Tower bridge and beyond by bike

Looking back at Tower Bridge from Bermondsey

London’s surprise of late summer sunshine brings back memories of the glorious sunshine we had one weekend in April and the unexpected cycle journey we went on.

There had been no map or plan, but we were keen to escape London.  Having already cycled west along the river Thames curiosity tempted us to discover the way out east?  A couple of friends were keen to join us and enthusiastically tagged along for the adventure…

I knew this was going to be a great journey as we rested upon our handle bars admiring the architectural beauty of the Thames barrier glistening in the sunshine, standing neatly in a row like brave soldiers, in the tidal river.

We had already cycled a small distance to get here, along National Cycle Route 4, passing the grandeur of Tower bridge, wobbling over the cobbled streets of Bermondsey, weaving in and around the canals of Canada Water and zipping through the groups of tourists stood captivated by the impressive National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.  The morning air was still crisp as we left London behind to join National Cycle Route 1.  A route that would guide us along the coast and into Kent.

The Thames Barrier - Impressive engineering!

We had the trail to ourselves as we all pedalled happily in the sunshine, passing the busy ferry crossing in Woolwich.  It was so quiet and the cool breeze was welcomed.  Heading into the town of Erith we discovered many crumbling wooden wharfs and grimy industrial buildings looking wonky and awkward in the water.

In Erith we stopped for a quick bite at The Running horses pub where the sandwiches were as stuffed full as a cooked goose.  Back by the river’s edge the trail became extremely picturesque, buildings gave way to vast pastures of wavy grass and swampy marshes, small boats reflected in the calm waters of the river, and birds sang, circling in the air as the impressive Dartford bridge stretched for eternity before us.

So calm and peaceful

The very long Dartford bridge

The trail departed the rivers company and the signs took us down streets lined with houses, around busy round-a-bouts and over motorways guiding us to the town of Gravesend to eventually reunite with us the river.

Cycling into Gravesend

Giant ships

It had widened and was now dotted with massive cargo ships that made you feel very small indeed.  The sun baked down on our backs as our thirst grew.  The historic riverside inn, the Three Daws, dating back to the 1400’s seem like a perfect opportunity for a refreshing drink so of course we stopped.

We sun bathed our legs and watched the world go by.  We were pleased with our efforts and decided to keep going.  We cycled on through Gravesend’s river side parks where families were having picnics and enjoying the afternoon sunshine.

Unfortunately the trail took a sudden turn away from the river and we detoured on tight paths down the side of concrete buildings and through derelict warehouses covered in rust and heavily vandalised.  We had to avoid huge amounts of scattered glass before encountering an endless white gravel path with grassy fields either side of it.  We picked our pace up and raced on ahead of our friends as pebbles flew off our tyres.

Watch out for the glass!

A few miles on and the Boyfriend’s phone rang…one of our friends had a flat tyre. We turned back going to their rescue with the puncture repair kit.  Glass had to be removed from the tyre and quickly patched up.  It wasn’t long before we were pedalling ahead of our friends again, but then the phone rang again – This time our other friend had a flat tyre!  We went back to save them and found glass to be the culprit again.  It was hidden deep in the rubber wheel.

Third time lucky and we finally made it to the end of the gravel road without a puncture.

Rape flowers showing off!

We found ourselves on tiny back roads winding us to the town of Rochester.  The fields of rape flowers gleamed in the afternoon sunshine like a block of butter.  Soon the countryside disappeared and was replaced with buildings – we knew Rochester was close.

A place to rest our weary legs

Our confidence in the signs eventually failed us. We are unsure how it happened, but we became extremely lost and it was beginning to get dark. We thought that cycling through the underground tunnel would get us back on track, but a huge road sign stated that bicycles were not allowed through it.

We back tracked a bit and with the aid of an iPhone Map we managed to eventually cycle over the River Medway and through Rochester to find accommodation at the Ship & Trades pub down in the historic dockyard area.  In the end we had cycled over 60 miles and were ready for a shower and a big hearty meal.  It had been a day of contrasts and we all looked forward to exploring Rochester after a good night’s sleep.

More photos of this ride can be found on my Facebook site.

