Sunday 12 January 2020

Christmas Ride with the Night Ride to the Coast Peeps

The Night Ride to the Coast peep normally meet on Fridays, at night and ride to the coast. Their Christmas ride was on Sunday, 29th December 2019, during the day and around London - so a little different. The meeting point was the usual one near the London Eye and it was a great way to work off some festive indulgence.

The ride leader was the all round good egg, Bob and after a quick ride briefing we were off for a London scientific themed ride.

I decided to take my Orange Flame Lacquer with me and there were many familiar faces - too many to mention - but Jenny and Simon were there on their Brompton bikes and Geoff (also on his Flame Lacquer) and his son.

We set off at conversational pace and people generally chatted away to each other, catching up on gossip, what people had been up to and what 2020 had to offer in terms of the highly additive night rides.

On Waterloo Place I spotted a Christmas tree kitted with coppery-orange baubles. I had to get over there and take a picture. In doing so I almost fell into a pothole so large I would have needed a miners lamp and a canary for good measure! The thing the Brompton user does for that photo opportunity!

Our first stop was Jermyn Street where Sir Isaac Newton - who did lots with the laws of gravity - lived while he was President of the Royal Society up the road.

As we waited for others to catch up and for Bob to give us his spiel, I realised that I was in fact standing with the Blue Plaque directly behind me. I had been oblivious to it until he pointed at it!

The Royal Institute was next. Founded in 1799 it has been in Albemarle Street for years and I recall going there for one of its famous Christmas lectures when studying O-level biology.

Our route was a good one and took in lots of the good bits of London. I particularly enjoyed cycling down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace and speculated whether anyone - you know who I mean - might just be peaking out from a net curtain and saying, 'oh look it's a Brompton!'

At Danvers Street in Chelsea we saw the house that was once occupied by discoverer of penicillin, Sir Alexander Fleming. As we heard about this, assembled on mass, a lady peered out of an upstairs window opposite, with a bemused look on her face.

As with the usual night rides to the coast there were a vast array of bicycles out in force. Brompton, mountain, hybrid, road, electric, cross, recumbent - just about every type going. 

In South Kensington I was in very familiar territory and we stopped at Imperial College. Established in 1907 it has become a world renowned place of study and research. It was also the location where the rock group 'Queen' gave their first performance on 18th July 1970.

Part of the route took us along the Grand Union Canal near Paddington and we stopped at St Mary's hospital nearby, founded in 1845. This was the hospital both my parents spend their final moments and the ride was on some levels a trip down memory lane. Apart from this location, we passed the house where my sister was born, the house my parents first lived in after getting married, the last house they lived in and the school I used to go to as a very small child! I suppose if you have lived in London long enough this is bound to happen.

One location I passed quite frequently in my youth was Warrington Crescent. I was oblivious to the fact that the great Alan Turing - famed for being a code breaker at Bletchley Park and pioneer of computer science - was born there!

No far away from this was the lovely and very familiar sight of London Zoo. I cannot count how many times I have been there and even passing it brings a smile to my face. Opened in 1828 it was originally intended as a location for scientific study and it still goes on to this very day.

At the BBC buildings near Langham Place those with a Brompton could not resist the photo opportunity for a 'W1A' moment!

At 94 Great Portland Street we passed the building, David Edward Hughes lived in. He was the inventor of the microphone but I am shamed to say I had not heard of him before.

Our last stop was the Blue Plaque on the site of the Biological Sciences Building, University College London on Gower Street. Charles Darwin lived in a house on this site between 1838 - 1842.

This was a lovely way to spend the afternoon and with the ride over I said my goodbyes. Many thanks to Bob for a lovely route and interesting commentary. I cycled back the few miles quite happily and my thoughts were dominated with what adventures lay ahead in the year to come, especially sharing the road with many of the fine people who were out in force today...

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