Saturday 28 December 2019

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life tour: Day 5, Box Hill

Kms ridden:77
Running total: 347
Kms left: 153

Weather: Cloudy, mild 9 degC

Parks: Oaks; Box Hill Country; Gatton; Crystal Palace

Route on Strava

As it had been a while since I was last at Box Hill I decided to include this route in my Festive 500. After all, Box Hill is set within a country park, so why not have it as part of my park life theme!

My route into the Surrey Hills was slightly circuitous compared with my "plain vanilla" route via Coulsdon and Kingswood. Instead I went via Woodmasterne, Banstead and Epsom. It is slightly hillier, and a longer route than usual, but given that I am in the business of clocking up miles at the moment, I wasn't complaining!

The route took me past Oaks Park, near Wallington. There wasn't much to see there as I was on my road bike so couldn't advance very far into the park. It was also too early into the ride to do a coffee stop there either. So I pressed on past there and the lavender fields opposite.

There is a lot of parkland en route to Box Hill, notably on the Epsom Downs and around the Racecourse. But these are not technically named as parks so I couldn't give them a name. But just to suffice to say that there is a lot of green space in this area - much in keeping with the various parts of London where I have ridden so far.

Weatherwise, things were improving. There was still no sign of any sunshine, but at least the temperature was rising a little.

No sunshine, but still loads of cyclists out on Box Hill
On reaching the zig zag road up to Box Hill I saw many riders all doing the climb up to the National Trust cafe to the top at different paces. That's the great thing about Box Hill.

It must be the most ridden hill in the UK not just because it is regularly ridden by pros during the 2012 Olympics year at Ride London, but anyone who has a bike likes to have a go.

Granted, most people are on road bikes but there are still plenty of folks on hybrids - I even saw someone riding up there on a Brompton once. Whatever bike you ride and whatever pace you do it, everyone queues up for a snack at the top. So it is a democratic hill, and a busy hill - as it was today.

I did a couple of videos while at the top, and attracted the attention of quite a few riders who came up and chatted. People admired the fact that I was doing the Festive 500, though I must admit that it was surprising that none of the people I spoke to were doing it. It was hardly as though they were incapable of taking on the challenge given how strong they looked.

The most common reason given for not taking on the Festive 500 was family commitments over the Christmas period. I can understand that. With or without family commitments it isn't easy to ensure that you get in the miles. I have found that doing the Festive 500 does require a bit of thought and planning. At this time of year it is so easy for a day of bad weather, visiting a friend or family member, or even illness can just throw everything out of line and you are immediately playing catch-up.

If you go away to a training camp it is easy enough to get in 500km because that is the specific reason for being in Mallorca or Club Santa, or whichever warm-weather destination. The weather is inviting too.

However, when you're at home it is hard to fit things in around all the other distractions, and the weather at this time of year makes it all too easy to just say "computer says no" and get on with other things. So maybe it's not all that surprising that many people shun the idea of doing the Festive 500.

While at Box Hill I bumped into Bridget Malarkey, a fellow rider from when I was at Addiscombe Cycling Club. It was good to catch up with her after what seemed like years. She was looking lean and fit, although she said she didn't feel that way at all, and was a bit worried about not being fit enough to get through the rides on her upcoming trip to Colombia. The Festive 500 could have been good preparation for her trip, but ironically she was too busy to do it.

For my return route home I skipped Walton-on-the-Hill and Kingswood, and instead opted for another circuitous route to take in the extremely fast descent of Pebble Hill, to then ride into Reigate and go via Gatton Park. This route also led me discover a cheekily steep climb on Wray Lane, a road which goes right past the park and to Reigate Hill car park. I was quite caught out by this climb, and almost put my foot to the ground (shock horror)!

In my manor, Crystal Palace Park
The nice thing is I was rewarded with a lovely descent through Gatton Bottom, and my run in back to Croydon was gently downhill. Then once back in my neighbourhood I felt refreshed and ready to take on a couple of small hills in Crystal Palace and in the park before going home for a well-earned mince pie.

Related posts
Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 4, Knole Park

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 3, Beckenham/Croydon

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 2, East/Central London

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 1, Richmond Park

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