I love the song London Calling, by The Clash so it was the natural title for today’s ride as we left Benson in the Thames Valley for the big smoke!
It was a late start as I was feeling very cosy sitting in John and Val’s conservatory eating…guess what I ate??? Yes, eggs and bacon!!! ( Thanks Val). John popped out and purchased fresh croissants too, and made a great coffee to boot so feeling spoiled! I could have quite happily stayed longer but there was a long ride ahead, and our Bike Adventures mate Phil was to sleep in our bed tonight!
I was sad to say goodbye as I do not do them very well!
Now one of my OLDEST friends seems to be under the misapprehension that I don’t take time to smell the roses. I proved him wrong in Paris and here again! Not mentioning any names but Mark Hughes of Surry Hills in Melbourne this one is just for you!!!!!
John had plotted us out the most direct route to Windsor. It was a great route taking us past the RAF base at Benson and onwards to Ewelme where he owned the pub once upon a time. We climbed out of the Chilterns Hills and down towards Stoke Row where in the 1800’s a maharajah donated a well. Looks quite out of place really but it is extraordinarily deep at 300 feet ( and 4 foot wide).
Our bikes are now officially all terrain and required a portage today, complete with stinging nettle. This appeared to be a short cut between two roads but after recent heavy rains was a tad boggy. The mud in the middle was actually very squishy and boggy hence the portage on the right hand side up the bank.
We then rode through more forests and Rotherfield Peppard, Sonning Common, Shiplake, Twyford, Waltham St Lawrence.
In the mix of these villages and towns we stopped to debate navigation. Was that left, right or straight ahead. A cyclist coming the other way stopped and asked if we were lost and where we were heading. I stated “Venice”. In the most plum of English accents, and without missing a beat he said ” ok, take the second left, the turn right”. We all cracked up laughing.
We the. Scouted around the back of Windsor heading towards Old Windsor. Quite a busy road.
I have been to Windsor Castle twice before but had not seen this particular view of the Long Walk.
I had been to the Windsor Farm shop in 2007 and knew I could get a fine cup of coffee there. Nothing has changed.
MInd you it was hard to get piece and quiet in her farm gardens. Aussies flying overhead making a racket as only an Aussie can do.
The Queen has a fine array of food available in her shop. As a meat lover I think I would need a few of these poor looking little anorexic birds.
From Windsor we headed to Runnymede so I could educate Tony about the Magna Carta. Blood was shed to achieve this aim.
I also did not realise that this would involve taking the bikes downhill on a Paris-Roubaix cobblestone staircase for some length.
Next were the paddocks.
Finally the site of where the Barons compelled King John to sign the Magna Carta. Some of those barons feature in my ancestors, as does King John who was not a very nice person.
From paddocks we turned to tow paths then tracks through the forest.
Following the Thames for so long was very nice. So many beautiful homes, locks, and people just lazily sitting around the banks fishing, walking dogs, bike riding, jogging and so on.
I was aware that you could catch a ferry across the Thames so rode into Shepparton just for that sole purpose. 2 pounds each.
We continued following the river until we eventually arrived in Hampton and entered the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, a former home of King Henry VIII. He had acquired ( forcibly) the palace from Cardinal Wolseley who had caused the King displeasure.
I like the gargoyles that were very popular in the late 1500’s in England.
The gates in the backyard now have a fence protecting them. Pretty speccy but probably would not suit my little abode but I can appreciate the craftsmanship.
The afternoon was getting on and we debated whether to pull up stumps and head to the railway station…. But no, decided to keep going as I was keen to see Richmond Park. The intersection prior to the park saw our first interaction with an anti cyclist female driving a 4wd. She was playing silly buggers as we rode along swerving and slamming her brakes on for no reason and giving us the birdie. She had youngsters in the car. Great role model – not!
Richmond Park blew my mind. Its sheer size ( 1000 acres) and the biodiversity including a herd of deer resting in the grass. You need to look carefully to see the deer in the long grass along with the alpha male.
After leaving Richmond Park we needed to tackle London peak hour traffic. That was an experience and a half. Tony and I got separated only because he ran a red light and I didn’t! He ended up a few km ahead before he realised I was missing unaware he had run the red light.
At one very busy intersection we were uncertain where to turn and it was incredibly busy. There were numerous cyclists at the intersection waiting for the green light. I called out to one who kindly hopped over to talk to us. He was an Aussie working in London! Very helpful lad too.
After 106 km and an adventure filled day we were very pleased to arrive at our accomodation. We had an early tea and will be leaving here around 730 am to again tackle London traffic to get to the start of why we are here. London to Venice.
Around 275 km have been completed in the three day prologue warm up. Legs and bum are ready!