Spoke 8: Caterham to Tower

Oyster Spoke 8 of 8, Routes into London for hybrid bikes using Oyster stations.

  • Total Distance: 48.2km
  • Total Ascent: 303m
  • Highest Point: 231m
  • Lowest Point: 0m

Linking Woods and Waters

The Waterlink Way is a cousin to the Wandle Trail discovered on Spoke 1. Both provide a multi-use route from Downs to Thames that cuts through South London suburbia. However that is where the similarity ends. Whereas the Wandle Trail is alongside the river for much of its length and benefits from the associated parks, the Waterlink Way only joins its rivers much lower down their course, where they are largely culverted and less picturesque. By contrast, the initial section of the NCN21 route to get to the Waterlink Way is far more remote than its counterpart, resulting in a far more challenging ride, with several viewpoints on the early part of the route.

Which of the cousins you prefer is a matter of personal choice.

Spoke 8 Poster Map

Climbs south out of Caterham to pick up NCN21 on the crest of the Downs. Follows this as the Waterlink Way through Norwood and Lewisham before taking Quietway 1 to Bermondsey and then cutting across to Tower Bridge.

On leaving Caterham station, the route heads south, climbing past Caterham school to reach the crest of the Downs at Gravelly Hill, where the view stretches to the South Downs on the horizon and NCN21 is joined. Initially this follows roads through woodland before crossing the bypass and heading on tracks which comprise both the North Downs Way and Pilgrims Way before coming out at the top of the private road through Woldingham School.

View above Woldingham

The Route follows this road on a long steady descent for the next 4km before crossing under the railway and cutting over a short steep spur to Woldingham Golf Club. It follows the edge of the fairway before dropping down past the clubhouse and heading into woodland on the other side. The climb up the next section is challenging, steep and loose with a gully down the middle before the gradient shallows and it becomes more rideable.

At the top, a series of minor roads and wooded tracks lead on to Fickleshole, just before which there is another steep and gravelly valley to negotiate. Beyond here, NCN21 heads into suburbia, cutting through Addington and Shirley to reach South Norwood Country Park. I have yet to find the cafe open here, although the toilets are.

Heading on northwards, NCN21 heads through Kent House station and Beckenham before living up to its name of the Waterlink Way and following the banks of first the Pool River and then the Ravensbourne River to head towards the Thames. The next section comprises linear parks alongside the rivers plus a section through Lewisham town centre before approaching Greenwich.

Here it turns off NCN21 to pick up Quietway 1, initially through Deptford past the romanesque St. Paul’s church and then past Millwall FC. This section is often traffic-free, although some minor roads are used. Eventually Tower Bridge Road is reached and crossed, after which it forks right off Q1 to briefly pick up Quietway 14 before appearing on Tooley Street just west of Tower Bridge. A short section on NCN4 then arrives at the southern approaches to the bridge.

Spoke 8 Viewranger Route

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