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06 May: Waltham Abbey to Greenwich

posted 9 May 2012, 15:01 by South Herts   [ updated 13 Jan 2017, 23:51 ]
A change from the usual Hertfordshire lanes saw us venturing into London on traffic-free routes in an attempt not to get lost amongst the maze of routes along the Lea Valley.  Fortunately, I had done a recce ride a month before with Richard, but that didn't stop me taking a wrong turn over a lock soon after the start.  Perhaps the blimp sighted over Enfield or the Lynx helicopter patrolling the skies had distracted me?  Despite this we soon made it to the excellent cafe in Springfield House, near Stamford Hill for a bit of ethnic nosh and to warm up from the arctic chill outside.
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I was nervous about the next leg of our route along the Lea Valley, although Sustrans had assured me the security closures on this stretch of National Cycle Route 1 had now been delayed until early July.  So we were soon passing the Olympic Stadium, under The Greenway and onto Three Mills Island.  Here the Customs House, the Millers House, Clock Mill and House Mill, Britain's oldest standing mill, form the 18th century streetscape.  It is a water-powered tidal mill and milling has taken place on this site since the 11th century.  Gunpowder and corn were milled here in the 16thC, latterly grain for gin distilling.

6 May 2012

Heading south again we used the new 'flyunder' at the Bow flyover, soon reaching Bow Locks (which Giles attempted to cycle over), the first (or last) locks on the Lea before the tidal Thames.  There were several groups of cyclists exploring the cycle routes around here and we were stopped by one group who seemed enjoy being completely lost.   Next we were 'cycling on water' along the floating towpath, with its colourful lighting, under the Blackwall Tunnel approach road and along the Limehouse Cut to Limehouse Basin.  Here we emerged onto Narrow Street, passing some ancient warehouses and joined the Thames Path to the Isle of Dogs.  Thwarted by a sudden closure of the path, we gentlemen hauled our bikes up a tall flight of steps while Tracey used the lift, then we dodged through some back streets in the shadow of Canary Wharf to reach Mudchute Park (via the Asda car park) for lunch at Mudchute Kitchen.  Being a bank holiday weekend it was fairly busy, but I yielded to popular demand for an excursion to cross the Thames via the foot tunnel to Greenwich.  The Cutty Sark is truly impressive, now floating on a glass sea.  Not quite so impressive was HMS Ocean, where the helicopters were based for the Olympics.

Retracing to Narrow Street we now took the route through Mile End Park, with its gardens, water features and sculptures.  The Green Bridge links two halves of the park that are separated by the Mile End Road - we hardly noticed the road below as the bridge is planted with trees and shrubs.  Joining the Regents canal we emerged into Victoria Park, the oldest municipal park in the world.  This is where the cycle parking for the Olympics will be sited - it's a long walk from here.  Back on the canal and under some scary bridges we rejoined the Lea Valley, stopping to view some miniature bronze statues, then we followed NCR1 through Walthamstow Marshes, passing an equestrian centre where they were playing horse handball, to the cafe at Springfield Marina.  After this we were happy to retrace back to Waltham Abbey, where some had a good ride back to St Albans and others took the car home after an unusual, interesting and enjoyable ride.

Jon C