Is there anything more life-affirming than riding your bike in the early hours through scenery like this?
There was a light mist sitting in the valley and the only sound to be heard was the occasional lowing of the fallow deer and the quacking of the odd (unseen) duck or two.
It was a little after 8am when I took these photographs. I'd cycled four miles to get to Richmond Park through strangely deserted streets -- I rather suspect most "normal" people were still tucked up in bed when I was getting on board my bike. God knows what was going on in my head at the time: I'm not normally a morning person and like to use my weekends to catch up on sleep. But when I woke up early this morning and saw the gorgeous dawn I decided I should make the most of it.
Richmond Park seemed the obvious place to visit. Not only is it relatively close by, once you get there the cycling conditions are superb: an undulating seven mile circuit through a mix of terrains and picturesque scenery.
I find it difficult to believe that a park of this size -- 2,500 acres -- is located in an urban metropolis such as London. There are deer frolicking everywhere, fields of heather and the most amazing trees you've ever seen.
The last time I cycled here was more than 12 months ago. I had my old bike and I struggled to make it up some of the hills.
Today's cycle was so much better. Having 24 gears at my disposal meant I could actually clamber up the hills slowly but surely -- although my poor legs were burning with the effort and I largely suspect that tomorrow I'm going to be riddled with aches and pains in my calves and thighs.
There were a lot of Lycra-clad boy racers out and about. Of course they all whizzed past me at outrageous speeds, but one or two actually greeted me with cheery good mornings, which was nice. Never say that cyclists are not a friendly bunch!
By the time I'd done the circuit and pottered around taking pictures, the traffic in the park -- of both the motorised and two-wheeled kind -- was definitely on the increase. I exited Roehampton Gate at a little after 9am and I was back at home, after a short but much needed diversion to my local French patisserie to stock up on pastries, at around 9.30am.
Total distance: 15.96 miles, including a diversion to my post office and a French bakery.
Ride time: 1 hour and 28 minutes.
Average speed: 11.34 mph
Top speed: 21.3 mph (in a 20 mph zone!)