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.

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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.

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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!

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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:

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

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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.

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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”.

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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!

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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:

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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.

Windows & Death – a Fridays Ride

As my resolution – to keep this blog more regularly – started on 1st January, I wasn’t going to make an entry for the “Windows & Death” Ride on 29th December.

But my friend SwarmCatcher has written up her account and published it today.  So I think I can at least offer a link to her blog at “Bikes & Bees”. You’ll also find a link to her rather good photographs at the bottom of her article.  She caught me on my Leninist soapbox at Clerkenwell Green:

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My photographs are here.

My route, from Euston to the start at Hyde Park Corner, on to All Bar One at Shad Thames, and back to Euston, is here.

Many thanks to Simon and all my Fridays friends (aka Friday Night Ride to the Coast aka FNRttC) although, like the Holy Roman Empire, this was neither on a Friday nor at night-time nor to the coast.

A Photo I Took Of Bradley Wiggins

Well, I think I’d better get in on the Wiggo-mania.

Here, at the 2007 Tour de France Prologue is a simple photo I took, while standing at the barrier in Hyde Park, of Wiggo in action:

Isn’t it strange how few pixels a point-and-shoot camera used just five years ago?  And that few commentators over the last few days have mentioned Wiggo’s performances when he was riding for the Cofidis team>

The Fridays’ Tour – London to John O’Groats (LonJoG)

Well, I’m making a fresh start.  Tomorrow at midnight, at Hyde Park Corner, I join a large group of friends for a ride to John O’Groats.

I’m only going to ride as far as Wellingborough, the stop for the first breakfast, and then I’ve offered my services as a driver of the support van.

The purpose of this Blog now will be to record daily, I hope, our adventures.

Don’t expect anything too literary or imaginative from me.  I’m a rather factual writer.  On previous tours, I’ve just kept a small notebook or diary and written an entry each evening.  That’s what I’ll try to do over the next week albeit in electronic format.

Very excited!