Saturday 1 December 2001
(ed: terrible untasty name for a fine new ride).
20 flat miles, of which only a mile or so was on road. Amazing. (Locks, docks and one only sometimes steaming 5 mile sewer).
10am Cutty Sark meet. Six of us. Me, Claire, Doug, Doug, Roger,
Peter. R trued up my waggling front wheel. Last arrival turned up at 10.25.
Cutty Sark to Thames Barrier along the Thames path. Coffee. Good to see Greenwich Cyclists mench in new Peninsula News there. ("A former gas works being turned into the most innovative and environmentally sensitive community in the UK" says English Partnerships. Struth, where's the ASA? About the area, not GCy).
Path to Woolwich Ferry and over. Ferry boys behaved.
Path through Royal Victoria Park Gardens.
Pavement over Royal Docks entrance and City Airport flightpath. (Fab non-Greek place to watch planes from, but not on Saturday afternoons when it's closed. Odd).
Pavement up poet named Eastern Gateway Access Road (and spurious spur deadended ready for new Thames crossing. Watch this space).
Overgrown bike path up to horrendous huge Newham Way/Woolwich Manor Way junction with no pedestrian crossing at all right by Beckton Alps dry ski slope.
And there's the Greenway. It's a raised path on top of the northern outfall sewer that runs from east London to Beckton sewage works. The other side's version of our very own Crossness. Built by the Victorians and the awesome Bazalgette. (Repetition: whose great grandson makes some dumb 1984ish show about people shut up in a house together. Great man shifted it, sprog makes it). (Sewer me).
The Greenway route east is blocked off. Some day we'll explore the Beckton works. So we headed west..........5 very straight off-road tarmacked miles....hard to know where you are but it's East Ham, Plaistow, West Ham....the huge East London Cemetery and then the river Lea/Lee floodplain.........first crossing is the Channelsea River and lake, then you have to run across the motorway called High Street that roars into Stratford...then there's the gorgeously ornate Abbey Mills pumping station, then the Three Mills Wall River, then City Mill River, then the main canalised River Lee navigation...and the towpaths we use.....all in less than a mile.
Over the Lee pedestrian bridge and the path narrows behind a factory wall, ivy brushes as you narrow along it.....Wick Lane is what you don't want to dream about awake alone at 3am......it's car-breaker heaven. Opposite is a pair of tall wooden gates.....two maniac killer dogs just manage to get their fang'd slavering barking mad faces out at you. We turn right past a dozen flayed wrecks of cars, entrails everywhere through the rainbow oiled puddles.....and back onto the path where a useful board ignores the crap and points us to the Bryant and May match factory (now lofts) where in 1888 the women who hand made matches from phosphorous got fed up with the lower half of their faces rotting away and went on one of the first ever strikes...for safety equipment. (cf The Match Girls Strike and Fossy Jaw).
And then its round the corner by the A102(M) East Cross Route/Blackwall Tunnel Approach (the only 2 mile stretch of motorway inflicted on fairly central London...but watch this space) and suddenly we're in Victoria Park (where some of us colissaw Gladiator al fresco last summer) created around 1860 "to save thousands of lives a year from urban pollution and add several years to the average local lifespan").
It was 1.40pm and the riders were getting restless. Lunch beckoned. We couldn't find the Dunwich Dynamo Pub on the Park but got lucky. The organic Crown pub at Crown Gate East, junction of Grove Road and Old Ford Road was a fine find. A beautifully scrubbed out old local boozer with a deep green ceiling, interesting loos, organic beers and a good all day menu. They could do with a cheap staple dish coz the food was a little pricey, but worth it for the effort. Very recommended. The barman was slightly amazed that my held plastic paid for all....not sure he understood my "they give good cashback". Good to see stack of latest Pedal Power there as we left. (Why is there no such reconstituted airy, light, smokefree good food pub in Greenwich?).
Out the pub and into Grove Road for 300 metres, then it's fab reborn Mile End park for a mile and a half and the wonderful green and treed bridge over the six-laned A11 Mile End Road. (At the planning stage the AA objected......trees over a trunk road will distract drivers....). We switched effortlessly from the park onto the towpath of the Grand Union Canal for the 2 miles back to Limehouse Basin (where we usually Limehouse Cut it) and the car-free fiddle down the middle (sorry, aptly listening to Ian Drury as I cortina this. Itinerant child) of the Isle of Dogs, Island Garden, and the tunnel home.