A London Tourette

On Sunday 29th December I joined The Fridays‘ annual Xmas/New Year Day Ride.  This year’s ride was christened the London Tourette by Simon, the Fridays’ leader, and was a ride around the city’s best architecture.  We started, as usual, at Hyde Park Corner and finished, as usual, at All Bar One, Shad Thames.  On the way we made eight stops and Simon, himself an architect, gave a personal account of his choices.

Getting there

Getting to Hyde Park Corner by 10.30 a.m. by public transport from Northampton was not easy on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year.  No trains were running south of Watford Junction but a bus replacement service was promised for the final part of the journey.  I left home on my Brompton folding bike in the dark on the frostiest morning of the winter so far.  From Kingsthorpe onwards the roads were clearer but became frosty again on approaching the station.  No mishaps and I caught the 0753 service.  The ticket collector announced that the promised bus replacement was cancelled but that passengers could use the London Overground from Watford Junction instead.  The train arrived late and missed the Overground connection but a replacement coach was offered. This turned out to be an “express” service in that it didn’t stop at Harrow & Wealdstone!  It reached Euston just before 10.00 a.m.

Three miles of quick pedalling along a direct route (quiet on this Sunday morning) meant that I was one of the earliest to arrive at Hyde Park Corner.  By 10.30 a.m. we were ready to go – and the Tourette proved to be well worth the effort.

The Household Cavalry see us at the beginning of our ride

The Household Cavalry see us at the beginning of our ride

1 Westbourne Grove public toilets and florists, Piers Gough, 1993

Westbourne Grove public toilets and florists, Piers Gough, CZWG, 1993

Westbourne Grove public toilets and florists

Our first stop was at these remarkable public lavatories (unfortunately closed on Sundays).  Local residents took the initiative of commissioning this design as an alternative to Kensington & Chelsea Council’s own mediocre proposal. An area of triangular paving was reclaimed from the centre of two diverging roads and furnished with benches and trees. The plan of the building echoes the triangular site with the lavatories at the wide end.  The plinth at the sharp end is partially enclosed by glass to form the florist’s kiosk.  Gough is an architect in the CZWG practice.

2 The Royal College of Organists, Kensington Grove, Henry Cole Jr, 1875

Royal College of Organists, Kensington Grove, Henry Cole Jr, 1875, with charming sgaffito decoration

Royal College of Organists with charming sgaffito decoration

This building – which looks to me as if it really belongs in a medieval town centre in Germany or Austria – is opposite the Royal Albert Hall on the west.  It was the original home of the Royal National Training School for Music, now the Royal College of Music.

3 Natural History Museum (Alfred Waterhouse, 1873-80) and shared space of Exhibition Road

Exhibition Road shared surface with Natural History Museum

Shared road surface outside the Natural History Museum

Waterhouse’s museum was a very modern building in the 1870s: an iron frame on which rest terracotta tiles, so much more interesting than the stodgy V & A next door.  The shared space controversy seems to have died down a bit.  Taxi drivers make life interesting.

4 The Michelin Building, 81 Fulham Road, François Espinasse, 1911

The Michelin Building, François Espinasse, 1911

The Michelin Building

To quote Simon, “Zut alors! You want decoration?  You got decoration!  The Age of Motoring has arrived.  To be followed by the Age of Eating Out.  Both involving Spare Tyres.”

Stained glass window featuring the original Bibendum

Stained glass window featuring the original Bibendum

Notice how the original Bibendum (or Michelin Man) was made of cycle tyres and had a pince-nez for eyes.

5 The Royal Danish Embassy, 55 Sloan Street, Arne Jacobsen, 1977

Royal Danish Embassy, Arne Jacobsen, 1977

Royal Danish Embassy, Arne Jacobsen, 1977

Designed by the late great Arne Jacobsen this modern embassy is shared by Iceland too.

6 Lambeth North Underground Station, Westminster Bridge Road, Leslie Green, 1906

Lambeth North Underground Station, Leslie Green, 1906 - ox-blood-red tiled façade, arches

Lambeth North Underground Station

Leslie Green designed over thirty London Underground stations in five or six years after 1900.  They have iron frames covered in ox-blood-red tiled façade and the semi-circular windows of the first storey – arches in all but name – indicated straightforwardly to the Victorians and Edwardians that these were railway stations!  The arch serves no purpose at this level – but railways meant arches!  The tiles were resistant to London soot.

Opposite this station is a church – a Congregationalist chapel – with an interesting historical connection.

Lincoln Tower above Christ Church Chapel, (1) E C Robins (2) Paull & Bickerdike, 1876

Lincoln Tower above Christ Church Chapel, (1) E C Robins (2) Paull & Bickerdike, 1876

Erected on the centenary of the United States Declaration of Independence, the driving force behind it was Christopher Newman Hall.  He had lectured extensively in support of the abolition of slavery during the American Civil War and afterwards he raised funds for the tower as a London memorial to President Lincoln.

Lincoln Tower - Stars & Stripes detail

Lincoln Tower – Stars & Stripes detail

7 Christ Church Spitalfields, Nicholas Hawksmoor, 1714-29

Christ Church Spitalfields, Nicholas Hawksmoor, 1714-29, west front

Christ Church Spitalfields –  west front

The highlight of the tour!  Christ Church Spitalfields makes it into Jenkins’ hundred best churches in his 1999 book “England’s Thousand Best Churches”.  Then – fourteen years ago – he noted that the restoration was far from complete: “the ceiling seems to rest … on gloom and dust”.  In 1970 the church was near to collapse but Jenkins was able to describe it as “London Baroque at its most self-confident” although he does quote Pevsner’s view that it “could not be called anything but ugly”.

