Monday, June 18, 2012

Crossings of London Part Three: Fenchurch Street to Kew Bridge

With the awful winter like 'summer' we've had recently abating slightly I decided to have another crack at my attempt of crossing all London's Bridges, tunnels and ferries. I hoped to finish the last 18 today as they are pretty close together. Read on to find out if I do or not.
It was quite a windy day and from the west so I knew that most of the day I would be riding into the wind. My fault though for choosing to do the ride in reverse to the way Rob, the website author recommended due to the prevailing winds.
I took the C2C train to Fenchurch Street which was was thankfully engineering works free.
On my last Bridges ride I got as far as Blackfriars bridge which meant my next bridge would be Waterloo Bridge; a 2 mile ride past The Bank Of England. It's quite surreal riding through this area on a Sunday, it's almost deserted, yet in less than 24 hours it will be one of the busiest places in the whole country.
This is meant to be temporary, but I have a feeling it's here to stay. I hope so.
I stopped on the banks of the Thames for a photo with the huge mural of the Royal Family on the opposite bank. I stopped for lunch at a Walkabout where they kindly stored by bike in a unused function room, but blotted their copybook by putting Blue Stilton cheese in my burger.

First bridge was on the horizon, Waterloo; a fairly ugly non de script bridge which links The Strand and Aldwych to the famous South Bank. It's biggest plus point is the view of London from it. It has arguably the finest street level view of London from anywhere in the capital.
Crossing Thirteen: Waterloo Bridge

Looking East...

Looking West towards The Eye and Westminster.

I rode around the South Bank where the atmosphere was vibrant. I pushed my bike through a West Country market and picked up a bottle of organic cider for a friend. Definitely not for me, I can't stand the stuff!
I rode slowly along the South Bank looking to my next bridge, Westminster, or so I thought. I spotted a bridge I hadn't even noticed at street level, The Jubilee Bridges. I made a hasty retreat to cross this bridge, gratefully taking advantage of the lift up to bridge level.

Crossing Fourteen: Jubilee Bridge

It was tough pushing the bike through this very crowded bridge so I stopped a few times to watch the criminal con men fleecing tourists out of money with old con tricks such as 'which cup is the ball under' etc. I hate seeing people conned so tried to warn a few people but I lost count how much money was handed over by gullible tourists to dodgy characters with Russian sounding accents. My good Samaritan act didn't help, one Spanish woman handed over £80 in under two minutes. Why do the Police allow this?

Next up was Westminster Bridge, a mere half a mile upriver and the oldest bridge on this stretch of The Thames, dating back to 1862. I cycled along the Embankment with Big Ben right in front of me. It was picture postcard territory. 

Crossing Fifteen: Westminster Bridge.

I took a photo of Big Ben just as it struck 3pm, a timely reminder that I had to get a wriggle on.


I looked back at Parliament Square and decided to cycle around it. It's notorious for its traffic chaos but it has to be the finest roundabout in the world, so I joined the road and went for it. It was great cycling around a road that when I was younger I wouldn't even drive around. I got a few bibs from cars but I didn't care. I rejoined the Bridge and crossed over the South side again. 

I rode along to the next bridge, stopping at a good vantage point for a great shot of The Houses of Parliament, otherwise known as The Palace of Westminster. All pictures now were from my old Nokia N95 phone camera, I'd forgotten to charge up my main camera and the hour's charge I'd given it before I left had given up the ghost on Westminster Bridge.

Next up was Lambeth Bridge and a lovely riverside cycle path to get there. It's a pretty if unremarkable bridge and it felt like the first time I was leaving central London behind, even though Parliament and many famous sights were were still clearly visible.

Crossing Sixteen: Lambeth Bridge

Following on from Lambeth Bridge was Vauxhall bridge, which I approached from Millbank on the north side,

Crossing Seventeen: Vauxhall Bridge.
It's quite a pretty bridge and decked out in red and gold. with some people believing the red represents the colours of the seats in The House of Lords. It also  has some nice sights from it, the most impressive being the MI6 Headquarters.

