Is this a permanent fixture in the Saturday calendar? And how much can we vary it while retaining the essence, keeping its length down, and minimising the traffic risk inherent in riding the streets of South London?
Last year we managed to slot in the ride in September, during the window between lockdowns. We took Harry's old route and changed it, melding it with some of Ged's London Ride but discovering for ourselves (with considerable help from Simon, I recall) the joys of Brixton Windmill. This year we kept the highly popular ride up the Ravensbourne and Route 21 to get to Greenwich Park, but then followed Route 4 and 14 (while it suited us) along the river to Westminster before taking the CS8 along the north bank to Chelsea Bridge and Battersea Park and (some of us) the CS7 back to Merton.
The weather has been so dreadful this year, and one or two regular All-Dayers were away, so we had a slightly reduced starting line-up of 26. Simon, Dave V, Helen, Tim C, Tim G and Steph had all answered the call for sub-leaders (and Tim G and Dave not only came, like the others, on one of our recces but actually took another day out to re-ride in time for the big day). Thanks to them all, and to Steph, Helen and Tim G for volunteering to shepherd riders from North Cheam to our official start at Beddington Park.
Thanks to Maggie's management we got the rides out on time, especially as last year we had groups overtaking each other; an unannounced latecomer was accommodated. I took out the last group with Madeleine, Maggie, Tim and Steph, the final two part of my leadership back-up, with the intention of us being there to sweep up any problems. Good job too, for after a pleasant and uneventful ride along the riverbanks (a bit too much mud near South Norwood Lake, but there were no hippos) and a bit of minor chain and front brake management we had freewheeled past the dreaming spires of Croydon and the regal architecture of Lewisham (would you believe it has fewer canals than Venice, let alone Birmingham?) only to arrive at the Meridian to find Helen's group stricken with the injury to Alice, who was in pain and looking decidedly poorly. Luckily we had a back-up nurse (Maggie got Alice a cup of hot tea and made a sling for her arm) and a good samaritan (Madeleine offered to take Alice and put her on the train at Waterloo so that Alice could be met off the train by her dad). We reorganised the groups so that those not needed could carry on their ride and the three of us walked Alice and bike down to the Cutty Sark, where the Uberboat staff could not have been more helpful in embarking women and bikes on the trip upriver.
At the time of writing it seems that Alice is getting a little less sore and has no broken bones, and we wish her a complete recovery in confidence as well as in body.
Sadly, she missed one of the best lentil curries I've had, and the docklands history tour. She missed finding Tsar Peter the Great's mulberry tree (Dave's group), laughing at the flatulence of the rich emerging from Brunel's Rotherhithe Tunnel (which is now the overground rail tunnel), hearing about the tax-dodging embarkation of the Pilgrim fathers from the Three Eagles tavern (now, inevitably, the Mayflower Inn), standing on the spot near the Angel Inn from where Turner painted the Temeraire as she was towed upriver to the breakers' yard, sitting next to Doctor Salter's statue and near his wife Ada's, social reformers of the pre-war years who lived among the poor at Deptford Beach (I bet you didn't know Deptford had a beach; why go to Spain?), marvelling at the ruin of the falconry castle of the Hammer of the French, King Edward lll, or grimacing to think of Judge Jeffreys drinking at the Angel to watch the pirates hanged with maximum cruelty at Execution Dock across the river.
The rendezvous with Madeleine at the Festival Hall worked a treat and with Brian leaving us there to train home, the rest of us enjoyed the river and a tea at Battersea Park before breaking up.
Thanks to everyone who helped and best wishes to Alice.
My group was scheduled to leave at 9.45, but at 9.40, nobody else had arrived. Had the forecast of 90% rain put them all off? Not at all: Matthew, Brenda, Anna and Roger, and finally Daniel rolled in and we set off more or less on time. We picked our way on quiet streets through Croydon, negotiated round a mud bath in South Norwood Country Park, and were quickly to our elevenses stop at Kent House. After elevenses, our breakaway group got away early and set off up the lovely Waterlink way towards the only mountain on Paul's route, Mont Blackheath. Anna's e-bike made short work of it; the rest of us made slightly longer work but all made it to the top, enjoying the panoramic view of the city. After that, a downhill sprint into Greenwich and along the banks of the Thames to the Dog and Bell where we were well looked after for lunch.
The weather started on a dull note but fortunately failed to deter a good number of cyclists for today’s ride to Greenwich.
I led six cyclists from North Cheam to Beddington Park to meet the main body of riders outside the cafe.
Tim's group at the start
Together with Angela, Debbie, Maggie G and Mayuri we set out for our morning ride after the obligatory photo
Our ride continued on a well planned route to Greenwich via Beckenham, Catford, Lewisham and Blackheath. We all appreciated the number of parks and green areas experienced during the morning ride.
Having taken in the view across the river we cycled down through Greenwich, had a brief stop by the Cutty Sark and then on to our lunch stop at the Dog and Bell. Service was prompt and we all enjoyed the food, drink and ambiance of a local hostelry.
Our afternoon ride, close to the river, provided another contrast and was surprisingly quiet, especially through Bermondsey and surrounding areas. The route through Borough Market and Southwark proved a little busier but we were able to navigate our way through without any difficulty.
Crossing Westminster bridge we continued at a swifter pace by Parliament Square then along the Embankment to cross the river again at Chelsea bridge. Our tea stop in Battersea Park was quiet and relaxed.
The return trip to Morden Hall via Clapham, Balham, Tooting and Colliers Wood was easier due to designated cycle lanes and a reduced volume of traffic.
We all headed home via North Cheam having had an enjoyable day’s cycling.
Thanks to all the group members for their company and contribution in making the ride a successful occasion.
A good day had by all.
Secondly thanks to all my group, Ed, Lilian, Kasumi, Sue and Clive who were delightful company throughout, and ever forgiving of my "occasional" lapse in route finding. Clive backmarked most ably, thoughtfully clad in blue, headlight on, easily visible whenever I looked.
Dave's group at the Cutty Sark
Ed was riding strongly. He and Lilian parted company at Waterloo to get the train home. Kasumi, Sue and Clive then formed a well balanced group. We skipped refreshments in Battersea Park in favour of an easy cruise down CS7, arriving at Colliers Wood at 5pm, where Sue assumed the leadership down the A24 to Cheam, with Clive heading onwards for Leatherhead, while I turned for home.
I hope everyone got home safely from what was for me a most enjoyable day.
However I was sorry to hear that Alice had fallen. I hope she is ok, and please pass on my best wishes when you speak to her.
A cool and cloudy start from North Cheam, where Steph and I had agreed to meet anyone who needed help to get to Beddington Park. My group set off through the little park next to Sainsbury's and worked our way through Sutton and Carshalton, mostly on route 75. We arrived just before 10 am, with most able to enjoy a break before starting the ride proper through Croydon on the first leg of our route to coffee. My group was Brian, Anne and Alice, and with Paul's final advice, "just follow the signs" echoing in my head we made a good start through Waddon Ponds. I'd learned on Monday's recce that Croydon town was the highest point of our morning route, and told Brian, then realised that we were heading _up_ Lebanon Road towards the tram. We headed back downhill to - yes - follow the signs. That, friends, was our last wrong turn all day.
Helen's group at the Pavilion cafe
Kent House does a wonderful carrot cake with its coffee. We enjoyed a quiet break by the old railway station, completely traffic free apart from us cyclists. Pretty parks, former railway lines, leafy waterways and rivers; working our way northwards through south London is an absolute pleasure. It is surprising how few busy roads we encounter, how little traffic on the residential streets. As we get nearer to our destination, Catford and Lewisham town centres are rude but brief interruptions to the general peace and enjoyment of our Saturday morning ride. Finally, just one quite steep hill and we emerge into the broad open space of Blackheath. Beautiful.
But alas, as we were crossing the heath along Mount Ponds Road, Alice went into the back of Brian and took a fall. Luckily they weren't going fast, and there were no passing vehicles, (and no damage to their bikes), but she fell heavily onto her shoulder and it was soon clear would be unable to continue the ride. We walked slowly up to the Observatory, where Paul and Maggie's group soon joined us; Madeleine kindly took Alice on the boat from Greenwich to Waterloo where she was able to catch a train home.
The rest of us continued to our lunch destination, the wonderful Dog and Bell in Deptford. Tim was a little worried that I'd led the group astray (I'd overlooked no cycling signs to continue by the river, instead of following the prescribed route...) but a passing skateboarder, a young girl who overheard our chat as we were crossing the lock gates, broke in to reassure us with very clear directions. I wondered if she was a daughter of the house!
Anne and I enjoyed a pint each of the excellent stout, a rare treat and most welcome; and we all had a delicious lunch. Paul and Maggie arrived, after seeing Madeleine and Alice to the quay at Greenwich; we waited for them to have lunch so we could travel onward together. Afterwards we had to persuade Maggie away from the women's tennis final to continue our journey along the Thames Path, with Paul back in the lead again.
Brief stops at the Mayflower and just along from it, the historic church and school established by Rotherhithe in Victorian times. Another pause to view Tower bridge from the Angel, right by the ruins of Edward lII's 14th century castle. And briefly, along the wonderful cycle superhighway to London Bridge. Past Waterloo and behind the old GLC building to Westminster bridge, which we crossed; left at Parliament Square, we cycled Millbank and Grosvenor Road, crossing back over Chelsea bridge to visit Battersea Park for tea. By now it was past 6 o'clock, so we didn't linger long. Paul had given us a direct route home, round the glorious Queens Circus roundabout, with its special lane and lights for cyclists (why aren't they all like this?!) down Queenstown Road and Cedars Road to Clapham Common. Lovely. Here Steph, Tim, Anne and I peeled off to follow Nightingale Lane and Burntwood Lane downhill all the way to Summerstown and the Wandle trail through to Morden Hall Park. Here we were delighted with the new tarmacked surface from the tram line through to the exit by Kenley Road, a great improvement, installed just this week! Anne and I continued through Merton Park over Hillcross Avenue and via Green Lane to Worcester Park. I was home about 20 past 7.
The last group at Battersea Park, enjoying a bedtime drink
A wonderful day out, many many thanks to Paul and Maggie for bringing it all together for us. Lovely company all day, beautiful route, choice stops for our breaks and refreshments and many highlights and points of interest along the way. We really couldn't ask for more.