After my twenty something mile walk back from the M25 last weekend, I was at a bit of a loss as to what could follow. I decided to reach out to the twitter community, and open my adventure up to suggestions. I had some good suggestions, which I considered, then adapted to fit a 40 mile route circumnavigating inner London.
Original plan: Cycle to Greenwich Observatory for sunrise. Walk a section of the Capital Ring. Cycle to the Olympic Park and ride the velopark road circuit. Head west in time for sunset on Primrose Hill.
Plans are for changing as rules are for breaking, so this is what I did.
My alarm went off at 5:45 am. I briefly contemplated my sanity, hit snooze, then got up and blearily tried to get myself together. I drank coffee, shoved some stuff in a bag, left my flat and got on my bike. It wasn’t raining, despite the weather forecast. I ditched the Observatory idea and rode to One Tree Hill, for the view. I hadn’t really considered the direction of the view (north) or the colour of the sky (grey). As far as sunrises go, it was pretty depressing, but it felt good to be up high, looking over the city to where I would be exploring later in the day.
I left the hill as the sun was rising somewhere behind the clouds. I cycled through a cemetery and took note of some children’s playground equipment including, a one eyed elephant and a pretty mega looking climbing frame.
I didn’t want to look at my map, so instead chose to travel by compass and look for signs. I found myself heading up hill again, this time to Blythe Hill Fields… this would have been a better spot for the sunrise!
Back down the hill and heading north east, I came to a river. It wasn’t the prettiest, but it was home to a few mallards and a moorhen. I ate a tangerine and followed a path along the river to what would be a dead end. To get across the dead end I used a corkscrew bridge, which was a lot of fun to cycle over. Gulls circled overhead.
I was heading, in a very inefficient way, towards Greenwich. I may not have made it there for sunrise but I was going to use it as my means of crossing the Thames, by way of underwater foot tunnel. I got thoroughly over excited by the river and its banks and made an impulse decision to follow it all the way to the Thames Barrier. This was great fun. Still early, there were few other people around and I had the entire path to myself. A few minutes into the path and I’d entered another world. London felt a long way away.
The river was full of wildlife. I watched black-backed gulls, herring gulls and little gulls. Herons swooped by on occasion while cormorants in their magnificent courting plumage perched on stumps, jutting from the water.
The path ran out at one point and a heavy machinery plant took precedent. I was made aware by a sign, that I was in imminent danger of being flung into the Thames by a crane. Navigating my way past this machine was terrifying. Having made it through with my life, I watched as it took tons of sand from the river bank and dumped it on the other side of a fence.
Away from the swinging crane I found another sign, simply saying ‘Here’. I assume the numbers were coordinates. Strange.
This part of London is full of strange sculptures and attractions. I found a very small bouldering wall and felt obliged to give it a go. It’s definitely true that once you notice one thing, you notice them all. I’ve never seen a climbing wall outside, or at least I’ve never registered one. Since taking up climbing, I have spotted them all over the place.
With that, I arrived at the Thames Barrier. It was cool. That’s about it. I treated myself to a late breakfast of a cheese toastie, coffee and a snickers in ‘The View’ cafe. Feeling re-energised, I looked at my map, hoping there was a bridge near by that would take me across the river. There wasn’t. Back to Greenwich I went.
Back in Greenwich I made use of the subriver foot tunnel and headed north, with no real plan. I popped in to Mudchute farm, saw some sheep, took a selfie under a bridge, then found my route to the Olympic Park.
I accidently ended up back at the water, but this time I was close enough for it to be threatening my feet. The skies were blue now. The water glistened. Things were looking good.
I’m a fairly confident cyclist, but there’s something about riding on a, 4 foot wide, sandy path next to a canal that seems unwise. Luckily I didn’t fall in. I followed the canal all the way to the Lee Valley and then on again to the Olympic Park. Again, I felt so far away from London, even though I was straddling one of its veins.
I spent a few minutes messing around on the climbing wall in the sunshine. I was, again, surprised to find it there, abandoned. I had planned on riding the Velopark Road circuit, but having cycled for hours already and knowing I had at least the same again in front of me, I gave it a miss. I did look at it though.
I had absolutely no idea where I was going when I left the park. It is the size of a town in itself and has a way of throwing your bearings off, as you can’t see any landmarks. I went with my gut and hoped for the best. I ended up in Victoria park, which was actually the opposite direction I thought I was going in, but it worked out. I found the Regent’s Canal and followed that for a while, until the towpath was shut. I joined a road and ended up in Bethnal Green. I ate my lunch there, watching a basketball game, on what I’m fairly sure is the court where the Kray twins used to shoot hoops of a weekend.
I was never going to make it to Primrose Hill for sunset, so that was out the window. My new plan was to see the setting sun from a bridge. Seeing as how most of my day had been Thames based, it felt right. On my way to the river I ticked off a few sights and pedestrians, who gave me the stink eye for slowly rolling my bicycle along the Thames path.
I opted for the wobbly bridge, and just made it in time to see the sun dip behind a building on the South side of the river. Again, this was not quite the epic vista I had imagined, but it would have to do. I still had quite a few miles to do to get home, and had lost almost all of my enthusiasm by this point.
I cycled home through Burgess park and Peckham where I stopped at my Brother’s flat for a cup of tea. On the last leg, in complete darkness, I rode through Crystal Palace park. Lights from houses shone across the lake. The ducks were still up.
Things I learnt
- Facing EAST is the only thing to consider when looking for a sunrise
- Bianci ARSE ROCKET saddles are not your friend