The worst floods in 22 years have transformed historic Runnymede into a giant lake, complete with waterfowl and fools in small yellow kayaks. Many local residents are taking to the open seas in an effort to get the shopping in, and one or two just want to take their minds off the looming clean-up operation. I join the latter set, snatching a chance to paddle some public footpaths and see the area from a new perspective. Quick mooch over to The Runnymede Hotel? Be rude not to.
I’m standing in a car park with three canoeists comparing folding saws and hatchets. One of them has a scythe. This wasn’t strictly what I expected when I posted a note on a forum, but my new found friends seem to know what they’re doing so I resolve to sit at the back of the class and treat this as a learning opportunity. Within the hour I’m playing limbo with a tree, struggling through 2m tall reeds, and looking at a motorway from underneath. You sure we’re still in Chertsey?
The Surrey Hills area is a mecca for mountain bikers, with rich terrain offering something for riders of all abilities. I’ve been riding here on and off for about 5 years now, following a route originally downloaded from a site that’s long since disappeared. It’s a pretty tough tour taking in four of the highest hills in southern England, but includes a bail-out loop if you want to cut out Peaslake and The Hurtwood.
Another impromptu cycle ride, another cause to wonder if small bikes can be used for touring. Audax fans will tell you that luggage isn’t necessary, so why not extend the minimalist theme to your ride? Temptation to plan a longer trip is fuelled by an ad hoc ride home from my new job. Maybe I’m just eager to get out after being cooped up for a couple of weeks, or maybe it really is possible to go the distance with impossibly small wheels. Either way, this itch needs scratching.
Sounds impressive, but cycling to Paris is easier than you’d think. The route uses established cycle paths, most of it is flat, and some is even traffic free. In fact it’s so popular that a small tourist industry has sprung up, ensuring you’re never far from a loo or a cafe. The best bit? A large chunk of distance is knocked out by the ferry, leaving you with a ride that Mum could do on her shopper.