A Sunday morning cycle through Richmond Park


I decided to appease my guilt for lack of commuter cycling this past week (due to inch-thick morning frosts and an inability to get out of my cosy bed, shame on me) by going on a longish cycle to Richmond Park this morning.

So armed with a map and my camera, I took to the streets and managed, somehow, to cycle my way across Hammersmith Bridge, through Barnes, past The Priory (where all the rockstars and models go to get help with their drug problems or eating disorders) and on into Richmond Park through Roehampton Gate.

There was a little nip in the air and some blustery wind, but the sun was shining and the sky was a beautiful blue. I have to confess that it was a little hard to appreciate when I first arrived because I felt bloody exhausted – all that nervous energy expended through trying to find the park in heavy Sunday morning traffic had taken its toll. I had to get off my bike and have a wee rest to catch my breath…

… whereupon I then chided myself because I had forgotten to bring my water bottle! (And, as it later turned out, my house keys! This is what happens when you get out of bed before noon on a Sunday. Half of your brain gets left behind too.)

Then, about 500 yards up the road, I had to dismount again, mainly because I didn’t have the stamina to climb what felt like Mt Everest. Meanwhile all the semi-professional cyclists, in their skin-tight Lycra, on their titanium bikes with disc brakes and seven-million shimano gears, cruised on by effortlessly. Bastards.

OK. So once I got over the hill and accepted the fact that I was a complete amateur riding a crap bike with only two gears that are worth using and was sharing the road with Olympic athletes and Tour de France hopefuls, I quite enjoyed myself.

The park, which was created by Charles I as a hunting ground, is huge (London’s biggest, in fact, at more than 2,500 acres) and there are large herds of red and fallow deer that wander around freely. I spied a group of them this morning, but did not stop to take a photograph (although you might be able to see them congregating under the trees in the top picture if you click to enlarge it).


I followed the 6-mile circuit that skirts the perimetre of the park. It covers all kinds of terrain – long sections of flat (almost boring) landscape, some incredible hills and then gentle undulating meadowlands that stretch on forever. It’s all very beautiful and picturesque.

And the trees, all bare-armed at the moment, are an incredible assortment of majestic, twisted shapes, moss-covered and sky-touchingly tall.


The road, while not terribly wide in places, is in good condition. And it helps that there’s a 20 mile per hour speed limit for traffic so you don’t get hassled by speeding vehicles doing wild overtaking manoeuvres. (I have to confess I broke the speed limit on several occasions – it’s a bit hard to keep under 20mph when you’re flying down a mountain! Although I did keep an eye on it, because I know it’s not uncommon for police to book cyclists for speeding in this park – ’tis true!)

Once I’d done the circuit and exited the park, the route back home was fairly straight forward. The road past The Priory has a dedicated cycle lane on the left, which I used, and then, instead of riding on the main roads as I’d done earlier, I followed the cycle signs for the route to Hammersmith Bridge which took me along quieter – and safer – laneways.

I was in the door by 11.45am feeling hungry, thirsty, worn out but elated too. I can’t wait to do this ride again some time soon.

Total distance: 15.67 miles.
Ride time: 1 hour and 27 minutes.
Average speed: 11 mph
Top speed: 22.2 mph (in a 20 mph zone!)


10 thoughts on “A Sunday morning cycle through Richmond Park

  1. This is a naive question, but is your area “bike friendly?”
    We have sections of the country where motorists are aggressive to people on bikes and some cities that don’t do much to protect bikers.
    Just curious if this is an ugly American thing or an international issue.


  2. Melissa, this is a good question – not a naive one – and it has made me think about what it is actually like to share the road with cars, buses, taxis and god knows what else.
    I’m not sure ‘bike friendly’ is the correct term for London traffic, because I’ve been to Denmark, which is very bike friendly (they have things prioritised properly, with equal road space for bikes, pedestrian and cars), but I wouldn’t say it’s overtly agressive here. I don’t think people get behind the wheel to try and run bikes down.
    I think things are getting better here in London, and there’s certainly more awareness of cycling, especially now that cycling is growing here quicker than anywhere else in Europe right now (something I heard on the news the other night). Much of this is to do with the London bombings, but also a dedicated campaign that ran way before last July that encouraged people to get on their bikes.
    While there’s still a lot of work to do to give cycling the priority it deserves, I have seen very few aggressive drivers since I started cycling last August. Sure, you get the idiots who think it’s funny to drive past you without giving you any room, and you get the odd van driver who ignores you, and the taxi driver that tries to chase you down, but on the whole it’s not that bad. In fact, I quite like the cut and thrust of riding amongst the real traffic and I certainly don’t feel as intimidated by it as I first did.
    I think the more people that cycle the more the conditions will change in the cyclists favour. The best way to raise awareness is simply to jump on your bike!


  3. I can’t wait to roll my bike out in the “other” London (Ontario, Canada) when the snow finally melts in a few weeks. I’ve so missed my own commute to work. It’s about a 10km ride each way, and I always stretch the ride out on the way home.
    This was a lovely read. Ride on…


  4. Thanks for the response. Before moving to the frozen north here, I rode quite a bit (2500 miles the last summer I lived in Cincinnati). I’ve fallen off–no pun–since we’ve moved to Maine. Maine drivers are not at all bike friendly, we have old, narrow, winding roads (they are beautiful) that are not bike friendly, and it’s just wicked cold here.
    I’ve loved reading your biking posts and I’m hoping that your example will be enough to get me back on the bike. When it warms up. (15 F here this am).


  5. Oh wow, Kiril, I’ve just read your post about cycling through the San Gabriel Mountains. It sounds like a magical ride indeed! And no, to answer your question, I don’t think I’d be up to it – not without some serious training anyway.


  6. No serious training needed. ;-D
    The more riding you do will help you be ready to attempt gradually longer, and more challenging, rides.
    I took another ride, linked in my name here, that, like the other one, are proof that Slow Pokes DO have all the fun!
    66 miles along the Southern California coast, and coastal mountains, that show Cycling is NOT just about speed and exercise, but about taking the time to stop and see the deer & Harleyholics……
    BTW, I will soon be returning to both, with my digital camera, to take photos to enhance my old stories like you have so magnificently done.


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