Coming face-to-face with a giant stag, wasn't on my list of priorities when I went on yesterday's 20 mile cycle. But here I was, somewhere in the depths of Richmond Park, with a huge male deer with worryingly big antlers blocking my way on the shared bicycle-pedestrian path.
To make matters worse, a woman walking three tiny dogs was approaching from the other direction. If those dogs decided to bark or strain at their leads, that stag was going to bolt — and probably in my direction.
But, as luck would have it, I needn't have worried. The dogs were well behaved and silent. The stag just stood there, only his eyelids moving as he blinked in a dumbfounded fashion. And I was able to slowly and oh-so carefully inch my way around him.
That was just one of the highlights of yesterday's adventure in the rain.
Others included seeing a pair of rather odd-looking ducks, which were rooting around in the mud, looking for goodies to eat. They ignored me, even when I was only a few feet away from them.
I also had a bit of an 'aaaaahh, isn't that beautiful moment' when I came across this pond, just inside the park near Ham Gate. It was so still and quiet here, no traffic on the road behind me, no people anywhere to be seen, that I stopped, parked the bike up and took stock of my surrounds. By this stage I'd been cycling for 12 miles, in the drizzling rain, but it felt good to be alive.
When I started my cycle in Hammersmith it was shortly before 1pm, and the weather, while cold, was dry. No sooner had I hit the tow path along the Thames than it started to rain. The mud, in places, was horrendous. But my new tyres were awesome. (After my last cycle in which my flimsy Bontrager tyres succumbed to a piece of broken glass, my Other Half swapped out both tyres for 'puncture-proof' Schwalbe Marathon Plus ones. I've had these tyres on a previous bike and highly recommend them.)
Here's an example of the mud. This was the section between Richmond and Ham, by which time I was used to cycling through it. It was the initial section, between Hammersmith and Barnes, that proved more slippy, a bit like cycling through, well, um, mud.
Of course, the entire route wasn't all wet and slushy. When I got to Ham I cycled down the High Street and round the common, before hitting the clearly signposted National Cycle Route 4.
It was lovely to cycle along this avenue of deciduous trees with moss-covered branches, which seemed to stretch forever into the distance. It took me directly to Richmond Park, through Ham Gate, and from there I was able to cycle through the park, anti-clockwise, on a gravel path, all the way to Roehampton Gate.
I stopped at the little cafe near Roehampton Gate to thaw out. I'd cycled 16 miles at that stage and while I was all toasty warm in my fleecy clothes and waterproofs, my feet felt like blocks of ice. I sat by the radiator drinking over-priced coffee with a slice of Genoa cake and felt all the better for it.
Then it was time to tackle the remaining four miles of my journey, through Barnes and back across Hammersmith Bridge to home and the comfort of a stinking hot shower!
And finally, thanks to a new bike computer, I can provide some statistics of my ride:
Total distance: 20.2 miles (32.5km) | Ride time: 2hr, 3min and 40sec | Average speed: 9.8mph | Top speed: 18.4mph