Six riders met at Nonsuch Mansion Cafe in the park for the first official club MTB since March: Dave Rapson, Mick Curtis, Bill Martin, Barry Gregory, Trevor Hughes, and myself leading the ride.
This was the Mick Curtis Birthday ride as dear Mick became an Octogenarian on Friday 17th July. It was a nice summer’s morning that promised to warm up during the day, and had us enthusiastically heading out of Nonsuch Park towards Chessington via the Hogsmill River and the corner of Horton Park along Butcher’s Row. Upon reaching the top of Barwell Farm Lane after leaving Chessington South we discovered that the farm owners had suddenly decided to put up ‘Private Road’ signs after forty years of unencumbered cycling through, so we used the bridle path to the west. Alas this seems to be an all-too-common problem at the moment; sudden denial of access probably due to the renaissance in cycling popularity.
After crossing Claygate Common we road over the humpback railway bridge and headed down towards Arbrook Common. Then we went onto Esher Common heading towards the Old Portsmouth Road, the one time start of ten and twenty five mile time trial courses in the 1980’s. After crossing the road we had a short, but sharp steep climb onto the top of West End Common. This is the first time I’ve managed to climb this little hill, not because it’s hard, but because it’s normally wet and slippery and often results in sliding to a halt in winter! Dropping off on the other side of the hill is not without its perils either, as it has around a 50 degree slope, again tricky to descend in the winter due to the same lack of traction. After passing through West End Village, where Barry Gregory pointed out a new wood carving of a crocodile sticking its head out of the pond (check it out next time you’re passing), we crossed the road and headed up a bridleway towards Walton.
After ‘iggy wiggying’ through the residential streets we dropped out onto the Thames Tow Path. This was busy as expected with the usual dog walkers, families with kiddies on bikes etc, and so our slow and patient group ride proceeded west to the elevenses stop at the Wild Brunch Cafe by Walton on Thames Bridge.
This is a nice outdoor venue, as will all of our teas stops be for the foreseeable future. It being Mick Curtis’ Birthday everyone offered to buy him his breakfast, but he was rumbled on having five breakfast’s and coffees after we cottoned on whilst standing in the queue to be served. Better luck next time, Mick!
Our return journey was a group decision of two options, either north side of the Thames or south side? Everyone chose the north side to avoid the overcrowded south side Thames Tow Path. Bill Martin left us at Walton to go and visit his Dad who lives in the area and Barry Gregory headed for home in close by Hersham. So our route back was a group of four through the byways of Sunbury and into leafy Bushey Park. We stayed to the main routes through the park as the deer have been hiding in amongst the overgrown fern bushes of late and you really don’t want to suddenly meet face to face with a stag!
There was a slight delay leaving the park due to large amounts of people, bikes and the heavy old siphon double gates, but we tackled these challenges well and thanked people for their patience whilst we negotiated the obstacle of the two gates, both just itching to break fingers if you didn’t pay attention to them. Soon we were crossing Kingston Bridge and adjusting to the new double wide temporary cycle lanes which were in heavy use. We rang our bells politely like ‘Toni the ice cream man’ as we passed through Kingston Market which does have signs saying it’s a shared pedestrain and cycle path, but most of the foot public have never noticed the signs and so you have to be careful of the “mobile device obsessed.”
The rest of our route took us back along the Hogsmill River using a few extra pieces of land by the river rather than the road. These extra paths by the river can really only be used in the Summer time due to the poor boggy conditions in the winter. The group of four got as far as Worcester Park and then slowly peeled off in various directions for home.
Good ride chaps.
32 miles for me.