Tilbury & Gravesend, Saturday 8 October 2011Oct 09, 2011 by Francis
We didn't get off to a particularly good start, however, with a useless muppet of a ride leader getting lost around the ever changing building works around Cutty Sark Gardens. Then, just past the Cutty Sark pub, a cyclist not of our group who was returning from Woolwich explained that the ferry was not running, with no explanation provided. This was a major fail for a Tilbury cycling route that would take us along the Thames Path to Woolwich, and across the river using the ferry.
Instead, we had to cross the Thames through the Greenwich foot tunnel. That is bad enough at the best of times, but on this occasion only 14 of us went through the tunnel. Two of the original 16 - back marker Oliver and iPad Jane - became separated from the group somewhere in the maze of Cutty Sark Gardens, and were unaware of the ferry palaver. With no phone numbers stored, and a failed attempt to send an email by mobile phone later, the survivors of the trek through the tunnel proceeded east from Millennium Gardens in Poplar, following the river and docks to North Woolwich, where we joined our planned track to Tilbury.
Oliver and Jane established contact when we had reached the campus of East London Poly, but were stuck on the other side of the river, by the Woolwich Ferry terminal. Ho humů
Still, spirits were high, and the ride to Rainham was enjoyable and trouble free. Several remarked on the interesting geographical contrasts encountered as we rode along river and through industrial estates. The odd transient patch of blue sky was also observed.
At the RSPB reserve we stopped for lunch, following which there was an interesting bordering on hair-raising ride along rough, narrow and overgrown paths, and over rickety bridges. Around five kilometres west of Tilbury, we came across a riverside patch of apple trees, and here we scrumped until our bags could carry no more.
The stretch of Thames riverside between Purfleet and Tilbury is a real treat for devotees of industrial history and psychogeography, and I am most grateful to our intrepid touring cyclist with nerves of steel, Tom Crispin, for having introduced me to this route a few years ago. Saturday's ride was supposed to be led by Tom, but other commitments led me to take his place.
Unfortunately, I forgot to pack my compact camera, and was unfamiliar with the workings of my phone snapper. I therefore have no photos of riders or the delights of the Thames Estuary to accompany this report. If any of the other riders have pictures that they could share, please send them to me by email.
Avoiding the restricted docks area, we rode around the houses of Grays, and approached the Tilbury ferry terminal from the north. Several riders left at this point, to catch a train home from Tilbury. Another three left at Gravesend station, leaving a small core to ride with me back to Greenwich via Greenhithe and Erith.
Building and riverside lights were coming on as we left Erith Pier, the sky had lifted a little, and the souwesterly wind lessened in its stiffness. The final 25 kilometres to Greenwich was taken at a brisk pace, despite tired legs and sore arses, and we hauled up at Cutty Sark Gardens, still smiling, at around seven of the clock.
Next Saturday: Hoo Pensinsula (details to follow - be prepared for an earlier than usual start!)
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