I've lived in London for 12 years and yet I've never visited Wimbledon Common. I decided to change that today and cycle there.
According to the Wimbledon and Putney Commons website, the commons cover some 460 hectares of countryside split between Wimbledon Common, Putney Heath and Putney Lower Common.
I got there by cycling to Roehampton Gate in Richmond Park (via my usual route through Barnes) and then exited at Robin Hood Pedestrian Gate. It was then a simple matter of crossing a busy motorway and I was in the grounds of the commons.
I followed the signs marked for cyclists and found myself scooting along a quiet little creek. The path then turned inland and seemed to stretch into the distance forever.
I was amazed by all the trees — you really do feel like you are in the middle of a forest — but the path was not conducive to cycling on a hybrid bike. My tyres were simply not fat enough to get any purchase on the pebble-strewn surface and I ended up having to get off the bike and walk for about half-a-mile.
Not to worry. It was very pleasant, if slightly creepy. I felt quite isolated, and there was not a soul about.
But once I got to the top of the hill, the landscape opened up and I suddenly found myself cycling next to a golf course. On a little further and there were some quaint houses and a little pub and what I imagine is the common proper, complete with little pond and people sitting on park benches. But boy, everything looked so dry and parched. The grass is practically yellow.
I pottered around for a bit, not exactly sure where to go, until I found a park map. From that I was able to figure out how to reach the famous windmill, which was about a mile away.
There were plenty of bike stands free, so I locked my bike and then had lunch at the nearby tea rooms.
The place was heaving with oldies and dog walkers and dogs. I made friends with a golden cockerspaniel who sat at my feet while I ate my tuna baguette, chips and salad (£7.95). I'm sure he was just waiting for me to drop something so he could gobble it up!
It was lovely and sunny (21C) and I felt like I was on holiday in some far-flung destination. It certainly did not feel like suburban London.
It was then a matter of trying to remember the way back to Richmond Park. It was pretty easy actually, although I could not say the same about the downhill descent on the pebbles. I took it very slow — and probably wore out my brakes in the process. But I didn't fancy falling off and then having to hobble 8 miles home with bloody knees and a dented bike!
Total distance: 19.14miles (30.79km) | Ride time: 1hr 56min and 30sec | Average speed: 9.8mph | Top speed: 20.2mph