The mystery of the horse-drawn vehicle


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It looks like last week's sighting of an immaculate horse-drawn vehicle during my morning commute was no fluke. I saw the same carriage again this morning, and this time I was sat at traffic lights so had time to grab my camera phone for a quick snap.

The vehicle is being pulled by two white horses, and the man driving it is all decked out in coat, tails and a top hat. There are two horses being ridden by riders in white breeches and khaki jackets following close behind.

I took the photograph as the horses were crossing Hyde Park Corner. They had come from Constitution Hill and were heading into the park. I suspect they belong to the Household Cavalry, which is based at Knightsbridge Barracks adjacent to Hyde Park.

What is it in aid of, I wonder? Are they practising for a royal event? It looks quite processionary, even funeral like. Anyone got any theories?

Total distance: 12.64miles (20.35km) | Ride time: 1hr, 8min and 29sec | Average speed: 11mph | Top speed: 21.6mph

A sunny Sunday cycle

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I love this stretch of road, a beautiful leafy arch, near Barnes Common, en-route to Richmond Park. I particularly love it when the sun is beating down and you've built up a sweat cycling 10 or 11 miles, because the shade from the trees is such a relief. Today, I stopped, not only to take this picture, but to soak up the lovely atmosphere and appreciate the drop in temperature.

According to the weather website Metcheck.com, the predicted top temperature was only 23ºC but it felt at least 5ºC warmer than that.

I didn't hit the road until 3.30pm, which is really late for me. It was probably just as well, because there were lots of arrows and signage along my normal route through the back streets of Hammersmith, and then at the other end near Barnes, which suggests there was a big cycle (or maybe run) on earlier in the day to Ham House. And then, once I was in Richmond Park, there were other cycling-related events on (or maybe they were all connected?) that had finished or were winding down. If I'd gone at noon, as I had originally planned, I would have got caught up in all that.

Funnily enough, I don't think I have ever cycled to Richmond Park on a Sunday afternoon before. It felt strangely odd. The park itself was incredibly busy. There were walkers, runners, cyclists, horse-riders, family groups and people pushing push-chairs on all of the paths. And the green open spaces, and even the remote shady places, were dotted with groups, small, large and in-between, having picnics. It makes me appreciate how fortunate I've been over recent months when I've cycled during the week and had the place pretty much to myself.

By contrast the suburban streets I trundle through to get to the park and back were empty. No buses, vans, cars or motorbikes with which to contend. No-one double-parked to block my route. Plenty of other cyclists about though, which is great to see. Cycling as a leisure activity seems to have really taken off!

Total distance: 15.33miles (24.66km) | Ride time: 1hr, 21min and 49sec | Average speed: 11.2mph | Top speed: 20.7mph

For the record, here's my ride stats for Friday's commute:

Total distance: 12.7miles (20.43km) | Ride time: 1hr, 10min and 30sec | Average speed: 10.8mph | Top speed: 19.9mph

UPDATE: Seems my internal thermometer is correct, because the BBC is reporting that today's temperature in London was 29ºC.

A return to commuting

Today I got back in the saddle as a commuter for the first time in seven months.

Admittedly, the cut and thrust of the morning rush hour caught me by surprise. I'd forgotten what it was like to find yourself stuck behind a convoy of SEVEN red buses crawling snail-like along Kensington High Street, while black cabs and white vans hogged the outside lane, and ten trillion fellow cyclists kept you company at the traffic lights.

And I'd also forgotten the delight of seeing unexpected things on your journey. This morning it was an immaculate horse-drawn carriage that looked like it had been lifted from a Charles Dickens novel. The coach driver was all decked out in appropriate 19th century garb, too.

I didn't see anything particularly exciting this evening, but I really enjoyed the journey home. It was hectic on the road, but because I didn't leave the office until 6.15pm I think I probably missed the worst of it.

I got a buzz riding the last two miles, mainly because I was accompanied by about six other cyclists, and we managed to "take the lane" as a fast-moving bunch. Safety in numbers, and all that.

And the best part? I get to do it all again tomorrow!

Total distance: 13miles (20.90km) | Ride time: 1hr, 13min and 8sec | Average speed: 10.6mph | Top speed: 18.9mph

Can anyone spot what’s wrong here?

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I snapped this picture on my camera phone last Tuesday week (June 14) on Bank Lane, near the International Tennis Federation in Roehampton. I mention the ITF, because I believe it was hosting an event or function, because all the local streets were filled with vehicles parked on any inch of tarmac they could find. Sadly, this idiot (above) thought it was quite okay to park across the exit to a busy cycle lane. There was little or no room to wheel the bike around it either.

Fortunately, it was the only downside to a terrific ride in brilliant sunshine. I began in Hammersmith, cycled along the Thames Path all the way to Kingston-upon-Thames, then headed inland, via quiet suburban streets, to Richmond Park. I then did a half-route of the park, before heading back to Hammersmith via Barnes and Castelnau Road.

Total distance: 23.49miles (37.79km) | Ride time: 2hr, 18min and 21sec | Average speed: 10.1mph | Top speed: 19.9mph

A surprisingly sunny ride

Temp The horrible overcast weather this morning scuppered my plan to go for a longish ride. So I stayed indoors, pottered around, and then, come 2.30pm the sun came out and I decided to jump on the bike.

I headed into town to have a coffee, which morphed into a very late lunch, with T, and even before I'd trundled half-a-mile I regretted my decision to wear tracksuit bottoms. It was so warm out there, I really ought to have donned my shorts.

It was only when I checked the weather forecast, back at home, that I realised it was 23℃. Tomorrow looks to be more of the same, so I'm planning on getting up early and making the most of it. It will be my last free Tuesday until August. I need to clock the miles up while I can.

Total distance: 9.23miles (14.85km) | Ride time: 52min and 38sec | Average speed: 10.5mph | Top speed: 20.8mph

A Thursday farewell to the ducks in Richmond Park

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The ducks must have known. Next week I will be out of town, and the following I'll be starting a freelance contract, so today marked my last Thursday afternoon trek to Richmond Park for awhile. No sooner had I parked my bike up for a wee rest, than these two Mandarin ducks waddled over to say hello — or was that goodbye? — and then amused themselves by pecking at the ground around my feet for the next 15 minutes.

When I got back on the bike and completed my route, I couldn't believe how quiet the park was. I saw only a handful of other cyclists and only one dog walker (normally I see dozens).

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When I got to the cafe near Roehampton Gate there was not one single person sitting outside. The only time I have seen it like this was in winter, when it was bucketing down and everyone was inside huddled over hot lunches or cups of coffee.

I popped in to buy myself a drink (and a slice of carrot cake — shhh, don't tell anyone) and there was just one chap in the corner having a cuppa.

"It's very quiet in here today," I said to the woman behind the counter.

"Oh yes," she said. "But you have missed the lunch-time rush!"

Well, maybe she had a point, it was 2.15pm. But even so, on such a lovely day, I wondered where everyone had gone? Maybe they've all got themselves jobs, too?

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Total distance: 15.73miles (25.30km) | Ride time: 1hr, 22min and 53sec | Average speed: 11.3mph | Top speed: 21.6mph