in Epping Forest has to be tackled. It’s a steep 70m climb, but you can catch your breath and take refreshment in the popular area around Epping Forest Visitor Centre.

I crack on – but not on the off-road section of spinoff 2 which takes a switchback ride on well-surfaced byways to Coppice Row. Rather, in this very wet winter I choose the quiet Wake Road (illustrated) to busy Wake roundabout and thence (30mph) down Coppice Road to Theydon Bois. This is a good alternate ride for those on thoroughbred race bikes – or with a longer itinerary, or short of time. Epping Forest is not prime cycling country in my experience, as most of the roads are very busy and the byways better for horse riding, but with these two routes the C25 explorer gets the best of the forest, either traffic-lite or traffic-free.

The final section of Spinoff 2 is Essex-rural and fine cycling country all the way to Brentwood and Shenfield. But I had a new recce in mind; to check out a possible feeder cycle route to Romford via Hainault Forest Country Park. Romford has a couple of fast connections per hour – just 9 mins to Stratford – which makes it a good start/end point for Essex rides. And having discovered that the amazing Havering-atte-Bower park gives the lie to that borough’s flat and featureless suburban reputation, maybe Hainault Park does the same for LB Redbridge?

So having climbed Hoe Lane to Lambourne End I divert south – and indeed the fine park has a welcoming wide cycle-friendly path down to Foxburrows children’s farm and a visitor’s cafe. Here I should have stopped, if only to take a panorama photo, for the view of London spread across the horizon from Post Office Tower to Canary Wharf was as complete as anywhere.

The ride ended as it began, with a bit too much on busy road; let’s hope for improved off-road facilities soon. However the 13.28 at Romford had me in Stratford in no time, and with a quick Overground connection made I was home in Camden in 35 minutes.

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