Saturday 9 September 2023

One day one photo - 9: Richmond Park - the cyclists' (and maybe the prisoners') choice

Rider hang-out at Roehampton Gate, Richmond Park
It's been a couple of months since I was last in Richmond Park, so I thought I'd make the most of the good weather and my bursting energy levels to make the trip across into South-West London and do a few laps of the cycling mecca for London-based cyclists. Sure, places like Box Hill and Regents Park are also popular, but Richmond Park is the place for all cyclists - not just club riders. Recreational riders family bike riders and small children all like to come out to this expansive green space, the biggest park in London.

First thing in the morning from about 7 am it tends to be the hard core club cyclists as those mini pelotons want to be able to get a clear uninterrupted path around the circumference of the Royal Park situated between SW15, TW9 and KT2, without having to slow down for or even scare away non-club riders! 

Not being hardcore, I arrived at the Roehampton Gate entrance at around 8.30am and began my three laps. By this time the park was beginning to get busy as more club riders arrived as well as recreational riders. I enjoyed just being among a large loose community of people powered by pedals.

The area around Roehampton Gate where there is a cafe and a cycle hire hub is a prime meeting point for cycling groups and it's always an area where you can bump into familiar faces. I saw different cyclists from London Dynamo, a large local cycling club that organises rides there.

Apparently, the police had also been in Richmond Park searching for an escaped prisoner who had apparently absconded from Wandsworth jail a few days earlier. You do see some dodgy bike riding sometimes, but I can't say I saw any signs of shifty behaviour! Who knows he may have been hiding in some secluded bracken or among the deer.  

Although I cycled there alone, I ended up riding close to other riders who were of a similar ability to myself. Sometimes they were stronger than I on the flat, while other times I pushed myself a bit on the hills and would catch or overtake them. Then on the descent of Broomfield Hill, it was a question of who had the strongest nerves when it came to the fast descent and the sweeping right-hand curve. Generally, they were more confident than myself as I was slightly out of practice and so used my brakes at the top of the climb in order to not pick up too much speed. I wasn't in the mood to kiss the tarmac.

Since the time of lockdown, vehicular traffic has been a little bit restricted and there are a lot fewer cars than before - particularly on Sawyers Hill and Broomfield Hill - which makes it very pleasant to ride. 

In the end I cycled two full anti-clockwise laps, then did one small lap via the ballet school and Pen Ponds, then a clockwise half-lap from Roehampton Gate to Kingston Gate before exiting the park and returning home. I always feel inspired after riding around Richmond Park - the sight of the beautiful, varied woodland on undulating terrain as well as the deer in the background doing their thing always gives me a feelgood factor which gives me wings as zoom through Kingston, Raynes Park, Wimbledon, and Mitcham to reach my manor in Crystal Palace. I hope not to leave it too long before I am back in Richmond Park again.

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