Posts Tagged ‘folding bike’

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich

Thursday, May 16th, 2024

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich: I was back in London’s docklands on 16th May 2004, a week after I had led a small workshop there, this time on my own, and rather than walking I had gone with my Brompton folding bike.

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich

The Brompton is an ideal way to cover larger distances when taking photographs. It can be folded to go on public transport and is very easy to get on and off and park in little or no space. It folds and unfolds in seconds. It’s a lively ride with a short wheelbase and good for riding in traffic, though for longer rides I prefer my road bike.

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich

The Brompton has some minor problems. They are not cheap – which delayed me buying one for years. It’s not built for off-road use and mine has mudguards that can clog and stop the wheel turning on muddy ground. And now I’m a bit older it is just a little heavy to carry for any distance in stations. But my main problem is that it is a thief magnet, dangerous to leave anywhere for any length of time even if you have a good lock. No bike lock can defy the well-equipped thief for more than around half a minute and it slips easily into a car boot and fetches a good price.

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich

I’d hoped to get the Jubilee Line to Canning Town, but trains were only running as far as North Greenwich, so instead I got off at Canary Wharf before the train went under the Thames again. It was no problem as I had the bike.

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich

I took a few pictures around Canary Wharf, then rode off to the east past Blackwall Basin and on to the East India Docks probably the most boring of all the redeveloped docks.

From there I went up on the Lower Lea Crossing, taking pictures of Pura Foods to the north and the view south across Trinity Buoy Wharf and the Thames towards the Millenium Dome.

I photographed the Dome again from Silvertown Way, as well as the works taking place for the DLR extension to London City Airport.

A big advantage of being on a bike is that you can wander around, and I went down to the Royal Victoria Dock, then back to Silvertown Way and Lyle Park, then back to Victoria Dock again.

I couldn’t resist going onto the high level bridge across the dock, though the lift wasn’t working and I was cursing the weight of the bike and cameras by the time I reached the top of the stairs.

Eventually after making rather a large number of pictures I forced myself to come down and continued my ride along the North Woolwich Road to the futuristic Barrier Point, its west front like some space city.

In Thames Barrier Park I went down to the riverside to photograph the barrier before continuing on to Silvertown, stopping a few times for more pictures. Near North Woolwich I sloweed to photograph two boys on a scooter being towed by a woman on a bicycle. I stopped take more pictures but later I met them in North Woolwich and they told me she had soon given up.

I took some more pictures in North Woolwich and then rode on to Beckton Retail Park, then turned around and went down Woolwich Manor Way across the Royal Albert and King George Docks.

Back in 2004 flights from London City Airport were fairly infrequent and I had quite a long rest waiting to photograph a plane going overhead.

I rode on to North Woolwich ferry pier where I had a wait for the ferry and took some more pictures. In 2004 I wrote that the Woolwich Ferry is “London’s best-value river trip. I wonder how much longer this free ferry will operate?” It was upgraded in 2018 with new, modern, low-emission boats which proved rather a disaster. Services had been severely reduced, working with only one of the two new boats.

But Transport for London a week ago in May 2024 restored the two-boat service and expanded operating hours. They say the service will continue as long as there is demand. A short ride took me to Woolwich Arsenal Station where I folded the Brompton for the journey home.

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On My Brompton in Essex – 2004

Saturday, August 26th, 2023

On My Brompton in Essex: On Thursday 26th August 2004 I went for a ride on my Brompton in Essex on the north bank of the Thames, in an area sometimes known as the Thames Gateway. If anyone doesn’t know, the Brompton is one of the best folding bikes around, with 16 inch wheels, folding quickly to a fairly small package which can be carried onto trains and buses. I don’t ride it so much now, as I find it rather heavy to carry, particularly when loaded with my camera gear.

On My Brompton in Essex
Chafford Hundred, Grays, Essex

I bought the Brompton at the end of 2002, and spent a lot of time riding it for exercise on doctor’s orders during recovery from a minor heart problem at the start of 2003. It coincided with the purchase of my first digital camera capable of professional results, the 6.1Mp Nikon D100 DSLR.

On My Brompton in Essex
Royal Victoria Dock

For a year or two I worked with both digital and film, particularly because at the start I had only one Nikon lens, a 24-85mm zoom, giving an equivalent on the DX format camera to 36-128mm on full-frame, but I used a range of wider lenses on film. By 2004 I had added the remarkable Sigma 12-24mm (18-36mm equiv) to my bag, and many of the pictures I made that day were taken with that lens. I think it was the first affordable ultra-wide zoom, and certainly the results on DX format were very usable.

On My Brompton in Essex
Channel Tunnel Rail link under construction at Purfleet

As well as the Nikon I also had a film camera, a Russian Horizon 202 swing lens panoramic camera. You can see some of the pictures I made with this among those on the Thames Gateway (Essex) section on the Urban Landscapes site.

