Mountain Biking at Bewl Water

Set on the border of Kent and Sussex and with a 12.5mile perimeter, Bewl Water is South East Englands largest lake.

Mountain Biking at Bewl Water
There are numerous sporting activities possible on and around the lake from sailing, windsurfing, cycling, running, and horse-riding. 

Mountain Biking at Bewl Water
Over the Easter weekend I headed down to check out their mountain bike hire, and cycle the trail that follows the lake shore. At this time of year, with quite a bit of recent rain, the route varies between firm tracks, to pretty muddy boggy sections particularly through the woodland areas!  
Mountain Biking at Bewl Water
This does affect your speed, and while 12 miles on the road would fly by pretty easily, it’s definitely more challenging on muddy terrain. The bike hire centre was pretty flexible though, so if you arrived back after your time had expired, you just paid the extra then. We ended up taking 3 hours including a nice pub break halfway round, and numerous photo and wheel cleaning stops! Helmets were included in the price (£18), and the bikes were proper Marin mountain bikes with a good selection of gears and easily adjustable saddles. 
Mountain Biking at Bewl Water

We were advised to cycle anti-clockwise around the lake, and to include a short road section to miss out the most “swampy” areas. The weather was overcast but I worked up quite a sweat pedalling through the dirt and undulating terrain. (The website advises that if you have kids to take the clockwise route to the pub which is flatter and shorter!)

Mountain Biking at Bewl Water

There weren’t any hills on the Bewl Water Route, but the slight detour we took up onto the road included a short sharp climb which I may have walked up! This was a quiet country lane with little to no traffic apart from other cyclists.

Mountain Biking at Bewl Water

From the road we were able to head to The Bull Inn at Three Leg Cross to rehydrate. The pub has loads of picnic tables outside and are used to hordes of people on bikes turning up, although the food seemed priced to take advantage of this. We snacked on a stash of Clif bars and Tunnocks caramel wafers instead!

Mountain Biking at Bewl Water
The second “half” of the route was much flatter, and sunnier! It also took considerably less time, being only about 5miles back from the pub to the Visitor Centre, with a lot less mud. 
Mountain Biking at Bewl Water

My legs were pretty tired by now, so I took lots of photo stops to admire the gorgeous scenery.

Mountain Biking at Bewl Water

If you’re interested in running round the lake in an organised race, then the Bewl Water Marathon and Half Marathon takes place on the 9th May! They even have an Ultra in June, although this is just 4 laps of the lake… It should have dried out a bit by then, but I’d definitely recommend trail shoes!

Mountain Biking at Bewl Water

Eventually we cycled across the dam at the top of the lake (reservoir) and arrived back at the bike hire centre. I wasn’t sure when we started if Bewl Water was a natural feature, but turns out it was constructed in the 1970s and provides water for the Medway Towns of Chatham, Rochester and Gillingham, as well as local villages.

Mountain Biking at Bewl Water

Random fact- you could stack six London buses on top of one another in the deepest part of Bewl and they would all be underwater!

Mountain Biking at Bewl Water

I really enjoyed heading off-road and tackling a muddy scenic cycle route- it’s not proper mountain bike single track, but definitely more challenging than pootling along the river in London. And so nice to ride without worrying about the traffic! There were a lot of families with kids, and other people about- both cycling and walking, so I imagine in the summer it could get pretty busy.

Post-ride refuelling came in the form of fish and chips from The Dirty Habit up the road in Hollingbourne, which I can also highly recommend!

Mountain Biking at Bewl Water


Are you a fan of off-road trail cycling? Any local recommendations for places I should ride next? 

Beki x

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6 Comments

  1. Lucy Edwards April 8, 2015 / 3:22 pm

    That sounds really fun! I really want to try out mountain biking. I work right near Epping Forest and there is a place which hires bikes I want to try out. I've heard of the run at Bewl before, but never knew they did biking too.

  2. Maria April 9, 2015 / 9:47 am

    Wow the scenery there is lovely. I used to cycle a lot but the roads are so busy they scare me now- I think if there were nicer off road paths then I would keep it up.

  3. Steve May 18, 2016 / 6:51 pm

    Hi, I bought a mountain bike yesterday and celebrated with a ride from Cooden Beach, Bexhill to Hastings Pier and back which I’ve just seen online is 12 miles or so. As the weather was so good I drove up to Bewl and cycled around it (anti-clockwise). After the morning ride I wasn’t sure it was a good idea trying to go all the way round as I’m not the fittest but once I got going it was addictive and I made it round in 2.5 hours with a break for a drink halfway round and a few other stops. And yes I also walked up that hill on the country lane! Could bearly get my legs into the car afterwards but surprisingly fine today. Stunning place, great for cycling and now my bike looks like Like it should do, not shiny anymore! Determined to do something to get fitter and a gym is definitely not for me. I’m going to go to Bedgebury Forest next (near Bewl), apparently lots of mountain bike trails of different difficulty levels. Hope your still mountain biking, have you heard of any more good places since you posted this?

    • misswheezy May 18, 2016 / 9:14 pm

      Sounds like a great ride Steve! 🙂 I’ve been mountain biking in Bedgebury as well and can definitely recommend it- https://www.instagram.com/p/wOulXfnaAr/?taken-by=misswheezy1. I’m actually heading to the Forest of Dean this weekend to try out the trails there, so will probably post about them next week. Thanks for reading!

  4. Keith Drury May 2, 2017 / 2:20 pm

    Really enjoyed reading you story. Having just turned 50 and lost nearly 2 stone in weight in the last year I have just taken the plunge and ordered a mountain bike (first time I have bought a bike with out an engine since I was a teenager) I was looking for places to ride off road but that were not to challenging to start off with. Bewl sounds like a good starting point and its not to far from where I live. Thanks for the idea

  5. Mick June 7, 2017 / 6:27 pm

    If you enjoyed that, get down to Bedgebury pinetum, its near Maidstone and has a cracking red route which is about 16Km or if this is a bit technical it also has a blue family route. The centre provides a food and also has a decent bike shop with bike hire and bike wash. The only downside is parking is a bit pricey.

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