I have the day off work today. According to Motorcycle News I’ve been allowed out on my motorbike since May 13th. And yet I’ve not been out during lockdown for any other reason than collecting food from the wonderful Tromso - but my son is asleep (and with his Mum I hasten to add!), the sun is shining - and I’ve decided today is my day for a blast around Newham, East London.
I’m feeling slightly aprehensive as the engine warms up. The delightful and destinctive smell of burning cat piss reaches my nostrils, as despite what it says on the V5 registration document, the local Tom cats are pretty sure my Honda belongs to them, not me, and tend to spray on the exhaust and engine. This also affected my previous bike. Thanks cats of East London…
I’ve decided to head the very edge of the borough to Royal Victoria Gardens - in North Woolwich, right on the river, and just up from the free ferry - as the roads in this part of Newham are always relatively quiet, lockdown or no lockdown. I’ve been here before - but not since I walked section 15 of the Capital Ring back in 2018.
Newham is a weird old place. At one extreme there’s all the new development in the Olympic Park, with new flats houses and schools. Stratford manages to be the second busiest National Rail station in the UK with trains that can take you almost anywhere in London. And here at the far end - things are very disconnected. Fine, there’s the DLR for a relatively slow slog up to Canning Town - but otherwise it’s another world.
A few Victorian terraces nuzzle up against a variety of new(ish) build flats - and there are some really ugly council blocks to be found in the depths of E16. Of course if North Woolwich doesn’t feel quite like the rest of Newham - perhaps that’s because it wasn’t part of Newham until Newham was created in 1965 - before that North Woolwich was part of Kent for all sorts of interesting historical reasons - and some folks want it back!
Royal Victoria Gardens is lovely today. It’s busy, but not overly crowded with folks enjoying the weather - but also respecting social distancing rules. It’s probably not that surprising it’s busy too - as this is pretty much it for parks and green space in this part of the borough. I manage a lap - and take a photo of the view across the Thames (which is the header image for this post). On returning to the bike - I notice the car I’m parked next to is occupied. A couple of women are having a chat and a smoke. I notice their car has an EV parking permit. EV is East Village, which covers most of the Olympic Park - so they’ve clearly done what I’ve done - gone for a drive for a change of scene.
On the subject of parking, I’m suprised to see that zone RDE (Royal Docks East) is waaaaay more restrictive than where I live, in zone S (Stratford) - with restrictions being applied from 8am - 6:30pm every single day. Why on earth would this odd spot in the sleepy end of Newham need more restrictive parking rules than the bit next to Westfield? - then as I leave the park and head for home - the penny drops. This is all really close to London City Airport so clearly this is to prevent folks from dropping a car here before jetting off on a city break. Y’know, back when folks could take city breaks.
Anyway - time to head home. Although I take a quick detour to check out Docklands Riders somewhere I was aware of - but that I didn’t quite know the location of. I’ve been meaning to do some off-road motorcycle training for a while now - and was looking at the BMW Off-Road Skills courses. Even if they are super expensive. And fully booked. Oh, and probably all cancelled. And in Wales. Perhaps I’d be better off starting here, a little closer to home.
The run back up to Stratford is surprisingly busy. London is still quiet, and still a little sleepy, but it’s also beginning to wake up. I’m glad I’ve been able to take the oportunity to get out and explore, to revisit parts of Newham I never really visit, and to discover that there’s always something interesting to see in London.