Click on any of the photos to see an enlargement.
Paul Davis arrived by 9.30 to register the riders, who started to arrive from 10 am. The cycle trainers Richard Riddle, Jose Roa and Toby Jacobs were also available to check the road-worthiness of people’s bikes. Soon after that our police escort arrived: five officers and PCSOs (Ian, Marie, David, Phil and Murat).
There was a congenial atmosphere as riders greeted one another – may were old hands from previous years. We were pleased to have Cllr Julian Fulbrook to help with the marshalling and encourage the weaker riders. We were joined by Cllr Awale Olad who was available to participate in the whole ride this time. Greater London Assembly Member Murad Qureshi was the first person to do this ride on a Boris Bike.
Before we set off, Stefano briefed the marshalls (the cycle trainers with Julian Fulbrook and CCC’s Alex, Jenny and Jean) and then Paul Braithwaite spoke to the assembled riders.
All the previous week, the meteorologists has forecast rain all day and it did rain heavily overnight Saturday night, so far fewer people joined us this year , having looked out the window on Sunday morning to very dark skies. Last year we counted 63 riders as we started (but that was a very fine day) whereas this time we counted out 31 riders as we set off.
It wasn’t raining as we set off down Judd Street and then east along Guilford Street to the Islington border, where we turned south. We rode down the back streets via Hatton Garden and Leather Lane and across High Holborn for a short spell in the City of London. Having looped round via Fleet Street we soon crossed back into Camden and reached Lincolns Inn Fields for our first ‘comfort’ stop. Progress had been rapider than usual with the smaller number of riders.
Crossing High Holborn from Leather Lane Lincolns Inn Fields Lincolns Inn Fields
We set off eastwards and went across Kingsway (a tricky crossing with a very short signal time) and then rode through the colourful Covent Garden area to the Westminster border in Charing Cross Road, where we turned north. The short section along Charing Cross Road and round the construction works at Giles Circus was potentially difficult but the marshalls looked after us.
We turned into Fitzrovia via Windmill Street and the went north again up Charlotte Street. Fitzrovia was quiet at this time (soon after noon). We crossed Euston Road at the junction of Great Portland Street and reached Regents Park via Albany Street and Chester Gate. Then we stopped for a rest and bought some a coffee before riding up the Broadwalk: a few hundred metres on a beautiful greenway skirting the Zoo.
We crossed Prince Albert Road and then turned into the normally peaceful back streets of St Johns Wood. But at some point, but while we were waiting in Woronzov Road for the back riders to catch up, a rather aggressive driver raced round the corner from Queen’s Grove and blasted on his horn. He hadn’t notice our police escort and was very surprised to find himself confronted by three police officers. Pity we missed this photo op!
We rode the length of Boundary Road – which marks the Camden-Westminster border and then turned north up Kilburn High Road to follow the Camden-Brent border. This is always the worts part of the ride because Kilburn High Road consists even on Sunday mornings of a perpetual traffic jam. This year it was made even worse by a burst water main and additional temporary traffic lights. The group became widely separated and then there was a very sudden downpour – or accurately more of a deluge. Some of us got very wet digging out waterproofs and struggling into them, only to find that others were sheltering under the railway bridges. We joined them and waited for the rain to stop, which it did quite quickly but left very big deep puddles on the road.
One rider had the misfortune to be thrown from his bike when the wheel went into a big pothole under the water. Fortunately he soon recovered and was able to complete the ride.
We were relieved to turn into Mill Lane and then into quiet residential streets leading to the path round Brondesbury Sports Ground. This path winds round the sports fields, touching Farm Avenue to reach the Victorian Hampstead cemetery with its elaborate tombs (see photo on the right). We refilled our water bottles at the tap in the Cemetery.
Leaving by the northern gate into Fortune Green Road, we went down the hill to West End Lane and then turned left to use the safe crossing over Finchley Road between Lyncroft Gardens and Heath Drive. We had to regain the height lost by climbing the most substantial hill of the day through various Kidderpore roads/gardens to reach Sandy Lane: another greenway that runs between West Heath and Golders Hill Park. Julian kindly helped a rider with a less puff by providing a push.
At about 1:15 we entered Golders Hill Park, crossing in he borough of Barnet for our well-earned picnic. We parked our bikes, everyone arriving one after the other: no stragglers. Most of us had brought sandwiches but justified using the tables by supplementing them with ice cream and coffee.
The lunch period was very sunny and a very congenial time.
We set off off soon after 2 pm and rode round the Heath extension and along the salubrious Ingram Avenue with its expensive-looking mansionsand micro-climate! After a spell along Hampstead Lane we arrived in Highgate Village – the highest point of the ride at 136 metres above sea level. The next stage was a continuous down hill along the Islington border (Dartmouth Park Hill, Brecknock Road and Your Way to Grays Inn Road): it seemed to pass very fast. A few people from Islington left us during this stage.
A diminished group of 23 riders arrived back at the starting point of our circuit at Camden Town Hall by about 3.15 pm. We said farewell to our friendly police escort who had worked hard throughout the ride helping to keep the motor traffic away from the riders and ensuring that the people at the back were not left behind. We are very pleased that Inspector Dixon had agreed once again that five of his team would support the ride. The presence of their uniforms appears to have a very beneficial effect on other road users (when they notice them).
We also said farewell to the cycle trainers who had started early in the morning with the task of checking bikes and then as we rode the route, they were vigilant in safeguarding the side roads at the junctions to give us a swift safe passage through with help from Alex and Julian.
Paul led the remaining riders on the “route up the middle of Camden” and finally we arrived at Hampstead Old Town Hall on Haverstock Hill by about 4 pm. We congratulated the Pearson family (Luke, Simon and Diane) having completed all six of these annual rides.
Photos by Tobias Brunt, Paul Braithwaite and Jean Dollimore