National Cycle Route 51

National Cycle Route 51 is an English long distance cycle route running broadly east-west connecting Colchester and the port of Harwich to Oxford via Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Cambridge, Bedford, Milton Keynes, Bicester, and Kidlington.

Links to:

Forms part of the North Sea Cycle Route.


Colchester to Harwich

Colchester | Wivenhoe | Great Oakley | Harwich

This section runs from Colchester and National Cycle Route 1 to Harwich, where a seasonal foot ferry can be caught to Suffolk where the line continues.

For much of its length it is also the route of the North Sea Cycle Route, although this branches off at a park in Dovercourt to head to the Harwich International Port at Parkeston where there is access via ferry to the Continent.

At Harwich the signs indicate the route is 22 miles to Colchester, 3 to the International Port and 1 to Dovercourt. The North Sea Cycle Route junction is 1 mile along the route from Harwich to Colchester.

Harwich to Ipswich

Harwich | Felixstowe | Nacton | Ipswich

The route from Harwich to Felixstowe uses the Harwich Harbour Ferry (summer only, check timetable) to Langard Point offering an impressive view of The Port of Felixstowe.

On the Felixstowe side the ferry lands near Landguard Fort which is rich with history. The route then heads along the sea front into the centre of Old Felixstowe itself, a Victorian seaside town.

From Felixstowe the route heads out of town though a residential area and then mainly along minor roads towards Ipswich. There is a 1400-metre section of the official route takes one along a dedicated cycletrack very close to the A14. For this section there is an alternative route that uses a narrow single track road further away from the A14 which is also used by motorists and buses. The route then heads through Statton Hall, Levington and Nacton into Ipswich via Landseer Park, Holywells Park and the new waterfront area, where the routes crosses National Cycle Route 1.

Alternatively from Felixstowe one can take the RCR41 up the coast through the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Ipswich to Bury St Edmunds

Ipswich | Needham Market | Stowmarket | Woolpit | Tostock | Thurston | Bury St Edmunds

This section of the route uses quiet roads passing the entrance to the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket, the village of Shelland and then through Thurston using a couple of off-road sections and finally into Bury St Edmunds using another section of off-road good cycle track running parallel with the road.

In late 2008/early 2009 part a section for the route west of Stowmarket was re-routed to take advantage of changes to the A14. It now uses a section of road that used to form the Eastbound carriageway of the A14 at Haughley Bends[1] and has been turned into a traffic free route for cyclists, walkers and horse riders as shown on the official map[2] of the works.

Bury St Edmunds to Cambridge

Bury St Edmunds | Newmarket | Burwell | Cambridge

Links to NCR 11 at Burwell and Cambridge

Cambridge to Bedford

Cambridge | Girton | Swavesey | Huntingdon | Sandy | Bedford

Cambridge NCR51
NCR 51 route through Cambridge city centre

NCR 51 leaves Cambridge on the Huntingdon Road, routing north via Girton, Oakington, Longstanton, Swavesey, to Huntingdon. NCR 51 diversion at Longstanton to Swavesey . At Huntingdon, it meets with NCR 6 for connections to Alconbury and Peterborough

NCR 51 is undefined between Huntingdon and Sandy

Between Sandy and Bedford, the off-road route follows the old Varsity Line, now a rail trail, briefly joining the public highway at the village of Blunham, past Willington and the wetlands around Priory Marina, before arriving at the outskirts of Bedford where it follows the south bank of the River Great Ouse through parkland to the south end of Bedford Bridge.

Bedford to Milton Keynes

Bedford | Cranfield | Milton Keynes

NCR 51 MarstonMoretane
Section from Marston Moretaine to Cranfield

From Bedford, the route follows the north bank of the River Great Ouse through town, passing under County Bridge at Prebend Street, and following a surfaced path along the river before crossing the river into Kempston at a footbridge. This section is prone to flooding, and an alternative cycle route is available by crossing County Bridge and following Prebend Street south to the Bedford Road cycleway.

NCR 51 follows a split cycle path (pedestrians/cycles separated by solid white line) through Kempston, past a supermarket, and through alleyways to Ridgeway School.

From the limits of Kempston, there is a well-marked route on roads, crossing the Bedford western bypass via Wootton to Marston Moretaine

The route travels through the Forest of Marston Vale (bike hire in the Forest centre) where there is a cycleway connecting with Millbrook railway station.

From the Forest of Marston Vale, NCR 51 takes residential roads, tracks, and bridleways to Cranfield

At Cranfield, there are no further NCR signs westbound until Salford, where the route crosses the M1 towards Wavendon and Woburn Sands (in the Milton Keynes Urban Area).

