Saturday, 21 January 2012

21 Jan: Ride to Boston and New York

Nigel writes: I was in Boston today with my bike and was stumped for something to do, so I decided to cycle to New York. Well, not quite. But it was the prospect of being able to make that boast that gave me an excuse for today's solo ride.

I got up early and cycled in the dark to Cambridge station to catch the 0735 train from Cambridge to King's Lynn. Somewhere around Littleport the sun rose and by the time I arrived in King's Lynn it was light.

My plan was to cycle west into Lincolnshire, which meant the first thing I needed to do was to cross the River Great Ouse. I did this using the on the old "free bridge" a mile south of the town, from where I rode round to West Lynn on the other side. I had heard that there was a ferry from there to King's Lynn so I went and had a look. Rather to my surprise it was in full operation with a handful of passengers waiting to pay 80p for the short crossing. It's a passenger ferry but it appears to take bikes if they have room. I might try this on another visit. I took some photos and have written a page of information here.

The ferry from King's Lynn arrives at West Lynn

My initial goal was to ride to Boston, about 45 miles away. I took a meandering route though the West Norfolk Fens to Sutton Bridge. It was quite dull with a few spots of drizzle now and then, though very mild. The main feature of meterological interest was a strong headwind from the north-west, which was to make my progress to Boston and beyond slow and plodding.

Very flat, Norfolk

I reached Sutton Bridge and crossed the River Nene, another wide commercial waterway.

River Nene at Sutton Bridge

A glance at any map of this area shows how it is disected by a series of wide, canalised rivers with few crossings, which severely constrains the route-planning options. So although I was able to turn north and follow a quiet route through the Lincolnshire Fens near the edge of The Wash, I eventually had to turn back inland to cross the River Welland at Fosdyke.

The Lincolnshire Fens seemed a bit more prosperous and more attractive than the Cambridgeshire or Norfolk Fens. I'm not sure why.

Lincolnshire Fens

One of the best rainbows I have seen for ages

There's an old Lincolnshire saying that at the end of every rainbow you'll find a pile of sugar beet


Eventually I arrived at Fosdyle where I crossed the River Welland.

River Welland at Fosdyke

From Fosdyke to Boston I followed NCR 1.


At about 12.15pm, and after 45 miles, I arrived in Boston.

River Witham in Boston town centre

Boston Stump (St Botolph's Church)

I didn't stop in Boston. Although I it was lunchtime I wanted to press on and achieve the goal of today's ride: New York. This is a tiny hamlet about ten miles to the north, and to get there I followed the first few miles of the Water Rail Way, a pleasant Sustrans route which runs along the bank of the River Witham.

NCR 1 north of Boston, with Boston Stump in the distance

A few more miles further on, I arrived at my destination: New York Village. There's nothing here except for a 40mph speed limit on the B1192 and a few houses: just enough signs to allow me to spend a ridiculous amount of time taking photos of myself to prove where I had been.

It was now about 2.15pm and I had ridden 55 miles. It was now time to turn south for the long ride back.

I didn't fancy riding back to King's Lynn as that would have forced me to retrace my route via the bridges at Fosdyke, Sutton Bridge and West Lynn. I therefore decided to take a more southerly route, crossing the River Welland at Spalding (the first available crossing south of Fosdyke) and crossing the River Nene at Wisbech (the first crossing south of Sutton Bridge).

Fortunately I now had a bit of a tailwind (though not much) and my speed increased. By the time I reached Spalding it was dark and I turned on my lights. By now I had got rather bored of the endless fenland landscapes and it was rather nice the way that the darkness made the landscape seem much more intimate: nothing but me, my bike, the road, illuminated by my 975 lumen front light, and the reassuring glow of my Nokia N810 computer which I was using for navigation. I arrived at Downham Market station at 7.45pm, just in time to catch the 1948 train back to Cambridge. I was home soon after 8.30pm, having cycled 111 miles.

View this GPS track on a larger map

(Incidentally, Boston Massachusetts to New York, New York is 253 miles by bike)


  1. Nice one, Nigel. I went through New York several times on the way to the York Rally, camping at West Pinchbeck and Walesby.

  2. That's an impressive ride for January!

  3. That is very impressive, indeed - especially for a Saturday ride... ;)