Christmas Lights 2016

I am not sure it is a privilege to live in this wonderful city, after all it doesn’t come for free and there is more than just a financial penalty to be paid in terms of health, both physical and mental. But London is a fabulous place, and never more so than during the Christmas Season. Of course there are some who would say that Bromley is in Kent rather than London anyway, but that’s a debate for elsewhere on another day.

Our ride today was heavily oversubscribed, mainly because I didn’t check the registrations page and realise that numbers were creeping up and I should close the ride. My apologies to those who were on the reserve list and didn’t get the call. Three riders cancelled their places before the day; and two didn’t show up which is disappointing (I shall be writing to them). But even with those no shows there were seventeen of us, and that’s a big responsibility for the ride leader in Central London at Christmas.

We set off from Bromley and on the ride to town spotted Steven Edwards with friends or, more probably family in Catford, and Jane and Trevor in Peckham. I understand that we nearly rode Jane of the cyclepath, so our apologies for that.

There is a lovely little coffee shop, Crol & Co, at Lynton Road in Rotherhithe. It seems rather lonely on its own, on the corner of Dunton Road, but it always seems to be doing a good trade and I guess it has been opened with passing cyclists in mind on Quietway 1, mid-way between Waterloo and Deptford.

Crol & Co looked warm and inviting at we rolled to a halt outside. Riders piled in to buy coffees, teas and use the loo. Staff were welcoming and when yours truly smashed his Christmas bauble on the pavement outside were quick to despatch a staff member to help with the clean-up. There was also a special treat here when Alison produced her Tupperware box brimming with chocolate brownies – cycling heaven, this is of course a further good reason to limit the numbers on a ride! Is that a bit selfish? Perhaps.

For the sake of safety and convenience we decided to split the ride here with Tracy and John taking half the riders each. Tracey went first and Joe acted as her back marker whilst John with the A team back marked by Linda hung back for 10 minutes or so. I later learned that Tracey had a bit of a navigation hiccup here and found her gizmo was not displaying the route properly, so found herself flying blind into the tangled web of streets of Borough Market; eventually the Garmin kicked in and sanity was restored.

In the meantime I was making ground with my team through Trinity Square, home of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, where a brightly lit Christmas tree stood like a sentinel in the quickly departing daylight.

We crossed the Thames on the segregated cycle lanes of Southwark Bridge and turned eastwards along Canon Street. My knowledge of the city is not as good it as it ought to be and without an electronic mapping device I got a bit confused getting us into Leadenhall Market but we made it eventually. Some of the riders had worked in the area and so were able to guide us in. Many thanks team.

At Leadenhall we found their tall, beautifully decorated, tree standing in the crossing of the cobbled roads. Riders were despatched to locate Gary B’s opticians shop but in this we failed. What we did find was another group of riders on a similar outing. They were heading west towards Albert Bridge and a pub which I think they said was the Royal Albert. We simultaneously issued an invitation to join each other’s ride and laughed at the spontaneity. We helped each other taking team photographs and went our ways. We spotted each other again later in Covent Garden.

Departing Leadenhall we found the road blocked by a large crane, so we had to walk our bikes around a narrow diversion but were soon cycling again.

The Covent Garden Christmas tree was tall, and beautifully decorated with hundreds of red and white lights, but someone had nicked Rudolph which was a bit of disappointment. There were signs indicating some electronic method of gaining access to a virtual version of the famous reindeer however this did not seem the same so we didn’t bother. We spotted Tracey and her riders heading towards Drury Lane as we were heading the other way so we were still just about 10 minutes behind.

It was still only just 6 o’clock so a diversion into the Strand seemed in order as a little extra treat, and then on towards Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street.

I have never particularly noticed the church of St Giles in the Fields. Mainly because I pass it in the daytime and the internal lighting fails to catch the eye. But tonight we could clearly see the high vaulted ceilings through the arched Wren style windows. This beautiful church, known as the Poets Church was built in the 1730s by Henry Flitcroft in the Palladian style (note to self – must visit this church).

After negotiating the horrendous Crossrail roadworks at Tottenham Court Road neatly slipping past queues of stationary vehicles we found ourselves in Oxford Street. Choked with traffic progress here was slow which enabled us to admire the lights to their fullest. At Bond Street we turned southwards into South Molton Street and then back down Brook Street to Regent Street, Carnaby Street and eventually Piccadilly Circus where once again the mighty bike was able to make swift progress past lines of frustrated motorists.

We stopped to admire the displays in Fortnum and Masons which were little short of stunning before making our way to the South Bank for hot chocolate and some of Linda’s fantastic home baked ginger biscuits, another lovely treat. One or two riders departed here to take the train from nearby Waterloo. The remainder cycled back down through Peckham and the Waterlink Way to our homes. We were back in Bromley by 9 pm and all agreed it had been a most enjoyable outing.

Ride Stats:

Cycling time 4 hrs
Total time: 6 hrs
Speed: 8.2 mph
Distance: 33.68 miles

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