3 minute read

The Ground We Stand On: Jaideep Warya

Jaideep Warya cycles again and again from Forest Hill to Surrey Quays

For many years now, my journey to work has followed this routine: after cycling a short stretch of sleepy, residential Sunderland Road, I take a deep breath and plunge headfirst onto the alwaysbusy South Circular, turning off at the first opportunity onto Brockley Road.

Travelling north over what I like to call ‘hit-and-miss’ asphalt, I cycle downhill past schools, supermarkets, churches, petrol stations, cafes, pubs and several outposts of that venerable South London institution, Morley’s. At Brockley Station I take a detour through Coulgate Street, with its numerous cute cafes that open out onto a shared surface of textured concrete blocks in multiple colours.

If I then survive a bizarre and unnecessary double roundabout known as Brockley Cross, I get to cycle over more asphalt 3 on Shardeloes Road, flanked by seemingly endless rows of terraces and cramped trees, leading to a junction on Lewisham Way, where I turn left to go past Goldsmiths University and onto Clifton Rise.

So far, so asphalt. But here things get interesting, both ground-wise and journey-wise; for Clifton Rise is, as the name suggests, an inappropriately steep little stretch of road paved with reddish-brown tumbled concrete setts. It is inappropriate not because of its steepness, but because at the bottom of this ramp-like incline there is always a terrifying hundred-yard stretch of reversing cars, speeding cyclists and children being dragged dreary-eyed to Childeric Primary School, with mischievous pets in tow.

Having somehow negotiated this, I cross a line of dropped kerbs (a cyclist’s best friends) into Fordham Park and onto well-set resin-bonded gravel which makes a pleasant crumbling sound as I cycle over it. At a junction in Fordham Park I slide over smooth polished concrete blocks (risky in the rain with thin tyres) and then over tactile paving at a pedestrian crossing on Sanford Street, after which I’m back on asphalt for the length of pedestrianized Woodpecker Road.

I then enter Folkestone Gardens and get to cycle a short distance on a designated cycle route (Quietway1) which is hilly, winding and surfaced partly in smooth, red macadam 8 . At Trendley’s Junction north of the park, I trundle over more smooth, polished concrete blocks and then it’s asphalt again all the way to the office.

In the height of summer I cycle faster, not weighed down by layers of clothing. In winter, when the snow homogenises all surfaces into a single, treacherous mix of white ice and muddy slush 9 , I suddenly become grateful for traffic lights, where I catch a breath and warm myself in the heat generated by the engines of London Buses.

In heavy rainstorms, I shelter under large old trees with dense canopies. Every day, though, I get to test my brakes at Clifton Rise, solve the Brockley double-roundabout riddle and, best of all, receive thanks from several fine lollipop men and women for not running over schoolchildren in my haste to try and reach work on time.

Jaideep Warya is a landscape architect at the Landscape Partnership.