Could there be a Bromley Healthy Ride to Teapot Island?

When no one turned up at the Dulwich Clock Cafe start point for the Ophelia Ride on Saturday, I thought what shall I do? I had started to become suspicious that many of the people who are now coming on my rides are not Southwark Cyclists at all, but rather are members of Penge Cycle Club. I'm blocked from seeing the Southwark Cyclists' and Lewisham Cyclists' Facebook pages (and the Greenwich one is no good because I operate it anyway!), but I am being allowed to see the Penge Cycle Club one and when I looked there I saw this image:

This reminded me that Teapot Island is only a few miles Hadlow, which we visited on our Good Friday Otford to Tudeley ride. So I thought can I prove that it is possible to cycle there, without wearing branded cycling kit, as would be the case if Southwark Cyclists were to do this ride? So I set off to find a train for Orpington, which I thought would be a good starting point for the ride. The idea of doing Orpington rides is of particular interest to me, as there used to be a thriving Orpington Pedal Pushers cycling group on letsride.co.uk a few months ago, but it mysteriously disappeared as soon as I threatened to join one of its rides!

When I found that I was going to have to wait half an hour at West Dulwich station, I decided I would cycle to a station two stops further along the line. When I checked where the Dulwich train was going to, I was amused to discover that its route took it to Penge East station, so what is where I boarded it! Now that I know that cycling over Crystal Palace Hill is by far the quickest way to get around SE London and that the toll gate/College Road route is not all that steep, When I reached Orpington, I then started the ride to Teapot Island via Halstead, Sevenoaks, Knole House and Hadlow. It only took a few hours - probably not much longer than it would have taken me to drive there from north London! It reminded me of the story of the hare and the tortoise - just because I don't wear lycra doesn't mean I can't do long distance cycling! I saw lots of lycra cyclists on route, but noticed that they all have to get back by lunchtime because it is too cold and tiring for them to stay out all day!

On my way back I took the opportunity to cycle to Tunbridge Wells, which is a place I have always wanted to visit and which is only a few miles from Teapot Island. There is a very good, fast, frequent rail service that took me back to London Bridge.

This experience gave me a mission: why don't I try to get Southwark Cyclists to affiliate to British Cycling, as Penge Cycle Club have done? Southwark Cyclists could then have public liability insurance for doing rides like this, rather than have to spend all their time doing short rides in an around Southwark mainly for novices and older people.

The ride turned out to be 40 mile ride rather than 30 miles for the Ophelia one, but I did have to use trains to get to Orpington and to return from Tunbridge Wells. The ride was much more interesting than the planned Hogsmill one, but the use of trains mitigates against using rides like these to form a cycling group. On rides like these, everyone disappears to their homes after the ride, so it is important to mix rides like these with shorter rides, where people can return to base to have discussions.

Relive 'Orpington to Teapot Island and Tunbridge Wells'

Pictures taken on the ride are here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CyclistsInSouthwark/permalink/1784068448...

We can organise protest rides too!

With only two people having booked onto our Farningham ride, it was with some trepidation that we approached the start point at Cutty Sark Gardens. However, it turned out that five people wanted to do the ride, including two who met us at the start of the Ridgeway path.

With about 20 people turning up to Cutty Sark Gardens to do a Healthy Ride to the QE Park and just five of us going on our ride, our ride took on the flavour of a protest ride. However, not all the Southwark Cyclists were hostile - several were quite friendly and one had even been on Bermondsey Bill's recent Cyclists in Southwark ride.

There are many questions to be answered. Is it right for people to use social rides to promote a political agenda? Is the reason why Cutty Sark rides are being organised by Southwark Cyclists rather than Greenwich Cyclists because the latter group is not seen as being left wing enough? Why don't Bexley Cyclists do Healthy Rides from Bexley out to Farningham and back, as such rides would only be only 14 miles long? Given the popularity of "Southwark Healthy Ride +"s, as opposed to "normal" Healthy Rides, why don't Southwark Cyclists do them every week? Why can't Southwark Cyclists organise all-day rides? Why don't they do them on weekdays and on Sundays?

For three of us the ride was 50 miles long, but some Bexley cyclists joined us a the Ridgeway and for them the ride was much shorter. This was our route:

The trouble with protest rides is that we had one rider who did his own protest, by insisting on cycling along the Thames Path by the river, when others of us, for political reasons, wanted to infiltrate Southwark Cyclists who had chosen an inland route to get to the Emirates cable car station. However, as we don't stonewall each other for political reasons, it was easy for us to use our phones to rendezvous at the cable car station. Although there were rumours that the Thames Path was closed, we found on our return journey that this was not the case, and even saw a seal basking on the banks of the river:

We were told by a local that the Thames is now one of the cleanest urban rivers in the world and that, upstream, salmon have even been seen

This is a view across the river of the Rainham land fill site:

Cyclists listening the the classical music being played in the Dartford Park tunnel to deter youngsters from congregating there and causing trouble:



Eynsford Castle:

Physician, Heal Thyself

Photos from the two recent rides from Dulwich Park to Wimbledon. Both were attended by just three people. Surely there could have been 20 or more people on these rides? In the past we might have replaced the ride by a longer ride to get more people to come. However, we have now decided to stop doing as we have found that doing longer rides simply gives an illusion that we have lots of members, when, in reality, the people coming on our rides have no interest in giving long term support to our cycling group. We need people to act as back markers, introduce people to each other, make people feel welcome, inform us what the reasons are then when people can't attend, facilitate social events and collect membership subscriptions.

Can the Dog & Bell Crew ride again, or is this the end of the road for cross-borough cycling?

With representatives from Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Bexley and Camden joining forces with a person of female persuasion from our neighbouring borough Lewisham, going on Bermondsey. Bill's Locks, Docks and One Smoking Ferry ride felt like old times. But can the Dog & Bell Crew ride again, or is this the end of the road for cross-borough cycling? Watch this space...

Locks, Docks and One Smoking Ferry - The Final Chapter

Meet Friday 5th October 2018 18:30 at Cutty Sark Gardens by the entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, SE10 9HT.

It is the stuff of legends, that Sunday ride by the late Barry Mason that had many different variations and introduced many of us into Social Cycling and Campaigning. Copied many times it remains a popular ride with many to date.

The Woolwich Ferry was a feature of many after worker rides that ran on Thursdays as a loop crossing the river on the Ferry.

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