This one is for my dear friend Jane who, in response to my post on Sunday about the autumn colours in Kew Gardens, told me about the wonderful colours in her local park. Marble Hill Park used to be my local park for about 20 years until I moved to the other side of Twickenham after my divorce. However, I still walk there occasionally – it’s now a 30-minute walk away instead of 5 minutes – and I’m often returning to the old road to see Jane and Terry.
I had an appointment near the park at 3.00pm this afternoon and because it’s been such a beautiful day and one needs to make the most of beautiful days at this time of year when standing on the precipice of winter, I decided to walk. For the last part of the walk, I entered the park and walked along a pathway inside it rather than outside along the side of the road. I couldn’t resist pulling my iPhone from my pocket and snapping away (no camera with me; that hadn’t been part of the original plan). And as people have said how much they enjoyed Kew’s beautiful colours, I thought I’d share Marble Hill’s too.
Marble Hill House was built in 1724 by George II for his mistress, Henrietta Howard. When I first lived nearby you could go into the house for free, but now it’s run by English Heritage and so now an entry fee of £6.90 has to be paid to go in. However, the park remains very much a local one rather than a tourist attraction. In the summer you will see locals playing cricket; in the winter local schools playing football and rugby. It was a joy to my children when we moved there – aged just 2 and 5 – from north London and we could go to the park easily from our house and down to the river Thames to feed ducks. When my son was older I practised cricket with him in the nets, taking it in turns to bowl or bat. As a child myself, my sporting father was always setting up cricket games in the garden, or football, so we all learned basic skills. The park thus has fond memories for me as well as still being a marvellous place of peace and somewhere to enjoy nature. Here are some of my photos:
I did most of the walk after my appointment, by which time it was starting to get dark. The clocks went back on Sunday so we are suddenly plunged into more wintery days even though it’s still quite mild. I took the familiar route down to the river. I really love living close to the river. On the way, near the gate out to the towpath, you pass an ancient Black Walnut Tree that was planted around the same time the house was built, so it’s nearly 300 years old.
As far as I know, it doesn’t produce any walnuts. Then soon I was on the towpath, the Thames stretching round a bend towards Richmond to the left; towards Teddington Lock and on to Hampton Court Palace to the right. There are always some boats moored there and that always reminds me of my dad too for he loved boats and had one that he kept on the south coast for years but moved to the Thames at Chelsea for a year or two before he sold it.
There is a little ferry that you can take (for £1) across the Thames to Ham Common and Ham House the other side. Or, as I sometimes do in the summer when I want to go on a long walk, you can head towards Richmond and Petersham Fields.
And as you can see, there are rowing boats to hire. In the distance you can see Ham House (National Trust), which is supposed to be one of the most haunted houses in Britain. And I can tell you, having had a not particularly happy walk round it a couple of years ago, I think I’m going to give it a miss from now on!
One of my favourite views is round a bend at this point where you can look back along the river and see the top of Richmond Hill and the famous Star & Garter Home that until recently was for injured servicemen but now – sadly! – is being converted into luxury – and very expensive – flats. It was quite dark by the time I reached this point, so the view not at its best, but still nice.
Just by it is a wonderful children’s playground and café. A great community meeting place which came under threat from Richmond Council a couple of years ago and was helped to be saved by our local MP at the time, Vince Cable – former Business Secretary in the Coalition Government. He was a fantastic local MP and I haven’t quite got over my immense sadness that he lost his seat in the last general election.
From here I made my way back up the other side of the park, this time just outside so that I could cut into Montpelier Row, which is said to be one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in Britain. It was built to house George II’s court when he was visiting his mistress, Henrietta!
The house at the end – left in the photo – was once owned by Alfred Lord Tennyson, great poet of the 19th century. Later, at the end of the 20th century it was owned by famous rock star Pete Townshend of The Who.
At the end of Montpelier Row I was in the main road again running between Richmond and Twickenham. I saw a bus coming and ran to catch it. It was time to go home. But it had been a beautiful walk.