Leader: Geoff Stilwell 17.13 km 10.6 miles
It was very gratifying to find 10 people waiting for me a Sidings Community Centre when I cycled up at the start time, and so keen! There were seven women: Juliet, Esther, Renata, Celeste, Sharon, Vivienne and Ruth; two men: Yves and Alex; and one boy: Leo.
There was the usual tyre pumping before we set off by which time the weather had brightened considerably.
Using the pathway between University College and Hampstead School sports fields we made our way through the back streets of Cricklewood to Clitterhouse Playing Fields where me met up with two more men: Will and Jon (now thirteen in all, including me). Around the fields, across a tiny stream, which is part of the River Brent, and through a rather tight swing gate (note to Barnet) we came out between the Hendon Leisure Centre and Tesco Brent Cross. Continuing around Tesco’s car park and the exit route around Toys R Us we came out on Tilling Way.
Just after the flyover for the A41 we found a walk/cycle way across the North Circular to the Brent Cross Shopping Centre. We were able to get around Brent Cross, avoiding most of the traffic, then came out of the back of one of the car parks and mostly on back streets across the A5 (Edgware Road) into Cool Oak Lane and onto the pathway alongside the Welsh Harp.
Here we stopped at an observation point and enjoyed the views across the reservoir and the bird life that had come to investigate us. We continued along the pathway, westward, enjoying the occasional glimpse of yachts sailing on the reservoir through the trees.
On the western end we made our way up to the Birchen Grove Garden Centre where we parked our bikes together and went in for welcome refreshments while a couple of the men kept guard over the bikes. Vivien had miscalculated the time and had to leave us. Fortunately she had a folding bike so ordered a cab to get her home. After our drinks and pastries we decided to have a look at the Aquatic Centre. Here we were fascinated by the tropical fish, coy carp, turtles, etc. We even found Nemo and Dory!
Back down Birchen Grove we crossed the River Brent again, significantly larger this time, and along side roads to the North Circular. Yves left us here as he lived nearby. We used the north side pavement westward for a short stretch until we found an underpass which brought us under and up near Neasden. Crossing the busy Neasden Lane and Dudden Hill Lane we found the south-western entrance to Gladstone Park. Gently following the pathways (which are being widened and resurfaced) through the centre of the park we came out at the south-east corner. During the last stretch along a few more side roads several others pealed off homeward. I did accompany the remaining four to Swiss Cottage where we finally said goodbye.
Thanks to all the riders who came and made it an excellent afternoon doing what we love in great company.