I heard about Richmond Park when I was just a kid. Everyone always talked about this amazing giant park in the middle of London – “Just like they have in New York.” Thinking about it, they were probably talking about Hyde Park, but it was all the same to me. I grew up in a small city, a town really, and I could never fathom how a city could be so spread out. I still can’t.
So when I moved to London it was on my list of things I wanted to see, a long with a few other clichéd highlights. The first trip I took was on foot. I thought I could stroll around for an hour and maybe stop by in Richmond for a coffee. Naturally, I got lost and spent the best part of a day trying to find a suitable escape. It’s beautiful though, and the views over London’s jagged skyline amaze me every time.
After my slow and painful walk around the park I decided, that I would join the cyclists and take my bike on my next visit. The roads are an awful lot steeper than you may think and even though I’m a keen cyclist, I still struggled to maintain a steady speed. Grey haired men screamed past me as I huffed and puffed my way around the track. I can totally see why they used it for the Olympic road cycling races this year.
Every trip since has been on my beloved and trusty Honda. It’s only a 10 minute roar from my flat to Kingston Gate (one of the many entrances to the park) and once you’re in, it’s pure pleasure. I flip up my helmet and cruise around slowly, at about 20mph. Often, I’ll be riding right behind a group of cyclists and I catch myself pretending to be one of the camera guys you see filming the races. I’ve even caught myself giving running commentaries before – it’s all a bit strange, really.
On a recent ride, Sylvie and I stopped to watch the deer grazing lazily in the sun. There are hundreds of wild deer in Richmond Park but because they’ve all grown up with pesky people taking pictures and tearing around on bikes, they’re really easy to get close to. I kept my helmet on, just in case one of them decided to head-butt me, and crawled as close as I could. A plane flew overhead, probably a long haul flight heading to Gatwick, and once again I was reminded that I was still very much still in the-big-smoke. It’s a beautiful place to see the city, from the city.
See you there next time, I’ll be the guy chasing deer.