Not The Right Message

DSC_0567The good wife ruled that we should spend a short break in the Chilterns, and as our luck would have it, she chose the first rain-free weekend since memory. We took the train to Oxford, and followed the national cycling route 5 to Banbury. Too bad that it doesn’t use the Oxford Canal tow path much, but a nice route. A curry and a Bed & Breakfast later, we’re on our way to Stratford-upon-Avon, still along route 5. Signage wasn’t very good and the route was pretty rough in places, but landscape and groomed villages of very affluent “country folk” were nice enough to compensate. I think there were more Jaguar than John Deere vehicles in many of these places.

The most frustrating part were the trains though. The National Rail inquiry service told us that we had to change in Slough on our way out. Luckily, we figured out that the train we were on went straight through to Oxford, changing as advised would have gotten us there five minutes later, with the added hassle of the change.

Given how ill-prepared British trains are for cyclists, we were lucky to find space for our bikes, and nearby seats, so we were glad not to change trains. Almost £20 per person, sold by an unhelpful and unfriendly ticket agent at the station.

The same spiel on our way back from Stratford: the ticket agent didn’t want to talk to us, only hesitantly surrendered information under thread of torture, and definitely though it beneath himself to help us choosing a route into Ealing. Another £20 per person (on a super-saver ticket!) and an amazing 2 hours later on a slow-moving train bound for London Marylebone, we alighted at Wembley Stadium and cycled the remaining 5 miles through suburbia, rather than going all the way into town, cross to London Paddington and come out on a different train (and additional ticket cost).

They really make no detectable effort to promote the use of local trains. Expensive tickets, unappealing schedules, hard-to-come-by and even incorrect time table and connection information, unfriendly and unhelpful staff, slow moving trains – we should emigrate to Germany, were we did similar trips for €20 (covering a group up to five people in a vast area, all day, with amble cycle storage in every train). I get tears in my eyes when I think of it.

Here, we pay £20 per person and journey, are made to block the doors with our bikes due to the absence of any other space, and take over 2 hours from A to B on a journey which would have taken 1 hour 46 minutes by car, according to Google.

Clearly, this isn’t sending quite the right message, is it?

At least the Service Information Board at Oxford station did. Click the image for enlargement.


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Jubilee Greenway

Thames Barrier, in front of the O2 dome and Canary Wharf Ah, the Jubilee Greenway cycle loop:

We took the train to London’s Waterloo and started by crossing Westminster Bridge, then via the Palace, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens to Paddington and Little Venice. Lunch on the canal in Maida Vale. Onwards through Regent’s Park to Camden Town, The Angel in Islington, Victoria Park in Hackney, then to the Olympic site. Crossed the river vie Woolwich Ferry, then back along the river to Greenwich, Tower Bridge, Southwark, and back into London.

We had just missed our train, with the next one almost an hour away, so we pushed on, across Waterloo Bridge, through Covent Garden, down Shaftesbury into Piccadilly, through Hyde Park and into Paddington, where trains run every few minutes.

55km (Waterloo to Waterloo), and a very nice trip on a very gorgeous day. Too bad so many people were about, in spite of the World Cup match England : Germany. The tour is more like a steeplechase in large parts, dodging pedestrians and other cyclists, and having to slow down to walking pace or even less.

It’s not perfect for cycling, but it got us all the way into the East, even beyond the Thames Barrier, with sights on many famous and infamous London highlights. Very good!

(Photos are being uploaded as we speak:

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The Cycling Revolution

Animation courtesy of Did you know London is on the brink of a cycling revolution?

I didn’t, but according to Transport for London, it’s imminent: I had heard about the cycle hire scheme (see here for details), and can only hope it doesn’t fall victim to vandals. Too bad the cycling superhighways are up to five years away from completion. We should have introduced those a very long time ago.


(Today’s image should have been a little video. It shows an animation on a big display that we saw somewhere – was it the Canary Wharf Shopping Centre? We took four different pictures, and turned it back into an animation for us.)

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Swimming around Jersey Hmmm. Lovely. For all who care to know (and haven’t been part of the party), here’s the quick Jersey breakdown:

  • Excellent swimming before breakfast and after lunch (tide permitting) in crystal-clear turquoise water. Very refreshing, too!
  • Excellent tide (12m!) providing exciting currents.
  • Excellent weather throughout.
  • Excellent cycling, with only modest hills (some steep but short inclines), and the entire island in easy cycling range.
  • Fantastic beaches with lovely fine golden sand and granite rocks.
  • Superb accommodation and lovely company goes without saying.

Too bad the local cuisine didn’t live up to the standards one would hope for, given the French cost is only 10 miles away, but everything else was just brilliant. Well worth a return visit (or maybe to Guernsey).

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Broad Folk

FresnellThe wife and I spend a short but lovely weekend cycling in the Norfolk Broads.

An ideal cycling country: mostly flat, most roads shielded from the wind by hedges, frequent villages, beautiful waterways, wildlife, coast, close proximity to London – it’s all there, a suitable effort to welcome tourism excepted.

We found very few cycling or hiking trails marked up. Public houses were catering to a very traditional menu (Carvery only) and often not very forthcoming (kitchen closes at 2pm) in spite the glorious weather. I guess we were not the only ones who’d loved to spend more money, had there only be the opportunity.

Seems like another great opportunity, missed so far. Heck, if the Dutch can turn their Broads into a cycling and hiking Eldorado, why can’t Norfolk?

[Edit] Oh, that might sound a bit too negative. Go, it’s beautiful. Or maybe don’t, and preserve its tranquillity. [/Edit]