It’s no revelation that cycling is a cleaner, greener and all-round healthier method of transport. As well as getting us from A to B without the guilt of a hefty carbon footprint, cycling brings huge benefits for our physical and mental health; helping to reduce stress levels, increase endorphin production and stimulate ‘happy hormones’ like serotonin. While surveys have shown that 75% of cyclists noted a distinct improvement in their mental health as a result of time spent on their bikes, only a tiny 4% of the population cycle on a weekly basis.
Sustrans are a sustainable transport charity aiming to revive this dreary statistic and encourage us to embrace cycling not only as a transport alternative, but as an ‘adventure waiting to be discovered’. Here in York we’re lucky enough to be home to one of Sustran’s most unique routes; ‘The Solar System Way’.
As the name suggests, the route features a 6.5 mile scale model recreation of our Solar System, with scale replica planets set at proportionate distances along the track; allowing you to cycle all the way from the Sun to Pluto. As well as it’s galactic artwork, the route offers a precious chance to reconnect with some of York’s more rural sights, as part of Sustran’s ‘Greener Greenways’ initiative. Passing through tree trails and wildflower verges, the route offers opportunities to see birds, butterflies, bees and more.
Beginning at York Train Station, the fifteen-mile route takes you out of the city centre towards Bishopthorpe, leading onto Riccall, Barlby and terminating finally at Selby. Once past York Racecourse, the path follows the trackbed of the old East Coast Mainline Railway, which was purchased by Sustrans for just £1. From here, the majority of the route is free from traffic and steep inclines, and with an average cycle time of 1hr and 15 minutes, it’s an ideal choice for families and novice cyclists.
The route is peppered with bike-friendly stops and places to eat along the way, so for those of you who fancy getting out this summer, we’ve put together a few suggestions to help you make the most of your interplanetary journey.
To grab yourself a new bike, or even just ask some route related queries, York city centre has an abundance of cycling shops for you to choose from. For those of you beginning your route from York Station, ‘Cycle Heaven’ is the perfect first port of call.
Open seven days a week throughout summer, they offer a range of services to equip you for cycling, including a workshop for repairs and bike hire from just £10. For the more eco-minded among you, we suggest a visit to ReCycle York’s ‘Bike Rescue Project’, at Tanner’s Moat, Walmgate. The project recycles unwanted bikes, from whole pieces to spare parts, to create reworked and renovated bicycles that add charming depth to ‘sustainable transport’ and offer sturdy and well-made bikes at a fraction of the price.
Once you’re fully equipped and on your way, the route offers a range of stops for refreshments; the first of which, neatly placed between Mars and Jupiter, is Brunswick Organic Nursery. Brunswick is a thriving garden centre and Community Interest Company that engages individuals with learning difficulties to build skills in gardening, growing and crafting. It’s the perfect stop along to way to grab a drink and fill your backpacks and baskets with their homegrown organic fruit and veg! Cold drinks and snacks can also be found in the shop, and there’s even an organic coffee station with compostable coffee cups to satisfy your eco-friendly needs.
With so much to do it’s well worth a look around for a couple of hours, but if you’re just looking for a quick pitstop then Naburn Station isn’t far off. Once a thriving railway station, it’s now converted into a convenient stop off for tired cyclists, where you’re welcome to sit down with a drink from their ‘Trust Hut’ or refill water bottles here for free.
As the cycle route comes to an end in the heart of Selby, you’ll find a range of bike-friendly cafes including The Hub, with plenty of outdoor seating, as well as The Little Coffee House, which offer free water bottle refills to help tackle single use plastics.
For a quainter end to your day, Selby Abbey makes a beautiful terminal location. Built in 1069, this beautiful Anglican church is a Grade 1 listed building with a rich history and makes an idyllic spot for sunny picnics.
Wherever the journey takes you, the Solar System Way offers a host of adventures waiting to be discovered. When the sun is shining and you’re looking for a new adventure this summer – why not give it a go!