River Lee Canal Bike Ride

A ferocious wind gushed against me, while my legs relentlessly pushed on. The path was fairly flat, the only thing slowing me down was the weather. To my right was a grey stagnant rectangular water body, otherwise known as the River Lee Navigation Canal. It is thought to have been created in the Bronze age, its main purpose being to assist with navigation.


Supposedly, Viking raiders used the canal to conquer the UK. Later the River Lee Navigation was a means to transport grain from Hertfordshire to London (1571).  In the 1700’s the river was used for water supply which encouraged industries to locate in the area. These ranged from; small arms manufacturers and gunpowder mills to furniture-making businesses.

Today the canal appears somewhat derelict. Although it is used for recreational purposes (walking, canoeing, fishing and cycling), I couldn’t help but notice the huge industrial parks either side of me nor the litter scattered on the path and in the water itself.


I rode past a bus garage – lines of red dilapidated buses stood side by side, having seen better days.

An energy from waste power plant was hard to miss. It’s grey cylindrical body shot up into the sky puffing out grey smoke. While it is far better to burn waste than bury it in the ground, I couldn’t help but think how ugly the power plant was.


Quirky canal boats sat along the river. Some more aesthetically pleasing than others. The ones looked after were decorated with flowers . While others were coated in a carpet of rust with windows taped over with newspapers and plastic bags.

A field of horses caught my attention. However, on approaching, my heart felt heavy. They had been neglected. Their hair was falling out and their mains matted. The horses were munching on waste. A dead magpie was seen hanging from a tree. Her wing attached to a branch. I swiftly peddled on not wanting to see.


I kept on going in the hope of finding some scenic greenery. I found a bench and took a pew.  One thing which I did really appreciate was the lack of people. It was refreshing to find some peace in London. Despite the grey February winter day the birds could be heard chirping.

My cycle began in Finchley, I rode to Alexandra Palace  and enjoyed the views across London. Skyscrapers in central London could be seen at this vantage point.


I then went through Wood Green, Tottenham and joined the Cycle Superhighway 1.  This cycle path certainly felt safer than riding on the main congested roads. Pedestrians used the cycle path too.


The cycle highway took me down quiet roads, which was greatly appreciated. It also took me down one way streets in the wrong direction (which is permitted for cyclists). This felt slightly counter-intuitive and unnerving. I then made it to the canal and went North before turning around and heading back.

The ride was approximately 32km, I got to see a part of London I had never seen before.


It wasn’t the most scenic ride I have done but it served it’s purpose of testing out my new bike bought from Bikes For Good Causes in Wood Green . I would highly recommend this shop. They are a social enterprise who refurbish second hand bikes. I managed to bag this beauty last weekend. After today’s ride I can say it was definitely the right decision. I didn’t want to buy a new bike when a second hand one does the same job and is far cheaper. Plus I was helping an ethical business rather than the high-street shops.


What cycle rides have you done in London?


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