This morning I was up and out bright and early. With a postcode punched into my sat nav I headed off for a residential street somewhere near Windsor. The weather looked great, I had a clean Brompton and I was hopeful of a great ride.
The ride was going to be a fairly tame affair, cycling in and around Windsor Great Park and Virginia Water for 20 miles or so however after my cold at the start of the week that rendered me like a sickly child with a note from Matron, it was probably for the best!
With Andrew behind me we parked up and waited for a few others who we're doing the same. What the locals made of several Brompton bicycles of various hues and several Brompton riders equally as colourful I do not know? Soon Andy, Michael, David and Anne joined us and before long we set off for the meet up point in Windsor.
|The roadie is asking how can he join the club|
On route I saw that water levels were still high as trees sat in mini lakes. In addition to this many of the shops on the local high street had the tell tail sign of sand bags lined up outside.
The parking spot proved to be a pretty good one as in next to no time we were in Windsor with the castle looming above us. I have not been to Windsor for over 30 years and have been more than happy to keep it that way. I will not go into reasons why but I have little affection for Windsor and even less for the nearby Eton. Despite this, things resembled my memories of the place.
Arriving at the official meet point we saw lots of familiar faces and a few new ones. One of them was US Businessweek journalist, Brendan Greeley. He had brought a photographer with him and I have to confess to being more interested in him. Rather than bring a hulking DLSR I spotted a Konica Hexar. He would complete this assignment using FILM!! Later I spotted a Contect T2 and a Mamiya. I was in camera geek heaven and was even allowed to handle them. I suspect his photos will be something quite special!
|Former station now a shopping centre|
The inside of Windsor Royal Shopping betrays its past use as the main part of Windsor and Eton Central Railway Station. The roof structure is particualrly good and brought back memories of the larger central London stations.
|Waiting for the off|
After taking a few photos, consuming a last minute coffee and catching up on gossip we were off on another adventure and this would be an adventure! Bob, a great character who is sensibly popping up on more and more rides was posing for Brendan's photographer as he was wearing a particularly good Brompton cycling jersey. Quite soon we were all at it. My initial thought was that with those moves he could become my new muse!
|How would you like me to pose for the next shot?|
Heading back we again passed part of Windsor Castle. The weather was glorious and it really did make one think that Spring might actually be here.
Not too long after this we stopped briefly to take some photos of a replica WWII Hurricane. I was enjoying this ride - slow pace, photo opportunities and the prospect of food. It did also give me pause for thought as I need to get some serious training in, what with the London Classic and Mitie Revolution around the corner!
|A fibreglass model|
Heading into Windsor Great Park the brightness of the sun illuminated and enhanced the colours of the scenery. White clouds were backlite to emit incredible flashes of brightness.
Windsor Great Park was very pretty in the glorious weather we were treated to. There were only a few other bikes out there ands the sight of a Brompton peloton must have made an interesting if not unusual sight for a Saturday morning.
Unfortunately, there were no hills to conquer on this ride. As I wrote earlier this was not really that sort of ride but I have to confess to missing the challenge.
At one point, a line of trees running parallel draw ones eye to Windsor Castle in the distance. The Castle has been the second Royal residence since the time of Henry I. It is therefore the longest occupied palace in Europe.
|Windsor Castel in the distance|
Also at this vantage point was a statue of our current Queen. A few people could be seen milling around its base taking the odd photo.
|The photographer changes his film|
Making our way to Virginia Water at the southern edge of Windsor Great Park the views seemed to get better and better.
Interestingly, the entire lake was drained during WWII as it provided an obvious landmark for possible German bombers.
At a certain part around the lake offering superb views we assembled for a photograph of us and our Brompton bicycles. Well, it has to be done!
The artificial waterfall which was constructed in the 1780's proved to be a draw for many of us Bromptonians and walkers alike.
|Virginia Water Lake|
|The ever stylish Tony|
Not too far after our group photographs, Miranda succumbed to a rear wheel puncture. Luckily we had Michael on the scene who is an expert at Brompton repairs and wheels were rolling pretty quickly.
|Michael tending to a puncture|
With nothing to do I decided to take some more photos of my Original Orange Brompton. I even put forward the suggestion that a nice tartan rug laid down on the ground, flasks of tea and a few cakes should be brought out while this was all going on. Maybe next time?
|A ruddy great totem pole |
Up to this point we had cycled on either the road or along cycle paths. This was about to change. David gave a thumbs up and a wry smile. I don't think he knew what was going to happen however I think he had his suspicions.
|Emm, why are you smiling David?|
Mud! Mud to the left of me. Mud to the right of me. Mud in front of me!! With the recent awful weather the ground was fairly saturated in places and as on last weeks ride, lots of trees blocked our path.
|With the Black Riders in pursuit, we don't hang around|
We got to one point on the path where I fancy I could hear Gandalf screaming out at the top of his voice, 'You shall not pass!' With all the semi-rural greenness, trees etc.., and me having to bend double to get my Brompton under a fallen tree, I felt like a Hobbit.
|You shall not pass!!|
|Into Hobbit land|
Further along with Gandalf still yelling his head off about not passing, we came across another fallen tree, worse than the first! The front Hobbits yelled back that we had to lower the saddle on our bikes. Following this useful advice I made my way through the hole.
Trying to negotiate this was neither graceful nor dignified. If you can imagine a very muddy central path with dryer ground on either side, it was this dryer ground I attempted to traverse. Being bent double my walk could only be described as French lavatory squat! This got wider and wider and my attempts to keep my feet on dryer ground was not that dissimilar to figure skaters when me they do that spread eagle manovure. As I eventually came out the other side, trying to get my legs back to a normal position on slippery mud, onlookers would have likened me to a baby giraffe taking its first tentative steps!
Out on the open road Egham was not far off. Passing the famous Marinellos I spied a Ferriri F50 being driven at speed. I thought to myself that he had not had a great Hobbitesq adventure!
Sanctuary came in the form of the Monkeys Forehead. This has been the stop point for many a Brompton club long distance adventure. The ride up to the pub was on a busy road with a gentle slope but thankfully there was a shared pavement/cycle path which we all used.
After being fed and watered we were off again for the last few miles. Thankfully we look a different route back which meant we didn't have to return to Rivendell.
When we reached part of the Long Walk that leads up to the castle it of course provided another photo opportunity. I decided to focus on some portraits.
|The Long Walk leading to Windsor Castle|
|King of the Hill|
|Not more posing!|
|Don't worry...still my official muse|
|The lovely Anne|
Reaching a direction sign that was pointing the wrong way a few decided to put right this wrong by having a go. Unfortunately, a gust of wind brought it back to where it had been!
With the station in our sights we headed in for goodbyes and a few more photos the photographer wanted to take.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable ride. Great company and another interesting route! It is not often you can liken yourself to a Hobbit and travel through strange and mystical lands.
Many thanks to Andy our leader for this ride and to all who came. It really is getting out in a group that makes a ride and it was great to see as always familiar faces and a few new ones.
It has however left me very conscious of the fact that I need to put in some more training, get out onto those hills and put in some miles. Hopefully the weather might ease up to allow this.
Windsor Great Park & Virginia Water map and ride data