15 April 2009
Thames Crossings 0: Teddington
I spent a couple of days over Easter cycling all the cyclable crossings of the Thames, east from Teddington Lock – the tidal limit – to Dartford Crossing, mentioned in yesterday's post.
The rules of the ride are simple:
1. Start on the north bank at Teddington, cross here and head downriver.
2. Cross whenever you can.
3. Stay as close to the river as possible.
The Teddington crossing is actually just above the tidal limit, so I've numbered it zero, but it's the best place to start. Going downriver from here there are 30 more separate cyclable crossings, ending with that tunnel and bridge at Dartford.
The whole 31-crossing trip (bridges, tunnels, ferries) is best done over two leisurely days of about 20 miles (four hours' easy cycling) each, breaking it somewhere in central London. Most of the route is traffic-free, it's all flat, it's a fabulous mix of rural, suburban and cityscape scenery, and there is absolutely no shortage of cafes and pubs. And what wind there is should be behind you.
I'll cover one bridge per day on this blog over the next month.
Getting to Teddington is easy: there are plenty of trains from Waterloo, and the station is a few hundred metres from the bridge down High Street and Ferry Road. The bike map for this bit is London Cycling Guide No. 9, one of the excellent TfL series available free in bike shops or online.
Teddington's crossing is a pair of charming little Meccano-like bridges: a suspension (top right and middle right) and a girder (bottom right), which meet on a small island in the middle.
They were built in the late 1880s, paid for by local subscription. That was the beginning of the bike boom, but they were clearly designed as footbridges, with some steep steps. However, a couple of years ago, wooden ramps were added that give you and your bike smooth passage over the whole crossing.
From here it's a couple of miles of smooth traffic-free riverside tarmac or gravel along the south bank to the next crossing, a tiny passenger ferry.