Although rainfall is generally low in Suffolk, this is a county with plenty of water. Not only does it have a 50 mile stretch of beautiful heritage coastline, it also has plenty of rivers, lakes and a picturesque reservoir on the Shotley Peninsula. So when the sun shines on a summer’s day, which also happens to be your birthday, enjoying a day outside near some water seems the obvious thing to do.
Alton Water Park lies within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB and this is where we headed to explore the eight mile, off-road cycle route around the park’s 400 acre reservoir.
Surrounded by woodland, the man-made reservoir feels quite wild and natural and the cycle track is shady with one or two spots where it’s surprisingly hilly. These are not just ‘Suffolk hills’ either, but proper get-off-yer-bike-and-push type hills. This shouldn’t deter the novice cyclist though; most of the route is gently undulating and the hills actually make the ride a lot of fun.
The route follows the edge of the reservoir and there are plenty of stopping-off points to have a picnic or pause to look at the wildlife. We completed the circuit in around an hour and a half, but we were going at quite a pace and enjoying the cool breeze as we went.
Our cycle ride was hugely enjoyable and it felt like a mini adventure, just us on our mountain bikes peddling like fury up hills and freewheeling, with some abandon, down the other side.
[A note of caution: beware of walkers, who share the same track as bikes and of course be careful going around corners as you may well meet other cyclists doing the route in the opposite direction.]
Alton Water Reservoir is also great for canoeing or kayaking, which is what we intend to try next. You can go sailing, windsurfing, fishing, and bird-watching from the hides dotted around the water’s edge.
Bikes are available to hire from Alton Cycle Hire for a reasonable £9 for two hours (plus £3 per hour after that) for adult mountain bikes and options for children are also available. There is an on-site cafe which we didn’t try (having stopped off at the Suffolk Food Hall for home-made cake and tea beforehand) as well as options for taking sailing lessons.
We are slowly making our way around the Shotley Peninsula in Suffolk! Read our article about vertical living in Freston Tower.