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Myhouse to Limehouse DIY and beyond… Words & photography by John Oakshott


all me a yokel, but I enjoy riding in London. There is a fascinating transition from the peaceful, almost traffic-free lanes of a Suffolk 7 o’clock Friday morning in May to a packed lunchtime Tower Gateway then on to the calm suburbia of Kingston. While the London traffic moves fast in places, there now seem to be few spots where riding is chancing your arm, and for me, these are mainly at the collecting and dispersal points around the Thames bridges. Dedicated cycle routes avoid other difficulties like the Elephant and Castle. I might feel differently if I had a daily commute in the capital, but then that’s about work. I’ve learned that my 25kph average drops sharply with the stop-start of London, so I entered a diy from home to Limehouse Basin, planning to test the traffic before crossing the river. Total mileage would be 140-odd k, so brevet speed for the first 100, ambling for the last 40 or so, on what I think is an ‘advisory route’, with start point at home, Waltham Abbey the intermediate point and finishing at Limehouse Basin: 103k walking, 110k on the bike, taking in, say 1k for wrong turns, cafe


Arrivée Summer 2016 • No.133

stops, sightseeing and so on. West Suffolk was just getting out of bed; Essex through Finchingfield and Dunmow, heading for school; and Takely to Harlow the ‘late for work’ rush. Harlow in May is an interesting ride. The town’s veins are leafy bike and pedestrian lanes, with long stretches through quiet wooded margins with only occasional glimpses of the housing estates which are the town’s identity. I like the Lea valley cycle route as well, but this time chose to take the B1133 from Parndon to Waltham Abbey, with the choice of hopping over to the Lea Valley cycle route at Broxbourne if the drivers got a bit enthusiastic. The road rises and dips along the valley’s Essex side with views across the river lacework towards Hatfield and Potter’s Bar. As the traffic hotted up towards Waltham I took Fisher’s Green Lane down to the Lea country park which looked beautiful in the May sunshine. I saw the second cuckoo in my life, flying fast upriver, but there were no calls – something I’ve come to miss in recent years on the bike. On to the canal path beside what Gmaps calls the Lee Navigation, always captivating

with its scruffy narrow boats, bone-shaking steep lockside paths and gradual opening of the London skyline. There are some good cafes just off the path and it merits a good explore, particularly near the Thames, but I turned off to Victoria Park the Herts Union and Regents canals, and on to Limehouse. A team-sweatshirted bloke with a strong American accent stopped me to ask if I’d like to be talked to about canals. I’d warmed up at last, and wasn’t going to stop to find out what I probably already knew. I still had a last few ks to complete the 100. Limehouse has lost its heart; the basin is sterile with lifeless yachts, echoing, empty streets, blank-faced apartment buildings, and not a pair of mobile deckshoes in sight: all set to go downhill before the next makeover. I picked up the ‘Tower Gateway’ superhighway in one of the city’s several Horseferry Roads round the corner from the basin, then Cable St to Royal Mint Court with a scramble across to Tower Bridge Approach. The Superhighways get more praise than criticism and look fetching in ‘Sky Blue RAL 5015’ blue, but I found that traffic entering

Arrivée 133 - Summer 2016  

Arrivée is the free magazine of Audax United Kingdom, the long distance cyclists’ association, which represents the Randonneurs Mondiaux in...

Arrivée 133 - Summer 2016  

Arrivée is the free magazine of Audax United Kingdom, the long distance cyclists’ association, which represents the Randonneurs Mondiaux in...