Sunday 12 May 2013

Cycling Herne Hill to Greenwich via the Ravensbourne River

A 12 mile ride along a little known London backwater, this route takes in just about all walks of life in the Big Smoke. It starts at the Herne Hill Velodrome, which played host to the cycling events of the 1908 and 1948 Olympics, and then passes the old-world elegance of Dulwich College and its extensive playing fields. It climbs up College Road, through the tollgate, to Crystal Palace, where you cut through the park past the National Athletics Stadium. You then ride east into leafy suburban Beckenham and swing north into Beckenham Place Park, past the golf course and the hulking, grey, neoclassical country house.

You emerge on to busy and non-descript Southend Lane. If you head west for about a kilometre, you'll see a sign pointing to the Riverview Walk next to the Ravensbourne River, a tributary of the Thames.  Surrounded by greenery, you follow the cycle path up the river, criss-crossing bridges until you come to Catford Bridge station. You are now on cycle route 21 and, in theory, all you have to do is follow the blue signs. You have to negotiate a couple of roads before rejoining the Ravensbourne as it cuts through a gritty park in Ladywell. You may have to walk your bike over the spiral bridge across the railway line. It is easy to lose the route in the back streets of Lewisham, but you need to find Brookmill Park, a pleasant sliver of green, which has a newly-installed cycle route. Then you cross the A2 and follow Deptford Creek up to the Thames and then into Greenwich to be greeted by the majestic Cutty Sark. If you have the legs, cycle back along route 4 which roughly follows the Thames in to central London. Full details of this route are in The London Cycle Guide by Nicky Crowther. 8/10