Tuesday, 24 August 2021

A summer's day near paradise; Beddington to Elmers End 21 August

After minor surgery I was not allowed a strenuous ride on Wednesday.  I was all for coasting up to Caterham to at least meet the B riders, and take it from there.  Maggie, declared otherwise, and with the news that Colin would be in isolation on Saturday and I would have to lead the Beddington Ride, this gave us an opportunity to try out a new route, proposed by Colin, to a new Cafe, at Elmers End.

You had to pick your weather report come Saturday, for although they all forecast heavy rain, they differed on its timing.  I selected the BBC National forecast because it was the only one that said it would not be raining during ride time.  Gone lunchtime, when the usual crew might be leaving their homes, the precipitation was fairly steady, the clouds a threatening blue-grey but, hey, I had science on my side.  Maggie and I set out to man the Beddington Beginners station fully expecting to find no takers, and indeed there were those of faint heart who had chosen to trust the wrong weather forecast, but as we rounded Beddington Cricket Club we were delighted to spy a cyclist at the Pavilion and amazed to discover Ken "I never go out in the rain".  Even better, Sharon turned up to show off her new bike.  And the rain stopped.

The stay-at-homers have no idea what they were missing; Croydon after the rain is a poetic experience.  It is a little known fact that it was hearing the Pigeons and Seagulls cooing and crying on Purley Way after the rainfall that inspired Beethoven to write his Pastoral Symphony.  And Joy, for whom, three symphonies later the Ode to Joy was written; she lived in Queens Road.  So where better to celebrate weak sunshine than around the damp multicultural stalls of Broad Green on a Saturday where modern musical masterpieces are being written?

Maggie was the one who was unwittingly to be most immersed in the Croydon experience.  A friendly motorist left a gap for us in the queue so that we could turn right on the London Road, but a driver coming the other way, from our right, indicated left and then changed his mind, accelerating towards Norbury as if we were not there, and colliding with Maggie's bike.

Leading, I was unaware of the drama behind me until Maggie, a little shaken, turned up at the rendezvous spot to say her bike had been hit by a car, which had driven off.  Everybody was in no doubt there had been a collision but Maggie's front wheel spun well and true (once she had taken her hand off the brake) and it took a forensic examination of the most thorough kind to spot that the paint had been taken off her front wheel hub nut.  She was desolate; a scratch on her blue bicycle!  She was also pretty lucky.  

On with the ride, shaken but not stirred, through the handful of fans going to Selhurst Park, along the path by the Selhurt Railway Club and through Heavers Meadow, a green space I'd never even noticed.  If you pretended there were no railway sidings and chose to ignore the men attending to the call of nature in the bushes, you could have felt you were deep in the idyllic English Countryside.  We zig-zagged our way through North Croydon to the Croydon Arena (where Croydon Football Club were just starting their match) and over the wet cobbles to cross South Norwood Country Park, a candidate for United Nations Heritage status if ever there was one.

We were dry, and the cafe for which we were aiming, Branching Out, proved a splendid Coffee Shop with good coffee, excellent cakes and an awning to protect us from the rain.  And when it stopped, we followed Colin's quiet route home, through the leafy suburbs of Shirley Oaks and Addiscombe to enter Croydon through Park Hill Park.  

We were all quite cheered up after our leisurely Saturday ride as we passed the rebuilt Elizabethan brick wall along Church Path in Beddington.  And somewhere in the sought-after back streets of Fort Neaf some cool dude has a scratch on his precious motor.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Disgraceful and upsetting scandal at the Palace; All Day ride along the Wandle and the Thames, 14 August

The Nonsuch crew

Helen's report

Our all day ride combined both the best and worst of luck on Saturday; the best, because we had the first sunny and completely rain-free day out for weeks, perfect for the leisurely and easy going day we were planning to enjoy.

The worst, because while we were at lunch, two petty thieves, too lazy to earn an honest living, happened by our group's locked up bikes and helped themselves to one each.

Two groups set out from Nonsuch Park, lead by Christina and Helen. At Motspur Park, Christine's group was joined by Bernard and Sabina. Within half a mile, Sabina's tyre exploded so they peeled off to have it repaired, hoping to re-join us later in the day...