Milton Keynes Redway
Cycleway network in Milton Keynes. NCR routes 6 and 51 are highlighted in red. (Extracted from
© OpenStreetMap contributors).

Entering the eastern edge of Milton Keynes, the route follows Lower End Road (Wavendon) and then Walton Road (Wavendon Gate, Milton Keynes), then onwards along the Milton Keynes redway system (a segregated shared path (cycleway and footpath) network) around the south edge of Willen Lake (where there is some bike hire, tourist attractions etc.). A little further on (at the bottom of Campbell Park), it meets National Cycle Route 6 that leads to London and Northampton. Climbing through Campbell Park, it enters the central business district of Milton Keynes then follows Midsummer Boulevard down to Milton Keynes Central railway station.

NCR 51 MiltonKeynes east
parkland around Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes to Oxford

Milton Keynes | Winslow | Bicester | Oxford

From Milton Keynes Central railway station, the route goes over the West Coast Main Line on a pedestrian/cycle bridge, and follows paved routes in parkland past the National Bowl and Furzton Lake to the A421 junction with Buckingham Road in West Bletchley. There is a cycleway here along Buckingham Road to link with Bletchley railway station.

Leaving Milton Keynes, the NCR 51 continues south-west along bridleways to Winslow. Onwards from Winslow, the route reaches Verney Junction and a little further on it interconnects with National Cycle Route 50 for Buckingham and Daventry. Minor roads then take it through Middle Claydon (from whence a short diversion may be made to Claydon House, a National Trust property). Next comes Steeple Claydon and then onwards to Bicester.

In Bicester, there are local routes to Bicester North railway station and Bicester Village railway station. Thereafter, a minor road beside the A41 takes it through Wendlebury, Weston on the Green, Bletchingdon, Kidlington, and then on into Oxford.


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Blunham railway station

Blunham was a railway station on the Varsity Line which served the small village of the same name in Bedfordshire. Opened in 1862, the station was located in a rural area and saw little passenger traffic; it closed together with the line in 1968.

EV12 The North Sea Cycle Route

EuroVelo 12 (EV12), the North Sea Cycle Route, is a 5,942 km (3,692 mi) long-distance cycling route circuit around the coastlines of the countries that border the North Sea: these countries are (going clockwise from an arbitrary starting point of Harwich in Essex) England, Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium.

The North Sea Cycle Route was officially opened in 2001, and is an international project between the countries participating, with 68 partners in 8 countries. In 2003, the route was awarded a Guinness world record certificate confirming that the North Sea Cycle Route was the world's longest cycle route.

East West Rail

East West Rail is a major project to establish a strategic railway connecting East Anglia with Central, Southern and Western England. In particular, it plans to build (or rebuild) a new line linking Oxford and Cambridge via Bicester, Milton Keynes (at Bletchley) and Bedford, largely using the trackbed of the former Varsity Line. Thus it provides a route between any or all of the Great Western, Chiltern, West Coast, Midland, East Coast, West Anglia and Great Eastern main lines, avoiding London. The new line will provide a route for potential new services between Southampton Central and Ipswich or Norwich via Reading, Didcot and Ely, using existing onward lines. The western section from Oxford to Bedford was approved by the government in November 2011, with completion of this section expected by 2025. As of January 2019, the Company aims to complete the Central section by "the mid 2020s". Electrification of the line is not planned.

The plan is divided into three sections:

"Western section" from Oxford to Bedford on existing lines, including the mothballed section between Bletchley and Claydon Junction; the scope of this section includes a branch line to Aylesbury;

"Central section" from Bedford to Cambridge using some existing lines together with a new section;

"Eastern section" from Cambridge to Norwich, Felixstowe and Ipswich on existing lines.It was initially promoted (as the East West Rail Link) by the East-West Rail Consortium, a consortium of local authorities and interested bodies along the route. Since 2013 it been adopted by the Department for Transport and, in late 2017, the Government announced that will be delivered by a private sector consortium, the East West Railway Company, (rather than Network Rail).Since December 2016 phase 1 of the western section, the segment from Oxford via Bicester Village to the junction with the Chiltern Main Line is operational. The public inquiry for phase 2 (of the western section) began in February 2019. On 28 January 2019 the East West Railway Company announced a consultation exercise on five potential routes for the central section.

Fen Drayton

Fen Drayton is a small village between Cambridge and St. Ives in Cambridgeshire, England, and between the villages of Fenstanton and Swavesey.

Much of the working population commutes to work in one of the larger towns or cities nearby, however, there are also a number of farms in the village, some still active.

The village has a primary school, village hall, tennis courts and football fields, where Drayton Lions Football Club play their home matches, and a pub (The Three Tuns). The church (a Church of England) is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin.

The village is close to the A14, the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway and is on National Cycle Route 51.