Christ Church Spitalfields,  interior facing east

Christ Church Spitalfields, interior facing east

8 The Blue House, Hackney, FAT (Shaun Griffiths), 2002

The Blue House, FAT (Shaun Griffiths), 2002

The Blue House

A delightful final stop.  Domestic house and offices by FAT, the practice that has just announced that it is calling it quits.  We see the cut-out form of a diminutive pitched-roof house, stuck on to a cartoon office block.  “Adolf Loos on the inside, South Park on the outside,” as Griffiths put it.

And so to the bar

Ten minutes riding from Hackney, across Tower Bridge, and we were at Shad Thames where Simon had reserved tables for the group.  Much beer was drunk, food was eaten, conversations had, and plans made.  Old friends who had not made the ride were welcomed on arrival.  Like the whole day, a good time was had by all!

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Getting home

So much easier than getting from home!  A straightforward bit of pedalling from Tower Bridge to Euston station, a train to Northampton, and a final pedal saw me home by mid-evening.

My route for the day in London (starting and finishing at Euston station) is here on Ride with GPS.  My friend Els had an interesting account of the day here on her blog with additional pictures, often lovely little asides, here on Picasa.

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The Fridays go to Normandy – The Prologue

 

After the epic that was LonJoG (see the report in “Cycle”, Dec 2012), this year The Fridays expedition was to Normandy.

Prologue Day 1 – Friday 14th June – Northampton to Portsmouth

I felt very organised in the morning.  My Dawes Galaxy touring bike was prepared with four panniers (two front and two rear) and a rack pack.  I knew where every item was and everything was waterproof.  The bike had been very recently serviced and was as sweet as a nut.  Pedalling to Northampton station was easy.

The 1250 train to Euston was very crowded but I got the bike into a good space and found a seat opposite.  London was busy (busier than I’m used to – because I’m normally pedalling in London on Saturdays and Sundays) but the journey from Euston to Victoria was straightforward.

Once in Victoria station I quickly met Gordon and Lonica.  Gordon had been on the recce trip and he and his wife were staying at the same gîte as me.  We got our bikes onto the Portsmouth-bound train and travelled comfortably to Portsmouth & Southsea station.  The three of us were staying at the Travelodge hotel opposite the ferry terminal and, after a short walk through the pedestrianized city centre and then pedalling along some quiet back streets, we were soon there.

We met Pam (Anything But Vanilla) and Dan at the hotel and the five of us went out for an evening meal, pedalling over to the new harbour developments at Gunwharf Quays and a branch of Café Rouge.  Scampi, lamb, and treacle pudding – accompanied by Hoegarten and Merlot.

We returned to our hotel and I was waiting for my room-mate Charlie.  The pub next door – The Sovereigns – had last orders just before eleven o’clock on a Friday evening, which struck me as very old-fashioned.  But Charlie soon arrived and, as I knew he would be, he was good company as a room-mate throughout the entire tour.

Mileage for the day = 16.

Prologue Day 2 – Saturday 15th June – (a) Tour de Portsmouth (b) A high-speed ferry crossing (c) Cherbourg to Brix

(a) After breakfast in The Sovereigns, six of us pedalled to StuAff’s house in Portsmouth for a guided tour.  We went out of the city to an elevated vantage point at Portsdown Hill where we had a view of the whole city.  Stuart pointed out that, properly speaking, Portsmouth is an island.

On Portsdown Hill - (l to r) Charlie, Gordon, Lonica, Stuart

On Portsdown Hill – (l to r) Charlie, Gordon, Lonica, Stuart

We then swept down to the historical dockyard where HMS Warrior, one of the first “Ironclads” is moored – accompanied today by a statue commemorating the “mudlarks” – before moving on to elevenses at Southsea Castle.

HMS Warrior

HMS Warrior

We went then back near StuAff’s house to meet up with Claudine, Sonia and the others at The Star & Garter for lunch.

Portsmouth route here.

(b) And so to the ferry terminal for the high-speed catamaran crossing to Cherbourg.  I sat next to (mmm)Martin – who is always good value; met Andy and Jo who had arranged the gîte and managed to get to sleep while almost all the others were seasick.

(c) With that organisation for which he is famed, Simon (DZ) had arranged for luggage to be carried from Cherbourg to Brix and so my bike was relieved of its panniers for the eleven miles or so to the château.  Energetic cooks had already been working and, amongst other, Jim, Steve and Rachel had prepared a meal of pasta, cider and wine – what’s not to like?  And the gîtists were quickly onto our final destination.

Our gîte

Our gîte

Route from ferry terminal to château here.

Mileage for the day = 33.  Cumulative mileage = 49.

A recce ride around London

With my friend Iain D, I went for a lovely ride around London last Saturday.  We rode our Bromptons to Northampton station, caught the 0850 and we were at Euston in under an hour.  The purpose?  To recce a ride we’ll offer to CTC Northampton in the summer.

I’d therefore better not, at this stage, disclose our route in detail.  Suffice to say that we are old-school – no fancy GPS gizmos on our handlebars; Iain D had worked out a route and written it down; I’d added one or two amendments and pinned my copy to my ‘bars (small print, though, so I had to wear my reading glasses throughout the day!).

The route is a mixture of main “tourist sights” (but they do look different from a bicycle saddle) and some obscure and eccentric sights (which are well worth seeking out).  It will be much appreciated, I’m sure.  Some uncaptioned photographic clues:

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And shortly after photographing Virginia, we encountered this!

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pete.meg/wcc/facility-of-the-month/March2013.htm

Isn’t it brilliant?

Well, that’s it for the moment.  I hope I’ve tickled your curiosity buds!

We caught a very fast train back from Euston, the 1649 gets into Northampton at 1741 – 52 minutes.

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.

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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.

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

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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:

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

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

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

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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

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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.