A round-trip to the Wimbledon Tea Rooms

Todays-cycleAfter a couple of days slobbing around, eating and drinking, sleeping in and watching TV and DVDs, it was time to venture into the great outdoors for a bit of fresh air and exercise. So, with bikes at the ready, we headed to the Wimbledon Tea Rooms, via Richmond Park, for a late lunch.

The getting to Richmond Park bit was fine — I swear I could do it in my sleep, although it might not be wise on the back of a bicycle — but the finding the tea rooms was a little more tricky. In the past, I've gone cross-country, via Wimbledon Common, but with mixed success: the paths here are too rough and ready unless you're on a proper mountain bike.

Today we opted to cycle along the A3. There's a shared pedestrian/cycle path completely separate from the motor traffic, but the noise of the road didn't make for a pleasant, nor peaceful experience.

As soon as we could, we crossed over to the common via a subway near Putney Vale Cemetery. Unfortunately, we had to walk the bikes for a mile or more, because cycling is prohibited along the paths in this section of the park. Not that it mattered — even if we could have cycled it would have been too wet and muddy for my bike to handle.

Eventually we reached Queensmere, which is an attractive man-made pond just a stone's throw — or quite a steep climb away — from the tea rooms. (We didn't know this at the time — it was kind of a fluke. To be honest, the common is so massive and so forest-like, it would not take much to get totally lost.)

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According to the Wimbledon and Putney Commons website, before the pond was created, the area "acted as the focal point on the Commons for a number of duels until, in 1838, a man was shot dead and thereafter duelling was prohibited". The things you learn!

Anyway, after our delicious lunch of baguettes and chips, we made our return journey via main roads and suburban back streets in a race against the dying light. Typically, I hadn't bothered bringing any lights with me and I was worried it would get dark before we got home. But we needn't have worried: we were back in the door just before 3pm, a little over two-and-a-half hours since we had set off. It was a fine way to spend an afternoon on a dry — and mild — winter's afternoon in December.

Total distance: 13.76miles (22.47km) | Ride time: 1hr 24min and 08sec | Average speed: 9.8mph | Top speed: 20.2mph

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A mission in the rain for ‘Hamlet’ tickets, breakfast, elevenses, books and take-out sushi

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Dull, grey, drizzly. Oh yes, let's go for a cycle!

Oh, and while you're at it, do it during morning rush hour — and head for Waterloo, so that you have to negotiate all the traffic along Kensington High Street, Parliament Square and Blackfriars Road.

But there was method to my madness. Or a reward in mind, at least.

I wanted to be in line for tickets to see Hamlet at the Young Vic when doors opened. That's because tickets to this production are all sold out, but each day the theatre releases up to 20 "gallery only" tickets for £10 a pop. The only catch is you have to buy the tickets on the day you want to attend, and the seats, which have a spectacular view, are just stools, no backs.

By 9.45am I had my two tickets, so then it was time for a treat  — coffee and a muffin in the Young Vic bar (very good food, service and atmosphere at that time of the morning) — before getting back on the bike and heading to the West End.

I parked up on Lower Regent Street, met my Other Half for "elevenses", then wandered up to Waterstone's on Picadilly for a browse (which turned into a book buying feast) and tried to ignore all the stares I got from fellow shoppers and tourists. So what if I was wearing my cycling kit and had helmet hair, anyone would think they'd never seen a woman in a night-vision jacket before.

Afterwards, I bought some take-out sushi from the Japan Centre and then got back on the bike for the 4.5 mile journey home.

It was a brilliant little "errand run", although I could have done without the drizzling rain. And the crazy lunch-hour drivers down Ken High doing illegal U-turns and double-parking in dangerous locations. But it would have taken twice as long if I'd done it by tube — and half a day if I'd caught the bus!

Total distance: 12.65miles (20.35km) | Ride time: 1hr, 16min and 14sec | Average speed: 9.9mph | Top speed: 19.9mph

The post in which I waffle on about swans — and showcase a few pictures featuring said birds

When I awoke this morning, a surprisingly mild December day beckoned. But by the time I'd got my act together — I faffed around on the internet, did a bit of housework and read a couple of chapters of a book — the blue sky had given way to a dull, overcast, grey sky.

It didn't matter. There was little wind, no rain and the temperature was a relatively comfortable 8°C — in other words, pretty much perfect for cycling.

Conscious of the fact we had a lot of rain yesterday, I decided to bypass the Thames tow path, which I usually follow to get to Barnes, and cycled direct to Richmond Park along the main roads instead. This meant I shaved a good 10 or so minutes off the time it usually takes me to get to Roehampton Gate, because I didn't have to take it slow through mud and giant puddles, nor give way to dog walkers and joggers.

Once in the park I followed my usual route along the Tamsin trail and stopped to check out these swans below…

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I think they thought I was going to feed them, because instead of flying away, they swam straight towards me.

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When they realised I had nothing for them to eat, the four babies rooted around in the reeds by the shore…

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…under the watchful eye of mum.

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Once they clocked I wasn't going to throw them any bread or titbits they decided to take their leave…

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And the whole family, now joined by dad, went on their merry way.

Which is what I did too. I ended up cycling the whole of the Tamsin trail, in an anti-clockwise direction, but moved onto the proper road at Broomfield Hill Wood so that I didn't have to go down the steep decline on a treacherous surface (I climbed up it the other day and found it was too slippy for my tyres to get any purchase). But once at the bottom of the hill — which is an exhilarating chance to freewheel the entire length of it — I moved back onto the Tamsin trail and continued on to complete a full circuit.

