Crossness Ride Report

Bromley cyclists: time travellers 

A ride report by Julie

It was on a beautiful bright and cool day that we set out for a time travelling expedition. We were going back 150 years to the Crossness pumping station. Designed and created by Chief Engineer Sir Joseph Bazelgette and architect Charles Henry Driver it was a direct result of the 1851 Great (London) Stink. This building features spectacular ornamental ironwork while at the same time serving the very necessary purpose of disposing of London sewage, thereby saving many thousands of lives. These two men are to be considered heroes. 

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But back to the cycling. We had an uneventful cycle to the pumping station and arrived in time for a visit and lunch. After securing our bikes to the railings as instructed (but not there Sir, that’s a sinkhole and you won’t want your bike to disappear) we dispersed, some to visit the exhibition, while others, who had previously visited the centre, enjoyed the newly constructed Victorian garden. The planting was true to that era, with formal hard landscaping and hedging to frame the, what was in the Victorian era, newly discovered agapanthus, choisya and hemerocallis (day lilies to you and me). While sitting and breathing in the sometimes fragrant(!) air we became aware of the sound of bells. Morris Men! Their arrival completed the historical context, while their dancing entertained with the typical hops, skips and stick-smashing that have delighted audiences through the ages. But soon it was time to collect our bikes and cycle on. 

However, we had not finished the ride, and we headed along the Thames Path toward the Cutty Sark (another Victorian icon). Suddenly, John, one of the ride leaders, slammed on his brakes, with the exclamation ‘I’ve found it!’. What he had discovered was the ‘Thamesmead Tor’. Yes, there is a Tor on the Thames, created from all the rubble and soil that was left over from building the estate. And it has a circular winding path up to the top. With a hill and a path, what do you think we did? We cycled up. And the view from the top was worth it. Shooters Hill, Canary Wharf, the City and Belmarsh prison can all be seen from here. Where else in the world could you see so much history, power and criminality crammed into such a small area? 

The Thames path is a gift to Londoners and tourists alike, and as a Londoner I like to make the most it, enjoying the lack of road traffic while taking in some of the best riverside views that our capital city can offer. Today was not a day to disappoint. As we stopped to admire the technical wizardry that is the Thames Barrier we became aware of the beautiful sailing ship ‘TS Royalist’ manned by Sea Cadets approaching. Such a graceful vessel, it sailed between the crescent shaped humps of the barrier before steadily and serenely gliding down towards the Estuary and into the Channel. A Victorian designed ship to complete the time travel of the day. 

By this time we were getting a bit thirsty, so at Greenwich we decided to stop at a local coffee shop. Two of the group secured their bikes to the official bike rack while the rest of us rested our bikes against the walls and lampposts that happened to be there. Refreshments ordered and received, we settled down for a last natter before cycling back to the start place. Then the drama started. John, our esteemed co-leader suddenly, meerkat like, sat straight up in his chair. Several of us who were talking to John, did the same. However, we did not see what John saw. A couple of young cyclists had seen the bikes chained to the bike rack and taken the opportunity to snatch a bag off one of them. John was up, and without running, swiftly crossed the distance to his bike, mounted it and chased the naughty boys. They were apprehended, handed to the Police who, due to their age, took the boys home, where it is hoped they were chastised. I would like to think that the whole experience of being chased and caught would put the boys off a criminal career and save them from prisons such as Belmarsh. We can only hope. 

From here the ride split, some to cycle up Greenwich park and some to follow the Waterlink Way. And adventurous day for all and one to remember. 

The group would like to thank Tracey and John for their leadership and patience. As always an asset to LCC. 

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