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.