The Prince's Trust have organised a charity bike ride: the Palace to
Palace 45 Mile Classic. Well we don't normally do that sort of
thing, but our friend Katie works for Capgemini and they have a
corporate team entry open to friends and family of employees too.
They will pay the entry fee, provide lunch and general support, you
only have to raise the sponsorship money. Katie wants to do it and
would love some moral support as she's never ridden anything like
that far, so, well, we'll just treat it as a slightly expensive
social event. We don't like hassling people for charideeeee,
so we will just sponsor ourselves :-)
Palace to Palace? That's because we start in The Mall and wave to
Liz as we pass her London gaff, and finish in Windsor, waving again
as we pass the castle but actually continuing on to the racecourse,
which is probably one of her spiritual homes anyway. It's chip timed
and everything, but not a race. Actually, we'll also ride
past Hampton Court Palace, but "Palace to Palace and then another
Palace" would be a silly name.
So now you know what we're doing and why we're doing it, on with the
Saturday: we drive down to Windsor with our bikes so we can leave
the car at the finish point, inside Windsor racecourse. Then we'll
take the bikes back up to London ready for the morning.
It's a five-minute ride to Windsor and Eton Riverside station for a
direct train to Waterloo; nice and bike-friendly with everything at
ground-level. However, do beware the kiosk just out-of-shot to the
left, which sells some very nice-looking choc-chip cookies:
cookies which contain essentially no chocolate, but do contain palm
oil and taste horrible; and yoghurt-coated cereal bars that taste a
bit better but which are 51% - fifty-one percent! - sugar
It's quite a slow journey, taking longer than the alternative of
W&E Central to Paddington even though the latter includes
changing at Slough, but it is convenient and changing trains with
bikes is always a bit of a faff even when you don't have to
The bikes spend the night in the basement of Amanda's office, which
is only just the other side of St James's Park from the start.
And we spend the night in "The Hub by Premier Inn" nearby, in a room
which is big enough for a double bed and a modest but fully
functional bathroom, and that's about it!
The first train from home in the morning is right on the limit for
the Capgemini group starting time, and it's far from uncommon for
engineering works to disrupt the Sunday service anyway, so we are
going for the no-stress alternative.
We take a little stroll to find somewhere to eat (pizza at Jamie's
Italian in the end), but right next to the hotel is this most
curious trichotomological emporium.
Sunday: the big day itself!
The Capgemini group is assembled for a group photo.
The event start is a lot less formal than the information pack had
led us to expect. There's none of the promised bike inspection
before we're permitted to depart, none of the timed wave starts, we
just get on our bikes and go to the start line along with whoever
else happens to feel like doing the same right now. We're paused
briefly to divide us into small groups of half a dozen riders or so,
and that's it, we're off!
It's still early, so there's very little traffic around yet, but
apart from The Mall itself, none of the roads we'll be riding on are
We cross the river at Putney Bridge. It really doesn't look anything
like as pretty to the naked eye and the camera does indeed lie. Or
as we now can say, it offers alternative facts.
We're back into terra cognita now, after passing through
places like Chelsea and Fulham where we don't often venture. We'll
now head through Barnes and into Richmond Park by the Roehampton
gate, very close to where we've met with Patrick and Katie for
cycling lessons. (Patrick never learnt to cycle as a child and is
only now picking it up as a (very!) mature student. No way is he
ready to do this ride with us!)
A mighty fine stag doing his best Monarch of the Glen
impression! Nearly all the other deer we see are a long way off in
the distance, but this chap has just crossed the road right in front
Not sure what he makes of all these cyclists. However, some other
park users know exactly what they make of it, and are
vocally unhappy at the bad behaviour of a few riders, filling the
road as a group and going too fast. We're a bit disappointed to see
So here we are in Sunbury at the second refreshment stop, roughly
halfway. Perhaps Katie and I should have stood closer together for
Goodness gracious! I just had to stop for a picture of that
road name on the edge of Chobham Common. However, I saw no actual
pond, gracious or otherwise, and subsequent research shows it now to
be an ex-pond. Read all about it at http://www.chobham.info/gracious_pond.htm
Amanda lurks in wait for those who travel the Way of the Gracious
Pond: here comes Katie.
We know very little about Chobham Common apart from its existence,
but we should definitely check it out. Surrey Wildlife Trust says, "Chobham
Common is the largest National Nature Reserve in the south-east of
England and one of the finest remaining examples of lowland heath
in the world." So there!
Windsor! 45 miles done and here we all are at the finish!
A trifle disappointingly, the ride doesn't actually end at Windsor
Castle, but I don't think that would have been realistically
possible. Amanda asks if I'd stopped to take pictures of the castle,
but no, I didn't. The road through the town centre was busy with
cars and pedestrians as well as cyclists, so I was more
concentrating on where I was going than the scenery. However,
reviewing my helmet-cam footage, I think that there weren't really
any good places to get a decent photo even if I'd stopped: the
castle was too close and the street scene too cluttered.
We've got Katie a small cycling-themed birthday present. That sliver
of a person on the right is Patrick who's presumably not spent the whole
day drinking free beer in the Capgemini marquee.
And I buy a T-shirt from what we think is the only interesting stall
in the event village. The wolf's head is printed partly from
reflective ink so when a light shines on it, it looks like a glowing
skull! I hope I'm not too shallow: "A fiercely progressive
philosophy underpins everything we create. Our products are gender
neutral, body positive and have a feminist and inclusive outlook."
Well I can't argue with that, but, but.. I mean, just how cool
is a glowing reflective skull T-shirt?!
And here's the bling!
Not quite on the level of some of the more outrageous running
medals, but hey, I get one this time as a participant rather
than just an observer :-)
Running service will be resumed shortly.
Love to all,