This entry was posted in cycling, England, Kent, London, sustrans and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

118 Responses to Tower bridge and beyond by bike

  1. Awesome photographs! Going on two wheels with New Zealand sceneries doubles the adventure.

  2. Claire says:

    Refreshing pics of London…some great cycle routes in the Lake District too, if you don’t mind the rain.

  3. gaycarboys says:

    You’ve given me some inspiration. Sydney in a day! But somehow I don’t think my pics will come out quite as wonderful as yours.

  4. Great post and photos! It’s getting cold here in Ontario and it’ll be no time at all before I have to put my bike away for the season! Say it ain’t so!

  5. I wish I could go to London one day for becoming a barrister. This is my dream city.

  6. rajeevshukla says:

    The writing style is really engrossing and as I read through the article I felt it was me who was riding on the bike. An excellent mix of text and pictures with a life of its own.

  7. whatever9 says:

    these photos are lovely!

  8. Jan says:

    Nice pics (especially the monochrome ones)

  9. charlikerns says:

    I really enjoy the playful writing in the blog and the pictures that go along with it. I enjoy reading bike blogs almost as much as biking myself 😉

  10. asoulwalker says:

    Bike touring of any kind is just about my favourite way to see a place. Also I love being on my bike. Great photos. You have inspired me to go on another tour. Cheers.

  11. bigfish says:

    What a beautiful photos and thank you for the great sharing. I have been in London in 2009 and just walking across the tower bridge. Only that time, I’ve just found out that this is not a London bridge, haha

  12. stevo's Cafe says:

    Great pictures. Did you list the type of camera you used to take them? It did a great job.

  13. kalafels says:

    Makes me want to visit London!

  14. I think we followed your trail a few years back when we went on the “Light Railway” to Greenwich. What a great, evocative post. Thanks for sharing and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  15. I feel delighted to read such a good post. I would like to thank the Author for this marvelous efforts. This post is good with regards of both knowledge and information. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  16. Godwin Odus says:

    What a wonderful blog and beautiful photos. Thanks for taking us along on your London adventure. I wish I knew how to ride a bike, it would be a beautiful place to start with. I love the area around Tower Bridge. My mother told me a lot of stories about it. She used to live there.

  17. Jealous of your journeys! I wish Edinburgh were a bike-friendlier city and the Scottish climate a tad less unpredictable…

  18. I love the concept of your blog! It is evident that travels by foot or by bike give you a more personable experience with the world you live in. When we’re driving we only focus our eyes in one direction, but when you have the opportunity to take your travels outdoors your eyes have the freedom to look in all directions, to divert your path unexpectedly and explore. There’s more to our world than just paved roads, and thankfully your blog is opening our eyes to it! Thank you!

  19. mariawrit3r says:

    Enjoyed reading this, and love the pics!

  20. Fergus Ford says:

    What a lovely article and idea 🙂 Pictures of London on Freshly Pressed has certainly made my morning 🙂 thanks for sharing!

  21. ShaneWozEre says:

    Off to London next week and hoping to get some photography in there. This really got me in the mood, thanks.

  22. heyshaye says:

    This is so cool! I miss London so much 😦

  23. lautal says:

    I am from Canada and in my imagination London was a foggy and rainy City. But I was lucky and happy to see bright sunny days at the beginning of December 2009. It was big surprise and gift for tourist to enjoy that Great City at the sunny days. Thank you for bringing to the hidden places around London. Absolutely nice and interesting pictures, great post. Well done.

  24. Andrew says:

    Great text, great pictures.
    I cycled the route from London to Dover myself in summer 2010 as part of a trip along the Eurovelo 5 from the UK to Brindisi in southern Italy. I loved the contrasts between the grim industrial heritage and the beauty of the Kent countryside. I now run the website and I’ll add a link to your post in the Eurovelo 5 section of the site (under ‘the other Eurovelos) for others to read your account. You can read my own account in my book, Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie. Full details at .
    Cheers & happy cycling

  25. The Thames Barrier looks so metallic in that picture what fx was used in that photo, looks pretty cool 🙂

  26. Chris Styles says:

    Love this!
    Keep up the good work and ill keep visiting your blog 🙂

    -Chris Styles

  27. graciehart1 says:

    Nice photos! Love the bright green grass.