According to the 2001 census, it is home to 827 people, living in some 329 dwellings. The population was nearly entirely white (99.3%), with 0.4% Asian/Asian British, and 0.4% of mixed ethnicity. 71.5% of the population were Christian, compared to 1.1% listed under 'other religion' (27.4% claimed 'no religion' or did not state a religion). The population of the civil parish as of the 2011 census is856.

Harwich Harbour Ferry

The Harwich Harbour Ferry is a foot and bicycle ferry for 58 passengers that runs from Easter until the end of December between Ha'penny Pier near Harwich to Landguard Fort near Felixstowe and Shotley marina. As well as for local traffic, this ferry can be used as a short cut on the Suffolk Coast Path; it takes bicycles, prams, e-bikes and is used by National Cycle Route NCR 51 and the North Sea Cycle Route.

The ferry service started in 1912 and was operated from 1925 until 1992 by the MV Brightlingsea. The service was later started with the MV Explorer 12, a Sea Truck, which is owned by Austrian Christian Zemann and his English wife Lucy Zemann and licensed to carry 12 passengers.As of 2016 the service is provided by Harbour Ferry. The boat was once a lifeboat from the liner SS Canberra and is now licensed and equipped for 58 passengers.


Ipswich ( (listen)) is a historic county town in Suffolk, England, located in East Anglia about 66 miles (106 km) north east of London. The town has been continuously occupied since the Saxon period, and its port has been one of England's most important for the whole of its history. The modern name is derived from the medieval name Gippeswic, likely taken either from an Old Saxon personal name or from an earlier name of the Orwell estuary (although unrelated to the name of the River Gipping). It has also been known as Gyppewicus and Yppswyche.Ipswich is a non-metropolitan district and is a large settlement despite its town status. The urban development of Ipswich overspills the borough boundaries significantly, with 75% of the town's population living within the borough at the time of the 2011 Census, when it was the fourth-largest urban area in the United Kingdom's East of England region, and the 42nd-largest urban area in England and Wales. In 2011, the town of Ipswich was found to have a population of 133,384, while the Ipswich built-up area is estimated to have a population of approximately 180,000 in 2011.The town is split into various quarters, with central and the waterfront drawing the most footfall. Central is home to the town's retail shopping and the town square, the Cornhill. The waterfront is a popular area of the town which is home to many restaurants, pubs and hotels. The waterfront was once an industrial port and served as the most important dock in the kingdom, the area has since been transformed into a trendy and picturesque setting housing the town's marina and various high-rise apartment buildings. The waterfront is also home to one of the UK's newest universities, the University of Suffolk, after being formed in 2016.Ipswich has become a tourist hotspot in the UK with 3.5 million people reported to have visited the county town in 2016. Ipswich was voted as the 7th most desirable places to live and work in England by the Royal Mail in 2017. In 2007 Ipswich was awarded the cleanest town award, and in 2015, Ipswich was rated as third happiest place to live in the UK.

Ipswich Waterfront

The Ipswich Waterfront (also known as Ipswich Wet Dock or the Ipswich Marina), is the area of land around the marina in the town of Ipswich, Suffolk. The dock was constructed in 1842 and was a hive of industry up until the 1970s, at the time of completion, the dock was known as 'the biggest enclosed dock in the kingdom'. Since 1995, the area has undergone major regeneration which has completely transformed the area. The area is now characterised by its mix of postmodern and classical architecture which houses commerce and residential apartments. The area also includes fine dining restaurants, cafés, pubs, a boutique hotel, and the main campus of the regions university, the University of Suffolk.

Local Ferries in Suffolk

The Ferries in Suffolk are local ferry services in southeastern England, United Kingdom: some connect Suffolk with Essex to its south while others cross rivers within Suffolk.

Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes ( (listen) KEENZ), locally abbreviated to MK, is a large town in Buckinghamshire, England, about 50 miles (80 km) north-west of London. It is the principal settlement of the Borough of Milton Keynes, a unitary authority. At the 2011 Census, its population was almost 230,000; the Office for National Statistics estimates that it will reach 300,000 by 2025. The River Great Ouse forms its northern boundary; a tributary, the River Ouzel meanders through its linear parks and balancing lakes. Approximately 25% of the urban area is parkland or woodland and includes an SSI.

