#6 The Wandle Trail

I booked my first hotel! This is all getting incredibly real. I have decided to spend Boxing Day night at the hotel next to the airport. I think it is going to be important for me to have a good rest after two days of travelling so this will be my first and last bit of luxury for a while. I’m getting very excited.

What an awesome weekend! A beautiful cycle in what felt like the countryside without even leaving the city and a party with so many cyclists – it was actually the lovely Mark and Brian’s party (CB #5 and #4). It’s a shame they’re now all ruled out for the 20:20:20 challenge though because they were great fun… maybe I need to bend the rules?

Who wouldn't want to visit this place?

Who wouldn’t want to visit this place?

Cycle buddy number six was so interesting, having previously worked at Evans HQ she had so much knowledge to share. She was even kind enough to check my saddle height for me. I have been worrying about it because strangers keep stopping me to tell me it’s way too high. She said that it could be a little high but when I’m riding my legs look like it’s about right so that’s comforting! She did mock me for its weird angle though. I know it’s ridiculous but I think it’s comfy and that’s the important thing, right?

Wandle Trail Route

Wandle Trail Route

Lucy, Ellie and I set off from her flat in Dalston looking quite ridiculous with our mix of bikes… between us we had the silver single speed, a big fat mountain bike and my Peg with her butterfly handle bars and the Vaude front panniers I was trying out for the first time. I can’t believe Ellie did her first big ride on a mountain bike with a hangover. She’s one tough cookie!

Just before we met up with cycle buddy number six, I was thinking about the fact that I hadn’t had a crash yet and then it came to me… crossing at the lights I got a bit too close and my butterflies clashed with the button box. The next second I was sprawled across the pavement. It really is a little more challenging to steer with weight on the front of the bike. Hopefully that will be the last one for a while! I didn’t hurt myself too badly and Peg only got a little scuff but it’s still not the nicest experience in the world. I’m sure there will be worse to come in NZ but I’m hoping I’ll be able to dust myself off each time and be on my way.

The Wandle Trail is truly stunning and it started out in the best possible way with a brief sunbathe whilst the others popped to the shop for supplies and then Ellie whizzing through the fountain behind the Ship. It is mostly signed well as Sustrans route 20 and some other small signs of lamp posts etc but it is easy to miss a few and it was still worthwhile having Lucy with her SatNav app leading the way. Check out the route leaflet here.

A perfect spot to soak up some rays

A perfect spot to soak up some rays

We cycled down to Croydon of all places and passed through mostly parks and along the river. My absolute favourite spot was Morden Hall Park near Mitcham. Everyone has to go there. I loved it. It was incredibly busy though, especially compared with Wandle Park at the end of the route which was completely empty. What’s wrong with the people of Croydon that they don’t want to be in a green space on such a beautiful day?

Posing on the beautiful bridge

Posing on the old fashioned bridge

Another of the views. Can this be London?

Another of the views. Can this be London?

We also stopped outside Merton Abbey Mills. The pictures haven’t come out very well because of the way the sunlight was falling but the entire journey was just breathtaking. It was great to have a leisurely spin with a view to remind me of the joys of cycling for pleasure and not just training for this massive event.

The mill

The mill

Obligatory bicycle in front of view shot

Obligatory bicycle in front of view shot

Selfie time

Selfie time

IMAG2846

Finally we all have our eyes open but we're looking a little narky.

Finally we all have our eyes open but we’re looking a little narky.

I think the day was massive for all of us and we all took so much away from it. I had my steering challenges, Ellie pushed herself amazingly on her first long ride, Lucy tackled the whole thing on her gorgeous fixie/single speed, Penelope (she’s got a flip-flop hub don’t you know) and CB#6 regained her confidence after an accident. Four girls really showing that exercise can be fun and rewarding.

We stopped at the Hare and Hounds for refreshments where we chatted with some regulars who thought it was hilarious that we had cycled from London. I did manage to get them to part with some of their pension and took in another £8 for Emile’s Charities. I was absolutely thrilled. Thank you very much lovely old men! I should have taken a picture!

Deciding that, due to time constraints, we would be best to take the overground back to Lucy’s, we headed to get some lunch from the supermarket before heading home. The service terminated at Shadwell where there is something like 80 steps to the concourse and a set of lifts. There was no way we were all getting in one lift and none of the pedestrians seemed to think we needed too. One woman in the lift was even really rude to Lucy, saying that we shouldn’t even be on the train because we had our transport with us! Does she not have feet? Are they not also a mode of transport? Why should we have less priority for a lift because we have luggage – isn’t that the precise point of having a lift?

Obviously in true form, I stubbornly chose the stairs and carried Peg plus heavy panniers all of the way to the top and refused any offers of help from passersby. No wonder my arms are killing me today.

In addition to this, I also managed to cycle across London twice without stopping to look at google maps! I’m really starting to get the hang of it! I also tried out carrying my tent and sleeping bag… this caused me quite a few problems but I don’t think that it will be an issue once my new compression sack and rear panniers arrive. I’m turning into such a cycle geek. I was supposed to test out the gear on a mini camping adventure but after the moments at the Year Six disco, I was in the mood for dancing! It turns out that I can’t do the worm but I can go back into a crab if I have a soft landing. It’s all about the fear factor – I’m not as fearless as the children.

My kit and my card - who knows when I might be asked to show it!

My kit and my card – who knows when I might be asked to show it!

Next on my list is booking onto a bicycle maintenance/mechanics course. I’ve been given a few recommendations, so I will have to look into start dates.

Next week I might not get out on a cycle buddy ride as I need to pack up to move house. Maybe I will get a blog in about Fudge and Sons – I need to give them a full review. My favourite part this week was the look on their faces when I brought them Calippo ice lollies on the hottest day of the year. They’d been melting and truly deserved to be cooled down.

Safe cycling,

Elisha x

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