The Next Ride: Sunday 1 July 2012 – Croydon to Greenwich

28 June 2012

Sunday 1 July 2012:

Croydon to Greenwich


Shirley – Elmers End – Catford – Ladywell – Lewisham


This is the fourth and final leg of the Route 21 “trilogy”. It is the culmination of a long series of rides and bits of rides that has taken us from Eastbourne to Heathfield, Eridge, East Grinstead, Three Bridges, Gatwick Airport, Horley, Redhill, Nutfield Marsh and Caterham. 

At the end of the ride from Gatwick on 15 May last year we left the national route to whoosh down a whopping great hill into Caterham. Starting now where we left off then would mean struggling back up that hill, which didn’t sound too promising, so I have cheated and cut out about 7 miles of NCN21; we will instead cycle eastwards from East Croydon station and meet it in a wood in Spring Park, near Shirley.1 Then we turn northwards and, after negotiating a few quiet suburban roads, we reach the valley of the Pool River in Cator Park near Beckenham, and most of the rest is on good, hard-surfaced, flat, off-road cycle paths. We’ll go through an amazing number of parks; some semi-wild like South Norwood Country Park, and others that have arisen as a result of the “de-industrialisation” of the Pool and Ravensbourne rivers. (This section of route 21 is in fact called the Waterlink Way, in recognition of the watery theme.)

There are no suitable pubs that I have yet discovered, but at around the half-way point on the ride there is an Indian restaurant that does an “eat-as-much-as-you can” buffet; I put out feelers about this and have not had any “show-stopping” responses so I think that is where we will be eating.  (Now confirmed. IB)

After arrival in Greenwich we will have a number of options. Unfortunately one of these is not a train from Greenwich to London Bridge, since they don’t seem to be running. But we can cycle to nearby New Cross Gate station, where trains will be running every half hour to East Croydon to connect with the London-Brighton trains. Alternatively the more energetic among us might want to cycle the Thames Path to London Bridge; or we can even take a boat. Before that we can, if we want, visit the Greenwich Observatory and National Maritime Museum, or the Cutty Sark.

Length: About 17 miles.

Duration: About 4½ hours.

Undulations: Very few.

Getting there: Meet at East Croydon Station (outside ticket hall by tram stop) at 11.00. From Brighton, take the 9.45 to London Bridge or the 10.00 or 10.10 to Victoria. For the Londoners, there are frequent trains from Victoria and London Bridge.

Getting home: See above. Frequent trains from Victoria and London Bridge.


1 Those purists who, like me, hanker after doing the whole route might perhaps like to join me in a future “gap-filling” endeavour.




Cycling from London to John O’Groats in eight days

28 June 2012


I belong to a night-riding cycling club, based in London, called The Fridays (aka FNRttC, which stands for Friday Night Ride to the Coast, ). Our normal routine is to set off from Hyde Park Corner at midnight (so strictly speaking the rides take place on Saturdays!) and ride to somewhere by the sea (Brighton, Southend, Whitstable, Bognor, Newhaven, to name a few) for breakfast. Some hardy souls then cycle home again, while the rest of us take the train. This year our organiser Simon decided we should do a Tour, and settled on London to John O’Groats, starting with a night ride and continuing during daylight hours over eight days.

So on Friday 15 June a large group of club members set off from Wellington Arch as usual, but this time instead of heading south or east we went north. Many riders turned out to do the first leg with us, turning back at breakfast time or elsewhere along the route – there were 30 of us intending to go all the way to Scotland. We had a support van (driven by a club member, a gem of a bloke called Ian) which carried all our luggage for us, and we had to book our own accommodation from an approved list for each overnight stop. The club operates a well-oiled system of rolling waymarking and tail-ending, so no one ever gets lost or left behind, and techies deal with mechanical problems at the roadside. The van had to do several detours to bike shops as the ride progressed, due to some major problems such as rear mechs disintegrating or seatposts snapping, aside from the usual broken spokes and punctures. I’m very pleased to report that my lovely bike was trouble free throughout!

