Derek Harpin, AKA Mack, is a Chain Gang regular. He’s also a keen cyclist and walker when at home in Godalming, and arranges loads of 1-day walks and rides. Recently there was a ride arranged in London, so I was delighted to be able to tag along.
We met at Borough Market, where most of the group were taking advantage of bizarre market traditions to enjoy a pint in The Market Porter before it closes at 08.30 in the morning. Not me, I hasten to add – that’s a bit early for me, but the scene was set.
We cycled out through Bermondsey and along the Thames all the way to Dartford Bridge, and it was amazing. This won’t mean much to people not familiar with London, but you can follow a special cycle route all the way along the river to Dartford.
We passed Canary Wharf, the Isle of Dogs, and arrived in Greenwich. We went past Woolwich with the ferries dashing across the Thames, and cycled all the way round the Millennium Dome (which apparently is called the O2 Centre now, but I wasn’t fooled). A Jobsworth took great delight in ordering us all off our bikes at the dome, and we all complied. Astonishing. And I saw the Thames Flood Barrier for the first time.
I’d recommend the route to anybody – I think we followed National Cycle Route 4, which turned into National Cycle Route 1. So, unlike our French and Italian rides, you can’t even get lost, just follow the signs. Magic.
But as we approached Dartford the good old British spring weather arrived. So, freezing cold and dripping wet we arrived at a lovely pub in Dartford. Despite Mack’s best efforts, we couldn’t be roused, that was the end of the ride, with a train back into London.
One last thing – Mack’s a brilliant bike mechanic, and on his Raleigh tourer there are two little braze-ons on the rear stays where you can clip in two spokes just in case you need them. This was a factory-standard feature, how wonderful. I want some.