It might be ten or more years ago since Mark (King of the Hill) offered his first version of this ride. I recall Mark and I going on a recce of the route, with me keeping him company. Back then parts of the Thames path were not really there and I remember us having to climb over a 2 metre fence - and get our bikes over too - so that we could continue travelling east. Since then, I have been this way many times and it always keeps me interested. Today was Mark's first offering for 2023.
The meeting point was Trafalgar Square at 09:00. It was soon obvious to me that I might be a little late as I have left NW8 with a cavalier attitude to time. Firing off a text to Mark I managed to get there fashionably late by a couple of minutes.
After the obligatory group photo we headed off in a light drizzle and no more. We didn't get too far.
Sadly, after only a few hundred metres we heard that Auntie Kay had succumbed to a puncture. Thankfully, it was a front wheel rather than a rear but the words 'Marathon Plus' were mentioned and those of us in the know steeled ourselves for a wait of several minutes.
A team of volunteers came to Auntie Kay's rescue and the inspection of the tyre began. Several items were recovered from small cravasses within. Pillars and fingernails could not remove said small items. My suggestion that Mark could use his teeth, politely declined. Eventually, all foreign bodies were removed and the tyre was ready to be put back on to the wheel.
Paul took this on with his eyes betraying fear. As this took place, I remarked to Peter that in years gone by, the courage and strength of individuals in small villages was not only whether they could put a 'Marathon Plus' tyre on a wheel with their bare hands but how fast they could do it. Paul completed this near labour of Hercules in record time!
With wheels rolling again we cycled along Embankment taking in the views and catching up.
At Tower Bridge many of us used the world famous architectural landmarks, as a suitable background for taking photos of our Brompton bicycles. Once one started - usually me - everyone was at it.
The little snaking path at limehouse, as always proved to be fun to navigate and started the, 'I didn't put a foot down' challenge for several other tricky sections.
The photo below of my Brompton leaning against the fence with Canary Wharf in the distance is one I have taken at all times of the day and night and in all weathers. This ride was full of several photo opportunities just like this one.
With our path blocked by a fence we resorted to altering our route and going up the stairs with views of the London skyline behind us and those of Canary Wharf in front.
Arriving at Greenwich, a quick photo and I then descended the stairs that leads to the tunnel beneath the River Thames.
I managed to get a photo of the tunnel quite clear, only for moments later the lift doors to open and loads of people walking past.
The Brompton peeps made their descent too and we walked our bikes along its length until we got to the other side.
Greeting us was the Cutty Sark, once a very fast ship, now sitting in its retirement.
Heading further east we passed the rather lovely buildings of the former Naval College - well worth a visit if you are ever that way.
The further east the less developed the Thames becomes - for now. It seems that any space will at some point become riverfront dwellings of some sort.
In the photo below, Mark and I joked that we used to come here when it was all fields. During the first few years we came this way, the surface was nothing more than a dirt track with almost none of it developed at all.
Along this part of the Thames are a few items of public art. A favourite is the sign below. It points north and displays, 24,859 miles - the distance around the circumference of the earth back to the sign.
The Thames Flood Barrier, again proved its worth as an excellent background for all things Brompton.
Lots of the area in the run up to Woolwich betrays its industrial past. Many of the buildings lie derelict - for the moment - and as mentioned previously, will almost certainly be developed.
Sadly, the Woolwich Ferry was not running due to strikes and a notice informed that its weekend service would be ending. I haven't been on the ferry for years, so I will have to go one day during the week when next I am next free.
Descending the lift at Woolwich, we went under the Thames for the second time.
The Woolwich Foot Tunnel is very similar to that at Greenwich but it is longer. It is usually much quieter and today was no exception and we enjoyed almost having it to ourselves.
The Cable Car across over the Thames was sadly not running due to strong winds. We did see cars travelling over but when we got to the entrance we were told it might be opening in 45 minutes time - too long for us to wait.
The group headed back to Greenwich for the lunch stop but I made my farewells and headed back to central London.
This was a lovely ride and one that I always enjoy. It does seem that there is unfinished business on this one - cable car, ferry - so perhaps it is one to revisit again. Many thanks to Mark for leading.
In all, I cycled just over 30 miles. Pretty tame really but it represents my longest ride for 2023 so far. As we progress into January and beyond the miles will go up.
Until next time, stay safe out there people.