So from Hyde Park Corner we headed up the Edgware Road and out of town in the darkness. Night riding is fantastic – hardly any traffic, so we often have dual carriageways to ourselves in the early hours, and only the odd heckle (mostly good-natured, such as ‘Oi it’s the tour dee France!’) from late-night clubbers. This time of year it’s light by 4 am, and we had breakfast at about 7.30 am at a Tesco in Wellingborough that opened its café early especially for us. Then we pressed on through Saturday in good weather up some hilly stuff around Oakham, including the edges of Rutland Water where we saw an osprey’s nest, to arrive at Bingham in Nottinghamshire by the end of the day – a total of about 125 miles. Not too tired to go out for a meal and a few beers though, and we all slept very well after such a long distance!

On the Sunday we rode 80 miles from Bingham to York, heading through Sherwood Forest, using some A roads where the traffic wasn’t much of a problem and the surface was good and fast. York is a lovely place to stay and to cycle (very flat if you choose carefully) and a club member who lives there came out the following morning (Monday) to join us for a couple of hours as we headed on to Castleside near Consett in County Durham, a total of 78 miles that day.

Then the easy stuff came to an end, as on Tuesday we encountered what had been billed as ‘The Hell of the North’: cycling across Northumberland National Park which is just hill after hill after hill! No sooner have you reached one summit than you see the little cars in the distance coming down the next mountain you have to climb! Some of us did a bit of walking, but just on the most severe undulations. In deference to the amount of climbing we only covered about 65 miles that day, but it was very hard cycling and along the A68 too which was a mixed blessing. We crossed Hadrian’s Wall, and cursed the Romans for their habit of building roads that just go straight over the hills rather than round them! We were all ready for our beds in Jedburgh that night, where an amazing hotel owner looked after us supremely well and even did a pile of laundry for us overnight (thank you so much, Glenbank House Hotel).

Wednesday saw us heading up the A68 again, branching off and then rejoining it, pausing for elevenses at Lauder on our way to the Forth Bridge. We weaved our way through Edinburgh, ruined temporarily by major works to install an unpopular tramway. We stopped for lunch beneath the bridge itself in pretty Queensferry then braved the side winds to ride over the road bridge and on to Kinross for our overnight stop – a total of about 75 miles for the day.

On Thursday we covered 85 miles from Kinross to Newtonmore, passing through Perth, crossing the silvery Tay on a private bridge and heading through Pitlochrie and Dalwhinnie. Heavy rain and a cold headwind that afternoon made the going very tough for us. Until that point we’d been very lucky with the weather, avoiding the worst of the very bad rain which either went ahead of us or opened up a little dry avenue for us to ride through. Worse was forecast for the Friday however, with signs up on local motorways advising people not to travel. So we decided to make a very early start and try to outrun the rain.

We did get away by 7 am, but a major mechanical problem caused us to lose our time advantage and later in the day the rain caught us with a vengeance. This was the day I was at a very low ebb, feeling that I could not go on and wouldn’t be able to do the final leg to John O’Groats the following day. The famous camaraderie of cyclists came to my rescue, however, as some stronger riders formed a little peleton around me and gave me a good tow along, accompanied by lots of encouragement and feeding me jelly babies and bits of flapjack. One thing a cycle tourist learns very quickly is that you must keep eating, an enormous amount, mostly starchy junk, and whether you feel hungry or not! Thanks to such a wonderfully selfless support system I made it to Tain in one piece, a trip that day of around 78 miles.

The next morning I felt much better, after a good meal and some restorative beer the night before, and the whole group made the final leg of 85 miles from Tain across Dornoch Firth to John O’Groats. The last 20 miles were in heavy rain against a fierce headwind, across a bleak burnt-heather moorland. JoG is nothing to write home about, as many people have said, so we had whisky in the pub, a photocall on the slipway, and then headed back 18 miles south to Wick for the night.

