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Final days in London

Only a few weekends left to us now before we leave London, our home for the last 3 years, the last 6 months of which have been afloat on Cirrus. So on what was the warmest day of the year to date we dug our bikes out of the ‘shed’ (our name for the starboard rear cabin), unfolded them and set off downstream. Our plan was to make a double crossing of the river at two different points, by land and sea.

There is a riverside sign-posted route for cyclists and pedestrians which encircles the Isle of Dogs so our first destination was to the southernmost tip of this peninsular where we would take the ancient and famous foot tunnel under the river to Greenwich. A descent by lift on one side of the river is followed by a walk through a straight and echo-ey tunnel where there is another lift up to ground level again. Or at least there should be if it is working. It is not uncommon for one or other lift to be out of order so the trick here is to choose a direction of travel, north or south, where we can descend the spiral staircase at one end and rise in the working lift at the other, thus avoiding carrying our bikes up 60 or so steps. Since today it was the south lift that was out of commission we made a quick change of plan and turned away east for our next crossing point, the Woolwich ferry.

London east of Canary Wharf cannot be described as pretty and many would use much stronger language for an industrial wasteland criss-crossed by flyovers carrying cars or trains and overflown by roaring jets taking off steeply from the City airport. But there are attractions. Nestling on a meander of the River Lee is a tiny man made paradise of wildflower meadow and freshwater ponds full of life which ignores the Docklands railway passing directly overhead. Pausing here for a while in the sunshine we too find it easy to forget, as the creatures do, that a giant city throbs and roars about us.

After battling with more dual carriageways than was healthy for us we eventually escaped past the acre or so of sugar factory which dominates the north bank of the Thames here. It was sugar, of course, that gave London much of the accumulated wealth it has today and also brought slavery to our shores but a golden syrup tin now adorns one end of this massive industrial plant telling us that at least someone still has a sense of humour.

Onwards then to our sea voyage, made with the tide just starting its flood, and Kate seen here having just taken her Kwells in preparation for the passage. The tannoy announces “All passengers must leave the vessel after docking”, clearly intended to prevent all those who might choose to drift backwards and forwards across the river all day from doing so and one can see, on a day like today, how tempted one might be to do just that.

As cyclists we disembark first, making our escape before we can be mown down by the the all-too-eager motorists behind us, then we drift over to an ice-cream van for much needed sustenance.

Gazing west towards the capital now we see many of the landmarks we will soon be leaving behind. Canary Wharf’s towers gaze down on the dome of the O2 arena while the ferry in the foreground flashes its funnels at the sugar factory opposite. The Thames Barrier strides across the river here too and it is through these arches we’ll be sailing soon. Come Easter this will be our gateway to a new life.

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