In the 1960s, the UK Government decided that a further generation of new towns in the South East of England was needed to relieve housing congestion in London. The New Town (in planning documents, "New City") of Milton Keynes was to be the biggest yet, with a target population of 250,000, in a "designated area" of about 22,000 acres (9,000 ha). At designation, its area incorporated the existing towns of Bletchley, Wolverton, and Stony Stratford, along with another fifteen villages and farmland in between. These settlements had an extensive historical record since the Norman conquest; detailed archaeological investigations prior to development revealed evidence of human occupation from the Neolithic age to modern times, including in particular the Milton Keynes Hoard of Bronze Age gold jewellery. The government established a Development Corporation (MKDC) to design and deliver this New City. The Corporation decided on a softer, more human-scaled landscape than in the earlier new towns but with an emphatically modernist architecture. Recognising how traditional towns and cities had become choked in traffic, they established a 'relaxed' grid of distributor roads about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) between edges, leaving the spaces between to develop more organically. An extensive network of shared paths for leisure cyclists and pedestrians criss-crosses through and between them. Again rejecting the residential tower blocks that had been so recently fashionable but unloved, they set a height limit of three stories outside the planned centre.

Facilities include a 1,400-seat theatre, a municipal art gallery, two multiplex cinemas, an ecumenical central church, a 400-seat concert hall, a teaching hospital, a 30,500-seat football stadium, an indoor ski-slope and a 65,000-capacity open-air concert venue. There are five railway stations (one inter-city). The Open University is based here and there is a campus of the University of Bedfordshire. Most sports are represented at amateur level; Red Bull Racing (Formula One), MK Dons (association football) and Milton Keynes Lightning (ice hockey) are its professional teams. The Peace Pagoda overlooking Willen Lake was the first such to be built in Europe.

Milton Keynes has one of the more successful economies in the UK, ranked highly against a number of criteria. As one of the UK's top five fastest growing centres, it has benefited consistently from above-average economic growth. It has the fifth highest number of business startups per capita (but equally of business failures). It is home to several major national and international companies. Despite this economic success and personal wealth for some, there are pockets of nationally significant poverty. The employment profile is composed of about 90% service industries and 9% manufacturing.

Milton Keynes redway system

The Milton Keynes redway system (locally known as Redways) is an over 200 mi (322 km) network of shared use paths for cyclists and pedestrians in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. It is generally surfaced with red tarmac, and criss-crosses most of the city.

Some of these Redways run next to the grid roads and local roads, with underpasses or bridges where they intersect major roads. Others run through park land and along the floodplain of the Great Ouse and its tributaries.

Construction of the Redway commenced in the 1970s with the start of the construction of the "new city". By 1980 it was the largest urban cycleway system in the UK with 22 miles (35.4 km) in use.

National Bowl

The National Bowl (originally the Milton Keynes Bowl) is an entertainment venue located in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. The site was a former clay-pit (for brick-making), filled in and raised to form an amphitheatre using sub-soil excavated by the many new developments in the area and it has a current maximum capacity of 65,000. The arena is open-air grassland, without seats.

National Cycle Route 6

National Cycle Route 6 (or NCR 6) is a route of the National Cycle Network, running from London to the Lake District.

Oxford Parkway railway station

Oxford Parkway railway station is a railway station at Water Eaton, Oxfordshire, on the Oxford–Bicester line. Full regular weekday service began on Monday 26 October 2015, although the first passengers travelled the previous day on a Sunday timetable.The station, whose name was changed in September 2013 from the provisional "Water Eaton Parkway", lies between Kidlington and Oxford beside the existing Water Eaton park-and-ride site. It serves Kidlington, north Oxford and nearby villages. The station forms part of a multi-modal transport interchange node, connecting travellers by bus, cycle, on foot and by car with rail transport. It is also intended to attract park-and-ride traffic from the busy A34, A40 and A44 roads.

Services to Oxford started on 11 December 2016.

Tackley railway station

Tackley railway station is on the Cherwell Valley Line in Oxfordshire, England, serving the village of Tackley and its surrounding area. Great Western Railway operates the station and all but one of the trains serving it. The exception is a weekday late night service to Banbury operated by Chiltern Railways.

Measured via Didcot Parkway the station is 72 miles 50 chains (116.9 km) from London Paddington

Transport in Bedford

Transport in Bedford provides links between the town and other parts of England. Road access to the town is provided by the A6 road & A421 road. The town is served by two railway stations and a network of bus services.

Transport in Ipswich

Ipswich is the county town of Suffolk, England. It is a medieval port and industrial town with a strong transport history; the urban area has a population of 122,000 and currently offers urban transport services for cars, cycles and buses. In addition there are 3 railway stations and regional coach services. London Stansted Airport is accessible by the airlink coach.

Willington railway station (Bedfordshire)

Willington was a railway station on the Varsity Line which served the small village of the same name in Bedfordshire. Opened in 1903, the station was located in a rural area and saw little passenger traffic; it closed together with the line in 1968.

Winslow, Buckinghamshire

Winslow is a market town and civil parish designated as a town council in the Aylesbury Vale district of north Buckinghamshire. It has a population of just over 4,400.

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