The second day of this ride did not start very auspiciously. I was awake most of the night with toothache – another story – and at 8 in the morning it was pouring with rain. As agreed though we walked up through the puddles to the cycle repair shop cum cafe Look Mum No Hands and had breakfast of coffee croissant and some of their porridge which is never quite sweet enough for me but graced with fruit.
Mercifully by the time we had finished the rain had all but stopped, so with a supply of Ibuprufen along with a puncture repair kit we set off. We decided to delay the central London bridges for a sunday when the traffic would be quieter and start instead on nearby London Bridge going over south
then back north over Tower bridge
Once on the north bank going East you are slightly confused with a string of expensive estates butting onto the river and blocking a riverside path. You end up snaking through cobbled streets lined with impressive new buildings, beautifully restored wharfs and more estate agents offices than you could shake a stick at. Ah, so this is where Wapping is kept. Our plan was to take the scary (just do it to tick the box) Rotherhithe tunnel back south but somehow we missed it, heading towards Canary Wharf then going down the enjoyable Greenwich foot tunnel
These tunnels and lifts remind me of the Myst computer game, especially the domed entrances
I need to include a photo of Brompton:
So from the Cutty Sark its down by the Naval College to the Trafalgar pub that we’ve visited before. The drinks are ok but food is unremarkable.
After a light lunch of some meat, chunks of bread and a dish of mayonnaise we kept on eastwards toward the O2 dome near where we could catch the cable car over to the north bank.
Near where this ship was pouring concrete across a huge shute into a vast sandy building site
we came upon a man (from the north east) driving a mini. We asked how he managed to find himself in that impossible space where the only way in or out is via narrow footpaths. He said he arrived by boat and was looking for the way home. We did not think to ask him ‘which boat?’ After we left him we heard him ask someone on the building site the way out. They seemed as puzzled as we were. And as far as I know he may still be there, with his family back in Newcastle making the best of life without him.
Here’s the cable car:
It felt very cool just waving an Oyster card onto the gates to get into this exciting way of crossing the river. Usually I sleepily slam an Oyster card on the machine on those mornings when I go to work by tube. Warning for those who are afraid of heights! The cable cars are a long way off the ground. Strangely I hadn’t expected this so experienced some stomach-tightening moments of terror on the way up.
Here’s a view of the O2 and the Thames clipper that we caught home.
On the north bank again we crossed over the DLR and past the Tate and Lyle factory
to the Woolwich ferry. There are two boats constantly gong to and fro carrying a few foot passengers and mostly trucks and we saw three empty double deck busses queuing to go back north. One of the men working on the ferry showed us early morning pictures he’d taken of the Shard lit by a single shaft of light. Once back on the south we cycled around the corner to the entrance to the second foot tunnel, as the guide says, a longer and rather leaky crossing.
Because we weren’t going further down the river we redoubled our steps in the tunnel and set off on the Thames path back toward the O2 where we planned to jump on the river bus back to London Bridge and go home. Unfortunately the riverside path comes to an abrupt end half a mile from Woolwich and you are directed onto some busy roads on what’s labelled as the ‘interim’ path. You have to work out yourself how to get back down to the river which you can at the interesting Thames barrier.
By the highly visiterised barrier site is an interesting map of the complete course of the Thames which you can walk
Finally we caught the Thames Clipper home, with some dedicated bicycle racks (for only 4 or 6 bikes in total I think) at the back.
To state the obvious, the eastern stretches of the river feel very different to the area around Teddington and Richmond. its much more of a working river and you witness the huge amount of development still going on, particularly east of Greenwich.
The crossing we didn’t do was the Tilbury ferry. I think that will need its own trip, getting out there by train, perhaps by c2c from Fenchurch Street and then back from Gravesend station to St. Pancras. From Tilbury there are freight services to Gothenburg, one of the dwindling number of ferries to northern Europe. It even says they take passengers on special request – interesting.