Typical Duration: Approx. 3 hours
Finish: Riverside path in Weybridge
Route: National Cycle Network 4: Thames Valley Cycle Route
Leaving London’s pandemonium in your wake, this peaceful riverside route offers a welcome break from the wilds of the city. Starting on the south side of Putney Bridge, the route winds its way up to the glory and beauty of Richmond Park and Hampton Court Palace, and on to the historic town of Weybridge in Surrey. For those of you feeling particularly athletic, the path continues along National Cycle Network 4 to Windsor and Eton, Reading and beyond. The nice thing about this route is that you can join or leave it at any point that suits you, although Richmond Park, Kingston upon Thames or Hampton Court are popular stops and entry points.
Slopes, inclines and tricky bits
Because this cycle route is both off-road and on-road, the terrain is a combination of tarmac and good quality gravel. On a whole, it is a safe, riverside route on quiet streets and designated cycle paths. There are a handful of slopes but they are nothing to worry about, even for the smallest cyclists. The 9 mile stretch between Kingston and Hampton Court is completely traffic free and is certainly a highlight.
Look out for…
London Wetlands Centre
Although Richmond Park and Hampton Court Palace are obvious attractions, the London Wetlands Centre near the beginning of the cycle route presents an usual and interesting detour. The Wetlands Centre is situated in Barnes on more than 40 hectares of land. It attracts over 180 species of wild birds every year and is home to a variety of amphibians. Because the Centre is right at the beginning of the cycle route, it may be worth a visit on your way back if you have time. Be warned that it costs £9,50 for adults to get in although this includes free guided tours and bird feeding demos.
The roaming red and fallow deer in Richmond Park are always a highlight for me. You will find them grazing in large family groups on the grassy plains. Be careful not to get too close as the stag is not afraid to show you who’s boss. Aside from these locals, the varied landscape of hills, woodland gardens and grasslands set among ancient trees and flowers is a wonderfully liberating cycling experience.
Hampton Court Palace
I would generally consider a visit to Hampton Court Palace to be a day trip on its own so try and leave a good amount of time if you are planning to stop over. There is so much to see and to take in at the Palace, particularly relating to its historical background, previous regal and landed inhabitants, and the spectacular gardens (complete with maze). The admission charges are excellent value (adult £12.30, children £8) because they include audio guides, tour guides and entrance to the palace, gardens and maze.
The Putney to Weybridge cycle route follows National Cycle Network 4. Although the route is generally well signposted, some of the signs are temporary or are hard to see so it may be worthwhile to plot your route and take a map with you on the ride.
At the end of the ride, getting from Weybridge back to Putney couldn’t be easier as there is a regular direct train between the two stations. There are no restrictions on the trains for taking your bike back into the city.
Should you choose to leave the route at an earlier stage, Richmond is on the district tube line and both Kingston and Hampton Court are accessible by a regular train service running to and from London and onward to other destinations.