Upminster to Rainham Marshes by Dave Walker

Ride level Beginner cyclist
Distance 17 mi / 27 km
Type of bicycle Any
Traffic free
Circular route
Concrete barges on the river

Author of 'The Cycling Cartoonist – an Illustrated Guide to life on two wheels', Dave Walker takes us on a ride round his neighbourhood.

I suspect South Essex won't feature heavily in a list of favourite bike rides, but it's where I live! I tend to ride mainly on traffic-free paths these days and can often be found in the Langdon Hills Country Park on my cyclo-cross bike, or riding the Southend seafront between Benfleet and Shoeburyness. But I've chosen this ride as it links somewhere easily accessible on the train (Upminster on the District Line and C2C from Fenchurch Street) with one of my favourite local places (RSPB Rainham Marshes). There is very little interaction with traffic, and interesting places can be found to stop on the way.

The route is known locally as the Ingrebourne Way, and follows Sustrans Route 136. The first section, from Upminster Station, involves a little detour along a back street to avoid a busy junction, a short ride through Upminster Park, and then a section along quiet roads. From then on, most of the rest of the route is traffic-free. We follow the river Ingrebourne through Hornchurch Country Park, passing the Essex Wildlife Trust visitor centre (a potential café stop) and then the Ingrebourne Hill Bike Park, a bike track that would be a fun add-on were you to arrive on a mountain bike.

At the end of the park there are some shared-use paths alongside roads to be negotiated, a short on-road section through Rainham, and then a footbridge at Rainham station where you'll have to push your bike up ramps or carry it up some steps. Pelican crossings allow you to safely cross the two A13 slip roads (if you're riding with children keep them close at this point) before a lovely section along boardwalks through the marshland.

There's a possible shortcut on reaching Coldharbour Lane, but I'd definitely head towards the riverside car park, with the Tilda Rice factory on your right, so you don't miss the section alongside the Thames estuary. Here, alongside modern-day shipping, you'll see concrete barges from the second world war, constructed as part of the preparations for D-Day. Follow the riverside path to the final destination, Rainham Marshes RSPB reserve, where there is a café, RSPB shop, and — if you have the energy — a lovely 2.4 mile circular walk. Binoculars can be hired to make the most of the wildlife seen from the various hides, which could include wading birds and, if you're lucky, water voles.

The path continues to Purfleet, where there is a C2C station should you wish to do the ride in one direction (but it is on a different branch of the railway, so you'll need another ticket).