Bikes and Trains.

London Bridge Sunrise

Heading to the Starting Point

Cycling from home to the local train station involves going over a bridge which was a struggle but with the gears I had it was manageable. The weather was overcast and a little chilli with a hefty breeze coming off the seafront. Setting off at 06:45 to Blackpool Pleasure Beach station, the station closest to me only has steps onto the platform, which would have been a real struggle to get my heavy bike down, within 10 mins I arrived and waited on a lonely platform with a huge grin on my face I was finally setting off.

Railway Tracks

I had been unable to book my bike on the first train, I had tried, I had sent the train company an email explaining my journey and the importance of getting my connection at Preston, the reply was basically tough luck. So I got on it as it was heading in the wrong direction to ensure I had my place in the cycle carriage, knowing it would be only one stop and then return along the single track. I chatted with another cyclist who had a very nice Gant bike, he worked at Preston university and had gone through surgery for a new hip, he was only 47. I got off the train with bike envy. I arrived at Preston for my connection an hour early, so sat on the platform and ate my packed breakfast, well a bag of mini chocolate croissants. It was cold on the platform but I sat and watched as people rushed for their trains, some people off to work carrying their morning latte and others off on a longer journey with suitcases.

A virgin train employee approached and advised me where to stand on the platform so I could easily board, only problem, he was wrong and when the train stopped I was stood at the door for first class. I managed to find the carriage for bikes and boarded without fuss but my seat reservation was at the other end of the carriage so I stayed with my bike, standing up for the 3 hours to London Euston.

Quite surprisingly the journey to London was pleasant, I chatted to someone on his way to a job interview at guide dogs for the blind who had backpacked through Africa and I listened in on other people’s conversations to pass the time. I had the only bike on the train that day but it seems not many people take their bikes on such a long train journey, which was all the better for me.

On arrival at Euston station which was extremely busy I pushed my bike through the concourse and along the street to the front of the station where there is a small park. I sat on the grass under a sycamore tree and ate my packed lunch, cheese, ham and caramelized onion wraps and a flask of coffee. There were small groups of people sat all over the park eating and drinking, I imagined most of them were on their lunch breaks from offices nearby. I put my visi jacket on and set up my GoPro camera on my handlebars and checked the map before setting off, general direction South!

As you can imagine London was hectic, people rushing everywhere either on mobile phones or head down looking at some screen it was then I realized that I’m no longer part of the rat race, my time is my own I have no one controlling my life and for at least the next year I decide what I do.

So after lunch I headed towards the Thames I tried to follow the cycle route I had planned but failed miserably, I ended up on Farringdon street which headed over the Thames but before I got to the bridge my first incident happened, I had a tin of GT85 bike spray wedged between my tent and panniers and as I approached a set of lights it fell off in the middle of the traffic. I pulled over but by the time I got off and put the bike on its stand somebody had recovered it from the road and handed it to me, phew I was glad I avoid wandering into busy traffic.

I crossed the Thames with the oxo building just to my right and spotted borough market where I stopped to buy some fruit and fill my water bottles. I pushed on following the Thames taking detour after detour until completely lost, so I switched on my tablet and started the navigation app.  This guided me for the next 3 hours until I finally reached my destination for the night.

I arrived at Abbey Wood campsite at 5 ish and found a spot fairly close to the shower block. Setting up camp was a breeze and the tent seemed huge, after a hot shower and shave I fell asleep.  The rain fell all night but I was warm and comfy, I only had to move the footprint in the porch to stop it getting wet.