On My Brompton in Essex
Dartford Bridge and Channel Tunnel rail link, Thurrock

I began taking pictures that day at Victoria Dock in Canning Town, having taken the Brompton on the train to Waterloo and then the Jubilee Line there, before cycling to West Ham station to catch the C2C rail service to Rainham, all on a Travelcard. It’s something of a blow that TfL now intends to discontinue the Travelcard, which provided relatively cheap and simple travel for most of my photography.

Here is what I wrote about the day back in August 2004 – with minor corrections, particularly changing to normal capitalisation.

I like to make good use of my Travelcards, so Rainham, the last station out of Fenchurch St in zone 6 is a good destination. I pointed the Brompton first to Purfleet, to take a look at the state of play on the high-speed rail link, and also a new development in the old chalkpits, then on towards the Dartford bridge.

The Bridge Act obliges the operators to transport cycles and pedestrians across free of charge, and I cycled up the path towards it to claim this right, before changing my mind and deciding i didn’t want to go to the other side. Instead I took the new road through the West Thurrock Marshes industrial area and on to St Clements church, now a nature sanctuary, in the middle of a detergent factory.

It’s a quiet and pleasant place to eat sandwiches, though the smell of the perfuming agent is pervasive. There I planned a route largely along side roads, cycle paths and footpaths to Upminster, taking in Chafford Hundred, South Ockenden and Belhus Park and woods. It made a pleasant ride, though I had to make a few detours, and the B isn’t too stable on slimy mud, so some paths made for interesting riding, with the added pleasures of bramble thorns and nettles.

My London Diary

All of the pictures on this post were taken on the Nikon D100. There are a quite a lot more on My London Diary.

Purfleet & West Thurrock – 2003

Saturday, April 22nd, 2023

Purfleet & West Thurrock: 20 years ago, on 22nd April 2003 I was still recovering from a heart attack and a little minor surgery. Delays and cancellations in the NHS are not new, and I’d spent several weeks in hospital waiting for the op, with three or four cancellations as emergencies bumped me off the list at short notice – one time I was even on a trolley on may way to theatre. Back then the major shortage, and one that seldom made the news, was of doctors and it still is, with the government still committed to doing little or nothing about it, even refusing to discuss the junior doctors claims.

Purfleet & West Thurrock

My actual operation, when finally it happened, went well, but 24 hours later I was an emergency too, collapsing the the ward toilet as my blood pressure dropped spectacularly thanks to a large dose of a exotic drug through a cannula incorrectly inserted by a junior doctor (the nurses were extremely scornful) and I was still far too weak when they released me home to join the million or more (including my son and wife) the protesting against the Iraq war the following day. I think I was more upset about that than my heart attack.

Purfleet & West Thurrock

My GP signed me off work for a few weeks (though most of my work was freelance and from home, and I was able to continue this) and prescribed aspirin and exercise along with a few other drugs to deal with my blood pressure, which I’ve been taking daily ever since, along with insulin for my diabetes, also diagnosed when I went into hospital. And thanks to the NHS, all this has cost me absolutely nothing. And after I was signed off as fit for work in March, though I was still very weak, I managed to go and photograph a couple of protests.

Purfleet & West Thurrock

Walking was still for the first month or two just a little taxing, but after a couple of weeks I was fine on my Brompton, where I could take it easy later I went on some longish rides. And as it was a folding bike I could put it on trains and the underground to take me away for more distant starting points. And in April 2003 I went on rides from Dartford, Rainham and, on 22nd April 2003, to Purfleet, where I cycled along beside the Thames to West Thurrock and back.

Purfleet & West Thurrock

When I posted pictures of this and other rides on My London Diary, I noted “I didn’t get around to adding these other pictures from April 2003 until very much later, and haven’t got around to giving them captions.” And I wrote nothing about the ride at the time. All were taken on a Nikon D100 with a Nikon 24-85mm lens.

I travelled up to London on a Travelcard which covered a journey to any station in Zones 1-6, which meant the closest I could get to Purfleet was actually the station before, Rainham. Then it wasn’t possible to follow the riverside path from Rainham to Purfleet, which then ended at Coldharbour, so I had to cycle along the road to Purfleet through Wennington. The map now shows a riverside cycle path.

This part of the ride had little interest, other than passing some of the works for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, where I took a few pictures before going down Tank Hill Rd to reach the riverside close to the Purfleet Armada Beacon.

Navigation from there to West Thurrock (and on to Grays and the edge of Tilbury Docks on other occasions) was simply a matter of following the riverside path. But it was then an extremely interesting path, past various industrial sites and under the Dartford Bridge (and less noticeably over the Dartford Tunnel.

This is a wide and interesting stretch of the river, also crossed by a 400kV high voltage power line from Swanscombe, with the two 623ft pylons on each side being the tallest in Britain. The distance between the two towers is apparently 4,501 feet, around 0.85 miles or 1.37 km.

