The Struggle to Dorking
The Struggle leads right out of the start and down to Maidenhead Bridge where the Thames is crossed. A short stretch of A4, quiet at 8.00 am on a Sunday follows. A right turn towards Dorney put you on a rural road where you cross a substantial stream called the Jubilee River, built around the turn of the millennium to route Thames floodwater away from the towns on its bank. On a bend after a couple of kilometres you pass the entrance to Eton College Rowing Centre, the 2012 Olympic rowing venue, and on your left a huge field of Coriander (there at least in recent years) with its distinctive love it or hate it smell. After the bend Dorney Court, a Tudor manor house is on the right. It is open to the public and the cafe in its garden centre is a popular stopover for cyclists, especially in winter when club runs out of London tend to be shorter. A right at a T-junction and you are soon crossing a cattle grid onto Dorney Common.Its a kilometre or so to the exit grid, which marks the boundary of Eton Wick.
The next junction is in Eton where at a traffic light controlled T-junction you are surrounded by the college an face the chapel. You may see the boys in a sillier costume than even the one cyclists wear. The chapel was originally built by Henry VI. The glass had to be almost completely replaced after WWII owing to bomb damage and the roof entirely rebuilt in the 1950s due to the old wooden roof being rotten. There are organised tours of the chapel. Turn right down the high street, cross the bridge over the Thames, which is limited to pedestrians and bikes and go straight over the lights towards the castle. The entrance to the castle is at the top of the hill. Groups of sightseers begin to coalesce around the town hall at 9:00 am - you will be well past here by then.
|Thames from Eton Bridge|
|Windsor Town Hall|
Just after the village, keep your eyes open for a vista sweeping between trees back down to the castle (see picture). Passing Cumberland Lodge, hidden in the trees to your right, you come to a multi-way T junction where you turn first right. Passing a gate house, you enter Smith's Lawn. Polo Grounds are on your left, the lawns to your right get used for other equine facilities. Looking down on them is a massive memorial to Prince Albert, husband to Queen Victoria. At the far end of the lawn there is some fencing to your left, which is a cue to look for the 2017 information control. As you drop down the hill there are azaleas. These mark the western edge of the 250 acre Valley Gardens which can be viewed for free. At the bottom of the hill you cross two branches of Virginia Water before exiting the park by Blacknest Gate. Virginia Water Lake was first dammed and flooded in 1753 by the Duke of Cumberland in his role as Park Ranger, becoming the largest man-made lake of its time, and extended to its present size under the guidance of George III in the 1780s.
You can walk around the Water, with a cascade, a roman ruins folly (Leptis Major), a totem pole and Valley Gardens to enhance what would be a fine walk in any event. The Leptis Magna Ruins arrived in 1818 to create a folly that was built to look like a genuine Roman relic. It has been recently restored. The totem pole from British Columbia was put in place in 1958.
|Looking along Queen Annes's Ride to Windsor Castle|
|Azalea garden on Heartbreak Hill|
|Azalea garden on Heartbreak Hill|
The ride to the North Downs
The next part of the route is a mixture of green belt and suburb, skirting Woking and Guildford. Various sights en route are shown in the pictures that follow. Chobham (not to be confused with Cobham, footballer's hang-out) is an attractive village rather overrun by motor traffic. Sutton Place, passed on the left after a left bend is a Tudor mansion that has been a house for the extremely rich. It was Paul Getty's and is now Alisher Usmanov's. He is part owner of Arsenal amongst a raft of other interests. All that can be seen from the road is the two gatehouses and a fine avenue lined by cypresses.
|In Chobham Church Yard|
|Dubs A class 4-8-2 Tamk off Barr's Road , by the Model Railway Centre|
|Sutton Place entrance|
You rejoin the A25 and at the crest of the North Downs on your right is Newlands Corner. From here you have a fine view south. You now swoop down on the A25, which has a beautiful (as of 2017) surface, keeping on it to Dorking. The Chocolate-Box village of Shere is bypassed, but the road goes through Gomshall and then the village of Abinger.Hammer. On your left there is a clock with a figure of a blacksmith that hits a bell with its hammer hourly. This was built in the 19th century to commemorate a water powered iron forge that had closed a century earlier. Abinger has a very attractively sited cricket ground. A final sight from the road before Dorking is the isolated St John's, Wotton, on your left. The village of Wotton is to your right just off the A25.
|Model farm complex built in 1876 as the home farm to Albury Park.|
The clock portrays the figure of "Jack the Blacksmith", who strikes the hour with his hammer. The clock bears the motto "By me you know how fast to go".
|Abinger cricket pitch|
|St John the Evangelist, Wotton|
Dorking is the eastern most point of the ride and also a control. You enter the one-way on West Street and then do a very sharp turn by lights into South Street.
There are six cafes and coffee shops available on the route and the choice is yours, since none of the cafes is large enough to accommodate everyone. In order they are:
- On the left in West Street: Dorking Deli, Mullins,
- At the turn on your left: Musette
- After the turn on South Street; Two Many Cooks, Waitrose, Peppe's.
Opposite Waitrose and next to the towns's war memorial is an insignificant blue door which gives access to Dorking's large cave network.
|Dorking - spoilt for cafe choice|
|The blue door is the Dorking Caves entrance|