  28. Nice pix! What camera are you using?

  29. shespoke says:

    I love thy bike, too. Great photos!

  30. jamieonline says:

    Loved reading about your trip. Great pictures!!!!
    I’m a real fan of cycle trips – and living in Holland (Brit abroad) I am in the perfect place to go on loads of cycle rides (the land of bikes).

  31. Sajib says:

    Great that you live in a place like that. Over here in Bangladesh, there is hardly a place for cycling in the urban areas (I live in the capital city — Dhaka). Wherever I cast my eyes I can only see traffic jam. I can’t cycle, though. I wanted to learn during my childhood, but now I don’t. It won’t pay off. There is no safe road for cycling in the city.

  32. tracye1 says:

    Lovely pictures!! Sounds like a perfect day and the pictures tell quite the tale…so vivid and colorful! and Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  33. Subhash says:

    Awesome snaps!! 😀

  34. Sarah says:

    Lovely photographs! I really enjoy seeing the different styles and “eyes” people have.


  35. philosofiez says:

    Great personal description and photos mate! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed, definitely deserved. Also from Bermondsey here!

  36. thoraaron says:

    Sounds like a great ride! It’s convenient that they have a route just for riders like yourself.

  37. wanderlust23 says:

    Congrats on being freshly pressed!!

  38. conniewalden says:

    Thanks for sharing these. Makes me want to be there. Connie

  39. vixstar1314 says:

    Sometime’s we are too busy rushing around with our day to day life to see the simple beauty around us. And you have captured that perfectly in these pictures, thanks for sharing

  40. Lovely photos! Making me homesick for England!

  41. LM says:

    Amazing…bike the best…absolute bliss!!

  42. bookmole says:

    I admire your bravery – cycling in London is way too scary for me! I do love wandering round and about in London – what I do is “Take a random double decker till I see something interesting, jump off and walk”, which has led to some interesting finds.

    I haven’t wandered downriver yet, though – all my river trips have been up round Richmond and beyond. Shall have to try it, maybe next summer when the chemo is over and I have some freaking energy again! Shall bookmark this page for inspiration when that moment comes.

    Congrats of Freshly Pressed, too.

  43. Nice photos, good story.

  44. Jenny says:

    I remember that gloriously sunny week in April…the park as we BBQ’ed our lunch was a blanket of shirtless men and bikini clad women like any proper sunny London day 😉

    We were actually at the O2 one of those sunny weekends and I was making a poor attempt at a tan across from that big metal sculpture you photographed in North Greenwich (in your facebook album). Your photo’s are just amazing (I can’t say I’ve ever been impressed by that particular sculpture but you almost made it magnificent).

    Loved your visual journey by bike, beautiful!

  45. A great story of your trip and beautifully put to together with the photos – I especially love the field of rape, it almost doesn’t look real!

  46. Canadiantravelbugs says:

    I love how descriptive your writing is… the photos are lovely too – amazing colours.

  47. Daniel says:

    Great to see a UK entry in Freshly Pressed! For more about the ‘impressive engineering’ photo, see

  48. valentinedee says:

    Loved your pics. You caught silence and captured its allure. Great post.

  49. joehoover says:

    I’m always amazed by the distances of your cycles – and FP again, nice one!

  50. What an adventurous day! I’ve recently moved to London and I’m inspired to follow you in your bicycle tracks 🙂 A little concerned about the glass ridden track though, just as well you travel prepared with puncture kit!

  51. kathleenmae says:

    Wow! What an adventure! You came across so many nice places 🙂 I’ll be living and working in the UK for a year and I can’t wait to explore its

  52. I really like the way you describe the surroundings! I felt like I was riding with you. And combined with the pictures, it’s a great reading experience!

  53. Julio Eiffelt R R says:

    did u travel around by your bike? all these photos?
    Amazing 🙂

  54. wangren1987 says:

    That’s really a long way!

  55. chrisvoges says:

    This is nice….the photos and everything. I want to start riding my bicycle soon, I need some exercises and visit these beautiful places sometimes. It’s hard to find the time and energy to do it though. How long have you been doing this?