Pilgrims en route to Canterbury crossed the river from close by St Clement’s Church, taking to boat across to Swanscombe where the path up from the river is still the Pilgrims Road. But there was no boat available to me, so I turned inland into West Thurrock.

St Clement’s Church was Grade I listed in 1960 and parts at least are 13th century. It was used by a a youth unemployment scheme after regular services closed in 1977 and the interior was gutted, and after the project closed it was badly vandalised.

Dominating the church is the Procter & Gamble detergent factory begun here in 1940 and in 1987 when they were celebrating the company’s 150 years in business they took over the upkeep of the church which took 3 years to restore. The church, which was the location of the funeral in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ is now open to the public once a month from April to September.

I can’t recall my route back along various roads to Rainham station, but there are a few pictures I took, mainly of the A13 and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link on My London Diary.

Brompton around Swanscombe 2015

Monday, June 6th, 2022

Brompton around Swanscombe 2015 – Late in 2002 I bought a Brompton folding bicycle, something I’d been considering for years, but the cost had put me off. I can’t remember exactly what it cost me then, but with a few essential bits and pieces it was around £700 – allowing for inflation now equivalent to around £1200. Bromptons (hereafter just B’s) now start at £850, even better value. In an interview a year or two later with a photographic magazine I was asked “What is your favourite photographic accessory?” and my answer, “My B” wasn’t what was expected.

I wasn’t new to cycling – I’d got my first two-wheeler back in 1951 and had owned and used bikes since then, but this was my first folding bike and was bought as a photographic accessory to enable me to explore areas in outer London and the outskirts where public transport was often in scarce supply.

I’d hoped also it would be a convenient way to get around when photographing various events in the centre of London, but soon gave up on that idea as finding safe places to leave it appeared impossible. Bs are idea for bike thieves. Relatively high value and much in demand, they can be stowed away in a car boot in seconds. And even the sturdiest bike lock can only hold up the well-equipped criminal for less than a minute.

Locking and leaving isn’t really an option unless you can keep it in sight or in a secure place. Office workers can keep them in cloakrooms or under their desks, but when your place of work is the street you have a problem.

For cycling close to home I still had the full-size Cinelli that my eldest brother had given me as a birthday present back in 1958, and despite being dirty, dilapidated and having suffered much downgraded with more robust and heavier wheels and tyres still rolling well. But the huge advantage of the B was that it could be folded and taken on trains, underground and even buses at any time, enabling me to make rides from places which were too far away for me to cycle to.

I made my first such journey back in January 2003, taking the train to Erith, a little over 30 miles away, and then spent a few hours cycling “around the town and along the Thames, Darent and Cray before braving the Dartford bypass and striking off along Joyce Green Lane before returning to catch the train home from Slade Green.” Much of that cycling was along footpaths and other poor surfaces and tiring enough – and at one point I almost collapsed trying to lift the B over a stile. I couldn’t understand why, as even with my photographic gear in the front bag it was probably less than 15kg. A week or two later I found out the reason, having a relatively mild heart attack at home which required some minor surgery to put a stent into a blocked artery.

As soon as I could walk, my doctor told me I had to exercise, and soon I was taking a series of rides from home on the B over much of the nearby country. It was much easier to mount and dismount than a normal men’s bike, having no crossbar. Scattered through My London Diary are pictures from a number of bike rides, mainly made on the B. On a bike you can stop almost anywhere and don’t need a place to park, and the ease of getting on and off makes a B ideal. At times I’ve also used it, parked against a wall to stand on, one foot on the saddle and the other on the handlebars, but it can roll away and leave you unsupported.

My trip around Swanscombe on Saturday 6th June was one such ride, taken while the area was under threat from development as the Paramount London theme park (and it still is though this now seems less likely.) It was an area I’d photographed on a number of occasions since the 1980s and knew reasonably well. In the 1970s, together with neighbouring Stone, Greenhithe, Swanscombe and Northfleet was the largest cement producing area in Europe, mainly run by Blue Circle. But by the time I first visited that production was centred at Northfleet, and the works at the other sites had largely disappeared or were very run down, and the Swanscombe works had ceased production although the site only finally closed in 1990. Northfleet continued for some years into this century, but nothing now remains – except of course the huge quarry areas with their chalk cliffs.

The post Swanscombe on My London Diary gives more of the history of the area, and also includes a fairly complete description of the route I took on Saturday 6th June 2015, so I won’t repeat that information here. The B isn’t a great off-road bike – and impossible in muddy conditions – but is fine on reasonable footpaths but I might had had to get off an push in some places. One of the paths I mention, Lovers Lane, is now a wide road beside a new housing estate but otherwise the area is much the same as it was in 2015 except there are now notices that some of the areas are private property.

The area is also well described in the many pictures, many of which were made with a very wide horizontal and vertical angle of view. Although not panoramic in format they are panoramic in their scope.