One of the benefits of living so close to the Thames is that I don't have to travel far to find a car-free cycle route.
This morning, after I waited for the rain to stop, I thought I'd go for a very quick trundle, avoiding my usual haunts, and did a small-ish loop taking in both sides of the river on the eastern side of Hammersmith Bridge.
Castlenau Road (also known as the A306) was the busiest part of my journey, but once I turned off it and cycled past the London Wetland Centre I had the whole of the Thames tow path (see above) to myself.
I then dashed past Craven Cottage, home of Fulham Football Club…
…then onwards to Putney Pier…
…before braving the horrendous potholes on Putney Bridge, to make my way home through the back streets of Fulham.
The route from the London Wetlands to Putney Bridge is part of National Cycle Route 4, so well sign-posted and with provision, near the bridge, for cycling on a dedicated lane. The rest of the route, on the Fulham side of the bridge, is also very well signposted for cyclists — just follow the blue signs and you'll get to Hammersmith in no time!
Total distance: 6.41miles (10.3km) | Ride time: 34min and 38sec | Average speed: 11.1mph | Top speed: 17.8mph
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.
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
After almost a year of not cycling, I've suddenly found myself back in the saddle: I've done two round trips, in two days. One was 12 miles, the other 14. I expected to be stiff and sore and exhausted. Apart from some minor tension in my right shoulder (which stopped me from cycling 12 months ago), all seems well. Why didn't I get back in the saddle sooner?
And cycling at this time of year is such a treat. The colours of the leaves on the London plane trees are just beautiful, all shimmering golds and yellows.
The above photograph is a view of Constitution Hill, which runs alongside Green Park, but my favourite autumnal scene is the gorgeous leafy avenue which is Bird Cage Walk. Sadly, I didn't have my camera phone at the ready, so I didn't take a shot. But as I cycled along the road at around 1.30pm, under a clear blue sky and a brilliant sun, it felt really good to be alive. The crunching of the leaves under the wheels only added to the experience!
Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens (above) are particularly beautiful at this time of year, too.
And it was lovely to come across Amish Kapoor's latest installation — Turning the World Upside Down — in the gardens. I wonder if you can spy the woman in the raspberry cycling jacket in the mirror!
So, I didn't cycle yesterday and I was grumpy as hell all day.
So, this morning, I was up and in the shower by 7am and out on the road at 7.40am.
So, I arrived to work very early and instead of heading straight to my desk I ventured to M&S Simply Food and bought myself a carton of tropical juice and some little pots of yoghurt. So, that's my breakfasts sorted for the rest of the week.
So, this evening, bearing in mind that Monday's stint along The Strand was choked with buses and taxis (and dozy pedestrians), I took my normal route south of the river, crossing over at Westminster and cycling around Parliament Square.
So, I have never seen so many police in my life, or, more to the point, so many police vehicles — they are being used to keep the Tamil protestors barricaded on the green — there's dozens of them parked bumper to bumper around the inner lane of the square.
So, I wonder how much money that is costing the taxpayer in police overtime?
So, I'd forgotten all the little things I see when I cycle, all the events that occur, all the landmarks I pass that make me realise how much I love London and, more importantly, how much I love cycling this city's streets.
If you live in the UK be sure to watch BBC1 tonight to catch the third episode of The Man Who Cycled the World.
This is a four-part documentary series about Mark Beaumont's attempt to cycle around the world in 200 days.
Unfortunately, I only caught the tail end of the first episode on Monday night, but I watched all of the second episode last night and am looking forward to the next installment this evening.
I was a huge fan of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's Long Way Round and Long Way Down adventures (as my book blog will attest), but they had it easy with god knows how many people in their support crew. Poor Mark, a 25-year-old Scot, is doing the whole journey solo, using a handheld camera to record his trip. There's no back-up crew or local 'fixers' to help him on his way.
And unlike Ewan and Charley he doesn't seem to moan every three minutes saying 'I miss my wife' or 'I'm not enjoying this' or 'I wish our timetable wasn't so rushed'.
Plus, he grows a much better beard than either of those two could muster!
Mark's official website.
BBC news story about Mark breaking the world record.
Story in the Mirror about the TV program.
I thought I was going to cry tonight. Big choking sobs as I walked down Fulham Broadway. Turns out my bike was not ready for collection. They "forgot" to book it in. So my new bike sat in the shop’s storage area all day with a bag containing my newly purchased mudguards, packrack, bottle holder and wheel bolts slung over its handlebars and not one staff member stopped to check what it was doing there! Grrrr.
They were very apologetic. Of course. And promised it would be ready for collection tomorrow evening. Let’s hope so. As much as I like bike shops and ogling all the shiny silver things they have in stock I am rather sick of spending my evenings hanging out it in them: tomorrow will be three nights in a row, which represents two nights too many.
So as much as I had wanted to regale you with tales of my lovely new steed, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until the weekend to hear all about them — assuming of course that the bike shop mechanic remembers that new Specialized Sirrus in the corner needs some work doing to it!
A man playing golf. In Kensington Palace Gardens.
He had a dog, an iron and a real-life golf ball. And he wasn’t practising his chipping either. He was doing the full-on swing and hitting it big.
I was half expecting to see a cyclist inexplicably falling off their bike having been hit on the noggin by a rogue golf ball.
Where do these nuts come from?