Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Richmond Station to Richmond Park (outer and inner loops) – (Surrey) – 04/05/09 – 11 Miles – IVC.

So hey, it’s really great to give something back. Which in translation means, it was my turn (I guess) to lead another walk for IVC.

Anyway the day started at Costa Coffee outside Richmond station, where I joined one IVC regular (and the only one from the previous day) with my coffee and chocolate twist. Following which we both headed for the meeting point at the ticket hall in Richmond station to wait for the program advertised 11.00am train to come in. When it came to it, no one got off the train for our purposes, but other IVC people appeared in the hall anyway, until we were an eight strong party (five of whom I had never seen before) including myself.

Cutting across Richmond Green we soon picked up the Thames towpath, traversed Petersham Meadows, and a mile in we were able to join the park at Petersham gate. From there it was a steep climb up towards Pembroke Lodge (or King Henry viii’s mount if you want), and then picking up what I call the outer loop. However what became very obvious almost straight away, was that two of the women were clearly not up to any sort of reasonable walking speed. No doubt they saw the word ‘Park’ in the program and assumed this meant strolling around looking at the flora and fauna. This unfortunately is one of the problems of social group walking, as you can ultimately only go at the speed of the slowest member.

As such the weather wasn’t doing us any favours either, as it continually spat on us, on and off all day. Not only that, but if the previous days Spring weather looked forward to the Summer, the temperature for this one harked back to the Winter. One thing about Richmond Park is that it has an abundance of toilets. Thus given the chill in the air and the constant hanging around for the two women walking at 40 minute mile pace, we barely passed one of them, without someone in the group (self included) wanting to pay a visit. Eventually (and about an hour later than planned) we stopped off at the café that is between the cycle hire shop and the golf club at the Roehampton side of the park. Like the last time here in December, I felt the prices were slightly taking the piss (i.e. £7.10 for: ham salad baguette, slice of fruit cake, and a hot chocolate). However at least we got to sit down indoors and out of the cold. When queuing up the place was packed with cyclists, but as if by magic two tables cleared just when we needed them.

Once off again we were yet again hanging around for the two ladies to catch up. However once we had reached Robin Hood Gate they decided they had done their exercise for the day and thankfully dropped out to go and look for a bus. From here we were able to pick the pace up to something as bit more respectable. I was also keen to keep as much distance between me and one oddball member of the party, who having downloaded his nonsensical one sided conversation on everyone else, no doubt felt it was my duty as walk leader to hear my fair share of it. Thankfully (again) when we go to Ham Gate some 7.5 miles in, he dropped out with the remaining female member to pick up the 65 back to Richmond station.

With four of us guys remaining we at last had something resembling a decent group, to go round the inner loop. However we stopped first of all at the tea bar by Pembroke Lodge, and sat outside drinking it, whilst the rain did its best to keep our cups topped up. Having turned right at Richmond Gate walking alongside the road, we found ourselves with a really widescreen panorama of London (albeit way off in the distance, so forget about photographs) Nevertheless we were able to pick out: Wembley Stadium, The Millenium Wheel, the Gherkin, The Post Office Tower, and Canary Wharf. By this time however it had really begun to get chilly, not helped by the earlier slow pace. So having returned once again to Ham Gate Avenue from the inner loop, and just approaching 11 miles, we all decided we had done enough for the day and gave up on the additional 2 miles back to the station. Anyway to give you some idea of the earlier pace, when I walked this course back in December it took me four hours including lunch and carrying 9kg in my rucksack. Today including a short lunch it took six and a half. The perils of group walking (and leading) !

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