If you want a fun family day out with awesome scenery, loads of wildlife and too many kids’ activities to pack into one visit, go cycling round Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire!
Perfect for adventurous families
I’ve been dragging Sonny around on the back of my bike for six months now, but we’ve never gone further than a few miles from home. But with a free morning, a great weather forecast and a very slick new bike carrier for my car, I realised I’d run out of excuses not to take him somewhere more adventurous. So off we went to Grafham Water – a beautiful lake in Cambridgeshire with 10 miles of cycling trails, a network of woodland nature walks, children’s adventure playgrounds, cafes, pubs, visitor centre, bike hire, plus sailing and windsurfing clubs if you fancy getting wet and cold.
Hire bikes or take your own
This was my first time testing out our new Thule ProRide bike rack so I was nervous as hell about having my bike balancing on the roof, but fortunately for a dummy like me it was mega easy to fit to the car, and even easier to fit my bike to. My bike pretty much clips straight into it with no need for extra ropes, bungee cords or all the other fiddly nonsense I usually lash stuff to my roof with, and Sonny found the whole experience hilarious as he chuckled at me thrashing about from his car seat. If you can’t take your own bike, you can hire them from Rutland Cycling near the visitor centre.
So relaxing your kids will fall asleep!
Two minutes after parking at the visitor centre (don’t forget £3 for parking) we’d set off on a full loop of the lake. I wasn’t sure if we’d make it the whole way for a few reasons. The first was that it was pretty cold, the second was that I had no idea if my clunky old Carrera hybrid bike could handle the gravelly trails, and the third was that without Sonny’s mum there to pull faces and entertain him I thought he might get bored with just my backside to look at for an hour! Luckily I didn’t need to worry because the sun quickly came out to soak us in golden autumn sunshine, the bike trails turned out to be perfect for a steady cycle with the excellent Hamax Kiss kiddy seat strapped to the back of my bike, and the little devil fell fast asleep within five minutes. Which was good news in the sense that he didn’t kick off, but also meant I was on my own for the next hour!
Miles of bike trails
I set off clockwise from the visitor centre, which starts with a slightly dull section beside a long grey dam wall followed by a little bit of weaving along the roadside, before breaking out into excellent bike trails that wind around the western edge of the lake. There’s a bit of up and down but nothing too challenging, and there are loads of things to stop and do along the way. I passed the Wheatsheaf pub and the Harbour View restaurant early on, then trundled past countless bird hides and nature trails as we circled round the lake. I had planned to stop and have lunch half way round, but since Sonny never stopped snoring we just kept plodding on.
It’s almost too relaxing…
I’ll admit I stopped and prodded Sonny a few times to try to wake him up, but no joy!
Perfectly set up for cyclists
You’re likely to pass lots of other cyclists at Grafham, and the whole place is excellently set up for anyone exploring on two wheels. The trails are well signposted so it’s easy to find your way round the lake, there’s very little traffic even on the short sections of road, and there are handily positioned signposts warning you if you’re approaching a steep section of track. It’s the kind of place you could take young kids who are just learning to cycle and confidently let them charge around on their own bike. There are also lots of car parks around the lake, so you can start or finish your journey anywhere you want.
Loads of kids’ activities
Sonny typically woke up just as we rolled back into the visitor centre car park, refreshed and full of energy. So rather than bundle him back in the car and head home as I’d originally planned, I let him charge around on the big green spaces of Marlow Park where he was more than happy jumping on mole hills and pointing at boats, ducks and fishermen. We sat on a bench and finally scoffed the picnic I’d packed, then messed about on the adventure playground for ages before collapsing back into the car completely exhausted after a great morning out. If you live nearby and want to treat your kids to an awesome couple of hours of outdoor adventure, go cycling round Grafham Water!