Thames Path Fiddle: ride report
- Felt I had to download yesterday fast.
Greenwich Cyclists Ride Report
Thames Path Fiddle
Saturday 9 June 2001
[10am Cutty Sark/NFT 10.45am/Thames Path to (Mortlake lunch 1.30pm) Richmond
town centre via the two original meridians /Richmond Park (golf-course caff
tea)/circumvelogation/Kew Bridge/Strand-on-the-Green/Duke's Meadows/Fulham
football/Bishop's Park/Battersea Bridge/Battersea Park/NFT/London
On the train back from Liz's Sudbury ride only a week ago we decided to fill
the gap in the diary..and do a ride the next Saturday. We told the Greenwich
and Southwark e-lists and our 6 June AGM.
So 8 of us met at CSG on a lovely warm crisp sunny morning. (Liz, Richard,
Simon, Casey, Claudine, Julian, Ayioko..).
I did a quick dive into the 10am opening Tourist Info Office to charm them
some Bike Week leaflets.("7 Greenwich events, more than any other boro..").I
was delighted to see a pile of Pedal Powers prominent on the counter....but,
curses, why so many left? Oh, we hate to run out and photocopy loads they
said. Excellent. They knew all about our website too. Ace customer service.
Go be nice to them.
Main roads to NFT where another 5 (Linda, David, Doug, Roger, Steve) were
waiting (but none of the Southwark crew). A fine assorted bunch. Coffee in
the sun in the familiar armpit of Waterloo Bridge. (To mention the always
smelly men's NFT loo's (and they'd just opened for the day) might start to
push the analogy too far). The increasing tacky tourist-trap alongside
County Hall was already packed so we went through the middle and carried the
bikes down the western steps of Westminster Bridge.(love the Wheel but not
the burger tack in this non-Margate context and am I wrong to worry about
County Hall's loss of dignity? Debunking is fine, dumpind-down isn't)....we
then bazooka'd slowly along the prom past Terry Farrell's MI6 building.
Great to see a new tunnel to push the prom under Vauxhall Bridge being
worked on...guys on site said it opens around Christmas. We rode the
pavement round the huge Vauxhall Cross building site and hit the river again
at Nine Elms Lane two minutes later.
Sun and lots of beaches at very low tide.
Some fascinating houseboat culture along this stretch, I cycled the
desperate Nine Elms motorways for years without knowing all this was there.
Then on round Battersea Power Station, with new Victoria shuttle and
re-building starting at last. The Dog's Home and into the southeast corner
of Battersea Park and up to the river again. Lovely park, oddly quiet. Over
Albert Bridge Road and onto new prom past flash flats and Norman Foster's
all-glass HQ. Ditto Battersea Bridge Road onto prom and past the triangular
new slab of Richard Roger's Montevetro flats. (ed: trans. Mountain of
glass). It worried me a lot in construction.I've always loved the little
church west of it in American colonial style and guessed it would be dwarfed
like the Greenwich prom almshouses. Not. The church has been liberated and
now breathes again.
Oops. Bridge too far...that's not a road bridge it's the Battersea Reach
rail bridge. We turned round and overed Battersea. On the pavement past the
Cheyne Walk houseboats, the Lots Road power station (twin of less used
Greenwich ditto that both supply power to the tube. and closes soonish. What
use for Greenwich power station?).
There's a glorious link between the heavy Lots power station and the new
flats of Chelsea Harbour.and a surprising meadow. The 30 acres of flats etc
for Sands Wharf have just started building so we edged round that site to
the fat backside of Fulham round the Hurlingham Club...under the car-closed
District Line arch by Putney Bridge station are bike racks..aptly
enlightened use of reclaimed space.
Over busy Putney Bridge and onto the towpath proper past the rowing clubs
oar houses and scene of my nose dive onto the gravel years ago. I'd
forgotten how rural it is along here...the Barn Elms wetlands reserve, the
beautifully converted Harrods Suppository and under cctv'ed Hammersmith
Bridge in new Harrods green. Richard Roger's HQ and wife Ruthie's River Café
opposite. (I'm not into flash restaurants but if I was forced to eat
Past the secret hidden ex-reservoir at Lonsdale Road (I'd wanted to share it
but missed the entrance...about 15 years ago there sat watching the birds I
found in the mud a tiny rusty metal label the size of a 50p..."The Triumph,
an improved garden seat with teak wood from old navy ships broken up. H
Castle and Sons. Millbank, SW1"..Tate again).
