Leader: Geoff Stilwell
Distance: 17.1 miles 27.5 km (if you started in West Hampstead)
James Brander, one of the regular ride leaders with Camden Cyclists, suggested recently that the second weekend in February is very often quite a nice weekend, weather-wise, and a good time for a ride. I decided to test this out and planned the first ride of the season. The Saturday was pretty dismal but forecasts for the Sunday were more promising, chilly but dry.
Sunday morning came and the skies were blue so, encouraged, I rode to Sidings to meet with fellow riders. Not a soul! I waited and ten minutes later along came Michael making it worthwhile. I knew there would be others meeting us further along the ride but at least I’d have company for the first section.
Michael and I, despite having to climb some steepish hills getting up to Hampstead Lane and over the top of Hampstead Heath, made good time getting to the second meeting place, where Southwood Lane meets Archway Road. Shortly three other riders joined us: Steven, Nicola and Will.
I told them that the planned route involved going down a long hill and then climbing up the hill into Alexandra Park. Both Nicola and Steven suggested another route which stayed (more or less) on the same level. I had assumed there must be another way up to the palace but I hadn’t had a chance to reconnoitre a different way but I decided to take a chance.
Just a short distance up the Muswell Hill Road we turned off onto the Parkland Walk, a section of old railway track that has been turned into a walking and cycling pathway and nature reserve. The views from here are just as spectacular as the Hampstead and Alexandra Palace heights.
We arrived at a back entrance to Alexandra Park in a much better state than if we’d cycled my original route. It was good to explore parts of the park that I’d never seen before. We cycled around the front of the palace itself noticing many people coming to the entrance for the Vegan Life Exhibition. The subsequent conversations led to discovering how many more people these days are considering, if not vegan, meat free diets.
We cycled around to the café which is situated beside the boating pond. Here we had a snack, soup and/or coffee, and the usual taking of photographs. We all had to take one so that no-one was left out (although Will didn’t want to appear in any).
Setting off again we cycled down the hill to the eastern exit of the park. Before exiting we took a pathway which doubles back somewhat and then heads south and comes out in the back streets of Hornsey. Continuing west and south we cycled through an estate parallel to the New River and out onto the High Street. Using a pathway through a churchyard we come out on Tottenham Lane. South again up another fairly steep hill we turn into a main road revealing, straight ahead, the entrance to Finsbury Park.
Hear again we made use of the café, another coffee and a bowl of chips and potato wedges which we shared. Very good value. More good conversation and warming food and drink.
It’s a literal stones throw from the café to the park exit leading to another Parkland Walk. This section goes through Stroud Green, Crouch End and up to Archway Road.
Here I had intended to cycle up Jacksons Lane which is another steep hill. I was persauded to try an alternative which, although starting off downhill, was eventually almost as steep and probably longer. We came out on Highgate Hill opposite Waterlow Park but turned off onto Dartmouth Park Hill turning west again down Chester Road and St Albans Road back to Highgate Road. Here Michael and I said ‘fare thee well’ to the other three. Rather than take the cycleway across Hampstead Heath We cycled down to Gordon House Road which was another deviation from the original route to avoid the hill at Pond Street.
A brilliant day, all in all. Shame more riders didn’t join us. When I uploaded the route I was surprised to see that we’d climbed 1,191 feet and still averaged 10mph. Thanks to all the riders who did come. I hope you enjoyed it, I did.