Today's cycle was filled with lots of sunshine, quite a bit of mud and a little bit of mist.
It was bright, but cold, when I headed out shortly before noon. I had intended to do my usual 20-mile circuit, but when I got to Ham House I made a spur of the moment decision to keep on cycling along the Thames Path to Teddington instead of heading towards Richmond Park.
With hindsight, this diversion wasn't such a great idea. The path was like one giant two-mile long mud bath. I had to stop twice to de-clog the mud that had filled up my mudguards! By the time I got to Teddington my bike was in a real state, with huge chunks of mud literally sitting on the chain stays and rear derailleur. I cleaned most of it off with a stick (!!), had a muesli bar sitting in the sun, and then followed the clearly signposted National Cycle Route 4 to Richmond Park.
Once I reached the park I made another snap decision to follow the National Cycle Route 4 signs instead of cycling the perimeter of the park. The route cuts right through the middle of the park, from Ham Gate to Sheen Gate, and passes right by the Isabella Plantation, a gated ornamental woodland.
I parked up the bike and took a wander through the woodland. It was absolutely beautiful. Even at this time of year, with no leaves on the trees, it was full of colour. I made a mental note to return in the spring, when everything will be in full bloom.
Somewhere near the middle of the park I came across a van selling hot drinks and nibbles, so I stopped off for a coffee and a chocolate muffin. The next thing I know a murder of crows flocked around me — there were two on the neighbouring table and three on the ground behind me — eyeing up my muffin. Cheeky buggers.
Refuelled, I continued on my way, cycling through the most lovely, mist-covered scenery. It felt brilliant to be alive on such a wonderful winter's day!
Once I got to Sheen Gate I turned right and followed the perimeter route to Roehampton Gate, where I exited the park and headed the four miles back home. I then spent about half-an-hour removing the rest of the mud off my bike!
Total distance: 21.81miles (35km) | Ride time: 2hr, 18min and 52sec | Average speed: 9.4mph | Top speed: 18.9mph