Day 23: 20th April 2018 – Greater London

Checkpoint Numbers & Names
London 1 – Greenwich
London 2 – Richmond Park
London 3 – Epping Forest
London 4 – Camden Town
London 5 – Globe Theatre
London 6 –Gunnersbury Park

Having deliberated for a while about how to tackle the London BCQ checkpoints I came to the conclusion that the only way to do it and avoid having to cycle around some seriously busy roads was to get hold of a Brompton (any excuse to buy a bike!) and make it a combination of cycling and underground riding, and after keeping an eye on eBay for a few weeks, a good conditioned Brompton was duly acquired.

Fitting in six checkpoints in one day was always going to require an early start, so at 7.20am on a bright but cool Saturday it was time to board a train for London Waterloo (although I would be getting off before the final stop). Forty minutes later I arrive at Richmond where it’s time to leave the train and make my way to the first checkpoint in Richmond Park.

After a short but slightly taxing uphill ride to the park I was to be greeted with the splendid sight of probably fifty or sixty club riders sweep past the park gates in a ‘peloton’ worthy of any pro race, unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to get my camera out. Carrying on in to the centre of the park I saw a second similar sized group, along with large numbers of smaller groups and individuals – Richmond on Saturday would certainly seem the place to be. Not long after I happened across the signpost comprising the first checkpoint and stopped for the obligatory photos.

Gunnersbury Park

With little time to waste it was a quick re-set of the Garmin and on to the second checkpoint at Gunnersbury Park – So heading south from the checkpoint I left the park, and rode in an almost straight line through Sheen and Mortlake until I reached the banks of the Thames. Once on the Thames path I headed west for a couple of miles, past the buildings for the National Archives until I hit the South Circular road. After a short stretch on the South Circular and a quiet backroad it was a quick duck under the elevated section of the M4 and in to the rear entrance to Gunnersbury Park.

A hundred metres or so in to the park it seemed strangely busy at this time of day (it was still only just after 9am) and I suddenly realised why – Parkrun! Fortunately the route I needed to take was in the same direction as the runners and most were happy to have me ride alongside, and some even had a chat. After just a few minutes I arrived at Gunnersbury House and the second checkpoint. To my dismay the house seemed to be completely covered in builders fencing due to restoration work. Fearing that I wouldn’t be able to get access to the checkpoint I started to walk around the perimeter of the fencing fortunately the rear of the house where the checkpoint is seemed to have had its restoration work completed and photos were dutifully taken. It was then time to head of the front gate of the park and a short ride on to Acton station for the first Tube journey of the day.

Having never taken a Brompton on the tube before I was a little apprehensive, but shouldn’t have been – the staff were obviously used to seeing such things and most were helpful in opening side entrances / exits to help me through – so Camden Town tube was easily reached.

Camden Town

Camden Town – what a place, colourful, lively and noisy, you could spend all day here poking around the shops etc, but I didn’t have all day so limited myself to half an hour to find the checkpoint and explore some of the sights and shops of the area.  It was a good job I had limited carrying ability otherwise I could have bought all manner of souvenirs, gadgets and clothing, so after finding the checkpoint and tearing myself away from the shops it was time to start the journey to checkpoint four.

Fourth Checkpoint of the day was way across ‘town’ in Epping Forest, so again another Tube journey was necessary to get me out in to the leafy suburbs of Buckhurst Hill. The tube journey from Camden involved changing at either Tottenham Court Road or Bank so rather than a lot of messing around I made the daring decision to ride across London a little to Liverpool St stationfrom where I could catch the tube. The journey across ‘town’ was much easier than anticipated, with there being plenty of cycleways to use, and where there weren’t the motorists seemed to be more considerate than those out in the country. So after taking a route that led me past the magnificent buildings of St.Pancras Staton, Great Ormond Street childrens hospital, and St Pauls cathedral I was at Liverpool St, and time for a another tube journey to Buckhurst Hill.

After leaving Buckhurst Hill station the route was what looked like a fairly straight forward ride through a park and on towards Queen Elizabeths hunting lodge, unfortunately my mapping had me going through some rough terrain in a park / woods, which were not really suitable for the small wheels of a Brompton. So after a quick consultation with Google maps an alternative but busier route which also involved me going down a hill and back up the other side, this eventually took me back on to my original route, and whilst the roads were a little busy it was an easy ride and after about four miles of meandering the fourth checkpoint appeared of the brow of the hill. Whilst the hunting lodge is of historic interest, there isn’t a huge amount to see and explore, although the view over the hunting lodge to what is left of the ancient Epping Forest is pretty spectacular, so it was a couple of quick photos and an uneventful ride back to Buckhurst Hill for the Tube south.

On the journey south I decided to make a stop-off at the Olympic Village at Stratford to see the development of the Olympic village, and the impressive Lee Valley velopark. (Fortunately West Ham weren’t playing at home so there weren’t huge crowds) where I had the chance to have look around before changing from the Tube to the DLR and on to the Cutty Sark.

London From Royal Observatory

Having left the DLR (and my final public transport journey of the day) I joined the unexpected crowds at the station, and having left the station I suddenly realised why – it was the day before the London Marathon. So having negotiated the crowds, and workmen erecting various crowd control barriers, I came upon the front gates to the Royal Observatory – cycling isn’t permitted in the front part of the observatory so it was a pleasant walk through the grounds and up to the observatory proper where I more stumbled on the checkpoint than found it. Once at the top it was time for a break with a sandwich and a drink. After a pleasant walk around what I could of the park (it’s the start point for the Marathon and large parts were inaccessible as preparations were in full swing) I re-mounted and made my way back out of the park to begin the last and longest leg of the day.

The first part of the journey was a fairly uneventful drag along the busy A200 as I rode through Deptford, Southwark Park, and Bermondsey before joining the Thames Path just before Tower Bridge, and for the next three miles or so I was treated to some of the great tourist sites that London has to offer with Tower Bridge itself, London Bridge, The Shard, and of course the checkpoint itself at Shakespeares Globe Theatre. From here it was just a short stretch past The National Theatre and Royal Festival Hall and then up in to Waterloo to catch the train home.

So with day 23 finished and sat on the train reflecting on the day I reflected on the day – whilst visiting six checkpoints in one day was a big achievement it was a long day, and left me little time to explore some places as much as I would have liked so I certainly wouldn’t recommend this type of day to anyone else – you would be much better served by splitting it in to two separate days or trips and seeing some more of the sights.

Miles Cycled –26
Checkpoints Visited – 6
Total Miles Cycled – 797
Total Checkpoints Visited – 46

Click here to download gpx files for this ride

Due to the fragmented nature of this ride there is no map available.

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