Dear Diary...

This is my diary. How things are. Or something. Please note that the diary is archived month by month, so feel free to click the links for the archives (which now will go back five years maximum):

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Sunday 9th June - Cycle Sunday

So as part of a drive from Transport for London (TfL) to get everyone more active and cycling, they have denoted the Sundays in June to be "cycle Sundays" with lots of routes created and offer for you to do, but also as part of this, you can claim a free day pass for unlimited 30 minute bike rides via Santander Cycles. As I already have an account and the app etc, this made a lot of sense for me to get out there and cycle, albeit I needed to travel a bit to get to places I could hire a cycle. With a route worked out, and after some breakfast and the F1 qualifying highlights, I headed off from West Croydon to Hackney Wick via Stratford.

Once at Hackney Wick I followed the road round to the footbridge over the A12, which meant I could get to Cadogan Close and the cycle station there to hire the first bike of the day. I went to the app, selected the station, went for the one day hire, entered the promotional code, and - nope, "Internal error". Just in case I restarted the app and reconnected the data, tried again, still nothing. Well TfL, that's not very good is it - surely you knew demand would be bigger right? Anyway, I thought I'd use the kiosk there instead, swiped the card, it recognised me, and well what do you know? Entering the code worked without hassle, I got the release code printed, and off I was!

I was going to do a full circuit of Victoria Park, as it is quite big, but there was a 5K and half marathon event taking place, so crossed over and did some infield paths and then headed across to one side of the park not being used, and managed to circle that quite a bit before taking an exit and off to a cycle hire station at the far left side of the park, and that worked well. Second time around I did the far North part of the park and then looped back to do the Well Street common and head around there, which was pretty good although I did notice that masses were queueing outside the People's Park Tavern, waiting for it to open.

By this time though, the park was starting to fully reopen with the runs pretty much done, so got another bike at Gascoyne Road opposite the People's Park Tavern, went in and did a full lap around, which did take some time and there's a slight uphill at the top right corner close to Cadogan Terrace, and passing lots of food and drink stalls that they have there as a food market each Sunday. I managed to do a full lap in around eighteen minutes or so, not too bad considering you do have to slow down for pedestrians and so on. I then thought it sensible to take another bike but this time cycle round, head over the bridge at Hackney Wick and dock near the Olympic Park, which worked well too - I did have to wheel the bike up stairs and cross the canal but that worked.

I did a pit stop at a Tesco Express near the Copper Box for some lunch and then did a little lap loop around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, taking in the Velodrome. There is a cycle circuit you can take there but only if you enter the velodrome and pay the fee, which looked pretty good, and so I did another dock and undock close to the velodrome and did another lap, albeit having to go slow as the masses were heading across to the London Stadium for the MLB baseball game being played there this afternoon, but once past that it was a pretty nice speedy run back to the velodrome.

I then did another different route, and possibly a good one to note for future too. I started at the velodrome, went past the hockey centre (which had a game on) and then along the paths by Hackney Marshes, over the River Lea and then towards the canal, taking a run Northbound before then crossing a bridge, heading back along quiet roads to Homerton, before then crossing over to the back end of Victoria Park and joining up at Cadogan Terrace so I could dock the bike - 22 minutes in all and quite some scenery taken along the way too, so that worked out well.

After a quick chat with The Love In My Heart (I do miss her lots you know) it was back for one final loop around Victoria Park, this time going anticlockwise instead of clockwise, and that worked out nice to do it differently, and I must admit it was tempting to stop at the Five Points Brewery stall but was good and carried on, docking the bike for the final time later on. So all in all, that lap was 2.8 miles, and did that at least twice, with others being alternate loops around a similar distance, and the velopark via Homerton route was 3.1 miles, add going round the Olympic Park and I reckon I did 20-22 miles or so today overall, which was more than expected!

It was a nice little walk back to Hackney Wick to get the Overground over to Stratford, and there were many people getting off the train and heading over the canal via the Copper Box to the baseball game at the London Stadium, so somehow the iconic Take Me Out to the Ball Game is tune of the day. It was good to head back via Stratford and the purple train to Whitechapel before then getting the Overground to West Croydon and home. It had been a long day worth of cycling but proven to be a really good one.

Saturday 8th June - Vanguard Way Section 1

I had decided during the week that as this was a weekend I'd be at home that I'd take a nice walk in on the Saturday to make the most of the dry weather - it wasn't too hot either so good conditions for walking and with a walk that started quite close to me, no travelling to get to the walk either, which was a definite plus. I had my eyes on the Vanguard Way for some time and do want to do all of it (66 miles across 10 sections) so that would be good to set a goal of achieving. With that in mind, I set off at a reasonable time after some breakfast and headed for East Croydon station where the walk would start.

