One less river to cross

The secrets of Erith Driving Test Centre.

Erith from the brilliant <a href=>Rainham Marshes RSPB reserve</a> on the Thames' north bank.

Erith from the brilliant Rainham Marshes RSPB reserve on the Thames' north bank. Image: Rictor Norton & David Allen.

  1. Do your test in late July. You won’t skid all over the place when they take you up to Belvedere, which is a kind of L-driver lunar graveyard. I’ll tell you about the other advantage in a moment.
  2. Before you go to meet your fate, you’ll need a relaxing al fresco banana and slash. The best place is at the far northern end of Manorway: Lidl distribution centre to right of you, bus depot to left of you, quiet footpath leading to the Thames estuary in front of you.
  3. Park your bike behind the building or the learners will use it for target practice.
  4. When you’re finished, it being late July, go back to your banana peel, leave your bike, and walk to the Thames. The blackberries along the path are OK, but they’re far better if you walk 100m right along the river bank. I collected around 25 quid’s worth at Waitrose prices between my M1 last Thursday and my M2 today. They’re quite bitter but full, so no point in waiting much longer.

    I’ve got a bit of a blackberry fetish. A decade ago I was doing something quite stressful and tiring in London, and leading a fairly ambitious nocturnal existence. On the August Bank Holiday Saturday, I cycled south to drink some of this excellent beer, but soon realised there was something wrong – even slower than usual, and a terrible sense of doom – and a couple of miles short of the festival tent all systems said no thanks. Then out of nothing, an endless hedge of blackberries, where I grazed for half an hour until I looked like a Nazi zombie (Hitler’s bicycle corps was notorious). It then occurred to me that lying in bed for a couple of days might reasonably be preceded by a couple of beers.


    But the ripest blackberries,
    Nor the mulleins topped with gold,
    Peach nor honey-locust trees,
    Nor the flowers, when all are told,

    Pleased us like the cabin, near
    Which as silver river ran,
    And where lived, for many a year,
    Christopher, the crazy man.

    Or something along those lines. I didn’t know Alice and Phoebe Cary, but I rather like them.

So, I got my licence. Now I need to buy a second-hand Piaggio Ape 50 panel van, preferably near London / Bristol.

The Organ-Grinder travelled to Erith courtesy of the Woolwich Ferry, probably London’s greatest ride.

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  1. Congratulations. I had Rainham Marshes on the list of places to visit, but I didn’t realize Erith was so close, nor that the voles get friendly in the summer.

    1. Thanks! Eerith is close to Rainham, but only for good swimmers. Otherwise it’s Woolwich or Tilbury for walkers. There’s a Ferry Lane on the northern bank, so obviously public services have deteriorated since 18whatever

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