There’s something you shouldn’t forget if you go on this ride: the kids. Energetic nippers and experienced passengers (like my two-year-old) will love it. There is plenty to entertain them along the way and much of the route is traffic-free.
The only testing stretch is over soon after the start. The road east from Retford is uphill but you are rewarded with a expansive view over the Lincolnshire plain. You can navigate by sight to the first checkpoint, North Leverton windmill. Built in 1813 and still operational, the windmill is a real Chitty Chitty Bang Bang-type affair. It has a fine fantail just like the one in the film and the windmill’s cap is like an old onion, the white panels of wood up its sides weathered and flaky.
A few turns later and you start a long stretch of peaceful bridleways and byways. From Hayton a conveyor belt from the gravel pits gently rattles its way alongside the byway like a narrow gauge railway. Former pits are home to many birds. Bring your binoculars and look out for the hide on your right.
There’s no need for such magnification at the Wetlands Waterfowl Reserve. This is a marvellous menagerie so allow plenty of time for it. You can see chipmunks, llamas, emus, wallabies, vultures, yaks and all sorts. Ask for bird seed when you buy your ticket. There’s also a cafe overlooking the main pond used by fishermen and a children’s playground.
End your day with a history lesson at All Saints Church in Babworth. Exactly 400 years ago its rector, Richard Clyfton, got into trouble with his bishop for holding non-conformist views. Two friends of the rector who shared his views became Pilgrim Fathers and later sailed for the New World on the Mayflower to escape religious persecution. Inside the church you can view a plaque about the voyage.
Distance: 21½ miles.
Start and finish: Retford rail station.
From station forward down Victoria Rd and right along Albert Rd. At lights continue ahead on Arlington Way for 400 metres. Then, at The Broken Wheel pub, right signed ‘Leverton’ and keep going for 4½ miles. In N Leverton left to Sturton and at The Reindeer Inn left down Springs Lane. When byway bends to left turn right down signed Trent Valley Way bridleway for 500 metres. At the bottom of slope pass through hedge then left up track. At tarmac road right to Clarborough. Right on main road to and through Hayton and over the canal. As road bends to right continue ahead along byway
signed ‘Chain Bridge Lane Nature Reserve’. First left signed ‘Byway’ to pass Wetlands Waterfowl Reserve. At t-junction, left to and through Sutton via Town St. Cross A638 and level crossing to reach junction with A620 at Babworth. Turn left then right at mini-roundabout and first left down Ordsall Pk Rd. At the end over ramped railway bridge and right down unsurfaced Westfield Rd to station.
Map: OS 1:50 000 Landranger 120 ‘Mansfield & Worksop’ or byways map of East Midlands available via http://www.nationalbyway.org.
Conditions: Mainly minor roads and byways. All the route is suitable for a touring bike other than a short bridleway and track after Sturton where you may need to push your bike.
Eating: The Bay Tree, Carolgate, Retford (01777 710298). Family friendly, canalside restaurant with tables outside. The Boat Inn, Hayton (01777 700158). Large playground.