Dave Sergeant

Today I made a trip been up to Osterley Park, National Trust near Hounslow. Easy trip on the train to Isleworth then half a mile or so walk, past the Crown Courts (loads of cars in the carpark) and a huge school (totally deserted, no laughing kids out playing). When I last visited a couple of years ago its noticeable features were the constant planes and M4 traffic.

Compulsory face masks being worn by around 50% of the few passengers on the trains with no sign of enforcement. Had to do a hasty repair to my one when the elastic came adrift from the mask, they ain't meant to last. It also seemed a little strange that this being Ascot Week Ascot station itself was totally deserted with the event being carried out behind closed doors.

But today of course it was different. I had to prebook my entry to the gardens, joined the queue at 6.30am on Friday to get a place. When I turned up all I had to do was say my name and she ticked me off on her list.

These were off limits. The house, which is the main attraction, was firmly closed as also were the cafe and gift shop. I had wondered if I would be allowed to sit and eat my Tesco lunch deal sandwiches on the tables in the courtyard but alas that was strictly no entry. There were a few keep 2m apart signs and a half hearted attempt at a one way system in the central area but the paint for those had already faded. And it seems the hand dryers in the loo are also banned, you have to use paper towels which strikes me as far less hygienic. Oh well, at least there were no organised queues anywhere.

But what a sad sight the gardens were. This has laid fallow for the three months the grounds were closed and the result obvious. I think there were still some of their treasured blooms visible but it had largely been taken over by thistles and other nasties. One of the gardeners was quite chatty, they have only been allowed back for a week and have a lot of work to do. Today they were mainly mowing the grass areas, I don't imagine it will be back to normal this summer, he smiled when I said 'next time I call'. Non National Trust members who have to pay to get into the gardens will have got a pretty poor deal.

But not all the garden was such a mess. The 'Garden House', a sort of orangery but not THE orangery which used to exist a little further along pre-war, was open and the exotic plants inside here seemed to be in good condition. Maybe they had moved some in specially. I thought this house, being enclosed, would be closed, but as the lady said everything in the garden and beyond was open, they are really trying their best under the circumstances.

After looking round the gardens I then walked along the Long Walk which goes round the back of the estate and is only accessible from the paid entry area. A lovely walk and I was totally on my own. I guess it is around a mile, so hardly long compared with my normal walks but it was where the Child family who lived in the house originally would spend their leisure hours. It meets up with the upper reaches of the two lakes before bending round to the rear of the house. Great views back.

Then enjoyed my lunch sitting on the grass near the larger of the two lakes. I seem to remember there were some seats there in the past but no sign of them now. Quite pleasant, rain holding off, and some interesting wild life to watch. The occasional plane disturbed the peace but they were few and far between, more noticeable was the sound of traffic on the M4 a mile away.

After lunch I walked the other side of the park which is free to the public, and came to the other lake. A brood of swans with a couple of chaps sat there patiently drawing them. What a lovely scene, But another half mile and I came out of the park and back to the station for the trip home. With no house to explore and no long lunch in the cafe this turned out to be a much shorter trip than normal and I was back home just after 2pm. But a lovely day and it didn't rain either.

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