I didn't have time to pop in on M for a cuppa so I carried onto the next one, Chelsea Bridge, which connects Chelsea ( unsurprisingly) to Battersea in South London.  Opened in 1937, it is a pretty metal construction and very pleasing on the eye.

I rode along the south bank, hoping to get close to the iconic Battersea Power Station. I came to a dead end where someone had very inconsiderately dumped a huge hotel by the riverside, blocking the cycle path. Equally flummoxed by this was another cyclist who also was having trouble trying to work out how to rejoin the cycle path. His name was Martin and he was from Katowice in Poland. His route home pretty much followed my route and we joined up for the ride west along the Thames and was a nice guy to ride with. He even bought into my mad  plan of riding all of London's bridges and even offered to take my photo at each one, I was very grateful for that.
I should add Martin's reason for being here was to get at close to the power station as possible. So we tried a few options but were met with huge security doors, locked fences and obstinate security guards. We cycled past a very expensive hotel where a private helicopter approached, ruining the Sunday peace and quiet, and landed to whisk away some rich businessman. As we rode away we noticed it wasn't the only one as several helicopters landed at the hotel. We could barely hide our disdain.

Crossing Eighteen : Chelsea Bridge ( Taken by Martin)

Next up was the spectacular Victorian construction, The Albert Bridge. In my opinion one of the most distinctive bridges on the whole Thames. We had given up on getting closer to the Power Station and carried on my quest. It was nice to have a little company.

Crossing Nineteen: Albert Bridge
( it does say that, honestly)

As close as we got... 

On the south side I had a little surprise, the cycle path became a mud path, like a mountain bike path. Fine for joggers and Martin on his mountain bike, not so great for my pannier laden road bike. I slowed down to avoid several deep muddy puddles, but this allowed me to take in the view of the Thames, now taking on a distinctly fresh water look with rowing clubs dotted frequently along the bank.

Next on the route was Battersea Bridge, London's narrowest road bridge at just 40 feet wide. It positioned on a sharp bend on the Thames and over the years has been closed several times due to collisions. It's quite a handsome bridge with faux gold designs, however it's narrowness makes it quite hazardous to cyclists if you are unlucky enough to have an impatient motorist behind you. With only roads leading away from the river I simply rode over the bridge to the north side and immediately doubled back to the south side and rejoined the muddy path west with Martin waiting for me at the start of Battersea Park. He must have been a little bewildered at my madcap plan.

                                               Crossing Twenty: Battersea Bridge.

It was a one mile trek along to the next bridge, alongside a nice and again muddy path to the next one, and very busy with joggers,walkers and dog walkers. My bell got good use here!

I got to Wandsworth Bridge in a short time. It's not the most spectacular bridge, it's just a functional road bridge. I stopped for the photo and moved on to the next. 

Crossing Twenty One: Wandsworth Bridge

Next was the elegant looking Putney Bridge, the traditional starting point for the annual University Boat Race. 

Crossing Twenty Two: Putney Bridge

Putney Bridge from the riverbank.

With my legs now tiring we continued on to my next bridge, the very distinctive green Hammersmith Bridge, designed by Joseph Bazelgette. It is a suspension bridge that was built in 1887. It's a beautiful bridge, and even though time was against me I had to stop for a minute or two to take in the spectacle of one of London's most impressive bridges. Incidentally, there is a theory that suggests the green of this bridge represents the green seating of the House of Commons just like the red on Vauxhall Bridge represents the other house.

Crossing Twenty Three: Hammersmith Bridge

View from the Bridge of it's distinctive green construction.

We cycled down to the next bridge,The Barnes Railway Bridge. This was serious tick box stuff but as it's a legal method of crossing the Thames it had to be done. It was a mile upriver and was merely a footpath next to the railway track on the bridge. Martin had no trouble with his 9kg bike, my road bike weighed considerably more and was quite tough to carry up.

Crossing Twenty Four: Barnes Railway Bridge.

