Leader: Geoff Stilwell 17.13 km 10.6 miles
The weather forecasts had predicted rain and Sunday morning had certainly proved them right. It seemed to settle around lunchtime but cyclists had been put off. However, three of us turned up at Sidings, John, Ellen and myself. Apologies had been sent by text from three local families so it seemed like three was the final number.
Five minutes before we were due to set off there were a couple of heavy showers (also predicted). Sheltering under a tree we were wondering whether we would be going anywhere. After the brief showers the sun came out and the next decision was where to go. There were a number of possible routes depending on the capability of the cyclists who came. As we were all relatively experienced cyclists we decided on the Welsh Harp ride as John and Ellen hadn’t cycled that route.
As we cycled north from West Hampstead and through residential Cricklewood we remarked that the streets looked very pretty in their autumn colours.
The A406 has always been a considerable barrier to cyclists and pedestrians through the years. Although there are walkways across the North Circular, the big supermarkets and retail parks along Tilling Way on the south side and Brent Cross Shopping Centre on the north side, present even more obstacles with the sheer volumes of traffic. A couple of the roundabouts, the one by Tescos and the other at the end of Prince Charles Drive at the south west corner of Brent Cross, proved intimidating. The last time we cycled the route we were a much larger group and a more noticable presence on the roads. As a group of only three cyclists, we were a little bit exposed.
We negotiated the busy roads and roundabouts with patience and escaped out of Brent Cross through a car park and onto the quiet back streets of West Hendon, across the Edgware Road onto Cool Oak Lane, where we turned onto the track beside the Brent Reservoir.
This is a lovely spot to enjoy the peace and quiet of a country park. Looking south across the reservoir we could make out the sight and faint sound of the traffic on the North Circular.
We passed a few families out for a Sunday walk as we followed the winding path westward across the northern edge of the reservoir. At the western end is the Birchen Grove Garden Centre. We enjoyed a snack of tea and scones before we set off again down Birchen Grove back towards the dreaded North Circular.
This time we were able to use an underpass to avoid the traffic on the North Circular. There were still a couple of busy roads to cross: Neasden Lane and Dudden Hill Lane until we found ourselves at the entrance to Gladstone Park.
The paths around and across Gladstone Park have been newly tarmaced which made our ride smoother. We stopped at the bridge over the railway line that disects the park. John was fascinated by the line with its antique signal box and looked up the details on his mobile. He found it was one of the last remaining non-electrified, semaphore-signalled lines in London, used only for freight and excursion trains but forming a possible future link to Old Oak Common.
At this point we were looking at the architecture around the park covering several decades and including the splendid Italianate chimney of the Dollis Hill reservoir and pumping station. In the sky was a rainbow just visible as it came to earth.
It took just another 10 minutes to cycle from there to the Kilburn High Road where John and Ellen caught the Overground train from Brondesbury.
Despite the lack of numbers and the heavy traffic around Brent Cross, we did have an enjoyable afternoon’s cycling in surprisingly good weather.