Hampton Court via Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park
February 5, 2007
Crisp, bright Saturday mornings must be the best times to ride in London.
This past weekend I headed out to explore the cycle route to Hampton Court and was delighted to find the road traffic fairly light and the park and canal paths almost deserted. The few walkers, runners and cyclists were keeping to themselves, keeping a good pace and enjoying their time out as much as I was.
I started in Streatham and the first bit of open space was Figges Marsh. The sun was still low and the shadows kept the frost from melting.
Wimbledon’s one way system was one of the few busy points on the ride but it passed quickly and I made the short climb up Ridgeway Place to the plateau and on to Wimbledon Common.
I was trialling a Geko 201 GPS and so far I had managed to set all the way-points correctly and hadn’t needed my map. It of course helped that I was following a LCN route but in the past I’ve often found signs missing and needed to stop to check the route.
The first part of Wimbledon Common wasn’t too inspiring but the track past Rushmere Pond took me to Camp Road and the Fox & Grapes pub which looks like it is worth a visit in the afternoon.
Wimbledon Common is huge but despite its size, has only one main cycle route which runs south from Putney Heath and then west along the edge of the Royal Wimbledon Golf Course. It didn’t take long to notice the golfers were all sticking too the dress code: “pillar box red upper garment must be worn on the course at all times”.
The route’s sealed section along Robin Hood Road soon became a muddy track as it went down the hill towards Beverley Lane and around to the A3.
Crossing the A3 into Richmond Park at Robin Hood Gate took a frustratingly long time with three lanes of traffic hurtling past in each direction. Fortunately there is an island in the middle plus a footbridge if the traffic is too heavy.
Richmond Park was a dream as ever. National Cycle Route 4 crosses the park and it is normally an easy ride to follow it to Ham Gate from just after Robin Hood Gate.
Instead, I took the slightly longer route past Kingston Gate and immediately saw hundreds of deer grazing in the morning sun. I am still not used to seeing wild animals in the centre of London and could not resist stopping for a picture.
The route from Richmond Park across Ham Common to Teddington Lock was very easy and well marked.
From Teddington Lock it was an easy ride along the Thames upriver past the various rowing sheds. The residents in the big houses must love their early mornings as coaches bark instructions at crews through bullhorns. The route crosses the river at Kingston and continues along Barge Walk to Hampton Court. There I found plenty of cafes and pubs where you can refuel for the ride home.
Overall this was a very pleasant route but not very challenging.
Best of all, the GPS worked fine and only lost signal once when I was under dense tree cover in Wimbledon Common.
My next ride will probably be up to the Thames Barrier but Saturday’s weather looks horrible at the moment.