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Canal Route - London to Liverpool

Discussion in 'Touring and Expedition' started by AlEddy, 11 Jan 2017.

  1. AlEddy

    AlEddy Regular

    Hello!
    I'm thinking of cycling from London to Liverpool (or vice versa) along the canals in May this year.

    Have any of you done this route? If so, Id love to hear more about it... is the route as straight forward as it is in my head?
    Do all of the canals link easy enough?

    I ride my bicycle, Buddy, for pleasure and love the freedom you get on a bicycle. I reckon I can cycle this distance at approx 30 - 40 miles a day at my current level of fitness. Does that seem ok for this route? Perhaps a week is needed?

    Would love to find out more!

    thanks,
    Alicia
     
  2. PaulSB

    PaulSB Veteran

    This question fired my imagination.

    I don't know the route as I've no involvement in canal boating but a very quick Google says it's possible to make the trip by canal boat.

    If there is a navigable route you could follow that. Your problem would be if there are rideable towpaths all the way. You might need to jump on to roads on some sections
     
  3. subaqua

    subaqua Guru

    Location:
    Leytonstone
    Depends where you want to start in London too. Forget regents canal at limehouse as the Islington tunnel, lisson moorings and Maida Vale ? Tunnel and moorings will mean road riding.

    Yo can get waaay past Milton Keynes easy enough. I did Watford gap to Milton Keynes on a Saturday a few years ago. Just to see if I could . It can be a bit rough in places but my tourer hybrid with 700x35. Tyres coped well.
     
  4. Bodhbh

    Bodhbh Veteran

    I hate to put a damper on what sounds like a good trip, but just as a heads-up: riding on canal towpaths for long periods of time *can* get a bit monotonous. The scenery doesn't change much, and obviously the gradient doesn't. There's also the fact that in summer - particularly weekends - the towpaths can get busy in certain areas, with dog-walkers, fisherman, people just hanging out, etc. This can make it tedious going. I'd take maps (or whatever the kids use nowadays) so you can make detours, or just have a break for a few miles, as required. That said, I've gone up and down the section from London up to around Tring a fair bit and if I didn't enjoy it (in moderation) I wouldn't have repeated the experience.
     
    Blue Hills likes this.
  5. Regulator

    Regulator Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography

    I've done Milton Keynes to Stone (in Staffordshire) before, via the Grand Union / Oxford & Coventry / Trent & Mersey canals. Our boat is also currently moored on the Oxford & Coventry and we were on there a few weeks ago.

    Whilst doable on a bike (and great fun), the quality of the towpaths varies greatly, particularly the further you get from the larger towns and cities. You often find yourself riding on rough grass or mud, and some of the towpaths have become so degraded as to be barely passable on foot - both British Waterways (as it used to be) and the Canals & Rivers Trusts (as it is now) have failed to maintain large parts of the network. You also have several areas with tunnels where you need to join the roads.

    You need to also take into account works that may be underway. These can be found on the CART web-site, although you may want to phone regional offices to check the extent of works, as sometimes the web-site is a bit vague.

    If anyone is doing lots of long distance riding on the canals, it is worth investing in a BW/CART key. This will give you access to BW/CART facilities, including toilets, showers and water points.
     
    Last edited: 12 Jan 2017
  6. AlEddy

    AlEddy Regular

    Hello, thank you all for responding, its very interesting to hear your thoughts / advice.

    I was planning on ending the trip in Camden Lock. So in fact I will now be getting the train to Liverpool and cycling all the way to London.

    I'm excited about seeing parts of the countryside I've never been to ... or even heard of. And yes, great idea regarding a detour, I think I will definitely check out towns or villages on the way, but i do like the idea of sticking to the towpath (where possible).
    I'm 33 years old and only learnt to ride a bike recently, so the idea of main roads is still scary for me - though I hear your point that canals can get monotonous.

    BW/CART - great advice, thank you, and also the route planning link, this is very helpful.

