A red tray on a picnic table, with a wrapped triangular sandwich, a cheese scone on a plate, a slice of chocolate cake, a jar of blackberry jam, a packet of Capri-Sun, and a mug of coffee.

A ride up Cake Mountain

There is no mountain actually called Cake Mountain. There is, however, the village of Upshire in Essex, where the Newham Cyclists Cake Mountain Ride took me today.

We started by heading up the River Lea navigation, an annoyingly narrow towpath with far too many sharp corners, and steep inclines, and unnecessary ‘cyclists dismount’ signs. The poor surfaces were also the source of (at least) our first puncture of the ride.

I took my new Temple Cycles bike on the ride (now the dynamo has been fixed, after it broke down in Brighton.) The bike’s brilliant for this kind of light touring! It was better on the gravelly towpath than I expected on 28mm tyres, but I was glad to get back onto bonded gravel and asphalt. I was also grateful that I could easily turn the lights on for extra daytime visibility in some tunnels on the towpath. Dynamos are great.

Our first planned break, punctures aside, was at Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge in Chingford. This offered a helpful toilet stop, and also a great view over Epping Forest. We think we may have arrived as a birthday party was happening in a neighbouring building, which would explain

After some intimidating country lanes (surprisingly busy—and full of weekend drivers) we crossed the M25 and arrived at St. Thomas’s Church just as tea was being served.

A sign peeking out over some hedges. "St Thomas's Church Upshire. Everyone Welcome. Sunday worship 9:15am; teas 2:30pm-5:30pm."

I grew up with my family involved in a church, and although I’m not religious any more, this reminded me of it: the church functioning as a community hub for all kinds of people. The food was cheap, and very good: I particularly enjoyed the cheese scone and chocolate cake.

A red tray on a picnic table, with a wrapped triangular sandwich, a cheese scone on a plate, a slice of chocolate cake, a jar of blackberry jam, a packet of Capri-Sun, and a mug of coffee.
There was jam and marmalade for sale, too. £1.90 for a jar of homemade blackberry jam! Not bad.

Once we’d had our fill, we headed back down a slightly different route. We had an unpleasant encounter with an impatient van driver on the road under the M25 and back through Essex, but the experience was mercifully puncture-free—even when we got back onto the canal towpath.

We got back to the View Tube in the Olympic Park soon after 5. Strava tells me the ride was 61.45km, with 4 hours and 23 minutes’ moving time, and a total elevation gain of 303 metres.

It was a fun day! I’ve been meaning to do more rides with the Newham Cyclists, and I wouldn’t have felt safe attempting this ride on my own (particularly given some of the traffic volumes involved.)

The gravelly surfaces, though, mean I definitely need to clean some of the dust off my bike.

The top tube and down tube of a bicycle. The down tube is coated in grey and beige dust.