Sunday, 12 September 2010

Epping Forest bike ride!

This past Saturday, Rachel and I went for our long-awaited bike ride to Epping Forest (and beyond). You can see our route here:

Now I didn't take very many pictures during the ride, because we were mostly riding, but I did take a few! The first came from the slightly disappointing Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge, an English Heritage-owned property at the southern end of Epping Forest. I mean the FIRST Queen Elizabeth, by the way. The Victorians painted over the Tudor-style beams and as a result the wood started to rot, so the building has now been entirely whitewashed to prevent further decay. It was built around 1540 for Henry VIII and would have been open-walled, the better to party and hang out of whilst shooting at deer.

Further inside of the Forest, we saw several cows. We liked their horns!

The Forest itself was very impressive to see, but did not photograph well. It is covered with mountain bike trails and then wider trails for walking and horseback riding. Rachel's bike is a road bike so we stuck to the wider trails. In the forest, the trees were so thick that I could easily imagine Robin Hood hiding in there...

There was also a hidden church and cemetery in the northern part of the Forest. It was decorated beautifully for a wedding that would take place later that afternoon.

After leaving that church, we rode our bikes towards what we thought would be a deer park. However, we wound up going down a very long, very steep hill, and emerging out of the trees and into open farmland. Afterwards, we decided that we really did not want to go back up that hill, so we stayed on the road and followed it to the town of Waltham, Essex. This involved going outside the M25, London's ring road -- we were really in the country now! Almost to "London" Stansted Airport! Waltham had a large church, where another wedding was taking place.

It started to rain quite hard as we were in Waltham, so we sheltered under some trees by a mill stream with several ducks, swans and cygnets, and hens. We were in the grounds of the ruined Waltham Abbey, next to the largest remaining portion of it -- a 14th century gatehouse.

Here's a view to the church from the Mill Stream (having just walked through the gatehouse).

On our ride back into London, the sky started to clear. We rode most of the distance alongside the Lee River, which is lined with canal boats. It's a very beautiful, peaceful place.

We rode back through Hackney Marshes and over to see the Olympic building site. I have to say, I was very impressed by everything I saw there, and I'm looking forward to what London will do in 2012...

Following that we made it back to Dalston, against Razorlight's best advice, and staggered into the Morrisons to buy some food. Rachel made me a delicious dinner of bbq burgers and sweet potato fries, we watched some terrible British TV, and then I made my way back from Finsbury Park to Paddington across central London on a Saturday night (probably the most exciting cycling I did all weekend!). All in all, it was a fantastic adventure!

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