Jenny, Susie, Claudine & Miranda at the top of Berrievale

A total trip of about 670 miles, involving 10,600 metres of ascent, and everyone who set out managed the whole distance. Our steeds included a titanium tandem, a clunky hybrid with suspension, a very cool recumbent trike, a Moulton with lots of gears, and (maddest of all) a Brompton with only six! We entertained and supported each other in a way that would make the Clarions proud, and we all had a blast of a time. Would I do it again? Probably, but I’d want to take longer, do fewer miles per day, and have more time to stop and stare along the way – although with that particular group of friends I’d almost certainly go anywhere.

Oh and on the way back to London guess what happened? Our coach full of cyclists got a puncture! You couldn’t make it up.



[Lots more photos at]

18 June 2012

18 June 2012

Dear fellow members and friends

Such is life in 21st century Britain!  Thus I ended my introductory piece in the last newsletter, complaining about the lack of definite info about possible bike-on-train bans yesterday. (There were no problems in fact – see Tessa’s report below)   But I didn’t then know the half of it!

It now seems that there may be a ban on all bikes on all  trains during the Olympics – which will mean that the rides on 29th July and 12th August will have to be local ones not dependent on the railways. What a good way to help promote all the things the Olympics is supposed to stand for! Our resident rail expert, Jim, whose ride on 29th July is likely to have to be changed, is looking into it –  and all should be clear by the next newsletter.

 Sue (aka Sikka) is interested in the possibility of organising mid-week rides on Thursdays – which sounds like a very good idea – at least for those who are free then.   If she sends me details of any rides planned that we need to know about before the next newsletter I’ll circulate them straightaway.

 Meanwhile, I’ve had a couple of emails from Peter Roscoe about a special Bury Clarion hill-climb event (just right for Fred, I thought) associated with the Olympics (with any proceeds beyond cost going to the Paralympics Association ) I don’t really think that any of us are likely to be interested in competing but I believe it’s good to have news from time to time about what other sections are up to.  And I’m sure that we wish Bury (home of some of the best black pudding – or boudin if you’re one of the more gently-nurtured amongst us) in the world. So I’m attaching the poster for the event together with this newsletter.  Hope you find it interesting.

And there’s another interesting message received recently. This time from John.  Here it is:

Returning to the UK yesterday from two weeks in Italy to my surprise I met three members of the Fenland Clarion on board the same aircraft. They had been on a trip covering a bit of Italy and France. Good though it was evasive tactics were necessary on at least one Alpine climb due to snow. Somewhere near the Telegraph as far as I could judge. Fenland have in excess of 100 members and seem to indulge in most aspects of cycling. They knew about the Clarion in Italy but had not been in contact with them. Going backwards and forwards to the same destination (Turin) each year I might contact the Italians and learn more about their activities. I have the impression they spend most of their time in the racing sphere offering training rides. We will see!

John Clinton

I’m hoping that the next edition of this newsletter will include a report from Jenny of her epic night ride to John O’Groats.  Watch this space!


The Last Ride –Tessa’s Report

18 June 2012

Saturday 16 June – Centurion Way, Dell Quay, Chichester Ship Canal.

Jim, Roger, Sean and Sue boarded the train at Brighton station. By the time Tessa joined them at Hove a lively debate/discussion had taken place around the subject of the Queen, prompted by Jim’s comments in the last report. It was all over by Shoreham when Tessa actually joined them in the carriage, having been ousted from hers by a wheelchair arrival.

1. The Start

We were met by Ian and promptly set off on the Centurion Way after a passer by took our photo. A slight delay while Ian returned to check that his car was locked, but we were happy waiting, relaxing in the windy sunshine. Marguerites were in bloom and they were waving in the wind as we passed the site of the Roman amphitheatre flanked by the metal Centurion sculptures, ‘A distinct lack of signage’ was Jim’s bugbear of today, and he was right- unless you knew it was a Roman amphitheatre there was nothing to tell you.

