You are viewing the archives for May 2012Francis |
At a sedate pace we followed the various nooks and crannies of the Thames Path to Woolwich, where Eric the Unsteady was waiting for us by Pond Wharf. By now 14 strong, we crossed the river on the ferry, and then headed west along the Albert Dock and past the Excel centre, which was heaving with people dressed up in silly costumes and doing stuff. "Arms fairs aren't what they used to be," noted Eric.
The new faces were delighted with Fatboy's Diner at Trinity Buoy Wharf, where we stopped for lunch, but none opted for the delights of a guided tour of the lighthouse. And so we continued on to the Isle of Dogs and Island Gardens, where two had to leave early for home. The rest continued on to Limehouse, Shadwell, Wapping and the City, and crossed the river via the Wobbly Bridge That Wobbleth No More.
A couple more left the ride following a refreshing drink at the Founder's Arms on Bankside, leaving the hard core to ride eastwards along the Thames Path back to Greenwich, with a strong headwind providing respite from the afternoon heat.
Next ride: (Not the) Jubilee Greenway, Sunday 3 June. Meet 10:00 @ Cutty Sark Gardens.
With young Jurek complaining that my pace was too slow, we proceeded along the main road through Woolwich to Plumstead, before riding around the houses to Belvedere and Erith. From Erith it was hilly urban highways to Gravesend, with the odd quieter detour wherever possible. The final stretch into Gravesend town saw us cycle through the Thamesside industrial estate west of Baltic Wharf.
After stopping for a break at the café on Gordon Promenade, the party continued east along the disused Thames and Medway canal to the base of the Hoo Peninsula. The canal-side path was recently resurfaced, and, although it is a little rough in places, is navigable on bikes with skinny tyres.
At Lower Higham we turned north up the Hoo Peninsula, slowing the pace in order to better appreciate the scenery, and ensure that we didn't arrive too early at the pub in Cooling. This we did around midday, after stopping to take a look at the old church and Dickens-inspiring graveyard just outside the village.
Following our pit stop at the Horseshoe and Castle, we made a little detour to the top of Lipwell Hill, and at this point Jurek and Sandra left the group to return to London. The latter visibly cringed at the discussion of watching Morris dancing in Rochester!
The surviving six then continued eastwards through the Hoo, before turning southwest at Stoke toward Kingsnorth, Hoo Saint-Werburgh and Chattenden. From Chattenden it was hilly main roads to Strood and Rochester.
We arrived in Rochester shortly before the start of the finale procession of the Sweeps Festival, and at this point it started to rain a little. Still, we saw the Morris dancers process out of the castle gardens, and heard the Medway council leader say a few words which were instantly forgotten. Two more left the group at this point to catch a train back to London.
The remaining four then headed back toward Gravesend. At this point their leader had a bit of a brain fart on running out of cycle path by the M2/A2 interface, and led his charges on a merry and muddy adventure around a mountain bike trail through Shorne Wood Country Park. Navigating largely by wits, we exited the park at the Shorne Ifield Road, and headed northwest, up an down through the housing estates of Gravesend, before joining NCR1 near Northfleet.
From this point I was on autopilot. I was at last able to rest my malfunctioning brain, and let the legs and arms lead us toward Dartford and Erith. After a final rest on Erith Pier, the four of us continued along the Thames Path at a relatively sedate pace. One left for home by West Thamesmead, and another by the Thames Barrier. That left me and Daniele to cycle on to Greenwich. But for Daniele the ride was not yet over, as he continued on to London Bridge to catch a train home to Brighton. I, on the other hand, crawled and moaned my way up Hyde Vale to Blackheath, and within minutes of reaching the ranch was fast asleep on the sofa.
I'm afraid that I have not a single photo from the ride. If others who took pictures on the day are willing to share them, please let me know.
For us the day started at 09:30, with some 40 cyclists assembled in Cutty Sark Gardens for the feeder ride along the Thames Path into central London. Bikes were decorated with LCC flags, hugs and handshakes exchanged, and before long we headed west. It was slow progress along the Thames Path, and within a kilometre we lost Jane Davis to a puncture.
But the loss of Jane was the only significant problem,… ignoring as one does the odd undertaking, right-turning white van driver. Well, there was also a slight hiccup at the top of Borough High Street, which was blocked off with new roadworks, and a small split in the group near Blackfriars Bridge. Still, we made it to Park Lane by around 11:15, by which time the place was heaving with cyclists. On the Broadwalk in Hyde Park I came across Tom and Claire Crispin, who were taking a break from their usual weekend activities to join the Big Ride. Lovely to see them both.
At this point I had to say farewell to my Greenwich feeder ride charges, and go find my marshalling team leader near the bottom of Park Lane. After finding my place in the throng, and being interviewed by a Japanese TV presenter, it was time for the Big Ride to set off.
The Big Ride was a huge success, despite the rain, which by the end of the event turned into a deluge. It is impossible for me to give a number of attendees, but in the end it must have been close to LCC's hoped-for 10,000. Certainly, it was an impressive sight at the start point, with the whole of Park Lane dense with cyclists. And then the seemingly never-ending stream of arrivals at Temple Gardens on Victoria Embankment.
On the way back I happened upon our old friend Bermondsey Bill tearing a strip off a young cycling police officer who had the temerity to stop the multipiercèd one for cycling through a pedestrian crossing on Blackfriars Bridge. Pure street theatre it was, and the young man didn't stand a chance in the face of Bill's rhetorical onslaught.
Many thanks to the 40 hardy souls who joined the Big Ride at Cutty Sark Gardens, and to Liz Delap and the other Greenwich and Lewisham regulars who helped guide them into London.