Saturday 30 January 2016

London Canals and Greenway on an Orange Brompton

Todays ride was the, London Canals, Olympic Park and Greenway Explorer. I had been a maybe for this all week and even though, Mark (King of the Hill) would be leading and its route was a particular favourite, I was doubtful about going.

Even with my cycling gear on I still didn't think I would go and after all but forcing myself out of the front door I still had thoughts about turning back. Whatever you name it, the mojo has not been there of late.

Getting to Trafalgar Square I saw the familiar sight of Mark and my spirits lifted. Soon many others joined - some old faces and a few new ones.

As we waited a gentleman, curious about the number of Brompton bicycles put his hand on my shoulder and engaged in conversation. I estimate him to be in his 50's and he was worse for wear after what I suspect was a serious nights drinking. Brought up to to be polite to everyone I chatted briefly back. My suggestion that what he needed now was a hearty breakfast, was acknowledged as a good idea but he had just had one. With that he bid me farewell and went about his business.

Fashionably late my partner in crime, Andrew arrived and with that we were off with bemused onlookers not quite sure what was going on.

Initial progress was slow and there were a few rather inconsiderate and dangerous drivers. One of a tour bus, the other a delivery truck.

Every so often we stopped for those who had got stuck at traffic lights before moving on.

Our ride leader

The élan of Zoom Zoom

Just before St Katherine Docks we stopped and I took the opportunity to take a few photos of the famous bits, namely Tower Bridge.

Adhering to the strict no cycling across the bridge into the docks we dutifully walked our bikes the short distance.

This route as I have written many times before has become a favourite of mine and I do not think I will ever tire of it.

On the weather front it had rained quite heavily the previous night and when we started off there was grey cloud. Thankfully we experienced no rain and if anything the prospect of finer weather look favourable.

Cycling along canals is not really something I enjoy. They are narrow and usually busy with walkers, joggers, dog walkers and other cyclists. At the back of my mind is the thought, what would I do if the bike went in? This is not the best attitude to take when cycling along said canal paths so I took them gingerly to say the least.

One heavily ridged bridge, perhaps used in the days when cancel barges were powered by horses was interesting wearing cleats!!

Along the canal the every increasing desire to line it with waterside flats and accommodation continued. It was however good to see that a couple of chimneys, hinting at the areas industrial past remained.

Sadly the entrance to the Greenway and a small section of it was closed. This didn't really stop proceedings as we took the detour and eventually found our way there again.

The Greenway is footpath and cyclepath built over the embankment containing the Northern Outfall Sewer. 

Most of this sewer was designed by the great Joseph Bazalgette after the cholera outbreak of 1853 and the Great Stink of 1858.

With perfect timing we arrived at the Woolwich Ferry just as it had arrived and boarded almost immediately. The Woolwich Ferry has been in operation in one form or another since 1889. While halfway into our journey a man was handing out information about a proposed new river crossing. It was ironic that it mentioned that the future of the ferry service might be in doubt if a new crossing went ahead. 

Taken while on the ferry

Once on the other side of the Thames I made my farewell to everyone as I wanted to head back so that I could get back home.

I stopped off at the Thames Barrier Visitor Centre to have a little refreshment. The lady serving must have recognised me and my Orange Brompton as well as my partner in crime as she said, "where is the yellow one?"

On the way back the weather turned for the better and the sun began to make more of an appearance. I stopped every so often to take the off photo.

The rest of the group would be using the cable cars after their lunch and I had a quick look out just in case I spotted anyone.

In picture below the lone seagull was standing with scores more on a little sandbank moments before a few waves started to flow over wear they had been standing. With this they all flew into the air and protesting vocally as they screamed their utter disapproval. 

Every time I have been this way a lone Cormorant has been drying its wings on a wooden post. I know that it isn't the same bird but I fancy its expression was, not you again when it saw me taking a picture.

I made good progress to the Greenwich foot tunnel and even though it looks empty in the photograph below, it was not! There were dozens of people behind me and further along many more. It would seem a video for a group called 'Haus' was being filmed. It looked like some sort of zombie film to me as one of their number was prostrate on the floor!

On the other side my progress was swift and where possible I accelerated hard, enjoying the speed.

With the end in sight I made a final push and seeing the Shard I knew I was not too far from where I needed to be.

I arrived back at Barbican in very good time and from there home. The weather continued to impress and as I neared the end I speculated about taking a layer off as I was getting hot.

This was a well needed ride. I have not really been on too many of late. I am not sure this has restored the mojo fully but it has given me a push in the right direction. Next week I hope to go on a Richmond to Box Hill and back to Richmond. This should be good and I have to admit to looking forward to it - a good sign.

Many thanks to Mark for organising and leading the ride and to everyone else who came.

Link to map and ride data


  1. Thank you for posting this inspiring account . I was given a Brompton for Christmas and am keen to try one of your rides


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