London to Paris :: Day 1
My daughter, Pip, and I had been in training and looking forward to this trip for a number of weeks. It was her idea, and I was a little concerned that she would not be prepared for the distance we were riding – how wrong that would prove to be!
We caught the train to Birmingham, then took the Chiltern Line from Moor Street to Marylebone station. After a quick lunch at the superb Italian cafe over the road, we headed off into the London traffic.
I’d worked out our route using the excellent website of Transport for London, and recorded it as we rode on my sat-nav – see below:
The first few miles, including the Kings Road, were hectic, but once we’d crossed Putney Bridge, it calmed down. We got slightly lost going into Wimbledon Common, but this proved an oasis of calm, though we did have to share the paths and roads with many horse riders. We meandered through the back streets and cycle paths of South London until we hit the main road at Chessington. A reasonable cycle path/lane took us to the M25, then disappeared!! Nothing for it but to brave the multiple roundabouts and sliproads to get across, and, despite one wrong turn, we did it reasonably safely.
After a few more wrong turns on the Leatherhead ring road, we stopped for coffee. The proprietor was from southern Italy, and a real cycling fan – he was impressed that I knew about the ‘tifosi’! He was also looking forward to the Olympics and seeing the road races pass by only a couple of miles away. Oh yes, and he sold excellent coffee and cakes!
After leaving Leatherhead, we headed up the Mole Valley, and left the main road for a while to ride past the foot of Box Hill where there should be massive crowds come July – and, hopefully, a British winner.
Back to the A24 again, briefly, before turning off at Westhumble. There followed a steady climb up onto the North Downs (wrong word, surely), and I was glad to see that we turned off towards the hostel just before a 1 in 5. A bumpy ride across fields and through woods found us at (what I still think of as) a simple hostel in the best traditions of the YHA – and my daughter loved it. Trouble is, we hadn’t stocked up on food (thought there might be a hostel shop) and the nearest shop was in Dorking, so we had to rely on stuff left by earlier residents. Still, we had feasted on chocolate cake a few hours earlier.