I haven’t ridden a bike in years, so when the opportunity arose to go on a bike tour of Hampton Court, I was beyond excited. I could practically feel my inner child jumping up and down. Willow and I travelled up to London, and stayed overnight in a hotel ready for Friday morning’s activities. We woke up early enough to ensure we had plenty of time to enjoy the breakfast buffet. With Hampton Court only a 10-minute taxi drive away, we were able to leave at 10am, making us right on time to meet our guide at 10.15.
We walked into the station, where there was a coffee cart, and our tour guide Tricia waiting for us! Dressed in a Coddiwomple Tours rain mac, it was clear she was going to be our guide for the day. She led us through a charming village, with lots of restaurants and outdoor seating. We walked behind a country pub to find a courtyard area, and our vintage-style bikes! We had our seats adjusted, and were able to ride around the courtyard to make sure we could still remember how to ride a bike. Of course we remembered, hence the phrase, ‘it’s just like riding a bike!’
Once we were set up, it was time for the tour to begin. We walked our bikes over the Hampton Court Bridge, which allows you to cross over the Thames. Tricia showed us a map of Hampton Court Palace and Gardens so we could see our route. The first part of the bike tour was Bushy Park. Bushy Park is linked to Hampton Court Palace by the Longford River, and is known for having red stags, white spotted deer and fallow deer roam the park. We cycled past the Diana Fountain, which looked remarkable in the sunshine. Not much time passed before we saw huge antlers coming out of the long grass. Willow and I were so excited, as we had never seen a stag up close before. We slowly moved towards the stag to get a closer look, and Tricia warned us that we need to keep a safe distance of 50 metres away. She explained that we are guests in their park and that it is important they have no human interaction, so if they are released back into the wild they can fend for themselves. Park rangers count the marvellous mammals yearly and there are always around 350. We didn’t know this at the time, so when we were genuinely so shocked to see one, I’m sure Tricia was thinking ‘This is nothing yet!’
We carried on cycling through Bushy Park, and were constantly taken aback by the autumnal beauty of our surroundings. Some of the oak trees were 500 years old, and their colourful leaves meant we were able to take some amazing photographs. It wasn’t long before we saw a herd of deer grazing in the sun, a male stag prancing around them to get their attention. None of the females showed any interest - has no one told these stags that arrogance is never attractive to a lady?
Tricia had a lot of background knowledge on the history of the park, and I found it particularly interesting when she spoke of Bushy Park being the US air base Camp, Griffiss, during World War II. We saw many plaques on the ground marking blocks of buildings in Camp Griffiss - 16 in total. As well as the many historical facts, we also learnt of the celebrities that live in the area! This tour really is interesting for everyone.
Tricia then showed us to The White Hart Hotel, where you can help yourself to water, and have the opportunity to buy food if you wish. After this, we continued to cycle through Hampton Court Park towards The Long Water that leads up to The Great Fountain Garden. The fountain display was amazing, and the view of the Palace was so picturesque. We couldn’t help but take a picture of ourselves sat on the river’s edge before continuing our cycle along the River Thames. We stopped outside the Golden Gates of Hampton Court Palace, where Tricia passionately told the story of Henry VIII’s six wives, and how Catherine Howard was kept prisoner in Hampton Court before her execution. Apparently, the ghost of Catherine is said still be haunting the palace today!
We carried on cycling to the main entrance of the palace, and Tricia continued to amaze us with her knowledge! We walked our bikes back over the bridge, through the lively village, and back to the courtyard. After hearing some insightful lunch recommendations, we thanked Tricia and went on our way! Being so close to Hampton Court station with frequent buses out of the area, this location is easy to get to and from – not that we wanted to leave!
I can’t thank Tricia and Coddiwomple Tours enough for a fantastic experience! Combining cycling, learning, and admiring the beautiful animals of Bushy Park created an unforgettable tour, which I will be recommending!