a) to involve child-friendly stops and return, broadly speaking, to central Walthamstow, after 12 miles; or
b) to involve (mostly) stops by the side of the road, with lengthy lectures about allegedly interesting buildings, driving a five year old batty, and then finish, after 12 miles, at Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge, which is a truly lovely building a solid 11 miles cycle ride from home?
To be fair, they probably didn't know there'd be no Chingford trains this weekend. And the local history lectures would probably have been fine if they'd got the dozen people they expected rather than thirty or so (it's the sunny day you know). Once we started cycling out of Walthamstow, it was all quite fun, with good company and at least a couple of useful cycle routes we didn't already know. Pretty much all on splendidly quiet paths and back streets, too. Also one stop in a chunk of (relatively) ancient woodland that we'll go back to sometime with a picnic. But still, there we were, due across at Meriol's second birthday party in Ilford half an hour later, unfed (though with a great big pub, the Royal Forest, right by) and ten miles from home. What could we do?
Well, buy beer, of course. But after two of the quickest pints I can remember, we had lunch and then cycled over to Ilford instead. A different ten miles, though we weren't helped by a London cycle route map that did the bus route map trick of only showing the roads with the cycle routes on them and not all the other roads you need to tell that you're going the right way. So we've explored much of South Essex by bike, arriving utterly late. Brian and Caroline revived us with Pimms (not hard), and Marianne was delighted to meet up with Michael & Thomas Ibbs as well as Meriol. Children played cheerfully for hours in the garden, and adults sat around and had (mostly) grownup conversation. Once again we had the conversation where people explain that they'd never dream of cycling in London, and we explain that we don't go on the sorts of roads they're thinking of.
We've just cycled back (a bit less than ten miles this time). All very nice; mostly not too hot, mostly fairly slow paced.
But still, thirty miles all in all. And I didn't even wear my cycle shoes, because I'm an idiot, and after all, it was only twelve miles. And of course, Essex is Not as Flat as You Think, especially when you're on a bike. I'm fairly confident the children will fall asleep just as soon as their little heads hit the pillows, and I doubt we'll be far behind.