Leader: Geoff Stilwell
Distance: 17.7 km 11 miles
It was great to see so many old friends waiting for me at Sidings. I was a lttle tardy. (You know how it is, you’re just about to leave home and the phone rings.) There was Chris, Barbara, Nicola, Anna, Toby and their children Ellen and Eric, and a new rider, Prudence. Anna, Toby and the children were going to cycle to West Hampstead Thameslink and get the train to Hendon and meet us on the route near there. Caspar and Eve arrived and soon after 7 of us set off.
As we were all competent cyclists, and it was quiet, we started the ride on the walkway called Wayne Kirkum Way leading up to Mill Lane. We used the pathway between University College and Hampstead School sports fields up through the estate where all the roads are named after ranges of hills. We circumnavigated Clitterhouse Playing Fields, deciding not to use the direct path with the rather tight swing gate, instead riding along a short section of pavement along Claremont Road and into the Tesco’s car park and exiting onto the busy Tilling Way where we walked safely across the road before the roundabout rather than around it.
We took the walk/cycle way across the North Circular to the Brent Cross Shopping Centre. We were able to get around the top of Brent Cross, avoiding most of the traffic, then into Sturgess Park. Near there we me up with the young family who’d been waiting for a while. The next busy part, although it was relatively easy, was crossing the A5 (Edgware Road) into Cool Oak Lane and onto the pathway alongside the Welsh Harp.
The Brent Reservoir was built in the early-to-mid 1800s to supply water to the Grand Union and Regent’s Canals. It acquired the name Welsh Harp from the Old Welsh Harp Tavern on the Edgware Road. This and the reservoir became great centres for pleasure and recreation in the latter half of the 19th century.
We stopped at an observation point, took photos, enjoyed views across the reservoir and watched the waterfowl, swans, geese and ducks, closing inquisitively, possibly thinking we had food. We continued along the pathway, westward, enjoying the occasional glimpse of yachts sailing on the reservoir through the trees and saying hello to all the dogwalkers.
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. After our drinks and pastries we decided to have a look at the Aquatic Centre. Here the children, and many of the adults, were enthralled by the many tropical fish, coy carp. We even found Nemo the eponymous clown fish.
Back down Birchen Grove we notiated side roads, across the River Brent which flows out of the reservoir, to the North Circular. We used the north side pavement westward for a short stretch until we found an underpass which took us under the busy road and up near Neasden. Crossing the busy Neasden Lane and Dudden Hill Lane safely, considerate drivers here letting us cross in front of them, we found the south-western entrance to Gladstone Park.
We headed for the playground in the middle of the park so Ellen and Eric could expend some more energy on the roundabouts and swings while the rest of us chatted and enjoyed the sun coming out.
The route from the park back to Kilburn is along some lovely quiet, wide roads known as Quietway 3, mainly down Chatsworth Road. Here Caspar and Eve left us as they live Willesden way. Prudence made her own way home ahead of us. Part way along Maygrove Road we stopped at the Peace Park to say our farewells to Chris, Nicola and Barbara who were going to cycle together back to Kentish Town and Tufnell Park.
Not the sunniest of days but a very enjoyable and leisurely ride around some lovely parts of north London. The sun came out towards the end. Thank you, everyone, for your company.
More Photos on Flickr