Rider: Verity Atkins

Warwickshire is home to the idyllic town of Stratford-upon-Avon, where Verity’s route takes you through its winding streets and neighbouring countryside. Like many of the UK’s waterways, the Avon faces an ongoing threat from pollution and waste.

The route starts in Leamington Spa, which is easily accessible by train from London, Birmingham and Manchester. One of the things I love about living in Leamington is that it's a short jump out of town and straight into the countryside, and with cycling such a popular activity in the county, I always feel safe out on this route. There are also some great cycle-friendly café stops if you want to make it a social ride with friends.

I love to ride this route on a weekend morning, as the roads are normally pretty quiet. It's not too challenging, but offers some fabulous views over the countryside that remind me of riding in the south of France.

The route passes through a good number of beautiful Warwickshire villages, starting with Kineton, into Pillerton Priors, and then looping into Wellesbourne – where I like to stop for a coffee and a slice of cake before heading back out into the countryside. I'm not a huge lover of big hills so this route suits me for a long steady ride, but if you’re looking for some more challenging climbs nearby, you can take a detour up to Edge Hill where the inclines will get your blood pumping – and the views from the top are worth it.

Riding on the flat roads means you’re able to get a good pace up on this route as you pass through Alderminster, Long Marston and my favourite of all, Welford Upon Avon. If you’re here in the summer, there are also some lovely spots to dip your feet into the river to cool off on a hot day.

The route then heads into Stratford Upon Avon and along the River Avon, which is always bustling with tourists by the time I make my way through, so I don't often stop. But if you do the route in reverse then you can grab an early morning coffee here before it gets really busy.

Head out of Stratford along the busiest road you'll encounter on the route (watch out for traffic here, particularly if it's a sunny day) before weaving through Barford and then back into Leamington Spa.

about the rider

Verity Atkins started cycling in 2015 after entering a triathlon on a whim with some friends from university. Six years and three bikes later, Verity loves heading out on a long solo ride at the weekend and still partakes in triathlons as part of the British Age Group team.

beauty in the balance

In Stratford, sewage was spilled into the Avon for more than 2,900 hours in 2020 – threatening local wildlife and communities.
The River Avon’s water has tested slightly above the recommended phosphate threshold levels of 0.03 parts per million.
In 2020, just 14% of English rivers were said to be considered ecologically healthy.
The Environment Agency has committed to make sure 75% of England’s rivers are considered ‘good’ by 2027 - but admits it is unlikely to meet that target.

what to see and do

Chesterton Windmill

Grade I-listed 17th-Century windmill. A great photo op and just a short walk from the road, with gorgeous views over Leamington.

Wellesbourne Airfield

Former RAF base which is home to a retired Avro Vulcan aircraft and also has a super cafe that does an amazing fry-up.

Stratford Upon Avon

The birthplace of William Shakespeare is now a buzzing town with lots of riverside cafes, shops and culture to take in.

Welford Upon Avon

Check out the beautiful thatched cottages in this sleepy village

ride guide: the who, what & where

for a pitstop

The Garden Shed Cafe in Wellesbourne has gained a cult following with the local cycling community since it opened in 2019. There’s an amazing selection of locally sourced food and drink, and a gorgeous garden to relax in with plenty of bike racking (they're solar powered, too).

for repairs & maintenance

The Charity Bike Shop Stratford sells second-hand bikes to raise money for a great cause and is also open for spares and repairs.

meet the locals

Royal Leamington Spa Cycle Club is an incredibly friendly and welcoming club with something for every type of rider.

a place to stay

The Swan’s Nest in Stratford Upon Avon is a great place for cyclists looking to tour the local area

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