This summer, the Beeline team has taken on the challenge of completing all of the rides in Phoebe Trimingham's You had me at velo! article for Time Out London (June 20-26 edition). Each Friday we'll be giving you the lowdown on one of the eight great cycle route's she's suggested.
This week's ride comes from Kate who rented a Brompton bike from her local dock and cycled her furthest distance to date!
In fact, Kate cycled this route twice. The first time, she met her twin brother after work at Hammersmith Bridge and they cycled together through Richmond Park and along the river to Weybridge. They mis-timed it a little and at 11PM, and in complete darkness, they decided to call it a day and jump on the train back to London.
Better prepared and slightly earlier in the day, Kate started the ride again from Chiswick Bridge and started with a cycle along the river down past Kew Gardens through to Richmond. On her second attempt she triumphantly arrived at Windsor Castle in time for a Sunday afternoon scone. This blog post is an amalgamation of the two trips.
Start this ride south of the river at Putney Bridge and warmup with a lovely and relaxed few miles down the towpath through Barnes. Look around and you'll see plenty of rowing clubs and rowers (some Olympians train down here), Fulham's Craven Cottage and a couple of great pubs with outdoors seating and eating if you need a bit of pre-ride fuel.
Hello, Tom! On this leg you have two choices: head left down Castleneau from Hammersmith Bridge and towards Richmond Park's Roehampton Gate, or stay on the towpath as it winds through Chiswick down to Richmond. If you choose the park your efforts up the hills will be rewarded with some beautiful views back into central London and you will almost certainly see groups of the deer that make the park famous. We also spotted a grass snake - not poisonous but a surprise to see a wild reptile slithering through south-west London!
If you choose to stay on the towpath you'll have a few more people to dodge but also a wonderfully calm route alongside the river all the way. Once you arrive in Richmond you'll also be perfectly placed to take advantage of riverside attractions like the boat rental shop and the ice cream van! Kate vouches for the nutritional value of a Mr.Whippy on a bike ride.
For Kate, a Londoner born and bred, seeing animals is always exciting...and the excitement continues as you cycle past the Belted Galloway cattle who spend the summer months grazing on Petersham Meadows. A rare but beautiful sight within the M25! If you have time and want to stop here for lunch there is a beautiful 'teahouse' at Petersham Nurseries which is just a short detour from the route. It's a little pricier than your bog standard lunch but it is delicious and the garden is ace!
This leg is generally quite busy with walkers and dogs and other cyclists so be prepared to do a bit of weaving. As you approach Kingston you'll pass a lovely pub with a garden. It's called The Boater's Inn, does delicious food and also has a nice little terrace that overlooks the river. If you happen to be riding by on a Sunday evening they even have live jazz. On one of our rides there was a live band in the garden sending the sweet notes of The Temptations out into the warm summer night.
For the most direct ride on this leg, head north over Kingston bridge and get on to Barge Walk - it will take you all the way down to Hampton Court Palace.
If you stay south of the river once you arrive in Kingston you'll need to leave the river for a few miles as the riverside has been handed over to restaurants and pedestrians. Perhaps the least exciting part of this cycle but a good chance to pick up the pace if you have been slowed down by busy towpaths. Kate and her brother ended up cycling through an industrial estate during this leg...and saw a hedgehog! Another delightful dose of nature for the city-dwelling siblings.
If you have the time, stop by at Hampton Court Palace for a lesson on Henry VIII. Otherwise, admire what you can of the gardens and park from the cycle path and continue south over Hampton Court Bridge. Turn right off of the bridge and along the river past the houseboats and locks of East Molesey and beyond.
This stretch also has lots of nice benches if you have taken a picnic, or just need a bit of a break. Take an empty plastic pot to fill up with blackberries too. Blackberry bushes line much of this leg and the blackberries are ripe and delicious right now!
You should also start to see signs for cycle route 4 which will get you most of the way to Windsor. Make sure that you head back north of the river at Chertsey if you want to stay on cycle route 4.
Press onwards through Laleham to Staines where you cross back over the river to join the path as it continues through Runnymede. There isn't much to see at Runnymede (it really is just a field) but it has historical significance as being where King John sealed the Magna Carta a few years ago (1215).
From there, jump on the A308 for one last push up the slight incline to Windsor Castle. A wave of relief hit Kate as she emerged from Old Windsor and caught her first glimpse of the Castle. Another few minutes in the saddle and she had made it!
If you arrive in time, you can have a look around the oldest (and largest) occupied castle in the world. Not too shabby! Plenty of places to reward yourself in Windsor or head over the river (once more) to Eton for a pie or a pint and a peek at the town's famous school.