Sunday, 17 January 2010

Thwarted, but not really

St Anne's at Kew and St Peter's at Petersham (near Richmond) are on my list of famous churches that I want to to visit this year, but they are not next on the list.

However, both can be reached without embarking on a hilly ride through narrow country lanes. So after our recent weather it seemed like a good idea to promote them to next place for this week's ride.

Word association makes Kew and Richmond sound like pleasant places to visit (Kew Gardens, Richmond Park). However, from where we are in the Thames Valley, the obvious routes to get there run through Slough and Staines. Nether of those sounds quite as appealing. Of course both are perfectly good towns, that are no better or worse than hundreds of others. But for a full days ride, I'd rather pick a route that is a bit more interesting. So I spent Saturday evening trying to come up with a plan.

After consulting the authorities, and considering the options, I went to bed with a plan to ride out down Sustrans route 61 along the Jubilee channel to Eton, then on to Heathrow. From there I would shimmy up to the Grand Union Canal, and follow that to Brentford. From there it's a short link over the bridge to Kew. Then I could come back through Petersham along the Thames path and Sustrans route 4.

It was a good plan, and one day I must try it.

Today, it didn't last much further than the first ten miles. In retrospect, the problems should have been obvious. Firstly, the snow has left off-road cycle routes messy, with mud, water and ruts everywhere. Secondly, after weeks of weather everyone and their dog, and their extended family chose today for a walk along the routes that I had carefully picked out.

The result was that progress was incredibly slow. Normally that wouldn't matter too much, but on a 60 mile ride, with a bit of a late start, and a deadline for getting home, I just couldn't afford to do big chunks of mileage at little more than walking pace.

So after Heathrow I battled down a busy A4 to Brentford instead of following the Grand Union Canal. I used the GPS to find a route from Kew to Petersham, and it picked some badly congested main roads. So from Petersham to Teddington I reverted to the Thames path. But again progress was slow, so I gave up at Teddington, and just followed the setting sun west for a fairly direct route home.

As a result my intake of diesel fumes has been higher than intended. That aside, I've had some practice riding in heavy traffic, enjoyed some lovely January weather, seen a couple more churches, met some pleasant people and seen some interesting discoveries on the way. It's been good day - but not quite the one I had planned.

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