Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Richmond Park Outer and Inner loop – (Surrey) – 03/12/08 – 11 miles approx – 9kg – Myself.

Every time I have ever gone round Richmond Park, whether as a runner back in the early Nineties during my brief membership of Ranelagh Harriers, as a cyclist, or more latterly as a walker, it has always been in an anti-clockwise direction. The only exception to this was the last time I walked it with Helen back on the 21/09/08 Thus I realised on that day that the clockwise direction is both more scenic and more challenging in terms of gradients. Ever since then I have been itching for an opportunity to do the clockwise outer and inner loop again, only this time carrying my 9kg ballast in the rucksack. A combination of no available free time and my well documented (in this blog anyway) problems with my feet and boots have prevented that up to now, however having at last appeared to have resolved the foot issues my chance finally came today.
The weathermen warned that it was going to be a cold one, and even when I arrived at Ham Gate Avenue (on this occasion both my start and finish point) at 11.45, temperatures hadn’t risen sufficiently to melt the ice in the puddles. Yet the fact that there was no real breeze, meant the wind chill factor was at a minimum and with sufficient layers on I remained as warm as toast throughout. There was a cold mistly look to the park as I made my way up from Ham Gate, past Pembroke Lodge and towards Richmond Gate. Yet from that point onwards the Sun came out bathing the Park in a beautiful light for the rest of the day. Having passed Roehampton Gate on the outer loop I decided a hot drink was in order and stopped at the café by the Cycle Hire shop, that me and Helen missed on a previous occasion. A shame really that I didn’t miss it on this occasion as well, as £3.90 for a cup of coffee (that tasted of plastic cup and soap suds) with a slice of fruit cake is really taking the piss. What goes in must also come out however, and I was grateful to be able to make a watery contribution in the toilets at Robin Hood Gate.

Having reached Ham Gate this basically marked the end of my outer loop, however I was still on the non-elevated section that I had only re-discovered with Helen the last time out (I should have remembered it was there however from 17 years ago, training with Ranelagh Harriers). So having traversed from there onto Petersham Gate this was the part of the day of that involved the steepest climb up onto the elevated section coming out at Pembroke Lodge/Henry VIII’s mound. This was where the 9kg in the backpack started to do its work, and combined with some muddy and slippy grass meant I was breathing somewhat faster than normal by the time I reached the top.

Following the road by Richmond Gate before making a right turn by the sports fields and up towards White Lodge meant I was now most definitely on the inner loop of the walk. It was also apparent that the Sun was setting in earnest and the clock was moving past the1500 mark. Thus having turned right again at the the mobile café area and starting the long walk up towards the Ham Gate exit, the low sun was now directly in my eyes, so much so that anyone coming towards me was no more than a silhouette. At one point I couldn’t make out one shape in front of me at all other than it wasn’t a tree and it wasn’t moving. Finally using my hand to shade the Sun I discovered I was just about to walk into a young Deer, who also had two of his mates in close proximity. Now this wasn’t the first time I had seen the Deer today, as evidenced by the first photo here, however as you can see in the second photo this was really a good time of year to be making themselves less visible.

By the time I had reached the 65 bus stop at the end of Ham Gate Avenue, and my official end point it was exactly four hours after I had started. So given that I believe I walk at a good 20 minute mile pace these days, and allowing twenty minutes for my coffee break, as well as other general photographic sodding about, I make that a good 11 miles. Now the 9kg in the rucksack turned out not to be quite the physical challenge over this course that I thought it might be, yet having said that I wouldn’t like to go round it again with even 1kg more on board. So perhaps that weight is about right. Also for most of the day there was a real absence of people and especially cyclists (which I think had really bothered Helen last time out). Thus this turned out to be one of the most enjoyable walks I have ever done, on a perfect day in a perfect place. Certainly it was up there with my first walk this year from Seaford to Eastbourne, which I also did on my own (shit what am I saying). Anyway if there is a Heaven, today gave a little glimpse
of it.

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