Thursday, 4 June 2020

Not the buses: elderly exercise instead

Wednesday 3 June 2020 

Linda and I have not been on a bus for months, and we feel it may be many more months before we do.  So here instead is the story of today's cycle ride: about an hour as recommended by our Great Leader for people in their seventies without underlying health issues.

Today's trip began along Brewery Road, rather an uncomfortable ride, as Islington is clearly economising on road repairs, then right into the Caledonian Road and left up Wheelwright Street.  Here, under the walls of HM Prison Pentonville, is the memorial mural to Henry Hicks. He was killed in 2014 by police officers in two unmarked cars, who were doing more than 50 mph, but were cleared of any wrong-doing. The Metropolitan Police apologised to the family early this year.

At the start of Hemingford Road there are 'works' which made easy to turn left and then right, to pass the attractive terraces of Barnsbury and reach the busy Pentonville Road, where traffic lights allow you a safe crossing into Amwell Street.

 Amwell Street is very pleasant to ride along, as it is steadily downhill, and I knew I would not have to labour back up this way. Near the bottom, where it reaches Rosebery Avenue, I turned right Margery Street, or, in cycle parlance, Q2 (Quietway....)

 The Quietway links to C6, the route from Kentish Town to Elephant and Castle, and takes you past the Post Office Museum and what was once the huge Mount Pleasant sorting office and delivery base, now being transformed into Postmark, 'an address like no other' where a ground floor one bedroom flat would set you back £950,000.  Work appears to be gently ongoing, despite Covid.

 Still heading downhill, you reach Farringdon Street, and turn right, with glimpses of London Landmarks old and new. The gradient is still friendly, of course, because you are on your way down the valley of the River Fleet, as crossed by the Holborn Viaduct.

The traffic lights get cyclists safely over Ludgate Circus, and down to Blackfriars Bridge, where I turned right, leaving C6 to join CS3, the East-West Superhighway.  

On the way down, John Carpenter Street is on the right, with the jolly 1983 sculpture, entitled 'Taxi!'  Not many people get to see it, I imagine, as it's rather a dead end for pedestrians.
I've somewhat given up travelling along the Embankment at weekends, because the segregated path is pleasingly full of families cycling, and therefore harder for distancing.  But it's always a pleasure as there is so much to see.  For example, the benches are supported by laden camels; and there is a distant view of the place where I shall leave the river, namely Big Ben.


Just before the cycleway leaves the City of London and enters Westminster, the benches stop being camels, and become winged sphinxes, possibly because Cleopatra's Needle is coming up soon.

There is an awful lot to look at along here;  let me reassure you that I got off my bike to take the photos. Here is one of the bases for the RNLI, saving the lives of silly people who imagine that the tidal Thames is a safe playground; also a plaque for Walter Besant, one of those prolific Victorian writers who have vanished from shelves if not from walls.


On the other side of the road is the Belgian Gratitude memorial, given by the government of Belgium in 1920 as a thank you for the welcome given to Refugees during the First World War. It's a bit ironic, given the current attitude to refugees, that a homeless person's pop-tent is now sharing the space.

The route is now passing the back of the Ministry of Defence, so there are lots of service memorials:  the RAF Eagle is on the river side, and across the road is the Fleet Air Arm Memorial, rather oddly (I think) depicting Daedalus, whose son tested (with disastrous results) the wings he had invented.  Also in the river side is the more recent Battle of Britain Memorial.

Slightly out of place among all this flying is the little memorial to the Chindits, part of the 'Forgotten Army' which fought in Burma.

So now CS 6 reaches Westminster Bridge, with a welcome British heroine after all these men, and crosses Parliament Square to head on westwards.  But I turned north,  up Horseguards Road.  I passed the back of Downing Street, and the open expanse of the parade ground (no Trooping the Colour this year). Opposite is the Guards Memorial, where you can see, though not in my photo, the shrapnel pock-marks which remain from the Second World War.

Turning right to go under Admiralty Arch, where 'works' have been going on for months, my route is on ordinary roads for a bit.  Charing Cross Road is sad, with theatres shut, and it is hard to see how they can possibly reopen.  The Tottenham Court Road is still very quiet, though I notice that Specsavers is open for business.

Then I turned right after Heal's, onto C27 to pass Tavistock Square, with a double bust of the pioneering doctor Louisa Aldrich-Blake, who qualified at the Royal Free in 1893.


 Next I turned left to pass Cartwright Gardens, where people were having tennis coaching. It's named for John Cartwright who was an 18th century campaigner for political reform (and whose brother Edmund invented the power loom).  It's also, by the way where the poet Wilfred Owen learned his drill when he first joined the Artist Rifles during the First World War.  

My route then crosses the Euston Road, to go up Ossulston Street, past the British Library and what must be the ugliest recent building in London, the Crick Institute.

And now I rejoined C6 to go up Royal College Street (named for the Royal Veterinary College) and so reach home.

London is really pleasant to cycle around at the moment, and I hope that all the people who have discovered this during lockdown will continue to take advantage of the ever-improving facilities once normality returns.

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