3. Centurions

Once off the Centurion way, we headed for Fishbourne, weaving over and under the A27. We turned onto Dell Quay Road and into even stronger wind, so the sewage farm we passed was a mere whiff. The Crown and Anchor was a welcome sight. Beside the blackboard signs outside the pub advertising football matches being screened etc was another announcing ‘ Coming soon- Summer’

5. Dell Quay

We had planned to eat outdoors but both food and conversation would have been blown away. Our indoor table was presided over by a very large photograph of the Queen Mother pulling a pint. Jim was persuaded to pose, smiling, with an arm extended towards it, in an embrace.

4. In The Pub

8. Salterns Copse

After lunch we joined the Salterns Way past Apeldram airfield, a wartime landing strip, now a field of wheat. We passed through Chichester Marina and joined the canal footpath where we were at last protected from the wind. We passed canoes, coots and water lilies in the beautiful afternoon light, on a narrow muddy track. When the footpath became a cycle route, the surface improved and the canal scenery gave way to ducks, swans, a rowing boat and a canal cruiser. Somewhere along the path Sue managed to gather a pannierful of elderflower heads, destined to become cordial when she got home.

12. Chichester Canal (1)

Tea was at the delightful Canal Basin tea stop before we left Ian and boarded the train home. Maybe because the ride had been flat and short, there was energy for more conversation, again focussed on the Queen, the Royal Prerogative and Nuclear proliferation. The journey passed quickly!

Thank you Ian for a delightful ride on nearly a summer’s day!


Rides for 2012

18 June 2012

It is not possible to check train availability more than 12 weeks in advance so later rides will be provisional for this reason.

Sunday To/Led by
1 July
(Next ride)
Croydon-Greenwich (Jim)
15 July* Bexhill to Polegate (Roger)
29 July Guildford to Christ’s Hospital (Downs Link North) Jim??
Will probably be a different ride
12 August
26 August
9 September*
23 September*
7 October
21 October*
4 November
18 November
2 December
16 December

* Ian not available as “back-stop”

The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club and cycling in the 1890s

18 June 2012

112 A very silly rumour and a sensible cycling journalist

Sometimes, when one is despairing about the survival of sexism and other stupidities in the 21st century, it’s good to be reminded that perhaps we have made some progress in the last hundred years or so.   Both bits from “Cycling Notes “ in Clarion, 28 September 1895.

The Bounder’s references to the French rational costume (see 25 April – episode 108. IB) reminds me of a rumour lately spread about in Paris that the Prefect of Police intended to issue an order prohibiting women from wearing masculine attire. Thereupon the professeurs at the great teaching institutions presented a petition to M Lepine praying him not to make his order operative in the students’ quarter. The reason they assign is that since the ladies of that district took to wearing knickerbockers, whether cycling or not, they had lost all charm for the students, and the latter are now attending to their classes and their duties with an assiduity hitherto unknown.

 A lady writer on one of the American cycling papers uses a new and effective argument in favour of the rational dress for ladies. She says, “I don’t know what a man expects as woman to do with the yards and yards of material in a skirt, when he himself will hardly ride a yard in his ordinary trousers without his trousers clips!”

‘Next time. Two “notes to Clarionettes”

The Next Ride: Saturday 16 June 2012 (NB Note — Saturday!) Bloomsday.

5 June 2012

Centurion Way, Dell Quay, Slaterns Way, and Chichester Canal

Just a short way up Centurion Way, then off down, initially, the B2178 south to Fishbourne, a short stretch of the old main road and down to Dell Quay for lunch at the Crown and Anchor. Then the Slaterns Way cycle route down to the Salterns Marina, over the swing bridge and back via the Chichester Canal with probably time for a tea stop at the open-air café at in the canal basin.

Catch the 10.33 from Brighton Station, or 10 37 from Hove or meet at Chichester Station at 11.24. Best trains back seem to be the 15.25 or 16.00
Meet at 10.15 for a chance of Groupsave.

My mobile number is 07770743287 – It will be switched on!


