West Ham Archdeacon Elwin Cockett celebrates cycling in Newham


- Credit: Archant

Cycling around the amazing Olympic Park in the sunshine recently, I was reminded of three great names from a past age.

You might think that I was thinking of my boyhood ­heroes, Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters.

After all, to anyone from east London, those names represent a golden era, when West Ham United’s triumvirate led England to victory in the 1966 World Cup Final.

But no, we’re not talking football.

The names I had in mind were those of Bates, Hetchins and Morris – each of whom had their devotees in their day.

All three were leading exponents of the art – once dying but now being revived – of building great bicycles, here in east London. Hetchins was, perhaps, the best known in his day.

Hyman Hetchins’ unique designs could be recognised anywhere.

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At the same time, up in Walthamstow, Dick Morris’s shop in Orford Road drew the cognoscenti who knew a well-crafted machine when they saw one. My favourite, though, was E G Bates. He was one of two brothers, and was followed by his son, Alan, who ran the family business in Plaistow until relatively recently.

My 30-year-old Bates’ bike is as silky a ride now as the day it was built – which is more than can be said of any of the cars I have owned in that time. Why am I telling you this?

Well, it is because it seems to me that cycling is back, in east London as much as anywhere. And that’s a good thing.

Not only do we have the world’s best Velodrome, the Tour de France, and some great cycling clubs. We also have some great places to ride, whether you’re wanting to commute, to get some exercise, or just to enjoy the open air.

As a person of faith, I ­believe that God’s creation was made to be enjoyed, not destroyed.

On a fine summer’s day, it’s hard to beat the enjoyment of being out on a bicycle – whether you’re six or 60 – around our great city.

It’s green, it’s inexpensive and, above all, it’s great fun.