After reaching there and down Altire Road, it was then following the Fairfield Path as it wound its way between houses before diving underneath the tram line on the way to Lloyd Park. It was the parkrun this morning too so plenty of people doing that, and I walked across the park, around the copse and through some lovely paths of high grass and trees before then getting back to the tram line, crossing over and following Coombe Road past a Premier Inn and on to the lane that would take me to Coombe Wood, and Conduit Lane was its name. That was quite nice and the first of three woodlands in Croydon alone.

Once I got to the other side, I followed the path along the back of some posh houses towards Ballards Way, with the trees and the slight hill really making for a lovely backdrop, before coming out and following Crest Road and a footpath opposite to take me left towards Littleheath Wood. That was a good climb up and a nice little diversion to not disturb some badger setts (cue Badger Badger (Save the Badger) by Weebl and Brian May, has to be tune of the day that) before the London Loop path came in and joined us, as part of Section 4 of that which I've walked before takes in part of the Vanguard Way too.

From here it was another slight climb up Littleheath Woods and through to the main road (and some high nettles too to dodge!) and following the path by Ashen Vale towards Sorrel Bank and descending down to the entrance to Selsdon Wood. That all came back to me as I walked through that (in much muddier conditions!) for the London Loop, and was much nicer today to do, and at Forestdale crossing right for the walk with Puplet Wood on the left side, on the border of the Surrey district of Tandridge and along what's called Baker Boy Lane towards Farleigh.

At the entrance to Farleigh Golf Club (now officially out of Greater London) I followed the path alongside the road to the clubhouse, and then turned right heading towards Farleigh Court Road, and crossed over past an equestrian centre and to the historic Church of St Mary the Virgin, which has stood here since 1083. Yes, that's right, nine hundred and forty years old at that. It was then a nice walk along another bridleway path, and this time taking in Greatpark Wood on the left side before diving under a bridge to the Greatpark estate and arriving at Chelsham Common for the walk's end.

I did have a fair wait there for a bus to Selsdon, so instead decided to walk down Chelsham Road for a mile or so (so did another mile of walking) and to Warlingham where a nice cold drink via Sainsbury's was awaiting. I did note that the 403 bus back to Croydon was on diversion, so fancied a country route on the 409 instead (not a TfL bus, but fare capped at £2) which took me back to Chelsham and Farleigh before dropping down and up hill to Selsdon itself, which was good as I could stop for lunch there and then get the 412 bus back homewards.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable walk indeed, and I have to say that if the other sections of the Vanguard Way are as good, I am going to look forward to doing them - it says it is from the suburbs to the sea, and the final section looks absolutely brilliant, so will definitely be getting the remainder done when I can - but need to time some buses by the looks of it. There's lots of helpful guidance via the walk's website and even an app with photo guidance which you can download for offline use too, which is also very useful, so well done to those maintaning that.

Thursday 6th June - Cycle Commuting

So I've been doing a little bit of experimenting with the cycle hire this week, as I've been over in our office in Hoxton under the railway arches, and I must admit I do prefer working there than our main office - it has much more of a community feel throughout with people there, there's some nice walks not far away if you wish, and also it just feels an easier commute on the Overground too. All of that made me think about also hiring a bike at lunch times and getting back in the saddle a little bit too.

So with that in mind, today after a couple of route attempts per se, I decided to get my lunchtime cycle done, and although I do have the official bike key for TfL's Santander Cycles which works perfect on the pay as you go basis, the day pass is currently £3 which is less than two rides, so did that instead on the app (as I would be cycling after work) and then from Hoxton station did a left turn and round to Hackney Road, following that for a small time until I got to Hackney City Farm and turned left along cycleway 13, following this along to Broadway Market and to London Fields Park.

It was nice going through that park with the breeze in my hair, I have to admit, and from there it was then a left turn and under the railway bridge on to Richmond Road. I could follow this for a while with a final climb as the road heads over the railway and the last part is also now cycles only too so definitely feels safer. Over that bridge and twisty turn it's then a left on to Kingsland Road and down the main A10 back towards Hoxton itself and to re-dock the bike close to the Sainsbury's to get some lunch. That was pretty good and around 3.5 miles in all, which I did feel a bit afterwards.

Once I had finished work, albeit a bit later than planned as I had some data transfers to finish off, it was then over to Hoxton station for another bike. Because the Overground goes through Shoreditch High Street which is in Zone 1, the fare for me is £5.10. However, I worked out if I go to Whitechapel, Shadwell or Wapping, then that goes down to £3.00, or even £2.00 off peak. I had cycled to Shadwell after work yesterday and that was good, but thought I could extend it more, and so instead of turning left for Shadwell I went straight on, did a left right to go past Tobacco Dock and the docking station was right outside the Wapping Tavern pub. So I went in!

