What a difference a week makes.
Last Wednesday I embarked on a 20-mile circuit taking in Hammersmith, Richmond, Ham, Richmond Park and Barnes. It was raining the entire length of the journey. I saw very few people out and about, and when I stopped for a reviving coffee at the cafe near Roehampton Gate there were only a half-dozen others, mainly walkers, inside.
Today the sun was shining brightly, and there was a real feel that spring was in the air. I wondered why I'd bothered to dress in so many layers; I certainly didn't need them all.
And there were people everywhere. I'm used to the dog walkers along the tow path and the men pushing babies in prams, but today there were twice as many. Plus there were other cyclists (in pairs), quite a few joggers, loads of elderly people (in groups of four or more) and families with little kids running all over the place.
It wasn't until I got to Kew Gardens and saw the entire car park filled with vehicles (as opposed to the 10 or 20 I might see on my regular pass through) that I remembered it was half-term. That would explain all the people.
As a result, progress along the tow path, all the way to Ham House (about 9 miles) was very slow and, dare I say it, frustrating. Bell ringing and calls of 'excuse me' and 'bike coming through' don't seem to work on most of these people, despite the fact I'm always polite, smile and either apologise (for asking them to move) or thank them (for moving out of the way).
Once in Richmond Park the crowds only got worse! And by the time I got to the cafe at Roehampton Gate you could barely move inside! I was lucky enough to find an outside table around the back (all the tables at the front were taken) and sat in the sun with an Americano and an Eccles cake.
Mental note: from now start your cycles in the morning, rather than the afternoon, to avoid the crowds!
Total distance: 20.28miles (32.5km) | Ride time: 2hr, 6min and 27sec | Average speed: 9.6mph | Top speed: 18.9mph