    • lovethybike says:

      I am glad you stopped by – thanks for your comments. I have been cycling for years and the blog I have only been doing now for about 5-6 months? I hope you get out on that bike of yours soon, you will love it!

  56. angelique523 says:

    Stunning photographs. “impressive engineering” is a huge understatement underneath your one photo along the river. What are those? Service ports? It is nice to know someone else notices the same things. Great blogging. Thank you so much for sharing your photos. Angelique

  57. Dounia says:

    Great photos! Brings back memories – we crossed the Dartford bridge several times when we were in the UK! Thanks for sharing and congrats on being freshly pressed!

  58. hardwrites says:

    Enjoyed your post. Would love to cycle down your way.

  59. I love it! Excellent photos to accompany your travel story! 😀

  60. restlessjo says:

    Good times! I’m not even a bike rider (2 left feet, or is that not an excuse?) but the Thames is a great river to wander beside too. It just takes longer. Spent some happy time at Greenwich in the Summer, and will look forward to following you on your travels.

  61. What a wonderful journey along the Thames! Next time I’m in London I may have to follow your trail. Thanks for sharing your pics! 🙂

  62. Great shots! I love your post, great idea.

  63. Oh I really loved this post, and your photography is great. I miss London!

    Great post! Thank you for sharing!

    I will definitely subscribe to your blog. Have a wonderful day!

  64. Huffygirl says:

    Wonderful photos and story again. And FP’d again – how great is that? Good job.

  65. pnwauthor says:

    Thanks for taking us along on your London adventure. I saw London by foot mostly when I was there in 1991.

  66. Your pictures are great; I especially loved the one of the Thames Barrier.

    I remember saying to my best friend in 6th grade, “I love my bike!” She huffly responded, “You can’t love a bike. You can only love a person or an animal”

    But secretly, I loved my bike anyway.


  67. JCT says:

    Great stuff.

  68. dandekretser says:

    Your Photos are brilliant! Your blog is great too, have you cycled much in Europe?

  69. Great route!
    I live in Bermondsey – – and you have given me a good idea for a day out.

  70. Jean says:

    Keep on riding. Are you going to be cycling around London during the 2012 Olympics or hightailing out of town?

    We lived and stayed, cycling around in Vancouver, BC when 2010 Winter Olympics were on.

  71. I love how you choose subjects that typically wouldn’t be considered “touristy” type shots — there’s such beauty in the simplicity here!

    Thank you for sharing,


  72. Nice photos, nice story. Good blog

    Rock On

  73. Looks like an amazing bike ride, thanks for sharing!

  74. tracilee says:

    great photos. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  75. chicellarose says:

    Beautiful photos! I love that you are sharing these because I can live vicariously through your adventures!! And one day when I make it back, I will take some of these trails!

  76. We love your blog! Great pix; sweet balance of the pastoral and industrial. We really like your writing style too. It feels as if we’re cycling right along with you — thanks for sharing your bike joy with bikeless adventurers like us.

  77. redjim99 says:

    I was brought up near the Barrier, around Woolwich and Shooters Hill. A nice trip down memory lane for me.


  78. tootlepedal says:

    This is a fine post. The pictures really bring your trip alive. Good to read..

  79. Mike says:

    I love the area around Tower Bridge. My mother-in-law used to live there, and coffee and a walk on a Sunday morning was a great start to the day.

    Alas, my bike has been “resting” in the garage since we had a child. I’m looking forwards to the day when he can come out with us again.

  80. I had been discouraged from ever trying to bike around England but your posts are convincing me otherwise!

  81. PeteD says:

    Thames barrier, built to prevent the river flooding the city. Sounds like another great journey, great photos and glad you had good weather (winter is revisiting us!)

  82. Jeff Shone says:

    It has been a blessing this late summer weather we have been having. I love your Photos.

  83. tmso says:

    In the photo captioned with “Impressive engineering!” – what are those?

    Asides from things like glass, I kind of like going through industrial areas (in daylight). Kind of shows what exactly runs or supports a city. Bummer about the flat tires. But the rape field was worth it – I hope!

  84. meredith says:

    very nice photos! love the colors and the whole photographing-while-biking idea!

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