This was always the highlight of the Windmill Club year but, thanks to the pandemic, we hadn’t ridden into London since April 2019. So it was with eager anticipation that we met up once again at the White Water Centre, Waltham Abbey, to cycle down the Lee Valley and reacquaint ourselves with the Thames riverside.
Ten Windmillers – Alan, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Howard, Jeremy, Maurice, Rod, Roger and Simon – set off down the towpath on a sunny Thursday morning, passing under the M25, heading south towards Enfield and Tottenham. As ever, there was plenty to see along the riverside – horses, herons and houseboats – while mindful of the need to duck under bridges, rattle over cobbles and generally keep an eye out for dogs, mooring spikes and oncoming cyclists.
After some 15 miles we left the towpath, Maurice leading the way, on a convoluted but traffic-free route to Royal Docks where we pulled in for coffee and cake at Caffé Fratelli.
From there we took the Emirates Skyline cable car to Greenwich. It’s a pity the future of this spectacular crossing – lofting us high over the river and affording fabulous views of the London skyline – is in doubt, as earlier this year Emirates announced they would not be renewing their sponsorship and would also close the adjacent Aviation Experience. Let’s hope Transport for London finds another sponsor soon.
Alighting on the south side, we followed the cycleway around the Greenwich peninsula to the Old Royal Naval College – pausing for the usual photograph with Nelson – and the Cutty Sark.
Then it was along the south bank via Deptford and Rotherhithe to Tower Bridge. It was here that we tangled with the only heavy traffic of the day but, forming a sizeable, if somewhat ragged peloton, we kept the taxis and trucks at bay until, reaching the north bank we turned eastwards into St Katherine Docks. It was time for lunch – at The Dickens Inn.
Revived by beer and pub nosh, we set off and wound our way through the historic lanes of Wapping and Shadwell to Limehouse Basin. From here we were waterside all the way back, along the Regent’s Canal, Hertford Union Canal and the final 12 miles back up the Lee Valley.
Arriving back at Waltham Abbey, it was with some surprise that we found Deborah and Rod were missing. How on earth can you get lost on the towpath? It turned out they had somehow diverted into a large industrial estate where they were not only accosted, but also roundly abused by an irate security guard. Glad to say, they eventually found their way back to endure some good-natured ribbing from the rest of us.
What a fantastic day! A huge thanks to Maurice for planning everything and leading the way.