Saturday 26 December 2020

Rapha Festive 500, London Waterways - Day 3: Thames Path and Wey Navigation

Featured waterways: River Thames (from Kingston to Weybridge), Wey Navigation, River Mole, River Wandle 

Distance ridden: 81km 

Cumulative distance: 224km

Distance left: 276km

Terrain: Gravel, Muddy track, 50% on tarmacked road 

Weather: Overcast, light rain, 8 degC

Nutrition: Water, half a banana, Ryvita with peanut butter

Route on Strava:

It's good to get out of the house at 9 o'clock. The first day I managed this, on day two I was out at 9.30. Today, was a lethargic 10.30am. But hey, one is allowed a Christmas hangover. Today's ride focused on South-West London. So I cycled over to Kingston. Instead of taking the main Hampton Road with all the other club cyclists and trying to beat my Strava time on this popular segment, I dropped down onto the gravelly Thames Path to reach Hampton Court Palace.

Hampton Court Palace

For sure, if you are wanting to ride at training pace this is not the route to take, but it is a very leisurely and scenic way to get to Hampton Court. It was almost midday by this time, and more folks were flocking there for their Boxing Day walk. However, it was still possible to ride through okay and share the path with other cyclists as well as walkers. I am not sure it would be quite so easy to ride through in the afternoon, though.

Hampton Court is one of those places I really enjoy visiting - the palace, the quaint flats overlooking the River Thames, the barges, and the independent bijou shops on the high street make this the sort of place I could hang out in all day.

I am not sure I would want to live there though. I think it's all right to be there and be cut off from the rest of the world for a short while, but I would worry that I might end up with a very insular outlook on the world. And on a more practical note, the traffic on the roundabout heading towards the M3 can be a nightmare!

River Thames at Hurst Park, near Hampton Court

So I continued along the Thames through Sunbury, Walton, and on to Weybridge. Up to Hampton Court, the terrain had been compact gravel. Once past Hurst Park, the track was muddy - at times very muddy and it would have made for a decent bit of cyclocross training.

Talking of sport, there was a lot of that going on here. As well as cyclists, there were joggers, people playing football in the nearby park, canoeists, and a bit of stand-up board paddling - something that has really taken off this year.

Once at Weybridge, the Thames fed into the River Wey. Rather than follow the signs to get onto the River Wey, I followed signs for Addlestone to reach the Wey Navigation - a canal parallel to the River Wey. I figured that this would be less muddy than the main river.

Initially, I thought my hopes of avoiding a mudfest were dashed as the start of the Wey Navigation was so claggy - even with the straw laid on the ground to make it passable. The path was narrow, and at times I worried I would slide and fall into the water! I felt a little guilty that the friendly folks around there looked at me expecting to bid me "good day" or "Merry Christmas", but I couldn't look at them as I was focused on my bike handling!

After a couple of hundred metres the path rose up to a higher elevation and the ground was much drier than earlier. I heaved a sigh of relief and was able to appreciate my surroundings, which were very pretty - even under the gloomy skies.

Eventually the path reached the road, at New Haw Lock. Sadly, I had to make the prudent decision to return home as the sky turned deep grey and the drizzle became more like rain.

Wanting to get back sooner rather than later, my route home was practically all on road. I went through Byfleet, Cobham, and Stoke d'Abernon where I briefly rode alongside the River Mole. Then I continued on through |Oxshott, Ewell, Cheam and Sutton. These are all places I was familiar with, having done training rides there on my road bike.

At Carshalton I entered Beddington Park to pick up the Wandle Trail, which follows the river Wandle to Croydon. It was quite a surprise to bump into Louise Mahé, a fellow cycle racer who I have raced with in the past. It had been ages since I last saw her, and so it was quite a fluke to just randomly cross paths with her just outside Croydon.

I could hang out at Hampton Court all day!

Eventually I reached home, just as it was getting dark and the rain became heavy. Weatherwise, it had been a grim Boxing Day. But I must say I was glad to have been able to get out and ride along the Thames and go through the pretty side of Hampton Court, as well as to discover the Wey Navigation. This year's Boxing Day is certainly an improvement on last year's when I left my house as a mountain biker and returned home as a drowned rat after being caught in torrential rain and sploshing my way across muddy trails in the local parks. 

Today had certainly been a fun day.

Related posts

Festive 500, London Waterways - Day 1

Festive 500, London Waterways - Day 2

No comments: