A Brompton Ride along the Thames

A grand day out with the London Brompton Club!

An early start to catch the 0733 train from Northampton to Euston and then a quick pedal to reach Charing Cross Station at 9.00 a.m. where the Club was meeting.IMGP5749

We pedalled along the Strand, past the Royal Courts of Justice and into the City.  Soon we were speeding past the Tower of London and dipping down a side road to St Katherine’s Dock for the first photo shoot.

IMGP5751Two fellow bloggers: Orange Brompton and Bumble Bee

Canary Wharf seems prosperous, especially next to the original parts of the Isle of Dogs but then there was a brilliant surprise – the Mudchute Farm – for elevenses.  We had our first sight of our final destination, the Old Royal Naval College.IMGP5755  Then we went under the Thames by the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.IMGP5759 We popped beside the Cutty Sark for the one climb of the day up Greenwich Park to Wolfe’s statue beside the Observatory to look down on the College.IMGP5760

To shelter from the rain, we found a bandstand.IMGP5764A steep swoop down to the riverside and a circumnavigation of the Millennium Dome (or O2 Arena), under the cable cars, and onto the Thames Barrier café for lunch.IMGP5772

Then a second crossing, again under the river, but by the much quieter Woolwich Foot Tunnel.IMGP5775No lift here though – so 127 steps to climb.IMGP5776This pops up at Silvertown with a good view of the barrier.IMGP5778From here it’s a short ride to the northern end of the cable car ride at the Royal Docks.IMGP5770The cable car ride (the Emirates Air Line) was a great giggle!  Deposited on the south side of the river again, we made our way to the Old Royal Naval College.IMGP5786And studied the beers on offer at the Meantime Brewery!In the  meantime!

I then pedalled back to Euston via Goldsmiths College.IMGP5791

I first walked through this door in December 1965!

Then I crossed Tower Bridge and a meander through Bethnal Green, eventually finding Roseberry Avenue and Grays Inn Road to get to the station!

Route here.

Twenty-four hours in the life of a Brompton

On Friday evening, I had planned to go to the Fridays’ LonJoGers Reunion in Clapham.  Train ticket had been booked well in advance for the 1725 from Northampton to Euston.  The train system, however, wasn’t playing along – the overhead cables at Hanslope, just north of Milton Keynes, had become dreadfully tangled – like a kitting playing with a  ball of wool.  Where coach travel could be laid on, there were coaches from Northampton to Milton Keynes – but the train service south of MK to London was dreadfully disrupted.  And there were coaches (albeit only a few) from Northampton to Wellingborough to catch the unaffected service into St Pancras.

Brompton to the rescue.  It was a simple decision to pedal from home to Wellingborough station – and this had the added attraction that the route would take me near the site of the first LonJoGers’ breakfast at Wellingborough Tesco.  I didn’t eat another breakfast but did catch a quiet and efficient train into St Pancras.

A short pedal took me to Stanford’s in Covent Garden to buy a couple of maps for an Italian adventure in early May.  And then I was pedalling on to Clapham via Waterloo Bridge, the Elephant & Castle and the Cycle Superhighway that is the broad blue line painted down the A3 (Kennington Park Road and Clapham Road).  This is the most used of Boris’s Superhighways and, at six o’clock on a Friday evening I was witness to its use by dozens and dozens of cyclists.

Clapham Park Road was easy to find and then eventually The Coach & Horses just after the road took a left turn.  And an excellent reunion it was – hosted by Simon and Susie.  Shepherd’s pie, prosecco and lashing of Wandle, the locally brewed ale.

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And plenty of catching up with friends from the great LonJoG adventure.


That’s Olaf in the backgroundIMGP5735

and Xi looking at the camera.

The evening rushed by; farewells were made; and I set off for Twickenham where I had a bargain room (£19) at the Premier Inn.  Further pedalling along the A3, but very shortly onto the A205 and then the A305 into Richmond and then out the A305 Staines Road through Twickenham.  A huge room, a comfortable bath and a comfortable bed.

