Monday 30 December 2019

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life tour: Day 7, Windsor Great Park

Kms ridden: 133
Running total: 503
Kms left: 0

Weather: sunny, 12 degC

Parks: Bushy; Windsor Great; Gunnersbury; Chiswick; Holland; Regents; Hyde

Route on Strava

Although today's post is entitled Windsor Great Park, that lovely park in Berkshire to the west of London, this was actually a mega ride that went all the way back into central London and took in Royal Parks before returning to Crystal Palace.

Bushy Park - the unsung hero of Royal Parks

Having roughly 130km left to reach the magic 500km, I had toyed with the idea of doing the whole lot in one day.

As long as I left the house early I would be able to do the ride.

This would be a largely flat ride as there would only be small lumps at Virginia Water and within Windsor Great Park.

Also, given that the ride would be mainly within the London conurbation even if it got dark this would not be a problem as the roads would be well lit, as opposed to be stuck out on misty country lanes of Sussex in the dark.

So I set off from home at around 9am, passing through a misty South-West London. Fortunately, the sun did come out and all mist was burned away. So by the time I reached Richmond and Twickenham the day looked lovely.

My first park of the day was Bushy Park, the unsung hero to me. Folks rave on about the nearby Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common, and Hampton Court Palace across the road, but forget about Bushy Park.

If a park like Bushy existed in any other town people would be marvelling at how beautiful it is. But because of its more "glamorous" neighbours it doesn't get mentioned much.

Even I admit that many a time I have breezed straight past the place when on a cycle ride to Hampton Court, or en route to Windsor. So today, I was happy to ride a route that took me right through Bushy.

Bushy Park is pretty large, pan flat, with a lake and ornate fountain. It's an extremely pleasant place to do a run. In fact, the Park Run - something that millions of people up and down the country do every Saturday morning - began in Bushy Park. The event has one of the biggest fields, with numbers regularly exceeding 2,000!

Otherwise, if you are feeling less energetic there are plenty of places to just stop among the regularly arranged trees and have a picnic.

Once back on the road I breezed past Hampton Court Palace and pushed on to Virginia Water, one of my favourite parks in the South-East. Along the way, I saw lots of groups of cyclists. That is not an uncommon sight, but what struck me more was the pace that people were riding at - almost like there was a sense of urgency. It made me think that they were probably trying to get in their Festive 500 kilometres before tomorrow's deadline!

As usual, Virginia Water was packed with Christmas walkers from Surrey and Berkshire. From there, I rode up through Windsor Great Park and into Windsor, where there were humongous queues to get into the Castle. I can't believe that people would hang around all day standing in line!  At least the sun was out.

A brief period of calm on Eton Bridge, after the bustle around Windsor Castle
Once past the tourists in Windsor and Eton my ride took on a much less glamorous landscape as I passed through drab suburbs near Slough, and then up through places like West Drayton and Southall before reaching Gunnersbury Park.

This park took me back to 30 years ago when I was a student at Warwick University, and spent a summer in Ealing. Gunnersbury Park felt like the centre of the universe! Today, it was a modest, though still pleasant neighbourhood park. 

By the time I reached Chiswick it was getting dark and it was getting a bit desolate being stuck out on the busy South Circular Road.

Finally made it to Westminster - 500km done!
Thankfully, that spell didn't last long, and my route then took me through Hammersmith, Kensington and then into central London via Holland Park.

Being in the West End I couldn't omit to go around the Royal Parks, so I did a quick stint around Regents Park while getting overtaken by lots of chain gang club riders. Then I had to battle my way through the crowds visiting Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.

My 500km were achieved in Dulwich, South London however I chose to do my photo shoot in Westminster where it would be better lit at night.

Related posts
Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 6, South Downs National Park

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

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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