The last ride: 3 June 2012: Havant – Hayling Island – Emsworth…

5 June 2012


The Strange Case of the Missing Cyclist

Joyce and I caught the 9.48 from Brighton to Havant, with Roger joining at Hove. On the journey the conversation ranged impressively from the Council’s committee system to historical novels, history of science, whether we are the same person as our younger selves, the Buddhist view of the self, belief in life after death, and many other things besides that I have forgotten. We also learned that Joyce’s daughter had been arrested the previous day opposing an impromptu EDL march, but released without charge several hours later. Roger explained that he had arranged an especially extended train journey purely to allow all these things to be discussed!

Havant Station

At Havant, there were Union Jacks all over the place – this being the diamond jubilee of some overprivileged old parasite – and Prince Charles himself was on hand to greet us, although I did notice that “he” was wearing a rather fetching miniskirt. We waited for the later train, but no Clarionette alighted. We had had apologies from Leon (who has just had his operation – get well soon Leon!), Suzanne (still marking exam papers) and Angela (“some text missing”) and, given the weather forecast, we were not expecting many (although Roger reported that sunshine was forecast just in the region of Hayling Island!) But Ian had said he was coming (by car) – where was he? I had a look at the car park but he wasn’t there. Eventually we three set off along the “Hayling Billy” path, the route of the old branch line from Havant Station to Hayling. The rain did not come, and there were even patches of blue sky; it was, however, rather windy.

On the way, Roger got a missed call from Ian but when he tried to call back, Ian’s phone was switched off. Joyce rang Sue to check whether Ian had left for the ride (he had). Eventually Sue must have got worried and called the police, as Joyce was contacted by them to find out if he’d turned up. Several further phone calls ensued – some involving Ian’s daughter, Chloe – but no Ian appeared. We assumed his car had broken down or he was stuck in traffic.

When we reached Langstone Quay, where the bridge to the island starts, Joyce and I waited while Roger went back to the station to look for Ian. We noticed a bench dedicated to a young man who had died in 2010 at the age of 30; a bunch of flowers had been left there with the message “I know you will be at the family barbecue today …” In view of our conversation on the train, this seemed quite ironic.

Welcome to Hayling Island

Roger returned with no Ian. We rode on, over the bridge and down the Billy path. (This was the opposite direction to our last Hayling ride).


We saw windsurfers, and, at the south end of the island there were big houses and more flags, and an unlikely-looking Regency terrace to which Roger drew our attention.

Norfolk Crescent

We had a look at the “pleasure beach”, and saw lots of sailing boats taking advantage of the wind.

Sailing Boats

On the way northwards to the “Maypole” pub, Joyce had another call from Chloe to say that Ian was waiting for us at the pub – and indeed he was. (Ian tells his side of the story in a separate note below).

Ian in North Hayling

Lunches were generous and timely. Having exhausted the more intense and profound topics of conversation on the train, after hearing Ian’s story we talked instead about photos of rides, and agreed to open a new “Pro” Flickr account for the Clarion to get round recent problems with “disappearing” photos. (Apologies to other officers who were not there, but we felt we had a quorum and it was not particularly controversial).

Langstone Bridge

The return to Langstone Bridge took us as near as possible to the east side of the island, but no roads actually go right to the sea. We said goodbye to Ian and then made for Emsworth, where we had tea at the Flintstones Tearoom. There is a large mill pond here (complete with full complement of resident swans, ducks and gulls) which was part of an old tide mill. (Why is the phrase “tide mill” always preceded by the word “old”? Seems like a very modern idea to me).


Thanks Roger for a lovely ride, and thanks to Planet Earth for arranging nice weather just for us. Those who didn’t come – well, you don’t know what you missed. Oh, well, actually, you do now.


