Grafham Water bike hire – cycle a loop?!
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Saddle up, head to Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire and enjoy a pleasurable hour long bike ride around the lake. Enjoy circumnavigating its 1,550 acres along a purpose built 9 mile long trail. Either take advantage of the Grafham Water bike hire facility or take your own like we did.
First up, the lake is actually man-made, having been created back in 1965. It’s the 3rd largest reservoir by area in England with the contents ending up as the region’s drinking water. FYI – the largest English reservoir (by area) is Rutland Water just up the road followed by Kielder Water in Northumberland.
Where to hire your bike?
At Grafham Water you’ll find Rutland Cycling, not to be confused with Rutland Water which is where their original shop is. This one below is definitely at Grafham Water and consists of a large 2-floor shop with an array of cycles for hire. This is THE place for Grafham Water bike hire and their building is the orange one on the map above. Pick up the map from within their store. There’s a fee to park up but that’s used to help preserve the area.
Rutland Cycling have bikes available for all riders from mountain bikes, hybrids, cruisers through to electric bikes and tandems. Hire a helmet and child seats if you need to too.
We were initially tempted by hiring a tandem for the day (£39.99) but as we live just down the road in Hertfordshire we loaded up our car with our own mountain bikes and put the savings towards a bigger lunch instead.
How long does it take to cycle around Grafham Water?
If you get a move on you can cycle around Grafham Water in just 45 minutes. However if you want to take a much more gentle ride, with a few stops, then 80 minutes is probably closer. Here’s a typical view below as you bike along.
A wide, gravel track with woodland either side of you! Totally relaxing, 95% traffic free, with plenty of room to ride along two-by-two. Towards the south east part of the lake you will hit a long concrete section along the dam wall, and towards the north section by Grafham Village you’ll be on a section of tarmac road too (this is the only spot you might encounter the odd car).
We used our mountain bikes with semi-MTB tyres, so nothing too off-roady! If I’d taken my Brompton fold-up bike instead I would have got around on that just as easily. You might be a bit more cautious on a road bike so a hybrid is probably best as a minimum.
A useful Grafham Water map and bird spotting guidebook for starters
To help you plan and complete your journey I recommend a 1:25,000 map and/or an accompanying bird spotting guidebook. Check them out on Amazon.co.uk.
How far is it to cycle around Grafham Water?
According to Strava, our loop, starting out at the Rutland Cycling shop, was 9.1 miles. It took us 1h 18m and consisted of 343ft of climbing. That’s not particularly hilly but there are a few shorter, sharper climbs which you might prefer to walk your bikes up so as not to get out of puff.
The elevation map shows our anti-clockwise route around the lake. This was on the advice of a bike shop member of staff. He didn’t give a reason for this but if you’re feeling rebellious you might want to go around the lake clockwise instead?
A word of warning though, even though you’re following a lake (which are generally quiet flat) the route consists of more wooded track AWAY from the lake so you won’t actually see that much of Grafham Water while cycling around it. This isn’t an issue! The wooded tracks are lovely. It’s just an FYI in case you assume you’ll be hugging the shoreline the entire time.
Check out my ‘Flyby’ on Strava
Is the Grafham Water bike hire trail easy to follow?
There are 15 waymarkers en route with no “1” starting at Mander Park. Don’t worry though, as it’s a circular route you can start anywhere you like and bike around in any direction. There are 3 alternative car parks if you don’t need to park up at the Rutland Cycles Grafham Water shop. Additionally there are also some helpful signs warning you of any steep hills or blind corners.
Where to stop off en route?
On our anti-clockwise adventure we stopped just over halfway at the ‘Grafham Water Harbour View Cafe Bar‘ below. An alternative is the Wheatsheaf pub 200m further along the track in Perry village. As the Cafe Bar was right on the water and you get to it first, that was good enough for us. There’s a nice seating area overlooking the lake and we were drawn in by the ‘Fab’ ice cream umbrellas.
In fact my hairdresser suggested starting out at the Wheatsheaf instead, doing a lap and then treating yourself to a tasty Sunday Roast at the end!
What might I see along the way?
Apart from it being a delightful little ride out in the fresh air, you’ll stumble a few sights along the way@
- Grafham Village – with its old church and pretty old cottages.
- Savages Spinney – a small, ancient oak woodland with distinctive plants such as bluebell, spurge laurel and nettle-leaved bell flower.
- Littless Wood and nature trail – an abandoned coppice of ash, oak and hazel.
- Dragonflies – a little further along in the bottom left-hand corner.
- Valley Creek Pond – a great spot to observe all the bird life.
- Mander Park – with its cafe, toilet and children’s play area.
- Perry Village – check out the cute little post office which looks like it’s actually in somebody’s house.
- Grafham Water Centre
- Plummer Park – with a mini assault course.
- The Dam Wall – along with the Valve Tower (off limits to the public but makes for a nice arty photo).
- Blackberries! When we visited in early September the hedgerows were teeming with blackberries. Bring along a Tupperware box if you’re visiting at this time of year.
… and here we are at the finish just 80 minutes later after our gentle little ride. If you’ve still got bags of energy why not cycle around it again?! 🙂
Biking Code of Practice
- Read the safety information on the signs. Please take due care of yourself and others.
- Grafham Water is place of natural beauty with recreational facilities, however the reservoir is also an operational site with potential dangers. Keep your children in sight.
- The RSPCA advises that dog walking is strictly forbidden when cycling.
- Don’t race cycles and keep within the 10mph speed limit. Helmets are advised when cycling. First aid assistance is available from cycle and visitor centres.
- Follow the countryside and highway code and consider other track users.
- Dismount at steep hills.
- Track surface conditions may vary and can’t be guaranteed for cycling.
- Beware of anglers back casting
- Take note of cycle centre and site closing times
Who’s now tempted to give Grafham Water bike hire a try? 🙂 If you live nearer Letchworth then check out The Greenway which is a slightly longer 13 mile loop around the Hertfordshire countryside.
Check out this 2020 post for 10 other UK cycle route ideas courtesy of some local travel blogger friends.