Today’s cycle: trees in leaf and ducks that say hello

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Remember the trees in this post? Now look at them. They're all in leaf!

This is what I love about cycling: noticing the changing seasons, seeing London go from dark, wintry grey to a beautiful luxurious leafy green.

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And I also love the inquisitive Mandarin ducks, which keep me company when I take a breather.

Total distance: 17.87miles (28.7km) | Ride time: 1hr 45min and 4sec | Average speed: 10.2mph | Top speed: 20.3mph

Back on the bike after a 14-day hiatus

One of the best things about cycling is noticing the changing of the seasons.

I've been away (again) in Ireland (again), and so I haven't had an opportunity to cycle since my last post on April 1. Fast forward two weeks and so much has happened to the trees in London: they're all pretty much in leaf. I even spied some bluebells, which typically don't come out until May.

And the wet muddy tracks I've spent the best part of two months cycling along have all dried up and turned rock hard.

Today I cycled what I call my Hammersmith to Ham to Richmond Park lap. Very pleasant weather (I wore shorts for the first time this year) and not that many people out and about either, so I had the cycle paths to myself. The Thames Path was especially quiet: I used to see far more people when I ventured out in wetter, colder weather during the months of February and March.

But how lovely to be back on the bike again after a 14-day hiatus. I need to work off the excess Guinness from my last trip!

Total distance: 18.69miles (30km) | Ride time: 1hr 48min and 39sec | Average speed: 10.3mph | Top speed: 19.3mph

Spotted on today’s cycle ride: green leafy shoots on a tree!

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It might be a bit hard to tell from this photograph, snapped on my BlackBerry earlier this afternoon, but the tree on the far right is covered in green shoots. All the other hundreds of trees in Richmond Park seem oblivious to the change in season and the sudden onset of mild weather, but this particular tree is right with the program. In a few days time I'm sure the entire tree will be ablaze with bright green, fully emerged leaves. Its counterparts will be left behind, naked, if they are not careful!

Today's ride, by the way, was a bit of a hard slog. I didn't have my "cycling legs" and there was a headwind for a great deal of my journey.

I considered just getting to Richmond Park, then turning around and going home, because that would have been a respectable 8mile ride. But alas, once I got to the park, and trundled up the first incline past Roehampton Gate, and saw the tree and its green leafy shoots photographed above, I didn't feel so bad. I think it was more to do with the change in direction, which meant the wind was no longer a problem.

No sun in the sky and there was the imminent threat of rain throughout, but it wasn't terribly cold (I only had a t-shirt on under my cycling jacket), so overall the conditions were fairly good.

Not many people about though, which is something I've tended to notice whenever I cycle early on a Friday afternoon. Perhaps everyone's in the pub or having leisurely lunches? Anyway, I'm not complaining. It's good to feel like I have the park to myself.

It's even better when I stop at a little roadside van to partake in a little energy boost: a cup of coffee and a double-chocolate muffin! Sssshhhh, don't tell anyone

Total distance: 17.42miles (28km) | Ride time: 1hr 42min and 35sec | Average speed: 10.1mph | Top speed: 20.9mph