So, today we started our trek on Eurovelo 5. In England, it’s known as National Cycle Route 1. Though it technically starts in Greenwich, we cut a few miles off by starting in Woolwich Arsenal. To do that, we took a 2-hour, 4-train journey from the northwest to the southeast of London. Only £3 each–one of the best bargains in London :). Sadly, taking your bike on the London system does mean standing the entire time, so it was not 2 hours of rest.
When we arrived in Woolwich Arsenal, we went in search of bathrooms, which we found (of course) at McDonald’s. The combination of the crazy queue and the grease smell, though, persuaded us not to eat there, so we bought a couple items at Lidl to complete our picnic:
Once fueled, we rode along the Thames path out of London,
stopping to view some art at the actual Arsenal.
I somehow believed (how can I still be so delusional?) that it would be the wide, paved path you see in the photo above for the length of the journey. A cyclist who passed us several miles in indicated otherwise–big rocks part of the way, and probably muddy after that. Awesome. It was single and double track for a good chunk of the middle of the ride, and there were some steep sections by some of the industrial plants along the river.
But the bane of our riding existence? Definitely the “gates.” I don’t know who thought these were a great idea for a bike path, especially one that might host touring cyclists, but if I find out, I will be sending them some photos…
The highlight of the marsh section of the trip was the grey heron that landed and then took off again while we were stopped nearby (no photo–sorry).
The last few miles of the day were on paved paths near roadways. We were quite happy to be biking and not in the car traffic. Many of the roads lead to the Dartford crossing (of the Thames). The bridge portion, opened in 1991–there is also a tunnel–is visible for miles on either side. Wikipedia states that “At the time of opening, it had the longest cable-stayed span of any bridge in Europe. It was the first bridge across the Thames downstream of Central London to be opened since Tower Bridge in 1894.” It is also congested. Bikes are not permitted on the bridge or in the tunnels, but can be taken across by authorities upon request. We did not choose this option, as riding the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) under the Thames in London seemed much simpler despite having to stand all the way.
We arrived in Northfleet at the Granby Hotel and were enthusiastically greeted by our hosts. They found a place for the bikes, helped with our bags, and made us a pot of tea! A quick glance at the dinner menu was all we needed to convince us that we were not leaving the premises again until morning. After a much needed shower (hot, with decent pressure) we returned to the dining room for a hearty dinner of leek and potato soup, roast beef and perfectly-cooked vegetables (Maureen), chicken and amazing potato wedges (me) and pints of Strongbow (served in Strongbow glasses!). I had to rouse myself from the food coma to write this chronicle. Happy.
I hope when you reach the continent that you will have easier going.
I’m not holding my breath, but I hope so too.
Are you consuming enough calories now to fuel your miles?
I think so–did you notice how much of this post was about food?
I saw lots of those gates on the public walking paths where they crossed farm pastures. Useful for keeping the sheep in their own fields. The bike path designers were probably reassigned from the walking path contingent and didn’t stop to think about how bikes would get through the gates.
One person we met said they were also to keep horses off the paths. I think the “not stopping to think” assessment is correct. If you had a tandem or a trailer you would really struggle to get through.