Monday, December 28

Dog days of winter

I think I may have just invented that phrase, after all it's usually dog days of summer, but although the temperature does not match the phrase, the feeling of lethargy and inaction probably does.

Every year my employer closes the office from Christmas Eve to New Year, kindly giving all staff three and a half days' extra holiday gratis. I know that they save a lot of money not having to heat the building for a few days when most people would be on holiday anyway, but it's a gesture I've always appreciated and felt grateful for (especially since I used to work at a company that closed the office BUT made you take the days out of your meagre annual leave!).

As a result my christmas break is usually at least two weeks long, this year even longer! I find the run-up to Christmas rather tedious; the requirement to celebrate two consecutive birthdays in our household while still trying to finish preparations for December 25th usually leaves me tired and emotional by the actual day, and drained of any festive spirit.

But the days between Christmas and the new year return to work are something of a gift, particularly if I stay in London and try to minimise my travelling. The city as a whole is much quieter, its population temporarily reduced, and when the weather is good, it's a great opportunity to get out and enjoy the sights, attractions, cycle routes and footpaths of the capital.

With a glorious day of sunshine today I set out for a bike ride along some of my favourite East London waterways, and to explore some new ones.

From Greenwich I head under the river through the foot tunnel, then along the Thames Path on the west of the Isle of Dogs and up to Limehouse Basin. From here I follow the Regents Canal and take the cycle route through Mile End Park to Victoria Park.

At the east end of Victoria Park the cycle route (it's part of National Route 1) dips back to the towpath and heads into the edge of the Olympic construction zone. There's some great graffiti on the walls of the industrial buildings that line the river.

You can either head north along the River Lee, as I did today, and follow the route as far as you fancy, over Hackney and Walthamstow marshes and up into Lee Valley Park or head south along the Lee and back towards the Thames for a shorter route. At Bow Locks take the cute little bridge over the channel and then follow the 'floating' footpath that leads into Limehouse Cut and back to Limehouse Basin.

Today I did both, about 25 miles in total, and got home just as it was getting dark. Annoyingly the south lift in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel did one of those scheduled-but-unannounced closures, meaning I had to drag my bike back up the 90-odd stairs. As if I hadn't seen enough stairs already this week! And if they'd had the decency to put up a notice about it, I wouldn't have bothered doing some shopping on the way back, meaning the bike was even heavier! Grrr!

There's so much to see along these routes, from industrial wastelands to historic buildings and modern construction, delightful parks and colourful narrowboats, loads of river life and fascinating glimpses of forgotten corners of London that even a short trip can keep you occupied for several hours.


Felix said...

I love your posts about your explorations of London and I have enjoyed all the tweeting from Londoners this week about how much quieter it is during the holidays.

By coincidence, the route that you describe in this post shares some of the same stretches of London as the walk my partner is planning, to coincide with the Olympics! If you have any tips about especially wondrous sites between Stratford and Putney, it would be awesome to hear them. He has started blogging (just yesterday) about the walk and I told him to check out your blog since you always write so well about hidden places in London.

The 2012 walking blog is here:

colleen said...

I like the dog days between Christmas and New Year. Even though I am not working now, they still feel like proper holiday time, a time to catch up in a leisurely way. You certainly fitted in a lot yesterday - much of your route is well known in this house. The filter beds is a fairly new destination for us -our canal travels are generally utilitarian routes for getting from A to B.

knit nurse said...

@Felix - I'll be delighted to contribute with what knowledge I can of London; having cycled and walked extensively in the capital I hope I'll be able to dig out some gems.
@Colleen - I know you'll be able to help with this too.....!

jane said...

That sounds like such a lovely ride - there are some great paths in east London. And 90 stairs with a bike - good job!!!
And I know exactly what you mean about those precious days sandwiched between Christmas and New Year - they're some of my favourites too.
Happy new year!