East London & Essex – Cycling & Football

We started our second day of cycling and football from the City of London near Liverpool Street Station. Travelling east, we set off along Super Highway CS2. It was very quiet on a cold Saturday morning. This cycling highway is not entirely totally segregated mainly due to the street markets enroute. Vehicles require access to their roadside stalls. The cleaners were out in force preparing for the new day.

Soon, we were navigating our way into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The main London Stadium is now home to West Ham United as well as a multi use facility for athletics and concerts. I’m not convinced that West Ham have benefitted from the move away from their iconic Boleyn Ground in terms of atmosphere. They certainly have financially. This modern stadium controversially costs a fraction of Tottenham’s £1 billion new home at White Hart Lane.

The legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Games has established a comprehensive cycle network around the park and surrounding areas. So it was not long before we arrived in Brisbane Road, long time home of Leyton Orient. Like many old grounds, this has undergone many improvements, especially the addition of residential blocks on each corner of the stadium. I have a great memory here back in 1980 when a Larry May goal ensured that Leicester City would be promoted back to the old Division One as Champions of Division Two.

The actual cycling wasn’t that inspiring as we threaded across Essex. We skirted Wanstead Flats as biking is not allowed on the trails there. Redbridge, Dagenham, Ilford, Romford, Hornchurch and Upminster all passed by in a blur of urban sprawl. The so called bicycle paths were not worth the money spent on white paint. Much of the time was taken up cycling on pavements. Yet we did manage to visit Dagenham and Redbridge FC. They were in the 92 in 2015-6, but sadly do not seem to be heading back there sometime soon.

The only bit of ‘rural’ Essex towards Basildon was blighted by heavy traffic on fast B roads. Also, is it compulsory in this part of the country to drive 4x4s with personalised number plates? The younger males seem hell bent on driving souped up, noisy uncontrollable cars. At least the police chased one who nearly cleaned up Jenny and gave him a stern lecture. We finally caught up with NCN13 which led into NCN16 to Pitsea. Unfortunately, we were both drenched by this time from the icy rain and hail showers. So we caught the train to Southend. It’s a shame as the route along the coast looked very appealing. Yet we’re not purists.

In Southend, we relaxed in the afternoon sun at the Royal Hotel overlooking the pier and attractions. The Shrimpers were playing their final game of the season against Sunderland. It was a 5.30pm kick off, so we waited until half time before visiting Roots Hall. Many Sunderland fans were leaving as they were losing 1-0. Very odd. As it turned out, Southend won 2-1 and escaped relegation. Sunderland were already guaranteed a play off spot.

I think that we cycled just over 40 miles from London this day. Not bad considering the poor cycling infrastructure in Essex. Four more grounds were ticked off the 2015-6 list. 84 to go.



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