    When you've done long journeys, do you tend to pre book hotels? I'm just concerned that if i'm having tired day and cant make it those extra miles, then i'll lose the room and money - but also, if i'm having a great day and want to keep going, i don't want to feel i should stay put just because I have a room booked. Has anyone just gone for it and found a room on the day?
    What would you advise?

    thnaks,
    Alicia
     
    Last edited: 12 Jan 2017
  7. PaulSB

    PaulSB Veteran

    Hi Alicia, re booking rooms. To my way of thinking you have the right attitude. Booking rigidly ahead is a restriction exactly as you describe. My approach is this.

    Sometimes I book ahead the first night, and if this is your first tour it might be wise, as this is one less thing to worry about on the first day. It gives time to settle down on the tour etc.

    After the first night I look at my likely finishing point for the next day. If it's quite rural I'll try to find accommodation and book ahead, if a well populated area I don't bother. If in a popular area it could be worth booking ahead for a Friday or Saturday night.

    With the "see how it goes" on the day approach you do have to be prepared for this going badly wrong and struggling to find anywhere. I've only failed once** but had some close shaves.

    ** in France and I had to sleep wrapped in my survival blanket under a hedge. It rained as well!!
     
    Last edited: 12 Jan 2017
  8. si_c

    si_c Über Member

    Location:
    Wirral
    Sounds like a good trip, and probably a good bit of fun.

    Your route may be a bit awkward depending on how you want to ride, the canal in liverpool is the leeds-liverpool canal, and it goes a long way north and east (Manchester) before you start to head south again. The only alternative is to head to runcorn on the trans pennine route and then try to pick up the trent and mersey canal there. But that's not a fun ride as you have to navigate through halton and runcorn. I do that route fairly regularly as an extended commute home.

    A better route if you are coming into Liverpool might be to head across the mersey to ellesmere port where you would pick up the Shropshire Union canal, a large part of that route is cycle paths anyway.

    An slightly longer, but perhaps better alternative would be to head around the Wirral circular cycle route to west kirby, then down the wirral way, picking up the Chester millennium greenway to chester, and picking up the Shropshire union there. That would be around 35 miles or so of completely off road riding, given you could get the ferry to Birkenhead and pick up the circular there. I'd go for this last route myself if you are planning on sticking with canals, the Shropshire union should get you all the way to Birmingham, and you have a fair number of options from there.
     
    Mort likes this.
  9. Pat "5mph"

    Pat "5mph" A kilogrammicaly challenged woman

    Location:
    Glasgow
    Thank you so much @Regulator for mentioning the bw cart key: I did not know such a thing existed :notworthy:
     
    AlEddy likes this.
  10. Apollonius

    Apollonius Über Member

    @si_c suggests the Shropshire Union route, which is a nice canal and pretty direct. I happen to live alongside this canal, and the towpath would be pretty tricky to cycle in quite a few places, especially the southern stretches.
     
  11. KneesUp

    KneesUp Veteran

    Is that tricky on a road bike/tourer or tricky on a mountain bike?
     
  12. MarkF

    MarkF Guru

    Location:
    Yorkshire
    I live a few mins from a canal and have done a ton of such riding, I think you'd go stir crazy after a few days. I agree with Bodhbh, but think "monotonous" is a kind description, if it's grey and miserable, or worse, cold+wet. then there is just about nowhere else I'd rather not be, than on a towpath!
     
    PaulSB, Blue Hills and Pat "5mph" like this.
  13. Blue Hills

    Blue Hills Veteran

    Location:
    London
    Nice as the idea sounds i would agree with the two kind posters above who suggest that it will get monotonous.
     
  14. Pale Rider

    Pale Rider Veteran

    Personal safety is another consideration.

    Canal towpaths are favourite gathering spots for n'er do wells, particularly in urban areas.

    Several stories a year or two back of cyclists being deliberately pushed into the canal.

    The OP - 'Alicia' - may be a woman cycling alone which makes her an even easier target.

    That's not a reason to abandon the tour, but it's probably not a good idea to wing it with no forward accommodation.

    Caution would be needed approaching any group of youths, and I would go for early starts and aim to be off the paths by late afternoon.
     
  15. Blue Hills

    Blue Hills Veteran

    Location:
    London
    Good point pale rider.

    Definitely true of bits of the Lee Valley route in London.

    In general I always avoid all urban or even suburban traffic free routes after dark. Early in the morning/just pre dawn even if dark is OK I reckon - neer do wells will be crashed out somewhere after a hard night.