And so the adventure begins! The first colour and number suggested to me were 'Yellow, 7'. This card from 'the Secret Life' box directed me to a page of a book called 'Cycling in the South East of England' - one of many activity books I've had for years but barely looked at. Page 52 - 'Colne Valley Trail and Ebury Way' was the bike ride I had to undertake. This is a route that goes from Paddington to Uxbridge along the Grand Union Canal. Now this is where the whole process is already proving to be educational, as I have cycled and run along the Grand Union Canal, but only ever to the East, in fact all the way to Mile End, via Regents Park and Little Venice. But, who knew. this canal path actually goes all the way to Birmingham (and thankfully that wasn't my task ahead!).
I picked the towpath up at Ladbroke Grove and cycled west along the canal. Although not what you would call 'scenic' along these first few miles, I was totally thrown when I found myself cycling across the north circular road....alongside a canal, with cars whizzing by underneath....what??
After this things started to get a lot greener, going past Alperton and Perivale. This was not travel along the Central line though, it is hard to believe that this green idyll exists within London. Then at Bulls Bridge, just beyond Southall, the canal loops round and a few miles later on gives the option to go to Slough on an alternative branch. Sticking to my path though, heading North, I saw several mileage markers for Birmingham (137miles....maybe another day!). Apart from one slightly eerie experience where I cycled apprehensively under a tunnel to a howling noise that sounded like someone being tortured (turned out to be the largest weimaranar dog I have ever seen - safely on the other side of the canal path), this was the one of the most peaceful bike rides I have ever done in London. Peppered with lovely little locks and quaint bistros and pubs, I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. I was slightly sad when I arrived at Uxbridge and my 21.5mile journey was over. So, with the competitive side in me never being far away, rather than taking the suggested (easy?) option of the Metropolitan line back home...I about turned and cycled back! Wonderful, 43miles of traffic free cycling where I only encountered about 12 people...and a slightly disconcerting dog. It was also a step back in time - a glimpse into the history of how goods used to be transported through the country on this, the longest canal path in the UK.
A great start to #TheSecretLife ...what will next week bring?
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.