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!)