I started the day in a fairly relaxed frame of mind travel-wise, despite having to rely on a bank holiday bus service to get to the meeting point at Hampton Court Station. After all I reasoned, if I turned up late I could just catch everyone up on the Thames towpath. In the event it was lucky I arrived in good time, as once our nine man group passed the ice rink at Hampton Court, they turned off the towpath, and headed into Hampton Court Park.
Now as we all know King Henry VIII liked his deer and just like his other favourite parks (Richmond and Bushey) this was full of them. Also hanging around a long straight stretch of water known as ‘The Long Water’ there was a considerable gathering of Swans, Ducks and Canadian Geese (in essence the sort of animal New Year parade that normally only Disney can put on). Once out of the park however we were back on the Thames towpath and heading towards Kingston Bridge, where there was an abundance of even more Swans and other bird life/noise. Our main concern at this point however was lunch, but having crossed Kingston Bridge we found the Youngs pub there was still 45 minutes from opening. There followed a series of pointless discussions and minor changes of direction as various people suggested places that were bound to be open on the bank holiday. Eventually though our leader decided to lead from the front, and we all headed up onto the second floor of Bentalls shopping mall, and their instore restaurant. Given that I usually feel ripped off whenever I eat out these days, £7.50 for a twelve inch Ham and Mushroom pizza was almost reasonable value (and yes I ate it all).
Once back on the towpath and heading towards the group’s projected finish point in Richmond, the crowds all seemingly heading in our direction got more and more dense (haven’t people got anything better to do on their bank holiday ?). What was by this time causing me a problem was the number of stones on the towpath, all of which I seemed to be feeling through my boot on my currently oversensitive right foot. What was also causing me a problem was the slow pace everyone was now walking at. Thus everytime we came up behind some couple out walking their toddlers, instead of going round them (or perhaps pushing them in the river) the group would just slow down to their pace. This wasn’t a problem for everyone else who was ending the walk in Richmond, but as I was walking an additional three and half miles to Osterley I was starting to become concerned at the failing light. By three o clock we still had only got as far as Ham house, at which point there was another stoppage whilst the map was consulted ? By three fifteen however, we had finally made Richmond Bridge and a tea shop, at which point I was able to split from the group, and really put the hammer down on the usual route home via Syon Park and The Grand Union canal. I was certainly going at a good pace, even if I say so myself as I came off the canal at Osterley at exactly four o clock, with perhaps fifteen minutes of partial light to spare.
The pace of the group today slightly concerns me for my walk next week, lest we don’t have enough daylight to finish it. Also of concern is that one of our group told me that my new projected lunch stop for next week, the Windmill Tearooms, is always packed out with runners on Sunday mornings after 11.00am. Oh well, watch this space.