I had been there before of course, and so got a drink of the Gipsy Hill Hepcat, and noted they still had the Addams Family pinball machine. I was looking to put the £1 in, but then noted that the machine was on freeplay. Oh get in! Winning. So naturally I was going to have a few goes of that, with the theme tune in my head (make that tune of the day) and it was all good wholesome fun before heading on the Overground and becase it was off peak time by that point, £2 it was. So that worked out nicely and I had also done some of my favouite things (pinball and cycling) in one day too.

Sunday 2nd June - Slow Sunday

It was a relatively calm and chilled out day today for myself and The Love In My Heart, as we were having a nice slow weekend and that suited us both down to the ground after a hard week at work each. In fact, it was good to have a bit of a lie in with Brian the cat purring happily on the end of the bed knowing he had his Mummy close by and ready for fuss, cuddles an any treats being offered. Needless to say when I did get up, he gave me the "I'm so cute and please give me some Dreamies" look that he does, hard to resist to be honest.

After some breakfast, and having got ourselves changed and ready, we headed off towards the city centre and towards Ancoats, as the makers market was on today and The Love wanted to see if there were any nice outfits she could get. We did see some nice cards and some art prints too which looked really ace, as well as some food stalls offering all sorts including one that had already sold out of all of their Portugese cuisine, which shows that they must have been good!

We did stop off at Seven Bro7ers Beerhouse for a drink, and that was nice to sit outside by Cutting Room Square and have the Satin Stout to boot too. We did then head off back to The Love's car (free parking close by on a Sunday you see) and then head off to the Gateway. On the way I did note that my train back homewards had been cancelled, so most likely getting the one before was going to be the sensible option anyway. With that in mind we had plenty of time still and so were able to get an outside table for some well earned lunch.

In fact, it was nice to just do that and chatter away and have a mixed grill whilst The Love had the chicken boneless basket, which is always a decent option to be fair. I think too that we both were thinking ahead to other plans including holidays but also a stay in August that we had planned courtesy of one of The Love's relations, so that was going to be good. It was nice to be in the relatively nice weather too and before long it was off to Manchester Piccadilly to say a fond farewell before getting my train.

I did carefully notice the outside door notice which said that two of the carriages were overheating and their aircon had failed, so as I didn't have a reservation for this one, managed to find a window seat in Coach U and all was good there. I had some tunes on whilst on there and the rather excellent Millennium by Front Line Assembly certainly got me in the mood (make that tune of the day) ready to head over to St Pancras later to get the train home. I for one love the real power of that one, it does get you pumped up!

Saturday 1st June - Walk Across the World

It was nice to have eventually arrived with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat last night, and was just to nice to snuggle overnight, with Brian assuming the position of being next to his Mummy and getting cuddles (because he can, of course). We got up and had some lovely breakfast before then settling in for some morning James Martin (and so wanting all of those meringue creations, understatement) and once that was done, we decided it'd be nice to head out for a walk.

It made sense with the weather being nice to head on to the Ashton Canal and towards Manchester city centre. It's a pleasant enough walk and does take you past the old gasometers, and then onwards past some old mills (close to Old Mill Street, oddly enough) and then down towards New Islington basin. We did note part of the route was going to be closed off - possibly the bridge over a lock that may need repairing, and then walked over to Cask close to the basin and had a nice drink in there sat outside, and well why not to be honest?

We then walked to Cutting Room Square and then to the Hallé St Peters, where their cotton café is always a nice place to stop and have a coffee and that's what I did - with The Love having a glass of wine. It was good to watch the world go by, and then we walked on to Great Ancoats Street and over to Port Street Beer House, where they had a mixed mild from a Cumbrian brewery that was very nice indeed, and we sat outside spotting people getting parking tickets for not being able to read the "pay at meter" signs. Ooops.

After this, and a quick pit stop to the Sainsburys in Piccadilly station, we took the tram back to The Love In My Heart's place and fed Brian the cat some well earned tea. We wanted to get back before the masses were heading to Co-Op Live to see The Eagles (where the cheapest tickets were £200!) and so settled in together. The repeat of Great British Sewing Bee was on and as I had missed it the other night, it was well worth a watch and indeed for some really nice tunes during the sports week, including Dreadlock Holiday by 10CC for the transformation of cricket outfits (cue "I don't like cricket, I love it!" etc) which has to be tune of the day.

The Love made some lovely tea, with some wild mushroom soup and bread to start, with a main of steak, mushrooms and fries and a gorgeous sauce, and even a little tiramisu dessert in a neat little glass cup for afters. We did also decided to watch the first series of Race Across the World (the first four episodes in fact) as there was not much on telly. It was good to see it again, five or so years since it originally aired, and showed just how much of a pioneering thing it was. I loved the way that it excited the wanderlust in me of course, but showed also the growing relationships within the teams (Darron and Alex in particular.)