We cycled through some back streets on the north side of the Thames, making a brief detour through what we hoped would be a short cut through a  park- it wasn't- to the next one, Chiswick Bridge, an average looking road bridge than gave no reason to linger. I felt like I was taking advantage of Martin's good nature at this point by instinctively handing him my camera for this photo!

Crossing Twenty Five: Chiswick Bridge

Martin suggested a beer and with time running short and tiredness increasing it seemed a good idea. Just one more crossing today which would mean my quest would continue into another day. I had hoped to finish today but it wasn't to be. Last up would be Kew Bridge. I hadn't completely given up on squeezing in one more more but it being a Sunday I didn't want to head to far west late into the evening. I would decide finally over a pint, but I was fairly confident Kew would be the last.

Kew Bridge was opened in 1903 and is a Grade II listed structure and a mile upriver from Chiswick. 

Crossing Twenty Six: Kew Bridge

We rode to a pub Martin knew and had a welcome pint. I'd planned to buy him a pint for endulging me in my bridges tour of London, not to mention the invaluable photographic assistance. For that I was truly grateful . Not having to assess each passer by for risk of stealing my camera was very nice and he really helped me out. Martin though, insisted on buying. We sat outside in a beer garden, the peace and quiet only ruined by an awful covers band in the pub ruining Hey Jude amongst others. Before I could buy him a beer back he announced he had to leave to meet a friend. He asked for the address of this blog and maybe we'll meet up again so I can buy my round! He was a nice guy and it was nice sharing the last stage of the ride with him.

I now had a deadline. Netherlands v Portugal in Euro 2012 kicked off in an hour and I was in West London. I'd never get home in time so decided to get back to Fenchurch Street and find a pub. I went to the nearby Kew Bridge mainline station but was dismayed to find out that SouthWest trains that run from there into Waterloo only run an hourly service- and I had just missed one. So I had no choice but to locate the nearest District Line tube station and head back east that way. Luckily Gunnersbury was minutes away and after a short wait I began the laborious 39 min- stopping 18 time- journey to Tower Hill.  It was shortly after kick off when I arrived and with the help of a underground employee found a pub showing the football, only to find it was the wrong game, the Germany one. I rode on and came across what I thought was a pub. I went in and found out they were showing both games. The very friendly and accommodating manager told me they had no secure bike locking facilities but very generously offered to lock my bike in "the luggage room". I wasn't in a pub, I was in a quite trendy City Hotel called the Chamberlain. The manager was a real star and went out of his way to make me feel welcome. He really didn't have to let me store my bike there, especially as I wasn't a guest but he insisted saying " relax, have a pint, enjoy the game"
The game didn't go to plan but I had a nice time chatting to an Irish guy called Jim and later a German guy called Fritz*. We had a lively chat debating English and German mentalities and approaches to football. He couldn't understand England's mentality and lack of preparation of penalty shoot outs and it was an enjoyable end to my day.
I left the bar and went to reception to get my bike, my eye drawn to a sign with the room tariffs, highest price, £325 a night! I didn't even have to get it myself, the receptionist radioed to a someone, and shortly after a smartly uniformed porter complete with posh hat wheeled my bike through reception and handed me my crash hat. A surreal end to a good day.

Total Mileage: 32.

* Fritz wasn't his name, I never actually caught it, just gave him a pseudonym for the purposes of the blog
** When I got home I realised I'd missed a bridge, The Fulham Railway bridge which will have to be done next time. Bugger


  1. Great blog mate,Putney Bridge looks many have you left now?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Well it's odd, the numbers don't add up. There should be 33 altogther which is really 32 because I left out the Hilton Hotel ferry in Docklands. I've accidentally missed two out in one of the Jubilee Bridges and the Fulham railway bridge. By my count I have done 24 and by the website I got the idea from there is 4 left. So 24 done + 4 left to do + the 2 I've missed is 30. I just can't account for the missing two!

  4. If anyone can spot where I've gone wrong please tell me!

  5. Get your map out and count em up or tick em off :)

  6. Done that, still can't spot the discrepancy, :-(

  7. Solved numbering issue. See comments on part four post for what it was.