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Explosive Pedal Power

Quick guide

Distance: 5 miles

Terrain: Tarmac and gravel paths

Total elevation gain: 75ft

Cycling time*: 30 minutes

Calories burnt*: Around 180 calories

Starting point: Gunpowder Park, Sewardstone Road, Waltham Abbey, Essex EN9 3GP

This route starts taking in the explosive past of the intriguing Gunpowder Park before heading to up to the ultra-modern and completely manmade Lee Valley White Water Centre. The return leg follows the River Lee Navigation using the tow path, then cutting through Enfield Island Village linking up with the picturesque nature reserves that border Gunpowder Park. This route boasts a true mixture of urban, open space and waterways.

Along the route you’ll find…

Gunpowder Park

The clue to this site’s history is in its name! Formerly part of Royal Gunpowder Mills the site was used or the research and development of explosives for which the town of Waltham Abbey was once famous for. Throughout different areas of the country park you can see evidence of the blasts that the site was subjected to. Decommissioned from the MOD in 1991 the site was regenerated by Lee Valley Regional Park into the stunning, Green Flag accredited, open space you’ll see as you cycle through. Not only is it great for cycling but the wide areas of green space make it an ideal spot for a picnic and just enjoying the great outdoors. The areas boasts a wide variety of wildlife, whether you’re hearing the insects that are shrouded by the undergrowth, watching the butterflies as the feast on the nectar of the wildflowers, seeing birds such as the Skylark flying overhead or as the night draws in watch the bats hunting for an insect snack.

Meridian Way

As you cycle around the bend look over to the far side of the road, can you spot one of Britain’s rarest native trees growing proudly on the bank? The Black Poplar likes boggy ground such as wet woodland and can grow up to 30m high and live for 200 years. The wood of the tree is white in colour and very resistant to shock and in the past was used to make such items as clogs. With the number of wild Black Poplar in decline it is very rare to find a true Black Poplar (one that hasn’t been cross-pollinated by another type of tree).

The Viking Ship

On this ride you’ll come across one of the sculptures which make up the sculpture trail within River Lee Country Park. The Viking Ship’s skeletal hull invokes images of the days gone by when the Vikings travelled the Lee. A short detour from the route by the rear entrance to Lee Valley White Water Centre you’ll find Musicality - the xylophone that you play like a bongo.

Lee Valley White Water Centre

White water rapids on the edge of London you’d never have thought it. But following the London 2012 Games that exactly what we’ve got! This fantastic venue offers rafting, canoeing, hydrospeeding and hot dog sessions – everything that will ensure you get wet and have fun. The site has a licensed café so makes a great refuelling point during your ride, take it easy and watch others take on the rapids.

Rammey Marsh

This area is home to a model aircraft club and is the only area of Lee Valley Regional Park where they can fly their aircraft, it’s even listed in our Byelaws! Apart from the odd model plane soaring overhead look out for bats flying along the line of willow trees on summer evenings and Water Vole in the ditch that cuts through the site. As a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation in London you’ll find a whole host of different plant species including the beautiful Bee and Pyramidal Orchid which grow between May and June.

Enfield Island

Not quite on the cycle route but very close by, the area of Enfield Island was famous for the Royal Small Arms Factory that was operational in the 19th and 20th centuries. It designed/built guns such as the Enfield Pattern Rifle-Musket (1853), Enfield revolver (1180 – 1957), Lee-Enfield rifle (1894 – 1957), Sten sub-machine gun (1941 – 1953) and the SA80 (1987) assault rifle. The factory closed in November 1988 and was redeveloped for housing however the original machine shop frontage and older parts of the rear structure are still there and was converted into workshops.

Swan and Pike Pool – a great location for a relaxing picnic stop and forms part of the Sustrans National Cycle Network – Route 1. A rare find at the site is the Musk Beetle which needs young willow woodland for its breeding and development.

Knights Pits

Part of Sewardstone Marsh these former gravel pits were in-filled with water to create still water pools and have woodland surrounding the pits. This provides prime habitats for dragonfly and a range of birds such as Great Spotted Woodpecker and Sparrowhawk. Summer months listen out for melodic song of the Nightingale.


  • Gunpowder Park

  • Lee Valley White Water Centre


  • Lee Valley White Water Centre

Alternative starting points

  • Lee Valley White Water Centre – EN9 0AS

  • Swan and Pike Pool – EN3 6GE (height barrier)

You can ride these routes on any type of bike but the best ones to use would be either a mountain or hybrid bike.

Please cycle responsibly in the park, for more information check our cyclists code of conduct.

*Cycling time and calories burnt are calculated using a cycling speed of 10mph and a weight of 10 stone.

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