And because I know you're all dying to hear about my feet, I can tell you that today I wore two pairs of socks and I didn't notice the cold seeping into my toes until the 9-mile mark. By the time I got home they were both a bit numb, but nowhere near as bad as they have been in recent weeks.

Total distance: 16.33miles (26.27km) | Ride time: 1hr, 34min and 06sec | Average speed: 10.4mph | Top speed: 21.8mph

How to keep my feet warm: is it time to invest in some overshoes?

SocksEarlier in the week I purchased some new socks from Blacks with a view to keeping my tootsies nice and warm while out cycling. I opted for some "unisex anatomically designed walking socks" — according to the packaging they incorporate Silpure and Coolmax® technologies, whatever that means — and hoped they'd do the job.

So much for splashing the cash. My feet were toasty and warm for about half my journey. Then they started to cool down and before I knew it the toes on both feet were numb.

When I got back home I barely had any feeling in my feet at all!

The thing is, it was bloody cold out there. And I only saw a handful of cyclists during my journey indicating that everyone else had more sense than me to be out and about late on a Wednesday morning doing a loop of Richmond Park.

And yes, my face was frozen — is it acceptable to ride in a balaclava, do you think? — but the rest of my body, including my hands, was lovely and warm.

So, should I invest in some even higher grade thermal socks? Or do I bite the bullet and get some overshoes?  Note that I don't cycle in "proper" cycling shoes — I've been wearing the same pair of Puma speedcats since 2007 and find them perfect for grip and comfort on the road — so they may be part of the problem.

Advice, suggestions and recommendations on the whole how-to-keep-my-feet-warm issue are very welcome…

Total distance: 15.40miles (24.77km) | Ride time: 1hr, 28min and 30sec | Average speed: 10.4mph | Top speed: 19.9mph

Now the wind gusts have calmed down, it’s time to get back in the saddle once again

IMG01614-20111209-1308After two days cooped up inside, hiding from the wind, I braved the cold for a quick cycle early this afternoon.

The sky was a brilliant blue, and while there was a definite nip in the air, the wind was much calmer than it has been all week. Mind you it was hard work riding in some of the more exposed locations, with chill winds making the going very, very slow. I'm not complaining though — at this time of year I'm just grateful it's not grey and raining.

I ventured to my usual haunt — Richmond Park — and pottered around the roads and the Tamsin trail, trying different routes and directions, until I'd clocked up about 5 miles of cycling before heading back home.

I did think about having a coffee and a muffin at the little caravan I occasionally stop at, but I was kind of in the "zone" when I was nearby so changed my mind — you've got to make the most of new-found energy levels while you can!

I can safely say I've got my cycling mojo back after a period of slackness — I certainly felt I was back up to speed today. It only took a couple of regular rides for me to regain my fitness — not that I really lost it, but you know what I mean.

Total distance: 15.31miles (24.63km) | Ride time: 1hr, 31min and 49sec | Average speed: 10.4mph | Top speed: 21.4mph

Richmond Park — in reverse

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Determined to make the most of the weather — fine and dry but toe-numbingly cold — I took a quick scoot around Richmond Park at lunch time today.

I've cycled around the Tamsin Trail so many times over the past 10 months I did something radical — well, radical for me — and cycled around it in the reverse direction. What a revelation that proved to be!

There were some parts that were damn hard work — steep hills and slippery paths — and others that were lots of fun — downhill and free-wheel heaven.

I ended up doing the entire circuit — instead of cutting across the park via Cycle Route 4, which is what I normally do — and saw no more than a handful of people, dog walkers mainly.

The conditions were not much better than yesterday. The wind was still gusty, but not near as fierce, and it was so chilly that three miles from home I realised I had no feeling in my toes, they were numb from the cold. I really have to invest in some thermal socks, I think.

Total distance: 16.88miles (27.15km) | Ride time: 1hr, 37min and 44sec | Average speed: 10.3mph | Top speed: 20.2mph

A chilly cycle through a sepia-coloured landscape

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Don't let this pleasant scene (above) fool you. There may have been sunshine and blue skies when I headed out on the bike for a trundle around Richmond Park this morning, but the wind was so gusty and horrible it was almost impossible to stay on the bike at times.

It was really hard going and by the 6-mile mark I'd already stopped for two short breaks, where I contemplated turning around and going back home. Alas, I persisted, buoyed on by the beautiful scenery.

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The park is looking pretty wonderful at the moment. Many trees have lost their leaves now, but quite a lot are still holding onto theirs and everything is imbued with a lovely bronze glow. The colour palette is all browns and burnt orange.

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In some places, looking across the landscape of pale straw grass, dried bracken, burnt heather and autumnal leaved trees it was almost as if I was viewing a sepia-toned photograph. (Note the grazing deer in the one above.)

It was chilly out, though. I'm glad I decided to wear an extra layer — a fleece jumper over my long-sleeved t-shirt — because there was an icy edge to the wind. Even before I'd cycled a mile, I was out of breath, not from exertion, but from the cold air burning my lungs — it was quite difficult to breath.

Nice to get out and about, although I'm not sure my numb tootsies would agree!

Total distance: 15.45*miles (24.85km) | Ride time: 1hr, 30min and 54sec | Average speed: 10.2mph | Top speed: 21.2mph

* Bike computer sorted now, thanks to Mr London Cycling Diary! For some reason it was using the wrong wheel size, even though I hadn't altered any settings. Go figure.