The Greenway – cycling a circuit around Letchworth
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The Greenway is a 13.6 mile (21.8km) circular trail route circumnavigating the ‘garden city’ town of Letchworth up in north Hertfordshire. Short enough to allow cyclists and capable walkers/runners alike to navigate it without too much effort required.
The Greenway is great as you don’t see any waterfalls, towering cliffs or mountainous peaks. And contradictory that’s the absolute charm of it. The beauty is the route itself and being out, immersed in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside. Official website.
Even though the tracks and footpaths have always essentially been there ‘The Greenway’ in its current form is relatively new. It was created to commemorate Letchworth Garden City’s first centenary back in 2003. A £1m project funded by the Heritage Foundation. A very small part of the route makes up the Letchworth Park Run too.
So where is The Greenway and can I get a map of it?
Check out The Greenway PDF map in full (smaller image below). Download and print out the map above so it’s to hand as you cycle along. Alternatively you can pick up an A2 paper copy from the Letchworth Garden City Tourist Information Centre along Station Road.
The Greenway touches the neighbouring towns of Hitchin to the SW and Baldock to the NE so you can join it anywhere along its route; and cycle clockwise or anti-clockwise. There’s no official start or end point. However as the numbered way markers begin at ‘1’ in Willian (at the bottom of the map below), just 0.4 miles away from a lovely gastro pub called The Fox at Willian, then that’s a good a place as any!
Park up nearby at the Manor Wood car park by waymark number 1. You can then head in an anti- clockwise direction up towards the Jackman’s Estate. I’ve cycled it both directions and I noticed the hills less in the anti-clockwise direction. Checking out the profile map below you can see it’s really not that hilly with only 179m of climbing over the 13.6 mile route.
Is the Greenway track easy to ride and follow?
It really is quite difficult to stray from the track! There are multiple head high ‘Greenway’ signs (below) and the aforementioned waymarkers at knee level. Don’t religiously look out for the numbers though. Out of the 60 waymarkers about 3-4 aren’t numbered and two I couldn’t actually find. Just watch out for the fork left at number 35 (if going anti-clockwise) as it’s easy to go straight on by mistake.
NB. The red sections on the map above have been designated as suitable for cyclists. Any other non-red sections have adjacent roads that you can use instead, apart that is from the shortcut route between 17-18, and 49-52 so be careful along those bits.
You’ll also see over a dozen notice boards providing a map of where you are, more information on what’s in front of you, or a guide to one of the six key points of interests. More about them further down.
How long might it take?
I’ve ridden the circuit in as long as 5 hours and as quick as 70 minutes. If you allow 2 hours then that’s still just 7 miles an hour which is pretty slow on a bike. However you’ll probably want to seek out the various points of interest below so allow up to 3 hours if you’re not in a rush.
What type of bike will I need?
“Almost” all of the sandy-coloured hard-pack track is bikeable by everyone, apart from possibly a little single track stretch towards Hitchin (waymarks 49 – 52) and a slightly rougher section adjacent to the A1 motorway (waymarks (26 – 27) plus between 32 and 33. I used a front suspension mountain bike but a hybrid bike would be a suitable choice too. I’ve even cycled around it on a Brompton fold-up bike with no issues.
Points of interest?
There are six suggested points of interest en route:
- Manor Wood (waymarker 1)
- A pretty little picnic area among young apple trees plus a statue of Telford Morton carved out of an actual tree.
- Norton Pond (near waymarker 28)
- Spot dragonflies, frogs and toads as well as visiting bird species at this little pond. Visit the pretty black ‘n’ white village store opposite.
- Radwell Meadows (waymarker 29)
- A cute circular picnic area, with a play area for the kids. Try to find all the Wind in the Willows characters made out of wicker!
- Standalone Farm (waymarker 37)
- A Letchworth institution! Animals, activities, play areas, coffee and a gift shop.
- Wymondley Wood (near waymarker 56)
- Explore wooded wildlife areas and enjoy a family picnic.
- Willian Arboretum (waymarker 59)
- Discover over 30 different tree varieties strolling around this rural enclosure.
No 2 and no 5 require a slight detour off of the main route, but with these all evenly spread around the trail they offer a well-timed lunch/toilet break stop.
Any tips for cycling The Greenway?
- Do the little short-cut between waymarkers 17 <> 18 parallel to the motorway. The extra loop just takes you along some suburban streets. Be careful crossing the busy road underneath the motorway though. A safer crossing is along the extra loop section.
- Also be careful crossing the road from 31 <> 32
- Prepare for the bumpiest part of the circuit between 26 and 27 and then between 32 and 33 … but it’s really not that bumpy! 🙂
- At just over halfway stop off at The Gardener’s Arms pub at waymarker 42 if you need an energy boost.
- See if you can see any of Letchworth’s famous black squirrels. One guaranteed one is set atop of the village sign in Willian.
- Enjoy the steepest downhill section of the circuit between 54 and 56. All the more reason to cycle anti-clockwise.
- Certainly reward yourself with a drink at The Fox at Willian to celebrate your ride!
Has anybody else cycled, walked or even ran The Greenway? If you fancy the latter you can run The Greenway Half Marathon every year in May, organised by the North Herts Road Runners.
While you’re here and obviously enjoy cycling check out our ride along The Camel Trail in Cornwall, cycling among the ancient olive trees in Monopoli, and enjoying the flat and segregated cycleways of Rotterdam. If you live near Letchworth then you might fancy heading up the A1 to cycle around Grafham Water up in Cambrideshire?