A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

Posts Tagged ‘Walthamstow’

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.

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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 »

Bogle Training Part I

Posted by Alan on January 23, 2011

This year sees the 50th anniversary of Manchester RAG’s Bogle. Since getting involved with Manchester RAG as a student and running their 2006 beer festival, Bogle has been one of those events on the calendar. I’ve helped a few times as a marshal, driver, co-ordinator and in 2009 I tried walking. Sadly that time I neglected to do any training so after 29 miles, at the 5th checkpoint I gave in.

This time I am training… alongside one of my team mates for this year, Richard.

St Stephen's Tower

Angry skies above St Stephen's Tower

So the basic premise was this – we walk from our flat to Cask, Pimlico. (You seriously thought beer wouldn’t be involved somewhere right?). This took us across Walthamstow marshes, through the back of Hackney, right through Smithfield Market onto the Embankment finally widing through the back streets behind the Catholic Cathedral to the pub.

Bus Abbey & Protest

The protesters were apparently not evicted on Friday as decreed by the media...

Cask is a fantastic little pub, serving a wide selection of food and ales.  Sadly for us we had essentially booked in for a (well-deserved and required!) pitstop for some food. And 2 half pints each. (It would be rude not to!)

Cask, Pimlico

Cask, Pimlico formerly Pimlico Tram

From here we headed south of the water to the places where Taxi’s infamously don’t go. Through Vauxhall, across to Elephant and Castle finally reaching the Draft House at Tower Bridge just as the sun had set. Cue more beer! Just the one pint though as after c. 17 miles we were both pretty tired. The calorific value of beer is probably helpful, but I am sure the alcohol isn’t!

Sadly recording all of the journey was a leap too far for my Nokia (it’s almost 2 years old now) – Sports tracker made it almost to E&C with us – it’s stats are below.

Statistics – recorded by Nokia Sports Tracker…
Distance recorded by GPS Average page Steps kCal burned
12.97 mi 16:01 min/mi 23995 1598
2.67 mi 15:00 min/mi 4707 328

Bogle is the first weekend in March so much more training required if I am to get around the full 55 miles.  Of course, sponsorship information will appear in due course… 🙂

Posted in Charity starts at home, Travelling around | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Crap cycling in Walthamsow

Posted by Alan on October 24, 2010

IMG_5751

Is a Walthamsow a flying pig?

Just down the road from the glorious road improvements on Wood St Walthamstow,  is this fine sign.  Attention to detail? Thought not. Further up the cycle lane disappears completely – as suddenly one is encouraged to cycle up the pavement. Personally I prefer not to – as a pedestrian I don’t particularly like the idea of sharing my space with cyclist who is probably travelling at twice my speed!

IMG_5753

Shared space - Woodford New Road (A104)

And why bother painting the red bit of the lane if cyclists are meant to swerve off behind the sign onto the pavement? Over to the other side of the road and there’s some white paint to let you know to expect cyclists.

IMG_5756

Man and bike

As you see there is plenty of space here. Could fit a pretty good segregated lane off to the right alongside the road. Oh well…

Posted in Cycling, Transport Rant | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Norfolk Holiday – Day 1

Posted by Alan on September 15, 2010

Got up a bit later than was really helpful. That’s pretty normal for me though. The alarm goes off, I snooze and a 10 minute blink later maybe I get up. Still, we did manage to make the train at Wood St. And it wasn’t too stressful, thought I’d forgotten that we’d have to push the bikes up a long steep flight of stairs onto the platform!


Our bikes at Wood St

Our bikes at Wood St, loaded and ready to go

We got into the Liverpool St around 11AM – to a scene of chaos – more so than usual, because this was the Tuesday of the TSSA/RMT tube strike. I have to admit, I did feel a bit smug as I wandered into M&S to buy a picnic for lunch on the train… For getting the bike onto the train National Express East Anglia were a bit of a shambles. Both of us had tried in advance to reserve bike space and both been turned away. It was not to be 3rd time lucky as we were then told you have to reserve at least 3 hours in advance! But, it was OK to just show up an hope that there weren’t other cyclists travelling… We arrived at Sheringham around 3pm and rode the few hundred metres to the B&B. After a brew we rode down into town and had a cycle around to learn the centre.


Cycling on the promenade

Cycling on the promenade

There were a few hardy souls braving the wind – at least it wasn’t raining though! Seeing rain approaching from inland we raced back to the B&B to unpack and hide from the elements. It wasn’t long though before we were out again and down to the Windham Arms, probably the best pub in Sheringham. Food was pretty good and a great selection of beer was on offer. After tea there was time to wander about again and see the rest of the town.


IMG_4648

The bright lights of the small town

Posted in 2010 North Norfolk Holiday | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cycle Rage

Posted by Alan on September 11, 2010

I am angry.

