The plan was to meet at Green Park (near Velo, Carlton North) at 8am on Sunday, 3 May 2015, for a group ride into and around Melbourne/Southbank/Docklands.
After an initial wince at the thought of an 8am start, I told myself it wouldn’t be any worse than a usual workday, and to grow a spine. But honestly, Stephen and I have been really looking forward to this ride, so there weren’t any grumbles when the alarm when off this morning – I even got an extra half an hour’s sleep compared to a weekday!
The ride started conveniently close to where we live, so we rode to the meeting point and found Stanley and Elsie waiting for us.
Our ‘maybes’ for the ride didn’t turn up, so with just the four of us making up the group and the whole day pretty much at our disposal, it was decided to follow the Capital City Trail (the bike path we were on – which used to be Melbourne’s Inner Circle Railway Line) west towards Royal Park where it skirts around Melbourne Zoo.
Crossing over the tracks at Royal Park Station, Capital City Trail then crosses Poplar Road within about 20 metres to continue following the railway line along to Flemington Bridge Station.
Here the cycle path does a sharp zigzag and drops down to street level. Capital Trail continues along beside Railway Canal, providing views of Citylink, old bridges and wildlife that the traffic rushing overhead won’t get to enjoy. Or possibly even suspect is there.
In addition to the very common Pacific Black Ducks and Australian Wood Ducks, I’m sure I saw some Chestnut Teals a pair of Black Swans, a few Great Egret’s last week, a pair of Purple Swamp Hens this week. Eurasian Coots are also fairly common. And they were just the obvious species! I’d love to take a pair of binoculars and stop around Royal Park to try to identify more of the passerines (perching birds) heard as we cycled by.
By the time we reached the intersection where Capital City Trail crosses Footscray Road we had been joined by quite a number of other cyclists. The previous weekend when Stephen and I had come this way we’d had it all to ourselves! I admit, both the rain and the fact that it was ANZAC day may have had something to do with that… Today, on the other hand, was a great day for riding.
After a quick photo with the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel (still working!) we headed around to the pier.
Naturally we couldn’t pass up a photo at the pier. Or with the colourful buildings and strange – or should I say, ‘artistic’ – mountain-things around us.
Not much further along Elsie spotted a bike. Well, a bike-shaped bike rack, to be precise, so naturally that called for another photo. I was quite enjoying this ‘see and stop’ style of riding. The guys came back to check we were ok; reassured all was fine (our respective partners understand and have learnt to cope with our frequent stopping for a photo habits, it would seem) we set off again.
Leaving Docklands, we used the lovely Jim Stynes Bridge to connect with the distinctive Seafarers Bridge, where we crossed the Yarra River.
Although Stephen and I had eaten a light breakfast before setting off this morning, it turned out that Stanley and Elsie hadn’t eaten at all, so we stopped at The Boatbuilders Yard, right next to the Polly Woodside for breakfast. It seems to be a popular stop for cyclists and pedestrians. I was pretty happy with my toast; finally – somewhere that gives you sweet and savoury spreads!
Making our way up Southbank after breakfast was fun. There weren’t crowds of people (yet) so even though we were riding at a considerately slow pace, we could enjoy the plane trees, whose leaves are turning colour and falling at the moment, the artworks and easy ride along the smooth dark pavers.
We crossed the Yarra River again at Sandridge Bridge, continued under Princes Bridge (St Kilda Road), then road back up to the main street level using Princes Walk, after briefly stopping to greet some quite large, but very lovely, fluffy dogs (a Malamute and an Akita) and their owner.
This close to Flinders Station, it would have been ridiculous to pass up the opportunity to stop for a photo beneath the clocks at the main entrance. Lucky it wasn’t peak hour – it was hard enough getting a clear shot as it was!
From here we were more or less on the homeward leg… with a small diversion to the Queen Victoria Markets. Setting off along Swanson Street, I was incredibly thankful for the bike lane. City riding is tricky enough at the best of times, what with trams, horse and carriages (for tourists), and – worst of all – pedestrians!
But we made it through; all intact and without incident, only to be laughed at – laughed at!! – by some bloke at the QV Markets when he saw me and my Brompton! That’s not the usual reaction I’ve had to-date, and my first thought was ‘Wait until you see there are three more following me!’ but he reportedly laughed at the sight of the rest of them, too! I’m not sure what he found so mirthful. Maybe we took him by surprise? Maybe he was delighted? I have to agree with Elsie, though – he did seem to be a bear-ish kind of a bloke.
Laughing bear-like men aside, we’d reached the donut van. Stanley and Elsie declined, but Stephen and I treated ourselves to a bag (shared) of piping hot, jam donuts. Oooh what a treat!
The MELBOURNE sign is very near the donut van, in the middle of the market. It would have been nice to have a fifth Brompton along for ideal spacing, but… maybe next time. Stanley’s shared a great panoramic photo of the bike from today on the club’s Facebook page.
Leaving the market, we rode one block up Elizabeth Street, then followed the green bike lane along Queensberry Street to the Carlton Gardens. Yep, you guessed it. Another group photo! This time in front of the Royal Exhibition Building and the Melbourne Museum.
The Carlton Gardens are one of my favourite places in Melbourne. Maybe because they’re so familiar – I walk through them each weekday and see the changes in every season. It could be that Melbourne gardens are just lovely. Riding your bike through the gardens is not allowed though, so we set off along the shared footpath on Rathdowne Street, then rode down the (slightly) steep and leafy Barkly Street to meet up with Canning Street, which would take us all the way back to Green Park and our starting point.
I believe we all enjoyed today’s ride. We were out for about 4 hours, but that included a lengthy breakfast stop, numerous photo stops and a riding pace that I would describe (overall) as ‘unhurried’. Estimated distance travelled was 18km (~11 miles).
I hope the success of this first ride bodes well for many future rides.