Explore Wildlife in North-East London by Bike

If you wish to explore wildlife by bike, there is a favourite north-east London loop that you will enjoy doing as it links six sites in the area where you will find a surprising haven for wildlife. There may be similar areas in other parts of the city and they are all essential for our urban ecosystem besides providing ideal places for relaxing and visiting. This loop is a circular route and it is best to ride counter-clockwise as riding clockwise will entail adapting the route to easily negotiate the one-way maze in Leyton and taking an awkward right turn at Eastway into Homerton Road. If you start at Clapton Pond you will finish at Lea Navigation where you can enjoy snacks and drinks while appreciating lovely views. The route can, however, be started at any point. The ideal time for this adventure is spring and summer as you will see the wildlife easily and also get to enjoy snacks and drinks al fresco. It is important to note that cemeteries and churchyards close after dark.

This route is 12.5 miles long and it takes four hours to cover it at an easy pace. The terrain is a mix of quiet and busy roads.

Bike Tour London

Clapton Pond:

Located on Clapton Common, this ornamental pond is part of a small recreational area mainly used by local people. You will find nesting waterfowl taking shelter in its typical wetland vegetation, such as reeds and rushes. You can also spot coots and mallards if you go there in the warmer months. The pond is partially covered with greater duckweed that provides a part of the functioning system. If you are travelling with kids, they will enjoy playing in the new adventure playground.

Abney Park Cemetery:

This is an active, large Victorian cemetery located within a housing estate. Although still active, the cemetery is now more of a habitat for wildlife as well as being a local nature reserve. You can also find diverse flora including the rare wood spurge and if you are lucky, you might see a sparrowhawk or tawny owl. It is best to park your bike at Stoke Newington Church Street entrance and then walk to the cemetery.

Hackney Downs:

If you wish to see mature trees, especially sycamore and London plane, you should visit this very large open space in the middle of Hackney that had won the Green Flag Award in 2007-08. Common birds such as robins find a suitable habitat in the Hawthorn and rose hedges.

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St Patrick’s Cemetery:

This cemetery provides grassland between the graves as well as mature trees such as oak, Lombardy poplar and ash around the perimeter. It is located next to the railway where the Central Line goes overground. The grave of William Hitchcock, father of Sir Alfred Hitchcock, the famous film director and producer is also located here.

St Mary the Virgin Churchyard, Leyton:

It would be a good idea to relax at one of the cafes on Leyton High Road before visiting this churchyard as the area has been given a facelift due to the Olympics. You will find wildlife in the northern half of the churchyard that has been earmarked for wildlife and has developed into woodland with mainly ash and sycamore. You will also find plenty of shrubs including box, holly, elder and hawthorn. The place also has a range of butterflies and birds in the mix of shaded areas and glades.

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Low Hall Wood:

You can see a number of mature trees including sycamore, cherry and horse-chestnut in this small woodland along Dagenham Brook. You will also find several grass species that grow on the banks of the brook. In the winter you might spot some birdlife such as the grey wagtail while willow warbler, blackcap and green woodpeckers are also commonly seen. This area is situated on the alignment of an ancient drovers’ road, as along this route drovers would drive their livestock to the London markets in the Middle Ages. The City of London could easily be reached from here by walking or cycling in a near straight line.

If you are there when it is still daytime, you can leave via the St James’s Park gate in the north-east or otherwise, you may need to take a diversion via South Access Road for reaching Coppermill Lane.

Food stops:

You can satisfy your hunger or thirst at the Springfield Park cafe or at the cafe at the Springfield Marina. You also have plenty of options suiting all budgets at Stoke Newington Church Street and at Leyton High Road. You can enjoy ale at the Coppermill on Coppermill Lane that offers a decent selection of beers and other drinks.

Other Interesting Aspects:

Springfield Park is located close to Clapton Common and it offers 40 acres of formalised gardens and conservation sites. Along with providing spectacular views over Walthamstow, it also offers a cafe and there is another cafe by the Springfield Marina at Lea Navigation. The Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum is located near Low Hall Wood and it is a local transport and steam museum exhibiting the first British motor car, the first British flight and the inventor of the ‘safety bicycle’. The Waterworks Centre which can be reached after crossing over Hackney Marshes is also worth a visit. An exhibition and a walk around the Essex Filter beds offer a lot of knowledge regarding water management. You can also find some bird-watching hides.

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