A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

Posts Tagged ‘NCN1’

Cycling up the Lee Valley

Posted by Alan on March 12, 2012

Low Low sign
Low bridge is still low, now with added sign!

This weekend I went for an explore of the Sustrans’ route NCN1, north up the Lee Valley. I have a bit of an on/off relationship with Sustrans:  it is nice someone is trying to provide cycling infrastructure but so often the quality is compromised and it always feels like cycling is only a leisure activity, rather than a useful mode of transport.  This is a real shame – large parts of this route could be an excellent transport corridor through the summer months whilst it’s still light after work. I joined NCN1 via the low bridge at Coppermill Lane on Walthamstow Marshes. Most people struggle to walk under the bridge with a headroom of just 5’0″  but recently a sign has appeared telling all of exercise caution. Sigh: I guess someone had some budget to spend before the end of March. (NB I rolled through chin on handlebars!)

Lee Valley may conjure up images of a river lined with nature – it really isn’t, at least not for the first few miles. That’s not to say it isn’t interesting passing through industrial Tottenham and Edmonton, it’s just not all that pretty. A particular highlight was cycling under a row of electricity pylons along the ‘Lee Park Way’. As is my normal experience with Sustrans routes, there is an amount of randomness in it’s direction. Close to Northumberland Park, you’re suddenly directed off the towpath and onto a shared space footpath next to a major road. In fact you have to cross the road to use crossing the road twice in this short section – I reckon maybe 400 meters next to the road. Back on the towpath via a park, the next major problem (apart from the stench of Edmonton’s own Deephams Sewage Works – that was a fun 1/4mile) came at Enfield Island. Again this was on a diversion around the Enfield lock, where I guess a large number of cyclists might pose a traffic issue in a confined and risky space.

End

Dead end

Poor signage meant I followed a path that just ended in a pile of fly tipping and palisade fencing. Fantastic.  Doubling back and guessing, I eventually came through the Gunpower Park and into one of those new estates designed entirely for car use next to the giant Sainsbury’s distribution park on Meridian Way. Again poor signage forced me the wrong way down a wide straight fast road to a major roundabout.  Doubling back (I had a hunch I was getting further away from the river) I found I had missed interpreted one sign and missed a second. You mean I was meant to cycle along the pavement? Oh. Further into Waltham Abbey and the route led into park, next to the actual river Lee rather than the navigation. This section was really pleasant – in fact there were loads of people cycling here but judging by the rack fitted cars in the park car park most had driven there to cycle. To the north of the park at Holyfield Hall Farm I found time to stop and capture the signage standard that had misled me earlier:

Moo

Moo: more poor signage

On first glance I would assume the blue sign was directing me into the road to continue. But no, the red and white (with tiny writing) sign to the right indicates that this is not actually the cycle route – it’s actually the path out of shot on the right. Some proper signs wouldn’t go amiss along much of this route.  A rectangle with a point on it (like a road sign) would be fine, it could even include a way-mark as well as route number for ease of use.

Close to Lower Nazeing and I’d decided I’d gone about far enough, ~20 miles from home, close to Broxbourne station and with plans for the evening. 15 minutes after boarding the train and I was back in Tottenham again! All in all a reasonable ride – but punctuated with frustrating problems. Would I cycle it again? Probably but would I bring R? Good question.

Advertisements

Posted in Cycling | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

A greenway, a waterway and a motorway (almost)

Posted by Alan on March 20, 2011

Olympics and boats

Olympic boats

Having successfully managed to stagger across the finish line at Bogle, the next challenge booked in the diary is the c2c. At at the moment most of my cycling is relatively short utility trips (i.e. shopping and commuting) this is something else to ‘man up’ for.  With a planned completion date of June, it’s time to start training properly!  Yesterday provided a glorious day here in London so I took the opportunity to check out East London’s ‘greenway’, cycling down through the Walthamstow marshes to it’s start at Hackney Wick.  At the moment the Lea/Lee* valley paths are being upgraded for the Olympics so there are a few diversions but once onto the Greenway you start to see what London is capable of infrastructure-wise.

The Greenway

The Greenway - segregated running

The Greenway cuts all the way across the borough of Newham, I believe it’s the main sewer from Hackney to Beckton sewage works. (It certainly smells that way when you pass by a manhole cover!) It’s flat, wide and straight – potentially a very fast piece of cycling infrastructure.  Again due to the Olympics and Crossrail, there are some diversions in place.  There were particularly poor involving much pushing the bike and queuing to allow road traffic in and out of the Olympic park.  It would be nice if there’d been a few signs to as it’s really easy to miss where you should cross Stratford High St.

Anti-cycling gate

Anti-cycling gate

Further down the track there are many road crossings – each with a set of anti-cycling gates at each side.  In most cases they seem to have been vandalised to allow free passage (probably for a few motorcyclist too…) but the odd one remains intact. It does seem a bit odd to create some infrastructure for fast easy cycling and then add barriers to prevent take up.  I know the main target is to prevent people running motorcyclists or quad bikes etc, this really doesn’t seem like the best solution.

The main objective of the trip was to cross the river using the Woolwich free ferry.  A strange anachronism of London down in the bottom right hand corner, the ferry connects the North and South Circular roads.

Bike and Boat

Bike and Boat - from the southside of the water

Apparently there is some legislation meaning there has to be a free crossing here – so the small ferry carries lorries, cars, bikes and pedestrians the short hop between North Woolwich and Woolwich. I wasn’t the only cyclist either! Crossing the river is quick and relatively easy – I was very lucky with where I was put on the boat, opening up a familiar view but from the ‘wrong side’ of the Thames barrier.

A familar sight

A familar sight - but from the 'wrong side'

Once on the south side however, it was pretty obvious the unwritten law (‘south London must be less good than north London’) rang true with respect to cycling facilities.  The ‘Thames Coastal Path’ weaves between the riverside and busy roads with lots of ‘give up an push’ signs.  In the end I gave up trying to follow the path round the Blackwall Reach peninsula due to the lack of sign posts! The roads of between Woolwich and Greenwich did have some advisory cycle lanes but on a Saturday afternoon were as snarled up as a rush hour.  At least, I’m not sure how much worse the traffic could get at rush hour.

Snarling traffic

Snarling traffic

By Greenwich I was pretty knackered – a quick pit stop and a chance to ‘refuel’ before heading under the river again using the foot tunnel.  Currently under renovation, the lifts are closed.  This meant carefully pushing the bike down a spiral staircase and the back up the other side.  Apparently this is part of ‘National Cycle Route 1’ but I didn’t see any signs and you can’t cycle in the tunnel (probably for the best – it’s very busy with people walking). Even back on the north side of the river there didn’t seem to be any NCN1 signs – so I just hit the road and headed towards Poplar. There’s loads of interesting things on the back streets here so it was really cool to explore a bit, even if all of the roads did some how seem to lead to the A12, effectively a motorway. Eventually back to the Lea/Lee path and to the ‘stow.

With 29.3 miles (46km) on the clock it was a new personal best. Still a long way to go though – need to nudge that above 40 miles and cycle every day for a while to ‘toughen up’. Where to venture next I wonder…?

*Lea/Lee – it is spelt differently in places. No idea why.

Posted in Cycling, Transport Rant | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »