It’s been a while but I have good excuse – an impromptu house-sitting gig in Richmond Upon Thames, and it really was very much last minute, literally just two days before they needed a sitter. Every morning I check the sitting sites that I’m registered on, and lo and behold, on the Thursday I saw a plea for help from a young couple who were due to leave for France early Saturday morning but had been let down at the very last minute by a friend. By the end of Thursday evening, I had spoken to and arranged with the owners to spend a week in Mortlake, near London and very close to where I was born.
Saturday morning and my Father delivered me to the property, and I found the key as instructed and let myself in – a lovely little maisonette, 100 meters from the River Thames. It took a while for my two charges to show their faces but it was worth the wait for these two beauties – Ludo, very vocal and attention seeking & Gretal, much quieter but with a slight evil streak when it came to beating up her fellow furry friend.
To be honest, except for feeding, watering, combing and emptying the litter tray, these two pretty much looked after themselves, allowing me the week to explore.
Day 1, the day I arrived, I stayed local and visited Barnes Lake and village – not really a village in the true sense but very pretty and I could see myself living there – if only the property prices were slightly more realistic, but hey, it’s right on the Thames and very easily commutable to the centre of London.
Day 2, the Sunday and my first full day, the sun was out and what better way to spend the day by taking a long walk along the Thames Path to Richmond itself, plus it was a great excuse to stop by the Hummingbird Bakery for cupcakes 🙂 I’ve recently been having hypnotherapy for my Acrophobia (fear of heights) and I challenged myself to walk across a single file bridge, that was fairly open sided, over the Thames – success! The Thames is wonderful, especially on a Sunday with the cyclists (please get bells fixed to your bikes as I am not telepathic!), families out for a stroll and the constant stream of red faced joggers (walk, don’t jog folks! You’ll see far more and not resemble a lobster gasping for its last breath!). I found a farmers market with an amazing vegan stall – Popina.co.uk and then had lunch at the Hollyhock Cafe in the Terrace Gardens just past Richmond Bridge – a true vegetarian eatery in simply beautiful settings, it gets busy so be prepared to wait because it’s worth it!
And, for those doubters who said I’d never make it across open-sided bridges, this ain’t a bad start – I even looked down!
Day 3 – with it looking cloudy, I decided to catch the train up to Waterloo and explore the city on foot. I think I saw most of what London has to offer – Covent Garden, China Town, Leicester Square, Piccadilly, Wellington Arch, Hyde Park, Albert Hall, Buckingham Palace, St James Park, Horse Guards Parade, Marble Arch, Nelson’s Column, Westminster Abbey and House of Parliament, plus others I’ve forgotten to mention. It was glorious, the sun eventually came out and I walked for miles (12.77 of them!), before getting the train back. There was no sign of the recent troubles there, except for the new barriers that have been erected to stop terrorists mounting pavements and armed police are now very much in view, something I’ve not experienced there before – but it’s all good and I felt 100% safe at all times…well done London, for not giving in!
Day 4 and it was an emotional one for me as I decided to go back to where my grandparents lived in Chiswick and where I spent many a school holiday. Property prices are crazy – my great-grandmother’s old house has escaped being turned into flats and was last valued at over £3 million…sadly she had sold up long before that. I came back via Chiswick House and Gardens, which I’d never visited before (entry to Chiswick House is £7.20 but the must-see gardens are completely free).
Day 5 – As I love gardens and generally being outdoors, I decided to revisit Kew, some 4 years since my last trip there. This time I was alone, so I had more time to stroll and take loads of photos. Sadly a few of the glass houses were closed for essential restoration but it was a glorious day out (- book in advance online, it’s cheaper, especially if you’re a student like myself. https://www.kew.org/)
Day 6 and yet another garden – this time, it was one that I’d heard about a few years ago and because realised I was so close, I knew I had to go. Chelsea Physic Garden is pretty much opposite Battersea Park on the Thames and only a short train ride from Mortlake station. I also found an absolute gem in Battersea Park – the Peace Pagoda, (which I will fully blog about in detail soon).
Chelsea Physic Gardens is run by volunteers and I managed to get on one of the free guided tours, which is totally recommended (http://chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk/). The garden is quite small, founded in 1673, it’s one of London’s oldest botanic gardens and contains a unique living collection of around 5,000 different edible, medicinal & historical plants within its walls. I walked part way along the Thames Path, this time on the opposite bank, via Chelsea Harbour (I dread to think how much an apartment is here), before catching the train from Wandsworth Town back to Mortlake.
Day 7 and my final day and I saved the best, certainly the longest walk (13.06miles) for last – Richmond Park! The park is somewhere that I’ve only ever driven through, never walked around it….to sit down with a picnic lunch and to look up, realising that there’s a herd of deer stood watching you, is quite surreal. The park is huge, hence I walked so far and no visit should be without seeing King Henry’s Mound.
King Henry’s mound is located in Pembroke Lodge Gardens (Richmond Park) and was traditionally the spot thought to be where King Henry VIII stood on 19th May, 1536 to watch a rocket fired from the Tower of London. This was the signal that his wife Anne Boleyn had been executed for treason and he would be able to marry Lady Jane Seymour. The story is unlikely to be true because Henry spent that evening in Wiltshire; it’s more likely it was a prehistoric burial chamber from the Bronze Age and later used as a viewpoint for hunting and falconry. The view of St. Paul’s Cathedral to the east has been faithfully preserved by generations of landscapers who have created a tree-framed sight line from the mound to the dome. The view is now protected and no new building is allowed to impede it. Bearing in mind, that the view from the mound to the Cathedral is 10 miles, my camera didn’t do too bad a job in capturing the dome.
Richmond has several tea rooms located near the gates and ice cream vans at the main car parks (be warned they are extortionate!); I took some food with me – picnicking is far more exciting, and I took some time out to take it all in and be grateful for the amazing week that I had just had there.