Pretty livid in fact, when really I should be calm and happy.  Moments ago I got back from a short break in Sheringham on the North Norfolk coast where we went cycling. (Naturally the netbook and some milk were the first things unpacked – priorities!) It was lovely. I should be happy. But I am not.

First off, in Norwich I encountered my first anti-cyclist rage. Sworn at by a motorist because I happened to cross her path – she happened to be indicating to turn left into the ‘no entry’ street we were in and as she appeared to be slowing I figured I should get out of the way. Never quite sure about these motorists and if they will obey the rules.  This got me an earful of abuse. Never mind, get to the station onto the London train all would be fine.

Sadly the last leg of the journey on the Chingford train up to the ‘stow was utter hell.  We got on as soon as it was announced and tried our best not to be in the way, as much as you can with two adult sized bikes and fully laden pannier bags. As the train filled up, people piled in and managed to find seats around where we had our bikes. It didn’t help much that 2 families with huge prams also chose our section of the train to travel in – but we all managed to fit in.

By the time we got to Clapton, a couple with the man leading pipe up “she’s got to pass” and then proceed to argue about the fact that we are in the way. I protest that there is nowhere for me to go in a polite way but that still gets me called an arsehole and when the bloke decides to do the ‘gentlemanly thing’ and lift his significant other’s bag around my front wheel (which coincidently was twisted in such away not to block the gangway allowing people to walk past – but sadly, not enough space for wheely shopping bags) he deliberately swings it towards me in attempt to hit me. He missed me but felt the need to shout arsehole again much to the disgust of the families around me.

Next at St James’ St, a more mature (probably in their 60s) couple get on. I move my wheel round to allow them into the next bay of seats which are free. When they sit down, I overhear “tut, tut, bicycles – shouldn’t be allowed”.  Luckily my better self did not rise to the bait. I noticed they were carrying Christian bookshop bags. Am I misled in believing that religious dogma usually carries with it understanding and tolerance?

Sure, the local trains around here are not designed for bikes.  They don’t have spaces – that I’ve noticed in the few times I have used them before I wanted to take my bike places.  It’s best guess when you get on as to whether that carriage might fill up. But come on people of London, is it really so hard to walk up one carriage if you see a compartment with bikes and prams in it? Surely that would be easier than just cramming on because you know door is where the exit is at your stop…

Posted in Issues, Rant, Transport Rant | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Irony and crap cycling

Posted by Alan on August 13, 2010

Last night on the way down the orient to see them win an award (don’t worry… beer not football related!) I spotted this in Bakers Arms, Leyton.

Chicken shop

Chicken shop

Now just zoom in on the window in the top right.

A diet clinic?

A diet clinic?

Really now?

I also spotted this excellent (not) cycling facility:

More crap cycling in Waltham Forest - bollard blocking cycle stand

More crap cycling in Waltham Forest

Yeah, it’s all good in East 17. There are two more narrowboat posts to finish…coming soon…

Posted in General Meh, Transport Rant | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Epic Bike Ride

Posted by Alan on June 27, 2010

Having decided to stay at home for a change and save a bit of money… myself and the lovely Ruth embarked on an epic (for us at least) bike ride. Through CAMRA I’d heard about a CAMRA-award winning pub (The Duke of Hamilton) that may close and be turned into flats over in Hampstead. At around 10 miles (16 kilometres) this was about idea for finding out just how unfit we might be!

Our route took us through Walthamstow’s marshes just down from Tottenham under this really low bridge:

Low bridge under the railway - just 5 foot clearance!

Warning - Low Bridge!

I know at 5’8″ I’m not exactly tall – but this bridge has a clearance of just 5′ (c. 1.5m) – that’s got to be taking the biscuit on a national cycle route right?

Heading through Finsbury Park and Tuffnell park we finally came to Hampstead Heath where the gradient finally got the better of us and we had to have a rest.

Ruth under a tree at Hampstead Heath

Ruth rests under a tree on Hampstead Heath

About another half mile of mostly walking up a really steep hill… we finally arrived at The Duke.

Alan outside the Duke of Hamilton, Hamstead

Maybe one day I'll figure out this smiling in photos thing?

Add some food from the gastro-pub just down the road and we were ready to head back. Though…we did cheat a bit and get the train from Gospel Oak back to Walthamstow cutting out about 7 miles (11.2 km) before cycling the last leg home.

So all in all about 15 miles exercise done – not in an awful time, though having planned a route using http://www.cyclestreets.net/ we were about 30 minutes behind it’s recommended completion time – probably mostly due to having to stop every 300 yards (c. 275m) to check the next instruction! Sat Nav app required for phone I think… and hopefully more delightful weather to take advantage of!

Posted in Travelling around | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »