Wednesday 12 April 2023

The Cobblemonster 2023 on an Orange Brompton

Last Sunday was the Cobblemonster. I have been taking part in this event for many years. It used to be called, The London Classic but it's pretty much the same thing. The Cobblemonster is a bike ride around London inspired by the Paris-Roubaix. This means that the Cobblemonster has cobbles and a few lung busting hills. 

Up bright and after punching in the directions to the start point at Brixton Cycles on my Velo 2, I headed off for the just under four miles it would take me to get there from St Paul's Station entrance. 

On my way, I stopped for a photo where an unofficial blue plaque was located to commemorate the artist Damien Hirst, who worked there between 1999 -2010.

The start was outside Brixton Cycles and yet again I didn't come away with a Brixton Cycles cycling top. (I will have to get one of these at some point). A set off on my own at a leisurely pace as the end of the ride was gain going to be Herne Hill Velodrome where from 13:00 participants who had completed the Cobblemonster could cycle one lap around the famous circuit. 

The sun was out for this ride and the early morning chill was starting to fade as blue skies were only slightly inconvenienced by the occasional wispy clouds. 

The first cobbles arrived at Covent Garden. In the photo below I stopped to compose my shot and a police car rolled past. I heard one of the officers say remark that my outfit matched my bike. He knows me all too well I thought. 

On Grays Inn Road I had to stop at Condor Cycles. I do own a rather lovely Condor road bike that hasn't been used for....more time that it is polite to say. Ironocally, in the window was a rather lovely bike in orange.

The route took me past Smithfield Meat Market, that will eventually become the new home to the Museum of London, and Charterhouse Square. This is home to Florin Court that was used as the location for the London home of the consulting detective, Poirot in the television series starring Sir David Suchet. 

Not too far away was the sad sight of the now closed and deserted 'Look Mum No Hands.' In times past this location would have been very busy with many riders taking part in the Cobblemonster using it as an early pit stop. A real shame that it has gone. 

Further along I arrived at Wapping - always an interesting area and one with its fair share of cobbles!

I stopped outside a pub called, 'The Prospect of Whitby.' I decided to walk along the narrow passage leading from the street to steps that descend down to the beach of the river Thames. This location certainly has atmosphere and there is no way I would go down there after dark!

Luckily, it was low tide and the beach was exposed. An older lady was busy mudlarking and I was soon to be busy in my own way...taking photos of my Brompton!

The views were wonderful before I left under the careful instruction of the lady I met, I joined her mudlarking for about five minutes. She told me that you can usually find old bits of crockery and parts of pipe. You cannot disturb the surface to find things and anything perceived to be of valuable or of historical interest will require you informing someone. I didn't find anything sadly. 

The pub itself claims to be the site of the oldest riverside tavern, dating back to the 1520s. In the 17th century is was a favourite haunt of 'Hanging' Judge Jeffreys. A replica gallows hangs by one of the the windows. Whatever its history, real or embellished, I wouldn't fancy being there alone once the sun has set!

At Bermondsey I sat down next to the statue of Dr Salter looking out towards the Thames with statues of his wife Ada and daughter Joyce. The main feature for me was of course the family cat looking ever watchful. 

Maze Hill provided the first of a series of ascents followed by a cobbled street that reminded me of an old 'Hovis' advert from many years ago.

Perhaps the most infamous of all the hills on this ride was Canonbie Road. This starts quite steep and then a sharpish left turn heads ever upward. I remember the first time I cycled up this road but having done this so many times, it wasn't really that bad. 

The views from the top, once you turn round and face the other way to that you have cycled, are really good and well worth the effort. 

As I took a photo or two, another participant could be just about seen making theri ascent. Like someone in port watching for the arrival of a ship on the horizon, I first caught sight of the top of his head, then his shoulders, handlebars and eventually the rest of him. In between breaths he asked what I thought would be obvious, 'did you cycle up on that!?' 

From that point, it was almost all downhill. I stopped very briefly at the gates to the entrance of Dulwich College. Much is made of Sir Ernest Shackleton having attended. For me the greatest former Dulwichian - to use an older term for them - was Sir P G Wodehouse. Of course the best people who ever went there were the ones asked to leave.

I arrived at Herne Hill Velodrome just before 13:00 and had timed things very well. How the Velodrome has survived the property developers over the years I will never know. 

I was allowed one lap of the famous circuit, built in 1891, and it was definitely a privilege. 

I stayed pretty much on the level part of the track - perhaps that bit isn't even regarded as part of it - and was happy to saunter around, taking some more photos. 

There was some lovely food being prepared but knowing but knowing there would be something better waiting for me not too far away I headed out of the velodrome. 

The Cobblemonster is a lovely event and great it is back every year, after a few when it was but a memory. I hope it returns next year and it if does, I will hopefully take part once again. 

Until next time, stay safe out there people!

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