Cycling Trip with Camping

Being thoroughly enthused by the Tour de France I’ve been jumping on my bike at every opportunity and heading out on fairly decent bike rides – mostly exploring London, taking in the sights – something I usually miss whilst commuting and having found myself with a few days to spare I decided to load up the bike and head off. My plan being to follow the river east riding the Thames Path, out towards the Dartford Crossing with my aim being to find somewhere to wild camp at the far end.

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Travelling light – I was carrying 2 litres of water, a jungle bivvy, roll mat and sleeping bag I set off mid-afternoon from Lewisham in SE London and was very quickly at my start point – the Trafalgar Public House, right on the River Thames in Greenwich where I grabbed a photo of my bike next Nelson who was looking north across the river at Canary Wharf.

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I do love this ride out of London and its interesting seeing the contrast between north and south – on the north side is Canary Wharf and south is mainly derelict buildings, ship breaking yards and large aggregate industries.

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Before long, the O2 Centre came into view…

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The whole area is being redeveloped, certainly all round the O2 Centre, its one big building site. After a short while the Thames Barrier came into view. The Thames Barrier became operational in 1982 – I do like to see this structure as my father who sadly died earlier this year fitted the lightning protection to it and I remember the stories he use to tell me all those years ago.

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I couldn’t resist this next photo, a well placed bike against a nice piece of graff – almost looks like the guy is about to jump on the bike…

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I carried on riding, heading further east before stopping in Erith for refreshments. Having loaded up at the local supermarket my thoughts started turning to where I might sleep tonight. Looking at the map on my phone I spotted a couple of likely stops over near Bexley Village. Leaving Erith I rode along several trails, chatted to some fisherman all of whom were having quite a good day. I also stopped to eat some blackberries! Before too long, I was peddling through the village of Bexley heading towards the spot I’d found – on arrival I was very impressed, it was a great little spot so set up camp and settled in for the night.

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I had a great ride and night out under the stars though next time I’ll remember to bring my mosquito repellent!!

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South of the River and East

Last week, over the bank holiday weekend my good friend and I cycled from Southampton Way in London to Greenwich and along the Thames Path, all the way east to the Thames Barrier. It was a thoroughly good ride and having not been there in a while was surprised to see how much development has taken place and how much is going on – the place will be unrecognisable in the next ten to fifteen years. It is though, still one of my favourite places to go – does feel quite wild being so close to London but still so far.

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East of the Barrier

Following our climbing session at the Reach climbing wall (and whilst waiting for the snow to start falling) I took the opportunity to take a a few photos east of the Thames Barrier.

Berthed alongside the wall is the wreck of the MV Royal Iris, a former Mersey Ferry which was relocated from Liverpool to London during 2002 to be converted into a nightclub. Having seen her, I very much doubt that anything will come of it – she’s looking very sorry for herself and I guess with the economy as it is it’ll just continue to rot.

A personal memory of the MV Royal Iris

On the opposite side of the Thames, east of the barrier is the sugar refinery of Tate & Lyle, a vast industrial estate with chimneys bellowing smoke – it looks quite lonely sat there against the grey skies.

Beyond the police/harbour master launches you can just make out the Thames Barrier crossing the River Thames. Completed in 1982, it protects London from flooding and interestingly for me, my father fitted the lightning protection to the structure during the early 1980s.

Secret Squirrels in Vauxhall

Opposite Vauxhall Train/Tube Station is the headquarters of MI6 or the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS.) MI6 are responsible for providing foreign intelligence to the British Government (think James Bond!)

The building is very stark, Orwellian looking in it’s design and is a prominent landmark next to the River Thames – unlike MI5 which is located on the opposite bank in a much more discreet building, photos to follow!

Whilst it’s perfectly legal to take photos of this building, they do tend to get a bit antsy and theres numerous reports of photographers being questioned whilst taking photos – thankfully I managed to shoot a couple of photos with no hassle.