Ian adds:

It wasn’t, pace Jim, the dog that didn’t bark in the night but the phone that wasn’t on in the morning. What Holmes would have made of it is anyone’s guess. This is what happened. I arrived at the Havant station car park with more than half an hour spare — but discovered that the parking ticket machines only took credit or debit cards — not something I usually bring on cycle rides, and anyway who’s ever heard of paying ?2 (the Sunday parking fee) with a card? The station itself was no help — seemed deserted by humankind, so I left the car park hoping to find somewhere fairly nearby where I could park without risking being clamped and fined. No luck. Then I hit on what I thought at the time was a brilliant idea

There’s only one way to get onto (or off) Hayling island — a very long bridge. If I could find somewhere to park near it I could join the ride there. I managed the first bit OK and then waited for quite a while at the southern end of the bridge. I tried to phone Roger twice but when it went to recorded messages I came to the (erroneous) conclusion that either the telefonino was switched off which suggested that they’d already left the station and started the ride.

When no herd of Clarionettes came over the bridge after twenty minutes or so I then concluded (wrongly again) that I had not been quick enough finding a parking place near the bridge and they had already gone of down the “Billy Railway” trail — which is one of the only two bits I remembered from Roger’s ride description. So, after debating whether to just call it a day and go home, and deciding against that, I set off down the trail myself — believing the Clarion group were miles ahead of me. As usual I turned my mobile off. Reaching the bottom end of the island without finding them I had a look at my OS map to see if I could locate the other thing I thought I remembered (not 100% sure) the pub chosen for the lunch stop. Couldn’t find the name — but there was one likely pub marked with a little blue tankard some distance up the main road back to Havant. It turned out to be the Maypole. No one there — perhaps still exploring a much longer route than the one I’d taken. So, equipping myself with a half of bitter I sat outside to wait.

After some time had passed I decided to try Roger again —turned the phone on — got a text message asking me to phone home urgently — and discovered I’d spread alarm (and even a modicum of despondency) far and wide. Sussex and Hampshire police were looking out for me as a missing person after Joyce had phoned home to see if I’d set out for Havant. So everyone was worried — not least Sue and Chloe. I’m really sorry about that. My C20 attitude to mobile phones — only to be switched on when about to make a call or expecting to receive one is partly to blame — but why have parking ticket machines that only take credit cards? Still, as Jim says, we were very lucky with the weather — sunny for most of the time and no rain at all. Let’s hope its fine on Bloomsday!


Future rides

5 June 2012

It is not possible to check train availability more than 12 weeks in advance so later rides will be provisional for this reason.

Saturday 16 June Chichester to Dell Quay (Ian)
1 July Croydon to Greenwich  (Jim)
15 July* Bexhill to Polegate (Roger)
29 July Guildford to Christ’s Hospital (Downs Link North)      (Jim)
12 August
26 August
9 September*
21 September*
7 October
21 October*
4 November
18 November
 2 December
16 December

*Ian not available as “back-stop”


5 June 2012

Dear fellow members and friends

Our rides have always been on Sundays, so having the next one on the Saturday (because Sunday is the London-Brighton Bike Ride) is a novelty. So I’m putting in plenty of reminders about that in this newsletter. The ride will be on Bloomsday — 16 June — but I hope that not too many will feel obliged to stay home and listen to R4’s all day reading of Ulysses.

I have checked that there should be no problems with taking bikes on the train that day — though my enquiries were not very reassuring about the level of efficiency at Southern. First I went to the travel advice centre at Brighton station. “No problem” said the helpful young bloke at the counter clicking away on his computer. “The Bike Ride” (I’d mentioned that it was to avoid any complications arising out of this that I was making the enquiry) “is on 20 June and …” “No, it’s not.” I said, “It’s on 17 June.” “Well,” he said, “that’s what it says here — oh Lord it’s 2010 it’s talking about!” But search as hard as he could for the next 5 minutes or so, that was the most recent bit of info he could find. Full of apologies (unnecessary — he’d been as helpful as possible in the circumstances) he sent me off for a word with those presiding over the little Southern info counter next to the ticket barrier. I told one of them that the latest info on the internet was about 2010. “Now, why doesn’t that surprise me?” he responded and spent the next 10 minutes on the phone before he was able to confirm that going to and fro to Chichester on Saturday 16 June should be no problem. He also pointed out to whoever he spoke to that their website info needed updating.

Such is life in 21st century Britain!