Having lived in North-East London most of my life there are great
chunks of outer London
that I don’t know at all well. I can probably say too that I know Central
London better than my own immediate local area
I recently had the opportunity of attending a play at
Strawberry Hill House
near Twickenham which is one of those areas I know little about.
Knowing that it would take me probably 2 hours to get home
after the play I decided to make a day of it and fit in a visit to Ham House
I probably overdid it a bit though. In the morning I led a
small group of people around St James’s discovering Gentleman’s Westminster. I then
grabbed a quick sandwich from M&S and boarded the District Line to Richmond where I promptly
However arriving at Richmond
station with the sun streaming through the glass roof I immediately felt better
as if I was on holiday; in fact Richmond station
was very similar in style to King’s Lynn station in Norfolk which definitely upped my mood.
Knowing that I would be walking and standing a lot later (the play was a
promenade performance) rather than walk to Ham House I got the bus. The bus
ride was quick and once away from the main shopping street took us along some
country lanes, dropping me off in the village of Ham.
As I approached Ham House I realised I had previously
visited a couple of years before on a ghost tour. This time my choice of house
had been restricted as although there is quite a selection – Marble Hill House
, Chiswick House
, etc – most of these weren’t open at the time of my
visit which was two weeks before Easter. The other deciding factor was whether I could get
in for free with my National Art Pass
. Ham House ticked all the boxes.
Although I had previously visited I had forgotten how
stunning this building was. It was built in the early 17th Century
and somehow much of its contents including silk wall hangings had survived. The
self-guided tour took in one amazing room after another. Each of the rooms had
its own National Trust volunteer who were all extremely knowledgeable. A former
brewer was looking after the basement brewery; his stories were
fascinating. I learned about 500+ year old books in the library which were in
practically pristine condition; the reason being (it was thought) because they
were in Latin and no-one had read them!
Ham House is well worth visiting – it really is an amazing
place. If you don’t have a National Art Pass or National Trust membership
will cost you around £10 to get in so might be worth investing in either of the
Whilst chatting to one of the volunteers I discovered that I
could get a ferry across the river rather than the long way round by bus. Hammerton's Ferry
has been delivering people across the river between Ham House and Marble Hill House for over 100 years. I was
told to wave to the ferry which would come and pick me up. This wasn’t
necessary as there was a bit of a queue. It was obviously something all the
locals knew about because of the amount of people with bicycles and pushchairs.
After paying my £1 and journeying across the river I walked
the rest of the way to Twickenham mostly along the river passing a very
interesting looking building – the Orleans House Gallery
. Unfortunately I arrived too late to investigate but hope to return on another
occasion maybe when I visit Marble Hill House.
After a break for food in Twickenham I finally arrived at
Strawberry Hill House, Horace Walpole’s gothic masterpiece.
The birds were
singing and it was warm enough to sit outside with a glass of wine before the play. My review of The Sign of the Strawberry for Londonist
can be found here.
That area of London
has so much more for me to discover – I will have to venture west again very
The author of this blog (Joanna
Moncrieff) is a qualified and insured City of Westminster Tour Guide who
specialises in food and drink themed walks in the West End.
Details of all her walks are listed here and upcoming public walks are here.
Labels: National Art Pass, St James's