Ride report from Ride Leader Werner (“Not sure whether I want to become Southwark Cyclists’ art critic”) on the second of his trio of Christmas rides.
Pessimistic forecasts may have made some sofas more attractive on Boxing Day than the City’s quiet roads and modern art (https://londonist.com/london/art-and-photography/sculpture-in-the-city-2019). However five of us couldn’t detect any signs of rain at Canada Water to provide a reason to cancel and started the annual tour of the year’s Sculptures in the City programme, three more riders joined us on Tower Bridge. Any excuse to visit French Ordinary Court, not only one of London’s stranger street names but also an experience for those who haven’t ridden it before.
The official cultural pogramme started at Fenchurch St Station although we may have had different images of Arcadia before we met it in real life. The next stop (Botanic) triggered far more positive feedback after moments of “is it real?”. Obviously the Garden at 120 was closed but being right outside was a good opportunity to recommend it to anybody who hadn’t visited it. The second Arcadia outside the Willis building didn’t appear more pastoral than the first but we got the idea. Perceval, one of the highlights of last year’s ride, has left Lime St and been replaced by Series Industrial Windows, children will miss him.
Leadenhall Market draws some tourists on Boxing Day and they found it easy to spot the two sculptures, in previous years it could be more challenging. Of course, being there around Christmas meant we had to stop outside Old Tom, the pub named after the resident gander who escaped the oven and lived to the ripe old age of 38. A bored security guard at the Leadenhall Building was glad he could do something and told us we weren’t allowed to ride to the front door. Which we hadn’t intended, Within a Realm of Relative Form was visible from where we were. By now we had spotted a trend, quite a few of this year’s sculptures were just text.
The Climb in Aldgate Square was more fascinating, esp. after reading the explanatory board and getting close to it. More glass panes (Dutch/Light) in Aldgate Square didn’t distract from the cafe in the square and the improvements in the area. Some of us remembered it as gyratory unfit for humans on bicycles or feet. Undershaft offered three sculptures, the most inviting one was Abstract Mass, unfortunately it may look like plush easy chairs but (spoiler alert) they are rock-solid. Crocodylius Philodendrus is a survivor from 2018 and still enjoyable (see photo). A crane outside no. 22 meant that Bishopsgate had been closed off. Not that we needed much time for yet another Arcadia but it made it easier to get to the Spectacle, definitely one of our favourites. No security guards around but we still resisted the temptation to try the sun loungers. A quick upwards look to Bridging Home over Wormwood St before the final sculpture, the reclining nude in St Botolph’s churchyard, close to the unexpected Victorian Turkish Bath.
The route back took us through the maze of twisty little passages in the City before climbing Fish Street Hill and crossing London Bridge. Santa may have expected our Boxing Day ride and delivered Tooley St improvements, the eastern part before Tower Bridge Road now has a segregated bike lane and we got our own traffic light. We had been a bit faster than planned (maybe to work off more turkey) and had a chance to look at two other presents, the bridges on Q14 in Russia Dock Woodland and over Albion Channel. Back on time and still dry, the threatened rain got delayed till the afternoon.