I’ve resolved to see as much of the Thames as is possible. The breadth of the river, the flow, the landscape around it are pretty diverse across London. Of course the river extends beyond London and flows into the sea. While I don’t intend to follow it there (at least not yet), I want to see as much as possible within the city itself.
With this in mind, the Duchess and I set out this afternoon post lunch. It had been sunny earlier but now it was a bit cloudy, which was fine with me. There was a lovely warm breeze as we set out and very fine rain. Nothing to deter us. I got that familiar happy feeling as we set out. Our aim today was not a very challenging one. We were going only till Surrey Docks Farm and back. We quickly passed Twinkle Park and were very soon passing through Sayes Court Park. It was quite a lovely little woody park and a sweet surprise. It started to rain and I took refuge under a large tree. When it cleared a bit, I found the path once again and continued along. It was not well marked everywhere and there were some moments of confusion and a lot of retracing of steps. Nor did the path cling to the river in these parts. I cut across Pepys Park, where a bike trail was marked, headed straight and reconnected with the river. The park itself didn’t have anyone, and a light rain was falling again.
This stretch of road following the river, called Foreshore, had a small bike path and a promenade. It didn’t look as pleasant as the ones at Greenwich and the river too looked naked and broad here, marked on both sides by ugly buildings. Canary Wharf seemed larger and closer from this aspect. This stretch offered the longest ride along the river in today’s route and even passed along Deptford Bridge where paper from Finland is supposedly imported. I passed South Dock Marina and then reached the junction of Rope Street and Greenland Pier. The rain was really coming down now and the Duchess and I took refuge in a little round structure and looked at the river and the Thames Clipper docking at the pier and offloading a few passengers. I took a few pictures while I waited. There were claps of thunder and lightening forks in the sky. I thought of going back home but decided I should continue onto the Farm.
After some time, the rain reduced and that was good enough for us. We followed Rope Street, continued onto South Sea Street and reached Helsinki Square and Finland street. Umm, okay. On google maps I also found Norway Gate and Oslo Square and Sweden something. All these Nordic references surely come from their great shipping heritage and goods from these countries still dock here I suppose.
It really started pouring down on Finland Street. And I mean really. Buckets of water. I took refuge under a small thatch, shivering and hoping it would all pass soon. And wondering why this was happening to me on Finland Street of all streets. After some time when the rain thinned a bit, I got back onto my cycle. The seat was wet – not the best feeling.
I passed pretty houses. The whole area was quite lovely. I cycled on under large trees (Bonding Yard Walk google calls it) and reached a small wooded area. None of this is on google maps now. But it was prettier than the path that led into it. If I’d thought that the worst of the rain was over, I was wrong. It *really* came down now. Heavier than it was when I was passing Finland Street. I rushed under a bridge and stood there for quite some time. A few people with raincoats and umbrellas passed me and I looked at their brightly coloured macs enviously. My fingers were getting numb from the cold. So I took a few photos.
When for a moment it seemed like it had gotten better I pedaled on. Foolishly. It was raining again the moment I left that bridge. I passed a little bistro called The Ship York on Elgar Street. It looked welcoming with its red paint and warm, golden lit interior. I looked too much of a mess with my drenched clothes and sodden shoes. A cup of tea would have been so nice at that point.
On Rotherhithe Street now and in a minute or two I was surprised to hear a loud moo to my right. I realised I’d reached the farm. I circled around it to find the entrance. Got off my bike and walked onto the mud. It was raining very heavily and I stood under a stable’s thatch. It was surreal, standing in the rain in a city like London on a farm, outside an animal’s barn, drenched with my bike. A couple of farm hands passed me busily with hay and buckets. Everything was bustling with activity. I could hear squeals, grunts, baas, bleats and moos from all directions. One of the farm hands smiled at me and I spoke to him about how miserable it was. He was clearly not used to being spoken to I guess and was very shy about it, but friendly and smiling. He told me there were pigs and other animals about. I peeked out from my barn (I wish I were inside with the hay) to see two donkeys stationed in their stable, looking dry and warm. They stared back at me. A lady cleaned the cage next to me. I didn’t realise until she was cleaning it that I was standing next to something living. When the rain cleared I passed them and realised they were racoons. Very friendly, they walked with me in their cages, staring at my helmet and bike with great curiosity.
Though it was still raining I decided to get back. The rain felt like ice and stabbed at me. My hands felt numb. I was happy that I remembered the way and realised just how short this path was. I reached home soon enough – happy to see my building coming up in the distance. The roads felt better, the river looked nicer here and the air smelt scented with all the flowers. I headed into the building, my numb hands barely able to grasp the keys. I apologized to the Duchess and carried her deferentially up the stairs.
It took me at least ten minutes of standing under the bathroom radiator plus a really hot shower to get the feeling back in my hands. When I finished my shower and got out, it was sunny outside – really really bright – and I asked myself if I’d been hallucinating the whole afternoon. Apparently not since I had my wet shoes, wet bike tyre marks on the floor and clothes as proof. I am happy to report that it poured again and has been pouring since the last hour or so.
In my books, no rain adventure is complete without a cup of tea or maggi and I made myself both as a reward for my epic rain adventure i.e. for what should have been a 15 minute ride both ways.