Cycle route from Abbey Wood Club site
Jonathan Manning proves it is possible to cycle in London without having to dodge the traffic on this route from Abbey Wood Club site which follows the Thames all the way to Greenwich.
Cycling in London may not be everyone’s cup of tea but this ride confounds expectations. Despite ticking off famous landmarks, including the Woolwich Arsenal, Thames Barrier, O2 Arena and Cutty Sark, the route’s encounters with traffic are limited to just a few hundred yards.
Starting from Abbey Wood Club site, the ride hugs the Thames through south-east London, passing the city’s historic generators of wealth as it heads to its new source of riches – warehouses and factories giving way to the glittering skyscrapers of Canary Wharf. Amid the swanky riverside appartments, are aggregates depots, cement works and shipping containers.
By combining the Ridgeway, a raised, well-maintained path, with the mixed-use Thames Path, it’s possible to ride miles and miles without worrying about the cut and thrust of London’s traffic. Instead, there’s a chance to appreciate the area’s rich history, including a battery of giant cannons at Woolwich Arsenal and a striking sculpture by Peter Burke, called Assembly. It’s a circle of 16 cast iron figures, each with a quarter of its vertical mould missing; even after the obvious selfie next to a statue wearing a cycle helmet, the Assembly proves hard to leave behind.
The Thames Path, too, is strangely hypnotic, a broad, car-free trail along the river bank, passing wharves, ships and industrial units. Navigation is easy, even with the occasional diversion around a temporary construction site – if the river is on your right you’re going the right way.
The Woolwich Ferry and the silver pods of the Thames Barrier cross the river in different ways before the towers of Canary Wharf dominate the skyline. Cafés and shops at the O2 Arena provide a good place to stop and refuel, but if you’re feeling strong it's worthwhile pedalling all the way to the magnificent architecture of the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich and the sleek Cutty Sark, once the fastest sailing ship of its time. However far you end up going, the return leg is simply a question of retracing your outward route back to the site.
You can also download the route for this ride from our dedicated Strava page here.
1 Turn right out of Abbey Wood Club site, then almost immediately left down Crumpsall Street. Cross over the first crossroads, staying on Crumpsall Street, then at the T-junction turn right onto Abbey Wood Road. Continue to a T-junction and keep going straight ahead (technically a left turn) on Abbey Road (there’s a bike lane), passing under a bridge. About 700m beyond the bridge look out for a pedestrian bridge over the road.
2 1.2km – Turn left at the pedestrian bridge, cycle up the ramp, and continue ahead (not crossing the road on the bridge) into a park, following the Green Chain Walk to Southmere Lake. Turn right at the lake and follow the lakeside path to a road (Bazalgette Way).
3 2.7km – Cross the road, cycle up the ramp onto the Ridgeway and turn left. Continue for 3km until a sign that points to Plumstead Railway Station straight ahead and Other Routes to the right.
4 5.9km – Turn right at the sign, descend the slope, and keep to the lower track, passing through a squeeze stile in an underpass. Turn left here, following the sign for Woolwich Town Centre and Royal Arsenal, and keep on the cycle path with a Royal Mail depot on the right. The track turns sharply to the right, along Mallard Path, and almost immediately after another underpass turn left, signposted to Thames Path. The path emerges in a small copse by a roundabout. Turn right at the roundabout onto Tom Cribb Road, which becomes the Duke of Wellington Road, and continue to the pedestrianised zone. Turn right onto No 1 Street, passing the Royal Artillery Museum on the right and reaching the Assembly sculpture by the river.
5 7.4km – Turn left at the river, following the Thames Path. In 600m, when the path temporarily heads away from the river, take the first right along Bowater Road, following the Q14 Quietway signs. At the end of the road turn right to rejoin the Thames Path then turn left keeping the river on the right-hand-side. Pass the Thames Barrier, Woolwich Ferry, then eventually join Olympian Way as it hugs the river around the O2 Arena peninsula. Keep going until you reach the Old Royal Naval College and the Cutty Sark, then turn and retrace your route back to Abbey Wood Club site.
About the route
- Start/finish: Abbey Wood Club site, Federation Road, Greenwich, London SE2 0LS.
- Distance: 21 miles/34km.
- Time: 2½ hours.
- Level: Suitable for adult cyclists due to brief spells in traffic.
- Terrain: Asphalt and gravel all the way. A hybrid, mountain or e-bike would be ideal.
- Landscape: Flat and urban, with the River Thames your companion for much of the ride.
- Refreshments: Arts Café, Thames-Side Studios; View Café, Thames Barrier; Costa, 02 Arena; Trafalgar Tavern, Old Royal Naval College.