On Saturday morning, the Brompton re-traced its route along the A 305 to Richmond Bridge.


and on to the Costa Coffee near Richmond Station which was the London Brompton Club’s meeting point


You may recognise John, Mr O, who blogs as Orange Brompton.  Anyway, we were marshalled by David Parkinson who was to lead the group out into Surrey and a climb of Box Hill.  First, elevenses at Headley Village Hall:


A beautiful descent from Headley to the foot of the Zig Zag Road gave us an indication of the task ahead:


a task which everyone accomplished in good humour.  Here we are at the National Trust café at the summit


and, two hundred metres further along, a spectacular view south


On the way back to Richmond we met Alasdair, a man who takes personalising his Brompton to an extreme

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We entered Richmond via the Thames Path.  Here we are opposite Eel Pie Island


Leaving Richmond I made it a point of honour to pedal back to St Pancras following the A205 again and then heading for Putney Bridge.  New King’s Road was very busy (some unimportant football match) so I made it through Chelsea, Sloane Square, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park Corner and what I think is the quickest route – up Park Lane, Edgeware Road and Euston Road to the station.

At St Pancras, East Midlands railway staff told me the west coast line had been untangled so I retraced the route to Euston.  A fairly quick train back to Northampton station and I pedalled home.

Here’s a link to the Endomondo recorded route from St Pancras on Friday evening back to St Pancras on Saturday evening.  It comes out at just over eighty miles.  Add ten miles from home to Wellingborough station and four miles from Northampton station to home and the Brommie reached a total of 95 miles on its little adventure.

A ride through London – with added death

My last metropolitan ride featured a fair amount of death, a notable example being an inspection of the London Necropolis Railway.  I refer you to this piece on The Fridays’ “Windows and Death Ride”.

This time I joined an iBikeLondon ride, starting from Hyde Park and finishing at a pub in Kensington.  This had two attractions for me: (1) several members of the London Brompton Club had arranged to join the ride; (2) the last point of interest before the pub was Brompton Cemetery.

It was great fun meeting up with Mr B and Mr O – the authors of those fine blogs,”The Legend of the “Brompton Bumble B” and “My Orange Brompton” – and with David and Anne.  They excused me riding a large-wheeled bicycle; my Brommie is “mechanically indisposed” at the moment.  [It awaits new rear cogs.]  In the two blogs, you’ll find many good pictures of the ride.

There were three nice surprises for me on the ride.  First, one of the leaders had been a young member of the Olympic Torch Relay Team last year.  She brought her torch along and we passed among ourselves.


Secondly, those of you who know of my fascination with Soviet history will see that I got very excited at coming across a Soviet T-34 tank in Southwark!


By the way, that’s Mr B’s Brompton Bumble Bee.

And, thirdly, here off Shakespeare Road, between Southwark and Brixton was James Joyce Walk:


You need to know that Joyce’s daughter, Lucia, is buried in Kingsthorpe Cemetery at the bottom of my street:


which brings us nicely to graveyards and, towards the end of this ride, to Brompton Cemetery.

Thanks to Dinah Roe (author of “The Rossettis in Wonderland” and other fine books on the Pre-Raphaelites) – I heard her lecture last year – I knew from her fine blog, The Pre-Raphaelites in the City, that Maria Rossetti was buried in Brompton Cemetery.  Dinah sent me instructions and a plan with lettered plots direct to my mobile phone on Saturday and I found Maria Rossetti’s grave.



The gravestone does not appear to have any name inscribed but is the most easterly of three stones marked originally with a crown of thorns and three nails.  Who was Maria?  And why was she buried like this?

Maria (1827 – 1876) was the eldest of the four Rossetti siblings.  Her brothers were Dante Gabriel Rossetti, poet and painter (1828 – 1882), and William Rossetti, art critic (1829 – 1919).  Her sister was Christina Rossetti, poet (1830 – 1894).  Christina dedicated her poem “Goblin Market” to Maria.  Maria was a scholar of Dante; I have a copy of her book, “A Shadow of Dante”.


It has this wonderful diagram of Hell (Dante’s Inferno) which I have used in teaching 11-year-olds about the beliefs of the Middle Ages.  They found it fascinating!

Dante's Inferno

So why isn’t Maria buried in the Rossetti family graves in the western half of Highgate Cemetery?  Well, to keep the story short, she joined a group of Anglican nuns, the Sisters of the Poor based at All Saints Margaret Street.  The order bought plots in Brompton Cemetery and that’s how Maria ended up here.

Not far from Maria is another painter associated with the Pre-Raphaelites – and a member of the Holland Park Set – Val Prinsep.  This is quite a sarcophagus:



Alas, through insufficient preparation, I failed to find the tomb of one of the great patrons of the Pre-Raphaelites, Frederick Leyland; or of Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale, a “third-generation” Pre-Raphaelite painter whose work is currently the subject of an exhibition – A Pre-Raphaelite Journey – at The Watts Gallery.

And then, on to the end of the ride at The Builders’ Arms in Kensington.  My route, from Euston Station, is here.