Our route to coffee at Merton Abbey Mills took a little longer than planned. From Motspur Park we went over Grand Drive. crossing playing fields to Whateley Avenue and then Watery Lane into Merton Park. Looping back slightly via Poplar and Kenton Road (Christina's group went a little astray here) to the entrance of Morden Hall Park nearest to Morden; then following the new tarmacked path through the watermeadows to the tramway, past Deen City Farm, arriving about 20 past 11 for coffee. Here Christina's group followed us in; and we met Will (my son) and Gemma, new to the group and feeling a little impatient as they'd been waiting for a while. Apologies and introductions all round, we stopped for coffee and they departed with the Beddington crew.

Where Horatio and Emma once took coffee?  Merton Abbey Mills

The route from Merton Abbey Mills took us up the Wandle trail, following the river all the way to the Thames at Wandsworth. This part of the ride is mainly pretty and easy. We crossed Merton High Street and meandered through quieter roads to the nature reserve at the end of North Road. Now we were back by the Wandle river, a leafy undulating and meandering path, crossing busy Plough Lane and then onward. Earlsfield demanded attention for about 200 yards under the railway bridge on busy Garrett Lane, but then we were directed through quieter streets again to King George's fields and hence to the faded glories of Wandsworth High Street. Well marked cycle lanes and actually very little traffic at the top end of Garrett Lane by Sainsbury's help our safe passage, past the old brewery and through to Armoury Way. Here we dismounted and walked across, then went left to the Crane, where we took a sharp right and followed Causeway through to the Thames.

The River Wandle, deep and wide, washes its walls on the southern side.

After modern fortresses on Enterprise Way, we cut through to the Thames bank and into leafy Wandsworth Park, with its beautiful outlook across the Thames. Our destination, Putney bridge, was in sight and we headed along the Thames towpath towards it.

Fulham Palace and Bishops Park are just on the north side; after the noisy traffic across the Thames, it was a relief to enter their quiet embrace.

Briefly, we stopped by the International Brigade memorial, commemorating Fulham men who went to fight fascism in Spain in the 1930s. Then we wandered through the park, to the entrance to Fulham Palace and its gardens. Time for lunch! Some of us enjoyed our picnics on the lawns, others dined on food from the café. Will, Gemma and I took a brief wander through the walled garden and the bishop's walk through the little graveyard to the church. There was a wedding of course on this lovely summer Saturday - that explained the church bells pealing while we were having lunch!

And then we walked back, to meet Maggie with news of the theft of John's bike. Will's, it turned out, had also been stolen, and his helmet. Both bikes were locked. It was sickening to have our day spoiled by criminal theft. The palace staff were most helpful; there was a witness to their escape, the bicycle lockup area has CCTV coverage and both were able to contact the police for crime reference numbers. But they had to miss the rest of the ride, to find their own way home, and to claim insurance afterwards. If only people would keep their sticky hands to themselves.

The rest of us continued our afternoon ride through quiet roads past Fulham football ground (playing away this first game of the season) to cross Hammersmith Bridge, back to the south side of the river. The bridge has only recently reopened, and only to cyclists and pedestrians, so this was a very peaceful and enjoyable crossing.

Well, it did say "Cyclists Dismount".  Old Father Thames by 'Ammersmiff Bridge

We stopped briefly on the other side for photos and to admire the engineering of the historic iron bridge - and the very pretty view across to the Blue Anchor and lovely buildings and promenade along the north bank towards the Dove. Then we got back on our bikes to enjoy the towpath along the river, through Barnes and Mortlake, passing Chiswick bridge and skirting Kew Gardens, past Richmond Lock and under its bridge, carefully through the crowds, to arrive for tea in Terrace Gardens on the slopes of Richmond Hill. Nowhere to lock up our bikes here, (Paul's group had most of the accessible railings!) so we laid them on the grass; some of us took our tea there, others sat above on the cafe's terrace; all enjoyed chatting and relaxing in the golden afternoon sun, some of us with cake, gathering our forces for the last leg of the ride.

What nicer place to take tea?  Notice the back marker's task, minding the bikes!

There was still a couple of miles to Kingston, passing by Ham House and the ferry, waving to Teddington lock as we sped by, enjoying our last views over the sun sparkling waters of the Thames. Then we were at Kingston bridge, and away through the market back onto route 75 and heading for home.

My grateful thanks to Paul and Maggie, to Christina, and to Diane and Sue for leading and backmarking. Without your support, we could not have brought 20 people together for a lovely day out. Thank you all for your pleasant company, for looking after one another, and for sharing enjoyment of our beautiful river routes along the way. Looking forward to seeing many of you again for Maureen's ride to Newdigate on 11 September!

The Beddington crew

Paul's report

It was not a hot day but the weather was fine in Beddington on Saturday morning and the Beddington Park group were all there, raring to go, before Maggie and I arrived; Roger & Anna, Matthew & Thomas, Thomas, not yet being two, in his dad’s trailer.

The barriers on the southern end of the Wandle Path were a good test for Matthew’s trailer but it passed with flying colours and before long we were at M.E.D, the agreed meeting place at Merton Abbey Mills.

According to the song, Matthew and Son should be taking a mere five minute break with a cup of cold coffee and a piece of cake, but the riders from Nonsuch Park were slower than we thought and we had a pleasant half hour, the coffee was lovely, and Dad’s only problem was in failing to persuade little Thomas that a yoghurt-based rice cake was as delicious as a slice of millionaire shortbread.  I wouldn’t have fallen for it, either!

For some, happiness is getting a ride

For others, it's being a back marker!

What with leader absence and software failure, the groups needed re-jigging and off we set, before the others, with John and Anne, and Will and Gemma on the pleasant, gentle-paced ride up the Wandle trail through Colliers Wood and Earlsfield to Wandsworth town centre.  Negotiation around the one-way system there at the Ram Brewery was always going to be tricky but we made it without incident and were soon coasting through the park by the river to Putney Bridge.

After we had looped under the bridge to Bishop’s     Meadow and paid a respectful visit to the memorial for the local people who had died in the heroic but futile effort to stem the rise of Fascism in Spain in the 1930s, we repaired to Fulham Palace for lunch.

Little did we know that the thieves were at work.

It seemed a pleasant day until John and then Will returned to the bike racks to discover that their bikes had been stolen.  Both padlocked with combination locks, both padlocked to their partners’ bikes (which were not stolen).  The security people were helpful, there is CCTV footage, we have a description (ginger beard, generally sounding suspiciously like Prince Harry to me) and all the right steps were taken to inform the police, obtain a crime number, etc., etc but our group was sadly depleted for the rest of the ride.

In almost any other circumstances the afternoon ride would have been a delight, for Helen’s was a beautiful route along the towpath all the way from Hammersmith Bridge to Kingston Bridge, and unlike the recce, which was conducted in conditions of storm and flood, we were riding through dappled sunlight in a cooling breeze as the weather improved.  Tea was at the Terrace Gardens, just upriver from Richmond, and this time we all secured the bikes where we could see them.  What is that you are thinking about bolting the stable doors?


Tea at the Terrace, in the sun but under a cloud    

Back to Beddington via Kingston and Berrylands and little Thomas had been as good as gold, even telling his dad when we took the wrong route out of Sutton!

Thank you, Helen, for a wonderful route, and thank you all for the splendid company.  If only it hadn’t been for those two thieves.

Thursday, 5 August 2021

Notice of forthcoming Saturday all day ride

Hi folks, just wanted to remind you of the all day ride to Fulham Palace Gardens coming up on 14 August. There will be two starting points; Beddington Park and Nonsuch Mansion House. Coffee at Merton Abbey Mills; then we will follow the Wandle trail up to the Thames, crossing Putney bridge to have our lunch in Fulham Palace Gardens.

After lunch we will follow the Thames Towpath through from recently re-opened Hammersmith Bridge to Kingston, stopping at Terrace Gardens in Richmond for tea. I reccied this route last Saturday and even in the rain, it was delightful to follow the river all the way! (There were many bridges to shelter beneath!)

I look forward to sharing the pleasures of the route with you. If you would like to join me, please email toveyhelen@btinternet.com

I would be most grateful for sub group leaders to support the ride, and can offer recces on Saturday 7th and/or Monday 9th if needed.

~ Helen