Battersea Powerstation

Situated on the southern bank of the River Thames is one of London’s most iconic structures – Battersea Powerstation, beloved by all Londoners. Built during the 1930s, Battersea Powerstation provided electricity to Londoners up until the early 1980 before closing and falling into disrepair.

Over the last few years its had several lifelines including converting the structure into a massive theme park, a shopping centre, even a museum and most recently Chelsea Football Club were thinking of relocating. Alas, none have come to fruition and there’s new doubt as to what to do next.

The area is ripe for development and it would be a real loss to London should this iconic building be pulled down for the same same ubiquitous blocks of glass fronted flats taking its place.

Festive Frolics at Gordon Ramsay’s, The Narrow

The Narrow, Gordon Ramsay’s ‘gastro pub’ over in East London was the choice for our annual christmas dinner with friends. Each year we choose a different venue and having read favourable reviews of the Narrow, we decided to book the Captains Table for our motley crew of friends.

The Narrow is set amongst a number of residential flats in an area called Limehouse, a strange place really but bang next to the river overlooking South London.

The Captains Table is located upstairs and we quickly joined our friends, some of whom had been there a good hour or so and were well on their way to being festive! The room was lovely – a long table set up for 13 diners, a lit fire and some old paintings on the wall – of old naval war ships, very old school.

Opting for the festive menu, a four course extravaganza starting off with a Roasted Pumpkin Soup, served in little cappuccino cups – it lacked depth, our friend Paddy’s is a lot better!

Opting for the Potted Salt Beef, Cornichons with Sourdough Toast was a mistake as on seeing the Beetroot Cured Salmon I knew I’d made the wrong choice – the Salt Beef was dull looking and dry, the salmon looked fantastic.

The mains were a disaster – several ordering Braised Beef Cheeks, each and every dish was served cold, not a hint of warmth on the plate, the gravy had skin covering it – not good.

To be fair, the plates were taken away and we were served new dishes (which when warm) were excellent but it meant that the dinner became quite disjointed as half the table had their food, the rest didn’t!

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Deserts were good, opting for the Banana Sticky Toffee Pud with Clotted Cream was the choice of the deserts (others being Christmas Pud and Cheesecake,) though I would’ve liked more clotted cream.

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We rounded the evening off with Charades – each of us taking a turn to perform and aided by several glasses of wine and a number of thespians/industry insiders amongst us, became quite competitive. Jamie in particular did very well, being pretty much unable to stand he managed to get Gladiator performed and guessed but Lisa (his wife) took the prize for doing the charade she’d guessed only moments before – too much wine causing memory loss – though we were all guilty of that!

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It was a great evening though let down by the food – given it was a Gordon Ramsay restaurant (albeit a pub) it was very expensive for what in effect is a gastro pub – the food was OK but no better than our local pub which is half the price and where they serve the food hot.

I've drunk this much...

Thames Path, east of Greenwich

East of Greenwich is a great walk.

The Thames Path follows the River Thames east through desolated waste ground, barren industrial areas, full of redundant cranes and machinery. Even though Canary Wharf, the financial hub of London is just across the river, you really do feel exposed, more so on rainy grey, winter days. It’s so remote that whenever I walk there, I always have the feeling of some other Worldliness and fully expect to some classic gangster movie being shot amongst the empty buildings if I was going to top someone (in a gangster way) it would be here!

Starting off in Greenwich, maybe a quick pint at the Cutty Sark(!) and almost straight away, you’re on your own with the wind and rain blowing straight through you. Following the river as it meanders its way east you’ll be lucky to see another person. Derelict cranes appear by the Thames, iron structures standing eerily silent. It’s easy to imagine how busy this place once was and now it just stands witness to changing times in this part of London. Before too long you arrive at the Thames Barrier, an incredible structure which was started during the 1970’s (completed in ’82) and is London major flood protection. interestingly its the second largest flood protection system in the World, the first being in Holland.

Here are some photos following a recent walk.

Guarding the Dome

Boats in front of Canary Wharf

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Cranes, with Canary Wharf in the background

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The Thames Barrier