Secret Cycle Routes of Norwich – #1 Mile Cross

Even long term residents can be surprised at some of the hidden cycle paths of Norwich. In the first of what will likely become a series, Derek Williams looks at Mile Cross

The secret cycle routes of Mile Cross – Video Derek

Norwich has the Pedalways cycle network, which although patchy does form the backbone of a reasonably good network around the city, with five radial routes and inner and outer circular routes. But the Pedalways don’t go everywhere and they are certainly not the only really useful network of cycle routes we have. The problem is these useful routes remain something of a closely guarded secret, or so it seems.

Within the outer ring road, Norwich was mostly built before the arrival of the motor car. The old city and the Victorian streets of course were built for horse and carts, but mostly for walking. Further out there are large estates built in the inter-war and immediate post-war periods. Although motor cars were becoming popular, few people owned one and so the estates were very much built with walking and cycling in mind. One such estate is Mile Cross in the north west of the city.

The Mile Cross estate

Mile Cross cycle route
Descending into the Wensum valley – Photo Derek

One of the worst roads in the city to cycle on is undoubtedly Mile Cross Road, which runs north from near Anderson’s Meadow to Aylsham Road. A lot of people do have to ride this way, but it’s a nasty road, narrow with heavy traffic and lots of parked cars, and – apart from Toucan crossings at the roundabout with Drayton Road – with no cycling provision at all.

The nearest part of the Pedalways network to Mile Cross is also arguably the best – the Red Pedalway, otherwise known as the Marriott’s Way. This is a part of the long-distance Sustrans National Cycle Route 1 which runs along the old Midland & Great Northern (M&GN) railway line following the Wensum river. It provides a traffic-free walking and cycling route all the way into the city centre as well as connecting to the Orange Pedalway (the inner circle) at Anderson’s Meadow which among other places, provides a good cycle route to City College.

The Marriott’s Way passes just to the south of Mile Cross, the only problem is how to get there, but actually it isn’t much of a problem and with a little investment could be greatly improved to give a really good connection to the city.

The Mile Cross estate has a lot of quiet streets with very little traffic, but more than that it has some really quite good cycle paths. These would have been built along with most of the estate in the 1920s and it’s these cycle paths that provide the key part of the network, a network that it seems few people know about, including the cyclists who risk the main road every day.

There are two really useful through routes, one which provides a good alternative to the dangerous Mile Cross Road through to the Marriott’s Way, and another that provides a route from the crossing of Boundary Road near B&Q all the way down to the Marriott’s Way. Both routes meet near the Norman Centre and use a combination of shared-use cycle tracks and quiet roads.

This direct connection almost exists, the only problem is crossing Mile Cross Road and the short distance from Valpy Avenue to Havers Road, a distance of only 85m (280ft). Well, that and the fact there is nothing to tell anyone about the route! There are some signs for part of the route (which actually directs you on a slightly different route to the Marriott’s Way through Sloughbottom Park) but these have over the years either been vandalised or been swung round to point in the wrong direction.

Route descriptions

The Mile Cross cycle routes (click the map for a larger version)

Starting from the Marriott’s Way and heading north, both routes share the first part of the route to the Peterson Road Park. This section climbs the side of the River Wensum valley in a series of staggered, gentle climbs.

1: Shared section of the route

Heading out of the city on the Marriott’s Way, turn right just before the bridge carrying Mile Cross Road over the old railway line and follow the shared-use path up to Havers Road. This is the “missing link” where you are expected to cross Mile Cross Road and ride on it for a short way. The alternative is to follow the well-worn path across the grass and cross by the bus stop, or perhaps go out of your way to the Toucan crossing near the roundabout. This is the only real problem however.

Once across Mile Cross Road, follow Valpy Avenue, Dowson Road and then Wheeler Road to the crossing of Drayton Road. There is a centre island here to make it easier. Once across, follow the zig-zag shared-use path up the hill and along a short section of shared-use path to turn right into Soleme Road, then left into Burges Road, cross Margaret Paston Avenue and then onto the old arrow-straight 1920s shared-use path up to the Peterson Road Park.

2: Route to Aylsham Road/Mile Cross Road junction

On the flat now, turn right at the cycle track “crossroads” and follow Peterson Road to the roundabout and then take the first exit to follow Blomefield Road to the end, then right into Rye Avenue. This takes you to the junction of Aylsham Road and Mile Cross Road.

3: Route to the crossing of Boundary Road

Go straight over the cycle track “crossroads” in Peterson Road Park and follow the path to the left around the Norman Centre and then turn left out of the approach road. Go straight over Bignold Road, along a short shared-use cycle track and into Clarke Close, then right onto Lefroy Road, follow it round the corner to Bowers Avenue where you turn right and then take the cycle track on the left where Bowers Avenue bears to the right. This path takes you through Bowers Avenue Park to Boundary Road. Turn right here and follow the shared-use path alongside the outer ring road up the slight hill to the recently installed Toucan crossing opposite B&Q.

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