I would love to cycle more for leisure but am put off by the volume of traffic on local roads.
That said we are lucky to have a number of dedicated cycle routes, including The Hanson Way (part of Sustrans route 5) which runs between Didcot and Oxford. I recently rode it from Didcot to Abingdon with my son.
Rather than duplicate instructions it’s easiest to download the Hanson Way cycle route and map. My account below offers additional insights.
The cycle route officially starts from Didcot Parkway railway station. However as we live on the other side of town we joined at the Mendip Heights/A4130 roundabout. Unless you are a confident cyclist I strongly recommend following the official cycle route from the railway station instead (signposted along Station Road, around Foxhall Road roundabout, past the sewage works and through Southmead industrial estate). Our alternative route followed the A4130 over the railway bridge and across the old power station roundabout. It is extremely busy with HGV traffic, not a good cyclist combination.
Towards Sutton Courtenay
After crossing the (ex) power station roundabout we continued along the shared cycle/footpath bordering the A4130 (Ladygrove ring road). At the next roundabout, just past Screwfix, we were directed down a lane, leaving the traffic behind.
Once off-road we breathed a sigh of relief and happily cycled, traffic free, around the old power station perimeter. The route is fragrant, as the huge landfill site is on the opposite side of the path. Coincidentally, the Hanson Way was part funded by landfill tax paid by the quarry firm.
Despite the inauspicious surroundings there’s a lot of wildlife. The wide path borders provide habitat to wildflowers, butterflies, birds and many rabbits. We had to keep an eye out for the rabbits as they had a habit of running across the track in front of us!
The track turns right, and then left into Sutton Courtenay, ending up in Hobbyhorse Lane/Frilsham Street. We turned right and cycled along the High Street. This road has the potential to be busy but there are a lot of road humps to slow cars (and cyclists) down.
The route follows the High Street until its junction with the B4016, where we took a left turning. After a short distance along this road we joined the shared cycle/footpath until we reached the turn off along Peep-O-Day Lane.
On to Abingdon
This section was once again off road. It’s a popular walking and jogging route too, so we were careful not to speed along the track.
In previous years the path has had a tendency to flood and become muddy after heavy rain. However major improvements were carried out in 2020 and the track was resurfaced. It’s now a smooth ride, although I don’t know if the flooding aspect has been improved. Maybe we’ll find out this winter!
As we approached Abingdon we passed a warning for quarry vehicles, presumably lorries, on a short stretch of the road. Fortunately we didn’t see any. I’m not sure how often vehicles come through but if you’re cycling with children it’s best not to let them get too far ahead just in case.
The cycle route returns to residential roads and winds through south Abingdon, eventually running alongside the river. We were initially a little confused by a signpost directing cyclists to the river (see photo) as this takes you off the cycle route; ignore it and stay on the road!
Annie’s at the Boathouse tea room
We’d worked up an appetite so headed to Annie’s tea room beside the River Thames. There are outside tables and it was easy to prop our bikes against these, out of the way of other customers.
We ate our cakes whilst watching a boat rescue. A large hire boat had managed to jam itself under the bridge and was being pulled out by a small motor boat. It was eventually freed to the merriment of onlookers; I’d have died of embarrassment if it was my boat.
We simply turned around and followed the same route home. I had looked for good off-road alternatives to return home but they didn’t exist. Whilst a circular route would have been preferable you do get to experience the scenery in reverse – even if it’s a landfill site and industrial park!
Start and end point: Didcot Parkway railway station. Grid reference:SU525905. What3words: ///spruced.forever.sugar
Distance: The return journey is approximately 21 km (13 miles).
Terrain: Mostly off road on smooth, flat dedicated cycle tracks. Road stretch through Sutton Courtenay and south Abingdon. On road traffic in Didcot and Abingdon can be busy. The route is well-signposted, no chance of getting lost.