Hmmm! One would be easily forgiven for thinking this was a Breeze Ride. Seven Riders – six were women, and by the end of the ride John – ride navigator – had been renamed Joanna and made an honorary woman!
We met at Bromley South and the start was delayed whilst one rider tried unsuccessfully to get some clip-on mudguards before we set off. The skies were wall to wall leaden grey and a fine steady rain fell on us. Shirley had arrived to let us know that she thought the weather was too bad and she was going to go to Halfords to look at, and perhaps buy, some new water-proofs so that she could come out in the wet weather in the future. Helena soon worked her charm on Shirley and she was persuaded to stay on the ride.
So a little later than the published start time we set off on today’s adventure with the hope that we might make an inroad into the excesses of the Christmas Season now little more than a fading memory. We were using the route planned by John and Linda before the Christmas break so it was a bit experimental.
Keeping to the West of Sundridge Park Golf Course we located the railway bridge towards Grove Park Cemetery and followed the muddy and fairly treacherous path to the top of Marvels Lane; then using Dunkery and Court Farm Roads came out in Mottingham. Here we were able to cross the A20 to Middle Park, and then follow a parallel route to Green Lane and so up to Welling. Green Lane and Footscray Road are not good roads for cycling and it would be good to find an alternative route, possibly through Avery Hill Park.
At Falconwood we crossed the A2 and dropped down into Welling. Using a series of residential side streets we were able to find our way over Bostal Heath and then the lovely downhill ride through Abbey Wood and into the grounds of Lesness Abbey. The site is undergoing some sort of restoration and there was little of interest to hold us up today, particularly in the rain which was falling quite heavily at this stage. Here we joined the first of a series of excellent walk/cycleways leading North through the Thamesmead Housing Estate. If nothing else about Thamesmead is considered a success then at least the route through on a bike works well. And then unbelievably as we traversing the road to the sewage works Frances spotted the ‘Link Café’ and it was open. We were all cold and a warming drink and a snack seemed a very good idea.
The café was deserted apart from two staff. The premises were in fact a community project with various community enterprises located in a large building underneath a raised roundabout on the Eastern Way. It was clean and we were allowed to take our bikes inside so that took care of any security issues.
We lingered long in the café where we had been well received and made to feel welcome; none of us were particularly enthusiastic about heading out into the ghastly weather again, but eventually there was nothing else but to get on with things.
Still following the cycle-paths we soon reached the Thames Path and were able to pick up a more familiar route towards the Woolwich Ferry. Visibility was poor and I was concerned that the ferry may be suspended, but about a mile from the pier I was able to make out through the mirky cloud the distant shape of the boat at the Northern landing stage and knew that if we got a clip on we could make the next crossing. We upped our pace and arrived just as the barriers opened. There was a long queue of cars and lorries waiting board. There is a rather sadistic and unchristian pleasure in over-taking such a line of vehicles and going straight to the front, and then once on board also getting right to the front to ensure that we were first off on the far side. I have little doubt that there were many in that queue who were envious of our manoeuvrability, but perhaps not so jealous of how wet and cold we were: the pros and cons of cycling in a condensed package!!
On the North side the route to the Greenway is a bit iffy to say the least, and not very well signposted. We lost some time here as we located the correct path but eventually managed to pick up the trail, though we got ourselves further chilled as we did so.
Once on the Greenway we were able to pick up the pace, but Linda and I had already decided that in spite of the title of this ride, as the View Tube was not open because of the Christmas Holiday, there was little point cycling all the way there just to turn around and retrace our route for a couple of miles. So we had decided we would bear off the Greenway at a suitable point in order to take the most direct route to the Cable Car.
Now for one of our riders who is particularly nervous of heights this was the first mention of the cable car and I would have to say the news was not very well received!
We now suffered our first puncture of the day. Local enquiries revealed that just a few hundred yards away was a bike shop and also a nice café. Linda headed to the bike shop which dealt with the puncture in a record time. We had not even finished placing our orders in the very warm and welcoming ‘Delicious Café’ (566 Barking Road, Newham, London E13 9JU) before Linda was back with us with her bike repaired. I’m not sure how we are going to thread this café into future rides but we will do so somehow and we have no hesitation in recommending it!
Again we were reluctant to depart the warmth, but all good things must come to an end and eventually we unlocked our bikes, remounted and pressed on to and through the Canning Town Flyover and to the Cable Car boarding Station.
It is a shame this facility is not getting the capacity of use in needs to make it a real service to Londoners. Perhaps when the redevelopment around the Excel which includes the much heralded Crossrail is complete, the situation will improve. I fail to understand why we in East London have to pay £4 to cross the river when it is free for everyone to the west of this location. TfL need to have a long look at this and perhaps reconsider their pricing policy!
We boarded the cable car in pairs and enjoyed the ride; the normal panoramic views being obscured by clouds, mist and condensation in the cabins! Arriving back on god’s side of the River Thames we were cold again and keen to get going. The daylight, such as there was, was beginning to fail now.
Bad luck struck again and we suffered our second puncture. John made pretty short work of the repair, but we still lost time.
Back down the Waterlink Way we began to separate at Cator Park. I got indoors at about 5 o’clock, others had a little further to go and would have been a bit later but it was a good day out and I think we all shed a few excess pounds!
Great riders who stuck it out in quite nasty conditions. 35 miles total.