Hampstead Heath

I’ve bought myself a mountain bike, and today I went for my first serious ride. I rode it home from Camden on Monday, but that was only 40 minutes, partly along the Regent’s canal towpath, but mostly along the road.

London traffic is noticeably more bike tolerant than Auckland, even though the streets are often narrow and congested.  Vehicles actually wait behind you until there is space to pass safely. Still, I feel much safer now that I have a helmet to wear.

From our flat in West Hampstead it is several km to the nearest off road path, but I am starting to find routes down quiet suburban streets. This is harder than it sounds because road names often change without warning, or curve off on an angle while the straight ahead direction is a new street.

The heath is a huge open space with grass and forest areas, but sadly only a couple of dedicated cycleways. There were many interesting looking paths with “no cycling” signs at the start of them, but still enjoyed my ride, managing to end up on several illegal trails without actually passing a sign.

By mid morning I had travelled as far north on Hampstead Heath Extension as I had time for, so I headed in what I thought was a homewards direction. When I stopped and checked on Google maps I discovered that I was at the top of Highgate Hill, several km to the east of where I expected to be. I’m not sure how much evidence there is for a ‘sense of direction’, but mine doesn’t  appear to be working well up here in the Northern hemisphere.

I was starting to get a bit anxious about getting home by lunchtime, knowing that we had tickets booked for a matinee performance of a play in the West End. There are quite a few main roads running NW to SE, but not many direct routes south, which is where I wanted to go. I ended up riding through a lot more traffic than I intended to, but fortunately without trauma.

The play we went to see was ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame. The role is reportedly taking its toll on the actor, but we thought he was brilliant. I doubt if he needs the money, so he must love his work. This play is the blackest comedy I have ever seen, and I will be on the lookout for any other work by Martin McDonagh.

The bike in the first photo wasn’t quite what I had in mind, so I settled for the Trek hard-tail in the next three. When I had to carry it up the stairs to bypass the Maida Hill tunnel in photo three, I was very glad it’s only half the weight of a Boris bike.

The final photo I took today, somewhere high up on the Heath. In the distant haze you can just make out the Gherkin building in central London City.

5 thoughts on “Hampstead Heath”

  1. Hi John – your photos and blog make me so homesick! But I’m really enjoying hearing all about your travels. Re: Martin McDonagh – I recently watched a film by him – “In Bruges” with Brendan Gleeson (wonderful), Colin Farrell (giving his best performance so far that I’ve seen) and Ralf Fiennes (amazing) – I thoroughly recommend it. Love to Felicity, Janet

  2. hey the jaypee travelling circus show ,
    I am enjoying your touring about . was the bicycle made in china ?
    and how does the $nz cost comparatively (Sic)

    enjoy dudes , jayemm .

    1. My 2nd hand Trek was made by an American company, but I expect most bits came from China. It cost me 150 quid.

      A NZ dollar is worth just over UK 50p, so doubling the price of everything works out fairly accurate.

  3. I too have no sense of direction in London, and regularly end up totally in the wrong direction feeling a bit disorientated. Normally downunder I never have an issue, so I am sure we much be connected to our own pole somehow! Have wondered if it would change after a period of time. But I find even places I have been too before in UK I still can’t orientate myself as to what direction I am facing. Often am totally surprised to come out somewhere completely different. Adds to the adventure so long as you have plenty of time with no deadlines! (And plenty of water as I found when I got lost in Hampstead Heath a month back!)


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