The towpath seamlessly turned into prom pavement at Barnes so we stayed on
it..and irritated two walkers. Pity.
The Ship at Mortlake by the vast Wanted brewery had ok food and it was
1.30pm. Inevitable tourist chat about noise of Heathrow low inbound planes
here. (Do they still jettison fuel on the run-in?).Then 6 miles of quiet
rural towpath past the disgracefully wrecked Government building by the
brutal bunker-like Public Record Office and gorgeous Kew Gardens. Just past
there at the Old Deer Park was a stainless steel post I'd not seen before. A
slit in it gave sightline to an obelisk* with fine building further behind
it. Revelation. Text told us this was the site of the original meridian that
predated ours at Greenwich. It was only in 1884 that the world (well, some
of it) agreed to zero-base longitude at Greenwich. The house was the King's
Observatory with dome on top. (We speculated about the meridian staying in
Kew...The Dome would've gone there and Greenwich would have remained
unregenerated and we'd never have met because, unemployed, we'd all had to
become economic migrants and moved away.).
Richmond first lock on the Thames then Richmond riverside was busy of course
under Quinlan Terry's pastiche cliff. Not aging well. Up the steep hill of
Nightingale Lane. Liz Constabled and snapped us in front of his arcadian
Thames panorama, past the sad Star and Garter Home and into Richmond Park.
My London favourite. We did 2.5 miles of excellent 8 mile gravel track
round the edge, and deer and super trees and green parakeets (saw several,
heard loads more), and had tea and cakes at the golf-course café. Very
Italian and very good. We sat on the littery grass in the hot sun. The
lemony cheesecake was too high on sugar/too easy on the mozzarella. The
strawberry ditto was better reviewed. So much better than Pembroke Lodge
which has a fine building and one of London's best views but permanent café
queues. Odd that golfers clack around in cleats too.
Then the other 6 or so miles of gravel and out of the park . A rain shower
and it got cold. Roger took the lead..down Kew Road and over that bridge and
onto the north bank version of the towpath..Georgian Strand on the Green
cottages, river lapping onto the road here, now high tide. Now sunny again.
Surprisingly huge expanse of Duke's Meadows, then Fulham, past the Rogers's,
Fulham Football ground and into Bishop's Park by the palace. (In one of the
Exorcist (I think) films Dr Who/Patrick Trough ton got kebab by the church's
javelin-like lightning conductor here. The huge rustling plane trees here
always seem slightly spooky). Then under Putney Bridge to retrace our route.
back over Battersea Bridge, thro park etc.
It being a sort of exit-menu ride, some rode off to central London, a couple
went for the Barnes train to Waterloo.and the rest of us went on to the
South Bank again. I'm not clear what happened but we lost half. The 3 of us
drifted past Tate Modern and Norman (ask the engineers) Foster's Millennium
Bridge. One decided to train it back from London Bridge to Greenwich from
there. Richard and I hit the road to Greenwich.
I'm always a bit sad when rides dissolve away like that, instant
post-mortems are always fun. But, good day out in rural London with huge
amount to take in and a route with endless permutations and drop-off/train
And all on my big London A-Z. Amazing. And the trip meters said 50 miles.
None of us felt we'd done anything like that, but my trusty string and OS
map just proved it.
A cheap, self-propelled, re-affirmation of life, and life, in the great
OS Landranger 176: West London Area has the lot, from Bermondsey on.
10 June 2001
A good write-up. I started at Cutty Sark Gardens (I know I'm easy to
forget) and my gizmo says it was about 55 miles back to Greenwich, before
the batteries ran out!
A very enjoyable day, as usual. Thanks to all those that came along.
Simon and I tried to find you and Richard near the Tate Modern but we
didn't have any luck. We too went back to Greenwich, mostly by the Thames
path. It was a shame that we got separated but no matter, the bulk of the
ride had been done by then.
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