An easy day trip from London that anyone on almost any bike can do!
Last week a group of tennis players fancied a change of scene and have an easy-going day out together away from the courts. Everyone was reasonably fit, could cycle, but for most of the group, riding is a way of getting from A to B and not a sport, what route did I recommend?
Our Bath Salts and Palaces route fitted the bill perfectly, straight forward, traffic free riding, not too arduous, with plenty to see and a decent picnic stop.
Meeting at Clapham, the train to Epsom covers the boring suburban sprawl quickly, escaping the in our case on Saturday, the top hatted Derby Day crowds and be cycling through woods within a half hour from Clapham.
Have you ever wondered about the origin of Epsom Salts? This is relevant, so bear with me, swift research in the web relieves once dissolved in bath water these magnesium sulphates can boost, cure, salve, strengthen, prolong, reduce detoxify and beautify pretty much any part of the body, both internal and external.
The relevance of Epsom salts to the ride is that our first stop is at the original well. I suspect when Samuel Pepys visited in 1667it was a grander affair than the current pedestrian ornament that has taken the place of, according to the Visit Epsom sign, the England’s earliest ‘Spa’ town.
Riding through Epsom and Ashtead Commons are a total cycling joy, it’s downhill, the paths are well maintained and empty, the trees fresh with new leaves and the sun shining, and picnicking aside a babbling brook in the cool shady woods, it doesn’t get much better than this!
There's one unavoidable bit of tarmac on this route, a couple of miles to East Molesey and the front of Hampton Court. Let's just say, makes you appreciate the peace of the bridleways!
Hampton Court needs little introduction, magnificent with its corkscrew chimneys, decorative brick patterns, Henry VIII and Thomas Wolsey and all that and you're right, Tudor madness on a grand scale.
Wait, there’s another less famous side to the palace, around the back along the river away from the crowds there’s a set of recently regilded gates glistening in the sunshine guarding the newly restored Privy Gardens which in turn are overlooked by the baroque façade of a William and Mary Palace, a bigger contrast to the disorganised massive of Tudor wonderland can't be imagined.
Escaping further down river and further away from the crowds, in the nearly deserted Home Park we past the end of the Long Water - Hampton Court's best kept secret, its a classic vista, a long tree lined lake with the palladian palace in the back ground, fountains in the foreground, and a pair of busy moorhens building a nest in the very near foreground - there's something for everyone!
The ride continues, skirting Kingston, passing though Richmond Park and along Wimbledon Common, it’s a peaceful way to enter London.
I love this route, it’s a ride of two halves, the morning’s easy ride on well-made gravelly paths through peaceful woods with a glorious picnic place, followed by the unexpected magnificence of the Place, its gates, and gracefulness of the Home Park. It’s a very simple, peaceful bike ride that’s accessible to most and can be enjoyed on almost any bike.